Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 92 Is Close Enough; or Heaven and Hell in 24 Hours

Awwwww Yeeeaaaaahhhh! That was me just a couple of hours ago after mine and the BBDD’s Drive-By Pizza Slice Joy Ride. Sweet Sufferin’ Sally, it was awesome. That drive-by past McDonalds for fries came as a result of one targeted pizza place not having any slices (whaaaaa??!) (and as a mini-photographic shoutout to my girl J and her peeps down in MD).

So how did this fast food bender happen?

The Good Doctor gave the greenlight today for eating fresh fruits and veggies and takeout food again. Essentially, he lifted most of my food restrictions. Still can't have deli, sushi, booze, unpasteurized cheese, salad bars, or any fruits and veggies outside the home. Reason being that deli meats are sitting around (albeit in those cases) and who knows how many people are reaching in and touching them (they also might be put on one of those cutter machines that previously cut something I can't eat). Sushi and booze need no explanation. His explanations for the rest are very entertaining, if frightening. Unpasteurized cheese: two patients almost died from contracting meningitis as a result of listeria. He said it's ludicrous to survive a bone marrow transplant, avoid all the nasty fallout from GVHD, and then die...from eating cheese. No argument here. Salad bars he said should just be outlawed for everyone. There is no way to keep the food in a salad bar at the right temperature. The food at the top is always warmer than the stuff near the ice in the bottom, especially in those deep containers they sink into that ice table. Not to mention all the people ducking under the useless sneeze guards to get that last tongful of grated cheddar cheese. Not to mention the tongs themselves that always end up lying in the food... Nuff said. Fruits and veggies outside the home, same as the deli. Did they wash the lettuce enough? Did the person wash his hands before putting the lettuce on my sandwich? The basic rule is that wherever you can’t control multiple variables, don’t eat it.

So I immediately went home and ate a nectarine and some raisins. And then saved my appetite for the real food later. I'm sitting here wondering when the acid reflux will kick in, but enjoying it nonetheless. Which is good, because I have a bone marrow biopsy tomorrow at 8am. Yeah, you read that right. ANOTHER bone marrow biopsy. Nice. I've decided to participate in a study testing a drug that they think will help prevent GVHD. I'm doing it so I never have to wonder, if I do get GVHD, whether I could have prevented it. And also to advance medical science blah blah blah. The price for participating in the study? The biopsy "to get a baseline." Kill me now.

The study starts on my Day 100. The meaning of which was characteristically succinctly broken down for me today by my doctor (who I am now ready to officially announce is the latest recipient of my Non-Sexual Crush honors). I was sick last week, feeling so unbearably unwell for about two days with a nice, quick recovery. I asked him about it today in my usual Pollyanna way, whether maybe my immune system fought it off and maybe I'm now building my own immunity to diseases? He looked at me, gave a small laugh, and said: "No, no, no. You have one of the worst immune systems I've ever seen. It's terrible. And don't let anyone tell you any different."

Oh my lord, I am in love with this man! (Thank you sir! May I have another?!) He reminded me that getting to eat food is not the same as having an actual immune system. All the pills I've been taking are immunosuppressives. He said "you don't have the ability to build any immunity to anything right now. So no, you didn't fight anything off, you won't be able to for many months, and you aren't 'building' anything from any infections you get. The goal is to have you not get them for specifically that reason: they are extremely life-threatening." Oh. My bad.

Anyway, it's really all good, even with the ongoing lack of immunity. But that just might be the cholesterol endorphins talking. They kicked in immediately upon first bite, and I was in cheesy drunken heaven. As we were leaving pizza place #2 I said dreamily to the BBDD, "Even if I go tits up two months from now from some ridiculously stupid virus, I just want you to know that this is the most fun I've had in months." His response? He looked at me like he was about to pat me on the head and said, "Aww. That is so sad!"

I'm in good hands all the way around.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Incremental Improvement

A long time ago I posted a story about my old job's annual employee retreat wherein an old Vietnam POW (whose name I forget so I call him The General) gave the keynote "speech" which essentially involved him telling us to cowboy the hell up, quit our bitchin' and ask ourselves when we feel down, "Am I getting my fingernails pulled out? No. Am I being left out in the blistering sun for 18 hours a day till I have third degree burns? No. Am I eating cockroaches to save myself from starvation? No. Then STFU and git 'er done!" In review I thought it was an excellent attitude adjuster; it was simply ill-timed, since we came to the speech from a Friday night happy hour where we'd been posing for photos and drankin' like it were goin' outta style. So to walk into the auditorium all festive and buzzing only to be met with, "You think YOU had a bad day, punk?!!," was a little mentally jarring.

The one thing The General did touch on was the practice (which I also mentioned in that post) of Incremental Improvement. It is the practice of doing something better every day, doing a little more every day, doing something more every day. For him in POW camp, that thing was pushups. All of his men had to do pushups every day to keep their morale and physical condition up, even when they were starving. He detailed how he determined that every day he would do just one more pushup than he'd done the day before. Some days it didn't work out, but he tried every day to do Just One More. He says this practice saved his sanity throughout his many years at the Hanoi Hilton.

Well, friends. I have not had my fingernails pulled out with pliers. I have not eaten cockroaches three times a day. I have not served my country in any sense, and certainly not with the honor and commitment of the men in the Hanoi Hilton. Let's get that out of the way. But I have had a pretty sh*tty couple of months wherein my body has become something not instantly recognizable to me, a woman who took great pride in her biceps and shoulders and her ability to do 30 pushups (and not the girly kind on the knees) in one minute. I'm now thin (and not the kind I always wanted to be). I have lackluster muscle tone. Where I'm not thin, I'm random flab. And The General was right: when your body atrophies so do your morale and your spirit.

So last week I began the SSHaggis Incremental Improvement Initiative. I did one slow, poorly-formed push up. My arms ached afterward. From ONE pushup, y'all! Bambina laughed at the sight of me doing it: "What you doing, Mama?! That so silly!" I said, "It's a pushup!" And she instantly dropped and did 4 really good ones, just to show me how they're done. I panted, "Mama will do four next week."

Y'all. Today I am on 6. Tomorrow I'll do 7. What does any of this have to do with my bone marrow, you ask? Not a damn thing. But it makes me feel better that I'm taking a little bit of myself back from all the post-chemo/massive pill-taking fallout. So much of this process is out of one's control. My eyebrows are growing in curly (gross!), my skin is itchy and weird all the time, my ability to be in the sun is literally zero at the moment, I can't see my friends till next summer, my risk of GVHD starts at Day 100 and ends in about three years, I can't do any real cardio for a while, and stuff in general just doesn't feel like it used to. All I can do to feel like I'm still steering some small section of the Good Ship Haggis is to take care of the parts of me that will comply with my authority. Namely, my muscles and my mind.

So I'm doing it. And that sound you hear is the Bambina blowing by me in the pushup contest... :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are

Oh, Senator Craig. Seriously. I don't know whether to dislike you heartily or feel bad for you, or both. I think I'll go with both.

Dislike you heartily for:
--Voting NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and voting YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage (September 1996)
--Voting NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000 and Jun 2002)
--Voting YES on a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage (Jun 2006)
--Being a terrible liar. Your foot just ended up touching another guy's foot in the next stall by chance? You pleaded guilty just to wrap up the annoyance and get to your meetings? Larry Dear, as my Dad used to say: we may be stupid but we're not dumb.

