3.31.03 rhetoric

Today I read an article in the Seattle Weekly that articulates the fact that the Puget Sound is both a region fed by military spending and host to some of the largest protests against this war.

The writer asks "It's ironic, at least. Is it also hypocritical? Seattle economically profits from the war and the nearby defense installations it protests. Or is it a genuine geopolitical mind-set that divides us as doves and hawks at the city limits?"

This region has a mighty defense industry because we as citizens voted for politicians who brought those projects to the region. When the military went through radical downsizing in the nineties, many bases were closed entirely, but our slice of the military pie increased. The growth of our other high-tech industries was fueled by defense contracts. It is impossible to separate the two issues. The economy of this region was created systematically and intentionally -- and most people who grow up here understand the principle, even if they disagree with certain aspects of the industries. It would be hypocritical to ignore this whole issue; but I think it is mainly the media ignoring the populist aspects of the protests.

For instance, during the Seattle WTO demonstrations a few years ago, the media focused on a specific aesthetic present in the crowd - and on the property vandalism - while almost entirely ignoring the truly awe inspiring nature of the coalitions formed for the effort.

I chose to travel to the WTO protests on the ferry from Bremerton with my kids and a huge contingent of shipyard workers. We stayed with the union demonstrations, and they were of historic size; I didn't see anything I experienced that day on the news (like the fact that all of the ports on the West coast closed in solidarity). I had a sense then that the anti-globalization movement was converging with a systematic, mainstream demand for economic reforms. I saw it happen again and again at protests for three years. The current anti-war protests are coming out of those efforts to expand the dialogue, to connect global politics to regional economics.

The Puget Sound region has a strong military and defense industry precisely because of a long tradition of radical labor agitation. The civil service and the armed forces and even the system of allocating defense contracts were created by popular demand. The fact that we want good jobs does not mean that we are docile and trusting; the opposite is true.

The Stranger offered an article detailing one journalists personal support of the war effort, and how his opinions differ from his neighbors, friends, and colleagues.

This journalist is right when he points out that our military is made up entirely of volunteers. He is right when he dismisses the illogical rhetoric of some activists. He is right to support his brother without reservation, and it is certainly his prerogative to believe that the war effort is justified -- even if the U.N. and NATO and the majority of the world might differ in their views of our conduct.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it stops short of the goal. Clarifying the emotional commitment to family is important but ultimately, more is required. Regardless of political affiliation or personal preference, there is a need for action. Our troops need more than just flag-waving and yellow ribbons and speeches. Rhetoric is an emtpy gesture, no matter what form the sentences take.

Even the staunchest supporters of this war need to understand that the current budget does not allocate sufficient funds to pay a living wage, let alone address the physical and psychological legacy of combat. We haven't adequately addressed the crisis of our aging veterans from previous wars, let alone the serious and even devastating effects of the first Gulf War.

The best way to support our troops is to actively demand services and funding; we have sent people to war. We need to take care of them.

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3.30.03 tired

My weekend was so hectic I'm almost convinced it was a dream.

I had coffee with Anne Moore and we talked about independent publishing, youth activism, and literary festivals. Then I went to The Vera Project to participate in a panel discussion about radical parenting. Afterwards, Kara took me to the most eccentric gas station in Seattle (the Arco on Rainier) and then I had to rush home to meet the precocious pre-teen gang.

In the one hour gap between the school bus and guests arriving from out of state, I ran out for Piecora's pizza and then shoved things in closets and re-arranged the cd's as my nominal cleaning effort.

Bob showed up with Amber and Five and Kyle and we all had tea and then we went to a Ladyfest show. I have no comment; but Bob asked for her money back after thirty minutes and then we drifted around trying to find other parts of the festival that might be fun. We gave up eventually and because I'm not really a scenester, I had no suggestions for alternate entertainment.

Five and Amber decided it would be fun to go to gay bars on Capitol Hill even though I advised that past visits were both banal and boring. We went to a dyke bar and then a boy bar and stayed for quite some time at both, unable to decide which was worse. Everyone was hungry and the night was a muddle so we drifted between sketchy social scenes, Subway, and QFC, unable to find food that suited various nutritional allergies. I had a banana.

