Friday, January 30, 2015

Retired Educator, Mocked Poetess

REPOST: Because. First published 11 April 2013.

I promised poetry but did not deliver.  You don't understand the trepidation of letting this tender, soft-hearted part of myself be open to ridicule, taunting, and satire!  How the Genetically Indentured Manor Staff thrills at responding to my meekest requests with muttered, "Yeah?  Why don't you go write a poem about it?" 

Even Fred can get nasty.  I showed him one of my best works and he said, "This is why you couldn't help weed the miniature Wimbledon courts?  This is what kept you from leading group therapy for the Crackhead Carnies holed up in the barn?  THIS is why you couldn't be bothered to cook for my Wednesday night dinner with the Militant Existentialist Lesbian Feminists?  And it doesn't even make sense!"

The Castafiore has been my only support.  "Ze poésie, cara mia, it is an art and for ze art, we give our all, we give tout! We give ze everything! Are you going to wear ze rouge pencil skirt and ze frilly white blouse of laces cut down to ze navel of you to ze très extraordinaire mass ce soir?  But then, it is ze soir when ze muse appears, no, so I, la Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, can wear ze clothings before ze good Abbot Truffatore, n'est-ce pas?  We will pray for ze poésie, for ze breast titty of ze muse to land in your head..."

Abbot Truffatore and Bianca have been meeting for private prayer and, judging from his sweaty red face and mismatched buttons when he leaves, heavy monk boots in hand, some athletic catechism review.  Tonight, he is leading a special mass for the Saint Day of Gemma Galgani, on whom he's had a crush for the last thirty years, and Bianca has become a green-eyed and now red pencil skirted demon with a deep v-neck lacy frill top.  She may not break out in stigmata every Thursday, but everything else about my girl is so totally venerable and serene.

St. Gemma Galgani

I shall take a page from good Gemma Galgani's book and suffer the jealousies and pettiness thrown at me over my blessed poetry and suffer these "heartaches in reparation, remembering that Our Lord Himself had been misunderstood and ridiculed."

Ahem.  Cough.  My first selection is a cute little ditty, meant to liven up the day and inspire all with my usual inimitable hope and optimism.  Do not be alarmed if you are so moved as to be unable to speak after the first dozen readings or so.  This is a perfectly natural response to poetry of this caliber. Like good Saint Gemma Galgani, you may experience ecstacies and raptures, but be calm.  It passes.

Final Cut 
there is sand between my eye and lid
from crying over nothing, one more dead kid,
pain here, pain there, poor me, while she
becomes green algae.

my legs that just ought to go,
says the do-it-yourself amputation pro,
prod, poke, ponder: it provokes familiar argument,
the age old problem, that old saw.

both legs are off, okay and fine,
and then one arm, a kinder line,
but there's no one for the coup de grâce,
no one to take the last arm off.
-- by Retired Educator, Mocked Poetess

© 2015 L. Ryan

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Raif Badawi: Fitness for Flogging

photo credit

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 27 January 2015)
Doctors should refuse to assess Saudi blogger’s fitness for flogging, human rights group says
by Sophie Arie
Doctors are playing a key part in the punishment by flogging of a blogger who has angered authorities in Saudi Arabia, and they should refuse to be involved, says the US based group Physicians for Human Rights.
The blogger Raif Badawi, whose Liberal Saudi Network promoted online debate about religion and politics, was convicted last year to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” He was to be caned in sessions of 50 lashes each, with at least a week between each sessions. He was flogged, in public, on 9 January, …

Sophie Arie is a journalist based in London. She has worked as a correspondent for The Guardian, The Observer and the Daily Telegraph
in Latin America and Europe and as a commissioning editor for 
Monocle magazine and The Daily Telegraph in London. She regularly covers international health stories for the British Medical Journal.

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Five ways you can help Raif Badawi -- from LiveWire, Amnesty International's global human rights blog

© 2015 L. Ryan

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mise en Place: Cream of Tomato Soup, Earlobes, Jesus

REPOST: Because this has been unexpectedly at the top of the "most requested" for the past week. Because some of us are waking to intemperate conditions these days.  Because living does come down to a "mise en place," sometimes. Because nothing beats a hot tomato soup in winter (or a perfectly spiced, lovingly fresh gazpacho in summer). Because I imagine, but no longer witness, people without homes continuing to drop ears into perfectly good soups, chilis, stews, and consommés.  Because I do this in remembrance of Joe.  

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Some people hate these frigid mornings.  Some open their eyes and calculate the range of possibilities for their next heating bill.  Some wake under blankets heavy and sodden-frozen in odd, crunchy forms, because of sheeting rain chased by freezing temps instead of downy-dry, insulating layers of pillowed snow.

There are homes equipped with Designated Heater-Uppers.  This is an ancient, time-honored, familial system, in which one soul, long-johned and night-capped, flees the warmth of quilt piles and warm beloved bodies and their blessed curvatures, to ignite a furnace, put flame to waiting kindling, twigs, and smallish logs, or maybe just to flick a switch on a thermostat.

The Designated Heater-Upper, depending on fortitude and genetics, may enjoy these quiet shivers of time and proceed to brew coffee for the less courageous, and whatever modern form of quick but hearty sustenance serves as the algebraic variable for gruel.  Other Designates may race back to the bed and reclaim their spot of warmth, mingling icy toes with toasty ones, nuggling to beat the band.  But usually, giggles and whispers set in, and there's no denying the day's begun.

Those many years ago when Fred and I helped out at a rare neighborhood-nestled shelter for homeless men (who were either actively ill or disabled, or both), me as an ardent volunteer, he as a paid worker who did miracles with very little money and exuberant donations to produce hot and [usually] healthy meals for 30-35 hungry men, twice a day -- we learned some survival tips we pray never to need. Oddly enough, I realized years later, in the swirling cyclonic mess of a medical crisis, that all of these "staying alive" guidelines depend on some version of a mise en place.  Whether it's an encounter with a rousting cop, the intricacies of getting dressed, or a traditional coq au vin (if you have enough rooster, blood, and time), a well-ordered preparation is key.

We did not help much, in any lasting sense, at the shelter, since we always knew... well, I cannot bring myself to say it, or even describe it.  Jesus said it.  I don't know that he was the first, but he said it, and pretty well, too.  Fred kept bodies and souls alive with calories, fed the jonesing junkies the sugary cereals, supplied those men with AIDS plenty of Sustacal, and turned water into wine with one hand tied behind his back, ready for any surprise.  Like the volunteers from Outta Town Church, who promised to bring dinner -- and did, in the form of several huge chunks of fresh venison left on the steps, kinda wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a paper bag.

"Jesus said it." You know what Jesus said, and if you don't, you say some version of it yourself from time to time, when glancing about, summing things up, giving the state of things a good ponder.  It hits you, suddenly, that some things never change.  And that the "why" of it doesn't matter.

Anyway -- that brilliant segue -- those most experienced in surviving the rigors of cold weather advise that, for the best odds of waking up at all after sleeping exposed to the elements, layers are the way to go, especially layers of mostly unread newspapers, mixed according to some complex algorithm with softer, well-crinkled, seriously perused pages of the Journal or the Constitution or the Times.  We knew a guy who collected styrofoam coffee cups throughout the day, then undid them, discarding the bottoms, for use as superb insulation, combined with newsprint, and his three, four, or five piece suits, and whatever blanket he could beg or borrow.  Joe did not much like sleeping inside, especially with rows of other men, their snores, snuffles, and sniffles, their various stinks, stories, and woes.

Of course, Joe may not be the best example. I watched one of his ear lobes fall off, from frostbite, as we ate the first course of one of Fred's dinners on a cold evening --  a cream of tomato soup.

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ADDENDUM, 25 JANUARY 2015 * This is a picture of Joe, taken by the talented C. Hinkle. Joe's story is a tragic one, that any editor with a decent heart and a bit of will might have altered, but that might have ruined the tale's attractive, romantic (and monetized) edge. He was, I believe, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia while in college. He grew up in the neighborhood where the shelter I refer to is located, and after the death of his parents/diaspora of his family, became something of the suburban, white, intelligent, talented, mentally ill, moderately-annoying, homeless man poster child for progressive church outreach programs in the area.  As Ed Loring said at Joe's Memorial Service, where many a chuckle-cum-tear was produced after many a Joe Story, "We ought to be ashamed of ourselves..."

