So, after over two months in the hospital, ICU, and rehab (skilled nursing facility), mom just arrived home. We’re waiting for the cat to figure out she’s here.
She still hasn’t had any of her surgery, but she’s recovered really well.
Mom’s finally moved out of the hospital into rehab, which is great. She’s there to build up strength so that they can do the hernia surgery safely. They will also have to remove her gall bladder, but that is less of a problem at this point. Unfortunately, they can’t do both at once (unless they have to to save pt’s life), since the hernia needs a clean field, and the gallbladder’s considered a dirty surgery (meaning one with lots of chance for infection).
Our friend is house sitting and cat sitting, and since the cat loves him (and will actually show up when he calls), that’s a good thing.
We’re on a trip that mom was supposed to join us on, but obviously couldn’t. We’ll do something later that’s more of a “her” trip, since this was definitely a my thing trip. She probably won’t be cleared for travel for several months, though.
Mom’s moved to a room on a different floor, so she’s now out of the ICU.
Also, Rick posted a comment yesterday that clarifies what she’s up to: > I was over there yesterday and a couple of times today, and Deirdre’s been over there, too. Cheryl started physical therapy this afternoon. Predictably and as I warned her, it was tough sledding for her. I didn’t get a full account of what they had her do, but it seems to have included her at least standing up for a while if not walking a bit.
One of the nurses was by, as was a social worker, and both separately talked to me about Cheryl’s condition and possible next steps. The nurse seemed to suggest that it’ll probably be a couple of more weeks before Cheryl can be released to the outside skilled nursing facility (SNF). The social worker detailed four SNFs in the surrounding cities we’re likely to be able to choose among, so I got the names of all of those, so we can visit them. She also speculated that Cheryl may be cleared to be transferred to the regular hospital ward and out of the ICU within a few days. The nurse suggested that Cheryl might need to do some substantial amount of physical therapy before she is cleared for the needed hernia surgery, but this sounded a lot like speculation on his part, and really, as with much else, it’s up to the attending physician. Anyway, I do agree it’s sadly unlikely that we’re getting Cheryl home for quite a few more weeks, but the good news is that she is still getting steadily better.
In other good if belated news, Cheryl is now using a CPAP ( = continuous positive airway pressure) machine, borrowed from the hospital, when she sleeps, so that she isn’t continually woken out of REM sleep by brief cessations of breathing (as happens with a small percentage of people). I am told this extra-fancy CPAP machine is technicaly a BiPAP ( = bilevel positive airway pressure) machine, in which both breathing-in and breathing-out pressures are regulated. What I hear is that Cheryl had tried and disliked the regular machine she had at home, and had given up on it and given it to Deirdre after Deirdre had a sleep study concluded that she needed one. Apparently, Cheryl is now sold on (at least) the BiPAP, if not on CPAPs generally, as she now is reporting restful sleep that she’d been unable to get before. So, obviously, she’s really needed one all along.
About 25 years ago, I dated a doctor for a while. One night we spent together, he said, “did you know you have sleep apnea?”
I didn’t even know what that was, and treatment options were limited back then (even though the CPAP concept was invented in 1980), so I just filed it away and eventually looked it up.
Finally, I’d gotten enough cash to get a sleep study, and the center had a couple months of backlog. My appointment was for the end of November.
My first husband died on November 15th, and the last I saw of him was on a ventilator. The sleep study? I just couldn’t. While a CPAP isn’t a ventilator, it was just too close, and I couldn’t handle it emotionally.
A couple of years later, my dad wound up getting a CPAP and would wax poetic about how much he liked it, but the mask over the mouth still freaked me out. Then I went to Clarion, and could not stay awake. The mental exhaustion on top of everything else was too much. At that time, I wished I’d gotten a CPAP, but obviously I couldn’t in the middle of Clarion.
Then my mom got a CPAP. Tried it. Hated it.
A few months later, our friend Ross mentioned his CPAP, saying he’d been most successful with a nasal interface (aka nasal pillows). That turns out to not hit the same emotional button for me as the mouth interface. I decided to try my mom’s CPAP out.
The first night? Slime city. I’d suffered from chronic sinus problems all my life, and it cleaned everything out. Even though I got very little actual sleep, I sure felt better the next day. The next two nights I also struggled with adapting, but I slept better both nights than I had in years.
Went to my doc, told the tale (including both parents having been diagnosed), and I was pushed to the front of Kaiser’s queue for an at-home sleep study. The resp doc was on vacation the day after I saw him, but he called me from vacation to let me know that I should go in to get a CPAP as soon as humanly possible.
I’ve been on a CPAP ever since, and I’m on my third machine. I no longer have chronic sinus problems. Though I never had serious acid reflux problems, those are also rarer and less severe than they were before the CPAP. (Though that is not universal; some have worse problems on CPAP.)
There have been exactly two downsides for me. First, I’m more prone to nosebleeds than I was before, though consistent use of Ayr Nasal Gel prevents that problem. Second, I have to plan when and where I sleep more. I can’t just catch a nap and expect to be well rested.
Which is a very long way of saying: I’m glad my mom is finally happy using a CPAP, though technically, they’ve put her on a BiPAP (which has different pressures for inhale/exhale). It took me a long time to get there, but I’m glad my mom’s finally on the same page.
Oh, and a weird thing? When we got tested initially, my father, mother, and I all had the exact same air pressure settings.
Two weeks and almost two days after the cascade failure, mom is off the ventilator and onto a cannula delivering extra oxygen is all that she’s got now.
It was really nice hearing her speak after so long.
She’s down to two IVs: food and pain meds. Still has some of the other meds injected, but they no longer need to be IVs, which is huge progress (she was on at least three heart meds, one of which was pretty toxic but super-critical).
Physically, she was more alert and happily watching HGTV. After several days where she wasn’t seeming to want to do anything, that’s the best news of all.
We had a good talk with the nurse.
She’s down to half the dosage she had yesterday on pain meds, so that’s good. I had quite the scare this morning when they tried to call and I accidentally hung up when I fumbled answering the phone.
Turns out they just needed to have firm consent on one item, and even though they have her okay, she’s on strong enough pain meds they can’t assure her consent while she’s on a ventilator.
After I thought about it, I realized it was probably almost always dicey to get consent when one’s in the ICU. Which begs the question: if you are alone and have no known next of kin, what the heck are they supposed to do? That’s a really interesting question.
Anyhow, mom’s had five hours on ventilator assist, so she was breathing on her own for five hours. So they’re rehabbing her, hoping to get her off the antibiotics in a day or two, and once she’s healed from this portion, then they’re going to look at getting her hernia repaired.
This a continuation of the medical saga that began here.
Where we were as of a couple of hours ago:
I’ll add updates to this post rather than to the comments.
I started writing this post because I wanted to say something about how our cat Tanner is handling it. We got our cat at a local shelter five years ago. Tanner bonded to my mom as her Primary Person, and she’s been just distraught since mom’s gone. Obviously, we don’t smell like mom when we come home, because hospital mom doesn’t smell like Tanner expects.
One of Tanner’s quirks is that during any period of time (and I mean weeks or months), the cat will have only one “spot” in the house. Or no spots in the house. Sometimes that’s my ottoman, but usually it’s mom’s bed. The other thing is that the cat spends most of her time outdoors, even when it’s cold and wet. She doesn’t spend time indoors when we’re not around, typically.
Rick and I (and our friend Duncan) had just gotten home from the hospital and we were calling the cat to get her to come to the back door and come in. After quite a while of that, she decided to show up from inside the house—she’d been in mom’s room all along.
First, for those of you who don’t know, my mom’s been in the hospital. The short version is that she’d had a gallstone, and that had caused diarrhea and vomiting, and she went to the ER a week ago Tuesday.
They transferred her to a hospital room. A few days ago, it looked like she’d be getting out of the hospital, and they’d do the gallbladder surgery in a few weeks when everything had calmed down.
Then she took a turn for the worse three days ago. Not a huge turn, just a slight detour. She wasn’t getting out of the hospital after all. She’d seemed better the day before yesterday, per Rick, and then somewhat more fragile last night. Not hugely so, just somewhat.
One of the things she’s complained about over the last few days is pain from a hernia that has needed repair. That, as it turns out, has been a huge factor in the cascading crisis.
I got a call at 4 am from the hospital saying they had to transfer her to the ICU. She’d gone into atrial fibrillation, and they needed to stabilize her.
I got another call at 8:30 in the morning. They had her somewhat stabilized, but there was a bigger problem: the hernia’s completely blocked, preventing things draining normally through the gastrointestinal system.
Which means, of course, she vomited up the fluids, got a significant bunch in one lung, which is called aspiration pneumonia. So she’s on 100% oxygen to help with that.
As a complication of all this, she’s also got sepsis, and they need to go in there to fix the hernia.
Except that she’s got one of the classic side effects of atrial fibrillation (and everything else: low blood pressure. They had to put her on two meds to bring her blood pressure up to a workable range.
