fatigue

Fear Gone Rabid


New York is that cab. I am that cab. Hell, we are all that cab. Balanced precariously, not on the tip of a friendly well-trained nose, but on the edge of the undomesticated and aggressive Covid-19, while the sun continues to rise in the background each day, unconcerned by the dramas and traumas of human beings.

I’ve ranted over the past couple of weeks, vented the anger and frustration of not enough people in the US taking this seriously enough, the hideous politics of a literal pandemic while we have a president and administration that cares nothing for its citizens. These last days, though, no matter how I try to hold tight to the protective coating of anger, anxiety has continued to ratchet up and fear has coated the surface of every thought. Writing, whether fiction or blogging, is my way of taking control and muddling through, always has been. So I’m writing now hoping it will help me get a handle on this. I’m not sure it’s possible, with no end in sight and no certainty as to the scope we’re facing. I may or may not actually post this one.

If you are a reader who follows Mrs Fringe, whether long term or more recent, you know I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in emergency rooms, ICUs, hospitals. More than most, not as much as too many. My fears today, the anxiety that’s taken a blowtorch to my gut over the past month, comes from those experiences, from knowing how these things are “supposed” to go, from being able to envision but not able to face what lies ahead for too many of us. The other day I went to the grocery store. A long line to get inside, but once I was all was neat and organized, people (for the most part) working to keep their distance from each other. Not necessarily six feet, but this is Manhattan, it just isn’t physically possible in most shared indoor spaces. As I walked up the frozen food aisle I had to stop because the cases on either side of me took on the gray fuzziness of oh shit, am I going to pass out? I wasn’t, and am not, ill. This wasn’t the first time I got dizzy while out and running a necessary errand in recent weeks, had a moment of oh my god, this is not right, not a personal trauma, the world is wrong and will never be the same. Not even the first time it’s happened outside of Covid-19. I have a strong stomach and high tolerance for medical stuff, but oh man did my knees go out weeks? after Husband’s second open heart surgery, when the physician’s assistant was removing the drainage tubes from his chest and abdomen and I heard the peculiar, specific, sucking, squishing thwok of that first seal being broken. Other times also, with no particular, obvious trigger, always after a crisis has passed, when the fear, emotion, excess caffeine, lack of sleep and often lack of decent nutrition hit me in a mundane moment of checking for a ripe avocado. This time my brain isn’t waiting until after. I’m panicked now.

I, Mrs Fringe, am fucking terrified. Our closest hospital is one we’ve been to many times, both their adult ER and the Peds ER sections. Many fine doctors there, some inpatient units are excellent, never had any problems in the ped ER. The adult ER? Another story entirely, and over the years it’s gotten worse and worse, to the point where I’ve said I will not go there for anything anymore. Why? Because they’re chronically understaffed, and an understaffed and overcrowded ER is dangerous, no matter how good and well trained the nurses are. Less than a year ago we were there, Husband, it was a guy from housekeeping who turned on the oxygen and gave him a nasal canula when I couldn’t get a doctor or nurse to come over when his o2 was dropping. One story of many, and that’s with me there, staying out of the way when I can/need to and making noise when I need to do that too. Again, not the fault of uncaring or lackadaisical nurses, but the limits of how many high needs patients any one person can reasonably care for, with new patients streaming in and needing assessments every few minutes. Stretchers stacked like a damned game of Tetris, many times I watched workers from transport needing to move 4-10 patients just to reach the patient they were there for and be able to get them to their next stop in the hospital.

I stay when Husband is in. I stay when Art Child is in. For all our hospital time, we don’t go unless it’s absolutely necessary. And part of when an ER visit or hospital stay is absolutely necessary, by definition, means the person being seen/assessed/admitted isn’t feeling strong, maybe can’t speak, certainly can’t make a fuss if they need something and staff are busy elsewhere. Other hospitals. It was me who yelled for the nurses in the step-down CICU after Husband’s first open heart surgery, when he turned blue and all tubes and bags filled with blood, his aorta ruptured along the suture line of his new valve. Would they have come running thirty seconds later? Would thirty seconds have mattered? It might have, considering they needed to reopen his chest there in the room and manually pump his heart on the way back to the OR. Or when Husband was on a vent and the ICU dr decided this was the perfect time to preen for the nurses and show off how the temporary pacemaker leads were/weren’t working, giving unnecessary shocks until I spoke up because he didn’t know about damage to a nerve he was expecting to see a response from because of a prior surgery (Husband, obviously, unable to tell him). Or, less crucial but important, when we had the (thankfully rare) experience of an unkind EEG tech who was too rough placing leads on my girl’s head, and she was too terrified to do anything other than cry quietly. Or the times food service sent non-diabetic meals to Husband. Or the many other times when calories in take precedent over what type of calories, so I go out for foods to tempt while the hospital trays sit uneaten. Or with MIL, when some slick talker from billing came into the room to offer threats about insurance claims and what would be owed. Yes, I kindly invited him to get the fuck out and take it up with Medicare, not a vulnerable elderly woman who’d had her chest cracked open two days before who’d only been off the vent a matter of hours.

These are just a few bad moments of lapsed or potential lapsed treatment in otherwise great care, with many, mostly reassuring moments. Every ICU nurse I’ve ever interacted with (Peds, cardiac, or general) has been great to oh my god this person should be nominated for sainthood). ICU nurses are extraordinary, with training that goes well beyond the nurse drawing blood at your local GP’s office. But when hospitals have literally overflowed into tents, it isn’t just equipment that will be in short supply, it will be staff, doctors, nurses, nurses aides, physician’s assistants, because both there are too many patients and because they themselves who are getting sick.

