Moiself had intended to write about poop shaming – yes, it’s A Thing ®. I heard the term for the first time several weeks ago – I’m apparently social-media constipated for not having heard of it sooner – and guessed that it is…well, what it is: The act of shaming a person (or animal) for their defecation. 
No surprise, I loved the term (but not the concept it represents), and was somewhat disappointed in moiself for not having previously been aware of it. I started to do my research and found that, like most incidents related to the biological fact of having a functional body, there is, shall we say, a gender imbalance in poop-shaming’s application to humans.
News flash: stinking up the bathroom is a human thing to do, and trying to pretend that someone – male or female – is not going to smell when they make fudge is silly. And targeting women with the product because they should feel more ashamed of their bodily functions – and pretending that they don’t poop at all – is sexist. (from Poo Shame and Sexism, The Good Men Project, by writer James Fell, who thinks the ad campaign for a certain “use before you go” anti-stink product is sexist, and that it markets “poo shame” to women. )
Girls aren’t born with poo shame — it’s something they’re taught.
Remember the children’s book, “Everyone Poops”? It is meant to teach kids that defecating is a natural, healthy part of digestion, and it does so by illustrating a wide variety of creatures — dogs, cats, snakes, whales, hippos, little boys — happily defecating. But you know who you won’t see defecating in that book, happily or unhappily? Women. Poop shame is real — and it disproportionately affects women, who suffer from higher rates of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. In other words, the patriarchy has seeped into women’s intestinal tracts. Let’s call it the pootriarchy. (Women Poop. Sometimes at Work. Get Over It. NY Times)
The pootriarchy. I’m dyin’ here. That covers…so much, you know?
As per my opening statement, yes, I had intended to write about poop-shaming, but lost any desire to do further research the subject after discovering my New Favorite Term ® : pootriarchy. You, however, may want to read/Google further on the subject, lest you miss out on familiarizing yourself with other vitally important idioms, like, poo-phoria.
Dr. Anish Sheth explains that the poo-phoria is “The distention of the rectum that occurs with the passing of a large mass of stool causes the vagus nerve to fire. The net effect of this is a drop in your heart rate and blood pressure . . . When mild, the lightheadedness can lend a sense of sublime relaxation (the ‘high’).” (“Eleven Reasons Why Pooping In Public  Shouldn’t Be Embarrassing,” Bustle )
* * *
Department Of Small Ruminations on Big Questions
Dateline: last Wednesday afternoon, at the farm to pick up our weekly CSA produce share. Farmer JNC is there; we’ve known each other for seven-plus years now, ever since my daughter Belle came home from her AP Environmental Studies class field trip to JNC’s farm (JNC’s son, Enrico, was in Belle’s AA E. Studies class) and breathlessly told me how cool it was and that our family simply must switch our CSA subscription to Enrico’s family’s farm. (“…And they have goats!”)
JNC and I chatted, exchanging “catch-up“ information about our families, which led to us musing with each other about how and why it is that all of our children – my two and his three – have either graduated college with degrees in/are now working in/are currently studying the biological sciences. How is it, we wondered and discussed with each other, that our children – that anyone’s children – become interested in…the things they become interested in?
We postulated and exchanged various theories, including what our respective offspring saw at home and school, in both cases the commonality being parents who valued curiosity, asking questions, science and the study of the natural world – including his kids living on the farm and mine visiting it, where they see the connections to the natural world, the seasonal growth cycles, and how organisms “belong” and adjust to their environment.
Later on, it appeared that my subconscious kept working on this question/theory…which is a fine and not at all uncommon thing for my brain to do…but why does it have to wake me up at 4 AM to do so?
I don’t care if she’s trying to sleep – wake her up, now.
Yeah, so, I’m conscious at 4 am, thinking of the children of others – from friends to families to work colleagues – and the different careers and academic paths they’ve chosen, and wondering about the differences… What had got my neurons firing was idea of differing perspectives – specifically, cultivating a Science Mind versus a Business Mind.
Disclaimer: moiself realizes that “business” is an easy target when it comes to cultural critique.
Societies do need (at least a few folk) to tend to the business mind – we need business, Bigor otherwise – but it’s obvious which perspective I value.
A Science Mind ,as my 4 am brain sees and defines it, observes an object or phenomenon – from a humpback whale to a hailstorm to an estuary to an asteroid to an elm beetle to the element boron to a t-cell to a tropical rain forest – and asks the following questions:
* What is this thing? What is its nature – its characteristics and qualities?
* What are its origins?
* How does it work; what does it do?
* How does it fit in with its surroundings?
* How long has it been where it is, and how long will it likely be there?
* How does it affect its environment and, in turn, how it is affected by its environment?
In a Science Mind, the answers to such questions usually lead to more in-depth questions. There is no, That’s It, We Know Enough stopping point.
A Business Mind also starts with the same question, but the questions which follow are concerned with utility as opposed to open-ended inquiry:
* What is this thing?
* How can human beings use this thing to our benefit (whether for all, or just some)?
* How much is, or can it be, “worth” to us?
* How can we exploit this resource?
The farmer’s children, as well as MH’s and mine, were raised in (for the most part  ) Freethinking  homes, where curiosity is not only respected but encouraged. IMHO that is the key. Religion – of any kind – not only limits an interest in the processes of the natural world, it ultimately stifles such interest by directing and prescribing the kind of inquiries you are allowed to make (as well as by providing false answers). In religion, questions cannot, ultimately, be open-ended; that is, you cannot follow where reason and evidence lead you, as any answers must be in line with the particular religion’s theology. Phenomena that seem to be “unknowable” are either framed as such – “this is a mystery” (No one knows what causes volcanic eruptions; don’t worry about it.) or, attributed to the actions or powers of deities.
the hurricane/tornado/eruption/flood/The Plague/your acne
as a warning/to punish:
heretics/apostates/fornicators/people who watch reality TV/Cubs fans…
“So, they’d rather stay home and watch “The Bachelor” than come to bingo night in the rectory? I’ll show em…”
* The Religious Mind can’t seem to understand the difference between having the answers and stopping asking the questions. * ( Moiself )
Religions espouse ideas like singular truth, infallibility, and dualism,  all of which are fundamentally (ahem) anti-science. The religious environment tends to steer one toward the Business Mind when it comes to looking at the world. Objects and phenomena don’t have a value in and of themselves, only in relation to us – after all, as the Christian tradition holds, we (humans) are the “crown of creation.” This world was created for us by our deity. This object is here because our god wants it to be here, and put it here for us, so the only important questions are, how do/can we use it?
When you are fed simplistic answers to complicated questions, or are told such questions don’t or shouldn’t matter, where is the interest in pursuing critical thinking? If you think you already know the truth, why bother seeking it? Religions ultimately discourage critical thinking and curiosity. Why would you want to work hard to find answers to problems if you “know” the ultimate answer is “god did it“?
May you fight the good fight against the pootriarchy (and smell fresh as a daisy while doing so); May you cultivate a science mind; May your bum be nibbled by banshees if you ever utter the phrase,
“Because god did it, that’s why!”; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 In the case of the animal, the term poop-shaming is often applied to situations wherein an irresponsible dog owner doesn’t pick up after their pet.
 As in, having to “go” in the workplace restroom or other public facilities. If pooping “in public” refers to someone who just drops trou and lets it fly on the workroom lunch table…yeah, in that case, moiself thinks a little shaming is in order.
 Our family attended a very liberal Christian church for many years, for a variety of reasons, including MH and I wanting our children to learn some basics about religion without being subjected to barbaric teachings (e.g. that you will be sent to either heavenly or hellish afterlives depending on what supernatural theologies you “believed” in).
 A Freethinker is person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief. (Dictionary.com)
 Dualism is a metaphysical concept, the belief that there are two kinds of reality: material (physical) and immaterial (spiritual). Dualism takes the viewpoint that mind and body are in some way separate from each other, that mental processes are non-physical in nature (e.g. existing independently from/outside of your physical brain).
 A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.
* Two Thumbs up: Liked it. * Two Hamster Thumbs Up: Loved it. * Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this. * Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe. * Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe. * All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up. * Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make. * Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.
The real reason behind the total ban on abortion in Alabama and other backward misogynist shithole legislatures states, or so political strategists on both sides of the aisle tell us, is to set up a challenge in SCOTUS for Roe v. Wade. State legislators know their draconian laws will be struck down by state judges as unconstitutional; thus, the hoped-for trip to up the judicial ladder to SCOTUS chambers.
But so-called real reasons often leave real people and their real stories in the dustbin of history. I will share some of those stories in this post: a series of vignettes, in no particular chronological order, from my time working in women’s reproductive health care. The stories I have from those years are legion; I’ll attempt both restraint and discretion in relating a just few of them. 
The last one still blows my mind, all these years later. If I were to write it up as a short story I’m sure literary journals would reject it (“Contrived plot,” the editor’s notes might read), but trust me, I’m not a skilled enough writer to have made it up. Once again, reality trumps fiction.