And anesthesia will lower it. (Okay, this is an oversimplification, but a) I’m not a specialist in this area, and b) I have had two hours of sleep, so that’s as complicated as I can be right now.)
They just get her heart rhythm back to normal with defibrillation (but defib increases risk of stroke), and they think they have her stable enough to do the emergency surgery.
There are also renal failure complications and she may need to be on dialysis, but they can’t do that now because dialysis also lowers the blood pressure.
It’s a big cascade failure and they are doing what they can, but it’s pretty touch and go right now. The heart rhythm improvement is the first positive sign we’ve had since she was admitted to the ICU.
My mom had been putting off the hernia repair surgery, and things wouldn’t have gone sideways this far if that had already been done. If you or someone you know have been putting hernia repair off, please show them this.
My official 9th grade photo.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the missing stair analogy of late. For those who don’t know it, it’s the concept that people learn how to warn other group members of a specific member’s vile behavior. After a while, because “everyone knows,” they become like a missing stair everyone knows to step over. Except everyone’s not an insider.
Growing up in a household with abuse is like that missing stair, except it’s the missing doorknob to go outside, the missing section of the floor between you and the monsters, and the missing stair (which leads to different monsters). You learn pretty quickly what escalates vs. what does not and how best to cope—which doesn’t mean that it’s all good by any stretch of the imagination.
When you get out into life, having routed around the doorknob-floor-and-stair problem all your life, you really don’t know how to deal with the fact that the world is full of people whose houses have fully-functional stairs, doorknobs, and floors. It had never occurred to you that floors should be actual floors. And they think you’re pretty strange for that odd jump you do five stairs below the landing.
Some of the problems out there—that poor bastard is missing a whole roof—are even worse.
Sometimes your coping strategies will get you into more trouble, especially when you interact with people you think get you but are broken in differently horrible ways.
I remember not long after leaving Scientology, I was dealing with all of these missing-stair-like problems unraveling at once. As I described it one day, I felt like I’d teleported suddenly into a different emotional landscape where I was blindfolded, everything was in an unfamiliar place, and all the furniture was pointy.
That shift was permanent, and it took some time to get used to, but I remember the imagery that went along with trying to describe it.
Really, I stopped putting up with missing stairs.
Photo credit: Niklas Sjöblom
My mother (Cheryl Morris, who’s commented on my blog before) used to be a social worker. Some of the stories she’s told me are horrifying.
Yesterday morning she pointed out that, in the US, child welfare laws came out of the movements to prevent cruelty to animals, something she was surprised by when she became a social worker. After our conversation, she sent me this link from an SPCA site.
In 1874 when the first case of child abuse was alleged, a horribly graphic case of a young girl beaten, it was the ASPCA that was called to advocate for the child. At the time, children were considered property and there were no laws against their abuse. However, there were animal-protection laws in place and the girl was successfully defended by using the animal protection law, since, her attorney argued, she was an animal. Subsequently, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children rapidly came into existence. The link between violence to children and violence to animals has been studied ever since.
So, there you go.
We have a crow fledgling that’s been involved in several adventures where my mom’s gone to protect the little dear.
Crows have a very complex family structure, and our fledgling’s parents are very involved in their baby’s upbringing.
We had the plumber in the house yesterday, and had him look at a side issue.
He said our toilets were installed weird, and that they’d continue to leak occasionally until we got new ones. Essentially, they’re mounted too high and they’ve always rocked a bit, so they don’t really seat on the wax seal right, and yada yada yada.
It was decided by His Benevolence that we should get new ones.
You guys are welcome to get two—and also to get WHATEVER you
think best. I plead for no scary Japanese AI-driven waterclosets, but
leave the choice to your joint discretion.
No washlets with heated seats?
What kind of cruel and inhumane husband are you? 🙂
To which Rick replied that Scary Japanese AI-Driven Watercloset is his next garage band name.
But then I remember accidentally setting the flush sound on a Japanese hotel room washlet—and the hilarity that ensued when I tried to fix it and hit the wrong buttons. Several of the wrong buttons.
Mom’s accepted an offer (over asking price) on her place. It was on the market for less than a week.
I hadn’t had coffee this morning when I looked out the window in Medford, Oregon and saw snow high on the mountains.
I thought, “Wow, it’s April and there’s still snow?”
When I lived in Vermont, the more obvious answer would have occurred to me: I didn’t notice it last night because the snow fell overnight.
As we began driving south, ascending toward Ashland pass, I was surprised to see snow hitting the windshield. By that time, I’d had two cups of coffee. The snow stuck on the trees, which was really pretty, so I’m glad I got to see it.
After we reached the summit, no snow. 🙁
We drove south to Yreka, where I found a pretty good drive-through coffee joint. However, not knowing if their coffee was any good, I decided to order a cinnamon latte.
South of Redding, storm clouds loomed. In colder times, they’d be snow clouds. These, however, were the “buckets of water” kind of clouds. It can’t snow in that kind of volume, actually. I have only seen this kind of rain in the tropics before.
We got all the way through the first storm front and most of the way through the second before the hail started.
Then, as we were approaching Vacaville on 505, not only did the rain stop, but we saw our first patch of blue sky all day.
Something was in the road. Something largeish. I slowed down.
I kid you not, a wild turkey crossed the road.
Since the only time I’ve previously encountered wild turkeys on the road, I was coming around a bend and hit them, I’m glad to say that today’s survived quite nicely.
Our next stop was in Vacaville, where we had uninspiring Mexican food.
From there, we proceeded south, then headed west before reaching Vallejo to cross around the top of the bay and go south in Marin. To me, the drive across 37 at the top of the bay is one of the prettiest parts. If you need to get to/from San Francisco to Sacramento on a nice day and you haven’t been that route, try it sometime.
I also love crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, though I don’t do it often. Such an awesome piece of engineering.
Then, around 6 pm, we finally arrived home. Sooooo glad to be home!
During my absence, the wrought iron guys finally brought the stair railing for the back. It looks great.
Oh, and it sounds like my mom may have an offer for her house already.
Got to say, though I’m normally not a Hampton Inn lover (because Hilton Garden Inn has better breakfast), the Hampton Inn in Dupont, Washington is awesome and very modern and trendy.
Had a beautiful day driving from there to Medford, Oregon, where we stayed at a more typical Hampton Inn.
We’ve left. We’ve left without the single thing I cared about, possession-wise. We left with almost all the things my mom cared most about.
After that, it was a thousand gnats, each of them annoying.
I got some writing done on the ferry. I also wrote some code on the ferry, which means I broke some code on the ferry. I didn’t have time to finish fixing it (as I was re-factoring something), so I was annoyed about that.
Why is it that when you’re land crossing the border between US and Canada returning to the US, and you have a Global Entry card, the people with Canada’s NEXUS cards get priority going through and you don’t? This has annoyed me more than once. Sure, I could get NEXUS, but I started with Global Entry.
Not that that would have affected us today, as it would have been bad form to not have that conversation given the carload of stuff we were bringing back. When we started listing what we had, the guy just wanted to know if we had any food. “A couple of unopened bottles of alcohol, but that’s it.”
He waved us through. Thank you Mr. Border Guy.
This time, we managed to get to Renton, home of Smoking Monkey Pizza for dinner at same. I love this place. While there, I checked my email. Note from my doctor’s office, probably about the refills I requested at the end of day yesterday.
Yeah, so apparently my new doc completely forgot that conversation we had about why this was working the way it was and what the plan was. And said no to the refill.
This…is going to require an ER visit if it doesn’t get sorted. The symptoms can be life threatening. I’m hoping he remembers the conversation because I may just go to the ER before I run out. Because reasons.
I am just hellaciously pissed off about the whole thing. Yes, I feel the new doc actually does correctly understand the source of the pain, but that doesn’t mean that the other shit that got messed up doesn’t need to be fixed. Nor does it mean that my body magically adopts biochemistry compatible with new doc’s treatment plan. Don’t we wish.
I fixed the code. It required another 3 minutes. So near to sanity, and yet so far.
We did miss this 6.7 earthquake by leaving Vancouver Island earlier in the day, so there’s that.
Also, my wordcount for the last 7 days is higher than the 7 previous days (I keep daily and running-7-day counts), so that’s good too.
My usual daily quota right now is around 2,000 words. I budgeted zero words on the two driving days up and near-zero words on the three driving days back on this trip. Nor did I expect normal word counts while I’m up here.
Here’s how many words I wrote on each day of the trip, by day:
Overall, still less than I hoped for, but I’m glad I didn’t let life completely kick me in the ass.
Tomorrow is our first day driving back.
I’m really hoping that one of the childhood heirlooms of mine that still hasn’t been produced can be found and obtained before we leave. It’s an absolutely stupid thing of no commercial value, but it’s such a unique memorabilia piece from my life and so appropriate to this trip, I can’t imagine not having it.
