Saturday, March 17, 2018

Billionaires of the World Unite: Stormy Daniels Needs Your Support

If I were Warren Buffett, I'd be buying Stormy Daniels and her lawyer dinner at a restaurant so lovely and exclusive that she'd never run into "Mr. President" there. I'd discreetly hand her an envelope with at least twenty million in it around dessert time, and with promises of more cash to come. I'd also provide her with funding for bodyguards, spa cures, and vegan shakes. I'd enlist all the other nice billionaires I know--how about Ingvar Kamprad and Karl Albrecht? Haven't all those megabuck dudes noticed that a certain crooked businessman who runs the U.S. like a gigantic personal business while never paying taxes or admitting that he never pays taxes is giving other rich folks a bad name? If you don't want to save Stormy for her own sake, save her for yours! She's fun, and her lawyer's a hero.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Getting the FoundationOne Test In Germany: Fifteen Tips

As you probably know, if you're a cancer patient, neither genetic nor genomic testing is likely to be covered by your German insurance company, unless (1) you have two or three relatives with the same kind of cancer or (2) your insurance company is really nice. Nevertheless, Germany being devoted to bureaucracy, you may find yourself in a situation like mine. So here are some tips:

(1) Tell your gynecologist or your oncologist that you would like FoundationOne genomic testing. 

(2) Watch your oncologist sweat. "I'm not allowed to order the test," said my oncologist, "Because of #$%^&*UIO and WERTYHJ@#$%TY," (In other words, I couldn't follow her explanation.)

(3) Go to your gynecologist or your general practitioner (Hausartz) and say you'd like her to order the test.  Watch her sweat. In my case, I went to my gynecologist first, because I'd written to the  FoundationOne company, who advised me that either my oncologist or my gynecologist could write the test order.

(4) Listen to lengthy explanation from worried, guilty gynecologist that the test is "off-label," therefore very expensive, and maybe the insurance company will not approve, and maybe I'll have to pay for the test myself.

(5) Start a GoFundMe (or the crowdfunding company of your choice, but GoFundMe was great) to raise money for the test.

(6) Write to your insurance company and cc the mail to your gynecologist and your oncologist. Send every diagnosis you ever got to the insurance company, while feeling as though you were promising to hand over your firstborn child.

(7) Call your oncologist to let her know your insurance company might be paying, but meanwhile you'd really like this test. Listen to her get irritated about how she's answered lots of emails from you.

(8) Explain to time-pressed, overworked gynecologist that she really has to read this email your insurance company just wrote.

(9) Get (if you're lucky) a definite approval from your insurance company and dance merrily to your gynecologist in hopes of getting her to write the order for the test. Watch her writhe in her chair and explain that sometimes insurance companies tell doctors "You prescribed too many off-label tests! Pay up!" In other words, she's afraid of being stuck with the 5000 euros, or the 3000-something euros. Five years after the fact. Which is also five years after the time you're floating in heaven or frying in hell.

(10) Offer to pay. Your GoFundMe cash just came through.

(11) Listen to her say "No," you don't pay . . . 

(12) Talk to the oncologist again. She still can't write the order for the test.

(13) Go see the oncologist, who's willing to send in the tissue sample. 

(14) Listen to her when she mentions that you could just try your general practitioner: "All you need is that Stempel." (the official bureaucratic stamp).

(15) Go to Hausartz about another, unrelated form you need filled out. After that form is taken care of, slide the FoundationOne form across the table. Have her sign it while she's so busy she doesn't know what she's signing.

P.S. The tissue sample is now in the mail! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Fulvestrant Follies

If radiation is the kinky tanning salon--and believe me, it is, with your head buckled to the table and then having to take your pants down so they can blast the other tumor in your leg, and then technicians edging your leg into place but you're not allowed to move it yourself--then Fulvestrant injections are the sadist's dream. You might as well be asked to bend over in a Victorian spanking fantasy. 

Actually, I just had to lie on a gurney and the nurse was perfectly nice, but the experience took me back to the tetanus shot I had to have ("Oh, you mean, it's not going to be in my arm?") after I cracked my forehead open on the faucet while wrestling my lice-ridden three-year-old into a shampoo. 

You have to take your pants down with the Fulvestrant, and you have to lie there while the nurse injects the shot right into your buttock. I was told it was going to be my hip. "Hip" is a euphemism. Then you roll over and she does the other buttock. I have to admit the experience was not excruciating, but it was absolutely no fun and right up there with the Most Unpleasant Things I Have Ever Done, including becoming infected with campylobacteria in Peru, trying, with very limited Spanish, to explain my predicament to a pharmacist, who figured out, from the way I was writhing at her counter, was the matter was, having vomiting and diarrhea and fever from said bacteria all the way home on two flights--while tending to the needs of three energetic children. 