Yes, there are the very real extra fears that go with knowing people in my immediate world are particularly vulnerable to more severe manifestations of this virus because of pre-existing conditions. And it’s more than that.  If one of those I love needs to be admitted because of Covid-19, or what about the non-Covid-19 related reasons I have the experiences I do that haven’t magically disappeared, how will I be able to just leave them there? Maybe in a hospital, maybe in a fucking tent? Nerd Child isn’t even here. He’s safe and healthy, for now, but if things go sideways and he was to get sick? I couldn’t go to him. If Husband or Art Child or Man Child was to need hospitalization he couldn’t come to be with them either. The thought of walking away, not being there if Husband is on a vent? Literally makes me sick. One of my children? I can’t imagine it, because the pain of that very real possibility overwhelms my ability to paint that mental picture. But I can’t stop thinking about it, at least the edges of the possibility, because I have been there in “normal” times. Our normal abnormal. In fully staffed hospitals with all the needed equipment. It’s knowing that if medical equipment needs to be rationed, there’s the very real possibility those preexisting conditions will render them ineligible for a needed ventilator. It’s the incredibly stupid comments I continue to see and hear online, in the news, in the community, from stupid people still blaming the ACA, or Obama, or saying those same rationing conditions existed under “Obamacare.” Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

If you’ve never experienced a loved one on a ventilator I’m glad for you. I hope you never do. It’s awful, and illness, injuries and novel viruses don’t give a shit who you vote for. But for those of us who have, repeatedly, who deal with chronic illness and disorders that make things like staffing patterns, hospital admissions, ICUs (hell, the fact that we “joke” about July being the worst time to have a crisis requiring admission because that’s when the new residents come on board), know the best cart to get coffee from part of our basic facts of life, there’s an entirely different level to this hell we call the Covid-19 pandemic.

This isn’t a potential crisis, it is a crisis. It’s real and it’s here. That was a few days ago. As of last night, there were 26,697 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in this city, 5,250 hospitalized, 1,175 in ICUs, and 450 deaths. Those numbers are just in NYC, just the confirmed cases. It may or may not be futile, but I’m doing all I can to keep me and mine safe, keep others safe from us should one of us get it. Please, please, all of you do the same.

Are You Okay?

Normally bustling hallway of hospital

The question on everyone’s lips. Well, not everyone, some are still licking toilet seats because they think it’s funny or just moaning about the inconvenience of bar closings, having to cancel vacations, having to self-quarantine if ill/possibly exposed to Covid-19. But pandemic or not, stupid’s gonna stupid and selfish is gonna selfish. The good news is there are also incredibly generous people working to feed the hungry/about to be hungry, some (too few) companies who are continuing to pay employees they’ve been forced to lay off or furlough while their doors are shuttered.

But back to the question. I am not ok. I know this, knew it, thought if I acknowledged the fact it would help keep my anxiety under control. Until Husband’s appointment yesterday with his young, upbeat doctor who just a couple of months ago said I was feisty, whose face was somber and I found myself having to work not to cry in response. The above photo of the hallway in the hospital? Yeah, that hallway is usually a hub of activity with an outpatient lab, cash machine, tea/snack kiosk just behind, and elevators leading to many of the individual doctor’s offices and departments. more than once we’ve had to wait for one of the elevators to arrive and open a second or third time because they were just too crowded. Not yesterday.

For everyone who is practicing social distancing, there are many of us who can’t stay home for two or three weeks, or six months, or a year, or however long this breath holding season is going to be. There are people performing essential services who have to go to work–and don’t kid yourself, it isn’t only doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and EMTs who are performing essential services–it’s also your pharmacist, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, truck drivers, bus and train operators, etc. And people who have to get to the doctor for appointments that can’t be put off if we’re going to try to avoid needing an array of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds for non-Covid-19 related reasons.

There would never be a good year for a pandemic, but this timing feels particularly devastating. This is a life altering event. Fuck, this is a world altering event. On a personal level, Husband and Art Child, who would both always be vulnerable, are both at points where they have no reserves for their bodies to call on. Mother in Law, who’s at a stage where every year seems to take an exponential toll. Nerd Child is in his senior year of college, campus now closed, though he was able to successfully petition to stay because of extenuating circumstances. Great! Except eek! he’s still my heart, and I really, really hate having him far from me during this. Man Child, who is currently strong, healthy, and miraculously still employed for the moment, but don’t think for a second I’m not thinking about him having contracted viral meningitis less than two years ago.

I was still reeling, just beginning to process the medical mayhem of the last several months for our family when this virus hit the US. On a national level, when we have someone sitting in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the definition of civil service, or science, or compassion. At a time when it couldn’t be more clear the US needs nationalized health care, the citizens are showing with every Democratic primary they don’t want it. Not enough, not yet. On an international level, with not only our country deciding they miss the good old days of nationalism and sanctified subjugation, and global climate change threatening everyone and everything.

I haven’t been able to focus to escape into reading. Or writing. Or querying. Can’t stress bake because my building has a gas leak, we will have no gas (means no stove/oven) for who knows how many months. I’m still doing my yoga every morning, checking in with friends through text, email, and social media, here at home we’re counting toilet paper squares but we have enough food. I’m hand washing and disinfecting and elbow sneezing, no-face-touching (iffy on that one, it’s freaking hard!), and you better believe there is no toilet licking. At this point no one in my immediate circle has or seems to have Covid-19, but way too much of this is out of my control.

