Sunday, November 11, 2018

Awake People Be Awake

Woolsey Fire Lit, early afternoon
11/10/18




A Ritual to Read To Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford


Woolsey Fire Lit, early afternoon
11/10/18
photographer: Carl Jackson

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Gun Rage

inside jacket of Rebecca Traister's book Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger

I'm enraged this morning, waking to the news that a 28 year old ex-Marine with "possible PTSD" opened fire on a group of college kids in a popular bar and grill in Thousand Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles. He killed twelve people, including a sheriff and then himself. Many people are injured, and there's a been a call for blood donations. I don't know what to do with my anger this morning and will use this space to express it.

My rage is not directed toward the obvious target but rather toward those who persist in believing in their right to bear arms, in their right to use violence to protect themselves from the boogeyman lurking in their neighborhoods, in their right to be "good people" with guns, in their right to collect guns and place them in special locked boxes or cases, in their right to use them for "sport," in their clamor for their own "liberty." I believe that justifying owning and using guns like the Glock this man used in this point in time, November of 2018, is outrageous, that those who do are complicit in perpetuating the myth of safety in arms and the myth that owning a gun confers liberty. I believe that these people are complicit in the deaths of tens of thousands of people a year in our country. I am enraged enough to believe that these people -- men AND women --  are equally as complicit as the gun men (because, let's face it, it's MEN who do this shit) because they contribute to the myth of violence being the answer to conflict. I believe that every single person who owns guns -- for sport, for pleasure, for safety -- because they can, should acknowledge their complicity and step up and do something about it.

Me, I'm going to donate some of my blood -- boiling at this point.
















#fuckguns

Monday, November 5, 2018

Life FEELS Good



I get at least twenty requests a day asking me to promote a book or a product or a service on my blog. I delete nearly all of them. I was just about to press delete on reviewing the movie LIFE FEELS GOOD when the words cerebral palsy jumped out. Then I saw that it's a Polish movie, and I love Polish movies, so I clicked the trailer, and -- well -- I'm happy to review and promote it.

LIFE FEELS GOOD is a film by Maciej Pieprzyca and is described as "heartbreaking and humorous," two adjectives that I highly relate to and find resonant. Dawid Ogrodnik plays Mateusz, a man with cerebral palsy who wants to be understood by his family and friends. It's based on a true story and has been nominated for eight Polish film awards, winning for Best Leading Actor, Best Screenplay and an Audience Award. It's distributed by Under the Milky Way and will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, XBox Microsoft and other VOD platforms.

I will be viewing it soon and will post a review, but don't you think it looks amazing? It's going to be released tomorrow, November 6th. Check it out.




Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Weed the People and Wednesday Afternoon Thoughts



I'm cranky today.

Does the sun ask itself, "Am I good? Am I worthwhile? Is there enough of me?" No, it burns and it shines. Does the sun ask itself, "What does the moon think of me? How does Mars feel about me today?" No, it burns, it shines. Does the sun ask itself, "Am I as big as suns in other galaxies?" No, it burns, it shines.

Andrea Dworkin


What's really bugging me of late are the people who claim that moderation is the ticket out of the clusterfuck that we find ourselves. Other words and expressions and phrases are coming to the middle, reaching across the aisle, being respectful, both sides are guilty. Etc. I cry bullshit. I agree that heinous people are everywhere, but people aren't building Maxine Waters' inspired bombs and sending them to Republican leaders. Yes, a Republican congressman was shot at a baseball game, but I and the many "liberals" I know deplore gun violence whether it's directed toward people on the left or people on the right. People on the right, though, cling to their "right" to "bear arms," to "protect their families."  I have zero interest in tolerating this mindset or even respecting it. I maintain that anti-Semitic and racist violence, while always present, is increasing due to right-wing/Republican/Trumpian rhetoric. I see idiots from my high school class arguing with some of the smartest people in my high school class about how fantastic Trump is doing, how the economy is booming. I have no interest in understanding their views anymore. I can barely talk to members of my own family who support the POSPOTUS or who still call themselves Republicans, much less any person not in my family who espouses these views or who supports the Republican party and their president.

I told you I was cranky.

It's not about me, though, is it? It's about all of us or the rest of us. We've got to vote the Republicans out.

Other thoughts: I'm reading Rebecca Traister's new book on women's anger. It's called Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger. Here's a bit that I just read:

Now, I was worried and consumed with anxiety about what’s happening nationally, but in terms of my own general health, having had the opportunity to write, think, and take seriously not just my own anger, but other women’s anger, was the most salutary experience I’ve ever had in my life. I slept better, I ate better, I wanted to exercise. I was clear-headed. So I am very much in favor of the expression of rage, and getting to a world in which the expression of rage can just be a regular part of the full human range of emotions and thoughts that women have.

However, I am also aware of the fact that that experience was very much the product of a very particular circumstance. I was being paid to do that. That’s not possible for a lot of women who do get punished, right? They get called hysterical, they get taken less seriously. They pay tolls in their personal relationships. So I don’t want to exhort anybody, like, “Go and be your mad self.” If you’re in a position where you can, please do, because we do need to hear from more women who are angry and able to be angry without fear that being angry is going to result in a materially damaging repercussion for them. However, the thing you can do, if you are not in a position to express your anger yourself, is to take the anger of other women seriously, because that’s the part we have to change, not just individual behavior—what we have to change is the way that the world receives women’s anger. That’s about the broader reality that it’s not taken seriously, it’s not considered valid, it’s considered often disqualifying. And the way we can contribute to that individually is by asking women, “Why are you angry, what makes you angry?” and then listening to their responses. This goes especially, I think, for white women and women of privilege. We need to all practice taking women’s anger and women’s rage more seriously, being curious about it, being interested in it. And considering what it’s telling us about the world, about ourselves, about inequality. 