A less fun Joe, likely overweight due to side effects of medications, probably choosier of acquaintances and of neighborhoods, perhaps employed, perhaps not, perhaps in a group home, perhaps in an apartment, perhaps in a nice home, with a wife, a partner, children. Perhaps a riotous Joe, set free? Joe on Joe's terms, not on the terms of newsletter/small grant-writing organizations plugging holes and doing legitimate good work based on Jesus' solid statistics. All it would have taken is one or several brave interventionists to commit Joe, keep him on meds, force him into the mental health system. It could have happened. In this best of all possible worlds.

© 2015 L. Ryan

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cats Trump Writer's Block

NOTE: A just discovered gem buried in the Drafts folder, dated 8 August 2012, 10:27 AM, Tête de Hergé Super Standard Time.  The "gem" is not the writing, but the cat photography.  I think this blog has been entirely too grim of late, so a CAT POST is just the thing.  And since I don't feel much like posting today, or perhaps ever again, finding something that claims to have broken through "Writer's Block" is terrifically helpful to the me of today, 21 January 2015.  And it's a darned shame that Tante Louise's video cameo appearance didn't make it to the page -- but she is surely getting all things aligned in Heaven (which is, as Townes Van Zandt reminds us, "where you find it.").  And I do also miss the original Crack Whore Organic Pig Farmer Lady, taken down by the Fugitive Squad/Aunt Louise. An unfortunate, but historic, Community Event. Memories are slippery things!

Enjoy this serendipitous break from an Excessively Somber Period of Blogging!

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So,  when I made the masterpiece of a video about flushing PICC lines, the astute observer will have noticed that I dropped the recording device into a sink full of nice, hot soapy water.  Cleanliness, godliness!

I don't have much money.  I'm poor, in fact.  Not entitlement poor, more like, receiving 60% of my 2000 salary with no adjustment for cost-of-living or any inflationary trickeroos poor -- and using that money to support a household, pay a caretaker, fork out over $15,000 on health care (with insurance, even the blessed PCIP), and all the usual -- maintaining the sexiness of Ruby the Honda CRV, and keeping her legal, paying the mortgage, and having every animal in our care up to date in shots and vet exams.  Hell, the year of Little Boy (Uncle Kitty Big Balls), because of Fred's deep love for him, we payed close to $5,000 trying to save the dear soul's life.  I have to say, though, that had the vet involved been a better vet. a more honest vet, we might have stopped torturing him several thousand dollars earlier.

Lest you scoff at my "I'm poor" by pointing your pointy finger at my list of financial accomplishments, I should add that I never eat out, haven't been to a movie theatre, much less La Scala, in over a decade, and some claim that "generic" is my middle name.

Also, I make my money grow by playing the market.

That's right.  The socialist owns GOOG [but the rest of her portfolio is so deep in risk that she ain't revealing anything more, lest your mere scoffery turn to disgust].

Anyway, this is my way of explaining that I bought a new video camera.  It was a deal, a steal, and a good choice according to Fred's Bible, Consumer Reports, Tête de Hergé edition.  There was much ado about how easy it is to use, though I admit there was not a specific warranty of ease of use when the photog has one good hand, and a fumbling one, at that.

So far it is defeating me.  I don't get the zillions of icons offered on the LED screen.  Just tap!  It's easy! Without proof that one of those symbols won't launch an ICBM, I cannot willy-nilly start choosing picto-signifiers.  I have a conscience.

But this morning, which came too early, I thought I would at least try to take some still photos.  And then show them, describe them, say things, any things, to help destroy the iron bars behind which I pretend this writer is penned, blocked.

So... like many of my kind, after I inject myself with a few drugs, take 7 pills, go pee,and climb into the wheelchair, my first act of the day is to make coffee.  As you ought to know, we harbor three cats in our wing of Marlinspike Hall -- Captain Haddock issued orders that they no longer are free-ranging throughout the Manor, what with the claw-sharpening activity in the Tapestry Alcoves and all:  Marmy Fluffy Butt, Dobby (her son, the runt), and Buddy the Freakishly Large Kitten (no one told us he was a Maine Coon).
These three insert themselves boldly, and sometimes rudely, into the coffee-making plan by performing intricate death-defying patterns around the wheels of this power chair.  "Feed us, feed us, feed us," they chant.

At which point the absurdity begins.  I manage to get three bowls filled with fresh and tasty kibble and on the floor, in the required layout.  Marmy will only eat out of the red plastic bowl;  Dobby and Buddy prefer the metal bowls, but then purposefully set out to eat from each receptacle.  The two water bowls must frame the three food bowls like parentheses.  Change that and one of them will make the subtle point of their dissatisfaction by, for example, eating with one paw in one water bowl, and filling the other water bowl with half-chewed bits of kibble.

But, finally, coffee.

Oh, here is a picture of my new kettle.  I broke my café press a few weeks ago.  Might have been the same day I killed the video camera.  So I dug out one of our many Melitta drip cones and went back to that most honest form of coffee-making.  In the process, I noticed that my Paul Revere kettle was leaking.  As in, the solder was breaking down, the seams were separating.  So I went online to my new favorite pastime -- FAB -- the rule in force being "no purchases allowed, because you are poor, no matter how well GOOG is doing."

But they had this kettle, and it was cute, and it was on sale, and it is now on my stove (in our private kitchenette, as it is hardly appropriate for the more demanding heat requirements of, say, the Medieval Kitchens).

New red kettle from FAB
If confession is truly good for the soul:  I also bought some stationary.  I have a weakness for good stationary, and may be the last person on Earth to continue to send handwritten letters and cards, delivered to brick-and-mortar, or daub-and-wattle, or hand-chinked stone domiciles.

Okay, so... it's heavy, the kettle.  I have already poured boiling water onto my lap, neatly missing the Melitta cone, because I couldn't hold the lovely shiny red thing up high enough to pour the water in over something not made of my flesh, like the counter.  But I will figure it out.  This morning, I put my coffee-making stuff in the sink, reducing the height requirement of the kettle heft.  [You will either understand that last sentence or you won't.  I can't help you.]

The video camera, when plugged into the limping-along computer, has lovely edit functions for my visual artistry.  Unfortunately, the red of the kettle was lost in the necessity to tone down the severely dominating whiteness of the stove top's enamel, even the whitey glare of the pitcher and old cookie jar that hold my cooking utensils.

The red, the red, it is not right.

Okay, so the cats are fed.  The coffee is made and, if necessary, burn balm applied to my upper thighs.
I turn the wheelchair in the direction of early morning television news, the computer, and a bed into which I can dive when pain spikes.

Dobby always disappears about five minutes before I make my slow journey to the bedroom -- slow because I'll be damned if any more coffee is leaving the mug, unless headed for my caffeine-starved self.

The photo at the top of this post?  That's what I find waiting for me on the bed -- without fail, and thankfully so, for it makes me smile like no body's business.  Dobby, laid out, and ready for his requisite ten minutes of loving.

He wants, first, a fierce belly rub, then a sensual ear massage, easy on the right one.  He then finds the comb and brush dedicated to his use, and his use alone, and knocks them on the floor.  Why we have to go through this particular part of the ritual, I dunno, but I don't change things because he's cute when he tries to get tough.

The grooming begins in earnest, and lasts as long as my right arm can wield the brush and comb.

After ten minutes, usually, of attention, Dobby is faced with three options:
  • He can play with Buddy, who has taken his place at the foot of the bed, and is vocalizing like a loon.
  • He can curl up and take his first nap of the day.
  • He can grab the comb, freshly cleaned of his fine gray hairs, growl, shake it, and run off with it looking like a 19th century train robber who scored gold.
Okay, back to my pitiable photography.  Marmy has sworn me off.  She doesn't come to cuddle any more, she runs, in fact, when I draw near.  Oh, she is conflicted, that is for sure.  She talks at me when we're together in the kitchenette, and lets me pat her head.  She relies on me to clean up her hairball offerings, which have become frequent, because she won't let me help her with her decidedly difficult grooming.  (She's a long-haired beauty.)