I impressed my friends with my ability to stop traffic, and they unnerved me with their habit of befriending every single person they saw on the streets after the bars closed. We were home at three and they expressed their deep affection for me as I winced at the compliments. In the morning we had coffee and oatmeal and they hit the road just as Al arrived with his daughter and a kite.

The household split up, Al and Byron taking the younger kids out to the beach while I took the girls to make copies of their song and then to our workshop at Ladyfest. It was nice to see Ariel and Maria Fabulosa and crew, and Fern Capella had a documentary filmmaker in tow who filmed throughout the event. Afterwards I had to rush one girl to her house and then get snacks and drop the rest of the girls at a movie before going home, where Al was making dinner.

The whole of twenty-four hours was one long, extremely fun social encounter, with only short breaks for rest and work. I was very tired by the end.

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3.27.03 memory

My son was born five weeks early and had to have various tests and procedures to monitor his health. The first two times blood was drawn from his tiny, fragile foot, he cried: a sighing, mewling cry. He was too small to make much of a fuss. The third time the nurse came to draw blood, he started to protest when she pulled off his sock. The fourth time, he commenced his complaint as soon as the blanket was drawn off his foot.

For the first six months of his life, he cried whenever his foot was bare.

One of the most interesting things about having a chronic illness is the fact that no matter how healthy or sick I am, no matter how old, or educated, or hopeful, I have a physiological response to certain experiences.

Today I went to see an oral surgeon. I've been avoiding the issue for too long; the cysts that grow in the bones of my jaw must be identified early to avoid devastation. I have had good dental and medical insurance since last summer but by habit or negligence I never made an appointment.

When my internal panic alarm went off, I opened the phonebook without much joy. Picking a new doctor, then breaking her in, negotiating care, helping her do the research to understand my complicated history, is both irritating and just plain boring. I always have a dozen more interesting things that I would rather think about.

Most of the doctors who treated me as a child are retired now. Imagine my surprise last week when I found that the very same doctor who performed my first jaw surgery is still in practice, in the same offices, in this city.

Today I went in for my appointment. I am not the tired, sick, angry teenager I used to be. I'm a confident adult and informed consumer. I pick and choose my health care.

Why then did I feel a reeling dismay, a frantic anxiety, before the appointment? I felt as though my head were not connected to my spine. Everything - the garage, the elevators, the restroom, the carpets, and the view of the city from the eleventh floor of the office tower - conspired against me. I felt nauseous.

This is sensory memory I suppose - if that is the phrase. It is literally true that although my sense of smell went for ten years, I could always discern all scents related to hospitals and doctors offices. Presumably my brain supplied the information my nose refused.

I went to the doctor knowing that he would frown over my lack of attendance to regular check-ups. But it was such a relief to see his familiar face, to know that the person evaluating my xray understood the disease and could advise me in a competent fashion.

He opened my thick chart: all of the surgical notes, all the years of follow-up appointments. He pulled out the very first xray and pointed to the date. It has been exactly twenty years, this week, since the first cyst was found. That xray shows a massive round shadow, the cyst; my twelve-year molar pushed all the way down and under another tooth, and the wisdom tooth nudged all the way up to the joint. The doctor remarked on his skill and my luck. He was right: I was extremely lucky to get through that surgery without a metal plate to replace the bone. I lost a chunk of my jaw, three teeth, and the cartilage in the joint, but that isn't a bad bargain.

He ordered a panoramic view of my jaw. I wore the lead-lined apron and stood on the designated spot, my teeth gripping a piece of plastic as a machine moved slowly around my head. I can never remember whether or not I'm allowed to breathe; I usually choose not to risk it.

I stood in the examination room with my arms on my hips looking out over Elliot Bay at my home peninsula and the Olympic mountains in the distance. Before an appointment my anxiety makes my brain crazy wild, but as soon as I enter the routine I become utterly calm. In the moments before I learn the results of a test, I do not worry. I am devoid of concern, fear, or hope. I wait.