At the same time, I feel bad for you because you obviously grew up in a family, community--and political party?--who somehow told you that who you are is completely unacceptable. So unacceptable that you self-hate with punitive politics, and self-sabotage with seriously inadvisable behavior for anyone regardless of sexual orientation. When I think of your situation, I try to put myself in a place where my basic human urges feel so debased and so evil to me and to those around me that I find my only outlet in public toilets. Public toilets, Senator. Even my wildest imagination can't take me to such a feeling of personal shame and self-hatred. Unfortunately, so many people--young and old--feel that shame every day.

You shouldn't be ashamed of being gay. You shouldn't even be ashamed of wanting sex in a dark public bathroom (believe me, a large percentage of heteros at my college did it every drunken weekend). But you should be ashamed, and held to account, for denying other gay people the right to proudly declare who they are as people, and to proudly--and legally--declare their love for another human being in the bright light of day.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

E's TV Update

I watch 'em so you don't have to, folks. Consider it my public service during my hiatus from meaningful human interaction.

First up:
Awwww yeah! Tonight is the finale of Making The Band 4. For those of you with lives and places to be/people to see (and therefore non-viewers of this MTV confection), MTB4 is the creation of Sean "Puffy" "Puff Daddy" "P. Diddy" "The Diddy" Combs.

Over the past several weeks Diddy has been weeding out the men from the boys in his quest to create a new hip-hop boy band, and it has been predictably cliche and yet addictive. There is the overweight "teddy bear" guy who Diddy tells to drop some weight or go home; the relatively younger guy who lost his grandmama and needs to get in touch with his feelings in order to sing some love ballads to the ladies; the one white guy who thinks he's channeling Justin Timberlake; the guy who thinks he's looking like a hoodlum but not; and of course the guy who looks like he's 42.

During the finale the ten finalists all sang a "ballad version" of their "hit song Exclusive." You gotta give Diddy credit for sales- and showmanship... Anyway, all I could think while watching these guys perform was "this reeks of effort." It was painful and yet 100% entertaining to behold.

Speaking of "reeks of effort," I've caught a few episodes of Rock of Love, featuring Brett Michaels of the hair band Poison as he tries to find a female companion. Spare yourself the horrors of seeing women act slutty, b*tchy and trashy as they attempt to "woo" a man who is himself equal parts the same. They are all trying so hard to be edgy, talking about sex and drinking and risky behaviors as if they're hard-up high school sophomores (remember all those, "Oh my god, we got SOOO wasted!" girls, all trying to be "harder" than each other? They grew up and went on this show). I felt so wrong after watching a couple of episodes that I felt like I should donate some cash to a women's education charity or something.

Now, on the plus side of TV viewing, you should check out Damages on FX. Starring the amazing Glenn Close, the gorgeous Rose Byrne and the unexpectedly fantastic Ted Danson. (Yeah, really). I'm sure you can get old episodes online, and you should. The show is unbelievably good. And I'm not just saying that because I have a massive non-sexual crush on Glenn Close. The only issue with the show is how they're going to come up with a second season. That's all I can say without ruining the whole show.

You should also check out Flight of the Conchords on HBO, about two guys from New Zealand who move to New York to make it big in the music business. You will either find this show to be inspired genius at work, or you will learn to hate the person making you sit through it. I think it is worth a look, if only for their one groupie who has her husband drive her around to all of their "gigs" in hotels and bus stations...and for the hilariously creative song montages in the middle of the show. I can't explain it; just give it a look-see.

That's all for now, folks. I need to go watch last week's Top Chef. Happy Monday!

Trash That 'Stache

From The Guardian:
Campaigning against what they say is widespread and unacceptable discrimination in the workplace and society, the American Moustache Institute (AMI) is vowing to restore well-tended facial hair to the noble status it enjoyed in the Seventies. The institute is now dedicated to fighting to create a "climate of acceptance and understanding" for all moustached Americans alike. The evidence that this is one more minority group with reason for a grievance is compelling. A recent poll found more than half of American women would refuse to kiss a man with a moustache. Others have said the look reminds them of Village People, Seventies porn stars and rednecks.

Last year the US Supreme Court ruled that it was permissible for a trial lawyer to throw someone off a jury using the pretext that they have a moustache. The AMI stands ready to assist any American who claims they have been discriminated against and wishes to bring court action. Executive director Aaron Perlut, 36, a public relations executive who sports a Fu Manchu-style "horseshoe" moustache, told The Sunday Telegraph: "There's no question that there exists a measure of discrimination. People feel they have to shave before a job interview. We view ourselves as the American Civil Liberties Union for the moustache. But we know that we can win over young people for whom a moustache is a perfect means of self expression - and it's easier than a tattoo." He dates the death of the moustache to the departure from American television screens in 1984 of news anchorman Walter Cronkite, owner of "the most trusted moustache in the media", and the end of Tom Selleck's reign as fictional private eye Magnum in 1988.

As I've said before, the appeal of Tom Selleck as Magnum continues to elude me two decades later, not seeing the delta between him and Geraldo. And, as I've also said before, there are an infinitesimally small number of men with facial hair who don't look better without it. The truth is, gentlemen of the hirsute visage, that moustaches are like the all-too-famous combover: There's not a bald dude out there who looks older than a guy with a combover. The happier truth is that once you find the courage to let it go, you can't believe you held onto it for so long.
See? Even Brad Pitt benefits from a shave:

UPDATE: How could I forget Brandon Flowers, singer from The Killers, the most illustrative example of what a moustache can do to an otherwise beautiful and lovely and delicious man. I give you the Before, a dollop of gorgeous all-American yumminess, and the After, the dude you don't let near your kid.

Everyone Wants the Primary Primary

Oh, all the fighting going on at the DNC these days. Florida just got smacked by the national party for scheduling its democratic primary too early. Michigan is about to get a smackdown for the same thing. New Hampshire and Iowa fight to hang onto their "first in the nation" primary status. As I read this article WaPo, the whole thing just struck me as complete hoo-hah. NH and IA argued back in the 60's that their small size justified their place in the pecking order. So now states are, quite reasonably methinks, asking why more diverse states cannot have that same impact as NH and Iowa on narrowing the race for POTUS. Cue the interstate electoral drama. One wonders why we don't just have Primary Day, when every state holds its election. Maybe then we can promise to still really, really care what New Hampshire folks think (Go Tsongas! Estes Kefauver! Gerald Ford'76!) while putting an end to this ludicrous jockeying for position.

The second major issue with this first-in-the-nation battle is the question of exactly how early we are going to let the election process start. NH passed a law in 1977 mandating that their primary should always be first, forcing them to move it earlier and earlier several times. Isn't that hilarious? Passing a law saying that you will always be first? How stupidly self-referential is that?! What if Wyoming suddenly passes a law saying that THEY are going to always be the first? And then New Mexico follows suit, until every state in the union has a law on the books mandating it be first? In support of this delusional notion, I've actually decided to pass a law in my head mandating that I am always the prettiest, smartest girl in the room. You hear me, ladies?!! You better not show up because you can't be prettier or smarter than me! And you know why? Because it's The Law.

And even before NH ends up moving its primary to the February after the inauguration, why are these contests so early anyway? Do we all really need one year and ten months to figure out who we like? If that's the case, why are candidates still trying to woo the 72% of "undecideds" on October 26th, then? What, you couldn't figure it all out in just under TWO YEARS?! And, besides the timing issue, why are we trying to narrow the field so soon anyway? If New Hampshire and Iowa people don't love you in January 2007 you are somehow not qualified to become president in November 2008? Hell, British general elections are held within 17 days of the Queen's proclamation dissolving Parliament. Can't we find some happy medium--perhaps not 17 days--but closer to maybe a couple of months rather than years?

