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!”


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,




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





Musical Moment

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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.


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Radical Acceptance: Bad S*** Consistently Happens

Ace, The Big E, and I escaped to small-town Wisconsin for two days last week.  We crossed streets without getting run over, shopped in the farmers’ market, and snarfed preternaturally sweet corn-on-the-cob.  I basked in the luxury of off-line ignorance for forty-eight hours.

We returned on Saturday, just after a white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of true Americans, killing one woman and injuring enough others to fill 1.5 juries.  This at the end of a bare-faced, tiki-torch, Nazi bacchanal.  The president, snuggled up in his narcissistic bed, with Putin on one side and Steve Bannon on the other, basically said,  ”Tsk, Tsk.  Let’s all just try to get along.”

Let me vomit my thoughts onto the screen.  Don’t expect pristine organization.

1)    I’m embarrassed to be an American.  I read in the paper this morning that a supremely drunk American tourist decided it would be a swell idea to parade around Dresden, Germany raising his arm in a Nazi salute.  A German onlooker beat him up.  And this morning, a Massachusetts police officer, responding on Facebook to the Charlottesville death, wrote, “Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn’t block road ways.”

My grandpa, a WWI purple-heart decorated Marine, is rolling over in his grave.

2)   White supremacy is nothing new.  Fascists have been lurking among us forever.  Slave-owning white men wrote the Constitution.  Fascists are no longer lurking; they’re openly smiling for the camera.

3)   In America, we are guaranteed Freedom of Hate Speech.  Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito writes in Matal v. Tam: “[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’”

4)   How did an electoral majority of Americans believe that a racist, homophobic, narcissistic, xenophobic, misogynist is preferable to a woman?

5)    We haven’t evolved to the point that our brains can handle a continual onslaught of terrifying information.  I’m reminded of the Learned Helplessness Theory of Depression that I studied in Intro Psych.  Researchers decided to shock dogs to examine the impact on mood.  When the shocks occurred in a predictable manner, dogs didn’t get depressed.  When the shocks occurred in an unpredictable manner, depression followed.

My former colleague in clinic noted an immediate uptick in anxiety and insomnia in the days following the last presidential election.  As time marched on, depressive symptoms increased.  The “Trump Twenty” is real, with stressed patients packing on the pounds.

It’s time to stop being unpredictably shocked.  Horrifying events are predictably occurring all the time and we know about them immediately courtesy of the internet.  Radical Acceptance = acknowledging that bad shit consistently happens.

6)   How can we protect our children from the idiocy and violence that adults are continually perpetrating?  I chose not to discuss recent events in Charlottesville with The Big E.  Instead, we talked about our family values, that we believe all people are equal.  That a particular race, gender identity, sexuality, religion, cultural heritage, ability, intellectual capacity, does not determine a person’s worth.  How can we protect our children from Learned Helplessness in the Age of the iPhone?

7)    A partial list of suggested new hobbies for White Supremacists: buckthorn abatement, Meals on Wheels delivery, cleaning veteran’s war memorials, reading to nursing home residents (reading materials to be provided by residents’ family members), invasive species management (carp, beetles, worms)

8)   We can’t be chronically overwhelmed (or numb) and expect to be effective agents of change.  We must balance being informed with being healthy.

9)   Tiny steps help.  I will smile at strangers in Target.  I will recycle to the best of my ability.  I will financially support organizations that share my belief that all people are equal.  I will model peaceful conflict resolution for my son and help him learn to be an emotionally capable man.  #TinyRevolution

10)   Set your phone down and do some good.  Here are suggestions from the Southern Poverty Law Center.  


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We take the bus to the debate tournament – Molly and I in our backless sweaters, convinced that feminine wiles are a major player in our offensive strategy.

Where do I meet him exactly?  Maybe in the hall between rounds, maybe in the lunchroom.  He’s cute, with a shock of wavy sand hair and puppy-brown eyes.  We’re by the lockers – were we talking?  The cumulative available getting-to-know-you time must be less than 32 minutes.  We’re by the lockers and he’s nuzzling my face with his cheek and his nose and I know he wants to kiss me and it’s like come on, get on with it already and I’m lighter than air, wafting on a breeze of sweet longing.

He doesn’t kiss me.

“I want to take you to prom,” he says.  I’m blown away.  Yes, of course I want to go to prom with you.  No matter that I know nothing about your family, no matter that you live hours away.

At the end of the tournament, I board the bus.  High.  He stands on the sidewalk of my memory.

I wave goodbye.