He snapped the film into the light tray. The xray was clean. No evidence of cysts. He pulled it out and took it over to the examination light to double check, tracing his fingers across the image, explaining what he saw.

My jaw is sound. I have not had a recurrence of the cysts since 1992. Eleven years without surgery. Amazing.

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3.30.03 pay

For more information on the pay scale of our armed forces:

Military Wages

Also check out:

Veterans for Common Sense

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3.26.03 action

I know that many of my friends and family members read this journal, and they differ from me greatly in their political views. I have no way to calculate the philisophical perspectives of the other people who will read these words, but I am confident that we all share some basic ideals. Namely those expressed in the preamble and memorized by every child who has ever watched Schoolhouse Rock:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Regardless of whether you are left or right, conservative or liberal, middle of the road, Republican or Democrat or Independent, Libertarian or Green, you must understand and believe that your voice is urgently needed at this specific moment in history. This is a democracy and the only way we can assure change is through participation. I've heard lots of people say that their voice doesn't count, that the electoral college makes voting redundant, that the system is too corrupt to bother. I think that all of those opinions are totally without value and represent flawed logical reasoning. The only way to effect change is through deliberate action, hard work, and persistence.

The next congressional recess is scheduled for the week of April 14-25. This means that your elected representative will be home and available to meet with consituents.

If you have an opinion, you need to make your position clear. Write letters. Call. Fax. Send email. Make an appointment and go in person. Coordinate with friends and family to go as a group. Take your kids. Help your kids write letters - they need to feel that their voices are heard.

If you do not support the war, you need to actively, deliberately make that clear to the people who represent your interests. Even if you support the war effort, there is an imminent crisis looming. We need to get the following messages to our elected officials:

-Allocate sufficient funds to pay for this war. Our economy, our country, cannot afford to write a blank check.

-Hold our leaders and military accountable to international law and the treaties we have signed.

-Support our troops in a substantial, realistic way. Put back the money taken out of the military budget that would have improved quality of life for the armed forces. Raise their wages. Raise the benefits to their families.

-Create a consistent, clear plan to identify and treat the medical problems our soldiers will have after this conflict. Recognize that there will be many decades of incapacity for a large number of people who serve.

-Take care of our veterans. Put back the money taken away from the Veterans Administration. Make good on all the promises made; give our veterans the honor they deserve by funding their medical care, counseling, and elder services. Improve and expand all services to veterans who are on permanent disability.

-Oppose any and all efforts to limit our constitutional rights.

To contact your elected officials:

Senate

Congress

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3.26.03 rights

Know them, appreciate them, excercise them:

The Bill of Rights

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3.25.03 liberty

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

-Benjamin Franklin

As we move forward in a time of war, worrying about our loved ones, concerned for the future, my greatest hope is that we do not succumb to any efforts to limit the rights of the citizenry. My darkest fear is that a nation created in the name of democracy will allow terror to erode the foundation of every good ideal that so many people fought and died for.

The Real Coalition

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3.24.03 society

There are six military installations in the county where I grew up. More than half the adult population is directly employed by the federal government, and the rest work in the auxiliary or service industries that spring up around bases.

People who grow up in impoverished communities see the military as one of the only legitmate routes to a career. Very few people in my graduating class went to college. Many scores of people joined the military.

My teenage sweetheart chose the army. He joined because I was pregnant. For five years, I was a military dependent spouse. My little family scraped by on enlisted wages; if memory serves, the salary for a PV1 in 1990 was about $800 per month. Combat pay brought that figure up a bit.

My great-uncles fought in WWI and when they got home to the farm they were much decorated; they lit a big fire in the pasture and burned all their clothes and medals and letters and pictures. They never married, nor did they talk about the war.

My grandfather was on the beach at Normandy and he participated in the liberation occupation. He told stories of starving people who offered to trade family jewels for any scrap of food.