It’s from the trip we took to San Clemente Island one year, when the military mixed up the schedule and accidentally authorized us anchorage at Pyramid Cove at the same time they were shelling the island from a destroyer five miles out. They weren’t missing by much, not even when they went ten or fifteen miles out, so we felt pretty safe exploring the island well away from the target range. So we did. I also remember snorkeling through the kelp beds to get bait for fishing.
In the mid-80s, my mom and my late stepfather moved up to Vancouver Island. They lived in Port Alberni for a time, then built a house on almost 13 acres of land in Courtenay.
Her former partner’s been living in it as the caretaker. He hasn’t mentioned any maintenance issues. He hasn’t mentioned no running water in the kitchen.
That may be, in part, because this is the kitchen….
I’m going to call him jerkwad because that’s as polite as I can be.
Our last few days went something like this:
Saturday: met with listing agent, met briefly with jerkwad when he brought stuff from the house to our hotel.
Sunday: visited the outside of the house, where we got a sense of maintenance issues. Roof looked dodgy to me. Jerkwad would not let my mother in the house. I was shocked at how poorly cared for it was on the outside. Then again, I do remember the place when it was almost new.
Monday: went with listing agent to the house. Jerkwad let her in, but not my mom. Listing agent was trying to talk to me while jerkwad was talking to mom. I wrote on agent’s pad that mom feared the house would be a total writeoff. Agent said she thought I was right, just based on what little she’d seen. We regroup with agent later on in the day and mom lists the property as is for a lot less than she’d been intending to.
Tuesday: Mom calls jerkwad, tells him she’s coming over.
He leaves a note in a box that basically reads as he’s not giving her permission to enter. Mom starts to call the RCMP, but I point out that it’s safer for us to visit their office rather than wait on property. So we go.
RCMP points out (I already knew this) that it may be complicated as to whether he’s even considered a tenant since he was supposed to be a caretaker. The constable calls jerkwad, who suddenly says of course we can enter the property.
It’s a total hazmat zone. There are rat/mice droppings. The kitchen is, well, you saw it above.
The place isn’t even up to being a teardown. It’s vile and disgusting.
This used to be the beautiful custom home my parents designed and hoped to live in the rest of their lives.
Mom and I are going to drive up to Canada.
I’ve driven to Seattle before, and I’ve driven from Seattle to Vancouver before. However, the next stage is the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, which I’ve never taken (I’ve always flown).
I’ve also never been to Victoria before, so I’m excited that we’re going there, too, probably on the return. We may have some time for a quick visit on the way up or back, but I’m guessing that our timing is going to pretty much miss anything of interest in Portland. Seattle’s more possible.
I went to three different “high schools” during 9th-12th grade. My first year, I was in the Los Angeles school district, which counted 9th grade as a part of middle school (then called junior high school).
Then I switched from living with my mother and stepfather to living with my father and stepmother—shortly after that, just my father. Thus, I moved to Irvine, where high school was four years, not three.
I spent the first two years at University High School. And then, in March of my junior year, something amazing happened.
I wanted to get a shorter schedule for my senior year—having met all academic requirements except for a couple of classes and a few credits—so that I could take college classes during part of the school day.
The school counselor told me that was against the law.
I remember being livid. I told my dad, feeling completely shut out, and he said, “Laws are public.” Meaning, you can look them up. So we went to the UC Irvine library, and I looked it up (my dad encouraged me, but he made me do the work, which was a good call on his part). Copied the relevant laws, which basically said, no it wasn’t illegal, but I needed school and parental permission and there were some boundaries to follow.
I take the copies back to the school counselor and say, “Could you please show me where it says it’s illegal? Because I’m not seeing it.”
He conceded that the law did not say that, but would not sign off on my having an alternative schedule.
During my sophomore year, I’d grown to like a teacher I never had as one of my own teachers. He led the gifted & talented program, but in my junior year, he’d moved to head the new alternative high school. So I made an appointment with him.
Sure, he said, not a problem. We can work around your college schedule. And they did.
So I wound up taking things like college French, Computer Programming, and Calculus at the same time I was taking high school Physics, English, and (I cannot make this up) Independent Study Table Tennis.
Because, you see, there’s huge tracts of land at the school for sports. (Not.) My high school building was an industrial tilt-up mere blocks from the DeLorean headquarters in Irvine. Yes, while DeLorean was there. Drove by it every morning.
There was a volleyball court outside and a couple of table tennis tables inside. There was also a smoking area outside, and students were sometimes smoking with the faculty. Not everyone smoked tobacco, but that’s a different story.
Oh, and I had a class in horticulture. I can’t remember why. I had to go to a garden plot by Irvine Valley College and tend to it. Which I did.
To give you an idea of how unusual this place is, the yearbook had about 86 people in it. Everyone was alphabetized by first name, students and teachers mixed together. Hippie sensibilities that we were all people and all in this learning thing together. And yes, teachers were called by their first names. If you were feeling particularly formal, you could call them “teach.”
The class size was amazing. While there were classes that had a dozen or two dozen students, the largest class I had was 8 students. Eight. Because of that, I felt far more involved than I ever had before.
I hope someone has photos of the incredible artwork on the walls. Every year, at least one new wall would be painted. Class of 1983 (not one of my years) mural by Gary Guymon and Diana Scheifen:
My high school was then called S.E.L.F. (Secondary Education Learning Facility, iirc). It’s now known as Creekside. Technically, due to the way the Irvine school district was at the time, I graduated from University.
Despite the industrial outside, S.E.L.F. had a soft and cushy lingering-hippie sensibility on the inside, especially with the artwork. I missed being in band, orchestra, and choir—S.E.L.F. had none of those—but I got real creative freedom that I hadn’t had before.
Sometimes the safe and established choice isn’t the right choice.
I can relate to more of this article, originally a study about the underlying history of obese people, than I can easily express.
I don’t have a typical build. This has been annoying for most of my life in some weird ways, especially in interactions with men and doctors.
For example, being told, within the same month, by my doctor that I was anorexic (and needed to gain weight) and the Navy that I was overweight (and if I wanted to join, I’d have to lose 17 pounds).
What I took away from that was that weight was confusing. If I felt okay, I was okay, right?
Catch is, of course, that I no longer feel okay. Weight is a part of the problem.
As mentioned in the article, a lot of kinds of harassment (by men) stopped when I reached a certain weight threshold. I stopped getting catcalled. I stopped having men tell me what mood I should be in. It was a relief. It was something I had control over.
Because “beauty” was no longer apparently a primary factor, I started being taken seriously for my technical skills. I still remember the first time I met a pretty woman who wanted to be an engineer. And I wondered why she wanted to become an engineer. Now, I wouldn’t wonder, but it was odd back then. I’d known so few female engineers, and none in the field she was interested in (mechanical). Now I wish I’d taken the time to learn more from her.
Then, a few years later, I got a serious marriage proposal from an on-again, off-again relationship I had. Unfortunately, it had strings attached: if I were of a “normal weight.” We went out to dinner (there’s some irony I never saw before, heh) so I could tell him no.
He still thinks that phrasing was a big mistake in his life, but there was a lot more to it than that. We just weren’t a good enough fit overall. It’s one of those relationships where his experience of who we were and mine were miles apart.
There were also downsides to the weight, of course. Like the guy you have a crush on who overlooks you, and you feel that weight is a significant factor. And you tell yourself, “What an ass,” but part of you wonders if you hadn’t been, well, you, if it would have turned out differently. And you hurt.
Despite what I was told, though, fewer men have a problem with it than I’d been led to expect. A lot of the “rules” about how women “should” behave stem from a time when many men were killed during wartime and there was a serious long-term disparity between available men and available women.
This. So much this.
I was assaulted by family members until I was nineteen. I don’t mean in a small way. I mean my stepmother actually used a cast iron skillet. She was not the only one. And yes, I limp. Coincidence? I’m not sure it is.
It’s a long and complicated story that feeds into why I joined Scientology, though it’s not why I joined per se. Where, I might add, people didn’t hit me, not even when I expected them to. (Yes, it’s sad when a cult is an improvement over your home life, but that was the truth. I’m also well aware that many Scientology stories, particularly those of Sea Org members, include horrific tales of violence.)
I am very, very fortunate that I have not turned out to be one of those people who hits others. I have never been in an abusive relationship as an adult. I have never hit a child.
But that wasn’t at all a given. I have worked to be a better person. I have worked to pick better people in my life.
Edited to add:
When I moved in with my first husband, I also acquired three stepsons in the bargain. The youngest, R-T, was a handful at age 5. My observation was that both of his parents were inconsistent about the rules they’d set. They’d set them, then let the kid break the boundaries with no consequences. As a result, R-T no longer listened.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, he’d actually been banned from my husband’s best friend’s house because of bad behavior.