I wonder if the real reason for the drama is that, if forced to deal with this scheduling situation, we're all going to have to admit how asinine our presidential election process really is. The 2000 election jolted us at the time, but as with most things (Savings & Loan scandal, 9/11 Commission, etc) the lessons seem to have been forgotten.

I don't know what the solution is, but something--anything--has got to be better than having states constantly changing their primaries, or worse, states making it "illegal" for your state to vote before them.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Gratitude

Today has not been my day. Yesterday I had that vague "slightly runny nose, scratchy throat" feeling that indicates a cold might be in the mail. This morning I awoke to find said package on my doorstep. Cue the clueless calls to Dana Farber (Is it okay to have a cold?! What should I do?!), the "nasal wash" appointment (it sounds as great as it feels, darlings) a couple of hours later to rule out adenoviruses that cause pneumonia or bronchitis, and the day-long grossitude of sitting around with a cold and no possibility of taking anything for it. I was hungry but couldn't eat, and I was feeling decidedly under the weather.

Then I decided to cowboy up and see if changing my attitude would change how I was feeling, since there is no excuse for being a snot even when your nose is indeed snotty. So I told myself that if I didn't feel like eating food, I should at least eat the rest of the raspberry white chocolate frozen yogurt in the freezer. You know, to keep my strength up. Then I thought about Bambina off on her day trip to Cape Cod and how great it was that she was having fun and not watching me mope. Then I resisted my usual belief that sleeping during the day is laziness when you are over the age of 5, and took a half hour nap. Then I thought how lucky I am to be able to kvetch over having a cold rather than cancer, or having the support that gets Bambina a fun day no matter how I'm feeling. Lots of people would gladly trade places with me, even in my current state. For which I am, believe it or not, deeply grateful.

“I feel a very unusual sensation - if it's not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude”
-- Benjamin Disraeli

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
--Thornton Wilder

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
--H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hatin' on Blogger

Y'all. I've been trying to post all day, trying to change my template for a month, trying to spend the few Bambina-free minutes I have on a daily basis putting something up here that is halfway okay to read. No help from Blogger.

So I haven't done the following things as a result:

Told you to visit HaggisAndGrits for some interesting reading. Including the latest post regarding elephant overpopulation, and which has video of said "treatment" of said elephant.

Linked to AngryAsianMan, an everyday must read.

Bellyached about some new books I bought for Bambina. I've had great luck with those little "first reader" books made by DK Reader, which I think is a European company. I unfortunately just purchased some Harper Collins ones which are dreadful. They were only 5 bucks a pop, but I'm out some money and some patience. One is about a boy who doesn't like dogs until a dog befriends him in the park and he realizes he does like dogs. Cute, no? Consider some of the dialogue: Upon telling the dog to "go home" and the dog somehow communicates that he can't, the little boy says, "Can I help it if you don't have a home? Too bad. You can't come home with me." Lots more general meanness in the book, if "only" to a dog. Another book is The Fat Cat Sat On The Mat. Not to be confused with "Fat Cat on a Mat" which was one of the spectacular DK books, and the one I thought I was buying. Not to sound like a hippie, but we don't use the word "hate" around Bambina. The entire book is all about how the bat and the rat hate the cat who has sat on the mat. And how the witch they live with calls the rat her "little brat." This for 3-5 year olds! You know that I am the least staid person on the planet, but why would I want to read my child a bunch of smart-mouthed, mean and lowbrow dialogue masquerading as phonics? I'm not talking about subjects like farts or poops. We're all okay with that. But none of her books about farts or poops or nostrils encourage rudely precocious punk-ass behavior and language. None of them throw the word "hate" around in reference to other beings as if it's no big deal. I think it was my Mom who said, "The only thing we hate is hate," when I'd say that I hated my teacher or my friend Gina's boyfriend. Whoever said it, they were right. And may I live long enough that my child can look back on her life and thank me for never using the word "brat" or teaching her the notion of "I hate dogs." A Check-Minus for Harper Collins.

Linked to AverageJane where the following meme is provided and which you should answer in the comments section. My answers:
Four jobs I've had in my life (I've listed the four worst):

* Christmas help at a Petite Sophisticate
* Ride operator at a regionally-famous amusement park for four summers. Maybe 5?
* Waitress/ice cream girl at Friendly's Restaurant. Where the manager required a blow job in order to honor your day off request. As I've said before, I worked every damn day I was on the schedule.
* Cafeteria shift leader at my college. Nothing like serving institutional food to wealthier and sometimes unpleasantly rude classmates to motivate you...

Four places I have lived:

* Tiny village in Scotland you won't see on a map
* Modest family home in a "transitional" neighborhood
* An apartment in Georgia, upstairs from a very difficult woman in the insect-study program at the local university. She'd call the landlord if I ran the dishwasher after 6pm. I'm not kidding. One of the very few public altercations in my life, when I observed appropriate communal laundry etiquette by removing her dry things from the drier and placing them on top without looking at anything in detail. She came in as I was loading my stuff and started freaking out, as if I was sniffing her panties or something. So I just unloaded in a brusquely civil manner, "I'm not sure what your problem is; you've been rude since we moved in here, and we've been nothing but polite and friendly to you. If you have a problem with us, you need to elaborate on it right now." Huffy response, no resolution.
* Apartment with former classmate. He kept all his "female erotic writers" books all over the joint, as if he was really interested in reading about 40-something women finding their G spots on a safari trip with their friends. Puh-leeze. Men who own those books are strictly "pleasure reading" if you know what I'm saying...And what I heard.

Four of my favorite foods:

* French fries
* Properly-cooked hash browns (ie, NOT "home fries." Must be crispy and shredded, not square and boiled with brown "fried" spots.)
* Greek pizza
* Chicken Tikka Masala with naan

Four places I'd rather be right now:

* Half Moon Bay
* NYC Chinatown
* Anywhere in Scotland
* At a PTA meeting for Bambina's new preschool, heading up a committee or two. Actually anywhere inside her preschool just so I could see where she'll be for the next 9 months...

And a bonus 5th place: on a computer with a blogging system that actually works.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Know Thyself

I laughed hysterically at The Sun (UK)'s report of Maroon 5 lead singer (and legendary himbo) Adam Levine expressing his disappointment at sex with tennis pro Maria Sharapova: "She wouldn’t make any noise during sex. I can't tell you how disappointed I was. I really thought, like a lot of guys, that she'd be the loud screaming type. But instead, she just lay there like a dead frog. She even got angry if I started to moan, said it 'ruined her concentration'."

Umm...Adam? When a woman says that she has to "concentrate" while you are on the case, that is HER way of rather delicately telling you that your case is pretty thin. It really ought not to be a cue for you to be disappointed in HER, Adam darling. I could offer you all kinds of advice, including "don't be such an arrogant dirtbag," but something tells me it will do no good. Something also tells me that you, though American, tend to engage in 'Scottish Foreplay,' ie, your understanding of the concept extends no further than shouting a hearty, "Brace yourself, Bunty!"