I have uncles and cousins who fought in Korea and Vietnam. They don't talk too much about what they saw; a family friend once told me that after the Tet Offensive, the dead bodies were like waves lapping the beach.

I went to college and studied public administration and history. I do not have reflexive, anti-historical reactions to current events. I see our current choices as part of a lustrous panorama, a struggle to achieve a balance between intervention and isolation. We were once a rebel society. We fought a war against king and kin for liberation and freedom:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled
Here once embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world

I believe in the principles of that war. I understand and appreciate the great struggle that preceded our declaration of independence, and the constitution that followed years later. I've read the federalist papers.

Furthermore, I fully support the legitimacy of our armed forces. I think the military offers the only true hope for many people to get training and advancement, to move into the world. I think that we should increase the wages of those who serve; it is abhorent to me that a large number of military families exist below the federal poverty level and rely on WIC and in some cases food stamps to make ends meet. I believe that we should raise all wages and expand all benefits.

I wish that we as a society offered our veterans the benefits they deserve instead of abandoning them to the harsh ministrations of VA hospitals. When I was fifteen years old I volunteered at a VA retirement home and it was the grimmest, saddest experience of my youth. Those soldiers who fought for our freedom deserve better than what we offer; they deserve the finest accomodation, the kindest care.

I wish that our government offered more opportunities for people to serve; I think that the public health corps should be expanded, that we should start and fund additional programs to hire teachers for poor communities, to take medicine into rural communities. I believe in public service, incrementalism, the slow grind of progress. I am if anything a New Deal Democrat, a populist, a constitutional patriot.

Twelve years ago I worried that my husband might be sent to war. Today I know that one of my dear cousins has been shipped out. The feeling is the same: dull acceptance, hedged by worry, tears blinked away throughout the day.

I am opposed to war on principle because I am opposed to all violent solutions to conflict. I truly believe that the ills of the world could be solved with adequate food and shelter, with expanded aid programs and a charitable approach to intervention. The United States of America has enjoyed peace within our own internal borders since the end of the Civil War, with only occasional attacks from outside. The European Union offers hope for a continent recently choked by strife. Both are examples of deliberate administrative units implementing fiscal planning and rigorous social programs. I'm an optimist, but I'm pragmatic. I believe that freedom and peace are both necessary and possible.

Since we are at war again, my focus has shifted. I want this conflict to stop as soon as possible. I want accountability and lawful conduct. To paraphrase signs I saw all over Fort Lewis twelve years ago, I want my cousin, not a bodybag.

I want our soldiers to know they have the substantial and real support of the government that sent them overseas. I want recognition of Gulf War Syndrome, and adequate treatment for the families already suffering. I want the soldiers who will be impacted to get immediate treatment and counseling. I want those currently diagnosed and the children who will be born to be guaranteed full, high-quality, life-long health care.

The federal budget on offer right now will give rich people tax cuts and at the expense of programs for veterans. I want this inherent duplicity reversed. I want to give the tax cuts and services to the people who have put their lives on the line, the people who served this nation, who gave up their youth and health, who carry the memories of war in their hearts and minds.

Progress has to start somewhere.

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3.20.03 war

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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3.18.03 bunny

Amy Hamilton-Thibert (Anima212 in the hm community) was arrested for protesting military themed Easter baskets on sale at KMart.

From the Village Voice:

"Guns are for war and killing people. Easter baskets are for eggs and for bunnies," Hamilton-Thibert said, speaking softly to children who approached her. Her own two-year-old daughter was in a stroller beside her. She handed out plastic eggs with a printed explanation of her protest inside. "Don't you think it's strange to have guns and soldiers in an Easter Basket?"

Bunny Activism

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3.17.03 coffee

I'm not sentimental about any of the places we have lived. I enjoyed aspects of life in Olympia, Portland, even Shelton. But I'm too pragmatic to pine for old times, to let my brain fog over with nostalgia.

Except for one thing. I really enjoyed going out to coffee.