There was an early formative moment in our relationship. We needed to run some errands, then we’d go to the ice cream shop (it was the first day it opened in spring, that much I remember). I was very clear: we’re doing A, B, C, D, then ice cream.
After A, he asked if we could do ice cream. I said, “You heard me say we were doing A, B, C, D, then ice cream. We have only done A.”
When he asked after B, I reminded him of what I’d said twice, “If you ask again, you will not get ice cream when we go to the ice cream shop.”
After C, he asked again.
Richard was very uncomfortable about enforcing the boundary, but Richard and I had ice cream and R-T did not.
And, you know what? He actually started listening after that. Not long after, he was allowed in the friend’s house again. Shocker, huh?
Now, I’m not saying that’s a solution for every problem with a kid, but you really can steer some kid behavior in meaningful ways.
(Repost of something I wrote on LiveJournal in 2010)
A while ago, Jay Lake talked about his privilege in his cancer treatment, and it got me to thinking about my privilege in a number of contexts.
I’m white, and that comes with power in our culture, but it’s not that that makes my own set of privileges interesting, at least I don’t think so.
Without further ado:
Not only did my father work in the sciences when I was born, so did my mother. Not only that, my mother appeared in a science textbook in the 1950s, as though that were perfectly normal. More to the point, I was raised thinking this were normal and common, and that is a very odd privilege indeed.
My parents worked at an atom smasher:
Later, my dad worked in aerospace. He worked on one of the Viking Lander projects (his specialty was mass specs, and the GCMS project was affectionately known as the “Green-colored Martian sniffer”). An early project where I worked for him was measuring the helium line of the sun. Later, he won a NASA prize for his work on the TOMS (ozone-mapping mass spec) project.
When I was a teenager, my father suggested I take a programming class. After I finished it, he asked me if I wanted to do programming — that’s how I got started on my career. He thought, correctly, that I would enjoy it, and his urging me to take classes like that was partly motivated by the fact that he didn’t enjoy programming that much but did have programming work that needed to be done. So it wasn’t just a class, it was the beginning of 35 years of work (so far) in the industry.
It was a long, long time before I met another female software engineer; I’ve never worked on a team that was even majority female. In many cases, I’ve been the only woman with a group of a handful to more than 30 male software engineers.
After my mom remarried, we always had a plane and a boat, and tended to travel places. I got to see a lot of places that other people just don’t. San Clemente Island while it was being shelled in a military exercise, for example.San Miguel Island, where a ton of stuff floating in from Japan landed on the long beach, and its odd caliche forest:
By far my favorite sea dish was the one I usually got to prepare–abalone. Abalone clings very hard to rocks and has to be pried not only off the rock but out of its shell. Once out, it doesn’t have the decency to just sit there and behave. No, it has to crawl all over. Abalone is inherently tough, so I would pound it with a meat tenderizer as it crawled across the cutting board. I’d stop wailing on it with the metal tenderizer and watch it to see if it had stopped moving, but it would curl up its edges and slide away.
So it’s hard for me to remember that some people have to fight to attend even two-year college, hard for me to remember that some people fight with their family about careers in the sciences and so on. It’s just so normal for me.
Then again, I grew up thinking radioactive hazard signs were normal, too….
So, yeah, I’m the weird kid, but I come by it honestly.
Because reasons, I started turning grey at age 16. Yes, in high school.
Early on in my software engineering career, this helped me because it made me look more experienced than I actually was.
A few years into my career, I was seriously dating a younger man, and it made him insecure because of my older appearance. He asked if I would consider coloring my hair. Note that it wasn’t a demand, just a request.
My natural hair color was a dark taupe, and I was never really happy with it. My skin color has a lot of red in it, and the lack of red in my natural hair color made it look odd. For a while, I tried to change my face color with makeup, but that looked even stranger to me. So I picked a random temporary dye color that I happened to like most. I didn’t think a lot about it, just grabbed a box.
He hated the color. Worse than the grey in his book. However, I happened to like it more because it went better with my coloring, and I’ve pretty much stuck with a similar hue ever since, though I do mix it up from time to time. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t last, though it wasn’t because of the hair color.
A few years ago, I decided to grow it out, then did a purple temporary color for a while. Here’s a picture of me after that had mostly washed out.
(I don’t always get to go to my favorite salon, Shear Perfection in Hollywood, but I did that time.)
Tanner is a rescue cat gotten when we had an elderly alpha cat and needed a beta. She’s always been skittish and prefers to spend most of her time outdoors.
Every November, she starts coming inside when it’s wet out, but she’s always avoided any of “my” spaces. She generally has 2-3 spots in the house and ignores the others.
One thing I know: cats love mohair (aka “momo”). When we went to Avoca in Ireland last year, we bought a mohair throw for the couch, which she ignored. A few weeks ago, I brought it out to my writing nook and left it on my ottoman. A few days ago, she decided that was a cool place to be.
This morning, when I got up, she was still there.
Every year, my body lets me know that it’s the annual period of mourning, aka the anniversary of my first husband’s death. (Which was Friday, fwiw.)
You know, you’d think that being happily remarried for several times as long as I knew my first husband would make the grief go away. Weirdly, it doesn’t.
The only way I can explain it now is that it’s like feeling like you’ve got half a flu. Not so much a dull ache in the chest as it used to be, just something experienced through the entire body like some ordinary pestilence.
When I was in college, I took a memoir writing class, and one of the in-class writing exercises we were to do was to write about “our mother’s cooking.” Or, if not our mother, who did the substantive cooking (which turned out to be a non-mother for a couple of people in the class).
There was a sameness to the stories: long, white kitchens, large meals of poultry, rather a blandness of cuisine that my family never shared.
Me? I wrote about the trimaran we built when I was a kid and the smell of the butane stove, the fun when people would go diving and bring back abalone. Then I got into an extended description of cutting abalone into pieces and having it still crawl across the cutting board, even while I was whaling on it with a meat tenderizer.
Abalone’s tough, you know. Really have to pound the everloving crap out of it for it to be tender enough.
Oh, and the island we were at (San Clemente) was being shelled by the military in training exercises at the time. From five miles out. Whoosh, boom!
Naturally, we had to read our little pieces aloud. As I read mine, I pounded the conference room table at the appropriate points.
At the end, everyone was a bit stunned, and the teacher said, “Okay then.”
It was not until that moment that I realized there was anything the least bit unusual about my upbringing. Truly.
I occasionally hear people saying things like: I had the Worst. Day. Ever.
It’s not for me to judge how good or bad your days are, truly it’s not. But sometimes I think that people have no perspective on how bad a worst day ever can possibly be. So, for the record, here’s mine, as accurately as possible, from November 1996.
I’ve gotten several condolences from a recent post: I should clarify that Rick is very much alive, thankfully. He’s my second husband (my first was named Richard), but some people were confused and thought I was recently widowed. Thankfully, no.
Those of you who know me well know that I have a superpower: I can throw a fragmentation grenade on almost any conversational topic. This one is uncensored, it’ll be damn uncomfortable for you to read, but rest assured it was far more uncomfortable for me to experience. I have never before told this story in its entirety, though many people know pieces of it.
It would give me perverse joy if people would share this link when people are being stupidly dramatic about small problems.
The most important part? Not only did I live through this day, I’ve lived through about 6,000 more days.
Richard and I met in 1993 in college. We moved in together in 1994, married in June 1996. He was a lot older than I was. I’d never been married before.
How many times had Richard been married? Good question.
I’ve decided that the only way to answer that is to say that I was wife n where n >= 4. It does seem n probably was 5 and may have been 6. During the time we were together, though, I was told, and believed, that n = 4.
Two wedding tips I’d like to impart: 1. Never get married on a hill cursed by a saint. No, I didn’t know that at the time. 2. Never exchange your vows over the Stone of Destiny if you have a bad one. Probably best to assume that you do.
Some time after midnight, my husband and I went to bed. Now, who did what to whom first was subject to whim, but on this particular night, he got to go first and I never got my turn.
No way to sugar coat this: the stress of the orgasm from the blow job burst an aneurysm, causing a hemorrhagic stroke. What causes the real damage in these kinds of strokes is that the brain will signal it’s not getting enough blood, the body will raise the blood pressure, and then the blood just pushes out of the site of the burst, causing more damage by compressing brain structure and depriving part of the brain of oxygen. Lather, rinse repeat.
When he tried to get up, he stumbled and then sat down on the bed. This is where I should have possibly realized something might have been wrong, but I didn’t.
I’m not sure how long elapsed between that moment and when I was intending to turn the light off and he urged me not to, his speech suddenly garbled. Probably it was somewhere between two and five minutes, but subjectively it feels like an hour. It couldn’t have been that long, though.
I remember the hair standing up on the back of my neck, because I suddenly knew exactly what was wrong: Richard was having a stroke.
I called the ambulance, and they did the quick diagnosis. Blood pressure of 260/160, severely hemiplegic (loss of almost all movement on one side), and complete inability to speak by the time they got there. He could answer questions with a hand squeeze, though.
