Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Fiction Challenge, discharged

Felicia had answered so many questions, making sure to stay consistent with her responses.  She was able to act just panicked enough.  After they were able to place the central line and get Bailey hydrated, she seemed to rebound almost immediately.  The girl she'd carried into the emergency room just days earlier was sitting up, eating strawberry Jello with her little fingers and giggling at cartoons on the television screen.  

Her socks were too big and hung off the tips of her toes.  

Every time she turned her head towards the window at mama, she smiled.  Her hair would move out of the way just enough to see the IV lines.  The tubes that had kept her alive.

Felicia watched her through the glass from outside the room.  The doctor had pulled her out into the hallway to tell her that they couldn't figure out what had happened, they had no answers for why she had become so sick.  They had seemingly come to the conclusion that it was some type of stomach virus, though Felicia knew better.

They had to bring in a case manager because of the age of the child and the severity of the illness, but she had already prepared herself for that.  The doctor said something about her weight and mentioned that they might label her as failure to thrive, but that decision wasn't final yet.  They couldn't tell because they didn't know her full history. They were still waiting on a call from her regular pediatrician, though Felicia didn't tell them she hadn't actually taken Bailey to the doctor in over a year.

Fortunately, the trash had been picked up the day it all went down, and she'd been able to get rid of any evidence of what she'd done to her little girl.  

There would be a social worker assigned, and there would be a home visit before discharge.  The doctor asked if Felicia understood all that and she silently nodded her head, never taking her eyes off of Bailey.  

She knew that she'd already covered her tracks.  They wouldn't find anything.

Chris didn't even know, and he'd been living there the entire time.  Felicia was so good at hiding it all until they ended up here.  Until it almost ended badly.  Until she almost got caught.

After the doctor stopped talking and walked away, Felicia went back into the room.  She dragged the chair back over to the tiny bed encircled with bars.  Her eyes traced every inch of the little girl, resting on the spot on her neck where the catheter was inserted.  Such a simple little piece of plastic.  It didn't seem possible that something so little could have been the thing that saved her that day.  It pumped life back into Bailey's body, one drop of fluid at a time.  

Felicia took the IV line and ran it between her finger and thumb, squeezing it until the flow stopped.  

Bailey's eyes weren't sunken anymore and the dark circles under them had faded a little.  She smiled at her mama, not having any clue why she was laying there in a hospital bed with that thing poking her in the neck all the time.  She'd pulled at it for a while, but they taped it pretty good the night before.  Even as young as she was, Bailey seemed to understand that this piece of plastic in her neck saved her life. 

Felicia's gaze drifted to the television, with the screen of dancing animals.  Bailey giggled again.   

This scare may have just saved them both.  This time, at least.

If only she could keep herself from going back to that place when they were in the secrecy of home again.  Felicia hoped she could control it, that she could stop herself.  She knew better. 

She knew now what she was capable of. 

This piece is part of a fiction challenge I am participating in.  This is the second episode of my second story, the first part of which can be found here.  

This week's prompt is: 

March, "in like a lion, out like a lamb" -- 
for our writing: to be deflated, belittled or humbled after the failure of a daring or boastful act.
I'm putting a couple restrictions on this one though to sharpen your lion's writing claws before we submit to our kinder, gentler lamblike selves: 1,000 words max and no dialogue, all description. *Show* not tell: how your character has softened, deflated from the beginning of his/her intro in even one post? to now. 

Please check out the pieces from the other writers participating in the challenge!  We've welcomed two new members to the group this week!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Apple trees, the apples and the distance they have to fall

I spent all day today trying to get help for one of my kids. Answers. Reasons.

That phase we had hoped would be outgrown someday hasn't been.  It's not just a phase, it's more than that.

The first person I met with today, the psychologist.  The intro meeting, the info meeting, the warn them what they're dealing with meeting, the before the kid meets them meeting.

Giving a full history for both sides of the family, opening all the closet doors, digging up all the ugly skeletons and laying it out there for someone else to see is exhausting to say the least.

Let's just say we have the kind of history that tends to make even the most seasoned therapists flinch.

I'm going to assume that's not a good thing.

Combine all that with medical histories on both sides of anxiety, depression, addictions, anorexia and's no wonder that my kids have issues.

I have issues.

Their father has issues.

Most of the people in our family have issues.

I just naively wished that they would somehow escape it all.  That they'd be able to go through life without all this excess baggage.  Without extra challenges in addition to whatever else life throws at them.  I wished that they would somehow defy the odds, and not take after us.

I was wrong.

The apple didn't fall very far from the tree at all.

Goddamn apple trees.

That all would have been draining enough, but I seem determined to get the ball rolling in every way I can to figure all this out.  Met with the pediatrician too.  The doctor who's known my kids since they were babies.  Who knows our history.  Who knows their quirks.  Who knows that what's going on isn't normal.  Who knows we need help.  Who called me on a weekend to talk about it all before I marched in there with my brave mama face on today, holding the hand of my child.

We can do this.

We will do this.

We will do everything we can to help them navigate this world, no matter what cards they are dealt, no matter how much the deck is stacked against them.