So here we are, in the year of 1918 and 1929 decided to have a baby and call it 2020.

I am hanging in and hanging on, doing what needs to be done, but I’m not ok, how about you?

Dear Dems: Please and

 

If you squint it says Thank You.

 

You know how infuriating and offensive it is when we hear the media and the GOP talking about real Americans, and by that they mean white, male, Christian, straight, cis, born in a cornfield, swaddled in the flag, and weaned on Bud/Coors/Pabst Blue Ribbon middle American farmers? Yeah, how about we stop doing that to ourselves.

We dislocate shoulders patting ourselves on the back for how diverse our party is. Cool. And it is. We are the party of looking forward, to growth and prosperity, equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunities and safety for all. We howl in outrage and anguish at the recent, systematic dismantling of our all too fragile democracy. Now how about we act like we mean it?

As harmful as it is to pretend there aren’t millions of voting Americans who support this administration (yanno, the whole thisisnotwhoweare), it is equally–if not more so–harmful to pretend the only Democrats who matter are your kind, whether your kind is progressive, moderate, or some other faction. If you are saying the only possible Dem candidate to take back the White House is the one you support, if you are preemptively spouting conspiracy theories about why your candidate won’t win the nomination and is being robbed by the establishment/socialists/whatever; please stop.

Please. If you are passionate about your choice for the Dem nomination, excellent. Campaign for them, brag about their accomplishments, vote for them, make your case about why you believe they are the best choice, buy them flowers, tell them you love them and call them in the morning. But don’t viciously rip the other candidates and their supporters, don’t bellow they are the same as those who support the current White House and GOP. They aren’t. You may not agree with them/their candidates about everything, or even most things. But they aren’t trying to take away your democracy, your right to clean air and water, your right to freedom of religion/speech/marriage equality/voting rights–your basic human rights.

But someone else is. Millions of someones are. And the GOP, by their Senate vote on impeachment yesterday, made it clear. They are all for a dictatorship, they’re done with equality and justice for all, the rule of law, this little experiment called America. I know there are some who will read this post and splutter, Mrs Fringe is romanticizing the America of 2015, she’s forgetting the ERA was never passed, voting rights have been under attack long before 2016, she’s forgetting Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland, and Flint Michigan, and stop and frisk, DREAMERS, the opiod crisis, children in cages, the school to prison pipeline, the imaginary weapons of mass destruction that got us into Iraq, and climate change, and mass shootings, and the working poor who have been living in their cars and in shelters for years, and unaffordable medicine, and why we need strong borders, and Israel, and the deficit, and on and on.

I promise, I am not. I am remembering. I am not imagining a pipe dream of who we are. I am remembering this. is. not. normal. It isn’t normal, but it has now become normalized. I am remembering the upcoming elections are our last shot for who knows how long to try and get this country back on the path of democracy. I know how this sounds. We’re taught–and we teach–to shoot for the stars, go for the gold, marry the person who makes your heart sing and your consciousness expand (or something, I dunno, I’m not a romance kind of gal). But we haven’t been taught–and don’t teach–to give up and starve to death if we don’t become movie stars and instead wait tables until retirement, lay down and die if we get a thanks-for-playing certificate instead of the gold, marry the person who beats you to death if you don’t marry the one who first broke your heart.

Be passionate. Be loud. Make your case and share your dream of our country led by your candidate of choice. When the caucuses and primaries are over, maybe your candidate will have come out on top. Maybe I’ll agree they were the best choice. Maybe not. Whether they were my first choice or not, I will support them, and I will believe even if they were my last choice, they are THE choice. I may not love them. You may not love them. We don’t have to. We’re choosing a President for four years, not a dictator who will in turn hand their golden scepter to their progeny, not a God (despite the current theories and apparent intentions on the right). I will know, whether it’s the most progressive candidate or the most moderate, they will not implement the hellscape currently being crafted by those in power today.

 

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

That old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?…”

It’s showtime, folks.

Here I am, back home again. Not that I can’t blog from the hospital, I just didn’t want to. Husband has yet another brand new part, Art Child has a brand new diagnosis of walking pneumonia, and me? Well, I’ve got the same old pile of dirty laundry staring at me. Much like the file that holds the current manuscript I’m sort of kind of querying, I’m ignoring it. Every morning I get up, make my coffee, exchange emails with my writing buddy, squint at the newspaper while I try to pretend I’m not living through the death of American democracy, do my stretches, open the file intending to make notes for a synopsis (some agents require these when you’re querying), read a couple of paragraphs, weep, and close the file again.

Life has been pretty damned weird these days, and I feel like I’m…on the cusp of a new stage, or grieving, maybe both. I think those two things go together. Grief, not just for dinner dying anymore.

No, no, don’t get nervous, I’m not going to go on about health, hospitals, or death. We grieve a lot of things at different stages: loss of friendship, loss of marriage, job loss, major financial difficulties, leaving school, starting school, menopause (so I’ve heard–personally, I celebrated), children growing up, viagra prescriptions, a healthy planet, elected officials who understood the term public service, and dreams. Oh, those traitorous, treacherous fucking dreams. Mine, as anyone who’s been with Mrs Fringe for any length of time knows, is tied to my writing. A contract. Someone in the industry who believes in my words, my fiction, enough to think they and I could earn a dollar from them.

