Im Augenblick

Sunday morning.  The phone next to our bed rings at 7:16.  The ringer’s turned off.  I normally sleep through a downstairs ring but I pick up.

Ace, who left for work at 6:45, informs me that he just got rear-ended on Highway 65.  The cops are on their way.  The guy who hit him is “plowed.”

“Plowed?” I ask.  “You mean drunk?”  On Sunday morning at 7:16 am.

Yeah, he’s drunk.  And ten seconds later he jumps back into his huge red truck and leaves the scene.  Ace was rear-ended.  The truck has no front license plate.

“Are you okay?”  I’m still trying to process what amounts to way too much information.

“I think so,” he says.  He can’t shake the idea that he shouldn’t be okay.  Ace was at a dead stop on Highway 65 at a red light.  The truck plowed into him full speed, at least 60 mph.  The impact imploded the back end of our 2011 Subaru Outback, sending a shower of glass along Ace’s neck, and pushing his car all the way across the intersection.

The cops arrive and we hang up.

Ace and I talk regularly about the risks of an hour commute each way, the nasty stretch of road known as Highway 65.  Wouldn’t it be great if he could walk a few blocks to the clinic on Grand Avenue?  We put him in a Subaru for safety and mileage.

I start gathering my thoughts and my car keys.  1) Figure out if Ace is actually injured.  2) Call the insurance company.  3) What to do about his work day?  There is no automatic “sub” system in his hospital practice.  If he can’t work, we have to find someone who can; It’s not like he can call in and say, “Hey, sorry.  Please let my patients know I can’t make it in.  I just had a near-death experience.”

He was at a dead stop, rear-ended full speed.  Physics suggests he shouldn’t be okay.

Ace calls back.  He needs to get to work.  He gives me the address of the towing company.  My dad and I leave in two vehicles.

We meet in the parking lot snowbank of Qwik Trip, across the road from the closed offices of the towing company.  He stands next to the debris he salvaged from the car: a pile of reusable shopping bags, a window break/seatbelt slicer, Minnesota winter emergency supplies, two hockey sticks.  I walk to Ace and embrace him, kiss him, tell him I love him.  His eyes are wide.  Imagine you’re all calm and casual, cruising down the street.  A red Lamborghini screams alongside, fire arcing off the metal.  Death catches your eye, cocks his head, coolly assessing.  Nope, not this time.  He peals off onto the open road.

Ace describes the man, how he staggered from his truck.  “I’m sorry,” he slurred.  “I just broke up with my girlfriend.”  He could barely walk, but got back in the cab and took off.  They apprehended him a few miles up the road.

“I’m glad they caught the –“ my dad hesitates, as if looking to see if my mom is present.  “Asshole,” I suggest, as my dad completes the sentence with “bastard.”  (sorry Mom)  We’re both spitting mad.

As a physician, I believe in the disease model of addiction.  My sympathy for the heartbroken man who could’ve killed my husband ended the second he stepped into his truck.  Don’t turn your own disease into someone else’s tragedy.

“Take ibuprofen now,” I say, knowing Ace is hopped up on epinephrine.  He’ll only feel the full effects of this at the end of his shift.

I ride home in my dad’s Subaru.  He tells me of the time an “old man” pulled right out in front of him.  My dad, age 15 and on a bike, was tossed up onto the guy’s hood.  The driver, an Eau Claire “stranger,” put my dad in the car and drove him to the hospital, waited while  the doctor checked him out, paid the bill, and repaired the bike.

Dad drops me off at home.  My mom checks in by phone, reminding me that her father was rear-ended by a drunk driver in the dead of night on his way home from working overtime.  She started waking up when her father was due home and staying awake until he arrived.  Safe.

I call the hospital where Ace works and chat with the floor manager.  Yes, they heard what happened.  I describe the scene in more detail and ask her to shove some ibuprofen down Ace’s throat.  “We’ll hogtie him,” she assures me.  “And make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid,” I say.  “We’ll try,” she replies.

Working after such an experience might be considered stupid.  What can he do?

I spend the next three hours on the phone.  The deputy who helped my husband supplies me with the other driver’s full name, date of birth (two weeks after Ace’s, including the year), license plate, and insurance name and policy number.  I inform American Family Insurance that their policy holder is currently in the county jail.  They will attempt to contact him for ten days to get his side of the story.  If they can’t reach him, they’ll proceed with their own investigation and decide whether they’ll accept liability.

How could they not accept liability?  We went to inspect our impounded car today and found the red truck’s front license plate – fully embedded in our car’s rear bumper.

At the end of it, I have a probably-totaled car, a huge unanticipated vehicular expense, a lengthy insurance investigation, and a living breathing husband.