My crime?  She has a recurrent eye condition -- herpes, actually -- which requires "gooping" with medication.  She managed to go several years without a problem but a few months back, poor thing, it returned with a vengeance in her left eye.  Now... Fred is a loving pet caretaker but he lacks finesse when it comes to administering pet medications.  As in, he scares the crap out of them because he believes they must be captured for the process to have meaning.  My philosophy is more one of waiting for them to come to me, then faking them out, but following my evil up with a good nuggle, a nice treat, something to confuse their nascent desire to hate me.

Marmy, though, has that incredible ability to read a human's mind.  Before you make a move to pick up the eye ointment, before you even allow yourself to entertain the thought of eye ointment, she's on to you, and she is GONE.

So we had to go with the Fred Method.  For some reason (a phrase I'd love to be able to eliminate from my life, or at least reduce its aptitude), he'd trap her, then carry her to me, and I would get to apply the goop to her eye.  

Now, I don't know, but it is my strong suspicion, having gooped other cats with this same medication, that Marmy is a bit, you know, Castafiore-esque.  She yelps, she cries, she squirms, she gives you the Look Of Death.  Every one else shakes their tiny feline heads, maybe gives a brief glare, and then they're over it.

Marmy Fluffy Butt has yet to forgive me.

This is how I get to see her first thing in the morning.  Peering at me, half-hidden behind the doorway, wondering if I am gonna drop the cherry bomb of a new kettle in order to swoop over, grab her by her Fluffy Tail, and stick some acid-like substance in her eyeball.  It's been months now.  I've decided to ignore her, and that is beginning to work, as, again like The Castafiore, she cannot bear the lack of attention.

Marmy Fluffy Butt, giving me the Evil Eye, and badly in need of grooming
It's unfair not to remind you that Marmy has her reasons -- we took her in when she was heavy with kittens, to the point where her belly almost dragged the floor.  She's tiny -- barely 8 pounds, and she had five little ones inside her.  She was only 8 months old at the time, or so figured the vet.  We figure that she started as someone's pet, and then was abandoned, and had been on the streets for a good bit.  

It's unfair not to note that we "took her in" by following one of Fred's Grab Scenarios, using a yummy bowl of kibble as bait.  Marmy will not eat wet food, something we wish someone would explain to us.  She refuses real chicken, etc.  Anyway, we kidnapped the poor, freezing pregnant soul and so began life with Marmy.  She was essentially feral for almost two years.

In the first few months of her stay, Fred had to CARRY my sweet Sam-I-Am (now deceased) past her to the litter box or she would beat him up.  Sammy weighed about 14 pounds.  It was ridiculous.

We don't know, beyond rape, what she endured out on the street, but it wasn't good.  When she decided we were okay, it was wonderful.  She made up for lost love time.  She domesticated as no cat has domesticated before her.

So when she reverts to her fearful state, it hurts my heart.  She and Fred were never nuggle partners, and he doesn't groom unless brushes are actually thrown at him with loud verbal encouragements, so their relationship is still stable.  

I hope my next photo of my girl is a pose of her purring and stretched out on my belly, all sleek and smooth, with fun, and not fear, in her eyes.  And God forbid that her eyes ever need treatment again.

O Lordy, Lordy!  Good grief.  Moving right along.  Those of you who have followed Buddy's growth, here's how big he is now, and still growing.  The vet says he will continue to grow for another two years, one of those weird bits of Maine Coon trivia.

Buddy the Freakishly Large Kitten

Note Marmy sneaking in behind him, and actually eating out of a metal bowl and not her beloved red plastic thang.  Buddy has become her pal, for which we're very thankful, as he's the only living organism in Marlinspike Hall who can successfully defend against the swift application of her claws, or achieve the speed of light.  The two of them love to vocalize, and they streak by in blurs that even make Dobby look perplexed.

Well, after I conquer the "photo" mode on this bleeping camera, I will give the video mode another try.  

Fred was sorely disappointed in me a couple of days ago, when the Crack Whore Organic Pig Farmer Lady who lives across our country lane was raided by the Tête de Hergé Lone Alp West Fugitive Squad -- you would have bust a gut at the sight of Tante Louise in SWAT gear.  She had managed to move about a yard by the time her team had rushed the Pig Farm Cottage, captured the ne'er-do-well, thrown her into the back seat of the Fugitive Catcher Car, an orange Vega, dodged a few angry free-ranging hogs, wrapped a few muddy acres in yellow cop crime scene tape, and jumped back into the Fugitive Squad station wagon.

I had the camera out but it was just the second time I'd ever had it strapped to my quivering, spazzing right hand.  So we ended up with a lovely montage of light glinting off the moat, close-ups of hog jowls, and lots of footage of Tante Louise stuck in the mire.

It would have gone viral on YouTube.

© 2015 L. Ryan

Writer's Block and Its Detritus

NOTE TO THE READERSHIP:  After finding the dusty draft, just published, on conquering writer's block, I searched to see if I'd ever written myself out of that box before. Lo and Behold! Back on 10 January 2010, a more somber moi tried to scribble her way free of that writing snare. Just as self-centered and focused on pity as most of my posts, I don't get the feeling of resounding success that came from the "Cats Trump Writer's Block" posting.  There's a lesson there.  You should be getting a vibrating-cum-annoying-ring text message on your smarty-panted phone about now... and with every Pity Party Post published herein.  Yes, there was an app for that!  If you adjust your "Settings," you might be able to avoid future text alerts for depressing REPOSTS!

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Oh, my dahlink readers, I am so sick.

At least, this is a common, plebeian, ordinary sort of sick, as opposed to my usual krapola of unheard of neurological disorders and infectious disease firsts, auto-immune oddities and literally rotting bones.

You know that steroids weaken the immune system, right? That cheers me whenever I get some infectious process -- because when acutely ill, the first thing I am supposed to do is DOUBLE MY STEROIDS. Gee, let's take MORE immune-suppressing drug, especially now that the germs are attacking!

Okay, so here is the deal.

I have writer's block, I think. Plenty to say, that's not the issue. Hyper-awareness of my own worth is more the cause. When you know just exactly how little you matter, there's no point to yapping on and on.

Still, writing is invigorating and good for me. And, to be brought low by gunked-up stinky yellow mucus AND silence would be just too much to bear. Especially that "silence" part.

So I am going to continue this here post, this ode to bodaceous blogging, as a Live Blogging Event. Anything goes. The ridiculous shall be honored. No spell checks allowed.

No erasures, no deletions. Above all? NO CAVEATS. No breathy declarations of what-i-really-meant-to-say.

Here we go. Keep your fingers crossed in hope that, by the end of this process, I will have regained some sense of writerly purpose.

More and more, I am keeping the Boob Tube on, even when I am not watching it. This is typical, I believe, of people who feel lonely. Still, when I turn it off, I relish the silence and fuss at myself about the ridiculous waste of energy, and the pollution of noise and idiocy.

One of my Brother-Units was overly generous at Christmas time, and I used his excessive generosity to purchase a Wii system, with the Fit program and balance board, plus extra remotes and whatcha-ma-callits. I used it with great fun until New Year's Eve when the virus first made its concerted attack.

Shortly before Xmas, we turned the dining room into a library. Don't argue or fret, just accept it. Dining room? Now a library. Okay?

So we have a tiny old t.v. stashed in the new reading room, that no one likes to watch. In the bedroom, we have the main viewing machine, but Fred, especially, wants to replace it with a fancy-schmancy new one. The one in the bedroom is to be moved into the library (the tiny one already in there? I dunno its fate.).

The thinking behind these genius moves is that "We can Wii" better in there, since the center of the room is free. "Wii"ing in the bedroom, in addition to sounding like an odd excretory process, is a cramped endeavor.

I believe that fixing this situation will be my goal for today. This will entail sending The Fred to make the television purchase, slightly reworking the library layout, dealing with wires and connections and Semi-Technical Schtuff.

By the end of the day, The Library will have been humbled to the status of Room-With-A-Few-Books.

And maybe I can play a little Wii Tennis tonight. I confess that just playing tennis as a video game brings back most excellent memories.

My legs are on fire. The right foot is completely messed up, burning and twisting, bringing me down, pissing me off. In a nostalgic move, the shooting electrical charge that I associate with my first year or so with CRPS, is back, and the end point of the surge? You guessed it: all the way down the leg into the foot, culminating in fireworks within the spacious confines of my BIG TOE.