Fulvestrant comes but once every two weeks--and then once a month--thank goodness. I walked home (or, rather, poled my way home on crutches, my leg still in its postoperative state) and feel okay, and rather hungry. On the advice of my 78-year-old friend who's had Stage 4 ovarian cancer for five years, I'm going back to my glass or two of red wine every night.  I noticed it really settled my stomach after radiation, and besides--a glass of wine does wonders for the soul.  One sip of the ruby-red liquid and I'm distracted from the memory of that needle--although I'll never forget it. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Storm on, Stormy! Get him!

It's International Women's Day, and about time the witty, gracious Stormy Daniels took down our so-called president. The man who's disgraced the office and the title ought to be felled by a lovely porn star: it's positively Dantesque. Back in Dante's inferno, the sinners are arranged in ten circles, ranging from the ones at the top, the "not so bad," the adulterous lovers, to the truly evil, those who betrayed their benefactors. In the first circle, those illicit lovers are bandied about in a whirlwind, just as they let themselves be guided by the winds of passion in life--but they get blown away from, rather than toward, their former lovers. That punishment is known as "Contrapasso," literally translated as "suffer the opposite," and the idea is for the punishment to fit the crime. The false prophets--magicians, astrologers, for instance, the ones whom Dante perceives as having tried to see the future by forbidden means, now have their heads on backwards--they will literally never look forward, certainly not as far as the future, again.
Now where to put "David Dennison" aka Donald Trump, who appears to have failed to have signed his own legal document?
He'd be getting off way too easy if he were placed among the adulterers. He's certainly a false prophet. He's a betrayer of his benefactors--the American people, and, especially, on International Women's Day, of his wife, Melania, and his young son, Barron, who will always live with the knowledge that his father couldn't even stay faithful for a few months. Not for a nanosecond, I suppose.
Now, "David Dennison" has arranged things so that Stormy Daniels will have to pay a million bucks if she describes his junk or their encounters.
Where are the millionaires, not to mention the billionaires? They ought to be ponying up the dough to help our savior, Stormy! Why doesn't someone run a GoFundMe to pay any legal bills this woman encounters and help her live a life of ease? Come on, people--support Stormy! She's the American people's best friend. She can bring down The Donald. I can just see him up to the neck in the lowest, deeply frozen circle, Cocytus, still a talking head, able to complain that things are just not fair, Mommy.
Thank you, Stormy! You're a national treasure.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Critical Mom's Cozy Winter Chicken

A chicken dinner in Winter should offer plenty of vitamins, prevent colds, and taste hearty and filling--it should stick to your ribs. I suggest an organic or corn-fed chicken, and I'd go with the recommendation of a New York Times recipe: salt and pepper the bird, put it in a dish, and leave it in the fridge overnight or at least for a few hours. The skin with get crispier this way when you bake the bird. I rinse and pat dry before the salt-and-pepper phase and believe the bird is improved by this, but find I am in a minority.

When you're ready to make dinner: boil red potatoes, or a mix or red potatoes and sweet potatoes, until you can easily poke a fork into them. They shouldn't be falling apart. Line your baking dish with these; add a little olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper. Set the bird right on top and stuff with a handful of fresh flat-leaf (or regular) parsley, a few cloves of garlic, and a lemon sliced in half--squeeze a little of the juice on top of the chicken. Bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes (depending on the size of the chicken) at 200º C, about 400º F. Enjoy!

A pleasant side dish: toss brussel sprouts in olive oil and maple syrup, add garlic salt and cumin. Bake for about 45 minutes (or less) at 200º.  Put in this dish after the chicken's been incubating for a good fifteen minutes. Happy Eating!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Radiation Revisited, Or the Woman in the Iron Mask

OK, it's really a plastic mask but oh, how form fitting. As I was cooling my heels on some CT-scanning-type contraption, the technician advised me my face would be feeling hot, and then cold. A slab of blue plastic melted, lava-like, over my features and quickly cooled to comfortable temperatures. Eye holes, a nose hole, a mouth hole, but imagine Darth Vader in baby-blue, with illegible graffiti and tic tac toe games decorating his cheeks and forehead, for the technicians busily drew black and green lines--that dizzying, permanent-marker smell dominated the air for a few moments, and then I was done. 