A week before his death from a blow job, my husband wrote the following post to alt.angst as a followup to someone who said they hated sex.
Maybe, at the end of the day, it really would be best for all concerned if you did go and blow your brains out. I mean, if I hated sex, I would. Guaranteed, iron-clad, no-fooling, take-it-to-the-bank promise.
To this day, I don’t know why I drove instead of riding in the ambulance myself. I had the very practical thought of ensuring I had a ride home, I remember that much. It was snowing lightly, the first snow of the season, and I was drawn in by the patterns of the flakes as I pondered outcomes on the drive to the hospital.
Richard had once said that, should anything happen to him, he didn’t want to be taken to the local hospital, but I had vetoed that. He might not survive the trip to another hospital. We lived in rural Vermont, not a place with a high density of hospitals.
But it’s what we had, you know? So that’s where we were going. Better than trying to get through a mountain pass through the snow to the hospital twice as far west.
I worried. He wasn’t someone who could handle stroke recovery well. It was clear to me that it was Very Serious Indeed, and I feared how much our lives would change. Would I have to give up my job? I loved my career.
So, when I arrived at the hospital, they called local clergy for me. They’d asked about denomination, but the truth is, I was a Pagan at that point, and I didn’t know any Pagan clergy in the area. They sent a local Christian minister, and she was wonderful. She held my hand much of the night, and was there when the doctor came out to give me the prognosis.
Short version: he was clinically dead, but, because of how they had to manage declarations of death, it would take several tests over a period of 24 hours to declare him so. He was not responding in any way to pain. I actually felt relieved. I had a relatively easy decision to make. I went in to see him, and saw the bruises where they’d tried to provoke a response. Saw that there didn’t seem to be anyone “home” as it were.
“Have you considered organ donation?” the doctor asked.
The minister said that her father had always wanted his corneas to be transplanted after his death, “so he could continue to look at pretty women after he died.” Sounds like a good reason to me.
Now, I personally have always been pro-organ-donation. Most of the ways people die don’t permit donation: cancer, heart attack at home, any infectious disease, etc.
The process of organ donation, from the donor family perspective, is done as a phone call with a local medical person, a phone volunteer at the organ bank, and the donor family member.
It is a horrific phone call to be a part of. There’s no way to sugar coat the difficult questions about travel history, sexual history, etc, and what the dearly departed’s disease risk for the transplant recipient is. The hospital is going to put that organ in that body. You think sex carries disease – think of cutting a person open and dropping someone else’s bits in there with only a phone call and a few lab tests to try to make an educated guess about go/no-go. Of course, the alternative is certain death, so possible life sounds pretty good about then.
Because a transplant can kill a recipient right quick. There’s no way to screen for everything, so they do as best they can in as little time as humanly possible. Every moment spent, the organs are more and more likely to become unviable.
It’s an hour, maybe two hours, I can’t remember exactly. It’s so many questions and such weird questions. Because I read so much immunology for fun, though, I got that these questions weren’t intended to be rude or nosy. They were necessary, but difficult. Tough, but fair. There were just so many of them.
And you couldn’t just say you wanted to donate everything. Apart from the major organs, there were requests for other parts for experimental transplant or transplant research that, by law or custom, had to be specifically enumerated separately. I remember discussing saphenous veins, but that is one of the few I recall.
Let’s make this clear: I apparently didn’t know how many times my late husband had been married, let alone have accurate information about his sexual history. Given that the liver transplant recipient is, apparently, still alive, one hopes that the history I provided was accurate enough.
One of the other things I believe in: Richard’s three kids should have the opportunity to say goodbye in person while he was still technically alive.
I called Beth, wife n-2, first. She was the mother of the eldest two, one of whom was an adult and I didn’t have contact information with me as he was at college. So I called her, and we reached the eldest, and she brought the middle kid along.
Then I said I was going to call Barbara, wife n-1. It’s one of the few things I remember verbatim from that day. Beth asked, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
I replied something along the lines of, “I’m sure I don’t, but I feel I should.” And she said okay. But I got her point: she knew, and I knew, that I would regret having done it. But, as I said, it wasn’t about what I wanted. I wasn’t going to deny the youngest son the opportunity to say goodbye, and whether or not he came was up to his mother. Barbara.
I can’t really get into all of how difficult that relationship was (nor do I wish to waste any more of my life on it), but let’s just say that I never fully appreciated how much my parents tried to act like adults until I met Barbara and saw her tactics. Therefore, I’ll pick one incident that kind of encapsulates the sort of relationship we had.
Whenever Richard and I bought presents for the kid, she’d want them sent home with him and then they’d never come back. So she wanted us to basically supply her household, then the kid would have nothing when he came over. Not happening.
Tired of the arguments and knowing how much Barbara hated bugs, I got an idea. I went and bought a Creepy Crawlers set for the kid, and, dutiful stepmother that I was, I sent them home with him.
Yes, the toy came back! Surprise.
So despite the fact that she’d moved out and they’d gotten a divorce, Barbara was frequently trash talking me where other people we knew could hear. I was constantly hit by a barrage of this within a few days of any new event, usually from several different people. She was Richard’s one true love, yada yada.
Had it just been her and no kid, I wouldn’t have called to suggest that she come to the ICU, trust me. But there was a kid and he had a right to say goodbye, and she was obviously going to accompany him. So she did take him into see Richard, and I sat out there in the waiting room with Beth.
At some point, the kid came out, and she was in there alone. And Beth asked if I was okay with that.
“The beauty of it is, I’m in shock. Let her say her goodbyes. I’ll be pissed off about it later. I can’t process it now.”
I wasn’t, however, expecting to hear keening like a Wagnerian soprano come out of the ICU room from the waiting room where I sat. Beth and I both rolled our eyes at Barbara’s drama.
Me, I’d been Scandinavian (not obvious from my name, but I’m half Swedish/Norwegian ancestry; my grandfather’s first language was Swedish) stoic pretty much all night. I had cried some, but not as much as you might think as I was mostly in shock. “You’re taking this really well,” the doctor had said. Well, yeah, only insofar as I was glad that Richard wouldn’t live a life he’d be miserable with, and also that my choices were pretty clear to me and thus relatively easy. I had to make a metric ton of decisions at a time when I was least capable of doing so, but, weirdly, they were not difficult decisions for me to make because the “right” choice seemed clear at all points.
The weekend before had been one of the kid’s visitation weekends. There had been a show about cryogenics on TV, and Richard had watched it while the kid was in the room. “Do you think that’s a good idea?” I asked.
“He won’t understand it,” Richard said confidently.
I gave up on the point. I just didn’t want the nine-year-old to have nightmares, you know?
So there we were, about a week later, and the kid sits on my lap and looks up at me. “Are they gonna freeze daddy like they did on TV?”
What do you say to that, you know? So I explained that cryogenics was really theoretical at this point, and I explained about organ donation and that we were going to do that instead.
Meanwhile, the snowstorm had gotten worse, some of Richard’s friends had come by to hang and say their goodbyes, and the eldest son was still trying to make it up from Middlebury.
So I’d been through several rounds of calls with the New England Organ Bank about logistics. Basically, they had to figure out what transplant hospital to transfer Richard to.
Here’s where it gets interesting: the process of declaring someone dead depends upon what equipment they have. Essentially, this hospital didn’t have either an MRI machine or a CT scanner at the time, so they had to rely on a series of EEGs given over a 24-hour period.
However, the organs would degrade too much by then, so they wanted to know: did I mind if they airlifted him to a different hospital so they could declare him dead sooner?
I can’t make this up, really.
Truly, I understood. The entire point was to be able to save someone else’s life or health, and that meant doing it as quickly as possible. So I gave all the permissions needed. The helicopter would be coming from Dartmouth, but they were not yet sure if they were going to transfer him to Dartmouth or Burlington, Vermont. They were still working on potential matches for the transplant list and to see who could be contacted and available. Meanwhile, the snowstorm was getting worse and worse.
In the end, the eldest son did make it in time to say his goodbyes before the helicopter came, and I’m glad of that. It wasn’t a given, though.
I remember watching the helicopter taking off, wishing I could be on it and could be there with him for those last moments. There would have been no room for me given all the equipment. I knew, given some of what I’d been told and my ability to read between the lines, that he was in far worse shape than they were telling me: his heart was failing, and they’d had to work to keep it pumping enough to keep everything going so the other organs didn’t fail. They had to sacrifice one organ to have a chance at the others.
Frankly, that depressed me more than anything else.
So, the only major organ I know was donated was his liver. I received a letter from the son of the transplant recipient. His heart was enlarged and was probably gone. They didn’t have a match on-list for his lungs. He had early stage kidney disease and a pancreas infection. They were looking for a cornea recipient.
Still, a liver’s a big deal, and I’m really truly glad I could help someone.