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MWF Seeking SFuPo

Hey stranger.  Yeah, you.  The furry one with whiskers and cute pointy ears.  How about moving in with me for a long-term, committed, platonic love relationship?

I’m a middle-aged gal who’s used to canine-ical polyamory.  Due to the recent demise of my beloved fuzzy Pomeranian, I find myself in a monogamous situation with a large labrador retriever who doesn’t really understand the concept of snuggling.  Sure, he’s great at fetch games, inhaling kibble, and chronic tail-wagging, but Chester isn’t exactly a lap dog.  The last time he sat on me, I came away with Exhibits A (anterior thigh ecchymoses), B (later shin contusions), and C (puncture wound to vintage Izod).

Yesterday, I accidentally stopped at the Humane Society.  (Please don’t tell my husband.)  You were not there.  You are not a pitbull or a bulldog mix or a lab mutt or a Viszla situation.  You are not (please, please, please) a barker.  You are not bigger than 15 pounds or smaller than 8-10 pounds.  (I do not wish to maim you if I accidentally trounce on your tiny paw.)  You are not decrepit or insulin-dependent or bitish or dysthymic or entirely without functional teeth.

Color isn’t critical.  I will love you if you’re black, tan, white, buff, parti, or merle.  But if you’re auburn/red/russet I might become particularly enamored with you.  Gender matters not at all, though it’s a bit easier to diaper you (in the event of incontinence in your elder years – surely you would never mark on purpose) if you’re a boy.  Genus and species are non-negotiable.  Canis lupus familiaris only, please.  Pomeranians strongly preferred, though other small breeds will be given serious consideration.

I promise to love you, rub your tummy, carry you around like a baby, take you for delightful evening strolls, dress you up for Halloween, photograph you incessantly, feed you a fancy limited-ingredient diet (supplemented with an endless supply of surreptitious table scraps from The Big E), sneak you into places where you (for idiotic reasons like public health) aren’t allowed, and generally dote on you into your dotage.

About my husband.  He is a bit hesitant to commit to a second canine.  I do not understand his position.  He requires significantly less snuggling and I’ve informed him that if you, a delightful fur companion, do not join our household, he (Ace) will be required to do significantly MORE snuggling.  I’m confident that he (Ace) will come around.

Sound good?  Take your furry little paw and swipe right.  Let’s see where this goes…


Musical Moment

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Dear Class of 2017 Liberal Arts Graduates:

Congratulations.  I hope you aren’t saddled with unmanageable student debt.

We need to talk.  I know you’re capable of reading above a third-grade level for prolonged periods of time, certainly longer than a 140-character tweet.  If forced to condense my thoughts into a single tweet, it would be this:

“World in danger – send in the liberal arts grads. #TruthMatters #ThoughtMatters #ArtMatters #ScienceMatters #EducationMatters #LoveMatters”

You’re it.  You’re the key to the future.  I’m not asking for optimism or even realism.  What I want is idealism.  I want you to seek the Truth and stand on it, waving your handmade, pithy, activist signs.

Irreversible global warming?  Rampant diabetes, hypertension, superbugs, obesity, and mental illness?  Mounting political and religious extremism?  We may soon reach a stage where cyber shopping, tele-commuting, and Fox News keep us corralled like brainwashed livestock, alone in our dwellings, lacking the social skills to even carry on the species.

You.  Have.  The.  Tools.  When everyone else is wallowing in the reactionary muck of an anonymous virtual existence, you will still know how to communicate, interpret, negotiate, research, predict, extrapolate, mediate, and love.

Never doubt the value of your liberal arts education.

While you go about changing the world, I’m happy to pick you up at the airport, feed you dinner, tuck you into the guest bed, and help fix your hair before your presentation/speech/awards ceremony/concert/seminar.

I met a friend for lunch today.  In person.  We sat in her backyard in the midst of grass and mud and hostas and dandelions and potential.  On the way to her home, I drove past a mashed rabbit.  The body part was quite flattened.  But the ears lifted straight up on the breeze, a jaunty peace sign arising from the median.

There’s a metaphor in there.  I’m not exactly sure what it is.

Go out.  Do good in the world.  #YouMatter


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I’m sitting in the waiting room of the emergency vet clinic at the University of Minnesota.  The hum of the vending machines.  Folks typing at the reception desk.  Sneet falling on the skylights above my head.