That first year (or so!), Fred was often treated to my loud hacking yells -- in the middle of watching a movie, eating dinner, deep sleep. Even though I knew that the sudden electrocutions of my feet were coming, anticipation did nothing to keep me from screaming with pain. I tried and tried to maintain silence, to not give a hint of distress, fear, or frustration. Most of the time, I failed. The instances of success were marked by an inability to breathe and palms gouged-- from digging nails, a failed fist. And here I am, nine years later, back at it -- a regular screech owl, talons sharp and at the ready.

I wake myself up, screaming.

Of course, I also occasionally wake up laughing my ass off.

In addition, I am often shaken back to consciousness by the weight of Dobby, Our Little Idiot, perched on my chest, a worried look on his face. It happens whenever I am so audacious as to put my arms under the quilt -- something I have been prone to do during this incredible cold snap. This triggers some large anxiety in him -- does he think I am being eaten by the quilt? Death by textile? [Dobby has a "thing" for threads, materials, weavings, tapestry and affects his evaluations so seriously that I can imagine him as a bent tailor, absentmindedly rubbing some fine cloth in between his index finger and thumb.]

It is unfortunate, though, this need to rescue me from my quilt.

I have just the one quilt that I am able to tolerate over my body. I sleep on top of another [lesser] quilt, and cover everything but my legs with this worn, beloved, rubbed-soft cotton handmade wonder... It is full of holes, stained [despite being washed twice a week] by coffee and, thanks to the seven major shoulder surgeries between August 2008
and April 2009, considerable blotches of betadine and -- sorry -- blood. It's as sanitary as can be... but is looking fairly sad.

I have tried other things and it is either a problem with weight or softness -- too much weight on this CRPS-afflicted body, and the pain levels and burning get out of control -- too little softness and the irritation to the skin also increases the burning sensations that are the hallmark of CRPS-type pain.

I miss getting between the sheets, though! Just like I miss shoes -- oh, God how i miss shoes!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Well, it looks like the television scenario will extend into the weekend, as Fred is getting a slow start, and I don't feel like irking him with request upon request.

Over on Twitter (another universe, Twitter!), I am shocked by the frequency with which I see folks writing these exact words in response to the current humanitarian crisis in Haiti: "What about the people who need help in our own country?" It's my least favorite form of argumentation, if it even qualifies as such. The only thing I know to say -- though I would never take up the argument on Twitter -- is "well, we are not talking about those people right now..." There's not a reasoned response to be made to people who are looking for a fight or who wish to use others purely as something to stand on. And I mean that almost literally and with near good intentions.

Into my head just popped: chowder. Specifically, fish chowder. I watched a recent episode of Chef Bobby Flay's Throwdown show -- about Manhattan Fish Chowder, meaning simply that is has a tomato base. What can I say? I feel catholic on Friday. It sounds like dinner to me.

Cooking has become something I very much enjoy, even as the mechanics of getting it done have become complicated. We foresee a day when I won't be able to do it any longer -- mostly because of my hands and their unpredictability, as well as the situation with my shoulders. Ah... but until then? I am becoming quite the cook. I've always loved it, but as I have needed to concentrate and think my way through the process more and more -- imagine! I got better at it! Go figure.

I've decided to perform penance (get this catholic shit out of my head! out! out!) for my sinful thoughts about Fred's persistent participation in Wednesday night suppers over at the Existentialist Congregation -- yes, the place being run by Militant Lesbians. This penance has taken the form of making the dish he takes to these weekly potlucks. This week, they got to feast on my carrots. It's my own "recipe," though I don't write anything down -- I think this is actually a common presentation for carrots, though The Fredster ooohs-and-ahhhs like it is something special. Cooking for 10 people, I used 15 whole carrots, cut into 1/4 inch rounds. A bias cut would be fine, too. Just cut the suckers up however you want. The more surface area, the more of the sauce you will taste... Then steam them until just soft. I make my own curry "powders," as I am very picky about spices... Sometimes, they are the only thing over which I have quality control. Why? Oh... I would have to go into the intricacies of getting out of the house, going shopping, etcetera. hmmm. You know what? I *started* a post a few weeks back, like the very day I was getting sick. It remains a draft. I will tack it onto the end of this post -- this post that is rapidly spiralling out of control.

Back to the hot topic of carrots. Where was I? Ah, curry. Cumin, cardamom, mustard, cayenne, coriander, and turmeric -- best if all are in "whole" form, then toasted and ground, in proportions of your choice, as needed. I add other spices according to my mood, mostly. Chipotle. Cinnamon. Fennel.

I suspect that I use spices as a form of sexual sublimation. Exotic, passionate, rich, intense. And so forth. Ahem. Cough. Titter.

Peppers. Nutmeg. Various peppers. Fenugreek. Cloves. Saffron.

Find what you like. For these easy carrots, you want to complement their sweetness and the citrus that you will also be adding. In other words, it won't be the star of the show, so keep it out of the "smoky" range and more in the Arena of Simple.

So... to the carrots directly, or in a separate pot if you are kinda timid, start adding your curry, then some butter. Then salt (sea salt, kosher). Finally, add the zest of one large navel orange, as well as about a quarter cup of its juice. Serve immediately or in the time it takes to fly across town to your pseudo-religious Wednesday night Christian-bashing session. Cough. Ahem. Titter... Cloves. Garlic. Chiles...

The stock market, in its infinite wisdom, has taken back all the goodness it gave just last week. Pow! Boff! Bam!

Incredibly, I need to rest now. And I am soaked again from the fever breaking -- for which I am grateful. I am just tired of washing up and changing my clothes several times a day! Before I lay down under my previously mentioned quilt, I will start a load of laundry. Added incentive is the fact that Marmy Fluffy Butt decided to mark my softest hoodie, the little beyatch.

So has slapping all these words down managed to break through the walls of my writing block? I don't know. It doesn't feel particularly liberating, but then that could be due to a mounting sense of frenzy and fatigue -- a simultaneous combination that is soul-wearying.

As promised, and without prejudging whether it really "goes" or not with what I wanted to say about "control" of cooking ingredients.... here is the kernel of a post that never made it. I haven't altered a word of it, which may come back to haunt moi, eh? I also have no idea why that particular YouTube vid was tacked onto the end, although I remember thinking that I loved this child, and wanted her energy and happiness:

okie-dokie, so we are sick as dogs... although, where the meaning of that comes from, i dunno. dogs are not, by nature, "sick."


this virus is cruel. i woke feeling pretty doggone (who let the dogs out?) good. no coughing. temp 98.4 (no shit!) just an aching head, with pesky swollen glands. for me? a big nada. no problem. gonna coast through the day, get some work done, mebbe write a little, do my wii, face cleaning the bathroom (procastination issue).

i was looking forward to showing off for fred. "how do you feeeeeellll, ffffred, dahlink?"

"moi? moi? i feel fuh-fuh-fine, ffffred!"

while waiting for fred to wake up, i did morning chores, and began to lag. yes, the energy did flag, and i, i began to fade. i was, in short, diminished.

sorry. i was briefly channeling t. s. eliot.

or yeats.

it's so hard to tell, anymore. i grow old.

eating the peach is not gonna be my issue. no, i think that monster slinking toward jerusalem is gonna get moi.

hey, i bought a new toothbrush the other day! wait, i didn't tell you i went out, did i? well, i did. grocery shopping. and i had an emotional meltdown right in the middle of the damned store. see... i hadn't left the house in 29 days. that's right. TWENTY-NINE FREAKING DAYS. that's how high my pain level has been, how miserable my legs, how very, very bad it has been. oh, poor moi {peeking to see if you pity moi, yet...}!

anyway, i had been begging to go to the store for days, but fred didn't put together my eagerness with the notion of going-to-the-store as a FUN activity. so when we entered said establishment and he announced, "let's split up, we'll get done faster"?
i started to boohoo. can you believe it? how retarded am i, and increasingly so, with increasing frequency?

poor man. in his mind, i go out whenever he does (pretty much daily, and at least twice a week for social engagements. he had not counted the passing of TWENTY-NINE FREAKING DAYS, nor did he really register the number of DIY amputations of my legs that i had undergone in fits of desperation at the increasingly increasing pain. he *cannot*, of course, and i don't want him to follow the bouncing ball of my suffering, anyway, poor soul. i've ruined his life enough, don't you think?

oh, hell, where was i? did i tell you i am spiking a way high, a mile high fever?