I'm holding one of my literary food salons on Friday night to discuss this book. I've got a wonderful group of women coming, and I plan to make a feast for them and facilitate a great discussion about women and anger. No men signed up this time. I changed the name of the salon from Books & Bakes to Eat Your Words. What do you think?

And, finally, last night I attended the Los Angeles premiere of a new documentary produced by Ricki Lake and featuring the stories of families with children who've used cannabis medicine to treat vicious cancers. My beloved Dr. Bonni Goldstein plays a prominent part of the documentary, as well as some other significant doctors and researchers in the world. It's called Weed the People, and I highly recommend it. Reader, being on the frontline of this revolution is just -- wild.

Keep on burning. Keep on shining.




Monday, October 29, 2018

A Poem for the Times




Ai Wei Wei, "Spouts"
from Life Cycle*


Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
 
Maggie Smith






*
"Spouts piles together thousands of antique teapot spouts dating as far back as the Song dynasty (960-1279). Following Ai's practice of repetition and multiplication, Spouts can be seen as a mass of mouths, a metaphor for the widespread yearning for freedom of speech despite its continuing restriction throughout many societies."

Monday, October 22, 2018

Where is Jesus?


I haven't written in this space in more than a week, and the last thing I wrote was just fluff, just superficial bullshit, just aggravating minor bad luck goofy stuff that's a mask, all resolved now. I'm walking around doing laundry, taking care of Sophie, exchanging texts with my favorite sacrilegious caregiver friend, feeling solidarity and shedding tears with and for another caregiver friend, Christy Shake, whose most recent post might have ripped my heart out of my body but instead provoked its beating a little harder a little faster. We are ALIVE. I love you, Christy. Who is Calvin and who is Sophie?Who are we without these cares? Must we define ourselves by care? Who are we at all?

Where is Jesus?

Shouldn't he have shown up by now and cleared the tables in Washington, D.C., kicked them over and thrown those who claim to believe in him out on their privileged, hypocritical, stupid, vision-less asses? Shouldn't that POSPOTUS be punished by now, disgraced and bound in a public stockade?  Why is that man from Georgia so hell-bent on power that he's denying suffrage to tens of thousands of people? Is he afraid of the black woman that he is running against? Why are Georgians not ashamed? Are they punch (or should I say beer) drunk on power? I am ashamed that I pass countless homeless persons on every single corner of this great city. I pass them by. Why have the Koch brothers spent so much money on propaganda against climate change? What are these sacrosanct values that conservative peoples espouse? Why do so many people bear arms? The man in the park in Sedona last week, pushing his mother in a wheelchair to an overlook, the rushing water below, the sky blue above, a large gun strapped to his thigh. Did he feel safer? Freer? He made me sick. Why exactly is the POSPOTUS administration now going to "erase" transgendered people? Define humanity by their genitals at birth? Who will be next?

Will we have to fight? Parents against their grown children. Cousins estranged. Friendships severed. And anger, so much anger, and it won't be squelched.

No stranger to the catastrophizing that comes with great stress (I step over a curb and imagine my body flung by passing traffic, the descent into the red rock canyon surely must be swift), I am yet dazed, struck dumb, bewildered.

I am furious.

“I have been beaten, my skull fractured, and arrested more than forty times so that each and every person has the right to register and vote. Friends of mine gave their lives. Do your part. Get out there and vote like you’ve never voted before.”
—Congressman John Lewis

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Series of Irritating Events from the First World



So far, during the last three days, while they are hardly calamitous events (but, rather, what we might call "first-world" problems), these things have happened:


  1. TSA stole a $100 bill out of my bag. Police recovered and impounded it, but it's already cost me $16 to get a notarized letter authorizing the Phoenix Airport Police to ship it back to me. The numerous phone calls that I made to get this information are too boring to enumerate, but when I finally got everything in order, the letter notarized and attempted to fax, it was not working. I spent some time this morning with the Phoenix Recovered Property department, again too boring to enumerate, and was finally told that the fax did work and that I should try again.  
  2. A package from Anthropologie was delivered to my address yesterday, empty. It was one of those plastic envelopes, and after picking it up and thinking, Man this is a weightless dress!, I realized that the envelope had been cleanly slit and the contents removed. I ran down the sidewalk and caught the postwoman who exclaimed that she, too, had wondered why the package was so weightless. She called her supervisor who told me to call the Postmaster General. I did so, and they told me that it looked like the package began its journey to my house at 10 oz but that the last weight recorded was 0 oz, so obviously something happened along the way and an investigation would commence. I called Anthropologie and explained the situation, and they agreed to send me another dress. I am now waiting for the Post Office to continue their investigation. Stay tuned.
  3. My OB/GYN ordered a colonoscopy kit for me that is evidently a whole lot easier than going through the regular thing. If I pass this home kit thingy, I don't have to get a colonoscopy for another five years. I called the company this morning to ask why it hadn't come yet as I was informed two weeks ago that it had been delivered. The person at the company checked and told me that it had been delivered but to the wrong address. Instead of South My Street Name, it was delivered to North My Street Name. So someone on North My Street Name has a colonoscopy home kit with instructions on how to provide a stool sample. The company is sending me another one. 
  4. I sent my manuscript to the editor last week, and it has not arrived. I put the tracking number for the parcel in the USPS website, and it said that it had not been received. Apparently, my manuscript is floating around somewhere in between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I will cancel the check that accompanied the manuscript and resend tomorrow, if it doesn't show up at the editor's place by then.
So, what next? Throw it my way. Give it to me.