Last night The Big E and I went out in search of Chikoritas.  (More about that in a future post.)  We were gone two hours.  Ace reports that Rafa stood at the back door the entire time.  Barking.  By the time I got home, Rafa couldn’t breathe.  Two hours of riled-up barking is bad for a guy with congestive heart failure.  I gave him extra hydrocodone for cough and two doses of sub-Q furosemide.  Then we sat and panted and coughed and peed until 1 am.  I went to bed, hoping he’d make it through the night, wondering if I was a bad mother for not taking him to the ER at 0100.

The pointer puppy wags her whole body while her human dad pays up.  “Can I pet the baby?” I ask.  He warns me about her sharp puppy teeth.  She climbs me with her lanky freckled paws, trying to gnaw my hair, my jacket, my hand.

We’ve known about Rafa’s heart failure for close to a year.  One of the valves in his heart is shot, so blood can’t pump efficiently.  If you feed the guy a hot dog, the salt load makes him drink excessive fluids.  And because the pump isn’t great, the excess fluid winds up in his lungs.  Just like in a person.  To confound the issue, his enlarged heart pushes on his trachea, making it even harder to breathe.

I wonder why vets haven’t banned branded materials from their facilities.  The clock, the calendar, the poster of ideal body weight, the model of heartworms threading between the cardiac chambers.  Free advertising for Big Pharma.

In November, Rafa went into acute respiratory distress.  Most of the details are fuzzy.  I clearly remember carrying him into the U ER.  “He can’t breathe,” I say, tears streaming down my face.  The receptionist calmly takes him from me – “We’ll take care of him right away.”  She fastwalks him into the back room, into an oxygen box.

He’s in the box again now.  It’s a small-dog Japanese style oxygen bar, a wall of 2x2x3 boxes.  I want to sit with him, reach my hand around the Plexiglass, scratch his head.  The vet thinks the excitement will be suboptimal.  So I sit in the waiting room, the sneet turning to drizzle above my head.

Rafa has a cardiologist.  Rafa, the Pomeranian, has a cardiologist.  Dr. Stauthammer is a lovely man – warm, smart, funny, pragmatic.  After the scare last fall, we meet with him a couple times.  I ask him to prognosticate, look into his crystal ball, see into the future of my fluffy boy.  Maybe Rafa has a year.  Maybe more, maybe less.  We’ll see.

Today I tell the receptionist, then the vet student, then the vet attending: Rafa is Comfort Care.  I do not want him hospitalized.  I want them to help him be comfortable and if he can’t be comfortable at home, I want them to euthanize him.  Sometimes my words are accompanied by tears.  By the third time around, my words are stronger.  Less wet.

How do you measure a dog’s quality of life?  Rafa has it pretty good.  He races up and down the fenceline, barking at the neighbor dogs.  He gets his pills in yogurt or peanut butter or a meatball or rice, whatever I think he might like at any particular moment.  We go on family walks, Ace, The Big E, Chester the Lab, Rafa, and I.  Rafa walks for a bit, sniffing and marking.  Then I put him in his baby jogger.  Yes, I’m one of those people.

A family comes in.  The parents carry a white box, the top tapered like a coffin.  In the box rests, I presume, a medium-sized dog.  The mother walks backwards, the father forwards, the pajama-ed children swirling around their legs.  Messages of love are scrawled across the box in multi-colored ink.  The vet techs load the box onto a red wagon and wheel it away down the hall.  The eldest daughter stands in her mother’s arms.

I, privileged.  When I check Rafa in, the woman asks “Are you aware of our emergency exam fee?”  Yes, I’m aware.  I’m aware that my geriatric Pomeranian gets regular primary care including dental work, that he has his own cardiologist, that he goes to Uncle Dennis for in-home dogboarding when we’re out-of-town in a dogless locale, that his seven-day am-pm pillbox holds an impressive, expensive array of diuretics, inotropes, and narcs.

The attending and student visit me in the waiting room.  Rafa is doing well in his oxygen box.  They gave him a couple doses of IV furosemide and a stronger cough-suppressing narcotic.  Stadol.  We debate whether a chest x-ray will alter their treatment plan and I eventually consent.  Diuretics strain the kidneys.  Do you want to breathe or do you want to filter your blood and balance your electrolytes and fluids?

Several weeks ago, I left Rafa in the car with my purse.  He opened the purse, removed the ziplock bag containing an unknown amount of dark chocolate, shredded the bag, and had himself a nice snack.  I found the evidence much later.  Rafa seemed fine – chocolate is toxic to dogs.  I decided to leave him be, not induce vomiting.  Death-by-dark-chocolate wouldn’t be a bad way for him to go.