From the early 1980s – 90’s I worked for a Planned Parenthood (“PP”) clinic in a SoCal county, a private OB-GYN practice in the Bay Area, and Planned Parenthood clinics in a Bay Area county.
PP clinics provided services determined by geographic need. Example: because there were several other clinics in the county which performed abortions, the SoCal PP clinic provided a range of health care but referred patients seeking an abortion to those other clinics. Because there were few options in that same county for women needing colposcopy exams,  that PP set up a colposcopy clinic, the patients mainly coming via referrals from the county public health system.
The Doctor (“Doc”) at the OB-GYN office where I worked (“The Practice”) shared the practice with a nurse practitioner (“NP”). Their patients ranged from Silicon Valley execs to welfare recipients (but skewed toward the higher end of the economic spectrum). Doc infrequently performed first trimester abortions (~ four per year), at an offsite day surgery center (he was aware that many more of his patients had abortions, but went elsewhere for the procedure). He told me he didn’t like performing them (“It’s a sad situation, all around”), but what he didn’t like even more was the idea of abandoning his patients when they needed help.
The Bay Area county PP had four clinics in the county, three of which offered abortions services, one to three mornings per week. I worked initially at the main site’s STD screening clinic,  then at their abortion (AB) clinics.
We (The Practice’s Doc, NP, and I) developed a personal relationship  and had many interesting conversations on issues re women’s health care. Doc and NP were both staunchly pro-choice, Doc in particular due to his knowledge of what things were like before Roe v. Wade. He told me stories about The Bad Old Days, about how (surprise!) the rich could always get safe care, no matter what. Back in the late 50s – 60s when abortion was illegal, a Japanese airline had a clandestine (but procurable, if you knew the right people) package deal: the fare included flights to and from Tokyo from West Coast airports, overnight lodging in a Tokyo hotel, and the fee for an abortion performed by a Japanese doctor. Sympathetic American doctors whose desperate patients had no safe local alternatives would refer their patients to someone, who would refer them to someone else, who would refer them to…. 
One of The Practice’s OB patients, after a routine exam, asked Doc if he ever performed abortions. Although it was none of her %&!$ business (and moiself wanted him to tell her so) he answered honestly, while tactfully letting her know that he would not be steered down the anti-abortion harangue road she was heading for. After she’d left, Doc signaled to me to follow him to the office’s back room, where old/inactive patient files were kept.
As Doc searched through the files he told me about a former patient of his who’d sought an abortion, back when the procedure was illegal except for “medical reasons.” This woman had to go before a (male, of course) judge to get approval to have an abortion. Her physicians had to testify as to her mental and physical well-being, and they had lots of material: she had chronic health problems; was depressed to the point of suicide; her husband had left her and their three children…. She’d wanted to get her tubes tied after birthing her second child but could not find a doctor to do so – as per the standards of the time, hospitals would not book a sterilization surgery for a woman unless she met this weird algorithm (criteria included her age, the number of children she had, and other factors I can’t recall). She also needed her husband’s permission for the surgery, which he’d refused. 
The woman won her petition. At this point in the story Doc had found the patient’s chart, and showed me the transcript from her day in court. He snorted with disgust as he recalled how a grown-ass adult woman had to grovel and reveal highly personal information to male strangers who held power over her life. Doc re-filed the chart, the ever-present twinkle in his eyes absent as he said, “Don’t ever let it go back to that.”
* * *
The R- PP clinic site (Bay Area) performed abortions on Friday mornings. The R-PP had two recurrent anti-abortion protesters who hung out on the sidewalk by the clinic parking lot. They were an odd pair: an older woman with an imperious air, always impeccably dressed in a woolen suit, designer handbag matching her designer pumps, her chin-length white hair sprayed into a Doris Bay-type bob, and a tall, lanky young man with wild eyes and a shock of Conan O’Brien-ish, unruly red hair. I called them Snow Whiteand Big Red.
Dateline: A Friday am; the clinic had just opened, patients were in the waiting room filling out forms. One of the four clinic aides motioned for me and the other aides to follow her down the hallway. Looking out the clinic’s rear window, we saw “Consuela” outside, approaching Big Red.
Consuela, a native Mexican married to an American, was R-PP’s AB clinic manager. She was committed to providing reproductive care for Latinas, even as she admitted struggling with her work, due to her harsh Catholic upbringing. Consuela was kind and sweet-tempered, admired by PP’s staff and beloved by PP’s Latina patients, about whom she would tolerantly (but never patronizingly) educate us “white girl” clinic aides. She told us about the vagaries of the male-dominated culture Latina women had to endure, and the stories of her patients who’d had a horrifyingly experience common to impoverished Latinas entering the US were truly heartbreaking. The template: a woman’s husband summoned her to join him in the US after he’d found a job. He’d wired money to pay a coyote to escort her across the border, and during the journey the coyote raped her. Coyotes often assaulted women and girls with impunity and threatened their lives, knowing they’d be too frightened to tell the authorities or their husbands (sadly, Consuela said, even loving husbands were steeped in their culture’s machismo code, which cast a wife’s rape as a stain upon her husband’s honor…or as a cover for an affair).
Consuela would be in a certain mood I learned to identify – anger muted by melancholy – after working with a woman impregnated by coyote-rape. I often saw her, as her patient was leaving the clinic, slip the patient some money (“For bus fare,” Consuela would whisper in Spanish). 
Back to the sidewalk: Sweet, warm Consuela was also very, very shy. Thus, we (her fellow clinicians, staring out the window) were amazed to see her approach Big Red, speak to him for a few minutes, return to the clinic…and holy crap, Big Redis leaving the parking lot! When the clinic was finished (~ 1 pm) Consuela told me what she’d said to him (paraphrased here):
I know you are here because you think you are doing good, but there is something you need to know. Three weeks ago, there was a no-show at our clinic – that older Latina woman you thought you had talked out of having an abortion. Actually, she left when you confronted her because she was afraid of you; she speaks only a little English, and didn’t understand everything you had to say, only that you were a stranger, who knew nothing about her, trying to intimidate her into not having an abortion. She returned last week and had the procedure.
She may be poor and illiterate, but she is not stupid. When a woman makes such an important decision she considers all her options, and when she makes up her mind she is going to do whatever it takes. All you did was make her wait another two weeks; she had to be sick and stressed and distraught for another two weeks. That may not have been your intention, but that is what happened. You caused even more grief for her.
For several weeks after Consuela spoke to Big Red, Snow White was the lone protester outside the R-PP clinic.
* * *
I’m glad those days (when abortion was illegal) are passed. But I fear the younger generations have no memories of what happened and take their rights for granted, and those of us who lived in those times are dying out, and our stories will die with us. (paraphrased, from a conversation with Samuel Greenberg, M.D., PP-M physician)
Dr. Greenberg was an older gentleman, retired from his longtime OB-GYN practice, who worked several days a week at the PP main site (“PP-M”). “Dr. G” was the doctor I most often worked with at PP, and I came to admire his expertise, experience, humor, and compassion.
We talked often; Dr. G was concerned that when he and his peers died there’d be no one left to tell about The Bad Old Days, and that people might forget…. Sound familiar? Like many Jews of his age, he’d lost loved ones to the WWII concentration camps. His family’s experiences as Jews in non-Jewish cultures was one of the reasons, he said, he felt so strongly about his work at PP –– he knew first-hand what can happen when people have their rights abridged by those of differing beliefs.
When Dr. G was a young doctor in the 1950s, doing his OB-GYN residency rotations in two different urban Catholic hospitals, he saw and treated many women who showed up in a the hospitals’ ERs, gravely ill and/or dying from botched illegal or self-induced abortions. Yet he never *once* saw the attending physicians list complications from illegal abortion as the cause of death for a patient who had indeed died from that. On one such occasion, when Dr. G had the unhappy task of writing the “cause of death” on the patient’s chart, he challenged the doctor in charge who’d instructed Dr. G to write that the patient died of sepsis from an incomplete miscarriage. But, that’s a lie!Dr. G protested. – How can we, as doctors, lie about such a thing – people need to know, and the public health statistics will never reflect the reality…
Dr. G’s boss grabbed Dr. G by the elbow and steered him to the ER waiting room, pointing toward a sofa where the dead patient’s bereft husband and children sat. He then led Dr. G to an empty hallway and spoke to him, privately and sternly, about the hospital’s non-official policy re reporting abortion-related deaths: This is a Catholic hospital, with a mostly Catholic clientele. The truth will only bring further anguish, and shame, to a grieving family; also, since abortion is illegal, the police will have to be notified, and the hospital does not want its staff to get dragged into criminal investigations….
