Author of Breasts Don't Lie

I clot you not!

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Today the coffee machine got the better of me. It’s a Keurig and I’ve been able to avoid the creation for a while – I’m a French press kind of gal. But needing some respite from stairs, I’m living at my partner’s sister’s house for the first little bit after leaving the hospital. I cried – for many things.

I had my right hip replaced. Let me tell you what that entails – they strap you onto a table. Never been high on my list of things to do – sounds too much like a bad BDSM novel. Luckily I was out because I was probably naked when this happened. Back to the BDSM novel – “50 Shades of Titanium.” And surrounded by doctors, nurses, aides, electricians, plumbers, and probably an IT person or three. Geez, now I’m blushing.

The doctor makes an incision, supposed to be 2-3 inches long around the front of my thigh. I have big “ugly veins” there so my incision is along my hip and runs closer to six inches. This means everything rubs against it, chafes it, irritates it, and I cry a lot about the deep purple bruise running from my knee to my groin.

The doctor, from Mike’s Mufflers and Hips, whacked off the top of my leg bone, tore out the knob from my pelvic joint capsule and hammered a deep spike into my leg bone with the new joint. Hopefully my bone will grow around it. He sewed it back together, and I have a lovely Bride of Frankenstein scar in time for Halloween.

I must have been on lots and lots of painkillers because the next day, I could walk around my hospital room. Then things started to knit together which is good and hurts like shit. But I didn’t feel it in the hospital. When the social worker discharged me on Thursday, I had to buy a walker, my insurance would not cover it, and come up with another blood thinning regimen, again my insurance would not cover it. Never buy or support Molina – the armpit of insurance companies. I guess they haven’t figured out that I’m a mean little clotter and will sue the ever-living shit out of them if I throw a clot (and survive). Molina Insurance, be afraid, be very afraid.

The staff gave me lots of drugs in the hospital, the painkiller kind, along with Colace and MiraLAX. They should have given me more, Colace and MiraLAX that is. There is no worse feeling than going five days without pooping. I will never take my GI track for granted again.

I guess until things are further along in the healing process, then the little things will continue to throw me for a loop. I hope my new hip doesn’t come with as many directions as the coffee maker. I thought I had things under control but if a coffee maker can reduce me to tears, I guess not …

(image used by permission – morguefile.com)

Bullies in Office

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For thirty years, I have been a therapist helping people heal from horrific experiences. Then things, people, events, happen to reactivate traumas. The current political environment has opened old wounds, wounds that we thought had healed. Wounds like mine.

When I was a teenager, my family didn’t have much money. Mom was a single parent to three expensive kids. As a teenager, I wasn’t very forgiving nor understanding of my mother’s struggles to keep me in clothes, clothes that my friends were wearing, and clothes for special events. So, when I had an opportunity to go to a winter formal fraternity party, I wanted a new dress. I had applied to this university; in my mind, it was important to make a good impression. So I pestered Mom.

She bought a dress for me. It was soft gray with a slight Japanese flavored print of a bird on a limb floating across the long skirt. The top was gathered into a modest vee-neck. I felt beautiful in the dress. I have a vague memory of standing before Mom, twirling around with my hands spread. Both of us were smiling. The dress got packed, and I tootled off with friends to the university. The car ride moved along highways flanked with bare twigs for trees, but nothing dampened my excitement.

Saturday night, I put on the dress and went with my assigned escort to the winter formal. My long hair was pulled up to show off another gift from my mother, a pair of dangling pearl earrings from my namesake aunt Trudi. The night was chilly, and I draped a swirl of ruffled material around my shoulders.

This is where the memories become strobe-like. I remember drinking with my escort. He seemed nice and quite gentlemanly. We danced – I loved to dance, and he was willing to have fun. We laughed at nothing in particular. When the dance was finishing, he said he would take me back to the dorm where I was staying with my friends, but first, he asked if I wanted to stop by an after-party?

Sure.

We walked into his frat house. The room was silent but filled with a group of men from eighteen to their early twenties. I watched my date look at a man who was sitting in a chair, the oldest male in the room. I had an urge to throw up. I remember feeling so small in my long party dress. My escort turned to me, reached to touch my breast, and I punched him. He went down and stayed down.

The summer before my senior year, a friend taught me how to lift weights and throw a punch. I will always thank him for those lessons. I wonder if he knew they would be useful.

Trying not to wretch, I looked at each young man in turn. “Anyone else want to try this?” I asked. The man in the chair got up and left. The others followed him. To this day, I have no idea how I had the nerve to do this.