In Olympia, Byron liked the Smithfield. It was okay, but not very kid friendly. I took my daughter to the Asterisk and she used to place her own orders before she was tall enough to see the top of the counter. She knew everyone who worked there. We have friends even now from those coffee shops - Leslie from the Smithfield, Pam from the Asterisk. Cliff too; we had dinner with him in New York. His brother lived near us in Portland.

Our new friend across the street looked familiar, and we couldn't place her, until we realized she used to work at the Dancing Goat. Amy from the Dolly Ranchers worked there too.

There was no coffee culture in Shelton but we only lived there to be close to my grandmother, who was dying in hospice. I was so upset about losing my grandma I couldn't drink coffee for about a year. Then we moved to Portland.

We lived just off 20th and Clinton, about a block from The Habit. Byron went there every day, and struck up a friendship with Lynn and JJ. That is where he first encountered Gabriel, a young single dad from Colorado. While my daughter was in half-day kindergarten I lurked at the Flying Saucer Cafe. We had our wedding reception there and watched with horror as our wedding showed up on the evening news.

The Flying Saucer is now the Red and Black Collective, and I've done events there a couple of times. The Habit is gone (and I wonder if the terminals are still stored in a basement somewhere?) but Lynn is a really good friend, a kind and helpful person, and I am one of her biggest fans. I couldn't have kept the sites up these many years without her technical assistance and advice.

Gabriel turned up at the co-op and we sat in the hallway together hiding from the normal parents and eventually he went on the Breeder tour, and to Italy with me. He lives in our Portland house now with a woman Byron knows from a tiny alternative high school in the mountains of Colorado. After high school she managed the coffee shop all the kids went to in Denver. Gabriel & Danielle are expecting a baby this spring.

Toward the end of our time in Portland I was the chair of the IPRC board of directors. I met this nice guy named Keith, and after our terms ended he and his friend Robin opened a coffee shop, Crowsenberg's Half and Half, right next to Reading Frenzy. Byron took a job with a start-up and they moved in to rooms across from and above the IPRC. Byron had coffee downstairs every day and I stopped in whenever I could.

Keith listened to us complaining about housing prices when we decided to move, and said his friend might be willing to sell. We called her, drove up, and bought the house we live in now.

Just about every good thing in my life: friends, true love, work, fun times with my kids, are all in some way connected to coffee.

I haven't found a coffee shop I enjoy in Seattle. I haven't looked. Maybe I'm too old now, maybe I feel that I have enough in my life.

But I do miss those old places.

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3.14.03 ides

We all know the famous line beware the ides of March.... but did you know that "ides" simply means the fifteenth of the month?

I have a specific reason to be wary: Byron has a birthday tomorrow! How old is he? If you ask him, he will say twenty-one. I doubt he actually knows the answer. But since he is two months younger than me, that means he is turning thirty-two.

Why should this wondrous day worry me? Because I am unable to come up with a fabulous plan for a celebration. We've been so busy... he is under deadline at work... all the normal frivolous excuses. I have email out to all of my local friends asking for creative ideas.

Since I haven't thought of a plan to do something with Byron, I'll use this space to review our love story:

We were roommates and disliked each other intensely. He hid my hairbrush. I evicted him.

He moved into a van in the driveway and had an extension cord running through the living room window. I unplugged it.

We lived in a tiny college town and traveled in an even smaller social circle. We were young and studious and sad and our friends were rather antagonistic. We drank coffee together, our school papers spreading out across the table.

I had a small daughter with big ideas and if she didn't like someone she would spit in their face or kick them in the shin. She loved Byron so much she shared her gummy bears with him. She rode on his shoulders, patted his face with her sticky little fingers.

My doctor said I had to have cancer tests. Byron drove me to the grim military hospital and waited in the dirty lobby, then drove me home again.

I was tangled up in misplaced romantic commitments. He was dallying with all the wrong people (usually a roommate or roommates girlfriend).

One day my daughter was visiting grandparents and Byron asked would you like to come over and watch a video? and even though it was wrong and a continuation of our shared habit of poor dating choices, we stumbled into a relationship.