That clip above? From All That Jazz, my favorite movie, I honestly don’t think I can tell you how many times I’ve seen it. Gah! I was an adolescent during one of the golden ages of movie musicals. All That Jazz, Saturday Night Fever (I know, technically not a musical, but it was the soundtrack of my youth), Hair, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Grease, Fame, Yentl, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The Rose, Shock Treatment, Fame (yes, I wrote it twice), The Blues Brothers–there were a lot of them. They were all great fun and great tears with a message. If you had talent, determination, someone who believed in you, willingness to put the work in and put up with various setbacks and humiliations, booze and/or mind altering substances but didn’t OD by the time you were 30, well. You would make it. That or you’d be beaten by life and give up those stupid dreams for a house in the suburbs. Or financial security. Or you’d just be too busy with financial insecurity to care anymore. See above, “I acceeeeeept!” Whichever way the chips fell, there was definitely no soundtrack telling me I’d take a twenty year break from trying, wake up one day to hear the alarm ringing from Pink Floyd’s Time in my head and start writing again, and write and revise and write and revise and connect with other writers and learn about the publishing industry and get derailed again and then write and revise and submit, and write and revise and submit, over and over again until I was 50,000 years old, still care, and what’s playing in my head is no longer the alarm clock, but Clare Torry’s brilliant, wordless vocals. Yeah, I’d like to see that movie. It’s possible this manuscript is a version of it.

I want to accept. I say I accept. I think I’ve accepted. And then I don’t. Because even as I grieve the loss of my writing dream, the writing is how I get through, how I live, how I grieve.

The closing scene of All That Jazz is below. Kind of long but you should watch it, about the death of a dream realized, and also Ben Vereen is a god.

Where Have Those Damned Words Gone?

Sunrise over the East River

I’ll say one thing for all of our recent time in the hospital, they have the best damned views in the city. Most of my photos have weird shadows and reflections because of the double paned windows combined with my terrible photo taking skills when using the phone, but hey, I’ve woken up to worse.

Scary hospital stays are scary. How’s that for profound blathering? And when faced with these stays, we are a family that talks around things, jokes about them, because we do. I don’t want to cry any more than when I absolutely can’t hold it in, leaves me with one of those vicious migraines that have teeth and nausea every time, and hospital security gets really testy when you stand in the halls and scream profanities. In the past, I’d tell Husband I appreciated the vacation, but next time let’s pick a better hotel. These last few times, well. This is a fancy shmancy hospital, with tvs larger than the wall our living room tv hangs on. I told him it was the nicest hotel he’d ever taken me to. That was the joke, over and over with each new nurse, each new visitor. Not all that funny the first time, less so every time I said it, but again, wtf else am I going to say?

Words may be my thing, reading and writing them, but I lose them when I most need them just like a cab driver trying to explain in his third language that the crumpled fender of the car in front of his isn’t his fault.

In November I began reading a novel I had long been waiting for, and it’s truly rare for me to buy a book at full price. I wish I could more often to support authors, but my budget is limited and I read a lot. This one, though, I had to. Erin Morgenstern. There are many authors I admire for different strengths, and her strength is incredibly lush sentences I just get lost in. Nevertheless, I stopped reading once Husband was admitted because I just couldn’t relax into those opulent, fantastical dreams on the page. Nothing I can imagine myself writing.

Because my words are wrong, too raw. Too many shadows and distorted reflections that gauge their way out of my mouth with teeth and claws.

This morning I finished the novel. It didn’t inspire me to write anything beautiful, say anything beautiful, but I did bake an apple pie with all the cinnamon my heart desires, on top of a puff pastry crust with a layer of cheesecake in between, as close as I get to lush. Five minutes ago–as I was writing this–Husband’s doctor called, we’re looking at another inpatient stay next week.

Communication Breakdown

Hello all.

I know, it’s been a long time. What can I say, the world’s gone to shit, and somehow my rage at the daily news left me howling but without words. Honestly, the Kavanaugh hearings and subsequent confirmation did me in.

I’ve stayed on Twitter though, and that’s what prompted this post. A funny thing happened to me today. Funny-strange, not funny ha-ha. As a woman of a certain age, I’m used to a certain level of invisibility. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but there are other aspects to it that are kind of…pleasant. Peaceful. But I’ve been particularly enraged these past days as the US states have ramped up their attacks on women through abortion restrictions and plans to criminalize women. Note that I’m not, however, surprised. So when I logged on Twitter this morning, I saw #Lysistrata and #sexstrike trending. Yeah…no. Sure, I understand the idea behind it, and it seems clever–after all, it’s all about sex, and sex gets attention and sells, right? No. I tweeted my opposition to the idea, and offered an alternative, #spendingstrike, and lo and behold my little invisible tweet blew up. I don’t know that it falls under the going viral category, but considering I usually interact with the same little group of ten people or so, maaaaybe twenty if it’s a Big Thing, finding a tweet of mine with 1000 likes, over 200 retweets, and lots of comments is a big deal. Kind of nerve wracking, in a holy shit my phone is going to spontaneously combust from vibrating so much kind of way. I also had to locate and use the block button, because I was noticed by trolls. A nuisance, that, but meh. They’ll forget I existed by midnight.

