early

Driving to work yesterday, I pulled over and took this photograph. It was so beautiful in the early morning.

Yesterday evening I walked downtown after work. Our local Kiwanis is working on a memorial for all those lost at sea. I started thinking and wondering if we have a memorial for those lost to drug addiction, lost to domestic violence, for lost innocence.

This photograph is for all those losses.

 

Herd

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: herd.

I am reading Dopesick, newly out this year, by Beth Macy. I am wondering what make people try addictive substances. At what age and why? To be popular? Herd mentality?

I’ve interviewed my older smokers for years, asking what age they started. Most of them say they tried cigarettes at age 9. Nine, you say? Yes. Parents then look horrified when I say that they should start talking about drugs and alcohol and tobacco by the time their child is in third grade. Recently a woman told me that she tried cigarettes at age 7.

It’s not just talking to your kids, either. It’s modeling as well. What do you model for tobacco, for alcohol, for prescription medicines, supplements and over the counter medicines? Do you say one thing but do another?

I am 100 pages in to Dopesick. The most horrifying new information is that more people under age 50 have died from opioid overdose then died in the 1990s from HIV and AIDS. Also the failure of history: we have had morphine available over the counter until addiction swept the country. Then heroin. This round is oxycontin. And I checked the index: no mention of kratom, sold from southeast asia. It is related to the coffee plant but it works as an opioid. It has been illegal in Thailand since 1943. I think they figured out that it too is addictive a long time ago.

I was an introvert, a smart girl, a geek before there was a word. I did not party and was not invited. I went to Denmark as an exchange student. I tried a cigarette there and decided that I couldn’t afford it and it tasted awful. I drank beer there, but was careful. I did go to a party where I was offered a bowl of pills: no. I was cautious and became even more cautious when I returned to the US.

When and what did you try first? And WHY? What makes us try these addictive substances? The evidence is piling up that the younger we try them, the more chance of addiction. And certain substances addict very very quickly.

Who chooses not to be part of the herd and why?

speaking up 4

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: sequelae. We don’t know what the sequelae to the Supreme Court vote is yet. But I am not going to stop speaking up and I hope more women speak up. And girls. So here are two experiences when I was a girl.

I start grade school in upstate New York. I am at the Northeast School. I don’t remember tons about it, except that it has ramps instead of stairs. I am failing to learn to read with phonics, which make no sense to me.

In first grade, I need to go to the bathroom. My teacher gives me a hall pass. This is not a kindergarten privilege.

Outside the girls’ bathroom are two boys. They are older than me. I don’t know them.

“You can’t go in unless you show us your underwear.”

I am wearing a dress. I stare at them.

“Show us your underwear.”

I go back around the corner and wait. Hoping they will leave. They don’t.

I need to go. I go and lift my skirt for a second, humiliation as they laugh. I hurry in to the bathroom.

I go back to the classroom.

I never go to the bathroom during class again. I am careful. I go before class starts and at lunch.

And I’ve never told anyone until now. And this was a grade school. How were the boys acculturated to behave this way already in grade school? And does this still go on? All the girls in my daughter’s school quit wearing skirts by second grade. Jeans only.

We move before fourth grade to another town.

The boundaries for the school districts change before sixth grade and I am bussed to a new grade school.

On the bus, a boy starts harassing me. I don’t know him.

“Show me your underwear.” he says. The other kids are watching.

I don’t answer, glare at him with scorn.

Each day he escalates.

“Show me your underwear.”

I pull a pair out of my bag the fourth day. “There. Now you’ve seen some.”

The other kids laugh, but it’s not enough. He keeps hassling me.

He starts reaching for my skirt from the seat in front of me.

I’ve had it. I play flute. But I also play piccolo.

The next day he starts up, “Show me your underwear.” He reaches towards my skirt from the seat in front. I have my hard piccolo case in both hands. I smash his hand as hard as I can, against the bus seat.

He screams and pulls his hand away, clutching it.

The bus driver looks in the mirror. He doesn’t slow down or stop.

The boy never bothers me again. And neither does anyone else on that bus.

____________________________________

I took the photograph when school started this year. This is our “city” bus. The Redhawks are our football team. I can’t think that football is good for us, but I thank the adults for this support for the high school students…..

Music gives me hope: this.

speaking up 3

Here are speaking up and speaking up 2.

More events in my life:

I am on the metro in Washington, DC. It is not rush hour. I am reading my book.

I suddenly realize  as the metro stops, my car is empty. I am the only one in the car. One man gets on. I am hyperalert. He walks down the car and sits next to me.

The car starts up. I stare at my book.

“Hi.” he says, “What’s your name?”

I don’t answer.

“C’mon. What’s your name?”

“I am reading my book. I don’t want to talk.”

“C’mon, baby, be nice.”

I stand up, purse and book. “Excuse me.” I step by him and stand at the metro car door. I get off that car at the next stop and move to the next one with people on it. Shaking with both the threat and anger, that I have to deal with this.

2. I take a dance class in Washington, DC. I work at the National Institute of Health. I leave my car at NIH and ride the metro.

One night I get off the metro at NIH and I am riding up the escalator, with my backpack.

A man, clearly drunk, steps up on the escalator beside me, and says “Hi, baby, what’s your name?”

“LEAVE ME ALONE!” I snarl and stomp up the escalator. It is dark and there are very few people at the stop and in the lot. I am in danger from this drunk.

I am walking fast at the top, away from the escalator, when I hear running steps behind me. WHACK! He takes a swing at me and runs off. He hits my backpack and not me. I am screaming at him.

He is gone. I run to my car, get in, and sit there, hands on the wheel. Shaking. There is a part of me that wonders what I would do if he crossed the road in front of my car.