Ladies, you've been warned.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Time to Make the Donuts

For those of you who did not grow up with Dunkin Donuts, that was the tagline of a commercial that ran throughout the late 80's and 90's showing Mr. Dunkin getting up at "oh-god-hundred," as my sis in law would say, to get to work. He'd shuffle out of bed at the decidedly unpleasantly early hour while saying, "Time to make the donuts. Time to make the donuts."

Which is why I'm posting things at 3 and 4am. Not, sadly, because I have any french crullers in the oven, but because we had a thunder storm that not only woke a completely-inconsolable, potentially night-terroring Bambina, but also put Cliff the dog into his usual thunderstorm state of restrained panic.

First came the screams, wails and shrieks. For about 8 minutes. Then came a tumbling noise that I thought initially was Bambina rolling down the stairs. My fear was allayed when a large greyhound came barrelling into my room to pace around. I had already flipped on the light, so I could see him looking at me, looking at my bed, looking at me, looking at my bed. I felt bad for him but I said, "No way in hell, buddy. Sorry." {Being a yearlong germophobe I pretty much let the dog have his space. I don't seek him out, I don't really pet him unless I know I can wash my hands immediately, I can't feed him and he can't sleep in my room. This does not, however, translate into the dog feeling at all like I'm not his best pal. Which is sweet even though I feel a little bit mean for not giving him all the love he craves).

Anyway, even when I'm not a yearlong germophobe I still have one boundary with dogs and that is my bed. I just can't do it. Something about knowing they have been outside in the dirt, peeing, pooping, sniffing other dogs' a**es, licking themselves, just completely grosses me out as I picture them lounging on my sheets. Like, I wouldn't let a guy wear his outside shoes, his gardening pants and a hairshirt in my bed, so why would I let a dog bring in the same stuff? But there's an intellectual fiction among dog lovers, isn't there, that he isn't really bringing in anything from outside. I think it's cute and amusing and, quite frankly, necessary to owning and loving a dog (you let him lick your face--"kiss" you--without really thinking about all the places his tongue has been that you would never put your face near); but I just can't extend the fiction to my bed. So Cliff was SOL on that score. Fairly or unfairly, it's also an issue with big dogs in particular. (Rabbi, you can stop reading here). There is something disconcerting about a large (if you know what I'm saying) animal putting "himself" all over your bed and pillows. He once fell asleep on Bambina's pillow and I made the BBDD wash it in hot water because, "I can't have my child sleeping in the same spot as dog penis." You know, people have their cats and yorkies all over everything because it's all out of sight/out of mind. But you get a dobie or a greyhound or a mastiff settling "themselves" on your pillowslip, you just have to implement a laundry purge. So, good for Cliff that he's a big dog. Bad for Cliff that he's a big dog on a thundery night in my room.

Anyway, the poor guy remained beside himself, unlike the Bambina upstairs who was mercifully beginning to be soothed. Cliff had no such luck. The thunder continued, his frantic pacing continued, I got up to go the bathroom, he was pushing against the door to try to get in (or he was headbutting it, based on the noise and door movement), he paced some more, and then climbed himself into the bathtub. No easy feat for a mammoth greyhound whose claws make that clickety-click sound on the floor, I remind you. It was like Big Dog Ice Capades in there.

Finally his mom managed to extract him and get him back upstairs, the Bambina was soothed after a final visit from me wherein I told her that I was tired, it was night time and I needed her to be quiet till morning, the storm passed, and quiet resumed.

Now all creatures great and small are adrift in happy slumber. Except for me.

I think I need a donut.

ADL: Do the Right Thing

The Anti-Defamation League is an organization with years of good and meaningful work to combat anti-Semitism, bigotry and extremism. That's why it's regrettable that the organization refuses to use the term "genocide" to describe the murder of a million Armenians by Turkey in the early part of the 20th century. The New England chapter of the ADL recently broke with the national office on this issue, leading to the firing of the chapter's regional director. As the following letter details (Boston Globe),
"The Association of Genocide Scholars and the community of Holocaust scholars, as well as numerous others, have written that this horrific event was genocide. In 2000, 126 leading Holocaust scholars -- including Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel -- published a statement in The New York Times that sought both to "affirm the incontestable fact of the Armenian Genocide and urge Western Democracies to officially recognize it."

The matter is not subject to interpretation. In recent decades, the Armenian genocide has been referred to as "the forgotten genocide" and to understand it is to note that it was the template for the genocides that followed: the Holocaust, Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and today in Darfur. Adolf Hitler famously said in 1939 upon the commencement of his own "final solution:" "Who now remembers the Armenians?"

It seems unconscionable to me that--for any reason--an organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry would not unequivocally put itself squarely in the corner of a people who were the target of premeditated ethnic annihilation. One can always come up with political reasons--even realistic and reasonable-sounding ones--for why one can't do so. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, we know that no reason ought to be good enough. Because if one does exist on the basis of political and diplomatic relationships, we have to give that out to all of the nations who looked the other way during the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII failed to condemn Nazi Germany during WWII. When Pope John Paul II apologized in 2000 for the Church's treatment of Jews, women and minorities in the past, a percentage of the Jewish community (including the ADL) was upset because he did not specifically mention the Holocaust itself. Why? Because there was a need to have the genocide itself acknowledged. Why then, is the ADL denying that acknowledgement to Armenians?

Contrast the ADL's response to Pope John Paul II's 2000 Liturgy of Forgiveness, specifically addressing his failure to speak directly of the Holocaust...
Pope John Paul II has missed an historic opportunity to bring closure to Christian responsibility for specific sins against the Jewish people over the past 2,000 years. We are saddened and disappointed that this pontiff, who has done so much to further Catholic-Jewish relations, stopped short in addressing specific Catholic wrongs against the Jewish people, especially the Holocaust.

...with this tepid pseudo-justification of their position on Armenia:
ADL has acknowledged and never denied the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenians — and by some accounts more than one million — at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1918. We believe that the Turkish government must do more than it has to confront its history and to seek reconciliation with the Armenian people. We have said that to the Turkish government and its officials, we will continue to do so, and we take this opportunity to repeat it publicly. We will continue to work to convince Turkey to pursue recognition and reconciliation, and we will seek ways to encourage this process.
The ADL, via Abraham Foxman, says that the Armenia issue is not their issue, that "We're not party to this, and I don't understand why we need to be made party." So the ADL is declaring itself NOT a party to a potential genocide? So why did the ADL make itself party to the Balkans and Darfur?

The reason involves both the tenuous position of Turkish Jews who live under dhimmi-like status and Turkey's diplomatic relationship with Israel. A Far-Better-Than-I-Can-Write explanation is here.

The bottom line is that the ADL simply cannot have it both ways. Either a genocide is a genocide is a genocide, whose "specific...wrongs" must be addressed by the parties responsible, or certain political and diplomatic "reasons" for not requiring that resolution are justifiable.

Take your pick, ADL. And know that your credibility within and without the Jewish community--domestically and internationally--is at stake.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bambina Bon Mots: Part 203

She's back at The Little Gym this week, but we're still reeling from last week's Hand, Foot and Mouth sabbatical. So many questions, so many observations.