You know what does feel like a big deal? How many people don’t seem to understand the point–why the whole sex strike thing is not a great idea in this day and age. Why maybe showing our fury and frustration about being told by other people what we can or can’t do with our bodies by telling each other what we can/can’t do with our bodies isn’t…logical. How maybe the idea of sex as a tool/weapon reinforces the whole patriarchy thing. That it reinforces that it’s “natural” (excuse me while I puke) for men to want sex and women not too. How it reinforces the falsehood that women are only valuable as sexual objects &/or incubating capabilities. How it reinforces the idea that only *certain* women (yanno, the straight, cis, childbearing age ones) are valuable, only certain women can take a stand against barbaric rules that threaten all of us. How it ignores the fact that most of these threatened and threatening male Republican lawmakers & voters are mostly having sex with threatened and threatening self-hating Republican women. Did I puke already this paragraph? I know, a nauseating concept, but it is reality, and for a hippy I’m quite the realist.

I’m not going to really talk about abortion or sex or babies here, because those aren’t the point, not of this post and not of these laws. This is about women and power and fear.

I have this idea that’s been floating in my head for a while now. What does make a difference? What gets attention? Money, of course. So I thought of a hashtag, #spendingstrike and posted my idea. What if all the non self-hating women didn’t make any purchases for a week? Women, collectively, spend a lot of money, power a significant portion of our economy. I’m not looking for anyone to hurt themselves or anyone else, so it would have to planned well in advance. We’d have to go into it knowing that a percentage wouldn’t participate because they do hate themselves enough to believe they should die before having a D&C, even if and when the fetus is not viable &/or they’ll die without the D&C. Fine, they’re zealots, brainwashed, whatever you want to say, no point wasting time and energy arguing with them. Another slice of women won’t participate because life is fucking hard and it’s all they can do to get through each day, they aren’t screwing around on Twitter; they’re either working or sleeping or taking care of their families or trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night. That still leaves a whole lot of us. A whole lot of dollars not spent.

Think about it. No purchases for a week. No grocery shopping, no cars, no phones, no Metrocard. If planned for it could happen. Some people saw my hashtag and tweets, and misconstrued them, thinking I meant women shouldn’t go to work for a day (or a week, whatever). No. Again, I’m not looking to hurt anyone, and a lot of women don’t have the luxury of saying they won’t go to work because Hear Me Roar, their bosses would respond with Don’t Come Back. I’m not looking to hurt any one industry, or the people of any one area, with a prolonged strike. It isn’t about deprivation. Choosing deprivation is again a luxury that many don’t have, and these laws will hurt just about all of us–the exception, of course, being the uber wealthy who will be able to afford to go wherever they want/need for safe health care, and hey, if they do get arrested because some judge doesn’t believe they didn’t cause their own miscarriage, they can afford great lawyers. It’s about getting attention–yeah, yeah, I seem to be confused about the whole attention whore thing–and making a point. THE point, that they may not value our rights or our lives, but I’m quite certain they value our money. Congress has the power of the purse. Guess what? We do too.

The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Babies

Sunrise, it’s beautiful until you face the news.

The truth is I started this post yesterday–and by started I mean I typed in the title, uploaded the most recent photos, and then was crushed by the weight of it all. When creating a new file and starting a new…novel, maybe? is easier than writing a blog post, yeah, it’s heavy.

Often the anticipation of a thing, something bad you know is coming, or even the unknown of waiting for medical test results, is worse than when that thing happens. I knew, and if you weren’t in denial you knew, this swift, systematic dismantling of America and American rights was going to happen as soon as 45 was elected. The worst is now happening, and it isn’t any better than waiting/not knowing. Is it worse? Yes, because as quickly as all this is happening, it feels like well more than half the country is still in denial–and not just the racist, homophobic, misogynist supporters on the Right, but too many on the Left with their “Mueller will fix everything, it won’t get that bad,” and my current favorite, “Senators Collins and Murkowski will do the right thing.” If they were going to do the right thing they would have disavowed the rest of the GOP two years ago. Unless something immediate, drastic, and miraculous occurs, Kavanaugh (45’s latest pick for the Supreme Court) will be confirmed, and Roe v Wade is going to be overturned.

Whether or not we can change this (and yes, we should continue doing everything in our power to try), every woman and every man who so much as nods to the idea of women’s rights and equality needs to acknowledge what this means, just how far back this clock is spinning. Because guess what? It isn’t about abortion. There have always been abortions, but not safe, legal, and affordable ones. It sure as shit isn’t about the sanctity of life. It’s about punishing the poor and people of color–because those who are wealthy and white will always be able to hop on a plane to somewhere it’s safe and legal when they need to. It’s about putting women in their place, taking away our freedom, our agency, our power, our right to life. It’s about punishing females for having a uterus, girls for developing breasts, women for believing we too should have the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s about being told by men and wealthy corporations what we can or cannot do with our bodies, specifically our secondary sexual characteristics, to be used and abused only as these men and corporations deem appropriate and advantageous to them.

I know the popular stories from those on the right like to focus on the millions of imaginary evil wimminz who tempt men with their short skirts and girly bits, have unprotected sex while “taking” promotions in the workplace, and then skipping to their nearest Planned Parenthood for D&Cs. If you listen to these stories, these women choose to have abortions more regularly than most have menstrual cycles–yanno, when they’re bleeding from their wherever. There won’t be medical necessity exceptions, that’s been made very clear by those bullshit, alarmist campaigns against late term abortions–which are just about always performed because of medical necessity.

If and when this happens, I’m certain we can also look forward to the good old days where birth control was banned and illegal (since health care will be unaffordable, by that time birth control will also be a privilege for the wealthy). We’ll go back to the days of rape is impossible within a marriage–because there are plenty who still believe this–rape in general will be decriminalized and always the woman’s (girls, men, boys) fault. Hey, maybe they can start criminalizing and prosecuting women who have miscarriages. Don’t worry, there will be a natural limit to the cost of this, since a number of these women will die without the ability to have doctors perform D&Cs.