My next class is not dance. I take tae kwon do.

3. I have used my tae kwon do once so far. Where? In first year medical school.

No way, you say.

Yes, way.

We have lecture after lecture in the same hall. We usually sit in the same places. I am newly married. The guy behind me starts tickling my neck during a lecture, with a pen. I twitch a couple times and then hear muffled giggles and realize that it’s the person behind me.

I stiffen and wait until I am really ready. Breathe. The tickle comes. I snap a basic block back and forward: and have his pen.

He SCREAMS!

The whole class turns towards us. The lecturer stops, staring. I am facing forward, holding the pen down low, not moving. He has the entire room staring at him, everyone but me. He doesn’t say a word. You could hear a …. pen…. drop.

The lecturer shakes his head and continues.

I keep the pen.

Just think, he’s a doctor.

I took the photograph when we were in Wisconsin. I went to UW Madison. I like being a badger.

Speaking up

For yesterday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt: justice.

I keep hearing “Why didn’t she speak up sooner?”

I spoke up. I was 7. The abuser was a neighbor. Nothing was done. I thought it was my fault, that I was not a virgin, and that at age 7 I was pregnant. I did not understand puberty. I spoke up to my mother, who dismissed it.

So I did the only thing I could: I tried to protect myself and my four year old sister. I told her never ever to go near that neighbor. And I never went near him again.

I was taken for a well child check a month or two later. I didn’t say anything but I thought that surely the doctor would have noticed if I was pregnant, so I must not be.

I grieved on the school bus, thinking that I was the only girl who was not a virgin. I was wrong about the not a virgin, but I also was probably wrong about being the only girl.

I didn’t even realize that hello, I was seven, it was not my fault, I didn’t even understand what was happening. I didn’t understand until I was in college and heard a radio program about how women who are raped feel guilty. Here is a poem about that realization: The bacon burning.

So do you think I spoke up after that? Why would I? No one helped me and I was silenced. I learned this lesson: no one will help and I am on my own. I did speak up in medical school: Make a difference.

Where is justice? And do you really want us ALL to speak up now? About ALL of it?

When I was in my early teens, a friend of my parents french kissed me. He said, “I wanted to be your first french kiss.” Hello, I avoided him after that and did I want a french kiss from an old friend of my parents? He had a PhD but no boundaries, no emotional intelligence and poor ethics.

Shall I go on? In college I worked in two labs: both fruit fly labs. In one the graduate student was professional, courteous and quickly gave me a raise. In the other, I never saw the professor again and I was ignored. I went to resign from the second. The PhD professor said, “What do you plan to do after college?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Do you plan to get married and become some man’s cow?”

Oh, really? Do you Mr. PhD professor refer to all married women as men’s cows? Would you have the same conversation with a male student? I quit. I don’t like you or your lab and that sort of comment reinforces my dislike.

In medical school we had two female physicians on the faculty. One was married but no children. Residents joked about her, that she had the balls in the family, because they were both physicians. The other was not married, an OB-gyn. We asked her to speak to our Women in Medicine group about children and career.

“If you want to be taken seriously as a physician, you should not have children.” she said.

I asked, “What if we have a house husband?”

“No man’s ego could stand up to that,” she replied.

I have children and a career.

I had worked in a clinic for a year and another provider talked to me. “Do you know that they are paying the other physician (male) twice what they are paying you?”

Oh, really? I set up a meeting with the administration.

“Oh, the male physician is the clinic director, that’s why we pay him more.”

This was a lie. I had been in the clinic for a year and there had never been one word that he was clinic director. The next year they standardized paying us by RVUs: his salary went down and mine went up. And so justice was done, right? No, the male physicians are given jobs such as head of hospice or medical director and extra money. Do they work harder? The jobs are not offered to the women physicians.

A male physician at the hospital was made chief of staff. He asks me in the hall, “Do women physicians just quit because they want to stay at home with children?”

“Do you want a serious answer?” I said. He looked surprised. We went to an office and I discussed that almost all the hospital staff were women at that time and that they have a different relationship with female physicians than male physicians. Most of the administrators were male, white males.

So really, do you want all the women in the US to speak up? Maybe we all should. The above is not anywhere near an exhaustive list, it is a start. This is just from thinking about it for two days. I can fill pages…..

 

 

 

 

separation

This is one of the most beautiful and saddest photographs I have taken. It is my sister, about a month before she died of cancer. And her daughter, who was 13.

_______________________________

On the last visit to my sister, she was in kidney failure, dying. We had conversations that were surreal. All I wanted was to stay with her.

One day a friend of hers, another mother and I, were working to make her more comfortable.

“I am sad!” my sister said, and started crying.

“Why are you sad?” I said, “What are you sad about?”

“I won’t be there! I won’t be there when she graduates from high school! I won’t be there for her first date! I won’t be there when she gets married! I don’t want to die!”

By now we are all crying. “You will be there!” I say. I am certain. “You won’t be in this form. You will be in another form!”

“I will?” my sister said, crying.

“Yes.” I said, crying too. “You have to go. You have to transform. You can’t stay. But you will be there for her.”

We cried and held her.

And I know for certain that she is there, she is here, she is with her daughter as her daughter graduates from high school, goes on a date, does all the things that daughters do.

Now and forever.

And the living children must be returned to the living parents. We cannot do otherwise and call ourselves humans.

 

mother and child

I have a collection of parent and children pictures and sculptures. This is one. A mother ox and her baby. I was born in the Chinese Year of the Ox and so was my daughter. This little sculpture is about 3 by 2 inches, but both my daughter and I love it.

I am so proud of everyone who stood up for children yesterday, and for everyone who is saying, if it was MY child, I would want someone to stand up for them and for me.

Blessing and bring the children back to their parents.