Oh, here's something amusing. I received an inquiry today from an online job site that I've been using in an attempt to get freelance writing gigs. The notice stated that I was an excellent match for the following position:

We produce gay romance novels based in contemporary settings and in supernatural/paranormal worlds that encompass shifters, such as werewolves, vampires, dragons, and many more mythical creatures. Our characters fight through relationship woes and celebrate swells of passion in situations ranging from love triangles to forbidden desire, tribal rivalries, mpreg, and ancient or secret worlds clashing with the new. Adventure, mystery, crime, comedy, and drama are no strangers to our romance stories.

We’re looking for a talented M/M (gay) romance writer, that from the first sentence to the last, can keep readers engaged and craving more!


MUST: 

☻ Be a native English-speaking writer with excellent comprehension and execution of English grammar.

☻ Be dedicated to writing character-driven books focusing on the development of romantic attraction between the main characters. You have the creative freedom to flesh out the details within our guidelines.

☻ Be an enthusiastic and thorough researcher.

☻ Lastly, be original. We run books through PlagScan and Copyscape. 

 What do you think? Should I apply? I am nothing if not an enthusiastic and thorough researcher.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

My Response to The NY Times Epilepsy Story



So many people sent me the recent — let’s call it crowd-sourcing — article detailing a young girl’s hideous epilepsy story and asking for the public’s help, that I’ve lost count. That we live in a period where literally everything is a reality show makes me ill. Crowd-sourcing medicine? Give me a break. This is my response to the parents via the New York Times and the f’d-up medical business community that pretends to Science:

Don’t cut out your child’s brain until you’ve tried cannabis medicine. “Fixing” your child is the hardest, most fruitless journey you will embark upon. The opposite of that is not acceptance. There is healing in the legion of people who know your suffering. Healing and curing are entirely different things.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Making Art, Making Cake, Making Love

Let the sunshine in
Photographer: Carl Jackson 


I'm excited to tell you that I have three pieces in the Michigan Quarterly Review. It's a special themed issue titled "Caregiving." I'm in pretty darn august company, including Suzanne Edison and Heather Kirn Lanier. The review has categorized my work as "poetry," but between you and me, they are really prose poems or fragments that appear in my larger manuscript.  You can order a paper copy or download a PDF for $10. There's some amazing stuff in there, and let's hear it for supporting the work and art of caregivers. I recently sent about 180 pages to an editor. I have about 3/4 of the first draft revised and am determined to get the last quarter done by the end of the month. The publication in Michigan Quarterly Review is such an honor —I've probably sent out ten things over the last couple of years and have had all rejections, so this gives me that extra kick in the ass that I need.

Maybe I'll have a book published before I turn eighty but probably not before the Disunited States turns from plutocracy to autocracy.

I guess we have to just keep doing the work. Making art, making cake, making love.

In other news, my fellow co-host and friend Jason Lehmbeck and I had the most profound discussion with two women on the Who Lives Like This?! podcast. Jennifer Siedman and Blyth Taylor Lord spoke to us about their own families and lives, about palliative care, bereavement and the remarkable organization Courageous Parents Network.  Even if you aren't a caregiver, you must listen to it. I beg you to listen to it. Please share the link, too. Remember: we're making art, making cake, making love.

Here's the link.

What are you up to, Reader?

MQR 57|4 Fall 2018



Saturday, October 6, 2018

Dandelion Wishes



So, yeah. Now we have not one but TWO misogynists sitting on the Supreme Court and ONE misogynistic sexual predator directing the whole shebang along with 51 sycophants in the Senate, minus one woman from Alaska.

How very charming for us, no?

I've got family members who support Trump and Kavanaugh. We can barely talk at all now, and I don't know what to do about this. I welcome all tips.

You should read this:

Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.


Still angry, moving on.

Sophie is currently getting her second round of IVIG infusions. She had two hellacious weeks after the first (probably unrelated) and has been perking up in the last week. I haven't given an update because I'm generally so stressed out about her and me and all the usual crap that I just don't want to exacerbate it by -- well -- sharing it. It's too much, Reader. Way, way too much.

I'm not going to be teaching the senior citizens any more because the company that hired me thought I'd be willing to drive all over southern California to do so. When I say drive all over, I mean ALL OVER. Like there might be mornings where I'd be driving three hours for a one hour class. On top of all of that is Sophie and her erratic schedule and life. Her care IS my job. Sigh. I will miss that crabby woman, though, and the soft-spoken woman who worked in the cotton fields of Texas. I need work. Freelance work. Suggestions welcome.

Saint Mirtha cut Sophie's hair really short, and she looks a bit like a dandelion. I close my eyes and make a wish and blow.



Friday, October 5, 2018

Fifteen



That's my sophomore year school picture. I was fifteen years old and attended The Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia. We wore powder blue shirt-dresses in the warmer months that we were allowed to cinch with whatever belt we liked. We wore white or navy knee-socks and some kind of loafer from L.L. Bean or Wallabees from the department store. We were not allowed to wear sneakers or tennis shoes as we called them in the south. My necklace is a gold Catholic medal of the Virgin Mary. I was one of the few Catholics in my class. It was an Episcopal prep school. There were fewer Jews and no Muslims that I know of, but would a Muslim have announced it back in the late 1970s at a conservative prep school in the south? I was thought to be Jewish, probably because I was dark and looked faintly exotic. That's the word people used. My family had moved to the south from the New York area several years before, and while I had a southern grandmother, I never felt southern, never really felt a part of it. Why are you here? one of the blonde popular girls asked me once in front of the P.E. lockers. It was a Jewish holiday. I don't remember what I said even though I remember the question. There were even fewer people of color than Jews. We called people of color different names: black, Indian, Mexican. I remember every African American person's name in my class. I don't remember everyone in my class or their names, but some things stick out. I don't remember whether anyone was Asian. We didn't use the word Asian. 