I thought I would go on and on with this post, detailing the history of abortion, birth control, and women’s rights, with a ton of links and photos, but no. I’m too tired, and I just can’t. Because those who are screaming that this is about criminalizing women’s sexuality are wrong. It’s about criminalizing women.

 

New (ab)Normal

I probably shouldn’t blog when I’m pissed. I definitely shouldn’t blog with a large alcoholic drink at my side. I’m about to do both. Sorry, but I couldn’t edit my thoughts enough to limit to tweets. I am appalled and disgusted by how many people don’t want to understand just how deep a pile of shit this country is in right now, how deep it’s been since November 8, 2016. No, I’m not talking about 45 supporters, I’m talking democrats, those who consider themselves part of the resistance. Yes, they’re upset. Yes, they’re marching, they’re calling their representatives, they’re gasping at the thought of a hardline rightwing (and likely unqualified, given the other picks from this administration) Republican taking Justice Kennedy’s spot on the Supreme Court…and then they’re saying, well, midterm elections are only four months away. Well, at least we’re in a blue state.

Well, wake up, buttercup, all bets are off. Everyone knows by now this administration chose to separate and cage babies taken from their parents, who came to our borders because they were desperate, seeking refugee status in a nation that was, until recently, a reasonable shot at a reasonably safe life. Now we’re hearing about children as young as 3 years old in immigration court without their parents. 3. In court. Because if they deserve to live here, they’ll pull themselves up by their diaper tabs and orate like Atticus Finch? Stop for a second and think about how completely insane and evil that is. Now tell me how certain you are that living in a blue state, in a country that isn’t red, but black and blue, will keep you safe. If this government can decide to deny due process to refugees, they can decide to deny it to you.

Years ago I entered the world of being a medical needs parent. Not when kiddo was born, but a few years later. That’s when I learned, really learned, the idea of a new normal. Because at first, it’s natural, understandable, and probably healthy, to wait for and expect things to go back to normal. Surprise! That day doesn’t come. And you learn about the concept of new normal. And you think you will adjust. And then another medication fails, and another diagnosis is added, and then another diagnosis is questioned, expectations are adjusted, lather, rinse, repeat, ad infinitum. And then you reach a point where you understand new normal means constantly shifting. Along the way, you understand a lot of the old normal still applies. You still have to do laundry, make dinner, grocery shop, clean the toilet. Now you add more time in the pharmacy than you dreamed possible. Making sure all electronics are charged and ready to go at a moment’s notice becomes second nature. When things are bad, you make sure there are frozen dinners in the fridge in case of emergency, make sure there are always enough clean clothes in case that potential trip to the hospital has to happen right. now. You learn to be patient. You learn to wait-and-see without turning away. You learn how to argue, plead your case, and spend eleventy billion hours on the phone fighting with the health insurance company. Politely. And you learn polite doesn’t mean saying thank you and accepting when needed coverage is denied. You still get to laugh, enjoy good moments as they come along, treasure the people and friendships you make in this new abnormal world, and appreciate those friends from your old world who understand they cannot understand your new normal-abnormal, and hang in there anyway despite canceled plans because of illness, side effects, hospitalizations.

You know what you don’t get to do? Pretend that all this new abnormal is all going to disappear. Not only disappear, but leave no permanent scars on all involved. You don’t get to pretend that a momentary meltdown equals problem solved, or now you can ignore all the unpleasantness for the next month, or week. You don’t get to pretend, regardless of what gets worse or what gets better, that all involved aren’t irrevocably changed, shaped by these experiences, permanently on guard. You don’t get to pretend because this time it isn’t your kid hooked up to a gazillion tubes that the other kid who is there is purely theoretical. That is someone’s child. Maybe someone you know and care about, maybe not, but you know how easily that could be your child. As easily as the little one in a cage, in a strange country, climbing on a table in front of a judge when they’re too young to understand what a judge is, that child could be your child, whether you want to admit it or not.

America is sick. This is a chronic illness, that may or may not be fatal. We don’t get to pretend this illness isn’t insidious and progressive. Not even if neither you or none of those you care about have pre-existing conditions, or brown skin, or faith that isn’t Christian, or a uterus. None of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re appalled or offended. This is where we are, and we can’t possibly slow this descent into rotten banana republic if we’re still pretending the banana is just a little soft.

People are Stupid. Love, Mom

Rodin at The Met

Every home, every family unit, has their own rules–what’s out of bounds to say or do, particularly when there are children in that unit.  For us, the absolute no-go was stupid. We never used the word to or about our kids, nope, not even kidding around, and there was a no-tolerance policy regarding them using the word about themselves, each other, or anyone else.

You won’t be surprised to learn that in our home, cursing (English, Spanish, or sorry to say, Spanglish) was not automatically against the rules. Yes, we wanted them to understand some words (ie, curse words) were offensive to some people, and wholly inappropriate in some settings, but we never pretended shock or offense on our own behalf.  Everyone’s got their own things, right? We were also ok with movies or video games that had some cursing/sexy scenes (no, I’m not talking about when they were toddlers here), but graphic violence was out. I don’t know if he remembers, but at the age of six my oldest, already reasonably well versed in museums and the nude art to be found on display, was traumatized when he was at a friend’s house and they had a sculpture from this biblical scene:

Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1530, Cranach

So, we tried to teach the kids that words are powerful and important, to be explored yet respected, but violence and harm to others was never, ever ok. For whatever reason, the idea that certain words were not to be used in certain settings, or in front of certain people, was more easily learned for the English curses than the Spanish ones. I may have told the following story before, if so and you’ve read it, sorry, I’ve been running Mrs Fringe a long time.