For my first radiation, yesterday, I donned the mask--or rather, it was slipped over my face. I'd already asked if I could keep it when I was done--it's a real conversation piece, goes with my wig and styrofoam wig head from my chemo days. 

"That's snug," I said. "Gee, that's tight," I thought. That was before they buckled the mask to the table and taped it down, such that my chin retracted into my neck. I could still breath, but believe me, my eyes were bugging.
Darth Vader or Silence of the Lambs?

"Are you lying comfortably?" asked the anxiously sweet technician with the long gray hair and the gold granny glasses.

I burst out laughing, only I couldn't burst. A strangled sound emerged from my mouth hole. Then I pretended to breathe like Darth Vader and they got nervous. 

"I'm Darth Vader!" I announced. They smiled, urged me not to move--another line that got me laughing--and left the rooms so I could be irradiated.

Donald Trump's Motto: Conceal and Carry

What else but "conceal and carry"could anyone expect from someone who boasted he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still get elected? What else does Trump do besides conceal? His taxes, his motives, his greed. His worst traits stick out all over him and he trumpets them, so to speak, on Twitter, but he's still gotten away--and continues to get away--with sweeping most of his crimes under the rug. 

Watching CNN this morning, my stomach lurched at the sight of Trump's response to a weeping high school student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a boy whose best friend had died in the shooting. The solution, Trump asserted, was to let "trained" teachers conceal and carry a weapon. More guns. So the teacher could shoot the shooter.

The National Rifle Association--which according to contributed, in the 2016 election, $11,438,118 to support Donald Trump—and another $19,756,346 to oppose Hillary Clinton, commands Trump's sick loyalty. When will the world listen--when will people who should know better, like Laura Ingraham, stop defending him?

The over $31 million spent on one presidential race by the NRA should be refunded personally by Trump, and invested in a real solution--like banning guns and reclaiming those already purchased. We need a solution like that of Australia's gun recall. Australia hasn't had a mass shooting since 1996. But Australia is not afflicted by a President Donald Trump.

The "National Rifle Association"--it's so outdated. The organization was founded in 1871, and the weapon then touted was the breach-loading rifle. This kind of rifle reduced the amount of time it took to re-load the bullets, but could not compete with the assault-style weapons that fly off the shelves of Walmart today. What the Founders would have thought of a vengeful or crazy teenager buying an assault-style weapon and mowing down his classmates--and a "president" who wants even more guns in schools--I can't imagine. They'd be weeping, as I am.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Diagnostics and Delusion

I'm dreaming of the whole illness evaporating like a common cold, though I know perfectly well it won't. Meanwhile, the only thing between me and those big, bad, mean metastases is a slim, modest, 20-mg daily dose of Tamoxifen. 
That's sending a boy to do a man's job. More like sending a 98-lb. pipsqueak to do a the job of a team of superheroes aided by the marine corps. But I take the slim white pill in the way that some slip that tab of acid onto their tongues, devil may care--a thing I never did and don't regret never having done--and some take the priest's wafer, swallow, and feel cleansed. Belief is a thing I could use, though in the religion department I'm lacking it. 
I believe in living. I dream of long walks, dancing the shim-sham shimmy again, and thirty-two changements at the end of ballet class. These are all things of the past, but vivid in memory, and I do enjoy my memories. I  suppose I enjoy these things even more as memories, since the actual doing of them used to cause considerable effort. 
Meanwhile, back at the gene pool: are my genes turning traitor? Was I born with genes determined to betray me just when things were getting good? Lately, we've been watching Lucifer and enjoying the series immensely. My sympathies are often with the fallen morningstar; God seems rather mean, as he does in Milton's Paradise Lost, the Old Testament, and much of Renaissance painting.
Even Blake gives him a brooding, crabby expression and calls him "Old Nobodaddy" but that may be whistling in the dark, an increasingly familiar feeling to me. At the end of the last Harry Potter book, Harry has a long conversation with Dumbledore in a place that looks like King's Cross, then wonders if the scene was "real" or just inside his head--of course it's Dumbledore  who questions that distinction.  I like all versions of real--really here, especially, for a long time: that would be my favorite.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Surgically Yours: Frankenstein & Me