This isn't a post about nostalgia and only a little about memory. It isn't about me. My mood over the last week, since we heard Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's account of her assault at fifteen by probably soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, has been one of outright rage and then simmering rage and then depression and then disbelief and then some more rage and now -- well -- resignation tempered by rage. Dr. Ford's memory has been called into question, at best. At worst, she is thought to be a shameful liar. This is why I'm angry. I'm angry at privilege and male trumping truth and justice. I'm angry about the narrow interests of the Republican party. I'm repulsed, frankly, by those who support the vile human they've elected to be president.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with being angry. We're learning that, now.

Remember that black women have been doing this shit and dealing with shit for even longer. So have all people of color, actually, and all those with disabilities, too. Remember that. We're strong. You're strong. I'm strong. Get out the vote. Remember disenfranchised people, including prisoners who've been released (in Florida, particularly, according to a friend). If you need a rest, take it. Then get up and get a grip.

#Ibelieveher
#resist
#smashthepatriarchy





Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Poetry with Senior Citizens



How's that for soothing? The steam from my coffee cup literally swirling up and out and can't you smell those peaches and the pears are buttery and the sun, always the sun. The calm certainly belies the simmering rage I feel, especially tonight after seeing the POSPOTUS give one of his inimitable rally speeches, this time in the great state of Mississippi, where he mocked Dr. Ford. The backdrop was a bunch of hooting and hollering white men and women who, I suppose, are his base and never was there a better word to describe them.

We need to turn this thing around.

Here's something else to soothe our souls. I'm teaching a couple of creative writing classes to senior citizens. They are lovely men and mostly women in a couple of assisted living homes here in Los Angeles, and I got the job by applying through one of those newfangled job search engines. I won't be putting either of my two boys through college or putting in an adapted bathroom for Sophie with my pay, but I already really like doing it. The group that I've seen twice is particularly fragile -- both physically and cognitively -- but they can be inspired to tell the most vivid stories. I am always the first, one woman began, her words unfurling to describe her early childhood days in the cotton fields of Texas, plowing and picking. Another woman opens one eye and glares at me. I've got NOTHING to tell you, she says and closes her eye. She's so hostile that I sort of love her. She also told me at the end of the class (she contributed nothing) that's a pretty dress, and I said thank you. I recited Joy Harjo and played a Native American water song. A man in a Dodgers cap whose chin lay on his chest while he gently snored through the entire first class was lively in the second one. When prompted to write about someone in your life who is important he chose his son and said He always does the right thing and organized this whole thing when there was all this darkness and trouble. 

The stories. Everyone has a story.

Except for that POS that is running ruining our country. I know I'm not supposed to wish harm on any living being but damn. And the people who support him? The word scratch. The word eye. The word out.


#smashthepatriarchy



Here's a poem.





All the Difficult Hours and Minutes

All the difficult hours and minutes 
are like salted plums in a jar. 
Wrinkled, turn steeply into themselves, 
they mutter something the color of  sharkfins to the glass. 
Just so, calamity turns toward calmness. 
First the jar holds the umeboshi, then the rice does.

Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Burn It All Down



Rage.

That's what we feel.

Rage.

I wish I could find a photo of my eighteen year old self, the innocent self that attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who pledged a sorority, who attended fraternity parties, who got drunk only a few times, but one time in particular at a party and afterward when a boy whose family name emblazoned a dormitory took me back to his dorm room and when I felt woozy (I had never been drunk) and said so, he told me to sit down on the bed lie down you'll feel better and then with lie simultaneously put his very large hand at the top of my stomach, just below my chest I think it's called the solar plexus and pushed me backward but I knew in that moment, I knew his hand, and even as I looked up into his nostrils so wide, so long I knew what was happening and my head cleared and I struggled up his hand there and sat up and stood up and walked out the door and ran down the stairs and out of the dorm and on to mine. I don't remember if I told anyone about that, then. I was a little bit drunk. Maybe he really wanted to help me. 

I went to college with lots of Kavanaughs. 1981-1985. The parties, the garbage cans filled with Hawaiian Punch and grain alcohol. The ancient black man who tended bar, at the "cocktail" parties and called every girl Miss and her date's last name, his voice soft as he handed out gin and tonics. The rumor of girls pulling trains. Girls who woke up and had forgotten what happened the night before. The smell of piss and stale beer in the hallways of the fraternity houses in the morning. The boys in one fraternity who hung tampons from their Christmas tree in the entrance of their "house," just at the bottom of the winding staircase where girls and boys far wilder than I disappeared. The secret societies where the most privileged boys belonged, along with professors and alumni, the Castle and the Lodge, their arcane rituals. The parties there where lines of cocaine were sniffed up with dollar bills, where girls' boyfriends had nicknames like "The Doctor," the wink wink of dealers, the wall-crawling thumping of music and ecstasy-fueled camaraderie. The teeth grinding afterward. I knew all of it, participated in little of it, was usually sober, my own boyfriend and his friends drinkers but never all that. There are always choices to be made. I watched it. All rich. All white. The Daddies. The privilege. The entitlement. The racism. Yes, the racism. Antebellum parties with blackface. The laughter. No integration in the sororities and fraternities despite attempts. My grandmama would never pay for my membership if we let black girls in, I read on a slip of paper when we canvassed for reactions. I could never live in the same room with a black girl, another.