I've got my eyes wide open, and as much as it hurts to admit that so much of this comes from me, I'm doing it.  I'm owning it.  I'm staring it down in the mirror, and I'm seeing it in the eyes of my babies.

I'll be all the things the tree is supposed to be, even with it's flaws and knots, with it's twisted branches and spots of weakness.

I'll be strong and sturdy.  I'll weather the storms.  I'll shield them from harm, I'll raise them the best I can, I'll help them as much as I'm able.

They'll be the apples they are.  Beautiful, different, sweet and sour.  Delicate, yet full of life.  Some just a little more bruised than the others.

As much as it hurts, I'll let them fall.

I'll just be there to pick them up when they do.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Irony of Yelling Uncle

It's not been a good week here, and the last few days have been bad.  Really bad.

Friday was actually a pretty fantastic day, the only part of the week that I didn't hate with everything I have.

My friends made me meet them for lunch. They give me a hard time pretty frequently about the fact that I rarely make public appearances.  I'm perfectly content to hole up in my house, and over the past few years and all the stuff that has gone down, I've found that it's usually better for me to avoid other humans.

I'm terrible at feigning interest in small talk, I can't rally behind people who complain about things constantly but never do anything to fix them, and I have bigger things going on than worrying about whether my kid lost their lunchbox or if soccer practice will be canceled on any given Tuesday.

It seems like there's always something bigger going on around here.

And I'm tired.

It's been like this for three and a half years now.

There are times, when I'm wallowing in my hole, wondering what the hell happened.  When just about every facet of my life is messed up beyond anything I could have ever imagined, I can't help but start wondering if it's some cosmic game, if it's some divine test, if life's just a raging bitch, or if it's me.

I tend to carry a lot of blame for things that weren't my fault.  I know that rationally, it makes no sense.  That these things would have happened regardless of what I could have ever done differently.  That other people made choices.  That sometimes shit just happens.  That genetics suck, that autoimmune diseases are assholes, that the apples don't fall far from the tree.

I wanted to run outside last night into the cold air and scream uncle.

I didn't.

Mostly because doing that would have just pissed me off more.

I am really angry right now.  Beyond angry, actually.  So angry that I know that I can't call him right now because I know that I can't control my anger.

And I'm worried.  And I'm hurting.  And I'm sad.

And I'm powerless to do anything to help.

I can't change anything.

I can't make it better.

I can't fix this.

It would have been nice if he told me when he should have. If he thought for even one second that I deserved to know.  If he could have put aside whatever he thinks about me, whatever he believes, and just been human long enough to pick up the phone.

It would have been nice.

But that's not how things work around here.

I could really go for a few months of boring monotony.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Fiction Challenge, a new story begins

Felicia paced the hall of the emergency room.  She walked back and forth, back and forth seeming determined to wear ruts in the floor.

Her steps were hurried but deliberate.  She had to look worried enough.

So many thoughts running through her head at once.  She had to keep this story straight.  She had to keep it consistent.  She had to be distraught and real.  

She was afraid that something might actually happen to Bailey.  

She never meant for anything like this to go wrong.  

She'd been so careful.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.  

Every time she walked past the door to the exam room that contained the bed where her daughter laid still, that was full of people in scrubs, where the beeps and hums of the machines created the background noise, she rehearsed it again in her head.  

About how she didn't know what happened.  

About how she'd brought her in at the first sight something was wrong.  

About how she loves her little girl with everything in her heart and mind.

Chris would be here soon, and she had to figure out what she was going to tell him.  

God, what was she going to tell him?

What had she done?

The nurses had kicked her out of the exam room once they connected Bailey to all the monitors and realized her vital signs were so off.  They asked what had happened, and all she said was that Bailey had suddenly become violently ill.  That the vomiting wouldn't stop.  That there was blood  in the vomit.  That she hadn't eaten anything different than what she usually ate.  

That part was true, though.  She hadn't eaten anything different than what she usually did.  She always ate the same thing, like Mommy's good little girl was supposed to.  She'd been eating it for over a year now.

In that year, Bailey had stopped growing like she was supposed to.  She'd gone from a chubby toddler to a thin two and a half year old.  She wasn't anywhere near potty trained, though Felicia pushed and pushed her to be.  

The girl couldn't control her bowels.  The diarrhea was almost constant.  

It didn't stop Mommy from pushing her.  

Didn't stop Mommy from feeding her the same thing every day.

The nurse opened the exam room door just long enough for Felicia to overhear that they couldn't get an IV started.  They were calling to put in a central line.  

She was so dehydrated her veins were collapsing and her heart rate was nearing 200bpm.

The little girl could barely turn her head and vomited again just as the door closed.

Felicia wrapped her arms around her body and squeezed tight.  

What if she'd gone too far this time?

Chris appeared from around the corner and ran to her side.  He started asking question after question after question, and she couldn't answer him.  

She had no idea how Bailey was, they wouldn't let her in.  She didn't know what was wrong.  She didn't know what was happening.  

She knew why it was happening, but she wasn't about to admit that to anyone, least of all Chris.  

He was her rock.  Her life.  

And so much had changed.  

Everything, really, since she came along.  Bailey.  

It had changed too much.