In five years, maybe I’ll look at Ace and say, “Hey, remember when that drunk driver could’ve killed you on Highway 65 four days after 17 students and teachers were mowed down by a White Supremacist?  I’m so grateful that our lawmakers finally tackled gun reform as well as addiction treatment and support.”

A gal can dream.

IMG_4693

That’s the back of the guy’s license plate, embedded in our Subaru’s rear bumper.

IMG_4691

The back of the car performed EXACTLY as it should, caving in and dropping down. You can see how the rear of the car is mashed up against the tires.

IMG_4695

The interior seating area is quite well-preserved – plenty of room to survive. No airbags deployed.

IMG_4685

Again, you can see how the back of the car tilted down. The rear doors are unusable.

IMG_4701

Ace and Sparkle. Final goodbyes.

IMG_4683

The front still looks great!

 

Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Timber Target

I don’t like football.  I don’t get football.  At several points in my life, various males have attempted to explain the “down” system in a way that made any sense whatsoever.  They failed.  To me, football is the American equivalent of the gladiator ring.  We can’t condone fighting to the death but we can allow boorish fans to revel in blown ACLs, ripped rotator cuffs, and the chronic head trauma that leads to Swiss cheese brains.

Super Bowl LII provided the perfect opportunity for me to do my Target shopping.  It just so happens that Justin Timberlake visited my TargetIMG_4645 in the days leading up to LII.  This video dropped Friday, inducing a frenzied rush of JT fans screaming “Aardvark!!!!!”

IMG_4643

smiling, dressed for Target

IMG_4644

second minivan on the left #RockStar

Super Bowl Sunday was COLD.  I wore my Minnesota Suit and Tie and drove my SexyBack minivan to JT’s Target.  Got me some rock-star parking (Not a Bad Thing).  Contrary to popular belief, the Midway Target in St. Paul isn’t a Filthy, understaffed warehouse full of cheap, household Supplies.

IMG_4650

empty aisles

IMG_4646

it’s winter, people

IMG_4647

#bikinibody

IMG_4648

no shrine?

IMG_4657

JT + FP 4evah

The Body Count in the store was low, with aisles as empty as the Blue Ocean Floor.  A huge display of bikinis assaulted me, taunting me to Pose in front of the Mirrors.  Not My Style. I walked the Five Hundred Miles to the back of the store, Fascinated by the thought that Justin Timberlake breathed the very air around the Man of the Woods display.  I Can’t Believe It.  There’s no shrine.

IMG_4656

JT + RP ≠ TL b/c AL + RP = 4evah

IMG_4658

FP ingredients = GMOs, pesticide, and petroleum byproducts #GetANewSnack

I asked the Target tech dude (who looked like he’d rather be Livin’ Off the Land) for the straight scoop.  What went down on Friday?  Give It To Me!  Tech dude said JT came in on Friday, shot some video, spent some Money, walked around, and Nothin’ Else

Hm, I thought.  I Can’t Stop the Feelin’ that I’m not getting the True Colors of the situation, the Holy Grail of investigative journalism.  The self-checkout helper dished the real Sauce.  That Girl said the whole thing was a scam.  Timberlake arrived on Monday, spent a couple minutes surrounded by security in the back of the store, signed exactly five albums, posed with a cart filled by someone else, and left.  4 Minutes max.  Did he at least Say Something, take some Super Bowl Selfies with fans?  Nope.  Well, Cry Me a River.

IMG_4661

no longer smiling #SallowFace

#Sadface.  JT, you had a chance to Rock Your Body with good Minnesotans, folks acquainted with The [actual] Woods, people who would give you the several feet of personal space you deserve.  What Goes Around…Comes Around, dude.  We can see the Signs, stare right through your web of Flannel deception.

Sure, we’ll be nice, Role Model Minnesotans.  But Ain’t No Doubt About It, you can anticipate a lukewarm, passive-aggressive reception Until the End of Time.

 

Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Flee, Fly, Flu, Flum

Hey!  It’s flu season.  Again!  I blogged about this three years ago and I think it’s worth an update.

———————–

Disclaimer: I am not your doctor.  I am not trying to give you medical advice.  If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 now.  Now!  Thank you.

————————

Tis the season.  Everyone has “The Flu.”  Unfortunately for health care providers everywhere, “The Flu” represents at least four different situations in our culture.

1) The Flue.  Let’s get this one out of the way as it’s the least confusing.  Anyone with a woodburning fireplace has A Flue.  The great news is, flues aren’t contagious!