Look at that face. But even more, look at that forehead. The face approximates the mood of my leg, the forehead scars the look. I am Frankensteinian. I wonder whether I'll ever be able to go through airport metal detectors, I should live so long. A huge rod now sits in the center of what's left of my femur, extending, like the lonely monster's hopes, into my hip. But I can walk with crutches, and was just within yelling distance of a delivery man who, by the time I hobbled down the stairs, had just flipped his "be back later" note through the letterbox and vanished. It was nice of him to return. 
I feel likely to become an assemblage of parts in my quest for survival. Parts of me, the cancerous parts, will be discarded, and the empty holes filled with whatever surgeons use. I cannot seem to gather myself into a sensible state of mind. A shower takes all my concentration, and I used the laundry basket as a walker until I could lay my hands on my crutches. Once I'd changed the bandage on my Franky-leg, it seemed time for a nap again. What's a nice girl like me doing with Stage 4 breast cancer? The tablespoon of sugar I need in my supersized cup of extremely strong morning café-au-lait? The coffee itself? I like it strong enough to walk on, and I always grind a lot of beans for a little bit of water. Once in a while, at least once a week, I eat a chocolate bar. The extra estrogen naturally swimming through my system, and which helped me produce three lovely children at an age when many women are grandmothers? The glass or two of red wine, nightly, that I used to enjoy? I drink much less than the doctors on Gray's Anatomy. I exercised much more, too, ate my turmeric, avocado, garlic, and ginger. Avoided the grapefruit and tangerines. The longing to know "what I could do"--to derail the disease--not using lipstick or hairdye? Avoiding alcohol, sugar, and other small pleasures?--is positively Frankenstinian. Life in the uncertainty zone is monstrous. Some flip of the genes seems the culprit, and elusive as the monster, whose maker chased his unwanted creation across the ice for long distances, and fruitlessly.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Madame Alzheimer's: My New Hospital Roommate

She's really sweet, although my first impression, when they rolled her in, was one of surliness. I smiled and introduced myself; she merely stared. Turned out she was just confused. I found out just how confused when I went down the hall with my husband for a few minutes and returned to find her flipping through my papers, which had been moved from my wheelchair to her bed. She was sure she had her own medical records in her hands. My very patient, not-easily-riled husband had to negotiate with her, even gently pull my papers from her surprisingly strong grip.
She cannot remember that she has a broken hip until she's already sitting on the edge of her bed, setting her feet on the floor, declaring that she has to go to the toilet. Guess who gets to ring for the nurse?
Several times last night I woke to the sound of her groaning as she got her feet on the ground--and rang, urging her to stay in bed. Then the nurses charged in, hauling her legs back in and cleaning her up. Adult sized pampers came into play; I requested that the nurse open the window. Tonight, I heard sounds that may have involved intestinal activities I'd rather not know about but the nurse will come eventually. 
German hospitals, given the choice of allowing an elderly woman to fall, breaking the other hip, and tying her to the bed, since the nurse can't check up on her often enough, seem to think it mean-spirited to restrict her in any way.
"It's dangerous!" I say. I even say it in German. 
I think I rang for them one time too many. They know they can count on me to do so. My neighbor, who was seventeen in 1945, is sleeping now--or what passes as sleeping. They slipped her a mickie or two, and she gulps and gasps like one with a bad combination of sleep apnea and seriously overgrown adenoids. And now it's time for me to turn in. Hospitals have never been known as places where you actually rest. But I rather feel like I'm working a bit too much for the nurses at the moment.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

My BIg Fat Hospital Room

My roommate's family is large, loud, and emotive. At any given point, six relatives are working the room, brandishing plastic bags of onions and fruit, or gathering around her bed. When her adoring adult children are not surrounding her--sometimes even when they are--she asks me where my leg hurts. Every time she asks, I answer, pointing to the area from which pain radiates. She knows how much my leg hurts because she, in fact, has almost exactly the same condition and is taking the same amount of morphine; she's in a room with me because it's convenient for the hospital to dump patients with cancer metastasized to the bone in the same room. But now she's in bed, surrounded by relatives with melodramatic faces:
Roommate, waving arms around, eyes wild: "I'm in paaaaiinnnn! Ohhhh, I'm in sooo much painnn!"
Chorus of grown children, ripping hair: "Ohhh, Mama's in paiiinnnn! Mammaaa's in paiiinnnn! Ohhhhh!"
Roommate: "Ahhhh! It's terrible!! Ahhhhh!"
Chorus: "It's terrible! Mammaaa! Terrible!"
Then they all sit down, divvy up huge hunks of cake and some concoction resembling ice cream, loudly consume both, scattering crumbs, guzzle fruit juice, offer me tangerines, smile indulgently when I say I like quiet and need to work. 
Refreshed, they're off to the races again.
"Do youuuu have paiinnnn too?" asks the roommate again, with her deep, burning eyes trained on my thigh, where, as well she knows, the pain has been morphined into quiescence. 
"Yes," I say. "You can get more pain pills, too." The nurse has been in and out, handing out pain pills like candy. My roommate's eyes are glassy with pain pills. 
"Ohhhhh!" she adds. "Are you in painnnnn?" She wants me to show her. Again. I do. Again.
When she and all her brethren are not relishing her pain, they're asking me if the doctors are crazy, and inquiring of the man who came in to hang window curtains whether nuclear medicine is any good. He shrugs. They'd already asked me, and I'd naïvely suggested that the doctors probably knew more than I did. The husband spent the night, sleeping head to toe with his wife; both groan a great deal and their groans are punctuated by their loudly ringing phones, which announce themselves at four in the morning and are answered--passionate diatribes about stress, catastrophe, doctors, and cancer tend to, so to speak, metastasize in this room. I've requested a move. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Donald Trump Is Not a Racist