The exam door opened and people started flooding out.  Then came the gurney with the tiny girl on it.  The nurse shouted something about going to the OR.  She needed a central line, but they needed to do it in the OR.  

Chris stood motionless, unable to do anything to help his little girl.  Someone asked if he was the father.  He nodded.  They shoved a clipboard in his hands to sign for consent and disappeared.   

She was gone now.  His baby girl.  In the OR.  Maybe dying.  

Felicia wrapped her arms around her husband and sobbed.  She buried her face in his chest, took a deep breath.  She inhaled his scent and the edges of her mouth slowly turned upward in a smile.

This post is part of a fiction challenge that I am participating in.   

This is the prompt for this week:

"chance |CHans|
1 a possibility of something happening: a chance of victory | there is little chance of his finding a job.
• (chances) the probability of something happening: he played down his chances of becomingchairman.
• [ in sing. ] an opportunity to do or achieve something: I gave her a chance to answer.
• a ticket in a raffle or lottery.
• Baseball an opportunity to make a defensive play, which if missed counts as an error: 541 straight chances without an error.
2 the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design: he met his brother by chance | what a lucky chance that you are here.
adjective [ attrib. ]
fortuitous; accidental: a chance meeting.
1 [ no obj. ] do something by accident or without design: if they chanced to meet.
• (chance upon/on) find or see by accident: he chanced upon an interesting advertisement.
2 [ with obj. ] informal do (something) despite its being dangerous or of uncertain outcome: she waited a few seconds and chanced another look."

You decide how to use it, how to demonstrate it and how to reconcile it in your writing this week. 800-1500 words. Go. 

Please check out the pieces from the other participants here:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A boy, his kryptonite and the conveyor belt

If you're new to the hive, you should know that I am a geek.  A dork.  Goofy as hell.  I make a lot of references to geeky things, and this may have happened last Halloween.

Batman, the little one in the front, is the daredevil of the family.  Tiny Evel Knievel, he is.

The kid is literally afraid of nothing.  He is pretty sure that he's at least twice his actual size.  I've found him on top of the refrigerator fairly recently.  He routinely climbs the outside of the banister. He'll jump off of just about anything.  He was riding a two wheeler bike before two and got in trouble for doing flips off the side of the pool last year during swimming lessons.

If you ask him, he'd probably tell you that he is actually Batman.

His goal in life, right now, is to win American Ninja Warrior.  He has an obstacle course he runs in the house, scaling the railing of the stairs to finish.

He holds the tarantula at the museum here locally, he roars at the lions at the zoo.  He was mad that he was too small to go on the good rides at Disneyland.


Except for one thing.

He has something that we refer here to as his kryptonite, and it's something I would have never expected a kid like him to be afraid of.

Car washes.

He absolutely is terrified of the car wash.  He hyperventilates when we get near one, crying hysterically.  He has a designated face of terror reserved only for the moments when someone mentions how dirty the car is getting.  He cringes every time I get gas at a station that has a car wash.

I have no idea why or when this started, but it was getting really severe.  I think it's a claustrophobia thing.  My grandmother was claustrophobic, and I remember it well.  She was afraid of the car wash too.  She used to close her eyes, turn up the radio loud and sing the whole way through.

He comes by it honestly.

Since he's with me all the time these days because of the diabetes thing right now, I don't have time to get the car washed when he's at school.  So, for months and months and months, I didn't get the car washed.

It got dirtier and dirtier.

We've gone through the entire winter season without a car wash, because this kid's mom didn't want to torture him.  Three months or more of dirt, road grime, mag chloride, splashback, half assed attempts at cleaning windows....that bad. It was all well and good until the oldest wrote SUCK IT on the back window.

Superman messed with Batman.


I knew then that it was time, we had no choice, the car needed washed.  I'm not driving around with SUCK IT on the back window.

There is a new car wash on the other side of town with clear glass sides, I thought maybe we'd give it a go.  I was getting desperate.

We pulled up to the entrance and little boy started breathing faster.  He was fidgeting in his seat.  Once we were on the conveyor belt and he realized he could see, he started laughing.

Maniacally, of course.

When we pulled out, he was pumping his fists in the air and carrying on about how awesome the car wash was.  Ran home to tell Daddy right away that he went to the car wash.

Conquering fears, we are.

I forgot what my van looked like clean.  I have to get used to what it is supposed to look like again.

Take that, General Zod.

Friday, March 15, 2013

In Defense of Ugly Crying

Ugly crying.

The kind where you let it all out. Where there is hyperventilating and you eventually get dehydrated because you've lost that much water. When you end up with a raging headache that lasts two days. If you're me, when you do it up right, you throw yourself into a full blown asthma attack.  Then, there is the matter of this.

Snot bubbles.  OH YES.  A sign of a good cry, always.

Shutup.  You know this has happened to you.

Well, you probably do.

You know what I'm talking about unless you're like I used to be back in the day.  Back when I didn't really have anything earth shattering to be upset about.  Back when shit happened, but I totally just dealt with it.  Back when I was stoic and tough and all that.

Back when I was just better at stuffing things down.