2) Which brings us to the next The Flu, as in Influenza, as in THE REAL DEAL FLU!  This is the bad one.  It isn’t actually one at all but many.  Sorry.  There are a three types of the influenza virus that afflict humans.  Ya got yer influenza A and yer influenza B and yer influenza C.

But influenza A is further divided into subtypes: influenza A H(1-18)N(1-11).  In other words, there are 19 different possibilities of H protein and 11 different possibilities of N protein on the surface of the influenza A virus.  To put this in mathematical terms would require me to relive something involving factorials and I’m not going there.  Suffice it to say that nature can produce many H + N combinations for our respiratory pleasure.

The joy doesn’t stop.  There can be many strains of a certain subtype.  Remember H1N1 from 2009?  That was a new strain of influenza A H1N1.  Vaccine wizards try to predict which strains, subtypes, and types will be particularly important in upcoming flu seasons and tailor “The Flu Shot” to those strains.  Sometimes they get it right.  Other times not so much.  Don’t get too mad at them – remember that factorial situation.

How does The Flu Shot work?  Most of the shots contain dead flu viruses.  ”Inactivated” is the slightly more pleasant term.  So I get my shot and my immune system picks up the dead viruses and says, hm, we have an intruder.  (Technically, we have three ((trivalent vaccine – this year containing an A H1N1, an A H3N2, and a B)) or four ((quadrivalent vaccine – everything above plus another B)) intruders.)  Let’s make antibody weapons directed against this intruder!  It takes a couple weeks for me to really build up my antibody arsenal.  When someone with The Flu sneezes on my face and I get exposed to real live virus, my immune system recognizes the intruder and my antibody weapons are ready to be deployed.

To put this in perspective, our bodies are exposed to thousands of new “intruders” each day as we eat and breathe and live.  Most of us can easily handle a couple more.

FluMist, the nose spray flu vaccination, is made up of “live attenuated” virus.  Think of it like a scorpion with its stinger removed.  No don’t.  That’s creepy.  Think of it like a barberry bush with the thorns removed.  Never mind.  Don’t think of it at all because the CDC says DON’T GET IT THIS SEASON BECAUSE IT ISN’T EFFECTIVE ENOUGH!

Influenza A is currently running rampant according to my charming husband and this helpful yet alarming map.  If you lived in Guam or Washington DC during the month of December, good for you.  It’s January now though, and all bets are off.

This flu season ushered in a particularly nasty strain of Influenza A.  Over thirty children have already died in the United States.

The match between the strains in the vaccine and the strains we are seeing “in the wild” isn’t perfect.  However, the vaccine can still help your body identify and attack the intruder.  Think of it like a family resemblance.  The vaccine contains a specific strain of influenza A(H3N2).   [Ms. Richardson, the flesh-eating zombie who lives next door.]  You contract a slightly different influenza A (H3N2).  [Hey!  You look a lot like Ms. Richardson!  Really?  You’re her sister?  I thought I sorta recognized you…  Are you a zombie, too?  ACK!!!]

As we get older, our immune systems get older, too.  They don’t get as excited about the flesh-eating zombie next door.  Folks over the age of 65 can get a couple souped-up versions of the vaccine: 1) a high-dose vaccine [a whole den of zombies] 2) an adjuvanted vaccine – the vaccine inside a base of squalene oil [like a zombie with flames shooting out of its orifices – highly noticeable].

The Bottom Line is you should get a flu shot.  Now.  Posthaste.  And next year do it in October.  If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the sake of the infants under six months who can’t get vaccinated.  Or the elders who don’t get bent out of shape about a couple zombies.

3) So how about The Flu, like The Stomach Flu, like I’m-Puking-And-Pooping-And-Miserable Flu.  Well, technically that isn’t flu at all.  Depending on your circumstances, it could be “food poisoning” (which isn’t really poisoning, but ingestion of food-borne microbes such as campylobacter and salmonella) or viral gastroenteritis caused by any one of a number of fecal-to-oral transmitted viruses.  Norovirus, the virus-formerly-known-as-Norwalk, is the big offender in this country.

Yup, you read that right.  Fecal, as in POOP, to oral, as in EAT POOP.  Ace and I both learned a scintillating saying in medical school: “If shit were red, the world would be pink.”  Just let that one sink in for a minute.  The moral to the story is: WASH YOUR HANDS.

4) Finally, we come to The Flu.  ”I have a touch of The Flu” is what your neighbor says when he has a runny nose and slight cough.  Folks, you cannot have a touch of the Actual Flu.  The Actual Flu doesn’t touch you, it bowls you over, leaving you prostrate and begging for mercy.  Your neighbor’s “touch of The Flu” is likely a viral upper respiratory infection, caused by one of a group of constantly mutating viruses.  Hence, no vaccine).  Common causes of The Common Cold include rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

People know that “a touch of The Flu” will excuse them from work, uncomfortable social obligations, and cooking duty.  ”A touch of The Flu” begs sympathy and chicken noodle soup.  ”I have a cold” and you can just join the club.  Buck up!