After a few weeks he said we can't live together and I said okay.

After a few more weeks I said you are paying rent for a room your roommates have taken over; since you never leave my house, maybe you should just move in and he said okay.

We were young when we met, and twenty-one turned into twenty-two and the years started to accumulate. I finished graduate school and he started his doctorate and we moved together into a murky adult future. Somewhere along the way, against all reason and our own stated philosophies, we fell in love. What a wonder - something precious and strange, not adolescent longing, not mutual pathology, not something we were looking for, not something either of us knew we wanted.

Surrounded by cynical indie rockers and anti-everything punks, we both worked hard to get through school, be decent, raise a small child. It should have been hard. The pressure and the lack of community should have broken us up. But somehow we drifted into a sustainable and rewarding and interesting and fun love story, and every year has been better than the last.

This is true love - real, factual, practical love. We have shared poverty, emergency room trips, the deaths of friends and family and mentors, a life-threatening pregnancy, the care of a premature infant. We both finished graduate school; and someone has always held down a real job to maintain health insurance and feed the kids.

Byron is the only person I have ever known who will hold me when I cry, who allows me to be vulnerable, who honors all of my strange self. But more than that: we have fun, more fun than I ever imagined was possible. We are eager to see each other at the end of each day, we talk into the night, we laugh together and have crazy adventures, we find grace in the fact of our family.

My daughter is as tall as me and she doesn't remember a time in her life when she didn't know Byron. Our son, at six, is nearly up to my shoulders. He will be a tall man like his dad, easily six foot six or taller. The children are eccentric in their own charismatic ways, but healthy and happy, reflecting the integrity of our family.

Byron turns thirty-two tomorrow. He is charming and intelligent and flirtatious and funny. He works hard, and he listens, and I respect him.

I feel lucky that he is my friend.

Happy birthday, Byron!

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3.13.03 magnetism

I've never been able to wear a watch. Something about my body chemistry makes time pieces break - after relatively short periods, say a day or so, the watch simply stops keeping time.

I've also never been able to bake any recipe using yeast. For years I tried to get bread to rise, with no luck at all. Even under supervision with expert cooks, it was a hopeless effort.

But when we went to Disneyland I needed to be able to coordinate time so we didn't lose either grandmother or teenage girls; so I bought a cheap watch, figuring it would last for at least a day or two, long enough to establish our routine at the park.

Yesterday I looked at my wrist and realized that the watch was still running, after a month of daily use. What a surprise! I stood in the aisle at grocery store, staring at my wrist, then looked up. I was in front of the baking supplies. How could I pass up the cosmic challenge?

I didn't want to be overly optimistic so I bought a packet of organic, pre-mixed bread. I took it home and the children made brownies while I kneaded and poked.

I set the dough in a warm place with a cover and then paced around, wondering if the experiment would work. At the appointed moment I peeked under the towel:

My loaf was rising!

In the end, it wasn't a perfectly shaped dome, but it was a legitimate, properly prepared organic loaf. Very dense, very tasty.

I wonder what else has changed inside my body, if my external magnetism has altered so radically.

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3.12.03 gag

From the Human Rights Campaign:

The Bush administration announced an expansion of the "Global Gag Rule," or "Mexico City Policy," on Feb. 14. The expanded rule prohibits foreign family planning organizations and HIV/AIDS prevention organizations that receive U.S. funds from discussing or providing abortion as an option in their overall family planning message.

The president made the expansion via executive order, however, before his decision, members of Congress were discussing the expansion. HRC sent a letter to senators serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asking them to oppose the change in law. In the aftermath of the decision, HRC joined more than 130 other organizations in asking President Bush to oppose this expansion. The letter also was sent to key staff members from the White House, State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Health and Human Services. HRC will continue to oppose this expansion and any congressional move to place it in statute.

For the full text of the letter, visit:

Letter of opposition

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3.12.03 netherworld

Cancer is a normal evolutionary characteristic, a legitimate biological device to limit population growth. There are many diseases that are influenced or triggered by environmental factors: cancer, auto-immune disorders, respiratory diseases like asthma.