Then life started to get complicated and I fully embraced the ugly cry.  The first one was the day I found out the baby's heart stopped beating sitting in a dark ultrasound room.  I cried so loud and for so long that they shut the door so I wouldn't disturb other patients.  The visceral crying, where you literally lose the ability to control it at all.

I did it a lot back then, then I was good for a long, long time.  I avoided ugly crying for years.

I thought I had toughened up, that I was stronger.   That's what I thought...

...until the day my dad was diagnosed, the day that I knew exactly what the words they used meant, the day I knew he was terminal and there wasn't a damn thing they could do to save him.  That was a doozy.  The kind of cry where you are glad a wall catches you on the way down, then you end up in a pile on the floor.

I never did that in front of him or the kids, because I refused to let my grief screw with anyone else.  I had my ugly cries, sure, but they were hidden.  Got most of it out of my system in the shower, which incidentally is THE BEST place to cry.

I can see some of you nodding your heads right now, because you know exactly what I'm talking about.

After he was gone, it happened a few times, though it wasn't usually about him.  It was more about the things that happened in the aftermath, the unraveling that started.  There was an afternoon, etched into my memory as clear as day, when I was impatiently waiting for the fire department to show up, shaking my fists at the sky, sobbing so loud that half the neighborhood would have known something was wrong.  Fortunately, the sounds around me drowned out my sorrow and I pulled my shit together before the truck filled with hot firefighters arrived.

Back then, I could still do that.

Now....not so much.

Things have happened since then that have tested me in ways I never thought I'd have to endure.  I cry all the time now.  Sometimes it's the silent tears in the car.  Sometimes it's the dry heaving sobs in the shower. Sometimes it's the full blown asthma inducing, soul piercing stuff.  I do still try to hide it from others as much as I can, but I can't always.

I'm not as good at that as I used to be.

I'm not as good at a lot of things as I used to be.

What I am better at, though, is identifying my emotions and letting them out before I explode.  I'm better at giving myself space when I need it.  I'm better at self-preservation.  I'm better at not beating myself up over things I had no control over.  I'm better at real.

I wear my heart on my sleeve these days. I tell people I love them ALL THE TIME.  I've even started hugging people.  For those who know me, this comes as a shock, I know.

I have my moment, however long it lasts, then I put on my eyeliner and will myself to put the big girl panties on no matter how bad it sucks.

This is me, take it or leave it.  Snot bubbles and all.

If you can't handle me at my worst, you sure as 
hell don't deserve me at my best. ~Marilyn Monroe

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Easter Festivus

What I'm thinking about this morning is way too profound and deep, too thought provoking and life altering.  About how much life can change in an instant, and how rarely we are ever in control of those moments.  Big stuff.

Be grateful that someone gave me a topic to write about already, and I'm not writing about any of that nonsense.

My friend Ginger over at Spicey Mom wants me to take on Easter, which could very well be her least favorite holiday...which makes sense if you know that she's an atheist.

Her beef with the holiday is that, like everything else it seems these days, it gets bigger and bigger, more and more commercialized, filled with more expectations and demands every year.

Gone are the days when the "bunny" drops off a modest basket with a few bucks worth of candy and calls it good. Now, baskets are huge and toy filled, kids make requests for what they want, and start asking to go see the bunny to make good with the big guy.

Aren't baskets supposed to only have actual
eggs in them anyway, if we're being technical?
If the bunny has failed to meet expectations, you're sure to hear about it within a few days after the kids go back to school, because there is some kid who inevitably got a bike or a scooter or an actual rabbit for Easter.

Your kid is pissed, wonders why they didn't get anything cool like their friends did from the bunny, ponders the unfairness of the magic world of the seasonal gift-givers.  As a parent, you just feel like you're a failure.  Like no matter what you do, it's not going to be good enough.  Some other parent is always going to get their kid something more awesome.

Here's my take on it.


Stop caring.


I've never worried too much about what other people get their kids, whether it's Christmas, birthdays or random Tuesdays.  My children's basic needs are met, they are well fed, there is a roof over their head, and they've acquired enough crap already to basically be hoarders.  If they don't get a basket full of stuff they're only going to play with for five minutes, it's no one's loss and it saves me money.

Besides, I've never done the traditional baskets.  I'm cheap and practical, and my kids know that.

I get them a seasonal toy like sidewalk chalk or a butterfly net or a kite, but most of what is in the basket is even more practical.  Like a new swimsuit and a pair of sandals, which they get every year.

Don't worry, I buy them a package of Peeps and a chocolate bunny too.  They aren't completely deprived, but they'll get even less candy this year than usual because of the little boy and his sugar issues.

Sometimes we go see the bunny, some years we don't.  I happen to think a six foot tall rabbit is terrifying, and don't blame the kids when they hesitate.

Occasionally, the kids will mention something about someone getting something better than they did, and I just tell them that life's not fair.  Because it's not.

I'm not going to try and compete with other parents.  Even if I wanted to, I don't have the financial means to do it.


Because life's not fair.

^^^see what I just did right there?

I tend to think that we aren't doing anyone any favors by perpetuating the idea of keeping up with the Joneses, even when the Joneses are wearing bunny ears and poofy tails.

St. Patrick's Day is a bigger deal around here anyway.