If you schedule an appointment with your Minnesota doctor for symptoms of a viral upper respiratory infection during the months of December or January, s/he is likely to be sicker than you are and more than a little peevish from a vexing combination of stress (it’s nearly impossible for doctors to just “call in sick”) and lack of sleep.

That is all.

 

Musical Moment

 

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

FOS – the Fruits Of the Spirit

 

Love, joy, kindness, faithfulness, and what?

The Fruits of the Spirit rot,

Forgotten and maligned, sin-sick expendable culture.

With instant gratification, easily bruised egos

Spar from the anonymity of screens.

What can we do to help?

Remind everyone to eat their fruit!

Be kind.  Be faithful.  Be love.

 

Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Best of 2017

IMG_3188

Rafa snuggling with Chester

My beloved Pomeranian, Rafa, died last May of heart failure.  Naturally, I assumed Ace would be just fine with the immediate procurement of another Pom.  Not so.  Turns out Ace enjoyed the relative dearth of barking.

I continued my daily Petfinder searches.  Quietly.

Dear Universe, please send me a Pomeranian.  The Universe had other ideas.

Rafa came from Second Chance Animal Rescue, a lovely 501(c)3 organization in the Twin Cities.  My Henry and Teddy also came from Second Chance.  I hooked up my parents with Second Chance’s Torrey (aka Freaky) over ten years ago.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 10.39.57 AM

Teddy and Henry.

 

IMG_4336

Torrey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Rafa’s death, I took all of his heart meds to a Second Chance adoption event and gave them to the program director.  I might’ve mentioned that I was in the market for a Pomeranian.  It’s possible that I wrote down my name and phone number.

Roughly three days later, the program director called and asked if we could foster a Pomeranian.  The dog was about nine years old with multiple medical problems and had been removed from an abusive situation.  Oh, and the dog was a biter.

I played the Child card even though The Big E spent his whole toddlerhood as Henry’s chewtoy.

Shortly (very shortly) thereafter, another Pom needed a foster home.  The dog’s human mother had dementia and was no longer able to care for a pet.  Great! I said.  Remarkably, Ace agreed.  The devil you know…

More info emerged and the situation muddied.  The Pom was a barker and liked to bite folks who got too close to her human.  #Suboptimal.

Cheryl lives two blocks from us and happens to foster for Second Chance.  She mentioned to me that she had a darling Yorkie she thought my parents should meet.  I stopped by and took “Newton” for a little walk.  My parents loved him.  (“If he actually looked like a Yorkie we’d be seriously tempted.”)  My son loved him.  My Labrador Retriever loved him.  My husband tolerated him.

At which time I pulled the Great Switcheroo of 2017.  I asked Cheryl to trade; we would foster Newton and she would foster the barker/biter.  She agreed.

I wanted a Pomeranian.

2-1

This is a Pomeranian.

2

This is a Pomeranian.

3-3

This is a Pomeranian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3524

This is NOT a Pomeranian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

During our brief stint as a “foster” family, I renamed Newton, ordered up a dog tag with his new name and our address, applied for a lifelong St. Paul pet license, and bought him an adorable faux-leather jacket.

But I want a Pomeranian!  Ace did not want a Pomeranian.  Ace announced that he did not want another dog but if he had to have another dog, let it be this dog.

I signed the adoption papers.

Fergus is not a Pomeranian.  But he’s perfect.  He loves his human and canine brothers.  He rarely barks.  He helped me study for my medical Board exam.  He snuggles.  He sleeps at my feet and in the morning when I’m waking up, he comes up and sits on my chest.  He’ll even wash my face.

IMG_4378 2IMG_4051IMG_3996 IMG_4384

 

 

 

IMG_3995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m planning to sew Fergus a Pomeranian suit for halloween. IMG_4057

 

 

 

 

 

I set my intention.  I asked the Universe for a Pomeranian.  The Universe supplied me with the only small dog my husband could tolerate, and maybe even love.

Musical Moment

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Seven Banned Words of Trump

I thought he was kidding.  My husband asked, “Hey, did you see that tiny blurb in the Star Tribune about Trump banning the CDC from using certain words?”  What?  After nearly a year of madness, I shouldn’t be surprised.

According to multiple news sources, the Trump administration informed the Centers for Disease Control that they can’t use “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “vulnerable,” “diversity,” and “entitlement” in next year’s budget documentation.