I don't think the men on either side really get it, do they. And the women on one side, yes there are sides, yes there are tribes and that is not the real danger. The women on that side who just don't can't won't get it. So much hurt and darkness and once they were little boys and yet, still.

As much as we've been taught otherwise, I say burn the whole thing down. 


Monday, September 24, 2018

Musing on the World, Unfolding




I detest the masculine point of view. I am bored by his heroism, virtue and honour. I think the best these men can do is not to talk about themselves any more.

Virginia Woolf
1931

For most of Sophie's life, my greatest fear was, of course, her death. The fear of death had the greatest of urgencies and propelled me in literally every single decision that I ever made concerning her. I don't know when that fear left me or when I became not so much accustomed to it, but rather looked upon it, the possibility of it, as just part of all of it. Part of living that is, part of fighting for someone's quality of life, that is. Death is just part of all of it. I can not know of Sophie's death until and if it happens, if ever, just as I could not know of Sophie's life until it happened. She grew inside of me, was a part of me and me her, yet still I did not know her life.

The word intimate. The word intimation.

Having some equanimity doesn't mean I am not consumed, some days, with fear and anxiety and such a strong sense of overwhelm that I hardly know how I am functioning.

But then it lifts.

I had never read the Woolf quote before today. She was, apparently, speaking of war in particular, but hell, it pertains to what's going on today as well.

Here's what I think (with full awareness of the irony in Woolf's admonition to not talk about themselves any more).

All of this cluster-fuckery (Kavanaugh, Trump, the Republican Judicial committee, KellyAnn Conway and the other women who support the authorities in power) is a painful part of a process -- an inexorable process that will lead to a better world, a world that we have not yet known, a patriarchy disintegrated and power not defined by sex. I think women are engaged in ways that the world has never seen -- engaged socially, sexually, politically, and personally.

I think men and women who do not get out of the way will be made irrelevant -- far more irrelevant than they imagine. It's exhausting and exhilarating. I think the unfolding is so stressful and induces so much anxiety because we are witness to it as it unfolds in real time. As humans we are perhaps incapable of grasping all of it, all of the suggestions of what will follow even as we are exhorted to notice and take in everything that technology throws at us.

I think we can only intimate what it might portend because we have never known a world with such intimations. 




#MeToo




Thursday, September 20, 2018

In a Van Gogh Painting

Sunflower Farm, Half Moon Bay


One Day

One day after another —
Perfect
They all fit.

Robert Creeley
via Pome by Matthew Ogle






Tuesday, September 18, 2018

You can only lose what you cling to

La Jolla, CA 1996


The thought crossed my mind the other day that Sophie's epilepsy is a beast, a monster, and she is not her epilepsy, not a beast or a monster and I'm always fighting it and not her. I cannot can't can not accept it push against and never through it over and over and over year after year after year. This is contrary to Buddhist thought. The harder you push against the more you resist the strength of your hate is the measure of the intractability against which you push resist and hate. I just can't do it.




What do the religious say? Something from Ephesians, I think. Something about now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.  Of course, there's that power which is a Him, capital H, I wager, or God.


We are all asked to do more than we can do.

We are all given way more than we can handle, saith I.

Monday, September 17, 2018

It's a Health Insurance Miracle!



When my podcast partner, Jason Lehmbeck, heard about what happened last week with The Blue Shield of California first denying and then mysteriously covering Sophie's infusions of IVIG, he said, "It's an insurance miracle!" and somehow that one remark not only sent me into a gale of giggles but has sustained me ever since. That's the beauty of our community and of my partner -- he gets me, I get him and we get all of ya'll.

We recorded a catch-up podcast last week and hope that if you haven't yet checked out Who Lives Like This?! you will today. Jason and I didn't have a guest on but rather caught each other and our listeners up on what's been going down in our lives. We talked about our kids and highlighted The Siblings. We also hashed out which episodes had most affected us or that stuck out for us personally. For me it was the discussion with Josh Fyman, a father of a severely disabled young girl and his family's decision to place her in a residential setting instead of caring for her at home. This is a topic that has always made me squirm in discomfort. I have strong opinions, as you know, and I thought I felt pretty unequivocally about this subject. What happened, over the course of the podcast and then for weeks afterward, was a kind of mind and heart opening. I don't know how to explain it in any other way, but I do know that Josh and Jason and I talked about what seems like an impossible thing to talk about, and my heart and my mind were opened. That's all I'll say about that, but I encourage you to listen to the podcast.



If you're so inclined, please consider supporting our podcast through the Patreon link at the top of the webpage. We are building a community and need the support! And if YOU'd like to be a guest or hear about a certain topic or from a certain person, please let us know! You can leave a comment here or on the Facebook page or blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11



Sophie is taking the IVIG infusions well on the third day. She has one more treatment tomorrow and is then off for a month. Nurse H is a lovely person. I have learned so much about her life as a Korean immigrant and much about her now-grown children and her grand-children. She has shared some very personal things with me, and that is fine. She sits curled up on Sophie's bed, not much bigger than Sophie but holding so much quiet strength and faith and purpose. I found myself sitting quietly with Sophie, my anxiety lessened for the first time in many weeks.

It's still 9/11 and I'm still remembering the restaurant workers my husband knew who threw themselves out of the burning building and fell 102 stories down. I'm remembering all the brave firemen and women, those who perished while trying to save others. I'm remembering the 2976 innocent Americans who died that day, and the 48,644* Afghanis and the 1,690,903* Iraqis and the 35,000* Pakistanis who have also died as payment for crimes they did not commit. A life is a life is a life.