What about you?  Is Easter a big deal for you?  Do you celebrate only the religious aspects, or does the bunny come to visit?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the public health edition

I had a couple things I planned to write about today, then I found inspiration for a theme. A few news stories broke in the past week that interest me deeply.  They have to do with public health issues.

In my former life, I was planning to be an attorney specializing in health law.  I followed the Medical Board of California as part of an oversight organization, I took all the health law classes I could in law school.  I minored in Bioethics in college, and enrolled in a MPH program as my last foray into the education world.  I technically was in a public health management focus, but my heart found it's true passion in epidemiology, which is the study of disease patterns.

My career ambitions were motivated by things that happened to members of my family as a result of a doctor's misdiagnosis and resulting negligence. I worked in risk management for a while.  I worked with HIV+/AIDS patients, assisting them in all legal issues for a while too.  I've sat in on ethics committee meetings, I've seen the patients, I've mused about the legal ramifications of any and all treatment decisions.  I've watched people get forced into isolation because of contagion risks.  I've seen up close and personal what damage cigarettes and poor diets can do to the human body.

Public health is a true passion of mine, and it's with that obvious bias that I write about the things pissing me off today.

Off we go.

Antibiotic Resistance 
Over the past few decades, more and more antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria have emerged.  Broad spectrum antibiotics, the strongest ones we currently use, cannot treat all the strains that exist currently.  There is a very real threat to the safety of the entire world if this trend continues, which it almost certainly will.  One need only to look to the past epidemics of untreatable diseases to understand the inherent dangers involved here.

This past week, Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer in England urged a global response to this issue. She is encouraging development of new antibiotics and the preservation of the arsenal currently at our disposal.  She urged better tracking of resistant disease, and cooperation between industries and nations, for the sake of us all.

Antibiotic resistance is a catastrophic threat to medicine, she said.

This is a topic that has been unsettling in the health care field for a long time here in the US, but one that has largely gone unnoticed by those in positions of power that could actually address the issues.

The causes of growing resistance are many and varied, and need to be addressed at the level of nations, not individuals.

First, there is some degree of resistance that comes naturally as the bacteria evolves on it's own.

Second, it's not news that antibiotics are overused quite often, given as prophylactic treatment and for viral infections where they will do no good.  Patients need to get out of the habit of asking for/demanding antibiotics and doctors need to stop writing the scripts for them.  Not only is it bad for everyone in the long run, it creates drug resistance within individual patients as well, requiring them to be placed on stronger and stronger medications when they actually do have infections.  There is also a strong argument to be made that habitual antibiotic use damages the human body's "good" bacteria as well, creating additional problems for the patients down the road.

Methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA.
Might look pretty under a microscope, but this could kill you.
Third, patients need to take antibiotics as they are prescribed.  Far too many patients stop taking the medications a few days into treatment, because they begin to feel better.  What happens is that the weakest bacteria are killed, leaving the stronger ones festering.  Repeat it a few times, multiply it by thousands or millions of patients, and you quickly find yourself fighting bacteria we can't treat.

Fourth, we need to crack down on the antibiotic use in our food supply.  Over 80% of the antibiotics sold in the United States are given to livestock, not to treat diseases, but in the hopes of avoiding them so that the ranchers can grow bigger animals faster.  These animals harbor resistant bacteria, which they can transmit not only to other animals, but to humans who eat them.  Again, these drugs are routinely administered in low (sub-treatment) levels to otherwise healthy animals, and no one in the United States tracks that use or regulates it.  The European Union banned the use of antibiotics for the purpose of growth in 2006.

Fifth, we need to stop using antibacterial soaps, gels and cleansers.  Used originally only in healthcare settings, these products have flooded the consumer market feeding on the fears of germaphobes.  There is no evidence that they work better than an old fashioned hand washing.  They expose skin, the largest organ, to dangerous chemicals.  They kill good bacteria, and encourage further growth of superbugs.  There is no legitimate reason for these products to be sold in the public market, and the fact that some schools are now requiring children to use them bothers me tremendously.  Just wash your hands.  With soap.  Regular old fashioned soap.

These are huge problems that need to be addressed from the level of the individual sitting in a physician's office, to corporate responsibility, to nation-wide funding of research and regulation of the use of the drugs we have.  If we keep ignoring them, we are just tempting fate to throw another plague at us.  During the Black Plague, a third of the people in Europe died.  A third.  It is not outlandish to suggest that we are at an ever-increasing risk of history repeating itself, and we need to take the necessary steps to ensure we are armed with the tools to fight it.

Bloomberg's Soda Ban
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't care much about making enemies, which is often the personality trait of his that gets people to love or hate him.  His most recent crusade has to do with serving sizes of beverages that have sugar added to them.  Just yesterday, a judge in New York blocked application of the law, claiming it is arbitrary and capricious because it applies only to restaurants and certain other entities under the thumb of the health inspector.

Bloomberg vowed immediately to appeal the decision.  He has previously fought for limits on trans-fats, labeling in restaurants, and public smoking bans, all in the name of public health.

Love him or hate him, he's passionate.  And he's got a point, a valid one.  Individuals make poor choices, society pays the price.