The reasons for this latest assault on Reason, Science, and Humanity were not stated.  They don’t need to be stated.  The Narcissist in Charge is merely continuing his fascist, anti-choice, racist, opinion-based, homo- and transphobic agenda.

12,000 people work for the CDC.  I guarantee that the least intelligent CDC employee is smarter than the president.  Geez, what a nightmare.  But just in case the CDC workers wish to focus less on linguistics and more on science, I’ll offer up some substitutions for easy insertion into documents.

Instead of “transgender,” try “queer.”  Related but not necessarily synonymous, this quick-change will certainly produce some headscratching amongst the anti-facters.  For added effect, be sure to utilize “queer” in other contexts, as in “The color of the acid bath looked a bit queer after we dipped Trump’s head in it.”

“Fetus” is a very specific medical term that describes the post-embryonic, pre-newborn products of conception.  I suggest using a code-word to throw off the #AlternativeFacts folks.  “Gerbil” could work well.  Embed some links that toss readers out to #TotesAdorbs home videos.  Here’s an example: “A gerbil is not a person.”

“Evidence-based” and “science-based.”  Hm.  What to do.  Heaven forbid that any aspects of policy and budget should involve actual facts.  As an initial management strategy, try “facts derived from scientific study” or “data discerned from the rigorous systematic evaluation of prospective randomized controlled trials.”  Might do the trick.

“Vulnerable”?  #seriously?  I think of this in the context of the “vulnerable adult.”  Why would you want to put a muzzle on discussion of vulnerable adults?  Fortunately, we have a plethora of synonyms available including “at-risk,” “endangered,” “susceptible,” “exposed.”  Upon further reflection, perhaps Trump banned this word b/c he can’t bear the thought of ever being vulnerable.  For a narcissist, vulnerability is unthinkable.  The opposite of great.  Very bad.

“Diversity” is a lovely word, reflecting the enormous amount of variation, heterogeneity, multiplicity, assortment, mélange, range, and multifariousness.  Vive la différence.  The CDC could simply substitute “la différence” for “diversity”; Trump would probably ignore it, thinking it was a reference to cheese.

I had to research why the CDC might use the word “entitlement.”  Ooh!  I get to quote Wikipedia!  “An entitlement is a provision made in accordance with a legal framework of a society.  Typically, entitlements are based on concepts of principle (‘rights’) which are themselves based in concepts of social equality or enfranchisement.”  Here are some sentences that can replace the word “entitlement” in next year’s budget:

“Trump hates children.”

“Trump hates libraries and public schools – #TooSocialist #Sad”

“Trump thinks the ‘unalienable rights’ apply only to rich white men.”

“Trump would kill your pet bunny and force an indentured servant to turn it into golf club head covers.”

It’s only right that the Trump administration be banned from using seven words.  Turnabout is fair play.  Might I suggest:

1)   fake

2)   pussy

3)   God

4)   all superlatives, particularly “huge,” “tremendous,” “epic,” “great,” “Great,” & “Great!”

5)   Hillary

6)   Clinton’s

7)   Emails

 

Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | 6 Comments

Holiday Decorating on a #TaxBill2017 Budget

Welcome Gentle Readers!

Today we will explore how to create a festive and inviting home environment even as we start in on a new gastric ulcer courtesy of #TaxBill2017.

1) Caloric Requirements:

During the halcyon days of the Obama administration, many of us managed to pick up a few extra pounds during the month of December.  Ho ho ho! and a bottle of rum, indeed.  Due to the constant activation of our collective renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system under the current administration, please anticipate heightened caloric needs.  We estimate that the average “liberal” adult will require additional daily calories in the following approximation: 4″ x 5″ section of ginger bread house (preferably heavily decorated with corn syrup frosting and petrochemical gumdrops), hot toddy (1), Four Calling Birds, 1/3 Costco tub of Nutella, 24 ounces eggnog (spiked), and a handful of candy canes purloined from a co-worker’s desk.

2) Set the Bar – Low, and with adequate glassware:

I’ve noticed an alarming trend amongst legitimate lifestyle bloggers, who hold that minimalism, not cleanliness, is next to godliness.  These paragons of style espouse KonMari-ing and Swedish Death Cleaning as a way of life.  Regular, everyday life.

IMG_4209

Leave those doors open! Let people see how you really live!

IMG_4208

Never, ever de-clutter your kitchen when entertaining. The stacks of dirty dishes allow guests to fully relax and regenerate their self-esteem.