Suddenly woozy – drunk on alcohol and high on adrenaline, I ran back to my dorm. My beautiful dress and my aunt’s earrings stuck to my body with sweat, I banged on the doors to have someone let me in. I can’t remember who let me in or what happened next. I can’t recall the date but I’ll never forget some details – the smell of beer in the room, the picture of the fraternity house on the wall, the perfect nails of my escort. Trauma memories are laid down in the brain differently, piecemeal, from our pleasant memories, which can unroll like a movie.

Before getting in the car for the drive home on that Sunday, I told a friend what had happened. He said, “Are you sure? He seems like such a nice guy.” I didn’t say another word for the six-hour drive home. Grabbing my bag, I burst into my home, dropped my bag by the stairs, and looked for my Mom. I was proud of myself, terrified of what I had escaped, and confused by my friend’s response. I have a distinct memory of saying, “Mom, I punched a guy. Knocked him out.”

Mom looked at me with her mouth open as I demonstrated my fighting stance. “What are you doing?”

With that question, I picked up my bag and stumbled up the stairs to my room. Unpacking, I threw the dress in the corner.

At school on Monday, I kept my mouth shut afraid if I opened it that I would start screaming or throw up. After the last school bell, I walked very carefully, placing one foot after another, fighting the bile rising in my mouth and trying to remember the way home. In the solitude of my bedroom, I took a pair of scissors to the dress. I took apart every seam. I cut every bird to pieces. I ripped it into pieces so small that no one would be able to tell what it had been. It took hours. The room was dark when I finished.

A couple of years later, the disbelieving friend asked me out. The memory of that dress flooded me, and I stood him up. I’m not proud of my behavior. I wish I had told him why I couldn’t go out with him. I wish he had believed me.

After watching the Kavanaugh hearings and seeing the president ridicule a rape victim, I feel as scared and vulnerable as I was that weekend. (I refuse to capitalize the office when inhabited by trump.) We have elected a bully, without respect for women, who is filling the highest offices of the country with his morally deficient cronies and family.

Whether or not you believe Dr. Ford, know now, women and men received a powerful message. Assaults on women will be tolerated, even rewarded. Victims will be mocked, and their stories will be used against them. The strong can hurt you without repercussions. Funnily, we don’t tolerate this behavior in kindergarten, but the group in power thinks they are above kindergarten rules.

 

Times, They are a Changing

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Usually, after Yom Kippur, which finished at sundown last night, I feel encouraged to go out in the world and do good deeds, fight the good fight, and so on.

This year, I want to go back to bed, eat chocolate, binge on Netflix and cry. I’m in a shitty transition time – it’s not fun, and I’m not fun to be around … I’ve become a bit of a grump.

I don’t think it’s age. I think this is just a shitty time – waiting for a hip replacement, knowing it knocks out long-held dreams and dreading the months of recovery.

So last night, I cooked. I broke all the Jewish dietary laws in one swoop. I made pasta with bacon, onions, peppers, and shrimp, covered in cheese. It was good, even great. Exactly what I needed. I had two helpings and waited for divine retribution. Nothing happened, not even indigestion.

This unholy culinary twitch was triggered by a supposedly innocuous statement by a dental assistant. After balancing a series of pointy sticks on my chest, she asked about the hip replacement. I was trying hard not to cry. Then she started with “God never gives you more than you can handle,” and continued with the equally moronic statement, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

What a crock of shit.

Tell that to the people whose homes have been flooded.

To a couple who lost a baby.

To a person who has been mugged, assaulted, beaten.

Yeah, go ahead and try smothering them with platitudes. See what happens.

These well-wishers dismiss the pain, the existential despair, and suffering of being human and thoughtful. Being a person is difficult – thinking, empathy, feeling, navigating your world and the world of others takes energy and kindness.

So for the new year, I am going to work on kindness – giving more into the world by acknowledging when people, myself included, are in shitty places. I’m not going to deny people their pain. Maybe I’ll make them some pasta.

 

 

blog76pexels (1)I was in the car, pondering my life and I thought, ‘It’s Labor Day weekend, the end of summer.’ A little sprinkle of joy made me wiggle my feet. The summer had been exhausting and painful and humbling. Far from joyful. I am waiting for Autumn, my favorite time of year – I love the colors and quieting into myself that happens in conjunction with the leaves deepening into the wild shades of yellow and red before letting go in their dance to the earth.

While it’s not Fall yet, those months are near; Labor Day signals that nuanced shift in my body – energy rises, appetite awakens, and I feel young again. Like a child. Like the child who came to the US for the second time at age 11, old enough to have savor being wild and free (unlike the first time I came to the US at seven when all I remember is the terror of ‘weird talking’ Southerners).