Rosh Hoshanah

i bear witness to no thing
more human than hate

i bear witness to no thing
more human than love

apples and honey
apples and honey

what is not lost
is paradise

Lucille Clifton, from September Suite, 2001














*Numbers dead are estimates

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Limitations of the Tiny Little Mother Mind™ and #SeezJahBoy



It's a big world.

That's what I tell myself when I read about or hear about things that are otherwise incomprehensible. It's a big world, I thought when I read about plushies in a Vanity Fair magazine in the last millennium. It's a big world, I thought when I actually ran into a plushy convention at a resort hotel in Orlando where I was attending a children's healthcare convention. It's a big world, I thought, when people started talking about reality shows and women being famous for being famous,  It's a big world, I thought when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California, and it's a big world, I thought, when certain celebrities insured their famous asses, literally. It's a big world, I think, when people get all geared up for the season of bashing brains into dementia, otherwise known as football. It's a big world, I thought when people -- some of whom I actually know and love -- voted for and continued to support Donald Trump, even after he imitated and mocked a disabled man and bragged about his prowess grabbing women's pussies. That one was a stretch, to tell you the truth.

A lot of people are excited about last night's Miss America pageant -- how Miss Michigan, a blonde Barbie doll, made a comment about the bad water in her home state and appears "woke" in the newest sense of the word, and Miss New York, a black Barbie doll, won the prize. It's a big world, I'm thinking, wondering how in 2018 we still have beauty pageants (although I've read they're no longer "beauty" pageants, and there's no more bathing suit competition). What's that expression? Whatever floats your boat?

Anywho.*

My tiny little mother mind™ was seriously taxed today when I learned that Netflix released some movie called The After Party that's getting all the raves. Evidently, the main character has a seizure (after smoking marijuana) while rapping on stage, projectile vomits and falls to the ground writhing. The moment is captured on video, it goes viral, he's called "Seizure Boy," and soon everyone is doing the #SeezJahBoy dance.

This is comedy.

Sigh.

Where do we start? The young man who plays the character is an up and coming rapper and has a bazillion followers on Instagram. He sees himself, ironically, as a bullying advocate. People with epilepsy are commonly bullied. This is a fact. I know countless people whose children have been bullied, have been mocked and derided when they've had a seizure in school. The stigma of epilepsy is still so strong that adults with epilepsy often don't tell their employers that they have it. Teenagers with epilepsy are often at higher risk for anxiety and depression, and much of that can be attributed to our culture's ignorance of the disease.

So, yeah, back to #SeezJahBoy. Despite condemnation from different news sources and epilepsy and seizure awareness foundations, the hashtag is viral at this point. I have heard from good friends in the epilepsy community that when people go in to these conversations on Twitter and Facebook, in an attempt to counter the ignorance, they are being called trolls or "racists" (because the movie is predominantly by black people). How many people did this show have to go through to get put on the air? Are we overly sensitive as parents of children with epilepsy or individuals with epilepsy? Do I think the show should be pulled? To tell you the truth, this sort of thing so taxes my tiny little mother mind that I think nothing at all. I don't have the energy to think about some stupid movie that makes a mockery of people with epilepsy. I don't give a fuck about the writers, the editors, the sound people, the young actors and wannabes that made this movie. There is no big world that holds such shit. The big world shrinks in to a dot, and that dot is a portal to my house where my epileptic daughter sits in her wheelchair, the little vein in her forearm penetrated by a needle that brings an infusion of antibodies to her brain, so many antibodies that they literally flood her brain and dilute out the bad antibodies that have been wreaking havoc, causing her to seize, near constantly, in her sleep and subsequently destroying her ability to walk and eat and move in the world.

Dance on, #SeezJahBoy people.

The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.

Wallace Stevens, Gubbinal


















*New Readers should know that I hate this expression and only use it facetiously.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Infused with Gratitude and Antibodies



I am so grateful in this moment to hear the steady tick of the intravenous immunoglobulin being infused into Sophie's body. I'm grateful for the gentle ministrations of the home health nurse who has already spilled her life story to me -- a life story very different than mine but I'm open to -- well -- everything. She will be here every day for the next four days and then monthly for the next six months.

I am so grateful for all the support we've gotten in the emails, texts and comments here on the blog and on Facebook over the last couple of weeks in particular. I'm particularly grateful for Christy H, a friend here in Los Angeles whom I never see but who also has a child with special healthcare needs. I got a delivery on Friday from a courier service, opened the large box and found a beautiful note from her and her husband and a bottle of very fancy champagne and a bottle of beautiful rose. This just brought me to tears, to tell you the truth. Here it is next to the hard-won medication that is being infused into Sophie's veins with the hope and expectation that it will help her to recover from the terrible syndrome that has caused Sophie so much suffering. How many folks do you know who have such riches side-by-side in their fridges?




I hope your Sunday has been a good one. May the week ahead be filled with champagne and necessary blood products.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Sophie B. Vs The Great American Healthcare System, Part 1,000,000: ROUND 2



Article 1


Please See Round One Timeline HERE Before Proceeding and for Explication of Article 1, above. Note that I can get you a copy of the Explanation of Benefits, regarding this decision, AT NO COST, thanks to the Insurance Company, so email me if you'd like one.





Big Girl Panties ON?
Loins Girded?
Ready?