We live in a free country, yes.  We also live in one populated by people who make very poor health choices, and where those choices result in long term disabling conditions like diabetes and cancers. One soda of the designated serving size almost surpasses an adult's daily recommended sugar intake. If people really want a 2-liter bottle of soda, they can still buy one in a grocery store, even in NYC.

The whole reason that the field of public health exists is to oversee society as a whole, to steer behaviors, to force manufacturers to be truthful, to protect people from the harms out there, and yes....sometimes to protect them from themselves.

It is absolutely condescending, but to some degree, it's also necessary.

Public health isn't supposed to be popular, it's supposed to save lives and improve health, not just for individuals, but for all of us.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Putting a little Irish on it

As an Irish lass, this is a big week for me.  For reasons that I can't exactly explain, at some point in my teenage years, learning about my Irish heritage became important to me.  I attribute it to being raised in a cookie cutter suburb where just about everyone was a part of the same mainstream culture.  It wasn't enough for me, I wanted a connection to more.

My first best friend in the whole wide world was half Taiwanese, half Jewish.  Her home was filled with treasures, family tradition, authentic home cooked meals and more. I immersed myself in it.  I longed for the same connection with my family's past.

My family emigrated to the United States during the potato famine like many Irish families did at the time.  Some made the move, but not all.  We still have a family village outside Cork, and I dream someday of visiting there.  A cousin went after he finished college and ended up staying for months longer than expected, meeting so many members of the family.

True Story.
We've always had corned beef, cabbage and potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, but over the years I have become more famous for my soda bread.  For many years, I prepared an entire meal for the preschool on St. Patrick's Day, wanting to teach them that this celebration isn't just about wearing green, pinching people and leprechauns.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, we chose an old Gaelic name, Aidan, not realizing that name would become one of the most popular.  We chose it because of the heritage, not because of the trend.  I wanted to spell my oldest daughter's name Ashleigh, but we settled on the more common spelling for some reason.  In the event I ever have another daughter, I already know what her name will be.  It would, of course, start with an A.  It would, of course, be Irish.

One of my favorite traditions every year is to attend the St. Patrick's Day parade.  My girls have begged to dance ceili for a long time.  As much as I would love to enroll them, the schools are far from where we live, the classes are very expensive and the outfits cost a small fortune.  Maybe someday when they tire of soccer...

Right after we married, my husband went to the Irish shop in San Diego that has been run by the same woman for years.  He knew I wanted a claddaugh ring, but he wanted to make sure it was authentic and came from Ireland.  I've worn it every day since.

Not long after that, I went to get my tattoo.  A four leaf clover, for luck and for family.  I knew that I would never fall out of love with it, and almost fifteen years later, I haven't.  I'm proud of it, and have so many ideas of other traditional Irish symbols I would love to turn into body art.

There is the fun side of it too, the part where I play with it all.  A few years ago, the leprechaun started coming to visit us.  He's naughty.  He dyes the milk green, he turns the furniture upside down.  He sprinkles glitter on everything and hangs underwear from the ceiling.  The kids seem a little more determined to catch him with each year, though they haven't managed to yet.

He'll be here in a few days.  The parade is this weekend.  The feast will be prepared, the soda bread loaves made.  I'm sure the kids will talk me into some ridiculous rainbow treats for their classes, like usual.  The keg is full of a homebrewed stout, made with Irish hops, and the Jameson has been purchased.

Let's put some Irish on it.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Here are some of the links to recipes for things I have prepared in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Voice

I wasn't going to write anything today, yet here I am.

A few nights ago, as I stood on a field watching soccer practice and chatting with some of the other parents, my phone vibrated.

It was an email.

A message from the director of the Denver production of Listen To Your Mother, asking me to audition.

The auditions were originally supposed to take place yesterday, and I was okay with that.  The storm was coming, and I'd have an excuse to beg off.  To say thank you, but no thank you.

Then they pushed it back to next week, assigned me a time.

I have an audition in six days, and I have no idea what I'm going to do.

I have 2-3 minutes to sell myself.  To make them like me.  I'm leaning towards a serious piece because I think that is a lot easier to convey in a short period of time than humor is.

I posted about how I was completely freaking out about it on my Facebook page, and some of my loveliest fans immediately told me that it would all be fine, that I would rock the audition, that I would do great.

If only I had such confidence in myself.

This, all of writing, the stories I tell, my sense of humor, it's all easier from behind a screen.  It's taken me years and surviving hell a few times to really find my voice here.  To believe in myself again, to use this platform to share information, to raise awareness, to raise money for charity, to do good.  I use it to rant and bitch, to laugh and cry, to process the things I go through personally, even if I almost never actually write about what they are.

This version of me, the one with the Wonder Woman costume kicking ass and taking names, I like her. I like her a lot.

She's good at a lot of things, it's true.

She's never stood on a stage with a microphone and tried to sell it to someone in person, though.

The one time that someone recognized me in public for my blog I was startled and didn't really know what to say.  It was fun, but terrifying.

The people who read what I write, you all, you're real.

I get messages occasionally from some of you, messages that tell me that I helped you somehow, that I made you feel like you weren't the only one going through something, that I inspired you to start writing or take pictures or be silly.  I made you laugh, I made you cry, I made you think.  Those messages keep me going, tell me that I'm doing something worthwhile here.