1. When I said "good boy!" to Cliff, the family dog, she reminded me that "he a dog, not a boy." So I said, "But he's a boy dog, not a girl dog." She said, "He can't be a boy and a dog." Good point, my literal plum pudding. So I said, "What I mean is that he is a male dog. Boys and men are males and girls and women are females; it's what makes boys and girls different." Forgetting for the moment that 3 year-olds have no concept of gender differences (they know that he is a boy and she is a girl, but whatever that means has no relevance to them), I made the mistake of answering her question, "What makes a boy a male?" I should have said, "He just is," but I had to say the P word, didn't I, and take us down a long road from which there seemed to be no recovery. "Males have penises, females have vaginas." Blank stare, then a long list of women's names recited, each with "...has a vagina" at the end. I felt like I'd walked myself into a three-hour table reading with Eve Ensler: "Mama has a vagina. [Grandmother] has a vagina. [Other Grandmother] has a vagina..." Then: "Daddy has a penis, [grandfather] has a penis, [uncle] has a penis..." It went on and on through relatives, friends and former neighbors (as I was pondering pouring acid on my brain to destroy the mental images). I finally got a clue just as she was about to make me picture our former mailman's junk: "Hey! Do you want an ice cream sandwich?!!" Lesson Learned: Ice cream novelties trump genitals every time.

2. Having recently spent some time in Auntie C's pool, Bambina was eager to reenact the event for me. Which meant us both on her bed, with me playing the role of "floatie bed." So I was on my back with my knees up ("me need back support") while she sat facing me, reclining on my knees and thighs. She then started piling stuff on the "bed," like her blanket, her cd player, four books and a comb. I told her that floatie beds sink if piled too high and started pretending to wave around and sink. She said while laughing, "Mama you bugging me! Don't do that!" So of course I kept doing it. :) She then climbed off and said sternly, "Mama! Go away!" I sat up and said, "That wasn't a very nice thing to say. If you want to say something to me about ending the game, I'd like you to say it more politely." Her response? "Mama. Go away--please."

3. Bambina threw us a tea party last week at which we were treated to teeny tiny cups of water that had only had her fingers in it about 8 times. It was really cute, and she was having a really great time. Her [grandfather] said, "You are the hostess with the mostest!" To which she replied with the Gary Coleman-esque scrunched up nose: "Why you say that to me?" "Because it means you're a wonderful hostess and we're having a great time." "You not call me that." "Should I call you the hostess with the leastest?" "Yes!"

4. We were doing a lot of mouth checking last week with a flashlight, first to see if her mouth sores were getting better and second to see if I was growing any. It became a daily game of her letting us look in her mouth and then getting to look in ours. She checked me then checked her grandmother, who said, "why don't you go check [grandfather's]? She replied very nonchalantly in an eerily adolescent tone of "whatever," "Nah. I don't do men."

Her father, a man already planning which part of his living room wall will feature a shotgun for all visiting boyfriends to see, unsurprisingly liked that story the best.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lands End

It's time for a rant.

Let me begin by saying that I LOVE Lands End clothing. The stuff they make, especially for kids, is high quality, lasts forever, and isn't crazy expensive when you consider that they can be worn for years. I love them because they take returns with no hassle. And they make jeans that look good on a 5'2", 110 pound woman who is neither curvy enough nor tall enough for most of the other jeans companies to bother with, unless I want to wear big pleated high-waisted mom "slacks." As if.

But here is my main beef with the good people at Lands End. I just received their Kids Catalog in the mail, and for the third straight catalog in a row, every single child pictured is white. I'm not kidding. I know they are based in Wisconsin, so maybe it's not the melting pot of America? But this is 2007 and I just kind of think that in order to end up with three completely caucasian catalogs, you have to be making an effort in that regard. How do you call for a bunch of kid models in 2007 and only end up with white ones? And not just white ones. I mean Aryans. There's not even a single kid in there who looks like his surname might be Tucci or Melfi, much less Jiang, Lin, Beah or Toure.

So I sent them an email, telling them everything I told you in Paragraph one, and adding that my daughter has noticed that no one has brown skin or non-caucasian hair. She looks at the catalog and says, "she not have my hair, she not have my hair either..." It's not like they should have a quota of non-white children in their catalog. It's just that their catalog should more accurately reflect their customer base, not to mention the country in which they do business.

And that's my primary point, beyond how it makes little kids feel to notice that "there are no brown girls" in a catalog. It simply seems to me to be good business practice: make your customers feel at home while appealing to a broad potential customer base. I love Lands End, but a few more all-white catalogs, and I'm going to consider them a bad investment of my inter-racial family's money.

Feel free to let them know if you agree.
LandsEnd Go to the very bottom of the page and click on Contact Us.

Suburban Living

Let's consider this Chapter One in my new book, "How the 'Burbs are Not Like the City."

I'm sitting on the porch right now and I'm about 10 feet away from a large mob of turkeys. I kid you not. Turkeys. Not the human kind, the birds. The poultry. Los pavos. It's a good thing Bambina is out at a playdate because the big one jumped up on the fence so close to me and so loudly (and in a manner that caused all the other birds in the yard to am-scray SAP-Ay), that I actually said, "Holy Sh*t!" at a discernible volume. Or more accurately, I didn't "say" it and I didn't yell it really, which I suppose means that I "exclaimed" it, not having previously been near a turkey in my life that wasn't already basted. (No calls please, PETA)

My thoughts? Turkeys are f'ing scary, yo. That Mama Turkey, I've just noticed, has a group of little turkeys with her. Which might explain her rather aggressive nature. She is big and she is not to be messed with. I would no sooner approach her in this suburban garden than I would a rottweiler in a junkyard. I could get shivved.

Hmmm...maybe this is not so different from the city after all.

The Family Dog

Do you know the creature in your home who gets so excited when you start organizing yourself for a walk? The one who stands expectantly at the back door when you jingle your car keys? Who starts hyperventilating as if to say, "Can I come? Can I come? CanICanICanI??!!" Who acts like she's just won the lottery when you indicate that, yes indeed, a car trip is in her future?

In this house, that's ME.

As you know, I don't get out much these days. And people can't come in much either. So the only way I get to see other non-related humans is to go for a car ride when others are running errands. It may sound sad and pathetic, but the way I see it, as long as you park in the shade and leave the window open a crack it's all good.

I seriously get excited to ride around (with my head hanging out the window, tongue dangling?), even just to mail letters at the post office. Not that I go into the post office of course. I sit in the car and read. Or call friends. Or, honestly, mostly people-watch. I had forgotten how loud people talk on their cell phones. How people wear their clothes unattractively tight. How bad dumpsters smell. (Hey, I've been in my share of bad parking spots...) But I'd also forgotten how cool it is to look around and see people all across the spectrum of beauty, and how some people are beautiful in seemingly non-beautiful ways. The old man getting into his car who looks over and tips his imaginary hat to me a la 1943; it makes me think that whatever he looked like back in the day, his charm probably assured him his share of dames. The woman with two kids who has crooked teeth but a radiant smile nonetheless; her smile says there's a lot more to her than meets the eye. The high school boys running pre-season track down the sidewalks. Running in their own moments, oblivious to the realities of life that await them only a few years in the future, realities that will sometimes make them remember with longing days like today.

Who knows? Maybe someday one of them will find himself in a car in a parking lot wearing a mask, and he will see tomorrow's boys running, reminding him--suddenly, poignantly and bittersweetly--of all the things he told his 16 year-old self he'd never forget.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bum Looker!

Courtesy of our Special Correspondent, NM, at our Midwest bureau I give you perhaps the greatest and most important invention since meat on a stick:


Which reminds me of one of the best lines from a TV show ever. On Married With Children (a show I never watched, btw), the wife asks her husband, "Al? Do these pants make me look fat?" He answers, "Peg. It's not the pants that make you look fat. It's the FAT that makes you look fat."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Condi, Take Notes

Courtesy of DCSis, some words from Scotland's Elder Statesman on the recent terrorist attacks at Glasgow Airport.