All of those and many others we know from history, along with emergent diseases like HIV or prion infections, are rising. Specifically in countries that do not have strong environmental protections, like the United States.

Cancer rates in this country - in specific regions and communities - are not normal. It is in fact a horrific fallacy to allow ourselves as a society to accept cancer as a fact of life, when that fact is bleeding across the margins of any rational definition.

We have already relegated asthma - a debilitating, deadly disorder - to a netherworld of fiction and dreams: many people believe that it is a psychological disorder rather than a physiological disease. Yes, asthma is influenced by emotional factors. But the degree of the disease has much more to do with tangible factors like proximity to polluting industries, shoddy housing, poor nutrition, poverty.

I was sick at a very young age, and when I went to college I was shocked to hear the "mind-body" argument that disease is caused by negative thinking. It would have taken a dump truck full of bad karma to wish skin cancer on to my sensitive infant skin, destroy my thyroid, set lupus ravaging my immune system. My cancer - my disease, genetic disorder, whatever you want to call it - was not caused by bad thoughts.

In all the current talk of war, there is very little recognition of the environmental terror that will be unleashed. Radiation, chemical contamination, and all the mysterious poisonous gasses will not stay where we throw them. Those toxins will circulate throughout the world, killing our enemies, but also poisoning the water and air that we will eventually need. Killing our unborn babies, maiming our infants, changing our DNA, eroding the health of generations of people.

I'm not being melodramatic. This is science, statistically defined reality.

Post-Diagnosis

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3.12.03 burden

I never watch television. We own two sets, but one hasn't been programmed to receive a signal, and the other has a broken antenna mended by the children with aluminum foil and a toy parrot in a basket. The only show that comes through clearly is Bewitched, and I don't plan to increase our media consumption. Life is scary enough without seeing this:

From Seventh Generation:

Just a few weeks ago, I saw one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen on television. It didn't involve bachelorettes, gratuitous violence, any of the Osbournes, or the evening news. In fact, on the face of it, the thing I saw was completely innocuous, even helpful in its way. What I found so terrible about it was what it really meant. And when I read this message hidden between its lines, I was as stunned as IÕve ever been.

For more click here:

A Burden We Must Choose To No Longer Bear

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3.11.03 topsy-turvy

The other evening we watched the movie Topsy Turvy, about the creative collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan. One of the significant differences of opinion in their creative relationship was about the concept of topsy-turvy as a narrative device. They could not agree on what constituted legitimate plot structure. Do human interactions play out in a reasonable, predictable fashion, according to etiquette and protocol? Or is there an element of life that is purely backwards, a magical and improbable moment when everything is turned upside down: topsy-turvy?

Precisely at the moment I feel most healthy, most happy or content, I think perhaps I should do some research on this dratted disease. I set off for the medical library, or since the digital revolution, start picking through esoteric research papers available online. I ignore the patient advocacy sites because they are for the people still dwelling in the why and I only care about the what.

To call it a disease is inherently misleading. It is a syndrome, with approximately thirty different diagnostic criteria. I have four of the primary symptoms required for diagnosis, but even then, my physicians were unable to solve the mystery until after the sixth major surgery. At that point I had been sick for a decade.

But no, not even then; it was a year later when my oral surgeon, aghast at the new cysts in my jaw, asked if I had any strange moles. I pulled down the neck of my shirt to show him the lesions my dermatologist had refused to biopsy because they were just skin tags.

The oral surgeon reached out a hand covered with a latex glove, drew it back, looked at my mother. But this is skin cancer, he said with a frown.

He was a nice man. He was sad to give us the news. Rare genetic disorder. Autosomal dominant condition. Multiple organ involvement. Devastation, despair.

I was thirteen years old.

No, wait, be honest: it is not just one syndrome. There are two distinct genetic disorders, a rare endocrine cancer not related to either, and an auto-immune disorder as the bonus prize after years of treatments.