I’m here to tell you, there is nothing more stressful than walking into a friend’s home for a holiday gathering and noting that everything is in perfect order, with nary a whiff of clutter.  This year, especially this year, I plan to help our guests feel more at-home, and perhaps even domestically-enabled, by leaving our clutter pristinely intact.

3) Making Due – Bootstraps Decor:

Some families celebrate Christmas by hacking down living, breathing trees, strapping them to their cars like slaughtered game, slapping them in shallow bowls full of chemical-laden water that their macerated phloem and xylem can’t even slurp up, and discarding them within a couple weeks like last year’s iPhone.

IMG_4191

This year’s Christmas tree – “Brass Buckle”

Why not use one of the houseplants you’ve killed over the past year instead?  I happened to kill a charming specimen early this fall, a miniature evergreen Japanese Holly called “Brass Buckle.”  It survived outdoors from May through September thanks to consistent rainfall.  I replanted it as a land/water bonsai, so charming, and brought it inside, whereupon I completely forgot about it.

IMG_4203

Nothing could be cheerier than red-n-orange Nerf mega-darts! Candy wrappers, found on various horizontal surfaces, add a whimsical element.

The dead specimen makes a perfect miniature Christmas tree!  I simply decorated it with found objects and gave it a light dusting of artificial snow.  #SoFestive!

IMG_4207

Even the family dog can help decorate! Here, a light dusting of Chester fur completes the snowy scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sure most of you have seen the photos of Melania Trump’s Christmas decor at the White House.  You, too, can create a lovely DIY version of the Hall of White Branches With Ominous Ceiling Shadows!  I chopped down some of our existing shrubbery and propped it up on the front porch at jaunty angles.

IMG_4218

#TwiggyTwistmas

IMG_4219

Wickermare Before Christmas?

The suspended wicker furniture adds the necessary element of foreboding so integral to FLOTUS’ vision.

 

That’s the limit of Holiday Cheer I can muster at the moment.  Please chime in with your ideas for how to make the season bright.

 

Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Dear Al Franken

He corners me in the stairwell, away from the other kids.  “Show me what’s under your underwear,” he demands, “or I’ll hurt you.”  I’m scared and ashamed.  I lift my skirt and show him the edge of my underwear, trying to appease him.  He traps me another time and after that I quit wearing dresses to school.  I tell no one, already internalizing the potential fallout of an accusation.  I am six.

We’re in England for my dad’s work during Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee.  I attend part of a school-day with the daughter of my father’s colleague.  We glue colored tissue to flat paper crowns.  Love live Queen Elizabeth the Second!  I, the foreigner, am paraded around the room with my crown.  Some older boys snicker and talk.  I hear their words and see their crude motions and I’m not quite naïve enough to miss their sexual intent.  I am seven.

We stage a talent show at sleep-away church camp.  I wear my leopard print pajamas and dance around to music from The Pink Panther.  A male counsellor, college-aged, says, “You’re so cute, I could make kittens.”  I am nine.

My mother takes me to a self-defense workshop at a Catholic church near our house.  Kick them in the groin, poke them in the eyes.  “Don’t yell rape; yell fire,” they say.  No one wants to get involved in a rape.  They teach us to fear the stranger in the woods.  They don’t teach us to fear the priest, the babysitter’s boyfriend, the friend of the family.  I am ten.

We’re visiting distant cousins in California.  The boys are systematically chasing the girls, capturing them, and swinging them by their arms and legs before tossing them into the pool.  I shrink behind the pool furniture.  They try to come for me and I say, “No,” shaking my head.  They come anyway and drag me to the side of the pool.  I’m hanging by my arms and legs – it hurts to have your entire weight suspended by your hands and feet – and I feel helpless.  And resigned.  It’ll be over soon.  They toss me into the pool.  I am eleven.

The practice studio sits at the very back of the music store, down a dark hall, behind a closed door.  My drum teacher is strange.  I have a pretty high tolerance for strange.  One day, he tells me a joke.  I don’t recall the lead-in.  The punchline is “A black cherry,” a double whammy of racism and misogyny.  I tell my teacher that it’s not appropriate for him to say things like that to me.  I am twelve.

A friend of my family, a single man around thirty years old, tells my parents that he would want to date me if I were older.  I am thirteen.

I take the bus to driver’s ed in the summer, all the way to the flat expanse of Bloomington.  I’m carrying a LeSportsac purse.  It’s white and square and I love everything about it except the color.  I get off the bus, headed west on 90th, and sense someone behind me.  I glance over my shoulder.  There’s a man behind me.  He’s moving closer.  I glance again and the sun reflects off the metal he holds in his hand.  He’s gaining on me with apparent intent.  I dash across the street and rush into the driver training building.  Even then, I’m doubting my own senses, my own story.  Was he really following me?  Was it actually a knife?  I call my parents from the office phone.  I am fifteen.