Sometimes I need that more than you know, mostly because I don't have nearly as much self-confidence as it might seem.

I've doubted a lot of things in the past few years.  Re-evaluated every single piece of my life.  Wondered if I'm where I am supposed to be.  Wondered why things happened the way they did.

I've tried to stop writing a few times.

I can't.

This is who I am.

I'm the girl behind the computer screen.  She's smart and strong and resilient and brave.  She's honest and real and good.  She has integrity, she has depth of character, she is talented.

I have six days to get her to believe she can stand on a stage and convince other people of it all too.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Forward....and save my sanity

Not that it's going to matter much to us right now, hunkered down in the house amidst the most anticlimactic snow storm of the year, but the time changes tonight.

Seriously, Weather Channel.

If you're gonna start naming storms, save it for storms that drop more than a couple inches.  I'd better see more than a few flakes swirling around outside if you call something Triton.  I want a real blizzard where I can build snow caves and it takes two days to dig out.

Impress me OR stop naming the very average, very unimpressive, regular snow storms that come through when it's actually winter.

Back to my original point....the time is changing tonight.

I think it's funny that people always complain about the time change honestly.  It doesn't really phase me at all.  We've never had more trouble suddenly getting the kids to go to bed or wake up on time, even when they were babies.  We've always immediately adjusted to the Spring change, welcoming it even.

This time of year, I'm glad to have another hour of sunshine in the afternoon.  My soccer playing, bike riding, skateboarding kids are pretty happy about it too.  My husband gets downright giddy that the ball of fire is still up when he gets off work.

I'm even MORE excited about the fact that it means that come Monday, I won't have to fight with my bitch of a garage door anymore.

You see, in late February and early March, the angle of the sun in the sky in the afternoon is just so that it hits the sensor for the garage door and renders it useless.  I can't shut the damn thing without orchestrating this complicated maneuver religiously, where I back out of the garage almost completely, but with just the right amount of the bumper blocking the devil rays of light from hitting the sensor, then backing out with a fraction of a second before the door comes slamming down on the hood.

Seriously, I should videotape this crazy daily dance.  I have to start trying to leave early just so I can get out of the driveway in time to pick the kids up.

I may or may not scream many curse words at the garage door on a daily basis while we perform this in and out dance of holding buttons down, then the light flashing at me when the door stops.

Fucking door.

It taunts me.  And laughs a maniacal laugh.

My favorite is when the dogs wonder what the hell is going on and wander out into the garage, looking at me with their heads tilted to the side all confused dog like.

Eventually, they start to think that I'm not actually leaving, since I seem wholly incapable of closing the damn door and they come out to see me.  Say hi.  Wonder if they get to go for a ride.

So, then I'm usually stuck in the driveway with a door that won't go down and two clueless wandering dogs.


I'm pretty sure I've heard my neighbors laughing at me a few times.  It is that bad.

You will never hear me whine about losing an hour on the Sunday that the time changes in the Spring.  I never have enough hours in the day anyway, and losing another one isn't really going to make a difference.

AND I won't have to fight with the garage every day.

C'mon Daylight Savings Time.

Save me.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Fiction Challenge, episode nine

Dani leaned over the side of the bed and slowly slid the drawer open. She reached in to feel the journal's cover, the edges worn and rounded smooth.  

It was a simple notebook, nothing fancy or elaborate.  The cover was cardboard with a picture of a sweeping green meadow, full of tall grasses and wildflowers. The imagery of the cover is what drew her to the notebook that afternoon.  The therapist had offered her three.  

One was plain and had a black cover.  It seemed hopeless and empty and Dani had immediately rejected it.  The other had a rainbow on the cover and seemed juvenile and naive.  Something like that had no place in the hands of someone like Dani and she knew it.  

But this one was different.  It just seemed right.

Her fingers ran over the words on the first page.  It seemed so long ago that she had written them, angry and forced. Those words screamed their way out of her head, full of rage and bitterness.  It seemed long ago, but it had only been ten days.  The indentations of the letters went down several pages, leaving traces of those painful words for far longer than they should have resided.  

The first page, torn and taped back together the night she began.  The therapist had recommended this to her, not fully realizing the emotional drain writing could be, would be on Dani.  Or maybe sensing it.  

This activity of writing, meant to be helpful, intended to be positive, had conjured so many memories from the past.  So many awful secrets were written on these pages.  So many pieces of her life, stories of the things that had happened.  Of what people had done to her.  What she had done to them.

Half the time, Dani was skeptical.  Doubtful.  Unsure that there would ever be a chance for anything positive to come from revisiting it all.  She'd worked hard for many years to force so much of it from her memory, and now it was there.  It was all there now, laid out for the world to see.  All written in her handwriting.

At this moment, she didn't find herself feverishly scribbling out words as they flowed from her memory banks down through her fingers, transforming themselves into words.  She took a deep breath, then stood and walked to the window.  The journal held close to her chest, the pen tucked behind her ear.  

And she remembered.