I give you: Billy Connolly

"Good old Glasgow. If I had to pick a city in the world where I could depend on one of the locals to kick a man who was on fire, it would always be Glasgow. That really had to hurt - 90% burns and sore bollocks... I think we should get a photo of that guy KICKING A FLAMING MAN, blow it up and make it the welcome sign at Glasgow Airport. Underneath we should have the words 'Glasgow Welcomes Careful Drivers'...

I love the naivete of al-Qaeda. For trying to bring a religious war to Glasgow. You're 400 years too late guys!! You've not even got a football [soccer] team for Christ's sake... {referring to the Catholic-Protestant issue battled out weekly by C or P 'fitba' teams}

The Sun [newspaper] last week urged us all to respond to the attack by flying the Union Jack. Really, in Glasgow that's never been a great way of getting your insurance premiums down...

People say it was lucky they didn't crash into a fuel container. I say it's lucky they didn't hit the queue coming out of Duty Free - the whole place would have gone up like Hiroshima... The best bit is being told that hundreds of people were saved from being hideously burnt...these were Scottish people flying to Spain! They'll come back looking like they've been bungee jumping off the lip of a volcano!"

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Feel SiCK

Today I received the Summary of Benefits for my stay in the hospital for my transplant. This does not, nota bene, include any blood products (including the stem cells themselves or their collection), any outpatient visits or medications before or since my stay, or any care provided by any doctor not employed directly by the hospital itself, ie, by the cancer clinic next door (guess who employs my doctor?).

So "summary" is a bit of a strong word. It's more like a level 1 subtotal, with levels 2-5 to follow, to be further followed by a final grand total summary when all is said and done.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:


As the cliche goes, "that's not a typo."

I don't know about you, (and since you'll note that most people who are sick are not able to work/earn a real living), but if I didn't have insurance, this entire year would bankrupt me. [My medications alone are about $3,000 per month]. In fact, that bill alone would bankrupt me. In fact, the cost of blood products and the stem cell-related stuff alone would bankrupt me. And that would be my best option: to file for bankruptcy and hope the hospital would forgive the debt or give me a 40-year payment plan.

Thank you God that I have unbelievably good health insurance. Thank you God that they have no lifetime maximum. I ask you, God, why I am in the tiniest minority of the American population regarding such insurance.

I challenge anyone to tell me that Michael Moore's SiCKO does not have an extremely valid point to make. Obviously, those who disagree tend to have the best health insurance and cannot fathom how a person with obvious cancer is denied a lifesaving treatment or how everything can possibly cost so much. They should feel lucky that they have what they have, rather than doubtful of the state of affairs concerning our healthcare system. I sure do. I thank God every single day--and especially on days when I receive things in the mail reflecting a quarter of a million dollars in PRELIMINARY charges--that I have the insurance I have.

So, good for me. But isn't there a larger issue with our health care system beyond the simple issue of good/bad health insurance? An issue that even those with stellar health insurance and a deep enmity for Michael Moore should care about? Isn't the issue of actual access to healthcare something we need to address lest any kind of universal coverage become meaningless? I'm speaking, of course, of the current wait times for appointments, regardless of what quality of health insurance you have. Every woman knows this one: "We can see you for your pap smear/gyn exam in October." "Oh okay. But I run out of birth control pills in May, next month [or, I have some pains in my abdomen, etc]." "Hmm...I'm not sure what to tell you. We can put your name on the list and if any cancellations arise we can call you." "Oh, okay." Rich or poor, insured or not, I am certain that almost all women have encountered something very similar to this conversation.

Even for pediatricians the wait is staggering. Luckily a lovely ped through family connections here in Boston agreed to see Bambina even though his practice was already closed to new patients. I literally lie awake at night pondering what the Hand Foot Mouth situation would have been like without a doctor to call; or worse, heading to an ER to sit for 10 hours with a sick and cranky three year-old (me, who cannot go into crowds). Or trying to get her into preschool without anyone to perform the required physical.

My transplant doctor told me just today that my dermatologist had just opened a new post-transplant specialty practice which is why he saw me within a week. "If I'd tried to get you into one of the senior dermos here it would have been three months minimum." And this is the head of transplants talking! Even he would not have been able to get me squeezed in. Imagine trolling through the phone book and cold calling! Or imagine trying to get an appointment to rule out uterine or prostate cancer, and being told to come back in November. The physical, not to mention emotional toll, is unspeakable. Surely this issue, whether we believe in universal coverage or not, is something everyone can agree needs to be addressed?

Think about it. And think about the difference in an as-yet-undiscovered tumor's size over a 3-month wait. Think about the dangers posed to a person with dementia as you wait to confirm the diagnosis for 3 months and therefore must wait for insurance to help pay any costs of care. Then think about the kid who died last year of an infected tooth because his mom couldn't get an appointment for him due to lack of insurance. It's time to recognize that just because your health situation may not be in shambles, most other people's situations are. And then ask yourself what sliver of good fortune or insurance company fine print separates you from them.

That thought really will make you feel SiCK.

Mitt Don't Git It

Wow. Read the transcript below to hear Mitt Romney's answer to the question of why none of his five sons have joined the military to support the war Mitt supports. Is there any question left that Mitt Romney is a completely out of touch joke?

First, the example he gives of supporting the military is about his neice's neighbors helping her landscape her yard while her husband is on active duty---so that the homeowner's association won't fine her. He called the gesture "touching." Wow. His best example of Americans coming together to support our troops is a bunch of people working in a yard so his niece doesn't have to pay neighborhood association fines??? Is that really all you got, Mitt? Is he even aware that most average Americans do not have any connection to a "neighborhood association"? Or that their only experience with such an association is to know that they are not permitted to live in the neighborhood? The man is clearly speaking from a place most Americans do not live.

Second, he says that one of the ways his sons are serving their country is by helping him get elected. Yes indeed. Mitt considers driving a winnebago around a few states getting YOUR DAD elected President to be a close second to joining the military and heading to Iraq. I'd LOVE to offer that kind of patriotic service. If only I could afford a winnebago. And afford to take time off work to campaign for my father. And to bring the whole family along since my wife, I assume, can ditch work too.

Yeah. Life as a Romney is pretty good. Too bad for all those brave men and women who didn't realize they could just as proudly serve their country by holding a sign at a polling station. Or, as the case may be, driving a large mobile home for their Dad.

And contrary to the campaign's assertions, reading the transcript does NOT show that the remark was taken out of context. Along with the niece/landscaping/neighborhood association anecdote, it offers perhaps more "context" than they'd like to admit.

Question: "Hi, my name's Rachel Griffiths, thank you so much for being here and asking for our comments. And I appreciate your recognizing the Iraq War veteran. My question is how many of your five sons are currently serving in the U.S. military and if none of them are, how do they plan to support this War on Terrorism by enlisting in our U.S. military?"

Governor Romney: "Well, the good news is that we have a volunteer army and that's the way we're going to keep it. My sons are all adults and they've made their decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty. I respect their decision in that regard. I also respect and value very highly those who make a decision to serve in the military. I think we ought to show an outpouring of support just as I suggested. A surge of support for those families and those individuals who are serving. My niece, for instance, just to tell you what a neighborhood can do and how touching it can be.