I’m at the allergist, doing my annual check-in.  Yes, the injections are going fine.  No, I haven’t had any bad reactions.  Yes, I’m taking the phenylpropanolamine (even though it makes me feel blue).  No, I don’t want any prednisone.  The doctor moves in to examine me, pressing his groin tight against my thigh.  I try to scoot sideways, subtly.  Is he just leaning?  Am I over-reacting?  The next year, it’s the same story.  And the next, I’m ready, my leg safely out of the way.  I am a teenager.

The youth group from church goes on a mission trip to San Francisco.  We frolic at the ocean despite the freezing temperatures.  I’m wearing a modest bikini that I found on clearance at Marshall’s.  Behind my back, I hear a group of boys comment on my swimsuit.  “Too bad she doesn’t have the body for it,” they say.  I am fifteen.

I’m a senior at South High School.  A junior flirts with me, loans me his fuzzy jade green sweater.  It smells like soap and boy and fits me like an enormous dress.  He gives me a Woolrich stuffed sheep for Christmas.  I know it costs $25 and I think it’s way too much for him to spend and he does it anyway.  We hang out at City Center, listen to U2, and kiss.  “Whenever you’re ready,” he says.  I’m not ready.  He doesn’t push.  I am seventeen.

I’m a freshwomyn at Oberlin College.  I meet a boy.  It’s autumn and the fog is so beautiful in the evening.  We walk and talk and play Rachmaninoff for each other.  We wind up in my dorm room.  We’re kissing and he keeps trying to get up my shirt.  I push his hands away.  “No.”  He stands up abruptly, “I’ve heard enough ‘no’,” and storms out of my room.  We never speak again.  I am eighteen.

One of my patients is scheduled for a complete physical.  We chat about his medical history.  I hand him a gown and step out of the room so he can change.  When I come back in, he is completely naked and aroused, sitting on the exam table.  I offer him a gown.  He declines.  “You can wear a gown,” I say.  Do I step out and ask my nurse to accompany me?  A colleague later tells me that she saw my patient for a physical.  “Why?  I say.  “He just had a physical.”  The story is exactly the same.  The story repeats again in the ER with yet another young female physician.  I contact the tech assistant for the Electronic Medical Record.  I describe the situation, that we need a warning to pop up on the patient’s chart: Do not see this patient without a chaperone.  The tech assures me that he’ll look into it.  When the patient returns to clinic, I confront him.  “I know what you’re doing and you have to stop.”  I never see him again.  I am thirty.

In my five years at Hiawatha Clinic, two of my patients come to me for help after they are raped.  I encourage them to call the police.  Both decline.  One was raped by her drug dealer and is afraid that she’ll be prosecuted.  The other was roofied on a college campus in the Twin Cities.  I write a scathing letter to the president of the institution and hear exactly nothing back.

After the Leann Tweeden story breaks, I find myself embroiled in a Facebook discussion.  Most of the participants think that what you, Al Franken, did, really wasn’t that bad.  And for a woman to even bring up such allegations is an insult to women who were actually raped.  I’m speechless.  These are “progressive” people, arguing for “Levels of Wrongness,” excusing your inexcusable behavior.

Eventually I find my voice in the discussion.  “From the US Dept of Justice: ‘Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.’”  There is pushback in the Facebook conversation, so I add, “Our culture has so normalized the objectification of women, that we even question ourselves – ‘Did he really just rub his groin against my thigh? Maybe he was just leaning?’ [recognize that story, reader?] Regardless of the ‘degree of wrongness,’ it’s wrong. And women should feel safe to speak up, to break the Cycle of Wrong.”

Women are speaking up.  Finally.  Every woman has a story.  Every woman has been harassed.  In the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.  That means 92 people have been assaulted since I sat down to write this post.

I’m fortunate.  What happened to me was “not so bad,” par for the course for any girl in this country.  Still, the memories I shared above are crystal clear, formative experiences in my childhood and adolescence.

I voted for you, Al.  Twice.  It’s time for some House (and Senate) cleaning.  We hold our children to higher standards than we hold our elected officials.  Let’s systematically sort through and eliminate (metaphorically, of course) everyone in government who has committed sexual assault.  Cull the ranks.  If we systematically sort through and eliminate everyone in government who is guilty of sexual harassment, how many men will remain?

I don’t know what to tell you, Al.  On the one hand, you’re pretty good, one of the few glimmers of hope in a bleak political landscape.  You seem to care about issues that I care about.  Your recent track record suggests that you value and respect women.  On the other hand, you appear to have committed sexual assault.  Twice.  You made your bed and now you have the pleasure of lying in it.