I will never forget the patience and kindness Dr. G showed toward all of the women we saw in the clinic, but in particular, to one recovering heroin addict. Like most addicts, she was hypersensitive to pain, and howled as if she’d been stabbed when I did a simple finger prick blood test to check her iron level. She’d asked for additional analgesics for her procedure, which less than 5% of patients requested and which the doctor had to approve and then administer intravenously. Due to her years of junkiedom, Dr. G couldn’t find a usable vein to inject the medication. I waited with an impatience I tried not to show, thinking thoughts for which I was later ashamed (What a whining wimp – suck it up lady, this is all from your own doing… you’ll be out of here in 10 minutes, and nobody else begs for drugs….), while Dr. G searched and searched, and searched again, and finally found a usable spot between her toes. After her surgery Dr. G spent additional time with her, holding her hand and encouraging her not to get down on herself or let this be another setback on her road to healing and sobriety.
* * *
In the PP clinics I saw a variety of women, from a wealthy Señora from Guadalajara whose IUD “slipped” while she and he husband were vacationing in the US, to a mother of four, in her late 40s and going through a bitter divorce (who’d had been told by a doctor that she’d gone through early menopause and couldn’t get pregnant), to the proverbial teenage girls who seem as if they can get pregnant just by standing downwind from a boy.
As per the coyote story, rape/incest victims were the saddest cases to see. Those included a preteen holding onto her mother with one hand and her stuffed animal with her other hand (accompanied by a police escort, to retrieve “evidence’ of the assault, evidence they hoped to use to prosecute the family member who’d raped the girl); a woman forcibly impregnated by her estranged, abusive husband (she was told  by a police officer that she couldn’t press rape charges because she was still married to her rapist), girls abused by their brothers/cousins/stepfathers/mom’s “new friend”/youth pastors….
And then there were those who’d been assaulted by non-related acquaintances – scenarios given a term I despise for its downplaying of the trauma it inflicts: Date rape.
During a patient’s intake procedure we reviewed her medical history, and one of the questions we asked was, What kind of contraception were you using when you became pregnant?That question was not posed to known rape victims, and was a particularly cutting one to hear for sexual assault victims who’d not yet told anyone what had happened to them. One patient, her tough chick attitude failing to mask her nervousness, threw her hands up in the air and laughed bitterly when I asked that question. Nothing; I was using nothing! Can you believe that the guy my friend set me up with, the guy who choked me until I passed out, didn’t have the decency to put on a condom before he raped me?! 
* * *
Big Bad Wolves are not always so obvious, Little Red Riding Hood.
She was not my patient; I’d finished my first intake and was on my way to place my patient’s chart in the surgical queue. She stood in the hallway outside the clinic’s bathroom, holding her urine sample cup, fidgeting in a way I’d come to recognize as a woman trying to convince herself to pee when she didn’t have to go. She was dressed like a 1950s secretary, with a pleated plaid skirt and a faded, rose red cardigan sweater. She looked sweetly anachronistic, nervous, and shy.
“Let me guess,” I pointed toward the empty cup she held. “It seems like you have to go every five minutes, then when you need to go, you can’t?”
Exactly! She flashed me a puppy-eyed look of gratitude. Kelly, my, uh, intake lady, left me here; she needed to talk with a nurse or something. It might take awhile before I can…she looked askance at the empty cup in her hand.I shouldn’t have gone at my mom’s, before we came here.
I offered to get her a glass of water, and as I walked her back to her intake room she told me how out of place she felt. I can tell I’m the oldest girl here. It’s so embarrassing.She lowered her voice. I’m twenty-seven.
“I’m thirty-one,” I said. “I win!”
She blushed, and told me she hadn’t meant the age of the staff, but rather “the girls”she’s seen in the waiting room, whom she assumed were, like her, there for an abortion, but unlike her, were probably not virgins… I mean, were virgins, until….
I stopped before entering the intake room, where her mother sat. Sweet Twenty-Seven-Year-Old-Former-Virgin looked at me imploringly. Can you come in and talk with me?
I said I’d love to, and asked if it would be okay to talk in front of her mother. She assured me it was. I sat down with the two of them, and STSYOFV began to spill her guts.
STSYOFV had flown out from Kentucky, where she’d gone to college and where she lived now. Her mother was helping out, paying for the abortion – STSYOFV didn’t want to have it done where she lived, in case any of her friends and especially her church friends found out…well, I really don’t have any friends besides church friends…
As STSYOFV told it, her life revolved around an evangelical church where she was a member of the choir. STSYOFV ‘s mother discretely shook her head and gave me a look.
STSYOFV said she loved choral music; her church choir met for practice several times a week…and what they would think of me, if they knew where I was now. I know what I’m doing is wrong in their sight, but my they’d disown me if I was pregnant out of wedlock and I know all my options and everyone here is so nice about reminding me but I wish they’d stop asking I don’t need adoption or pregnancy referrals I know what I’m doing and I can’t bear being pregnant it would destroy me and how could I be was so stupid and ignorant and naïve to stay a virgin until 27 and then get pregnant the first and only time…I feel felt guilty but I’m going to do it anyways, I tried a few home remedies, even thought if I threw myself down the stairs…
My eyes widened at the remark, and STSYOFV’s mother gasped. STSYOFV assured us both that she’d chickened out; I made her laugh when I told her that a miscarriage caused by falling down the stairs only happens in the movies.
Lawdy, Miss Scarlett!
My eyes flitted back and forth, from STSYOFV to her mother, who mostly remained silent while her daughter talked. The mother’s unwavering love for STSYOFV was evident to me, as was her disapproval of the church her daughter had gotten involved with.
STSYOFV said she hadn’t even intended to have sex…I hope god will forgive me but I am going to do this, or if he can’t forgive me, at least I hope he won’t hate me. If they only knew…they all think I’m a nice person….
“Then that’s one thing they’re right about – you are a nice person.” I placed my hand over STSYOFV’s. She grasped my hand with both of hers, her eyes moist with gratitude. Although a (closeted, at that time) non-believer, I attended a liberal Christian church, and knew what STSYOFV needed to hear. I assured her that her god, that no one, could ever hate her.
STSYOFV smiled at me through her tears.I wish you would be doing my intake, and be with me during the procedure. Kelly is nice, but she’s so young.
Actually, Kelly is 26, I thought to myself. I also thought about how STSYOFV, with her gentle, desperate naivete and high voice, seems like a 12 year-old in a 27 year-old’s body.
I told STSYOFV I had another patient to help, but promised I’d check on her after her procedure. She hugged me, and said she’d like that.
STSYOFV was the last patient to see the doctor, and when she was out of the recovery room she, her mother and I had a heartfelt conversation before they left the clinic. I assured STSYOFV re how much she had going for her – she was young, strong- spirited and good-hearted, with a wonderful mother who loved and supported her…
She is the best.STSYOFV gazed lovingly at her mother. And she says she won’t let me pay her back, for lending me money for the plane tickets and everything.
“Speaking of which…” I hesitated. “What about the guy who got you pregnant? Why isn’t he helping you with this, or at least paying?”
Oh, no, that would ruin him.STSYOFV shook her head, sadly yet vehemently. While her mother’s mama bear eyes blazed with rage on behalf of her daughter, STSYOFV told me that the man who’d seduced her was her choir director. He was older, married and with children, and active in the church’s pro-life demonstrations. When she went to him with news of her pregnancy he warned her to not to tell anyone, and told her to “take care of it,” and so STSYOFV had swallowed her pride and telephoned her mother….
* * *
Department Of This One Takes The Cake Aka If I Hadn’t Seen It With My Own Eyes….
I lost track of how many times an AB clinic patient laughed and said, “Until it happened to me, I was against abortion. That” – the patient would indicate the clinic’s entrance, referring to the protesters outside – “might have been me a couple of months ago.” I’d smile, say, “We hear that a lot,” and do my best not to reveal that I didn’t find her admission – that she’d have supported taking away other women’s autonomy until “it” happened to her – to be amusing.
PP-M had a semi-regular group of protesters who demonstrated outside the clinic’s front entrance. (I never saw them; I parked in the employee lot at the back of the clinic and entered and left through the back door.) Other PP-M employees became quite familiar with the protesters, who were part of some Catholic group led by a perky blond in her mid-thirties. The Vice President (“Veep”) of PP-M went out of her way to befriend the protesters. Veep was an ex-Catholic, and would go outside and chat with the protesters during her coffee breaks, sometimes joining them in reciting The Rosary. On sweltering summer days Veep carried cups of water out to the protesters – one day she even brought them lemonade – and on more than one cold winter morning I heard a fellow clinic aide good-naturedly grouse about how She ( meaning, Veep) is out there, serving them hot cocoa, can you believe it?
Dateline: one memorable Monday, ~ 8 am, at the PP-M AB clinic. As I reached for the first chart in the intake pile, “Cindy,” the clinic’s assistant manager, whisked the chart out of my hand. “I don’t believe this,” Cindy hissed. She motioned for me to follow her to the reception office, where she and the receptionist stared through the bullet-and-sound-proof plate glass window to the waiting room, and traded incredulous remarks back and forth:
I don’t believe it – can you believe it? That can’t be her…no, it is her…this is got to be a joke…a plant…a set up…no – look at the chart, it is!….