When Art Child was five, we experienced her first hospitalization, and after approximately 8,000,000 days in the PICU, she was doing much better and the team was deciding whether she could be discharged or sent to a step-down room. Her main nurse argued with the resident on the unit not to remove her IV yet in case bloodwork was needed for the decision (if you’re unfamiliar with this stuff, if the IV is in place they don’t have to do another “stick”, they can draw blood right from it), the resident insisted she remove the IV. Needless to say after it was removed the team said one last blood draw was required. I was pissed, the nurse was pissed. The resident said she’d do the draw herself so we didn’t have to wait for the phlebotomy team, and the girl was furious. She was a passionate kiddo to begin with, very verbal, and so she cursed the resident. Resident chuckled, “it’s ok, you can call me a dodo head, I’ve been called worse.” Nice, right? She was trying to atone, but clearly confused by the fact that the (Latina) nurse and I weren’t chuckling, we were downright cracking up. Because the girl hadn’t called her a dodo head, she called her a toto head (see the earlier apology for my home’s Spanish/English mixing). Toto is Spanish slang for–so as not to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities–girly bits.

She didn’t, however, call her stupid.

But, well, here we are, living in a time where misogyny, racial slurs and racist ideas/ideals are not only considered acceptable by the White House, but these ignorant slurs and ideas are being used to create racist policies. So no, the fact that our so-called President used the term shithole neither surprises nor offends me; but that it was used in reference to large swaths of the world, millions and millions of people because they have brown or black skin, offends me greatly. He knows what he meant, his supporters know what he meant. That shit isn’t a dog whistle it’s a shrieking tornado alarm, heard across the world.  This isn’t cursing, this is verbal violence.

His millions of supporters? And if you’re one who hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon to use slurs yourself, but are remaining silent, shrugging it off, you’re one of them–are stupid. Not merely stupid for spouting, believing, and/or accepting ignorant nonsense, but stupid because odds are you’re next. He didn’t say, “why can’t we have more immigrants from China, from Argentina, from Italy, from Israel, Japan, from Ireland, from Poland?” No. He said, “why can’t we have more immigrants from Norway?”  I haven’t met too many people from Norway and I’ve never been. The few I have met were only here temporarily for work or on vacation. I’m sure they’re a lovely people across the board, god knows I’d love their health care and if I had their social safety net I wouldn’t want to emigrate anywhere else, either. Norway. Whiter than white. Think about that, and think about who and how many ethnic groups are not part of that Aryan wet dream. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, if you’re American, odds are you/your ancestors are not all part of that purity test. I’ve been saying this for over two years now; it will not stop on it’s own. Ignorance feeds ignorance, and hatred feeds hatred. Once you say it’s ok to slander, take away rights, human dignity, to hate one group, it’s going to be ok to strip rights from the next group, and the next. And if you’re a woman, well, it doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is, if this continues unchecked and the GOP doesn’t find an actual ethics compass we’re fucked regardless.

For most of us, those of us born without millions of dollars at our disposal and/or the protection of aristocracy (real or implied) life is hard, and we face hardships that cannot be avoided. Some find their homes and communities lost to hurricanes or earthquakes, their life savings and opportunities stolen by corrupt officials, their loved ones and countries torn apart by wars, the victims of hundreds of years of systemic oppression; or some find themselves the victims of smaller, personal yet still devastating effects of catastrophic illness for themselves, or their children fighting incurable diseases, or an industry gone belly up so they can’t find a job that allows them to support themselves or their families, or the victims of random, violent crimes. These are the suck of life, things that are generally out of our control, yet we have the responsibilities inherent in figuring out how to make it through, or how to make it easier for our loved ones to make it through. But this? The position America is in now? This was in our control, and to some degree, it still is. This was a choice. A choice to make it harder, dangerous, impossible for millions and millions of human beings, a choice that purposefully ignored and distorted this concept of “other.”

So yeah, people aren’t just hateful, or racist, or toto heads. People are stupid.

Sex, Lies, and Assault

The full quote engraved above is, “For the Improvement of Social and Living Conditions”

This morning Al Franken will be making an announcement regarding the allegations against him. Many believe he will be stepping down, many believe he should step down. Maybe this post will be up before he does so, but know it was written prior. I hear/see a lot of people saying this is a watershed moment in American history for women and women’s rights. Time Magazine’s person of the year 2017 isn’t one person, it’s the #metoo movement, the “silence breakers.”

I don’t have answers in regards to Franken, and I’ve been finding it impossible to read every detail coming to light about all of these men. It’s all so, so much. Not just so much in terms of the volume of accusations against the ever-growing number of men, but so much when looking at the many, many terrors happening on a daily basis. There isn’t one area of our society that isn’t under attack from within right now. All this said, I have thoughts. I’ve been speaking up and out about women, sexual harassment, and assault for a long time, and I’ve used Mrs Fringe as a vehicle to do so for the past five years. I’m not so sure this is a watershed moment.