ROUND TWO TIMELINE:


September 4-6, 2018

Mother/Conservator makes repeated calls to Neurologist and Neurology Office to check on progress of Plaintiff’s appeal to get necessary IVIG treatment for ESES. Neurologist reports that Blue Shield of CA does not respond to repeated attempts to call. Plaintiff appears further weakened and distressed, drooling, difficulty swallowing and drinking. Mother/Conservator expresses distress and frustration, and Neurologist responds appropriately, assuring her that “we’re going to get this done.”

September 7, 2018
10:30 am
Mother/Conservator makes morning call to Neurologist for update on Plaintiff’s appeal to get treatment for ESES. Note that TWO WEEKS have passed since diagnosis was confirmed and order for treatment was made. Neurologist states that if his efforts to appeal to Blue Cross of CA are fruitless, he will admit Plaintiff via emergent care for hospital administration of infusions. (Mother/Conservator states that her own condition is extremely stressed out. She actually posted the following picture (Article 2) on her social media page but assures all parties involved that her rage as depicted in picture with weapon in hand is metaphorical.


Article 2


10:43 am
In the middle of Neurologist's statement that he will admit Plaintiff to emergent care for hospital administration of medication if he is unable to get through to Blue Cross of CA by end of day, Mother/Conservator receives a text message. Because of her finger dexterity (considered extremely high as measured by an expensive personality and skills test administered in the last century by a famous company) and multi-tasking skills, coupled with afore-mentioned extreme stress (which renders Mother/Conservator more like larger mammalian creatures on guard and extremely alert faced with threats to offspring -- think bear, moose, etc.), Mother/Conservator switches over to text messages and reads this (Article 3):

Article 3 with professional names redacted with quasi-religious symbols that were inserted by Mother/Conservator, despite her lack of religious faith








Mother/Conservator shrieks news of approval to Neurologist who is speechless, given that he has been unsuccessful in reaching Insurance Company. Mother/Conservator wonders aloud what the hell has happened here? Her tiny little mother mind™ is busy, busy wondering whether this weird and random event is somehow related to her blog post from the previous day and the many thousands of "hits" it has received, but her body, always many, many steps behind the tiny little mother mind™, feels a rush of adrenaline and she tells The Neurologist that she will hang up and call the Nursing Agency to make the appointments for Plaintiff to receive treatments. Because her body is in a riot, and her tiny little mother mind™ is busy, busy, Mother/Conservator does not remember how she hangs up from Neurologist but believes he asked her to let me know when Plaintiff gets her schedule of infusions.

10:45 am

Mother/Conservator calls Nurse at Agency who has texted her the GOOD NEWS (the lettering of which the tiny little mother mind™believes to be rather Trumpian and is amused by this and then quickly horrified because part of the extreme stress is due to the constant worry about the healthcare system and the steady erosion of what little benefits the Affordable Care Act has conferred upon Plaintiff and family and hundreds of families that Mother/Conservator knows, benefits which are under attack even as this is typed), and Nurse at Agency tells Mother/Conservator that just that morning, the Agency received a letter from Blue Shield of California with a reversal of former denial. See Article 4.

Article 4


Both Mother/Conservator and Nurse at Agency laugh incredulously at this seemingly miraculous turn of events and then move forward and set up Plaintiff's schedule for infusions immediately.






ROUND TWO:

Sophie B vs. The Great American Healthcare System

WINNER: Sophie B.
LOSER: The Great American Healthcare System and Mother/Conservator's Relative Sanity (See Article 5)


Article 5

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Sophie B. vs The Great American Healthcare System, Part 1,000,000, ROUND 1


July 4, 2018
Ambulatory EEG

Let's make this a series.

ROUND ONE TIMELINE:


July 3, 2018

Sophie B. (Plaintiff) was "hooked up" to an ambulatory EEG in Neurologist's office.  Plaintiff went home with hook-up and video camera for overnight observation of brainwave activity.

July 4, 2018

Mother/Conservator Elizabeth A. removed electrodes from Plaintiff's head and returned "black box" to Neurologist office. Because it was a holiday, Mother/Conservator had no expectation for quick reading. Mother/Conservator reports that after two decades, she has no expectations at all.

August 23, 2018, 3:00 pm

Mother/Conservator picks up Plaintiff from adult day program and notes Plaintiff's difficulty breathing. Day program assistant reports Plaintiff had difficulty eating lunch and swallowing. Plaintiff's lips are slightly dusky in color. During entire ride home in Los Angeles traffic, Mother/Conservator pounds back of Plaintiff and encourages coughing and swallowing. Mother/Conservator contemplates bringing Plaintiff to emergency room but is persuaded by own inner compass and more than two decades of experience that no good will come of entering hospital emergency room. Instead, Mother/Conservator makes another of what has been multiple calls to Neurologist office for nearly two months regarding July 3, 2018 ambulatory EEG reading. Mother/Conservator has heated discussion with nurse at Neurologist's office demanding that she should get the EEG reading, that Plaintiff is suffering, that something is wrong. Neurologist gets on phone, admits that July got away from us and assures Plaintiff (whose tiny little mother mind™ wonders if August got away from them, too?) that EEG will be read that afternoon and that he will call Mother/Conservator that night. See Appendix A.

August 23, 2018 4:00 pm

Mother/Conservator arrives home with Plaintiff and proceeds to remedy problem of excess mucous and choking. She is helped by Caregiver and stabilizeS Plaintiff who falls asleep.