A friend drove me home and other friends drove my car home for me as I was obviously in no shape to drive after such a stressful night of no sleep. I think I got home around noon.
I sat down at my computer, and, in doing so, saw the yellow stickie I had on the upper left corner of my laptop screen. It had the phone number of the Concord NH police department.
About a year and a half earlier, Richard had left me for someone else for 2-1/2 weeks. I’d asked for him to come back, and he had.
Normally, my view has been this: if a relationship’s broken enough that it ends, it should stay ended. However, part of his problem had been that I’d been unwilling to consider getting married, mostly because I wasn’t really big on state-licensed relationships as a concept. (As a result of the whole fallout from this day, I have done a one-eighty on this point.)
So he’d left and taken up with someone else, and she was, to put it mildly, crazy. After his return, she kept stalking us. She’d be out drunk at night and call over and over and over. There was the “I’m pregnant” ploy. The “I have a social disease” ploy (I told her to have her county health dept call our health dept). She got thrown in jail for skipping on a hotel bill. She was in the hospital for some neurological thing. I spent one several-hours-long phone call talking with her husband, who was a lawyer in Maine. I really felt for him; he loved her despite the crazy. What I’d seen was only a small fraction of what he had. I felt sad for him. I hope he’s found a better situation for himself.
So she’d moved to Concord, New Hampshire and had drunk-dialed enough that I’d practically memorized the phone number for the police department. I knew several of the watch commanders on a first-name basis.
Seeing that yellow stickie, though, brought home the fact that there had been a year and a half of difficult times thanks to her. Times I shouldn’t have had to endure.
And, at that moment, I realized that the biggest mistake I’d ever made was taking him back. It shouldn’t have been my pain to deal with. Suddenly, I wanted her to feel everything I’d experienced during the day. I wanted her to be the one who’d suffered through all that.
It shouldn’t have been me.
But it was.
And that’s what hurt the most. Still does.
Three weeks after Richard died, I happened to find his wallet in a jacket pocket. I wasn’t looking for it at the time, just happened to reach for my jacket and notice the bulge in one of his.
I pulled it out, pulled out his driver’s license, and noticed that Richard had elected not to donate his organs.
So now I got to feel guilty over not only accidentally being the proximate cause that killed my husband, I got to feel guilty over unintentionally defying his stated wishes and saving someone else’s life.
We all die. Sure, some ways are better or worse than others, and whether one is better or worse for a particular person is partly based on who they are and what they fear.
However, I will tell you that death from sex doesn’t look very fun at all. Typically, the symptoms of stroke (or heart attack) start before the orgasm is complete, meaning you get all the bad, but not very much of the good. Most of the times, you never quite get there.
Unlike many other forms of death, most people – including myself prior to this event – have never considered what it’s like to be the surviving party in this exchange. What it would be like to feel that you’d been the cause of someone else’s death, especially if it were a spouse. You can tell yourself ten thousand times (as I have, easily) that it wasn’t your fault. Intellectually, you can know this. Emotionally, you will always feel that your intellect is wrong on this point and it really is your fault.
The bigger thing is that sex is no longer safe on a really fundamental level. I’d just watched someone die, and there was no way of not fearing for my own death. I was unable to enjoy many of my favorite movies for about a year. Anything with any kind of steamy sexy scene was completely off the table. It was just unwatchable.
I don’t know if you can even imagine what it’s like to have no, and I mean zero, sexual fantasies for over a year. That every time your mind started to go there, the image of your spouse dying just slammed in, vetoing everything. Add to that that that’s the only image you can recall of him because it is the emotionally strongest moment – that slice of time after you realize what happened but before the paramedics arrived.
And I well and truly wish the phrase “mind-blowing orgasm” would die in a fire.
I have seen one. I never want to see another.
I do seriously want to thank my friend Chris for being the person who, about 18 months later, was the person who was there for me when I needed to break my fast. Because it does take a special person to listen to all that shit and work through it with you, and he was really there for me.
About a month before he died, my husband made me promise that, should anything happen to him, that I would marry someone else and be happy.
There were days I couldn’t imagine it. Oh so many days.
But there were also many days when the fact that I’d made the promise was the only reason I got out of bed at all.
After I began dating, there was a point when I felt the obligation to marry and Rick wasn’t ready yet, and I was afraid that I’d have to move on despite how much I loved him. Because, somehow, the obligation carried more weight. Thankfully, we worked past that.
Overall, though, that promise is what kept me going much of the time. I had to take care of myself enough to make it to that eventual point.
So, overall, I’d urge that those of you in relationships make similar requests. All too many widows and widowers die in the first year after their spouse or SO dies. It’s unimaginably hard. Give the person something to fight for and it might help them, as it helped me, get through the darkest times.
Mammoth Trip Report
My dad recently turned 80, so his friends wanted to throw him a party. Due to a history of altitude sickness and a dislike of mountain driving, I really don’t visit Mammoth frequently, but I was particularly motivated for this trip.
Dad recently mentioned that United had seasonal flights from San Francisco to Mammoth (airport code: MMH). Back in the day, there were only flights from the commuter terminal at LAX, and for quite a few years, there weren’t any commercial flights at all. So the revelation was a surprise to me.
So Rick and I booked a trip to visit my dad, flying out Saturday morning and flying back Monday morning so we’d get some good time with him.
My usual allegiance is with Hilton, but there are no Hilton properties in Mammoth, and the only Starwood property is a Westin at rates higher than I’m willing to pay.
Normally, I use TripIt to track flights and hotel reservations.. This has been a real boon in many cases, especially with schedule changes. This trip is the first time it’s ever led me astray: TripIt said the flight was leaving out of Terminal 1, but it turns out the flight operates out of Terminal 3. Neither United’s iPhone application nor the web site had info, nor did the departures board, so, after Rick picked up coffee for us, I actually called United on the house phone to get the information.
Later, people on FlyerTalk explained it for me: it’s a frankenflight. It’s caught in something of a contract issue between United Express, United, and Continental where the flight was operated by Continental but had to be sold as United, and that kind of pain has made its way all the way through the system.
You may recall from prior adventures that I’d flown a lot last year, though a good chunk of it wasn’t on United or its partners, and I flew enough to earn what used to be called 2P status, but, in the post-merger world is called Premier Silver, United’s lowest status tier. Technically, that would waitlist me for Economy Plus, but it wasn’t offered to me on this particular flight even though there was not only Economy Plus, but also First class on the small jet. Oh well, it was a 37-minute flight, no big loss.
The plane was a Canadair regional jet, and it was nicely quiet, surprisingly so. Flying over the Sierras, we saw just how bad some of the snow fall had been this year, sadly.
Our flight was on time into Mammoth, which is a super-small airport with one gate and one waiting area (so they can only have people waiting for one flight at a time). We picked up our rental from Hertz, then went up to my dad’s place past the village near what used to be called Warming Hut 2 but now has a much more high-falutin’ name. It was really great to see dad again!
Dad’s favorite place for breakfast and lunch in town is Good Life Cafe, which had a dauntingly large menu. After determining that my first two choices could be made gluten-free, I had an Eye Opener with mahi mahi. Rick had the Chile Verde. I can’t recall what my father had. The food was good, and we were stuffed through to the dinner party dad’s friends had set up for him. One of his friends got him an awesome 80th birthday cake with ginormous strawberries. On the way there, the weather changed a bit and we had a light dusting of snow, which was welcome by my dad and all his skier friends.
We finally checked into the Shiloh Inn, which was decent enough but a bit drab. We didn’t use the pool, though I regret that choice now. After years of being a pool fiend, I haven’t been using them nearly enough, and this pool was open 24 hours. However, the side effects of the altitude medication meant I was in significant pain.
The following morning, we again headed to get my dad and again went out for brunch at Good Life Cafe, and several of dad’s friends joined us. It was great really getting to spend some time with people he’s known for years and talked about a lot, but whom I’ve barely met before. This time, my dad tried the Chile Verde. I had the same Eye Opener, just because it was that good. My dad was recovering from some illness, so he bowed out for the rest of the day.
Rick and I were feeling up for some extra altitude, so we took the gondola to the top of Mammoth and walked around the top of the gondola. We’d gone up pretty late in the day, so we had about half an hour up there, then went to the bar at the midpoint. Previously, I’d always had a hot chocolate, but none was available, so I had an Irish coffee instead.
We tried to find one place that seemed promising on Yelp, but couldn’t find what we were looking for, so we went to Red Lantern, where they were able to come up with some really tasty gluten-free food.
The following morning, Monday, was our flight out. Catch was, we woke up and it was completely clouded over and snowing. Now, there are quite a few microclimates there, and where my dad lives is a different microclimate from the center of town (where we were staying), which is a different microclimate from the airport. I checked my messages and the flight status and it looked like our flight was still on, so we ate our free breakfast downstairs (which basically only a piece of fruit for me as nothing else was edible) and drove to the airport.