the toothbrush. oh, yeah. so we were in the market, en train de faire le marché, when i remembered i needed a new one. i pop a few wheelies and race down the toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, deodorant, and sundries aisle. fred is tearing after me, the shopping cart careening this way and that... he sees me stop in front of the pitiable selection of plaque-scrapers, and calls out: "wait! we have a supply of new toothbrushes at home!"

now... i don't know exactly why that sent me over the edge, but it did. i had not been out of the house for... well, you know. do you get how hard it is to run a household by sending a guy with adhd to do the necessary errands? have you tried making a detailed grocery list when you are only able to go to the store yourself but a couple o'times a year? i am a very visual person. back in the day (i.e., before crps, before avn, before ai, and so on)? i just took a mental stroll down the aisles, pictured what was there, made my lists in almost perfect synchronicity with the actual order of the products. i made a killer list, detailed but simple, a list on which even the most shopping-challenged could rely.

no more. oh no. now i am liable to hand my sweet man something along the order of:

apples, if they are under $1.39 a pound. and fresh. also, please don't buy them if the skin is even slightly loosened from the inner fruit. you know what i mean. like they'd been stored in a cold bin for too long. we're looking for très fresh.

keep an eye out for endive. gots to have my endive.

toilet paper

lowfat plain yogurt (7)
drain cleaner

get yourself something for snacking
ham bone

celery seed for me, ground celery seed for you
italian roast whole coffee beans for me; columbian blend for you; when will we go to farmer's market to get ethiopian beans, hmmm?

white onions, yellow onions, please don't buy pre-bagged

READERSHIP!  How fitting that this video "does not exist"!  It's Karma for all the narcissism displayed above.  I shall reincarnate as a worm.

© 2015 L. Ryan

Jim Says, "Follow the Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force!"

Jim Broatch, that is --

James W. Broatch, MSW
Executive Vice President and Director, RSDSA...

Jim Broatch is the name I associate with the wonderful organization, upon which I rely, as a person now nearly 13 years into her CRPS journey: RSDSA.  I wish to goodness they'd change their name to eliminate the deceiving and [mostly] scientifically inaccurate "RSD," but since so many out-of-the-loop health care providers continue to feed newly diagnosed patients the pablum, easy to digest, of "RSD," the organization must want to maintain its availability to everyone...

Even many of the most talented and experienced medicos maintain that it really makes no difference -- call it "RSD" or call it "CRPS" -- because the treatments (such as they are!) and means of diagnosis are the same.
Sorry, but I call "foul" on the play!  

Just as we've seen an explosion of good, solid science on CRPS, Types 1 and 2, and have watched the whole tenor of the discussion around this sucky pain syndrome evolve, so will we watch the distinction widen between emphasizing run-away circuitry within the sympathetic nervous system (the simplistic "RSD" explanation) and the complexities of neuro-inflammatory and immunologic bases being proven in labs and in well-founded studies of CRPS. [ADDENDUM: Here's one of my first attempts to make this point, long, long ago!]


Jim sent me and several thousands of his closest friends a challenging invitation to support the work of the newly formed Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force.  The "war on [prescription] drugs" is having an unintentional negative impact on people in severe pain due to physical illnesses like CRPS. He invited each of us to share a flyer promoting CPATF... and that, of course, is what this post aims to do.

I just have to work my way through the provenance of everything here writ.  It is something I do, and rather than change my obsessional impulses, I try to provide a small explanation.  Either you'll wade your way through the genealogies of this blog, or you'll learn to scroll down the page to what you think really matters.
(Mes chers lecteurs! "Whose blog is it, anyway?")


When Jim Broatch becomes involved in something, it's often my lazy way to enlightenment, and I tag along to see what's up.  Rarely am I disappointed.  Usually, I am taught a thing or two.

Read on, Macduffs!

Dear Marlinspike Hall Occupants and Belovèd Readers of elle est belle la seine la seine elle est belle :
RSDSA has joined the newly formed Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force (CPATF)
In March 2014, 16 organizations formed the CPATF to unite around one goal - to work collectively to promote, support and monitor the implementation of the National Pain Strategy (NPS).  Learn more about the NPS and how you can be involved by clicking here. RSDSA  will keep you informed along the way and ask for your involvement at critical moments. Stay tuned and be ready to take action.  We expect the NPS Report to be released for an open public comment period soon and will send you an action alert at the right time so you can join thousands of others living with pain to speak out in response.

The following beliefs guide our collective work:
  • Chronic pain is a real and complex disease that may exist by itself or be linked with other medical conditions
  • Chronic pain is an unrecognized and under resourced public health crisis with devastating personal and economic impact
  • Effective pain care requires access to a wide range of treatment options
  • Allowing people to suffer with unmanaged pain is immoral and unethical
****In the meantime, please read and share this information sheet with others-your family, friends, healthcare providers and community.****


James W. Broach

James W. Broatch, MSW
Executive Vice President and Director

So click on the INFORMATION SHEET!  Print copies!  Dance, prance, stroll, or roll through your own belovèd communities and thrust, or gently place, the info into waiting hands!  Okay, it would also be wonderful if you emailed it to some quietly hurting friend or an activist with time on her waiting hands. It would even be sufficiently wonderful if you download the file to your own device and take on the cause as a private thing.  Sniff.

Image source:  Rabble Rouse the World Books Banner

© 2015 L. Ryan

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

El Salvador: In Prison for 30 Years for a Miscarriage Deemed "Fetal Homicide"

Abortion -- a woman's reproductive rights, in general -- was a discussion that I'd sworn never to further discuss, along with the Death Penalty.

Never think that you cannot be aggravated into speaking, again, on any subject, forsworn or not.

May it please the court, I offer evidence in the form of a previously published short story, Concupiscence.
And may it not offend too many of those Dear Readers not selected as part of a jury of my peers, I believe that Concupiscence should be republished, raised to the top of the blog's detritus. You'll find it now just after this post.

I thought that outburst of creative writing would slay the need.

But Daily KOS, whose daily digests of generalized outrage I more and more ignore, published a blog/article today that jumped out of my inbox and adhered to the vestiges of my retinas.

The reason they are more and more ignored here at The Manor?  A tendency for their bloggers, especially, to underperform in their due diligence. Usually, this is shown up, and, ironically, partially mitigated by, excerpting the original source information.

The beauty of like-minded people that we discover on these interwebs, no matter their journalistic acumen, is that we usually get to read what they are reading.  Ahem, and that "we" are too lazy and stressed to seek out for ourselves.  Sometimes "we" are snooty, too.


For the story in its entirety at Daily KOS, go HERE.
To by-pass Daily KOS and read the cited source material for the story, go HERE and HERE.

For my meager part, and note that this "breaking story" is seven years old, I give you writer Leslie Salzillo's introduction to the source material.  And, heck, seven years qualifies for SILENCE=DEATH treatment in Marlinspike Hall Land, though had there not been a bilious, gut-wrenching setback in "Guadalupe"'s legal case, the next 23 years of her now young life would likely never have reached a wider audience.

So, thank you, Leslie Salzillo -- whose journalistic skills are, in no way, in question.

With some stories, I'm not sure where to begin, because the news has me stunned and almost speechless. I want to turn away, block it out and find something happy to do, or something else to think about, or write about. But I can't. And so I will begin right here - and right now. 
Last week, a young woman in El Salvador who goes by the alias name of 'Guadalupe,' had very high hopes, and was all but assured she would receive a pardon from her 30-year sentence. She had already served seven years, starting in her teens. Her alleged crime? Fetal homicide. She miscarried, and was charged with murder. 
Her pardon didn't come. Guadalupe's freedom was one vote short. Her fate was determined by a Right-Wing congressional majority of 43-42. I can't write about something like this and not feel like I've been punched in the stomach again and again. Guadalupe represents every woman. This is what happens when abortion is illegal. El Salvador is known to be one of the worst countries in the world for women's reproductive rights.
Salzillo goes on to parallels in the USAmerica, in the form of Fetal Homicide State Laws.

If you, too, had tabled discussions of this topic, now is the time for your voice to be heard again.

An easy way to start? Become a signatory to the "Vote NO on National Abortion Ban," a petition drive being driven by Care2, a group supported by the vast citizenry of Tête de Hergé.

 © 2015 L. Ryan


There are things that I refuse to discuss, points that I won't argue.  I am not afraid of the discussion or fear losing the argument;  No, it is that I am right and too bothered by the physical impact of anger at other peoples' stupidity.  You know, high blood pressure, headaches, ice picks in the eyeballs, boiling water on the legs, twitchy fingers.

Shoot.  I have been double dare challenged to use the word "concupiscence" in a way that does not jar, that flows, that does not cause the eye to blink as if jabbed by a pointy index finger. It just doesn't fall into my text with the ease of a dead oak leaf, not if I am referencing -- primarily -- abortion.

My partner, Fred, has been warned not to broach the topic with me.  In exchange, I will occasionally throw him a bone and discuss why even such-and-such serial murderer, undeniably imbued with the spore of Ultimate Evil, does not "deserve" the death penalty.  I let Fred litter me with all his best shots... Anything, just to keep him from bringing up abortion. You should probably know that I served as an Amnesty International Death Penalty Regional Coordinator.  By "coordinator," of course, I mean "coordinator of abolitionist activity." I once had an oddly constrained conversation with a very intelligent Southern Belle who, I realized, halfway through, thought that I actually organized executions in my spare time.  She was so polite!

I suppose I could have worked "concupiscence" into that last paragraph easily enough -- but not, I think, well enough.  That an ultimately evil serial killer might list "concupiscence" among his attributes, well... yawn. Très passé, tellement démodé! Also, not bloody likely.  I was a French professor, if you haven't figured that out from my nonchalant, pointed frenchifying.

I had two abortions as a young woman.

Why this statement obliges me to give the rest of my conceptual obstetric history is a mystery. It's not like you are my gynecologist or that I still believe my gravida/para/abortus numbers define me.  The urge to balance my abortion stats with live births and miscarriages is evidence of my cultural gender role training. I would rather bite off my tongue right now than give in to that urge;  I would rather starve than to salivate at the sound of that bell.

I remember every detail of the first abortion.  Remembrances are as imbued with value judgments as any constructed story, just as they are less subject to critical interrogations, which is why memory is such a great vehicle for argument. "What, you dare dispute my recollections?"

Until today, though, I had forgotten the primum movens to the event of my first abortion:  the long distance telephone operator.   The mustard yellow rotary phone, one of those that hang on the kitchen wall, with long, curly cords so that you can pace the linoleum or the pine of the dining room, in which is reflected Nana's cut-glass vase, the mirrored facets colored by tulips cultivated in raised garden beds by my stepmom.  Maybe I am the only woman idiotic enough to ask for directory assistance to locate an abortion clinic. I surely was a limited edition in those days, when there was only one such clinic within a large swath of my region, and when everyone in that region knew its name.  Everyone but me, the pregnant girl.

I had within arm's reach an independently published student newspaper, and surely there was an ad for abortion services in it, with a phone number. Bolded.  In red italics.  Surely I could have ferreted out the name of the place, a name which bore no reference to its most famous function.   Still, I did what I'd been trained to do when I needed help: I dialed the Operator. They weren't particularly chatty, didn't exactly exude warmth, and usually opened with "What city?"   I didn't know what city, of course, though I had a general idea.  First, though, I had to rid myself of the compulsion to tell her where I was and what phone number I was calling from by telling her where I was and what phone number I was calling from. (To this day, I imagine her as Lily Tomlin, snorting and asking callers: "Is this the party to whom I am speaking?")

I requested the name, phone number, and address of the closest abortion clinic.  Who knows, maybe I asked for one that had Saturday hours and served post-procedure brunch.   A great line for this story would be "and she didn't miss a beat," but, of course, she did.  Several beats. There was, in fact, a moment of dead air that seemed a small eternity.  Long enough for me to trap my free hand in the curly phone cord, make a mental note to wash the filthy phone, long enough to free my fingers to hold the pencil so that I could write the name, address, and phone number of the abortion clinic in my otherwise empty brand new steno book. In spite of a student apartment full of notebooks, I had carefully selected a thin, urine yellow Field Notes Brand steno book.

The operator, my Lily Tomlin, came through with the precise information and I dutifully filled the first three lines of that first slightly green page.  After her carefully enunciated announcement, she said, "Would you like me to connect you, free of charge?"  Back in those days, they made that offer at the end of every Directory Assistance call, probably with some reference built in to AT&T or one of the Bells.

I sometimes wonder how long I'd have stayed in my warm cocoon fugue state had she not made that perfunctory query.  What if I had said "No, thank you, ma'am" instead of "Sure... I guess"?   It was long distance, turns out, so she probably then thanked me for "using AT&T," the only option in a day of only options.

The receptionist at the clinic was amateurish by comparison, or sadistic -- her questions pokes of hot, electrified wire.  I wanted to ask her not to talk so loud. Not to talk at all. She didn't thank me for anything, not even for calling, for choosing her clinic, for granting my patronage.  She questioned my assessment of the pregnancy (there might have been a sneer in her voice).  I said 9 weeks; she said, "We'll see."  I said I'd come alone; she said, "Then we won't perform the procedure."  She repeated the cost and the litany of Ways to Lose An Appointment.  There was no question of partial payments, down payments, or credit cards, and once you arrived, you could not leave. You'd better not have had breakfast, not even a cup of black but aromatic coffee.  Cold cash, and something about Rh factor that I did not understand. No reference to a PDF comparison chart of abortion techniques, no offer of RU486, no mention of nitrous oxide or pain. Something mumblemumble involving group counseling, a video, something about cramping, orange juice, and pads.

She never once used the word "abortion."

By the end of our conversation, after I had hung up the phone and pried the pencil from my hand until about an hour ago, today, the directory assistance telephone operator was absent from the recollected proceedings of My First Abortion.

 ***** *****

white tulips in cut glass vase by john williams

"Un vase pour mes tulipes.
Avec l'arrivée du Printemps, les premières tulipes sortent de terre.
Le problème avec les tulipes, c'est qu'une fois mise dans un vase classique,
elles tombent et le bouquet n'est plus très esthétique."

***** *****

In the interim, I've been a staunch supporter of reproductive choice for women.  I have endured many attacks on that position. Some assumed discomfiture at having my equally ardent stance as a death penalty abolitionist gleefully unveiled as if it were some counter-argument to reproductive rights.  What sometimes made me laugh was the certitude that I'd be surprised by the juxtaposition of my own beliefs. (Where is it written that I shall not be discordant?)

But as I said at the outset, I don't argue any longer.  I just don't engage. All women should have unfettered, uncomplicated, and affordable access to pregnancy planning services and to termination of pregnancy. The death penalty should be universally abolished, along with its godchildren, torture and illegal detention.

Most abortion discussions iterate nuance upon nuances. In the case of rape.  In the case of incest.  In the case of an 8 year old, of the suburban wife and mother of three, the guilty, the innocent, the retarded, the pro, the juvenile offender. In the case of a black man. In the case of the gay man, the lesbian. These iterations only promote logical fallacies and bring me back to high blood pressure, headaches, ice picks in the eyeballs, boiling water on the legs, and twitchy fingers.

What brought me to this topic, then, given my insistence against such arguments, iterations, and the inescapable onset of nystagmus and delirium tremens caused by their mere mention?

The iPhone 5, of course.  More specifically, it was a tweet about the Siri feature:  "#Siri permet d'acheter des armes mais pas de trouver une clinique pour avorter." Remember that I'm a French prof?  You can trust my translations, at least ones the length of a tweet.  This one reads, pretty much: "Siri tells you the closest place to buy a gun but can't locate an abortion clinic."

Apple's ads for Siri pitch its worth this way: "Siri on iPhone lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it."

Siri talks the way I talk, understands what I say, knows what I mean, and talks back.

A high-tech pregnant me in search of an abortion today would be more lost than that younger one armed with her steno book. The thoroughly modern me still has but one shot at escaping pregnancy's fugue-inducing wily ways, whether or not I've a back-talking phone. It's true. Remember, I can reference memories of other pregnancies to bolster my assertions of the first.  The window of time during which a pregnant me is capable of making any decision of import is as small and fluid as a pin hole in wet plaster. Once gone, I am but a murky, fluid-logged vessel, a moist, damp incubator.

So I can easily imagine Siri's opinionated, automated voice standing in for the authority of that blessed flesh-and-blood telephone operator of my youth.