Yes, there is much awareness and many important, necessary conversations happening. Yes, we are seeing repercussions for men who abuse/have abused women and positions of power in a way we haven’t seen before. I just don’t know that we can see this as a definitive turning point. Do I want it to be? Yes! But can it be, and why not? Because we’re only seeing this in very limited arenas. I understand that any/every movement has to begin somewhere, and the highly visible and well documented eyes of Congress and Hollywood are excellent places to start. But nothing happens or exists in a vacuum, and while the Left is celebrating, the Right is working. (I’d say the Right Extremists, but at this point it’s safe to say those who were considered extremists on the fringe right twenty years ago are now mainstream.)  Our current President is a man credibly accused of both sexual harassment and assault by multiple women over the course of many years. Accounts of him wandering into the dressing room backstage of the Miss America contest–with underaged contestants–are also documented. This was all well known and well documented long before the 2016 election, an audio tape of him bragging about groping women released, and millions voted for him anyway.  You could and should argue that the current movement is a well deserved backlash because of this.

But these formerly extremist Right Wing politicians have all the power right now, and they’re using it to harm women for generations to come, regardless of who’s on the cover of Time Magazine this month or how many Democrats are called to task for inappropriate, immoral, and sometimes illegal behavior. Mitch McConnell and the GOP stole a pivotal Supreme Court seat after Scalia died by refusing to hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s pick for nominee. Do we think this won’t have repercussions for women’s rights, for Roe vs Wade? The current monstrosity of an administration is also busy stacking the federal courts with more extremist, right wing, appointed for life individuals. In another time in our history…say, 10 years ago, this might sound hysterical. They’re judges, they have to be impartial and qualified no matter who they vote for, the GOP cares about women and sexual predators, right? No. No they do not. Not anymore. This is how qualified you now have to be to qualify for a federal judgeship appointment, and this is how much the GOP cares about women. I’m sorry, did I say women? I should say women and girls, because those credibly accusing Roy Moore were most definitely not adult women at the time of these incidents.  I cannot say this loudly or frequently enough, the damage being done right now is generational.

And that’s not all. Yesterday the House–and by the House, I mean the GOP members, since they are in control–voted to pass a bill allowing concealed carry holders to legally bring their guns into states where they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed these concealed carry permits. Like, say, from states where domestic abusers are allowed to purchase and concealed carry guns into states that care about protecting their citizens. Oh yeah, this is going to be awesome for victims of domestic violence. So much caring about women and children.

Should the Hollywood and media men who have been fired/suspended/called out and shamed lost their careers? Absolutely. But given our quickly disappearing legal recourse and support from the government, I don’t see this helping Suzy Q Torres working in middle management, or Mary-Sue Regular Gal after she’s cornered by her sweating, piggish boss in the after-hours kitchen of the local fast food restaurant. So I don’t see how we can say, at this moment, that this is a turning point for women’s rights and safety in America. Celebrity cases often bring light and awareness to issues, a starting point. Without follow through for all, they stop there.

There are other aspects to this. Due process–I’ll leave that exploration to those more versed in the legal system, though I question some of these cases.  Not because I don’t believe women, not because I don’t want everyone to believe women, but because the stakes are high. Higher than they’ve ever been, in light of all recently discovered about the manipulability (is that a word?) of public opinion through the use of social media.

And then there’s the distinctions I see too many glossing over. A lot of men are assholes. They make unwanted comments, gestures, use a beer and a crowded bar as an excuse to make unwanted advances. Some men are predators. Some men prey on children. Some men are pushy, refusing to accept no thanks when asking for a phone number. Some men are stalkers.  There are assholes, there are sexual harassers, there are predators, there are rapists. These categories are all morally wrong, an affront to women’s intelligence, autonomy, and safety. But they aren’t equal.

I’m fairly safely invisible now, but let’s pretend I’m twenty years younger for a few subway scenarios. If a man on the subway asks for my phone number and tells me I should smile, I can tell him to fuck off and he can call me a feminazi bitch, I get off at the next stop. It’s yet another unpleasant incident that I shouldn’t have to deal with, and I do dream of a day when women won’t have to. If a man on the subway uses rush hour as an excuse to rub against me, or uses the longer time between stops when going through a tunnel to take out his junk and masturbate, I can get loud, tell him to fuck off, try to move away, stomp on his foot/offer a sharply placed elbow, get off and report him at the next stop. (I can’t, apparently, expect other passengers to help me, since the current PSAs on the subway tell people not to get directly involved with these types of incidents unless they’re certain it’s safe to do so, they should report it to the appropriate authorities when they can). I’m disgusted, I’m shaky, I’m pissed off that this is the world I live in. If a man on the subway traps me on an otherwise empty car when the train is moving through a tunnel, or follows me off the train and drags me to an unpopulated stairwell and assaults me, well, now we’re in completely different territory, with lifelong physical and emotional repercussions shaping every single choice I make for the rest of my life.

The fact that men like those in the second scenario exist doesn’t negate the wrongness of men in the first scenario, and those in the third don’t make those in the second acceptable in any way, shape, or form.

These were “easy” scenes, clearcut. They didn’t involve people who were known to the victim, dates, boyfriends, spouses, relatives, child predators, gang rapes, positions of financial power and employment repercussions, drugs/alcohol, or any of the million and three ways women find themselves being negated and disrespected, abused, assaulted. They are all unacceptable, and should all be addressed by our society with repercussions. But they aren’t all the same.  If we on the Left are in fact taking the moral high ground, that has to include looking at each case individually, or we run the risk of becoming the twenty-first century version of the 1980s false moral majority. While many of these scenarios grow from the same root problem, if we on the Left insist they are all the same, we make it that much easier for those on the Right to ignore these very real, pervasive, and damaging issues women deal with every day, the systemic degradation of women; paving the way for legal and sanctioned support of predators.