"My niece, Misha, living out West, her husband I think he got a call on a Tuesday. He's in the National Guard. He got a call on a Tuesday that he was going to be called up and shipped overseas on a Thursday. And they just bought a home -– they hadn’t landscaped it -– but the rules in the neighborhood were that unless you got your home landscaped within a year of the time that you bought your home, they began fining you, because they didn’t want people having mud holes in front of their homes. And she was very worried and just before the year expired, she woke up one morning and looked out the window and all the neighbors were out there, rolling down sod, putting up trees, getting it all done."

"It’s remarkable how we can show our support for our nation and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president. My son, Josh, bought the family Winnebago and has visited 99 counties, most of them with his three kids and his wife. And I respect that and respect all of those in the way they serve this great country."

The Collapse of the Dollar?

China owns $900 billion in US bonds, which of course lets us spend spend spend. But, as in all cases, if someone is financially supporting you, they get a certain say in how things are run.

This, my friends, is why you don't allow 44% of your national debt to be held by foreign entities. You'd think a good conservative like George Bush would know this...

ps--why is this not front page news here in the US?
UK Telegraph

Open Mouth, Insert Hand and Foot

I've been a mom for two and a half years, so you'd think I'd have this stuff down by now. Friday afternoon Bambina did the following completely out of character things:

1. Refused ice cream
2. Said she was hot and tired
3. Just wanted to "sit and read on my bed"
4. Became Bambina "Clingy" McClingstein
5. Thereafter decided that I was not meeting her needs and began to wail for "Dada"

So I figured I'd take her temperature just to see what was up. 100.7. Not dire, but for a kid who is, like her mama, usually a high 97/low 98 for a normal temperature, I was a bit concerned. So I called the Dada who said, "Did you give her some motrin or tylenol?" Oh. Yeah, right. Of course. So I gave her the motrin. After which she fell asleep so fast that I was positive she'd passed out. So I started to rouse her and move her, which did work, but I still was a little bit concerned. So I called my Mom to ask if it was okay for a kid to sleep with a temperature as long as I had ascertained that she hadn't actually gone unconscious. She offered her thoughts which I thought sounded reasonable, but then couldn't bring myself to leave Bambina alone "just in case." I recognize that I sound like a completely unfit mother, but Bambina has been sick two (yeah, TWO) times since April 2005; last summer and this summer. That's it. So every time this happens (as in, last time and this time) I realize how inexperienced I am with sick kids and vow that I will read ahead in the Mommy Textbook handed to you either in the delivery room or in the location of the official adoption, to pre-learn 4 and 5 year-old medicine dosages and treatments. (You did get your handbook, right?) But then I don't and I am once again calling my Mom to ask inane questions like, "is it okay to sleep with a fever?" while polishing my Mama Of The Year awards on the mantel.

Anyway, not for nothing, my next thought after the sleep/fever one was "Should I be around a kid with a fever?" So I called the Dada again to see if he'd come and tag in just in case I was on dangerous ground. He told me to go get a mask on. I couldn't because Bambina was asleep with her head in my lap. So a brief 20 minutes later, he tagged in, I masked up, and shortly thereafter Bambina bounced back. Until...we noticed on Saturday that she had big purple spots in her mouth and she started saying that her mouth hurt and her tummy hurt. So we called the after hours line where we got the "possible strep" diagnosis. Followed immediately by my call to MY after hours line to discuss the "possible strep" diagnosis. Followed by early Monday AM calls for same-day appointments with pediatrician and transplantatrician respectively.

After all the "S word" drama of the weekend it turned out that Bambina had something much, much worse. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. No, it's not actually medically worse than strep. But it sure sounds like it, doesn't it?! Like some livestock affliction that has leapt to humans and for which there is no cure. Well, actually, that part is correct; you just have to wait it out. It's a very common virus found in child care settings (as usual, passed mainly by contact with fecal matter; which begs the question of what little monster's parents have not taught hand washing at home). Fair enough. But for the parent it is akin to being told your kid has lice (another affliction I'm assured will be visited upon my home in years to come); ie, it's common and normal and yet just mortifying in the extreme to imagine that my daughter ingested somebody's fecal matter particles. Saints preserve us.

So I was flipping out that my poor, dear precious child has this terrible virus clearly created by dirty, nasty ruffian children whose parents have no sense of hygiene. Which is when I called my doctor back and said ixnay on the epstray; it's actually (I'm ashamed to admit, doctor) HFMD. His response? "Ah yes, the coxsackie virus. Well, that's going to be a bummer if you get it. It won't be fun, but we'll figure something out." Me: "Should I wear a mask and gloves around my daughter?" HIM: "I would say that the cat is already out of the bag at this point, wouldn't you?" ME: "Well, should I avoid getting near her on the potty?" (Yes, I said "potty" to a grown man). HIM: "If you can, but let's be honest. When you have kids, there is no such thing as personal hygiene. Do the best you can."

So here I am, awaiting my mouth sores. From somebody else's kid's butt.

How was YOUR weekend?

Friday, August 03, 2007

You're A Wonderful Audience.

A recent book I read recommended the following writing assignment for writer's block: Sit down, and for 20 minutes keep your pen moving no matter what. Make the first sentence something like, "I am thinking about..." or "I am looking at..." and see where your pen takes you. This was mine. And if you send me yours, I'll post it. Anonymously or with full attribution. :)

I'm thinking about my father today. When I have really amazing days with Bambina I find myself thinking about my Dad. Perhaps it's part of the cosmic continuum of the parent-child relationship, ie, being a parent conjures up memories and images of being parented. Maybe it's his way of poking his nose in, just to give an uncharacteristically non-invasive greeting. Or maybe, most likely, it's the quiet part of my subconscious that, all these months of "normalcy" later, keeps daily vigil over all the events and happenings I wish he were here to enjoy.

I was chatting with Sweet D last night about the nature of loss, both of us agreeing that the first year's life cycle events are the hardest: First Birthday Without Him. First Thanksgiving Without Him. First New Year Without Him. Each one brings an unique feeling of pain mixed with relief. Pain, almost physical, from knowing that you will never again hug him on his birthday. Relief at the end of the day that you made it through, that you're still here, that you have managed to affirm his life and memory without curling up and dying yourself. Each event offers more proof that life will go on and that it will get better. No, it will never be the same, but it will go on and you will smile again. Not that smile that you do for the first few months. The one you do much later when you are finally able--and willing--to smile from your heart again.

A year passes and you find yourself able to tell stories about him without tearing up--except for those times that you do. Life finds a new normal and you immerse yourself in it, busy with work and kids and all of the daily pedestrian activities that fill your calendar and your brain. You tell people you are fine now, although you "miss him every day," and you are mostly correct. But I believe that none of us is ever more than one soul-deep memory away from feeling the loss all over again. Not in the sudden, surprising, stomach-churning intensity of the death itself, but in the heart-full-of-joy intensity that you can no longer share with him in this physical world.

In other words, it's the happy days--not the sad ones--that hurt the most.

I didn't think about my Dad during any of the dark days of my transplant even though I assumed I would. But every day I got good news or felt good or could keep food down--however small the victory--I would find myself thinking, "Yo. Check me out Dad! Watch me do this!" I guess the part of me that is 4 years old swinging way up in the air at the park is still yelling, "Daddy! LookLookLookLook at me! Look what I'm doing! Look at me!" The good days (however low my standards for 'good' may be these days) were--and are--when I feel him the most.