So I say shake it down, shake it all down.  Rattle the skeletons.  Hold everyone to the same standard of human decency in this era of a pussy-grabbing president.

 

Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Asshole

A hemorrhoid,

That’s what he is.

A fungating mass lurking at the anus of our democracy.

 

Easily irritated,

Readily inflamed,

Leaching the lifeblood from our veins.

 

Embarrassing.  Slimy.  Disgusting.

 

We knew it could be big trouble,

This redundant tissue hovering in our nether regions.

Maybe if we ignore it

(we thought)

It’ll go away.

 

It didn’t.

 

It grew and stretched and expanded

And bled.

 

At some point -

Perhaps the immigration ban, Paris Climate Accord, or conflicts of interest?  Maybe indiscriminate sharing of classified information, false wire tap accusations, birth certificate idiocy, or crying “Fake News!”

No?

What about NAFTA dalliances, the Meals on Wheels fiasco, and mucking with the judicial branch?

 

The “gentleman” dictator.

The “very fine people.”

The “on both sides”?

 

At some point -

The misogyny and racism and anti-Semitism and the “little shit” and the “son of a bitch” -

All of it will congeal,

Clot,

Thrombose.

 

The excruciating pain of a thrombosed hemorrhoid.

 

Are we there yet?

What will it take?

When the conservative management,

The stool softeners

The fiber

The fluids

The sitzbaths

When the conservative management can’t manage the pain in the ass.

 

We reach for the knife.

 

We reach for the knife and,

without benefit of anesthetic

(we don’t deserve it for what we’ve done)

we reach for the knife and

Cut

It

Out.

 

Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

If the Shoe Fits

We spent last week at my in-laws’ lake shack.  The conditions of my participation in lake shacking include: 1) a functioning indoor toilet 2) running water.

Spiders don’t bother me in the least.  I love snakes.  And I can even live with some mouse excrement.

Ace, The Big E, Chester, the New Edition (more on that in a later post), and I piled into the minivan last Monday.  Packing is hardly a challenge when you’re driving around in a gas-guzzling motel-on-wheels.  Remember my pillow fetish?  Not a problem.

An hour-and-a-half into the trip, The Big E requested a stop to evacuate the contents of his urinary bladder.  We pulled into a gas station and he said, “Oh dear, I think I forgot my shoes.”  I looked down, and there he was, wearing MY socks with nary a shoe in sight.

How do you even pile, stocking-footed, into a car for a several day trip without shoes?  How does this happen?

I have a love/hate relationship with shoes.  I love shoes that look swell and fit well.  The fitting part is tricky, though, as I’m exceptionally picky, particularly if I’m paying retail prices.  Zappos and I are playing tennis, back and forth, with boxes of shoes.  I ordered, they sent, and I returned the following: Nike FS Lite Run 4 athletic shoes size 8.5 men’s, Nike Arrowz 8.5 men’s (too small for The Big E – I should’ve kept for myself), Dansko Stevie sandals size 39 (which are nothing like my beloved Dansko Stevie sandals from years ago that I bought at Steeple People for $4), Nike FS Lite Run 4 athletic shoes size 8.5 men’s (they were supposed to send an 8), Dansko Stevie sandals size 40 (the straps just didn’t fit my foot), Nike FS Lite Run 4 athletic shoes size 8 men’s (ugh),  and New Balance WX608v4 women’s jill-of-all-trades shoe in a 9.5.

My current athletic shoes, purchased on clearance at Marshall’s for $29, look like they’ve walked around the world in eighty days.  The Big E, being as he was, totally and completely without shoes, took my shoes.  They’re a bit snug for my baby moose, but he made do, turning them into his preferred slip-on model of footwear by mashing the heels down flat.

Approximately twenty-four hours into our ordeal trip, Ace noticed that the cork on the septic system had popped up, as if under extreme pressure.  To me it looked like a bit of plastic poking up out of the earth.  To him, it was a gustatorial and gastrointestinal emergency.  Ace called up the septic folk who hopped into their giant vacuum truck and charged us a boatload of money for “draining the system.”  In the interim, I made a delightful trip to the outhouse after dousing the entire structure with DEET.

A serendipitous foray into Goodwill in town yielded a pair of black Adidas ($6).  They were in the men’s section and, at first blush, looked to be The Big E’s size.  I bought them.  And they fit me perfectly!

We still haven’t found the missing athletic shoes.  School starts tomorrow.  And The Big E left my shoes at a friend’s house yesterday.

 

Musical Moment

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment