Women I Know

Scrolling through my mind this week were women who have inspired me, paved the way for me, or just made me a better person by being themselves unapologetically, or sometimes apologetically. The writers, artists, and humanitarians. The scientists, teachers, and leaders. Today though, I remembered dozens that are rarely, if ever, mentioned in listicles. Although these Women came to me last, they are the ones who inspire me most often, the Women who keep me encouraged.

In my day-to-day life I’m grateful for the Woman who taught me how to be a Woman, how to work, and most importantly, how to stand up. Her devotion inspires me on multiple levels.

I’m inspired by Women who fight Autoimmune Diseases such as Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Disease, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, Hashimoto’s, Celiac, IBS, Grave’s Disease, AI Hepatitis, and several others. Many of these Women are raising children, keeping a home, working, then working some more. All of these Women are living life on their terms, pushing for better treatments, and pushing themselves every day. I tell myself that if they can do it, then so can I.

I’m inspired by the Moms I know because their well of energy on half the amount of sleep I get is mind-boggling. I have my grandson for one day and I’m whipped, done-in, Netflix ’til I fall asleep the next day. These Moms go from the crack of dawn until they finally put kids to bed, pick up around the house, and get to relax. At which point they fall asleep.

I’m inspired by the working Women I know because it isn’t always easy to meet expectations or to get out of bed when all you want to do is drink Nyquil and snuggle with the dog. These Women show up in every sense of the phrase.

When I look around me, in my community, in my family, I see inspiring and resplendent women everywhere. I see Women doing their best and generously giving to others. International Women’s Day 2018 birthed a thoughtful week filled with admirable Women.

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Not Today, Death

“Don’t cry. Stop crying,” she commanded, as I trapped my sobs and focused on her words. “Don’t cry. You have one heart, one body, one life. YOU have to fight for it. Stop crying.” The Infectious Disease Doctor seemed exasperated with me, as if my tears were drops of weakness that made me sicker. Briefly I thought my illness must seem measly to the towering Serbian blonde. In that moment I felt so small in my hospital bed. It was day 4 and despite innumerable tests, no bacteria had been found despite the appearance of my lungs on x-rays and a CT. “Maybe you aren’t finding anything because RA is doing this to me.” “You have fever and pneumonia, all signs of infection. This is what we are treating with antibiotic, ” she waved her hand at an IV bag hanging from one of the poles next to my bed. An oxygen machine ringed in pale blue gurgled and hissed in my left ear. The night before a child with big eyes stood at my bedside wearing a dress in the same shade. Intuition said I should keep that to myself.

When I created this blog 5 years ago I was 44, and fresh off losing a tough, unfair battle for my health and career. I’d been fighting since I was a kid, for myself and sometimes for those who I thought needed a champion, and I was spent. In hindsight, other people, especially those in power, not only preferred women who didn’t make waves, but rewarded them for not fighting. Maybe if I adopted a quieter, more graceful approach during the 5th decade, life would prove less bruising. In any case, I needed time to heal. What I didn’t know is that my fighting spirit would one day be the difference between life and death.

Lying in that hospital bed a few weeks ago, I feared going “…gently into that good night”, dying of pneumonia as the poet Dylan Thomas did, but after 5 years of curbing my fighting nature I was sorely out of shape. There are dreams I haven’t realized because I laid ambition aside, trips I haven’t taken, and works I haven’t written. Death takes who it can snatch away, especially if one cannot fight. Medical professionals are often champions when we are weak, their educated treatment hitting a bullseye and chasing away mortality. And then, there is luck and those who rage; “… rage against the dying of the light” – Dylan Thomas. One physician listened to my mumbles about rheumatoid arthritis as I was sliding near intubation, the ICU, and a large sucking mudhole next to my bed (According to a study published by the American College of Chest Physicians, every day a patient is delirious brings a 20 percent increased risk of prolonged hospitalization and a 10 percent increased risk of death). Once he consulted with my rheumatology office and hung a high dose bag of steroids, the mudhole disappeared. For me, rage didn’t look like the screaming, swing at the fences anger of my younger years. It looked liked grasping, holding on and repeating my assertion that RA affects the lungs, despite feeling small and weak. A reward for my tenacity is more time to write and dig my toes in the sand. Love is sweeter now, too.

My sixth decade begins in a couple of months, time enough to regain my strength, embrace my true passionate self, and resolve to live as loudly as I want. I understand now that I don’t have time to waste. Death is funny that way.

 

Endometrial Ablation, An End to the Bloodbath

 

*Warning:  If discussions about menstruation and lady parts make you queasy, this post is not for you.

Since perimenopause set in eight years ago, I developed penis envy, not so much because I’d like one, but simply to eradicate several unpredictable and exquisitely painful periods per month.  Never prepared, no matter how many bloody tidal waves assailed my linens, my pants, my chairs, my life, I was taken off guard.   I am unaware of a more irritating interruption than a distinct gushing feeling in the middle of a meeting, especially when you are the one taking minutes.  Several times I prayed for a fire alarm.  When my red blood cell count fell to a level worthy of a gynecological consult, I felt relieved.  Dr. Burns, well into his 8th decade, said I seemed a good candidate for an endometrial ablation as long as fibroids did not lurk in my uterus.  Two tiny fibroids, one smack dab in the middle of my uterus and likely the painful trouble-maker, showed on ultrasound.  Fortunately, Dr. Burns has practiced for more than 40 years and was competent in more than one ablation procedure.  The simplest ablation procedure used a triangular mesh electrode that expanded in the uterus and delivered an electric current which cauterised and destroyed the uterine lining, and if needed, he had a back-up plan that used a roller-ball for the trouble-maker fibroid.

Elective surgery, while not typically as serious, entails risk and pain.  Infection is the scariest risk to me, likely due to a 3 month post-surgery infection following a previous gynecological mini-surgery.  I did not agree to an endometrial ablation sooner because of it.  Fear is a bitch, worthy of a post all its own.

Dr. Burns used the electrically charged mesh with success.  Prepping me with information, introductions, consent forms, and anesthesia took longer than the ablation, positively making me comfortable before asking Patrick to hurry up with the anesthesia in the operating theater.  Such a simple procedure to require such a dramatic environment, but…the risks.

My recovery nurse enjoyed my eyes-closed rendition of Gin and Juice and said I was her new favorite patient.  Apparently, I had my mind on my money.  Over the next few days I got to know the pain-killer norco as my uterus healed and I laid about on the couch drinking lots of liquids and eating toast.  So this is what it’s like in the 5th decade.  We endure procedures, therapy, and surgery to make life doable, and in this case, better than previous decades.  Little spots of blood every couple of months are all I have now.  Feminine hygiene companies are devastated by the decline in sales.

 

 

Deck the jail cell with filet and whiskey

Throughout the world cheese is the most popular food item to shoplift, but in the states steak rules the hearts and minds of one in eleven who walk out of a store without paying for an item.  To deal with that pesky conscience, Jameson whiskey comes in second as the most stolen item this holiday season.  I know, I know.  Everything gets blamed on the Irish, but keep in mind that there are a ton of wannabes in the U.S. that think drinking Jameson makes them Irish.  That is simply how Jameson operates.  Daniall Ashley, a Florida man caught this week while attempting to steal four steaks and 2 candles from a grocery store, may have had a jig or two before he stumbled upon his romantic notion.  While police blame drug addicts for meat thievery, the majority of carnivorous shoplifters caught pinched enough meat for a meal.  One would assume that people are stealing because they are in need and/or young and stupid, but it is estimated that 75% of shoplifters are adults with jobs.  Perhaps they are hard workers that do not have enough money left over after paying for necessities to afford these luxury items that used to be their rewards.  Steak is termed “luxury meat” and while many of us cannot afford filet mignon, a 15% increase in the price of cattle has lassoed all steak cuts of beef into the luxury category.  I understand loving steak and Jameson, but I have never met a steak that was worth jail time.  Jameson on the other hand…let’s just say “stuff happens” when he is on board, but once in a while it is worth the risk as long as I’m not running a tab.

Occupy Wall Street “News”

The majority of the 99% watched from our couches and computer desks as the Occupy Everywhere protesters had a very busy and contentious week.  About 50% of the 99% do not agree with or simply do not understand what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about.  Although we live in an age of information overload, I believe that much of what we are fed is bullshit. If I care about something I have to go to several sources to collect different views and then do background searches on the veracity of stated “facts”.  This is how I know that they feed us a lot of bullshit.  We also have a tendency to ferret out information that supports our beliefs and reject any news that contradicts those same beliefs, so we must take some responsibility for media catering to a captive audience eager to be validated.

I can easily find slanted news reports  to support either my dislike or empathy for the Occupy movement.  The media and Mayor Bloomberg tell me that Zuccotti park along with protest sites in Portland, Oakland, Denver, and Salt Lake City were rife with health and safety concerns.  Protesters were unhygienic and even urinated and defecated in the parks, despite the availability of  portable johns a few blocks away.  In order to avoid a confrontation, a coordinated police effort raided protest sites in the middle of the night.  Mayor Bloomberg graciously offered Occupy protesters readmittance to the park once it is cleaned, but they will not be allowed to camp out because this whole thing has a hefty price tag for already financially strapped cities.  I use the term “graciously” because it is how he is portrayed in the news of the eviction, along with being unerringly reasonable.  The movement in our neck of the woods is Occupy Grand Rapids, which was never allowed to camp in the park where they protest daily because we have a city ordinance against it.  Grand Rapids prefers to keep our homeless safely tucked away in shelters and under overpasses, out of the public eyes that are spending money in the downtown hub, especially visitor’s eyes.  We also have a church on every corner, one of which offered up their parking lot to the Occupy Grand Rapids protesters for overnight accommodation.  I hope that the Occupy movement is here to stay until we see big changes like job growth, fair trade, and regulation of trading and speculation that drive prices and fleece retirement funds.  Judging from the solidarity protests across the country yesterday, it seems like a good possibility, but winter has not arrived full-force yet.

The media also gives me plenty of fodder for my angst on these issues with new unemployment numbers each month.  The good news is that unemployment decreased in Michigan by half a percentage point in October.  The bad news is that it still stands at 10.6%.  National Public Radio gives me plenty of news on the state of the top 1% and even told me this week that the top 5% hold 40% of the nation’s wealth.  I believe that these reports are not necessary information, but are related with a transparent incendiary purpose.  My personal experience requires that I consider that some of the wealthiest Americans extended their post-college education to attend graduate, medical, and law schools, while others launched successful businesses.  I do not begrudge them their fruits, only wish that the Bush-era capital gains tax breaks would be allowed to expire.  It is harder to not react to these reports of surplus while I am unemployed, but I hold onto my beliefs and keep reminding myself that they are not situational.

The media is feeding the fire of those that sympathize with the Occupy protesters by giving us stories of police brutality such as the Marine who was attacked by officers and suffered a life-altering head injury and 84-year-old Dorli Rainey who received a face full of pepper spray in a Seattle Occupy protest on Tuesday.  I would love to meet this gal, who stated the next day that she will continue to participate in Occupy Seattle protests because, “I’m pretty tough, I guess.”  Images of conflicts between police and Occupy protesters show us what the punishment is for civil disobedience and likely influence many supporters to stay home and search for safer means of aiding the movement.

My measuring stick of Occupy Everywhere’s impact is whether the Bush tax cuts will be extended by the Super Committee tasked with cutting the national budget by November 23 and the subsequent congressional vote.  I keep hearing the old Kent State memorial song, For What its Worth, “There’s something happening here, What it is ain’t exactly clear, There’s a man with a gun over there, Telling me I got to beware, I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound, Everybody look what’s going down”.  Today I am grateful for the Occupy protesters fighting for our American Dreams (in my not-so-humble opinion), their focus uninfluenced by the media coverage on any given day.

 

Dakota Fanning is deemed provocative in the U.K.

And ad for Dakota Fanning’s Oh Lola! perfume has been banned in the U.K. by the Advertising Standards Authority because they say it sexualizes a child.  The ASA stated that the following helped form their ruling, “We considered that the length of her dress, her leg and position of the perfume bottle drew attention to her sexuality.”  While I would not sport her ultra-girly dress at my age, feminine lace dresses on younger women are a stylish trend created by several designers for the 2011 Fall and Winter collections.  I see them in every fashion magazine I pick up, typically on young stars like Selena Gomez.  In one article I read about the Oh Lola! ad’s ban the author states that Dakota Fanning is wearing a “provocative stare”, which makes me question the author’s vision, as well as my own.  Am I so desensitized to sexy stares that I do not recognize one, or do I not equate sexiness with innocence?  Perhaps a bit of both, but what is deemed sexual is unique to an individual.  That is why people masturbate to images of feet, hands, pudding, or any other seemingly benign photo.

Although Dakota Fanning is 17 years old, they say she looks under the age of 16, which piqued my interest in British teenage style.  On the BBC’s teen fashion site Slink (a provocative title, don’t you think?) it seems on the other side of the pond sequined mini skirts are all the rage on the teen scene .  I would not have allowed my teenage daughter to wear what I term a hooker skirt, even with a grunge t-shirt, but perhaps the hookers in the U.K. wear little lace dresses and go around staring provocatively to lure in their clients.

Also deemed provocative by the ASA is the placement of the perfume bottle, which I chalk up to a natural male tendency to see phallic symbols everywhere.  A woman is more likely to note the blossoming flower atop the bottle.  While I strongly believe in protecting young women from exploitation, the written opinions of the ASA and media exploit Dakota Fanning more than Marc Jacobs with over-the-top sexual descriptions such as the Daily Mail’s “she tilts back lasciviously”.  What they have accomplished is to direct pedophiles to this ad by tying enticingly illicit  and child-like descriptions together.  The below photos of Emma Watson are from a complimentary article in the Daily Mail about her modelling career and a Burberry ad with her little brother in which I easily recognize provocative stares.

The Village

Relocating from the city to a village surrounded by apple orchards and woodlands has been a positive experience, for the most part.  The culture is simpler here; a local art revue with centerpieces of apple sculptures, a Celtic Festival, the annual Town & Country fair, and the small building whose only function is as Santa’s house during the three weeks of Old Fashioned Christmas, epitomize our small-town community.  We know our neighbors and everyone except one snotty couple waves to us when we turn onto our street.  If we want to know the happenings around the village, or even if we don’t, Johnny from across the street is a better reporter than those on the evening news, often delivering tabloid-type tidbits such as who drinks too much, who was arrested or picked up by an ambulance, and which relationship just broke up.  He inherited his reporting skills from his dad who will eagerly entertain us with both saucy and factual history dating back forty years.  They are the reason I pull our shades down the moment darkness arrives.  There isn’t anything gossip-worthy happening in our house, but privacy makes for more comfortable evenings.  Thanks to those two and the rest of our slightly less watchful neighbors, I do feel safer here than I ever did in the city where it seemed the primary goal was to avoid eye contact.  They tell me that most people do not lock their doors, but spending my formative years falling asleep to sirens instilled security habits that cannot be overturned.

My husband fits in here more than I do, probably because he grew up surrounded by seven acres of farmland and woods where he and his playmates had free rein.  He adapted instantly, often performing acts of kindness such as snow blowing the neighbors’ driveways simply because there is a foot of snow and they brighten our days with their waves and smiles.  They return the favor, too, showing up if they hear a hammer or power tools and snow blowing our driveway after a morning blizzard.  It is a sweet joy to discover a clean driveway when you are imagining and dreading hours of work during your commute home.  Our next-door neighbor Linda feeds our cat when we go on vacation and baked my husband cookies as a thank you for his thoughtfulness.  I can wander over there with any question or request and she and her husband Don are unfailingly helpful.

The tellers at the bank and clerks at the grocery store, gas station, and video rental recognize me and exchange friendly chit-chat when I am out running errands.  It takes a little longer, but a few minutes are a trivial price for the personalized service and feeling of belonging that they gift me with.  Slowly, but effectively, they are wearing down my unnecessary defenses.

The village has changed since we moved in eleven years ago.  Streetlights were replaced by retro-style lamp posts downtown where our village taxes also paid for brick walkways and benches outside tiny mom and pop shops and restaurants.  A couple of years ago they installed a traffic light by the new energy-efficient high school and a long-time resident opened a hugely popular Mexican restaurant that attracts folks from the city.  I can handle the rate of change here.  This village is my respite with the biggest disruption being the children playing at the park across the road.  I can face the world outside of our village because of the comforting balm of home that I begin to feel when I drive past Potato Joe’s farmer’s market sign which always sports common-sense quotes such as the current, “A clear conscience is usually a sign of a bad memory.”  Makes sense to me.