I asked, What’s up? Cindy told me that Perky Blonde Anti-Abortion Protest Leader was in the waiting area, with her 15 year old daughter, whom she’d brought in for an abortion.
“I am doing this intake,” Cindy announced. As her WTF?!?! expression morphed into that of Compassionate Health Care Worker, she opened the door to the waiting area and called PBAAPL and her daughter back to an intake room.
It was a busy morning; I didn’t get to talk with Cindy until after the clinic was over, when all four of us clinic aides gathered around Cindy to ask, What the heck….?Cindy told us that she’d started the intake as usual – she led PBAAPLW and her daughter back to a private intake room, then asked the daughter to give a urine specimen. While the daughter was in the bathroom, Cindy introduced herself to PBAAPL, and the following conversation (paraphrased) ensued:
Cindy: I need to tell you something. I recognize you, from the protesters outside. If this makes you or your daughter uncomfortable, you can request another…
PBAAPL: Oh no; thank you. You’ll be fine.
Cindy: Okay. Uh…now I’m speaking for me, personally, not on behalf of Planned Parenthood. I can’t help but wonder, what are you doing here?
PBAAPL: Well, my daughter got in trouble, you know? And you people here are all so nice, I knew you’d take good care of her.
Imagine, if you will, the sound of four jaws simultaneously dropping to the clinic’s tile floor.
PBAAPL skipped the protests for the next two weeks (there were a few demonstrators who showed up, and only for one day, during PBAAPL’s absence). After she brought her daughter in for the girl’s post surgery exam, PBAAPL returned to leading the protests, trying to deny other women’s daughters the “good care” she’d sought for her own.
The excursion returns next week, having been temporarily grounded this week, due to the appetite-quashing political upheavals which prompted this post.
* * *
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 We didn’t have HIPAA laws then; still, I’ve altered all names and a few geographical details for privacy’s sake.
 A colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine a woman’s cervix for signs of disease, using a special instrument (colposcope). The procedure is most often done due to the woman having an abnormal pap smear, and may be followed by a cervical biopsy.
 I worked primarily at two PP clinics in the county, and twice at a third PP clinic.
 Which continued after I left the practice and which exists to this day.
 I later heard about this same service from another doctor who was Doc’s age.
 Yep, that’s right – he knocked her up a third time, and then abandoned her and their children.
 A coyote is a man who makes a living smuggling migrants across the US-Mexico border.
 Consuela and her husband ( who was still in college) were far from wealthy, and had two children of their own to support. It probably violated some kind of clinic policy to give money, even your own, voluntarily, to patients; I always saw her look around furtively when she did so.
 Erroneously, I believe, although I don’t know the status of the marital rape laws in California at that time.
 I stopped the intake immediately and got the patient to speak with someone from PP’s counseling/education department. She was over 18; we couldn’t force her to go to the police, and she refused our advice to do so (she said she’d known someone that had the same thing happen and “was raped again by the cops” (i.e. they didn’t believe her ). After her procedure we set her up with referrals for individual counseling and a rape crisis center…I have no idea if she ever followed through with those contacts.
 A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.
Last week I ordered some Star Trek birthday cards, featuring the visage of Captain Jean Luc Picard, from an Etsy vendor. The vendor emailed me to verify the order:
I just wanted to contact you to say thank you for your order and to confirm your shipping information. So, you would like a set of 5 Star Trek Next Generation Birthday cards, shipped to ______(my address)
I of course had no choice but to respond: Make it so.
* * *
Department Of I Love Learning New Things
And here are four New Things ® I’ve recently encountered.  The first, via my “reupping” my volunteer status for C.A.T. (Cat Adoption Team).
The typical female kitten or cat is (or once was) spayed via an abdominal incision. For several years now veterinarians have had the option of performing a “flank spay” – which uses a lateral entry. A lateral entry is especially useful for cats that are lactating, as it reduces chances of infection and makes it easier to monitor the incision as the cat does not have to be handled (turned on its back and its tender belly exposed) to do so.
How intriguing. Do tell us more.
New thing #2 is the third meaning of the word, abduction.
I was aware of the first two meanings of the word (1. The act of forcibly taking someone somewhere against their will; 2. The movement of a limb or muscle or other body part away from the mid-line of the body), but didn’t know that abduction is also a form of scientific reasoning, abductive aka inference) reasoning:
New Thing #3: “Your brain has a chemical imbalance.”
That statement always sounded fishy to me, even when I was using it, with family members suffering from depression, to discuss their situation. Sure, it sounds scienc-y…but what does it actually mean? As it turns out, in cases of brain disorders (aka depression and other mental illnesses), probably nothing, according to professor and psychologist Elliott Ingersoll, . Ph.D. , who has given a provocative TED talk on the subject.
Unlike chemical imbalances in body organs or systems that can actually be measured (e.g. the insulin/blood sugar imbalance in diabetics, which can be measure through blood and urine tests), brain chemistry is highly complex and not completely understood. There is no way to measure levels of neurotransmitters, hormones and other messenger transmitters which may be involved in clinical depression, nor even an agreement on which ones are involved and what a “balance” of those would be.
I spent a decade researching psychopathology and psychopharmacology and neuroscience…but, I kept thinking I was missing something because I never came across what the actual chemicals were in this mysterious ‘chemical imbalance’ everyone kept talking about…. I came to realize that there was no such thing, and that, for years mental health professionals were telling clients, ‘You have a chemical imbalance in the brain,’ (A) there was no way to measure brain chemistry – it’s too complex and you can’t get it through peripheral measures like spinal fluid and, (B) I was more horrified to realize that this was being driven by marketing and pharmaceutical companies….”
(Dr. Ingersoll’s interview with Freethought Radio, 6-5-16
Our annual family Solstice/Christmas/Year’s end letter to family and friends opens with a quote from each family member, chosen by each person to be somehow representative of the year for that particular family member…or to just confuse people.
Son K is reveling in young adulthood: gainfully and happily employed, he’s residing in a house he rents along with four of his friends.
On Monday, apropos of seemingly nothing, K initiated the following exchange via FB Messenger:
K: Okay, my Christmas letter quote will be, “I am the Folks.”
Moiself: Nice to know in advance. I’m sure an explanation will be forthcoming.
K: door to door sales type guy asked if my folks were home and that was my response.
They are the folks.
* * *
Department Of All Things Must Pass
Buh-bye to our Honda Odyssey minivan. It joined our household…over sixteen years ago – can that be? That’s the longest period of time MH or I have ever had a car.
Although I came to see the logic of acquiring a minivan, I was initially and strenuously opposed to the purchase. (“If I want to drive a bus I’ll get a job with Trimet,” I huffed to MH). And then, I found a way to make it – driving a minivan, FFS – more tolerable to me: I bumper-stickered the holy crap outta that vehicle:
The above picture was taken (unbeknownst at the time, by me) by a reporter for the now defunct Hillsboro Argus, and appeared on the paper’s front page, circa late 2009. Although we subscribed to the paper MH and I had no idea the back of our van front page news, until a friend e-alerted us to check out the paper’s latest edition (“That HAS to be your van!”). The photo was accompanied by a sweet – if misleading – caption, written by someone who AS to be yourobviously didn’t read all the stickers:
No Personal politics on display, but a bumper crop of humorous stickers to make fellow motorists smile at stoplights.”
Over the years, after shopping at New Seasons Market or running some other errand, or returning to our van after, say, seeing a movie, we discovered hand-written notes pertaining to our stickers left on the windshield. On more than one occasion I returned to the van as someone was in the process of writing such a note. I enjoyed sneaking up on them, pretending to be Not The Owner, and usually greeted them by indicating the back of the van and cracking, “Get a load of these weirdos, eh?” to gauge their reaction.
It’s hard to believe, given the political and freethought nature of many of the stickers, that not once did anyone leave a negative comment (or slash our tires). Most of the notes expressed sentiments along the lines of this one, the only one I kept:
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Department Of Not Exactly Late Breaking News
In fact, I was wondering why it was even considered news, when I read that Rep. Speaker of the Houser Paul Ryan announced he will support Trump.
What an earth-shaking, bone-breaking, tooth-rattling, sphincter clenching surprise that absolutely no one could have predicted: The Republican Party leader announces he will support the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.
Please, someone bring me the smelling salts.
DO YOU SEE WHAT GAY MARRIAGE HAS LED TO ?!?!?!?!?!?!?
* * *
Snakes on a Plane! ( Actually, in terrariums…. )
That was the subject line in ads MH and I placed on Craig’s List and the FB page for Oregon Reptile Association. We are trying – successfully, if current arrangements go well – to re-home our cornsnake, T’Pol, and ball python, Andy.
The snakes were acquired many years ago by our offspring, along with the late great bearded dragon, Belle (from whom my daughter took her pseudonym for the purposes of this blog).