She went back to the days when she was a little girl held captive in a house full of rage.  When she lived in fear of her mother, never knowing if today was going to be a manageable day or if it would end with a beating squeezed in just before her father got home.  Over the years, mother had become quite skilled at the beatings, if one could call it that.  She knew just where to squeeze and pinch so it wouldn't leave a mark.  She resorted to slaps most often because the redness would fade, and there would be no evidence left.  

Her teachers never asked if there was something wrong when Dani would flinch away.  They always chalked it up to her shyness, her tendency to be a loner.  They were oblivious to the fact that it was a defense mechanism, a conditioned response from a child terrified of the woman who'd given birth to her.  

Her father, oh how she wanted to tell him.  She wanted to drop to her knees and tell him everything.  She wanted to let it spill out, beg him to take her and her sister and run far, far away where mother could never hurt her again.  The fear, though, bought her silence.  Kept her quiet. Forced her to comply with whatever mother wanted.  

Dani figured out at a young age that mother was home with her, alone, far more often than he was ever around.  She lived in constant fear of the day that mother would snap completely, terrified of what she was capable of.  

What she clung to, what she always had, though, was writing.  The notebooks she would steal from school and sneak into her room.  The ones that she shoved so far back between her mattress and the box spring that she often struggled to get them out herself.  She couldn't take a chance of mother finding them, though, and did what she had to do. 

The pages were her solace, her peace.  She could write about the fantasy world that she dreamt of there, she could write about fabulous vacations she never took in real life, adventures she never had.  She was strong and beautiful and surrounded with people who loved and supported her.  The letters would grow in size and become more and more whimsical the deeper into the imagined world she went.  

Other times, she detailed the beatings and the fights.  The struggles at school and the days she was locked in her room for hours.  The letters would shrink in size those days, sometimes her writing would even grow so small and firm that she could hardly read it herself.  It didn't matter that she couldn't re-read parts of it anyway, she had it all memorized in her head and heart.  She lived those same stories over and over again.  

Those words engraved on her soul, deeper and more penetrating than anything of the fantasy world ever could be.  The fantasy world existed only here on the pages.  She could go there only when she would let herself dream of another life.  

As she grew older, the number of notebooks tucked away grew.  The trips to the fantasy world grew fewer and farther between.  They were gradually replaced with dark, brooding poems.  Mysteries and fantasies all their own, of wishful thinking that her mother would drink herself to death one day or that she'd drive her car into a telephone pole or that she'd get suddenly ill and it would all be over.

The day she caught her mother with that man, when the smell of betrayal permeated every square inch of the house, when the venom that woman spewed at her dug the deepest into her heart, when she was threatened with her life if she told anyone what she'd seem, Dani stopped writing.  She shoved the notebooks into a trash bag, unscrewed the cover on the wall and hid them in the ventilation ducts.  

She had to stop.  She was scared.  It was too risky.

From that day forward, Dani never wrote by choice.  The only reason she did was to squeeze out the absolute bare minimum for school assignments.  The words were stifled, she had to force them out.  It pained her to do it at all, and she began to hate any class that required writing.  She resented the teachers, she resented the assignments, she resented her mother for taking this thing that she loved so much away from her. 

She'd spent most of her life actively avoiding writing anything, actively avoiding everything that had anything to do with all those memories.  

She knew now that she'd been kidding herself.  That she hadn't been avoiding anything at all, just shoving it down below the surface where it rotted and festered, where it grew in power and strength, where it became this beast that almost ruined her life.  It was why she was here, in rehab.  It wasn't the drinking.  It wasn't the alcohol itself.  It was her.  It was her past.  It was her patent unwillingness to deal with it, to confront it, to stare it's ugliness down and to move past it.  

This.  This journal, the one that she held tight to her chest now, rocking back and forth on her knees, this was how she would help herself.  

Maybe that therapist knew all along that this is what she needed.  Dani wasn't a talker, she wouldn't tell her darkest secrets in group, teasing it out of her in sessions wouldn't work.  Dani had to write it down.  It was the only option.

And she had.  She had written it all.  Not in as much detail as she probably could.  Some of it came out discombobulated and disorganized depending on her emotional response to it at the time.  Some of it was tight and coherent.  But it was all there.  Every major event that had led her to this place where she was right now.

Tears began streaming down her face as she realized that this thing she loved so much, this thing she had denied herself for so long, was the very thing that could end up saving her life.  

Dani sat with that epiphany for a long while, clutching the notebook tighter and tighter to her chest.

On the window, tiny drops of rain began to fall.  Then more and more and more until the window was covered with tiny vertical rivers, the drops racing one another to the ground. 

She gathered herself, took the pen from behind her ear, then opened the journal to the first blank page.  She smoothed the sheet down gently, drew in a deep breath and put the pen to paper.

Today is the day that it all starts over...

This post is part of a fiction challenge that I am participating in.  This is the ninth installment of the story, and you can read the prior eight pieces here

The theme this week is: Recovery. The "ice" has thawed a bit, revealing your character's recovery of a memory; or s/he has recovered (this is not sought, it just appears, like a plant poking through the hard, cold earth) something that was once lost; or experiences an old habit in a new way? Better? Good? You decide. Also incorporate how your character is recovering her femininity in honor of International Women's Day.

Please check out the pieces from the other participants here:

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