Enough illness and uncertainty to destroy ideals, to maim or kill any child.

But this must be wrong; I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. I had friends, I went to school, I published a zine that offers no mention of illness. I had a Judy Blume diary and one entry in 1983 says I was diagnosed with cancer today and the rest is devoted to books, movies, neighborhood rivalries, the guinea pigs I was breeding and selling to pet stores.

The only record of the illness is contained in plain manila files stored in the basements of medical facilities scattered across three counties, incomplete and misleading. There are scars on my body, but they have faded, and if you look at pictures of me in my youth, the scars were always covered.

The disease -- the disorder was just topsy-turvy, something to interrupt normal life. It wasn't real, it wasn't me.

I'm healthy, happy, busy. I don't have time for the intrusions of cancer or physicians, and for the past year I've elected not to pay attention or go to appointments. I've been writing, we moved.

Yesterday I was bored and looked up a description of the disease, more of a laundry list. Don't wash whites with reds, and yes, that thing you have been poking on your face is cancer.

Topsy-turvy. Cancer, biopsy, forgetting again.

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3.9.03 event

The Portland Zine Symposium will take place August 1 - 4. Rumor has it there will be child care this year. Either way, the event is interesting, relevant, and great fun:

Symposium

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3.8.03 fate

My horoscope for the week insists that I will have a flash of significant, serious good luck, that the work I do this week will become the signature work of my life.

Well. Okay. I guess that I had better get busy.

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3.6.03 points

I am by nature a cheapskate so there wasn't much danger I would gamble away the family nest egg; I didn't even take mad money with me. I stuck to penny and nickel slots and very small bets, $1 here and there, and had a lot of fun. One evening I was tapping away at my penny game and the woman next to me started to win big -- she bet $10 and racked up 8,000 points. I sat back and watched her and started to feel jealous of her success. Why couldn't I score big points? I went back to my fifty cent bet and watched my points go up and down between 5 and 120.

On the last evening I was feeling kind of sad from excessive exposure to mainstream culture and sat there playing a penny slot enchanted princess game. The princess is trying to find her prince and whenever you score, a unicorn shows up and whinnies before dissolving. I started to think about what my life could have been like if I had made a series of appropriate choices. Still living in the county, definitely unhappy, probably sick, in a sad relationship. I thought about how horrible and painful it felt to love people who were totally destroyed.

I got more and more sad and freaked out and the sadder I felt, the more points I won, and when my mother found me I had over 20,000.

I hit the cash out button and my winnings totalled $267.90

Maybe thats the real secret to winning at Vegas: excessive nostalgia for all the wrong things.

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3.5.03 water

I went to Las Vegas with my mother to attend the second largest gift trade show on the continent. There were approximately 3,000 vendors showing wares in three different convention halls. The vast majority of the stuff was literally garbage - items to stock dollar stores, the bizarre and cheap ephemera of modern life. It took the better part of three days to see about half of the show.

There were a few punks wandering around in a daze, looking even more confused and bedraggled than me.

By the end of the first day, I was dehydrated and halfway out of my mind. I had to leave my mother in the hotel room (with a view of the volcano) and go out in search of seltzer.

The best I could manage was an upscale Italian restaurant inside the hotel. I ordered my seltzer and sat there and drank my way studiously through the whole bottle, and then ordered another. The waiter looked surprised and when the busboy came with the bottle he pointed and it and said open? in a shocked voice. When I nodded he shrugged and wrenched off the top.

It cost $7.00 per bottle for that beverage. I felt much better after I finished the second half liter. I couldn't justify the expense (water at home running $1.00 per liter, water in Italy costing a negligible amount) so by the end of the stay, I had developed a nasty rash. I'm a sensitive flower and need tending.

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3.3.03 parade

Las Vegas. Where else on earth could I see a parade in the sky, extreme arialists, a magic show, a buffet designed to look like a Parisian village, hardcore alcoholics and gamblers, crying babies and pirate ships, a volcano, and flashing three story kitsch neon, all in one day?

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