I once read that one of the best ways to improve your emotional health was to honestly list on paper all of your "internal audiences." These are the people who reside in your head, sometimes without your knowledge, for whom you "perform" the actions of your life. Some of them deserve to be there, others do not. An easy way to determine who's who is to catalog all the people to whom you sometimes find your mind saying, "If you could see me now" or "Ha! I made it in spite of you!" or "Maybe you will love me now." Those are the ones who need to go. Think of those people who show up on Springer to tell their high school nemeses that they are no longer fat and ugly. These are the victims of the internal audience, as evidenced by the fact that the other person rarely remembers the Springer guest, or wasn't aware of their effect on the guest. They have lived their lives trying to be worthy of some kid from 20 years ago who called them fat; a kid who has gone on and lived his life without a single thought of them. There are obviously much worse cases of abused children and the like, but in the same way, they must find a way to remove the abuser (even if a parent) from their internal audience so they can live their happiest life.

So. I did this exercise a couple of years ago and promptly realized that I had about 6 extra people attending my show who needed to go home already. One was an ex-boyfriend (do you think I'm pretty enough to love now?), one was an old boss (I own my own business, b*tch, and you wouldn't even send me to a small state conference. How do you like me now?), and a couple were friends or family. I was driven to succeed in business for lots of reasons, but succeeding so I can make an old boss eat it is just a waste of mental energy (especially since, potential Springee that I was, the old boss couldn't have given a rat's a** what I was doing with my life). Same with the old boyfriend. He was no doubt in bed with his new girlfriend as I was doing that list, most certainly not thinking about how great I'd be looking in a bikini these days. Again, I was in dangerous Springer territory, so I called security and had him shown the door. It took a couple of tries to not let them all back in, but it finally did work. It was a tremendously valuable exercise.

At the time I agonized over the fact that I didn't feel compelled to evict my parents from the audience. Was I a Mama's Girl? What was my problem? But in the end I decided that there was nothing wrong with caring that my parents' respect for me was an integral part of decisions I made, any more than I now care that my daughter will respect me. I did, however, (as all grown adults should) downgrade my parents' seating from front row, center stage to a far left balcony with complimentary binoculars. Believe me, it's good for everyone.

Well, with that old exercise in mind, I decided in the weeks and months after my Dad died as I spoke to him in my head and missed him, that there was no rule stating audience members had to be alive. They just have to bring out the best in you. So JP got to stay in the show, and now that I think about it, maybe that's why I think of him and look to him when everything's coming up roses: because as much as it hurts to have the conversation in my head and not in person, sharing joy with someone you love always makes it double.

Or in other words, sometimes the loudest clapping you hear can come from even the farthest balcony.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I Don't Want To Start Something, But...

From the AP:

A newspaper reporter who said Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick would have been "better off raping a woman" than being charged with dogfighting has apologized and will no longer appear on the local sports panel TV show where he made the remark. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Paul Zeise made the comments Sunday night on the Sports Showdown show on KDKA-TV, a CBS affiliate. He was disagreeing with another panelist who said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should suspend Vick for the rest of the season because he was indicted on federal dogfighting charges July 17.

"It's really a sad day in this country when somehow ... Michael Vick would have been better off raping a woman if you look at the outcry of what happened," Zeise said. "Had he done that, he probably would have been suspended for four games and he'd be back on the field. But because this has become a political issue, all of a sudden the commissioner has lost his stomach for it." Zeise apologized Monday.

I'm pretty sure Paul Zeise was not comparing the killing of a dog to the raping of a human female. And I'm not sure if he was trying to say that dogfighting is no big deal and therefore Vick should not be punished, or that rape is no big deal. If so, then he ought to be off the air.

But here's the thing.

The gist of his statement--as reported--is not necessarily wrong.

Back in 2003 during the Kobe Bryant situation, research into rape allegations against professional athletes showed that data for "168 sexual assault allegations against athletes in the past dozen years suggests sports figures fare better at trial than defendants from the general population. Of those 168 allegations, involving 164 athletes, only 22 saw their cases go to trial, and only six cases resulted in convictions. In another 46 cases, a plea agreement was reached. Combined with the six athletes convicted at trial and one who pleaded guilty as charged, that gives the athletes a 32% total conviction rate in the resolved cases. That means more than two-thirds were never charged, saw the charges dropped or were acquitted. "I would say almost the exact opposite would be true in the normal course of business," says Nancy O'Malley, who chairs the sexual assault committee of the California District Attorneys Association and who is Alameda County's chief assistant district attorney. "In some areas, the conviction rate is 80-85%" at trial, O'Malley says...National statistics also suggest most ordinary defendants charged with sexual assault are punished. In May 1998 the U.S. Department of Justice tracked rape charges in the nation's 75 largest counties and found 52% of the defendants in 586 cases were convicted of rape and 14% were convicted of some other crime, either at trial or through pleas.

"It's not surprising that it's a relatively low conviction rate" for prominent athletes, says Linda Fairstein, former head of the sex crimes unit in the Manhattan district attorney's office in New York and a board member of the National Center for Victims of Crime. "These are cases where frequently even if the claim is legitimate there is enormous pressure on the victim not to press charges, that you're ruining his career," Fairstein says. Prosecutors who have handled these high-profile cases say they also face a hurdle because of the "he said-she said" nature of sexual assault trials, particularly when a celebrity defendant's word is pitted against that of an accuser unknown to jurors..."

Dogfighting charges are harder to beat because you can't really impugn the character or chastity of dogs. You can't find "reasons" why the general public should believe that the dogs deserved it, or why they are lying. You can't find anything in a dog's past to imply that that dog is not stable and therefore unreliable. You can't, via fan hate mail, convince a dog to drop the charges because he'd be ruining your career. And you can't convince the public that you can be a nice guy and kill dogs, but somehow you can find ways to imply just that when it comes to ethically-questionable sexual encounters with an acquaintance.

The sad truth is that athletes accused of sexual assault are indeed in better luck than those accused of dogfighting. Zeise didn't say anything untrue. What he said was ugly and uncomfortable for us as a society to contemplate, but it wasn't technically false.

His firing shows how far we have to go towards honestly acknowledging that fact.

Just When We Couldn't Look Worse in Iraq...

Here is a link to a Congressional Oversight Committee hearing in which a former US contractor in Iraq testifies that other US-hired contractors kidnapped Filipinos to build the American Embassy in Baghdad.

Yet another reason to be proud of ourselves over there. How much more diplomatic malpractice can we visit upon the region, for heaven's sake? At what point do we all just agree that the entire US operation in Iraq meets or exceeds every single necessary criterion for classification as an Absolute All-Out Comprehensive Clusterf*ck?


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Seize This, Michael

Right wing nut Michael Savage raised the asinine notion on his radio show that "the Democrats" had something to do with Chief Justice Roberts' seizure. No, I'm not kidding. His cockamamie--and slanderous--theory is helped along by a complete misquotation of Chuck Schumer and a horde of unbelievably soft-minded listeners who perhaps don't have the critical thinking skills to recognize unmitigated nonsense when they hear it.

Yeah, cause the Dems are so powerful. Note how we were able to immediately pull troops out of Iraq, impeach Bush, fire Gonzalez, pass ethics legislation, stop Bush from decimating child health insurance coverage, and punish Rove and Cheney for their misdeeds. Yeah. And now we can cause seizures too.

Or, to put it another way, if "the Democrats" (which is who specifically, by the way, Michael?) were that powerful, Savage wouldn't have a show on which to feature his syphilitic ramblings to begin with.