Megan Carpentier ran a piece in The Raw Story titled "10 things the iPhone Siri will help you get instead of an abortion" when the Siri feature first debuted:

"Ask the Siri, the new iPhone 4 assistant, where to get an abortion, and, if you happen to be in Washington, D.C., she won’t direct you to the Planned Parenthood on 16th St, NW. Instead, she’ll suggest you pay a visit to the 1st Choice Women’s Health Center, an anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) in Landsdowne, Virginia, or Human Life Services, a CPC in York, Pennsylvania...Ask in New York City, and Siri will tell you 'I didn't find any abortion clinics.' "

Carpentier lists unsettling juxtapositions, like desperate pregnant women with no help in finding reproductive services versus Siri's able assistance locating Viagra and places to score pot.  Are you in the nation's capital, in dire need of a blow job?  Siri knows where to go!  While at the Charming Cherries Escort Service, you can also have that hamster removed from your rectum, in situ or on-site.  All you have to do is call.

My only regret today stems from failing to incorporate "concupiscence" into this bit of light writing. I suppose there's always tomorrow.

© 2015 L. Ryan

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dear Crisis Intervention of Houston (Carbon Copy to the White House)


Crisis Intervention of Houston is proud to be part of a new effort to help save lives through a partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Line Network (NSPL) and the White House.
In January 2009, the Obama Administration initiated a process for the public to voice concerns directly to the White House via email. This resulted in an outpouring of emails from thousands of individuals whose concerns ranged from financial and food assistance, to medical insurance. Some of the individuals who contacted the White House expressed thoughts or threats of suicide. 
In response to the influx of calls, the White House asked NSPL to provide follow-up calls to individuals identified as potentially suicidal. As the Region 6 Center for the National Suicide Prevention Line, Crisis Intervention of Houston is providing follow- up telephone calls, emails or mail to potentially suicidal individuals identified to be living in Houston or the surrounding area. 
Crisis Intervention of Houston is assisting in this effort by contacting these individuals and conducting a suicide risk assessment which requires some detective work and lots of patience. CIH's work is part of a progress report made by NSPL to the White House every week. 
We are proud to partner with NSPL and the White House as we continue to reach out to people in crisis and provide the kind of support that saves lives.

This may be the most humiliating post I've ever had to write.  But I do have to write it.  It is one of those truth-telling days.  The sun is out.  I conquered my phone phobia and called my Mom.  (Yes, I know, it is more of a Mom-Calling Phobia than an actual fear of the technology.)

I do need to say, in defense of any jerkiness in writing, or thought, that my left leg, hip, and lower back, are all conniving against the composition of this post.  There is screaming -- rhythmic, short bursts, nothing arduously continual -- involved, as the Spaz Attacks laugh in the face of 40 mg of Baclofen, 8 mg of Tizanidine, and a Kroger Diet Ginger Ale.

I am a true fan of President Obama, and of many of his policies.  We could do a rundown, but if you're a Dear and Dedicated Reader of this obscure and odd blog, that would be the height of boredom.

Yes, I am trying to avoid what needs saying.

I write the President, and with excessive frequency.  Possibly with excessive openness, perhaps with insufficient deference.  Weirdo that I am, I consider him a friend, especially in the middle of the night when the pain is winning and all of Marlinspike Hall snores in blissful slumber, from the few country mice in our myriad cellars and crags whistling midst dreams of artisinal cheddar wheels, to the Holy Abbot Truffatore, hiding from the heavy duties of his office at the Cistercian monastery, our closest neighbor, snoring with blessed abandon.  If I listen hard enough, sometimes even the muffled snuffling of the Crack Whore napping alongside the whispering waters of the moat reach my hyper-vigilant ears.

What better time to write the President of the United States?

Maybe it was the letter where I chastised the university system that studiously underemploys its many "adjunct," "visiting," and "assistant/associate" professors, denying them not just the oft-discussed tenure but the rarely referred to basic benefits of employment -- a living wage, access to health care, that kind of piddly stuff.

Yes, I bet it was THAT letter that did it, that put me on The List.  I probably said something like: I have deferred my plans for suicide because my brother Lumpy, the Professor, was diagnosed with an evil cancer, already metastasized, the bastard, dastardly enemy!  He had not had enough funds to purchase insurance prior to President Obama and Friends' pushing through the Affordable Care Act and setting up the MarketPlace.  So, by the time he had affordable health care... no thanks to the university for whom he'd labored like a slave for over 25 years... his first doctor's visit came with the ominous pronouncements of "tumors, masses, MRIs, referrals to oncologists." Just months before, he'd made his first ever visit to an ER, only to be treated as a drug-seeker, and told he probably had a rotator cuff injury.  Right.  Make that Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma.

So, it was probably that letter that set off the "suicide" risk alarm button in the White House Reading Room, where every letter to the President is closely perused.

Though it might have been any of the letters that tried to explain the frustrations of a "rare" or "orphaned" disease like CRPS, and the idiocy those of us with it are forced to confront in an often futile effort to get help.  I might have used the old chesnut of CRPS being known as "The Suicide Disease."

In any event, the dread telephone rang this morning, after the second night of Screaming Ninnies and ineffective 100 mcg Fentanyl patches, Percocets, Baclofen, and ibuprofen.  The ultimate proof of failure, and pain's triumph?  It bust down the gates of music -- It ran through Ben Harper, The Decembrists, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, The Band, Townes Van Zandt, Frank Sinatra, various timeless chorales, even knocking Nina Simone off her intimate stage.  Even the spunky Brett Dennen had his red locks blowing in the wake of the pain's wind. Damien Rice was left standing, but barely -- more of a stagger than a stalwart stance.

So I answered a call from a caller I did not recognize.

It was the Crisis Intervention Of Houston (Inc.) calling "on behalf of the White House."

No coffee in my system, but three cats attached to head, right hip, and square upon my chest, I thought, "Well, of course.  Who else would be calling this fine Sunday morning but some suicide prevention hotline on behalf of my friends in the Barack Obama Administration?"

The very nice person on the other end of the connection wanted to make sure I "had access to all the resources" I need.  Beyond a loaded gun, I assured her resources were to be had aplenty here in Tête de Hergé.

No, I managed to set aside morbid humor and reality just long enough to be completely mortified that my finely tuned letters to the President had set in motion, not the rectification of health care and employment injustices impacting human life, itself, but, rather, a concern that I really meant to perform DIY amputations after consuming scads of methadone washed down with the best of a single malt scotch.

So, a sincere statement of thanks to that wonderful woman who made that cold call, and appreciation to the Obama Letter Reader who put me on the Suicide Watch List.

Suicide is part of the daily routine when you live with this much unrelieved pain and disability for this long, and the only assurance doctors can supply is that the future will be the same, or worse. When you don't sleep nearly enough, especially in consecutive minutes.  When "hope" is a construct, and you spend way too much time comforting those you'd hoped might comfort you.  When your financial resources are destroyed, and your career made a laughing stock of a memory.  When you cannot even hold someone else's hand because it feels like an attack with Sand Paper Set Ablaze.  When you cannot talk about any of these things due to the fatigue of those few still around, trying to help.

And when the person upon whom you have dumped the most, with whom you have shared every detail of the journey turns out to be so damned ill, and so ill-treated?  To someone as weak as I am, lacking the stern moral fiber of my ancestors, suicide seems quite the viable option, and so is considered, daily.

But thank you, Crisis Intervention of Houston, and White House staffers, for caring enough to put me on The List.

Imagine the impact if you bypassed those such as me and called some of the suicidal veterans returned from multiple deployments?  Last I checked, 22 veterans a day kill themselves.  They don't endlessly whine, they don't "blog" it, but maybe they write their Commander-in-Chief now and then.

Like I said, this is the most humiliating post ever, and yet, in the intent of all parties is a desire to "do good," and to stop, or slow, the bad.

Dear President Obama...

© 2015 L. Ryan

Monday, January 12, 2015

One Selection Sunday, Almost Seven Years Ago


This is a repost. If you don't "blog," whatever that has come to mean, I beg you to keep a journal or to hang on to annotated date books. Sometimes an accidental look back can take your breath away and deepen the tints, light, and shadows of your presetn day. 

The original date of composition was 15 March 2009. I see now its many faults, my errant romanticizing of some things basically horrific. 
And then there are the many moments when I repeat the fictions I was force fed, and believe the fictions force fed my kin, as well.  