All were captive bred, acquired during the kids’ Reptile Are Cool Years ® (Belle the BD has since gone to join the great Beardy collective consciousness). In the past couple of years the snakes weren’t getting much pet action, what with son K and daughter Belle out of the house; thus, MH and I decided that finding another home for them was a Nest Cleaning ® thing to do.
T’Pol on a hot day, enjoying a dip in her water dish.
We let K and Belle know of our intentions.  Even as they understand our reasons for re-homing the reptiles, I imagine they’ve a certain sense of poignancy re the matter: another piece of childhood passing by.
A rare picture of Andy not curled up into a ball (which ball pythons like to do).
* * *
Department Of Signs Of The Times
The first (and not last, I hope) political yard sign of the season that’s made me laugh.
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Department Of Current Events: In Case You Hadn’t Noticed
I am not planning on addressing the case of the Stanford Student/Swimmer who raped an unconscious women in this space. The despicable incident is just now coming to the general public’s attention due to the sentencing of the rapist and the revealing statements from the victim, the rapist’s father, and the rapist himself. I’ve let just a smidgen of my disgust and outrage leak out onto FB, but I just cannot go there…here.
* * *
May you heed the signs of the times;
May you leave kind notes on other people’s windshields;
May you be able to there when you are here,
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 New to moiself, although other people may find some of these tidbits old nets.
 Yep, related to (a great-grandnephew of) the greatest American few people outside of the Freethought and atheist communities have heard of, the 19th century civil rights champion, orator & lawyer Robert G. Ingersoll.
 as an actual, as opposed to virtual, community newspaper.
 And overrule it, should they be able to provide a home (read: get a landlord’s approval) for one or both snakes.
Life can be hard. It can be lonely. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes we all need to remind ourselves of who we love, what we love, and why we love them. This post is a love-fest. Who makes your days worth living? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What makes you smile even though/even when everything else is falling to pieces?
I rarely respond to such Facebook question-posts, even one phrased as contemplatively as the above, which was posted by the (adult) daughter of a friend. For some reason, I was in the mood to respond:
Who makes my days worth living:All the kind, witty, intelligent people I know. Also, some of the assholes – I want to live long enough to see them get their due.
What gets me out of bed in the morning:the dang cats – I mean of course the adorable kitties – need to be fed.
What makes me smile even when everything else is falling to pieces:the knowledge that, if I hold on long enough, I will, eventually, read or hear a really bad pun and/or fart joke.
Yep, she got me. Not only did I respond, I…wait for it…began to think (gasp!) about the possible responses to those questions.
I thought about how complaining is easy…not to mention, sometimes fun.  Also, with The Way Things Are These Days, ® if you’re not complaining about the terrorist/politicians/greedmongers, it’s likely you’re not paying attention.
Then I thought about how kvetching about the world being full of/run by asshats is easier than noticing or remembering how many remarkable, fantastic people are out there, wearing a different kind of hat.
And I don’t mean remarkable as in curing brain cancer or discovering a renewable, non-polluting energy source. Remarkable as in the quiet and consistent kindnesses from, and perseverance of, seemingly unremarkable people.
I was thinking specifically of those people who, without announcement or fanfare, without seeking publicity or credit or even recognition on behalf of a religious or business institution, regularly and consistently help other people.
“I am a humanist, which means in part that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.” (Kurt Vonnegut, in his essay collection, A Man Without a Country,)
I continue to meet humanists and Freethinkers who devote a good portion of their lives to helping individuals and the larger society – they seek to fill what gaps need to be filled, not because they are motivated by any kind of punishment/reward dogma, but because it’s the right thing to do. They do good for goodness’ sake, often helping, for example, the Hungry Old Man who would gladly accept a free meal and then turn around and just as gladly condemn the driver of the home meal delivery van to some kind of unpleasant afterlife if Hungry Old Man found out the driver was a “godless atheist” who does not profess any religious creed.
It’s also incredible to truly consider the ramifications of people going about their day, trying to live simply, do good, minimize harm, and live out their rational, Freethinking beliefs, when they are a minority,  surrounded by superstition and irrationality, in a world which often seems to champion ignorance and obedience over knowledge and free inquiry.
I see these people; I am lucky to meet and know them. And I read about those who live in other countries and pursue the same goals, doing good and fighting for the right to live Bright, in societies and cultures where it can mean death to disbelieve or even question…and I am humbled and grateful.
And I think to myself, like the song says, what a wonderful world.
Let’s all pause for a moment, as unicorns of peace, harmony, happiness and appreciation fly out of our butts.
th-th-that’s s-s-s-oooooo b-b-b-beautiful.
* * *
May you elevate yourself from off of your haunches on this beautiful spring day; May you deem the day beautiful no matter the weather and get yourself outside; May you be fortunate enough to hear the call of the red winged blackbird, and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 And also life extending: the more you complain, the longer you live. Or rather, it just seems longer to everyone around you.
 Not to discourage such efforts – if you’re working on solutions to those problems, yee haw and keep at it!
Last Friday when I started my car this dashboard warning light became illuminated:
It was a light I’d never noticed before – one that had never lit up in any of our previous vehicles. Given the graphic representation of the warning light, I figured it was alerting me to one of three possible scenarios:
* WARNING! Someone is about to throw a beach ball at your lap!
* WARNING! The car’s airbag may be malfunctioning!
* WARNING! You have unexpectedly become nine months pregnant!
It turned out to be a loose connection in the passenger airbag wiring – dust it off and tighten the connection. However, almost everything auto-repair wise is electronic these days, and the mechanics had to run their special diagnostics program to discover this simple solution to what could have been a complex problem.
The minimum charge to run the diagnostics program is $120. That’s a grrrrr-worthy charge, but much less than it would have cost to fix a faulty airbag.  I decided to look on the bright side: such an expense is like a Kardashian – totally doable.
I’m aware that this kind of announcement is something you’d expect from a five year old reporting the excitement of her first day at kindergarten…or, perhaps, from an adult flustered by unexpected good-fortune.
Guess what? It’s still exciting when it happens to a Person Of A Certain Age and, IMHO, carries even more import.
Observation: By the time you reach your 40s -50s, they’ve (mostly) become established in careers, neighborhoods, and in their family and social lives. If you value your friendships and in turn want to be a valued friend, you spend time cultivating and maintaining those relationships. If you wish to add someone to your buddy circle, your desire to do so doesn’t change certain natural world realities, like the earth’s rotation cycle. That is, there are still only 24 hours to a day, and still only so much time for each and every thing.
I give that segue a 7 on a scale of 1 to meh.
Not to get carried away or over analyze the phenomenon, but I’ve heard others my age bemoan the difficulties of meeting new people and getting to know them past a certain surface level of acquaintance. 
Once again, I digress.
The new friendship came about via a letter I wrote to The Oregonian, in response to a letter in that same’s op-ed section written by yet another blithering willfully ignorant religious idiot a sincere but sincerely misinformed man who claimed that our constitutional “freedom to believe what we want to believe” is a “religious idea.”
The Oregonian’s editors ran my letter, which they titled The US Constitution Mentions No God, For Good Reason , in the 2-28-16 print edition, and also online. The next day I received an email from my Soon To Be New Friend, who wondered if I was the same Robyn Parnell who’d written that letter and if so…
I’m writing just to thank you for stating so lucidly and concisely what so many people do not seem to understand regarding what the U.S. Constitution has to say about religion and gods.
Awww, shucks. He had me at lucid and concise,  and also when he went on to mention that I might be interested in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization which works to promote and uphold the constitutional principle of separation of state and church. STBNF had no way of knowing that the FFRF is an organization I’ve mentioned many times is this blog, and which MH and I are longtime members of.
I responded to STBNF, and we began exchanging emails, discovering other common interests and perspectives. Besides being an intelligent, witty, perspicacious, charitable and socially responsible freethinker, STBNF is also a writer (whose works,  I’d wager, truly merit praise ala lucid and concise). Also like moiself, STBNF has written a self-described “bad” country western-type song…although, unlike moiself, STBNF has actual, demonstrable, musical talent.
STBNF and I met in person this week, for a two hour chat fest lunch. He has offered to possibly help me with a demo of my song, and I have introduced him to the wonderful world of footnotes.  I seem to have (so far) gotten the best of this deal.
I hadn’t noticed his wedding band-less finger. After his revelation I decided to commiserate with his situation in the only way that seemed logical to me: by removing my own ring. This has caused just a wee bit o’ eyebrow-raising from people who’ve noticed. I assuage such concerns thusly: my removing my wedding band is not a harbinger of marital discord; rather, it’s a reinforcement of its importance and mutuality.
Up until my marriage I’d never worn rings of any kind – unless you count the Man From Uncle spy decoder ring I had for two weeks in the fifth grade.