This time, I gaped at the enormous spiders sitting in webs strung between the sky-piercing pine trees, the many-footed crawling roly-polys, and monster-sized cats running through our yard.

On this trip, we didn’t come by ship – we flew. I don’t remember any terror except for getting lost in La Guardia. We stayed for more than a year. That summer was idyllic – memories of the smell of grass, the hush before afternoon thunderstorms, the silky delight of Dr. Bubbles in a tub, and the freedom of days where parents were at work and our housekeeper watched soap operas, leaving us kids free to explore this bizarre, unfamiliar place called Alabama.

I would grab my sister’s hand, push my brother down and tell him not to follow us – he was too little. Of course, on his toddler’s legs, he ran after us, and when he fell, either my sister or I would run back, plop him upon his plump legs, scold him to stop crying, run on, then run back to grab his hand. We were our own world, and our world was full of pirates and fairies, snakes and creepy crawlies.

We would tell my brother, “Don’t tell but we’re going through the Snake Kingdom to the Valley of the Jolly Green Giants.” (I liked the commercial.) Actually, we were cutting through a large patch of Kudzu, trying to touch as little of our foot to the ground as possible to avoid the probable snakes. “Ho Ho Ho,” I called. My sister answered, “Green Giants.”

Next, we walked a tightrope to prove our courage to the Giants; in reality, it was a six-inch-wide-ish sewage pipe over a creek of water moccasins. I’d scream at my sister, and she’d yell back at me. “Don’t fall in. The snakes will eat you.” My brother was full out crying by now, but he hugged the pipe and scuttled across on his belly. “Ho Ho Ho,” we yelled at him.

Past the pipe, we broke through a line of tall pines, showering ourselves with pollen, and emerged onto this broad area of green lawn, which I pretended was the Pentland Hills of my homeland. All shades of green, tickling our feet and rolling at a slight tilt away from the enormous faraway house, made up this strange thing called grass. I am sure we had grass in Scotland, I remember being terrified of it and screaming bloody murder when made to stand on it. My sister had the same reaction to sand. My brother has that response to me as an adult, probably leftover trauma from that summer.

Lolling on the grass, oblivious to anyone that could be sitting on their balcony and watching the hooligans from the other side of the trees, we would lay flat and look up at the sky. It was so hot, even sweltering but kids have different thermostats than adults. The clouds were white bunnies hopping across a blue field. So, we took off our clothes and swung upside from the trees, which I now realize were beautifully manicured. One of us would begin, “In the valley of the … “ and the other two chimed in, “Jolly green giant.”

We’d do this until we got hungry, gathered up the scattered clothes, ran naked along the pipe, through the kudzu with the snakes, put on our clothes, and promised to do horrible things to my brother if he told on us. Then trooped up the back steps, through the kitchen to stand before Christine and say as one, “I’m hungry.” She would get up slowly, shake out her skirt, and make us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which we hated, or heat up a can of Campbell’s soup, which we loved.

 

It was a grand summer. No one ever told my parents about these adventures. My childhood sweetness, I love these memories and tell them to whoever will listen. Maybe I’m not quite ready to give up summer.

This Labor Day, I wish you a few minutes reliving the grand memories of your childhood. I would love to hear them. Ho Ho Ho, Green Giant!

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The world is a hot mess, more than usual. To misquote GOT’s Martin, ‘Winter is coming.’ The crazies are out in hordes tearing down the wall of our hard-won freedoms and laws.

I’m watching the world implode, and my bloody hip hurts. Inexplicably, one day I woke up and I couldn’t move my leg more than six inches above the bed without searing pain. Since that morning, my hip has hurt every day, worse at 3am when I hobble to the bathroom for my pain meds.

I have a feeling you’re saying, ‘yeah, well, you’ve done crazy yoga poses for years. You’re one of those crazy Instagram nutters who do the legs behind the head pose while balancing on one hand.’ No, I’m not! My yoga practice has been about developing the strength to counteract my stretchy joints. I learned assertion in yoga – walking away from classes that were too stretchy or when I was told to go deeper into the pose or anything that reeked of batshit crazy hyper-flexibility. In my yoga and movement classes (except for the first year when I was a little too enthusiastic), my mantra is ‘Do Less.’

I don’t know how the hip injury happened. However, I can get my hip replaced or resurface (like replacing grout) or whatever other, probably painful procedure the orthopedists are doing today. The hip won’t be good as new, but it will work and hurt less.

But I do know how the world’s chaos and cruelty happened. Like most people, I lived in a bubble. But in the quiet caused by a painful hip, when I’ve stepped out of my daily activities and usual busyness, the causes become apparent. We did it by inaction when –

People who admit to sexually assaulting others get elected.