I’m in hour three of sitting in this waiting room.  My sweetheart sits in his oxygen bar, mildly stoned, comfortable.  I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll get to take him home in a form other than elemental carbon.  I find an email from The Big E, a photo that he took of Rafa.  My sweet human boy.

Over the years I’ve grown better about setting boundaries with certain “friends.”  Cost-benefit analysis is a helpful construct.  The intricacies of human-human relationship are so much more complicated than the normal simplicity of human-dog togetherness.  If I tidy up the relationships in my life, dump all the people, the animals, the institutions into a pile on my floor and evaluate them one-by-one.  When I KonMari these relationships, I can state one thing with absolute certainty:

Rafa, you bring me joy.   


Musical Moment


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Church Camp

We meet in the church parking lot and stuff our ratty sleeping bags into the back of a rickety school bus.  No one checks our bags.  The bus zips out highway 55, making a brief stop in Plymouth to pick up a few stray kids.

We’ll stay in the East cabin, two campers per room, girls on the near side, boys on the far.  The bus-ride is spent in intense roommate negotiation.  After Annandale, we turn left onto a dusty road.  If it’s late enough in the season, the smell of quintessential Minnesota prairie wafts through the open windows.

It’s 1984.  Most of us are 15.  I am not.

We’re crowded into one of the sleeping rooms, all of the girls.  Someone brought a tape player.  Someone else brought the tape: Purple Rain.

We listen over and over: Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, The Beautiful Ones, Computer Blue, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, Purple Rain.

Standing on the beds in single-gendered abandonment, young bodies twisting, virginal brains open to our Prince.  Teach us.  Take us.

The moment shines in my memory.  No beginning, no end.  Only youth.


Musical Moment

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There’s No Place Like –

I left for college with one bad fiberfill pillow and a quilt that I covered with two sensible blue-with-white pinstriped poly blend twin sheets.  Tommis, my girl-cat, helped me hand-tie the quilt overlay, all of us (including the quilt) lounging on the puce green living room rug.

Freshperson year, I slept on my stomach from 11 pm to 7 am, the pillow at a 45 degree angle, left arm under, right arm over.  I hitched my right knee up and pressed my left cheek to the pillow.

Times have changed.

This is my bed. IMG_3171

There are a few elements that I wish to describe in more detail, elements that contribute to the overall superior sleep experience.



1) Overabundance of pillows.  I now actively sleep with seven pillows.  With Ace in the bed, the number increases to twelve.  I flipped to side sleeping when I was pregnant and never went back.  Acid reflux during pregnancy cranked up the pillow count.  I stopped being pregnant but never quit the pillows.  And what’s a bed without a body pillow?  And one more for that behind-the-back, snuggled feeling. IMG_3172

2) Absence of husband.  Ace removed himself from our marital bed during my recent bout of catarrh and coryza.  He’ll come back after we wash the sheets.








3) Labrador retriever pawprint.  Nothing makes you feel the love like a visit from a dirt-pawed lab.  IMG_3174

4) Unfolded clean laundry and tissues within easy reach.  I can’t recommend the Trader Joe’s tissues.  They feel like 120 grit sandpaper. IMG_3177






5) Dirty socks courtesy of the labrador retriever.  He particularly enjoys retrieving dirty socks. IMG_3178

6) Thrift store cashmere waiting for end-of-season hand laundering.








7) Pomeranian.  Because no bed is complete without a Pomeranian.  Truly.



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Just Another Mucous Monday

The following is the product of a codeine-addled brain.  Consider yourself warned.


The first feature, to the tune of “I’m Still Standing,” by Elton John:


Don’t you know that

I’m still coughing,

harder than I ever did

Lookin’ like tuberculosis

Feeling like an invalid

(Don’t you know that)

I’m still coughing

After all this time

Coughing up the pieces of my lungs

The last cold left behind

I’m still coughing

(yeah, yeah, yeah)

I’m still coughing

(yeah, yeah, yeah)


Next, a bit of A-ha’s “Take On Me


I’m coughing away

I don’t have the

breath to say

I’ll sneeze the words away

Please drug me now,

at least until Sunday.


And finally, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” – revisited


Codeine, codeine, codeine, codeine

I’m beggin’ of you please suppress my cough

Codeine, codeine, codeine, codeine

Please don’t make me turn into a sloth

Your strength it is beyond compare

Catarrh, coriza  must beware!

When mixed right up with phenergan

You make me want to live again!

Your flavor like demented grapes

I am complete with you



Musical Moment



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