After we arrived, I got an email from my mother and a phone call from United that our flight was canceled — after we’d returned the car. Several people were having meltdowns about that. Skiers who were happy about it were thrilled to change their flights. We were there early enough that we got rebooked for a later flight. By the time all that was done and we re-fetched the car keys from Hertz (who said we couldn’t drive the cars to San Francisco, not that I wanted to), the weather was starting to clear. Of course it was.
We got cocoa in the little refreshment hut, and then headed back to town, where we once again picked up my dad and went out to you-know-where. After that, we finally had enough time at our leisure to check out a place a couple doors down that Jaym Gates told me about: Looney Bean, one of those most beloved kinds of places where you can get good coffee and great atmosphere. Rick and I sat transfixed in front of the fire, mugs in hand.
Now, one of the challenges of Mammoth is altitude. It’s at 7,000 feet, is a difficult takeoff, and skiers are not known for being light packers. Weight and balance are always issues on regional jets, and this one actually has a first class and economy plus to make the load lighter (fewer seats and all that). But sometimes, that’s not enough. Due to the canceled flights earlier, the flight was oversold, so they’d had to involuntarily deny boarding to some people. They’d asked for four volunteers before boarding. After that was done, they began boarding us.
Due to my status, I was upgraded to first, and they accidentally gave Rick’s seat away (he wasn’t upgraded as he doesn’t have status), so they put him in first too. Because they couldn’t move anyone else forward, but because they needed more weight forward, they moved some of the luggage into the other four seats in first class; luggage weighs less than people do. Still, three more people volunteered to be bumped, and, after all that changing people around, we were finally under the projected weight by two pounds.
We had a beautiful and uneventful flight back, and I was happy to see more snow on the mountains on the way back. My full photo set is available on flickr.
My mother complained yesterday that something in the house was beeping. My iDevices were all happy, so I ignored it and went back to catching up on Anthony Bourdain episodes of The Layover.
Later, she mentioned something to Rick, who then set off trying to find the sound’s source. A few seconds after he passed the TV, there was another beep. A few seconds after that, another.
It was the show. Specifically, it was profanity being cut. Of course, I hadn’t noticed it because of the context in which I was hearing it.
Rick reports back to my mother, who asks, “Why the beeping?”
Rick says, “It’s Anthony Bourdain.”
Which made me laugh.
For what it’s worth, the Amsterdam episode of The Layover is one of the funniest pieces of television I’ve ever seen, though the clips on the web site are dramatically cut from the iTunes episode.
In my blog post about transiting through Amsterdam, I forgot to mention a detail that sticks with me: the couple ahead of me at the transfer desk were clearly stoned out of their gourd and had, accordingly, managed to miss their flight.
I mean, the Dutch are super-efficient, so I was a wee bit gobsmacked by the relative size of their transfer stations (though it is the 14th busiest airport in the world), at least right up until I realized that part of the underlying issue was also oh-so-Dutch.
Last night, I went to go see my Clarion classmate, Catherine Holm read from her collection, My Heart Is a Mountain and talk about yoga practices in writing. Karen Joy Fowler , one of our Clarion instructors, was also there, as well as Cat’s brother Paul Dybiec, who is a clothing designer for maternity clothing maker Japanese Weekend, so we all went out for coffee afterward.
I got to East West early , so I was noodling in a notebook about Disbelievers and got some good ideas. One of my standard noodling ideas is: Imagine what 100 cool things in this universe might be and write them down. You likely won’t use all 100, but the goal is to get a few new ideas that will help you. In this case, I realized what a big tentpole scene about 3/4 of the way through the book will be. It is something that’ll create an aftermath, and it’s the big scene that forces the climax.
Catherine’s stories are often about relationship with the land and environment, living as she does on a farm in northern Minnesota. They reminded me of the Vermont writers I’d heard speak on similar topics. She read a wonderful piece about a woman being taken away from her farm into community housing.
There’s something about these stories, though, that always make me feel like the weird child. Don’t get me wrong, I am the weird child, but most of the time my life feels normal to me.
Back when I was in college, we had a group writing session where we sat around a conference table and wrote on the topic of “my mother’s cooking.” We then read our entries out loud to each other. I came near the end, so I got to hear everyone’s tales of white galley kitchens and sizzling poultry, and canning.
My piece was titled “Pounding Abalone.” Here’s an excerpt.
The few times mom and I collaborated on a meal were usually on a boat working in cramped quarters. Mom and Bill [my stepfather] were avid scuba divers; I preferred to snorkel. I remember sitting up on deck while the others sought food, sitting under a light blanket (to reduce glare) while reading a book. Once, a shadow of a lobster caught my attention under the blanket, startling me. It turns out that the lobster had crawled up the blanket about four feet before I noticed it. I got my revenge though —- I boiled him.
Mom would make a great bouillabaisse, simmering the sauce all day while out catching the fish for the soup. We usually had mostly shellfish—lobster, abalone bits, tiny shrimp—rather than fish.
By far my favorite sea dish was the one I usually got to prepare -— abalone. Abalone clings very hard to rocks and has to be pried not only off the rock but out of its shell. Once out, it doesn’t have the decency to just sit there and behave. No, it has to crawl all over. Abalone is inherently tough, so I would pound it with a meat tenderizer as it crawled across the cutting board. I’d stop wailing on it with the metal tenderizer and watch it to see if it had stopped moving, but it would curl up its edges and slide away.
When we were getting ready to cook, I’d cut the abalone up, but even that didn’t prevent it crawling. It would move in my hands as I rolled it in the batter mom made. Then, when she put it on the sizzling pan, only then would it stop moving.
Since the last time mom and I went out boating together, I’ve never had abalone properly prepared. I’m not sure if it was my pounding or her cooking, but perhaps it was simply the magic of shared experience.
I think everyone was horrified, but then I never heard tales of plucking chickens….
One of the people at the reading was a licensed therapist who asked some interesting questions. She specifically asked about ego in writing. I can’t remember the exact question she asked because my mind was already racing with the question’s implications, but it made me realize what it was that bothered me about the “thou shalt outline” writers: they’re ego and super-ego writers. I’m an id writer. I describe my writing as backing into a story with blinders: I can only see where I’ve been — at least until the story catches, and at many points thereafter. That is, by definition, id writing. It’s also why my first drafts can be so craptastic.
This is, btw, one of two reasons I dropped out of James Gunn’s workshop: it simply wasn’t compatible with my process.
Also, one of the writers who’s been on an e-mail list of women writers said that, for years, people were discussing craft issues. About a year ago, this flipped, and now most of the discussions were about marketing. This has depressed me as well; I’ve been noticing it more and more.
 A big thank you to Shweta Narayan. When I was having a rough emotional time a couple of years ago, I asked her for recommendations for a light book to help me through, and she recommended Karen’s Wit’s End. It was perfect, just exactly what I needed, and it was really nice to be able to tell Karen that.
 Due to a short in a power strip that tripped the circuit breaker to my office. Great.
Once upon a time, I was Libertarian enough that I didn’t really care about getting married, and I didn’t particularly want a state license for a relationship. However, I wound up in a relationship where a marriage license was important to the other person, and so we got married in June, 1996.
I didn’t really think it was a super-big thing until November, 1996 when my husband suddenly had a stroke, and I called the ambulance and followed behind in my car. I went to the check-in desk for the ER, said I was his wife, and filled out the paperwork.
This was around 2:30 in the morning.
At no point was my ID asked for. At no point did I have to provide proof of being married to him. Granted, it wasn’t a big city, and the ambulance driver was our downstairs neighbor. My husband had been a reporter for the local newspaper, so his name was known.
Mine, however, wasn’t really; I’d moved to the Northeast Kingdom (of Vermont) 2-1/2 years before.
I was next of kin. The only other legal next of kin Richard had was his eldest son, who wasn’t yet 19.
The hospital called a minister who sat with me, and was there when the ER doc gave the very frank assessment that my husband was dead, but they couldn’t declare him legally dead for some hours because they lacked expensive equipment to do more extensive tests; they had to declare based on a series of EEGs taken over a period of 12 hours. Or maybe it was 24. It seemed forever.
They’d tried to provoke any kind of reaction through deep pain, and got no EEG change. Several large bruises covered arms and upper body, and when I looked at Richard, it was clear to me that he wasn’t going to be coming back.
The ER doc asked if I’d considered organ donation, and I talked about it with the minister after the doc went back to tend to Richard. I spoke with the New England Organ Bank. Frankly, it was one of the easiest decisions I’d ever made to donate his organs, because the opportunity to help someone who was gravely ill seemed practical and humane.
What I truly wasn’t prepared for was the process. The phone call with the NEOB lasted an hour. I spoke in the middle of the night with a volunteer answering all kinds of personal questions about my husband’s sexual history, his travel history, all kinds of things that aren’t that easy to know about someone you’re not currently living with. Some of them will be easy for most people: malaria risk. Some, such as specific STD risk practices, will be more difficult to know with absolute certainty. Other people’s lives depend on the answers, so it’s important to be accurate. Organs degrade with every minute, so it’s important to be quick.