August 23, 2018 8:00 pm

Mother/Conservator receives phone call from Neurologist who expresses shock that Mother/Conservator was "right," that Plaintiff is indeed having recurrence of ESES, a rare epileptic syndrome that Mother/Conservator has suspected Plaintiff of having but has been repeatedly told by several Neurologists over two years that its recurrence is unlikely. Mother/Conservator goes into full dissociative mode while on telephone and intelligently discusses former incidences of ESES, the treatments for said incidences and otherwise directs Neurologist to treatment modality that was successful previously. See Appendix B and Appendix C.

Dissociative mode gives way to extreme distress and mental suffering of Mother/Conservator, attributed to decades of experience dealing with this shit, grief over Plaintiff's ongoing struggle and suffering and anticipation of forthcoming battle to get treatment for Plaintiff. Given experience, strength, history of mindfulness meditation and love and support from immediate family members, Mother/Conservator puts on big girl underwear, girds her loins and otherwise readies herself for the fight.

August 31, 2018

After multiple calls with Neurologist office to "check" on status of IVIG treatment (see Appendices A and B for clarification), Mother/Conservator is directed to Home Health Agency nurse who says that "this is not approved by the FDA as a treatment for epilepsy, so insurance will deny it." Mother/Conservator corrects Home Health Agency Nurse that the treatment is actually FDA-approved but is considered "off-label" for ESES treatment and that she is aware of possible denial. Mother/Conservator informs Nurse that treatment has "worked" for Plaintiff twice before and was partially covered by Insurance Company after some "wrangling." Nurse agrees to "write up" notes as dictated by Mother/Conservator about past history of treatment with IVIG. Nurse tells Mother/Conservator that she will "get back" to her after the holiday.

September 3, 2018 10:00 AM

Home Health Agency Nurse calls Mother/Conservator on telephone while mother is riding in car after dropping Plaintiff off at adult day program. Health Agency Nurse asks whether you might want to be more comfortable at home receiving information. Mother/Conservator tells Home Health Agency Nurse that she is fine using the Bluetooth option on her telephone in the car. Mother/Conservator wonders in her tiny little mother mind™ whether the Health Agency Nurse thinks she might have an accident when she "receives the news." Mother/Conservator finds this humorous and assures Home Health Agency Nurse that she can take it. Health Agency Nurse says that Insurance Company has declined the doctor's prescribed IVIG treatment for Plaintiff for what Mother/Conservator hears as blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Health Agency Nurse states that an appeal will begin with Neurologist perhaps joining the appeal and personally speaking to Insurance Company chief doctor who has made this decision. Mother/Conservator listens carefully and says indeed. She can't recall whether she said, of course! or is there anything I can do to expedite this process so that my daughter can get treated for her ESES? Her tiny little mother mind™ wonders how many people are employed for this tomfoolery and thinks of some suitable imprecations, directed today toward Supreme Court Justice nominee Kavanaugh who, if confirmed, will most surely make Plaintiff's life and millions of others more miserable, particularly in regards to healthcare. Mother/Conservator doesn't share the inner workings of her tiny little mother mind™but rather reminds Home Health Agency Nurse of Plaintiff's secondary Medi-Cal insurance. Home Health Agency Nurse reports that the Medi-Cal office worker in Home Health Agency will begin to look into Medi-Cal coverage, now that Insurance Company has issued a DENIAL. Mother/Conservator finishes conversation pleasantly by remarking how frustrating this all is for everyone, even though inside she is dying, her tiny little mother mind™ shrunken, her girded loins gaping, her big girl underpants riven.

ROUND ONE:

Sophie B vs. The Great American Healthcare System

WINNER: The Great American Healthcare System
LOSER:    Sophie B.














Appendix A:

Mother/Conservator reports that Neurologist is wonderful in every respect, so while she is frustrated and upset over the delay in the reporting of the EEG results, after more than two decades of dealing with this shit, she is cognizant of Neurologist's time constraints and being stretched too thin. She assures Court that she'd rather deal with a Nice Neurologist Who Works With Her than an Asshole Neurologist, the latter being the norm and with whom she has had plenty of experience. Mother/Conservator also assures the Court that she is well aware of The System and its shortcomings, that she has worked most of her adult life in it and to improve it, that her efforts haven't amounted to much of anything but that she has virtually kept her daughter alive and sometimes thriving in spite of it.

Appendix B:

2005: Parents of Plaintiff (not yet Conservators because Plaintiff is a minor) are given "three choices" of treatment when Plaintiff is diagnosed with rare syndrome ESES (diagnosed only after Mother insists on hospitalization of said Plaintiff, given drastic decline in Plaintiff's physical abilities with no urgency to attend to this decline by Neurologist at time). Choices will be designated "Door Number One, Door Number Two, and Door Number Three" in keeping with Mother's dark, albeit sustaining, sense of humor.

Door Number One: High dosage steroids
Door Number Two: Valium
Door Number Three: Intravenous immunoglobulin (IvIG)

Mother chooses "Door Number Three" and treatment commences in hospital. After some "wrangling," private insurance company agrees to partially pay for ongoing treatments over the next six months in Plaintiff's home. "Wrangling" should be noted as "understatement" as Mother is left depleted and experiences considerable signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome, triggered by repeated "wrangling" in previous decade.

"Door Number Three" treatment of IvIg restores Plaintiff's brainwave activity to previous "normal" dysfunction and Plaintiff recovers.


Appendix C:

2011: Plaintiff has occurrence of ESES and is prescribed "Door Number Three" again, given its success in treating previous incident of ESES. Insurance company denies treatment but is eventually warned down by repeated calls from Mother, one of which includes a threat to hospitalize Plaintiff so that treatment can be initiated in hospital, requiring Insurance Company to pay. Insurance company agrees to pay for treatment, treatment is administered and Plaintiff recovers.




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