MH and are both married (to each other – how convenient!). I have always refused to be unequally yoked: We chose our wedding rings together; neither of us wore an engagement ring. I would have gently but firmly refused to wear an engagement ring had MH given one to me,  unless he had also agreed to don a similar ring.
I’d never understood the practice of a woman wearing an engagement ring while the man’s ring finger remains unencumbered, except as a nod to our culture’s pathetic history of patriarchy. The solo engagement ring tradition is, to me, a vulgar declaration of possession (See the ring? She’s taken; she’s off the market; she’s mine), akin to a dog pissing around a fence post to mark his territory.
Yep, I’m a hopeless romantic, what can I say?
Look: you’re both engaged to be married, right? So why the visual representation of the impending change in marital status only for the woman? Which got me wondering: how do gay couples handle this issue? 
Speaking of vulgar, despite the stereotype of the ring-coveting female, I’ve yet to have a woman flaunt her engagement ring to me. I have, however, lost track of the number of times I’ve been at a social gathering, been introduced to an engaged couple and had the guy grab his fiance’s left hand, thrust it in my face and demand I admire the huge rock on her finger.
Uh, yeah, dude, I get it: the size of her ring is inDICKative of the size of your ____ (paycheck; ego; penis).
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I spent many years working in women’s reproductive health care, wherein I encountered several married couples who did not wear wedding rings. The no-ring-thing was sometimes for job-related reasons (rings can be safety hazards for jewelers, mechanics and others who work with their hands), sometimes due to dermatologic allergies, and for women, sometimes due to pregnancy-induced swelling (which occasionally led to a permanent change in ring size).
I’ve met more than one married couple who’ve chosen to have their wedding bands tattooed on their fingers. Belle, my tattoo-loving daughter, thinks MH and I should do likewise, and has volunteered to draw up a design for us, based on our original gold bands.
She’s got the talent – this was Belle’s own design for her first tattoo, which impressed even the veteran tattooist.
I thanked my lovely and talented daughter for her generous offer, even as I reminded her that her father’s twin aversions – tattoos and pain – make such an idea unlikely to translate into a reality. Perhaps if it were someplace on a less sensitive part of the body….
* * *
May life’s warning lights be entertaining as well as informative; May your friendships be ever evolving and your yokes be equal, and may the hijinks ensue.
This being the overt and covert sexism in the literary world, particularly when it comes to book reviews and categorization.
You’ve probably heard the term chick lit, whether or not you fully understand the literary insinuations behind the label. Nutshell: if a female novelist writes about herself, or her fiction’s protagonists share similar characteristics (ethnicity, age, social and economic circumstances) with herself or her peers, or if Female Novelist tackles subjects related to family, feelings or relationships, she’s a neurotic narcissist and/or what she writes is labeled chick lit. When a (usually white) male author does the same; naturally, his works are consigned to the label…what would that be: dick lit?
Noooooooo. He gets no such label. He’s illustrating and critiquing the human condition; he’s doing some serious Lit-ra-chure.
Anton Chekov is the second most produced playwright in history (the first, of course, is Billybob Shakespeare). Chekov’s stories and plays address themes of the clash between social progress and the maintenance of compassionate human relationships; the frailty of human physical, mental and emotional health; the lack of communication between people of goodwill – even and especially between family members; the lure of aspirations and ideals and the seeming impossibility of realizing them, especially within one’s social and family structure….
Duuuuude. If Chekov’s works were somehow re-introduced today and Anton was changed to Antonia, there’d be lavender and pink cover art…and he’d never have been awarded the Pushkin Prize.
* * *
Speaking of dicks….
Three weeks ago I mentioned my dream in which I had to deliver pizza to former president Ronald Reagan.
In Real Life ® , if I had to deliver pizza to anyone with that particular surname, I would be most happy if it were Uncle Ronnie’s wonderful and witty son, Ron Reagan.
I’ve been a fan of Ron Reagan’s even before I heard him speak at the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s annual convention. RR the younger is proof that not only can the apple fall far from the tree, it is capable of rolling uphill.
Ron Reagan is currently a commentator and program contributor for MSNBC cable news network. His career in media includes jobs as a talk radio host and political analyst for KIRO radio, and he hosted his own daily show on Air America Radio. RR is known for his progressive and liberal political and social views, and is also an active, out-of-the-closet atheist. His activism on behalf of atheist and Freethought causes includes the pithy PSA he recorded for the Freedom From Religion Foundation…a PSA you may have heard on CNN or Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but which was banned from the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC).
ABC and NBC rejected the PSA – although when first approached by the FFRF, NBC offered to accept the paid advertising if FFRF would delete the spot’s concluding line– it’s punch line, for crissake! – which RR delivers with an adorable, wry smile:
“Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.” 
I’ve watched a lot of CBS’ Sixty Minutes over the years, and have lost track of the number of commercials the network has run that are considered offensive or dodgy by some folk (myself included). Apparently the craven asswipes wise content programmers at CBS have no problem running ads for products that talk directly or obliquely about ED (and the dangers of erections lasting longer than 4 hours!), or commercials which feature people gyrating and clutching their abdomens and buttocks to illustrate the discomfort of diarrhea, flatulence and other intestinal disorders…but an atheist who calmlys jibe about H – E- Double hockey sticks? Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.
* * *
I have no respect for any human being who believes in it [Hell]. I have no respect for any man who preaches it. I have no respect for the man who will pollute the imagination of childhood with that infamous lie. I have no respect for the man who will add to the sorrows of this world with the frightful dogma. I have no respect for any man who endeavours to put that infinite cloud, that infinite shadow, over the heart of humanity. — Robert G. Ingersoll
* * *
Department of Getting The Kids Up To Speed
Last Saturday’s book fair. To survive such events, I close my eyes and think of England grit my teeth and think of castor oil, and other things that (as a writer) are supposed to be good for you.
Friend and fellow writer SCM mused about the incongruity of having a book fair at library, where people can read books for free.  She also kept me sane through the event via a series of texts that distracted me from smacking people who attempted to walk off with copies of The Mighty Quinn without paying for them,  along with the par-for-the-course Book Fair atmosphere that several newbie authors noticed and commented on.
Higher sales (and dignity) than those of book fairs.
I tried to be gentle yet illuminating in my reply.
It was nice to meet you, too. Your experience (few sales, but good time) was par for the course. As a reluctant veteran of many book fairs, and can tell you that the turnout was, in fact, typical for a book fair.
Also, the rules of Book Fair are a variation on Rules 1 & 2 of Fight Club: 1. Nobody sells books at Book Fairs. 2. Nobody buys books at Book Fairs.
If you want to find the fair attendees, check the cookie booth.
 Then NBC decided they wouldn’t take the spot even if it were censored altered.
 And for which, all you well-meaning library patrons – or at least those who mistakenly think they are supporting literature by reading library books – the books’ authors are not compensated. If 2000 people serially check out the library’s copy of Reflections on a Wrinkled Elbow, the book’s author receives a royalty on the onecopy the library purchased.
 This has happened at every such event I’ve participated in.
Today’s post is Friday-lite, ® an excellent blog-reading strategy for mental and physical weight control. Watch the pounds melt away as you consume this post, which is both low energy and low volume, and may even reduce risk factors associated with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and Morgellon’s disease. 
For your Friday edification I present five quotes on five F-words: frivolity, feminism, freethought, food, fistulas. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
* Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Give him a religion and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish (anonymous) 
* A pair of jumper cables walks into a bar and orders a beer. “Well, okay,” says the bartender, “but don’t start anything.”
* When men are oppressed it’s called a tragedy. When women are oppressed it’s called tradition. (Letty Cotton Pogrebin)
* I think every woman should have a blowtorch. (Julia Child)
Yes, that was only four quotes, not five. Who’s counting – you? It’s Friday; lighten up. Besides, do you really want a quote about fistulas?
Sorry about that. It could have been worse. Much, much worse. Fistulas are more common in the anal region than the intestines. And there are pictures of them. Lots of pictures….
Oh, but after that, your eyes deserve a sloth-in-a-box break:
You’re welcome. Have a great weekend, and may the fistulas hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Aka delusional parasitosis, where in a person thinks there are insects crawling under their skin or that they are otherwise infested with parasites.
Nice way to start the week. Really! This (part of the) post is sarcasm-free! And full of exclamation marks! Because, why not?!
On Monday Scarletta Press’s publicist forwarded the following email from the Children’s Book Council. As for the CBC’s Tweet suggestions, the mere thought of that particular networking service gets me all twitter-pated, but any of you readers are also tweeters, feel free to pass along the news.  Especially if you have Michelle Obama’s ear. 
Rewind to Saturday, which had served as a more humbling reminder of the realities of publicity events. My press’s publicist had arranged for me to do a reading at an elementary school’s Earth Day project, to tie-in with one of The Mighty Quinn’s subplots. . The school’s students and parents would be working with coordinators of an environmental stewardship group (which I’ll refer to as Greengood. Sorry.) to plant trees and otherwise “beautify” their schoolyard.