Even though I had said they could use whatever they needed, legal and ethical guidelines meant they had to go over each and every body part, including some I’d never even thought of in the context of organ donations; some of the requests were about research rather than direct donation and thus had to be addressed with separate disclaimers.
Gall bladder for experimental transplant. Check.
Saphenous veins. Check.
It’s those kinds of things that made it exhausting, above and beyond the fact that I’d been about to go to sleep when he’d had his stroke, I was exhausted even then, and now it was two or three hours later.
Further logistics happened, including the arrival of Richard’s family and friends, and the organ bank called about a helicopter. They wanted to airlift him to the transplant hospital sooner rather than later because they could declare him dead sooner and thus prevent organ decay. I okayed that, but I worried that Richard’s eldest son wouldn’t arrive in time — there was a horrible snowstorm and he was across the state in the worst possible direction as far as road travel went.
Fortunately, everything happened in the right order, and for a while the waiting room was filled with me, two of Richard’s ex-wives, and his three kids by them.
The NEOB kept in contact with me. What they didn’t say, but I’d figured out, was that Richard’s heart was failing during the process and that’s one reason they wanted to move him.
So they prepped him for his move and off he went to a transplant hospital. The only transplant I heard about that actually occurred was a liver transplant. His heart, kidneys, pancreas weren’t donatable, but his lungs and corneas were. (Those are the nine donatable organs as they enumerated them at the time, six of them — heart, lungs, liver, kidneys — are the “major” organ transplants.)
Some time later, a thank-you letter arrived from the liver transplant recipient’s son, written in ballpoint on a yellow legal pad. I still keep that letter. It shouldn’t have, but he disclosed his name and his father’s name, and thus I know that his father is still alive twelve years later. I know that his father had an incredibly rare liver disease, and the good fortune to be a tissue match for Richard’s liver when it became available.
Later, after Richard’s death, I found out that loved ones who weren’t married, even those with durable powers of attorney for health care, were frequently shut out of the process, hassled by the hospital, and blocks were put up to the loved one being able to actually do something about it.
Just recently, one partner in lesbian couple in Fresno who’d signed all the right paperwork was barred from making medical decisions about her loved one. Fortunately, her partner lived, but what if that couple had been in the situation that me and my late husband were in?
What if someone waiting for an organ (or another donation) was deprived of the opportunity of life or health because of that? Because the hospital stalled?
Being married meant I had the opportunity, at a time of need, to help someone who would have died. (It’s also possible that, had logistics permitted, his son would have stepped up as next of kin had Richard not been married. I don’t know what would have happened at that time.)
Why would anyone deprive someone of that because their loved one happened to be the same sex?
You might think another organ would come up, but I offer this final bombshell: for this rural county hospital, Richard’s liver was the first major organ donation they were able to accomplish. Many people sign donor forms, but their manner of death (e.g., cancer) does not permit donation of internal organs. Many people sign donor forms but their family overrides them. You see, at the time of donation, the donor’s wishes aren’t legally binding because the donor is dead. Only the living can perfect the donation.
And sometimes, the loved one who could make the decision if the politics were different doesn’t have the opportunity to save someone’s life.
In 1996, my first husband (Richard Savino) and I went to Newgrange with my father on our wedding trip.
Today, I got a CD with scans of the photos (some of which I’d taken), including some I’d never seen.
One of those photos was of Richard at Newgrange.
I’ve got to say, it’s incredibly weird to see new photos of someone who’s been dead ten years. It’s even weirder to tweak them in Photoshop.
My mother wanted one thing for her birthday: a palm tree. A very specific palm tree.
She didn’t actually get it on her birthday, which fell on a Thursday, but we did get it to her shortly thereafter. A good thing, because mom was told she had cancer on her birthday.
She’d put it out in one area of the front yard, one that people come and steal plums from (because no one’s really known who the land belonged to).
Naturally, with cancer surgery and recovery and then the rainy season setting in, it was still in its pot, though put in its appointed place.
She last remembers seeing it this weekend, but noticed today that it had gone. Lacking locomotion of its own, that means someone nipped our palm tree.
It went like this:
October 19, she called the Kaiser advice nurse.
October 20, she had an appointment to see her Ob-Gyn.
October 26 (her birthday, unfortunately), she gets the news she’s got endometrial cancer.
Nov 1, she has an appointment with the gynecologic oncologist.
Nov 7, she has surgery.
Later that week, it’s confirmed by the pathologist that they got all the cancer.
Nov 20, she returns to work.
There’s so many bad stories about cancer out there, I figured someone could use a good one.
Today is the tenth anniversary of my first husband’s death. Though I’ve been remarried more than half that time, there are certain days each year that don’t seem to get any easier.
This is one of them.
I woke up early, drank coffee, took vitamins, drank more coffee and soda with lunch, took more vitamins, and I’ve been yawning all day. The effects aren’t emotional so much as physical: the body remembers.
Unfortunately, the marriage “debate” has been heating up. This blog entry from John Scalzi has the most coherent comments on it. I’d already considered the argument, but not the rhetorical stance.
So it’s pretty simple: If you actually want to defend marriage, you have defend all the legal marriages, and that includes the ones with two men in them, and the ones with two women. Otherwise you’re explicitly saying that the government has the right to void any marriage of any couple, so long as two-thirds of the House, Senate and states go along. Who wants to be the first to sign up for that?
Well, Rick and Deirdre have been fawning at each other for some time now. We wanted to hold the ceremony at teatime simply because we could then give the invitations in a more unix-flavored manner, but it will instead be at 2pm (1400).
This should answer almost all of your questions about the ceremony and the party. If you have any questions that are not answered here, about the ceremony, party or anything else, please direct them to the happy couple.
What shall be the Day of Espousal?
The ceremony shall be held on the 22nd of September, the year 2000. Yes, Friday.
So, how did it happen??
Rick proposed in Esperanto on the crackmonkey email list. Deirdre, being rather odd, replied in Irish Gaelic, which has no words for “yes” or “no.”
Hey, you guys aren’t exactly religious; who’s officiating?
Duncan MacKinnon, ordained by the Universal Life Church, has officiated at more than one wedding. He is a former coworker. He has recently broken his arm so we hope he’ll be feeling well enough to carry on.
What are the bride and groom wearing?
These things are still somewhat in flux, but the groom will be wearing a velvet cape in navy and forest green and the bride will be wearing a hand-knitted sweater in ivory.
So, what of the rings?
The bride will wear Rick’s father’s wedding ring. Rick is having a matching ring made.
Deirdre’s mother’s ring was used in her prior wedding.
Hey, why is the bride wearing white??
Last time she wore teal. He died. Teal was a mistake.
Is this going to be a traditional wedding?
What about that capitalist gift-giving tradition?
Rick and Deirdre have all they require and thus would prefer that any gifts be family heirlooms from their families. For other gifts, we prefer you give to any of the following charities: a) the Free Software Foundation; b) Habitat for Humanity; c) any local group actually working to improve adult literacy.
Where shall be the location of the Nuptials?
The location shall be the Pulgas Water Temple. In case of rain, dress appropriately (it would seem very lightweight to cancel on account of rain at a water temple).
For the map fiends, here is a local map. (Edited to add: it’s not a local map any more. Here, have a water temple photo.) It’s lovely.
From the North or Route 92:
Head south on 280, exiting onto Edgewood Road. Turn right at the end of the ramp. Proceed to the end of the road and turn right onto Cañada Road. Go approximately 1 mile to the Pulgas Water Temple. Park in the parking lot on your left.
If you are coming via 101, we recommend that you cross to 280 via Route 92 or an equivalent route.
From the South:
Head north on 280, exiting onto Edgewood Road. Turn left at the end of the ramp. Proceed to the end of the road and turn right onto Cañada Road. Go approximately 1 mile to the Pulgas Water Temple. Park in the parking lot.
What will be Deirdre’s name?
By agreement, and partially because people have so much trouble spelling and pronouncing Saoirse, Deirdre will become Deirdre Saoirse Moen. At the urging of Richard Stallman, who liked that Saoirse means “freedom,” any kids will also carry the name Saoirse. As it is a girl’s name in Ireland, a daughter may get it as a first name.
Are we invited to the ceremony? The party??
The wedding itself is going to be reserved for family and friends. If you’re a family member or a friend, please consider yourself invited. Afterward, there will be a no-host gathering, probably around 3 p.m. at Brothers Delicatessen in Burlingame. After that, people will probably migrate over to the couple’s home.
What should we wear?
Please wear your favorite clothes (but please wear clothes). Note that it is likely to be warm, but it could also be quite cool.
Format wrested from Meg Wells’s wedding page.