Forgive me it all, for I had just fallen in love.

Be well, Dearest Readers.

Selection Sunday.

UConn is #1 in the West, Memphis #2

The Pittsburgh Panthers are #1 in the East Region.
Inexplicably, wrongly, in a profoundly turdified decision, Duke is #2 in the East (first round against Binghamtom, #15 -- their NCAA post-season début)
FSU = #5 in the East, first round against #12 Wisconsin

UNC-CH #1 in the South, #2 is Oklahoma

Louisville heads up the Midwest, with Michigan State taking the #2 spot

At my age and intellectual maturity, you'd think I could navigate the intricacies of "family" better than I do. All parties are emotionally stunted; None of us have a clue how to relate to one another; Only a few of us will admit to love; Everyone is permanently estranged from one, or several, very important primary relationships.

Never mind some of the more awe-inspiring tales of assinine stubbornness and convoluted recollections. Never mind the child who hasn't spoken to his Mother for 42 years. Never mind the child who thought perfectionism would be protection from parental malevolence. And certainly pay no never mind to that child who loved everyone overly much, for his was the Kingdom of No One.

Never mind, never mind!

Still, on Selection Sunday, I find it hard not to think about the two family members most dear to me: the Brother-Units -- TW and Grader Boob.

TW and I were separated for an unbelievable 39 years. I am wrong to assume that I knew him at all before he "left" the family way back when. Certainly, any claim I make to know him now should be equally suspect. TW went missing during the Summer of Love. We lived north of San Francisco at the time and life chez nous was nothing if not turbulent, tense, and sometimes downright emotionally brutal. I think I went into a fugue state from which I have yet to successfully emerge.

TW stands for Tumbleweed. It is hard to call him that, as I knew him as someone else, and then created a whole imaginary persona during his 39 Long Missing Years. Honestly? I still call him by his childhood nickname -- and struggle to remember not to use it when I email or telephone.

Okay, okay. So we have only spoken once by phone. I just can't do it. I have phone phobia as a matter of course -- but this is an entirely different animal. I am afraid he won't like me, won't have anything to say, or that he'll find me slow-witted and boring. The one time we did speak? Perfectly wonderful. Incredible. Sweet. I sucked on the end of a pen and ended up with inky lips. He was drinking Scotch, I think.

It was almost exactly the kind of conversation that Grader Boob and I have been enjoying for decades -- hysterically funny and intense.

He told me about his daughter and her mother, about eating out of trash cans, getting shot in the gut. He told me about the woman he loves, about becoming a grandfather!

He wrote me later that I "give good phone"!

We email with regularity and that has occasioned much hilarity, too, but more than that, his letters make me cry. Okay, so maybe it has become more like sniffles -- I sniffle a lot. How do you apologize for having left, and on purpose, too, a child alone in the world? Our Father told us that TW would join us in our new home overseas, that he was coming in about 3 months time, and oh! won't that be GRAND?

He never came.

I remember sitting on the porch, all fugued-out and reading Tolkien, watching the afternoon rains head our way, relishing the cool breezes that announced the line of showers. Grader Boob, who had sprouted unexpectedly to a manly 6' plus, came into view on my right. Something about the air changed, and it wasn't atmospheric pressure. Dad came into view on my left. I remember that he had nothing on but a pair of boxers, starched and eerily bright white.

It was a train wreck.

[Whole section of original post, blown up, out, and away -- to smithereens!  You are welcome!]

And that was that. 39 years.

Today, TW is many things. I imagine that he has worked hard every day, one way and another, since he "left" us, at a variety of jobs, both legal and illegal, interesting and dull. At the moment, in order to "pay for cat food," he divides his energy two ways: he is a tour guide for trekkers to the Grand Canyon (indeed, if you go to one of his blogs, he posts nothing but photos of The Canyon along with the thoughts inspired there) and, of course, he is a bookie of long standing.

The photo above is his.

This is one of his busy times -- the conference championships, the NCAA basketball tournament. I really want to learn more about betting and gambling and odds and busted kneecaps, but get the distinct sense that this brother of mine doesn't suffer fools... He recently described the dyspepsia he suffered when the umpteenth elderly couple in a matter of hours approached him, saying: "We've never done this before. So how does it work?"

Grader Boob went on to become what is known as "A Fine Young Man," and "A Good Person" -- although each remark of praise was usually followed by a heartfelt "if only he would cut his hair."

I really shouldn't get started because I tend to go nuts on the superlatives. Truly good, is he. Smart. Kind. Funny. Compassionate. My hero.

There was an occasion -- it was 1978, I think -- when simply the sight of him saved my life. That was also the day he turned me on to Bruce Springsteen, and didn't make too much guff over watching me drink a beer.

(An amazing piece of Grader Boob trivia: He has never had ANY alcohol or used ANY illicit drug. More awesome? He's never had coffee. Something {whistle, whistle} convinced him early in life that potentially mind-altering substances were evil. He was, for many years, quite the athlete, and that played into these decisions, too.)

It's unfair to Grader Boob, though, to pigeon-hole him so. He is wounded. He is scarred. He is so fearful of the possibilities of change that after he got his undergraduate degree, he stayed at the same university for his grad work, then his years teaching... and now, all these years later, he is still there. Unhappy, and stuck. Growing up, what he loved was repeatedly snatched away. As an adult, he hunkered down, determined to stay where he was, and to keep what, and whom, he "had." I love him so.

He's a marvelous professor, a fan-fucking-tastic Brother-Unit!

When I "found" TW a little over a year ago, I was trembling in my haste to call Grader Boob, to share the news, to rejoice and be glad. It felt like a punch in the stomach when he instructed me to not provide TW with any information about him. When I managed a breathy "why?" -- he pointed out that we had not been hiding, that we could have been easily found at anytime. In my head, a voice chanted "so-fucking-what-so-fucking-what?" but, of course, I lacked the courage to challenge that logic and step out of my role as Little Sis. I wanted to ask him how he might have felt, were he The Abandoned One? Would trust really have been that strong in him? Gee, I think I will try to find the splintered nuclear family that left me alone on the friggin' North American friggin' continent. TW desperately wanted his Mother, also, we tend to forget -- but she was busy making babies with someone new, and, again, she was on a completely different continent, a third continent, as well! It almost looked like a game -- how far away from the young TW can we get? Like playing RISK, with a twist.

du calme, du calme...

Anyway -- I am the only available touchstone for TW when he thinks of Grader Boob. And should Grader Boob change his ponderous mind, I am ready for that, too. I am the liaison between the Mother Unit and her first set of sons. Neither son wants any contact with her, or allows even the sharing of an address, or an assessment of happiness. Sometimes, I am afraid to speak due to momentary confusion of who allows what.

So what is it about today, Selection Sunday, that makes me think of these dear doods to whom I am, purportedly, related?

All day, I've been emailing the Grader Boob, and simultaneously getting *this* close to picking up the phone to confer with TW over the teams I am selecting for my prognostication entry, then finally settling for electronic communication with him, too. I am getting confused in these similar conversations, as the Brother-Units start to blur and blend in my mind.

D'you know that the two of them have nearly identical writing styles and vocabularies? Senses of humor? Intransigeancies?

What is a sister to do?

At the close of our first and last conversation, TW asked me to ask Grader Boob "to forgive [him]."

Please explain to me why this man, treated like dirt and left behind, surviving only by luck and wit, needs anyone's goddamned forgiveness?

I did as he asked and had to report back, of course, that Grader Boob wanted nothing to do with him, and found no way to say it but to blurt it out, pounding these keys. TW answered:

discretion being the better part of valor,[GB] has done well to shunt my overture to a siding. i admire his compartmentalization survival mechanism for the quite rational response to unsolicited life clutter that it is. there's every chance that the unknown might subtract more than it adds. i hope he blossoms, flourishes and triumphs beyond his wildest imaginings. it was never my intention to get all touchy-feely, nor to cloy, nor to impede anyone's progress through this world. hell, i have made such a pariah's garbled hash of things that when you eventually weary of me as well i absolve you entirely in advance. until then, dear heart, i am so very grateful to have you to talk to. you sew back on my fraying shadow, [Retired Educator] darling.
D'you see what I mean?

I wonder what the odds are for a Duke v. Pittsburgh match-up?

© 2015 L. Ryan