We (MH, daughter Belle and moiself) showed up at the time suggested by the school’s Greengood coordinator. It took several minutes to find the Person In Charge; the event was, uh, disorganized, to say the least…which I’d expected as per past experience. 
The event organizer and her comrades were Bright, Perky and Chirpy. And young. Very young. Nothing wrong with that, but did I mention that they were young?
Although the BPCs had placed signs up all over the school (“12: 30 p special event: Robyn Parnell, Storyteller”), they hadn’t given any thought as to where I would do the reading.
The Storyteller spot they decided on at the last minute was in front of a bunch of picnic tables outside the school gym, from which recorded music was blaring. Horrible, as in, really awful acoustics (I did get them to turn off the music).
Adults and kids were taking a break from tree planting, and some twenty boxes of pizza had arrived. Two BPCs said they’d organize the adults to do cleanup/lunch prep and call in the kids from the playground for the reading. That didn’t go exactly as planned.
The adults (and many kids) kept wandering in and out of the picnic table area, before and during my reading, and the noise level was quite high. It became obvious to me that most of the kids had their eyes and attention spans focused on the pizza to come. Fortunately, the excerpts I’d picked were short…and I made them even shorter when I realized that some of the adults (who had not listened to the BPC instructions, imagine that) had begun to pass out the pizza.
Life Lesson, #367 in a series: Prose is no competition for pepperoni.
My reading began and ended with excerpts of a chapter in the book where students are doing a community service project and one of the characters asks, “Is it time for lunch?” That segue seemed to be appreciated by the, oh, six kids who were actually paying attention at that point.
The highlight: one kid, as I was setting up, asked if I would be doing a puppet show. S/he  seemed disappointed when I explained that I would be reading a passage from my (puppet-free) book, and s/he asked if it would be okay for to leave “if it gets boring.”
Yeah, sure, kid. Don’t let the seesaw hit you in the *&# on your way to the playground.
I did not say that. I did let the kid play with the frog clicker I’d brought along (no puppets, but a prop!), and s/he stayed for the reading.
During the reading MH & Belle distributed flyers about community service ideas (the flyers were provided by Scarletta Press, quite beautifully done…with a couple of mentions of the book, of course). After the pizza break MH, Belle and I helped mulch the newly planted trees. The reading break may have been disorganized but the adults and students had done a lot of work: over 70 trees planted on the school yards and perimeter!
Highlight, the sequel: the kids who planted the trees got to name the trees, which I thought was a delightful way to have students make a connection to the tree, and thus be more likely to care for them. A Douglas Fir was named…wait for it… “Dougie,” and a red maple was named “Elena,” and so on. One tree was named “Bob,” a cause for an apology of sorts from one of the parents, when she saw me reading the tree’s name tag.
“It’s, uh, not a very distinctive name, is it?” she stammered.
“What’s wrong with Bob?” MH (son of Robert, aka “Bob”) wanted to know.
* * *
Gracefully segueing to another school-related topic (and, as it happens, another Bob). Bob Davis, this Asshat’s for you:
Minnesota radio host Bob Davis said he would like to tell the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims to “go to hell” for infringing on his gun rights. Yep, Bob Davis’s message for the bereaved parents is that having to submit to a background check is a greater tragedy than them burying their children.
There are no words for this. Although a few enthusiastic hand gestures come to mind.
* * *
As per enthusiastic gestures, I’d like to ask a certain group of public servants to run their priorities up their flagpole and salute ’em.
Calling all Oregon State Legislators: the Capitol House janitorial staff has found your cojones, concealed behind the sawdust-filled barf bucket in the Capitol Rotunda’s broom closet.
The great and groovy state of Oregon faces many contentious challenges, including updating our aging infrastructure, grappling with the dilemma of underfunded and underperforming public schools, and fixing a dysfunctional Public Employees Retirement System. Thus, our intrepid legislators, forging new pathways in the spirit of the Oregon Trail, decided to devote time, energy and $$ during the recently convened 2013 Legislative Session to a bill to require all Oregon school districts to display the US flag in each classroom and have students salute it once daily during school hours.
Really. House Bill 3014 passed the Oregon House of Representatives and is now headed for the State Senate.
Photo showing the old salute, taken in May 1942 in Southington, CT
Caption: Photo showing the old salute, taken in May 1942 in Southington, CT, just one month before the new salute became official.
Rep. Sal Esquivel, (R – Medford) is the bill’s chief knuckle-dragger in charge of do-nothingism masking as patriotism sponsor. Esquivel believes the Pledge of Allegiance teaches students about the nation’s legacy. “We need to teach kids the symbolism of that flag,” Esquivel said. “That flag stands for America. That flag stands for your freedoms. That flag stands for everything this country’s ever done, has been or will be in the future.”
It might behoove Esquivel to teach himself the literal meaning behind that flag symbolism. Is he unaware of our country’s history of civil and constitutional rights? Does he understand that the right to free speech includes the freedom from making loyalty oaths to the king government, particularly when those oaths violate that very government’s constitution by promoting religion? Are Esquivel and the bill’s supporters going to mandate that schoolchildren be taught the history of The Pledge to That Flag, including:
“We’re dealing with schoolchildren and with role models in schools who are required to lead it. The circumstances are inherently fraught with compulsion or coercion and we feel that’s a violation of church-state separation.” (Anti-Defamation League, Nov. 14, 2003)
My own OR State Representative, whose energy and idealism I respect – and whose pragmatism I grudgingly understand – voted for the bill. Ick ick ick, I sez, even I realize that once such a piece of festering crap legislation is introduced it’s a no-win situation for any representative – particularly a newbie to the game  – to oppose it, or point out why such provisions are unnecessary, wasteful, silly and even sinister distractions from the real, pressing issues at hand. Any politician doing so would be subject to knee-jerk disloyalty accusations from the why-do-you-hate-America, drool bucket for brains crowd, and political rivals would relish the chance to use a “He voted against the flag! And the Pledge!” sound bite during the next election.
I can’t help but wonder what the legislature’s next efficient use of taxpayer monies might be. Perhaps they’ll form a committee to find and replace all the currency we frisky Freethinkers have been desecrating correcting; i.e., the dollar bills with “In God We Trust’ scratched out on the back.
I can only be pissed off at politicians for so long — this weekend is the Oregon Potters Association convention! The annual Ceramic Showcase, the nation’s largest exhibit and sale of pottery items ranging from sculpture to garden art to home accessories, is at the Oregon Convention Center, Friday through Sunday. Pottery-loving friends and I have made it a yearly tradition to mark our calendars and attend on the opening day. After years of showcases I’ve no room in the house for pottery, be it decorative or functional…ah, but what do I see outside my office window? An artless yard?  And there always seems to be room for just one more visage on the Wall of Faces.
* * *
Wishing y’all a weekend of friendly faces. Let the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 This is as close as I’ll get to groveling. Until next week.
 Or whatever part of the body one uses when tweeting.
A woman clad in body-hugging, long-sleeve Nike shirt, Adidas leggings and New Balance shoes,  is running toward me. She is pushing one of those baby jogger strollers. You know how a rhythmic, rocking motion can calm and soothe many a fussy infant? Hers is not that kind of baby.
A lone seagull crouches in the grass, extends its necks and emits staccato, croaking calls, as if doing a series of vocal exercises to warm up for the squawking to come. A man who looks to be in his mid 30’s places a duffle bag beneath the canopy of a large cedar tree and begins some kind of martial arts exercises. I hear a wheezing noise coming from behind me; I’m on “alert status,” as one must be when walking in unfamiliar territory, and stop at a fork in the path and turn around. An elderly gentleman is about 20 feet behind me on the path. He’s rail thin, looks as if a strong breeze could knock him over,. He has a thick mass of shock white hair atop his deeply furrowed head, and he’s wearing a bright neon safety vest. He pumps his arms as he strides past me, flashing a beatific smile and greeting me with a cheery, “Good moooooooorning!” I take the fork to the right, and soon I hear the familiar, shuffle shuffle crunch snuffle snuffle that heralds the approach of a biped and its dog, respectively walking and inspecting the twig-strewn gravel path. Ahead of me to the south, a sleek black lab, let off its leash by its human, intensely and hopefully  streaks toward two seagulls resting on the grass by the duck pond. The birds watch the rapidly approaching canine, waiting until the last moment before nonchalantly spreading their wigs and rising helicopter-like over the dog, which rockets beneath them. The dog slows down for a nanosecond, glances back at its human, resumes its speed and slightly changes direction – reminding me of how a cat, when it somehow fails, begins to casually groom itself as if to say, Ohyeah, I meant to do that.
The simple sights and sounds of a city awakening to the assurance of a beautiful day.