People who stand by while families are separated then post a picture of themselves holding their son, and we click Like or buy their products.

People who suggest registries for one group or another, and we don’t condemn the action.

People take away another group’s authority over their own body, and we stand aside.

People who decide that certain groups cannot have access to education or healthcare.

People who use images of people at their most vulnerability to sell t-shirts, and we buy one in our size.

People are maiming, raping, and killing, and we look away.

The list feels endless and innervating. I am ashamed of myself and want to pull the covers over my head, sleeping away my responsibility. But my hip won’t let me sleep.

To people who say it’s not my fight, I’ll be dead by then, I’m not a woman or an immigrant or a Jew or a Muslim or an Asian or it’s not my country, remember Niemoller’s indictment –

‘Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.’

Lists of People

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It has started again. My mother warned me. She knew how little it took to ignite hatred.

An Austrian politician wants Jews to register to buy kosher meat. Jews to register.

Yes, I couldn’t believe it either.

Isn’t this one of the first steps? To identify a group. Create a list or registry of their names. Blame them for problems, small and big. Encourage exclusion, contempt, turning to hatred. Then round up the names on the list. Isolate them within the society. From there, it is such a small step to the camps and the ovens.

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Dallas is suffering through a heat wave with temperatures going to 110 degrees. But I am cold.

I am cold and chilled to the bone like the day I read the names. Twenty-eight years ago. In front of the Student Union at my progressive university with all the grants for bringing people together. During my doctoral program focused on valuing diversity.

I stood in the rains of November on Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, and waited for my turn. The midday sun couldn’t break through the dark clouds. All around us, students, heads down, muffled in rain gear, were hurrying to class or the cafeteria. Steam rose from the warm buildings but in the square, the glacial air burned my lungs. The rain came down in sheets, soaking us, blinding us, knocking us sideways. The colors of the students and the buildings were down to a sleeted gray. The cold wet penetrated us through our clothes. The students moved with haste, dodging each other, and clutching their backpacks to their chests. I stood in the middle of the hubbub, next to a young man huddled under his parka. Both of us were shaking from cold and maybe, other things, as I waited for my turn.

The young man paused and handed me stapled sheets with names printed in a row down the page. He didn’t look at me. My shoes were so wet, and my feet sloshed in them, like standing in a pool of icy water. I pulled my hood further over me to protect the paper. Wiping the rain out of my eyes, I began to read.

For thirty minutes, I read the names of people who died in the camps. People like me. Jews. I struggled and stuttered over the pronunciation of some names, but after a while, the names became people. People with dreams and lives. Relationships. Successes and failures. Children and teenagers and adults. I said each name into the rain-soaked, gray day until I was yelling. I wanted each person’s name heard by another person. Students stopped and looked at me. I was crying, but I screamed their names until, at the end of my thirty minutes, I was whispering. Hoarse – all out of voice. My clothes stuck to my body like another layer of skin. Or a layer of ash.

A gloved hand tapped me on the shoulder. I gave over the precious list. The other student started quietly, tentatively but after a few names, he broke into a roar. The students turned to look at him, and his face was fierce. I smiled at him, nodded, and drove home. In the shower, I cried more tears, shivering, trying to get some warmth back in my body.

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When we were kids growing up, our mother kept a baseball bat by the door. “For defense,” she said. I am glad she is not here to witness this again. Now I will place her bat by my door.

For defense.

I am frozen in the 110-degree heat.

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As a Brit, most years I have mixed feelings about the 4thof July. But this holiday, I want to take a stand for patriotism. I want each person on this planet to pledge deliberate patriotism.

For whatever country you align with, pay attention to what is happening in your area, your country, the world.

For whatever country you align with, put in your two cents’ worth of opinion.
You may end up unpopular, but we are no longer in high school.

For whatever country you align with, stand up for the highest values in your nation.
Even if that means respecting the right of a citizen taking a knee.

For whatever country you align with, tell someone what you love about your country.

For whatever country you align with, promise to learn about the country’s cultures.
Try a new food, a dance, a word of greeting.
Worship with someone from a different faith.
Attempt to see a dissimilar point of view.

For whatever country you align with, fight with all your strength for truth.
Dig it out. Dig deep.
Ask for information.
Start a dialogue.

In whatever country you align with, make your corner just that little bit kinder, truer, inclusive with your actions and your voice.

Patriotism does not happen one day each year and waving a flag doesn’t make you a patriot – patriotism is the continual struggle for what are the highest virtues of your country.

However uncomfortable, what are you willing to do?

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