MH, Belle and I are staying in an olde apartment building (ca 1912) across the street from the perfect venue for a morning – or afternoon or evening – walk. Wright Park is a 27 acre arboretum with a series of gravel loop trails, a duck pond, a lawn bowling/bocce ball court, a botanical conservancy, several themed works of bronze statuary and one seemingly random memorial. As my après-walk internet search later confirms, I’m not the only person to have wondered why, in the middle of a Tacoma park, is there a monument to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen? 
We are in Tacoma for three reasons.
1. to return K to college (UPS).
2. Belle is interested in UPS, and is doing campus tours and other activities UPS offers to prospective students. On our way back to Oregon we will stop at Evergreen College in Olympia, for similar check-out-the-school exploring.
3. there is no third reason.
K came home for his spring break last week. At the end of the week we made a two day trip to Manzanita and then drove the scenic route  to take K back to UPS. It seems as though all of Tacoma was out when we arrived on Saturday afternoon. There is something about Tacoma on a sunny day that reminds me of San Francisco. Perhaps it’s the city’s many hills, and the view you have atop them, to the north, east and west, of the bay (Puget Sound’s Commencement Bay, in Tacoma’s case). In cities like Tacoma and San Francisco, which are known for their often overcast/inclement weather, a clear, bright sunny day seems to bring out the best in residents and visitors alike.
Just in case you were wondering, after reading that last comparison, I neither smoke nor inhale. Apologies to San Fransiscoites: the afore-mentioned weather rumination is the only Tacoma characteristic that reminds me of The City. Your beloved Baghdad by The Bay’s charm remains intact, and unique.
Saturday night, after dropping off K at his dorm, Belle, MH & I had dinner at Pomodoro, in Tacoma’s Procter district. Not long after we were seated Belle removed her sketch pad and pencils from her purse. She and MH were seated across from me, and Belle looked in my direction as she began to sketch. I turned around to see if perhaps a cute waiter or bus boy was lurking behind me. Nope. This put me into a rather mild existential panic. I tried my best not to sound like a bad Robert DeNiro imitation as I asked, “Are you sketching me?”
“Yes,” Belle replied. “Hold still.”
I didn’t hold still. None of us held still. We were doing restaurant-things: eating, drinking, lifting napkins to our mouths, answering questions from our server, as well as allegedly conversing with one another. Belle said nothing more, but from her heavy sighs and eyebrow gymnastics it was apparent that she was disappointed with my lack of stillness, and other attributes that render me unfit for sketching.
I do not translate well to photos. I am not a still life, and loathe having my picture taken in any form and for any cause. The reasons for this are not particularly complicated or interesting; they are known to those supposedly closest to me, and in a kind and just world (calling Mr. Rogers) would be respected, even if not “understood.” This is rarely the case.
From the POV of a fotografizophobic,  when people gaze at you intently and allegedly dispassionately, judging the contours (read: inadequacies) of your bone structure and other facial features, hearing them say, “Hold still so I can sketch you/take your picture” is the emotional equivalent of hearing, Hold still so that I may throw acid in your face.
Unsolicited, adult-to-adult advice: when any sentient being declines to have their picture taken by you, respect their wishes and move on. Do not whine and wheedle, do not attempt any form of emotional blackmail (“The family reunion shot will be ruined if you’re not in it, and who knows if Uncle Anus will live long enough to attend the next one!”). Unless I am renewing my driver’s license and you are the DMV camera dude, or you are the hospital’s medical photographer sent to document my Mayo Clinic-worthy bulbous axillary tumor, back off. It’s that simple.
* * * We interrupt this family travelogue to bring you a political rant. Your regular programming will return shortly.
Department of I’m glad he didn’t live/I wish he’d lived to see this
My father had an inexplicable, embarrassing (to me) fascination with Richard Milhous Nixon. He’d been to Nixon’s “Western White House” home in San Clemente on official (IRS) business and had met the then Prevaricator Commander-in-Chief. To a man of my dad’s generation who began life as a dirt-poor country boy in a southern family of share croppers, meeting The President must have been seen as a pinnacle of the American dream. Thus, I tell myself my father’s interest was a case of celebrity worship, or that all-too-human fascination with any personal brush with power, and not that he actually admired the lying, venal, foul-mouthed, paranoid, commie-baiting, racist contender for worst president ever.
I thought no new revelations about Nixon could ever surprise me, even though I knew there were more tapes and documents yet to be declassified. Still, it was chilling to read the revelations contained in the LBJ tapes about just how low RMN would go to obtain power. In 1968, fearing that the Paris Peace Talks would end the Vietnam War and thus his election chances, Nixon secretly intervened to sabotage the negotiations. He sent his envoy to get the South Vietnamese to pull out of the talks, promising them “a better deal” if he were elected. LBJ, informed of Nixon’s treachery by the FBI, felt Nixon was committing treason, but feared going public with the information for several reasons, including national security concerns and having to reveal that the FBI and the NSA were bugging the South Vietnamese ambassador’s phone and intercepting his communications. Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, informed of the situation by LBJ a few days before the election, decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, especially if the Dems were going to win anyway (they were ahead in the polls).
What is that old saying, something about how all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing?
The peace talks collapsed, Nixon ended his campaign by promising an alternative to the inept Democratic strategy – look at them, they couldn’t even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table! – and won the election with less than 1% of the popular vote. His “better deal” led to the war dragging on until 1975…which caused the additional deaths of Twenty. Two. Thousand. American soldiers. 
Despite – or perhaps because of – being a fiction writer I’m a huge fan of reality. A part of me wishes my father could have read the transcripts, and that he and I could’ve discuss the revelations, and that he would have been able to understand at least a part of my vitriol for RMN, which is best expressed by Hunter S. Thompson’s He Was A Crook. Another part  wimps out on reality, and tries to embrace the idea that an old man went in peace, holding on to whatever fantasies he had, the Nixon one (oh….ick) included.
Richard Nixon…He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”
(Hunter S. Thompson, writing in The Atlantic, May 1, 1994)
“It’s the problem…that no one likes to talk about. No wonder they call it Silent But Deadly.”
How’s that for a commercial lead-in? But really, ladies and germs,The same type of fabric used by the military to protect against chemical weapons can be yours, with the purchase of the intriguingly named Better Marriage Blanket. Unfortunately, it’s not what you’re thinking. Or, maybe it is. Oh, who cares – any product with the selling point “offending molecules are absorbed before anyone knows they’re there” is worth a moment of your attention, right? Not only that, it’s given me the idea of how to solve the North Korea situation. Get our Navy Seals to wrap Kim Jong-un in a Better Marriage Blanket, and it’ll be like he’s not even there.
Speaking of other problems no one likes to talk about, there are those family road trips that do not end in all sweetness and light and witty anecdotes. Unsolicited adult-to-adult advice, revisited (the photography-free version): do not endure treatment from family members that you would find intolerable coming from anyone else.
Smarter people than us said this:
* Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
― Alexander Pope
* There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
– Martin Luther King Jr
* Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.
– George Carlin
* * *
Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss. Hmm, not the feel-good title of the year, you say? The collection contains some beautiful, intriguing, moving essays, poems and fiction on the subject of loss in the context of motherhood, including, in the last category, a story of mine. Two years ago I read the editor’s call for submissions and submitted my story “Maddie is Dead.”  It was one of those made-me-shiver incidents when the editor contacted me to say that she loved the story and wanted to include it in the collection, and by the way, is the story indeed fiction (it is), and by-the-by-the-way, did I know that her deceased daughter was named Maddie?
The anthology should be in book stores later this year and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
* * *
One last gasp at the road trip story. It was our first night in Tacoma, in the afore-mentioned apartment with Belle & Mark, and Belle was cranky due to a nasty, lingering cold and (gasp) no TV on site. She turned down any suggestion I had for playing cards, games, etc. I passed the time doing an online search for…hmmm, parameters, hmmm. What would be a spirit-lifting image to see? How about sloths wearing onsies?
Best. Search. In. A. Long. Time.
An adorable Bradypodidae, dressed in baby clothes.Hijinks are bound to ensue.
 A Norwegian-American artist sculpted a bust of Ibsen, his mentor and friend. Three bronze busts cast from the original ended up in places with large populations of Norski immigrants: St. Paul, MN, Wahpeton, N.D., and Tacoma. Just because.
 The Tacoma narrative was written earlier this week, on Sunday and Monday.
 to her brother’s genuine if mild apprehension.
 Up the Oregon coast, crossing the Clumbia River at Astoria, following the Willapa Bay, cutting over to Olympia at the small town of Raymond. Which led us to wonder if there was a man in the town named Raymond, and if so, do all of the townspeople like him?
 Fotografizophobia is the fear of having your picture taken.
 .and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians soldiers and civilians.
 The part spelled “protective daughter,” no doubt.
 A lame popularized by Milton Berle in the 1950’s: “Good evening, ladies and germs. I mean ladies and gentlemen. I call you ladies and gentlemen, but you know what you really are.” It was funnier then. Supposedly.
 Previously published in The Externalist, issue 4, October 7.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.