Trump's no racist, I muttered to myself while watching a spirited CNN panel enumerate his "racist" comments about Mexicans and "shithole," i.e. poor, countries populated mainly by people of color. 

It's missing the point to call the man a racist. A racist at least has a point of view--a narrow one, a despicable one, a misguided one, an idiotic one, a destructive one, and oh, such a passé one. But a point of view. A belief system.

Don't dignify Trump's tantrums with the idea that any point of view whatsoever is meant to emerge from them. Trump is much worse than a racist: he's a reckless, thoughtless opportunist. To suggest he espouses any point of view, apart from a lust for money and power--and you can't call these points of view, but rather appetites--is to misdiagnose. We were on the mark when we called him a toddler--there is incidentally, a blog, The Ticus Files, you should all check out by a sadly deceased wonderful writer, Andrew Balée, dedicated to Trump as "toddler-in-chief," enumerating his bouts of negativistic, childish behavior. The Republican senator Jeff Flake has just pointed out that Trump's latest rants are borrowed from Joseph Stalin, who was more paranoid and destructive than Joseph McCarthy. Christiane Amanpour, interviewing the Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, remarked that Putin's style is "very aligned" with that of Stalin. Putin's style, Gessen retorted, is also aligned with that of Ivan the Terrible (killed serfs, slaughtered his firstborn son, threw live squirrels out turret windows, raved in a style remarkably similar to Trump). Here the sixteenth-century ruler is in Sergey Eisenstein's 1944 interpretation: 
This captures the evil pout of the preschooler whose most recent urge hasn't been gratified, and who's going to throw a massive tantrum or bite mom. But a toddler is small, and we expect toddlers to grow. Trump has the urges, the amorality, of a toddler, but he's far more dangerous because he's got the know-how, the cunning, and the money of an adult. If Trump were just a racist, things might actually be easier.

Gessen went on to point out that like Ivan, Putin thinks of Russia as an empire, that in order to make Russia "great again" (a familiar phrase) he's got to position Russia in opposition to an important enemy. Who else but the United States? Putin doesn't get to "be important," Gessen wryly observed, unless he's got a big enough enemy.

 Just imagine Putin positioning Russia against, instead of Trump's America, one of those "shithole" countries! Yes, imagine an alternate universe in which Russian TV, instead of coughing up the usual reports of encountering "American forces" in Syria, announced: "Russian forces fighting in Syria conquered, after a brave struggle, soldiers from Haiti, Nigeria and Chad."

Nope. No wonder Putin enjoys the term "dickhead"--of course he does, because politics has become a peeing contest between two or three empire-builders, each of whom says he has the bigger . . .button.

The line between reckless opportunism and nihilism is a thin one indeed. The man who doesn't give a damn about anything but money, power, admiration and the limelight is the one who doesn't notice, or give a damn about racism or anything else, and so he indulges in one last impulse that brings on the apocalypse. About twenty-five million people died in the wake of Stalin's megalomania.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Norwegians At the Gates: American Immigration and Donald Trump

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services fact sheet, in the fiscal year 2016, "the top countries of origin for naturalization were in the following order:  Mexico, India, Philippines, People’s Republic of China, and Cuba." 

If you read the whole page, you can find one mention of Norway--seems to have been a military spouse or two from Norway who married an American and got naturalized. Not necessarily in order to leave Norway. Why, in fact, would any person lucky enough to hold Norwegian citizenship leave the land of fjords and midnight sun, fabulous fish, gorgeous wooden stave churches, rich oil reserves, great health care services, the astonishingly talented Karl Ove Knausgaard, who, the Boston Globe's reviewer comments, "suffers from the kind of honesty that could peel paint," and a single neo-Nazi killer Anders Beivik, who slaughtered 77 people? It does say something about a country when there's just one really known bad guy. Known for killing the folks Trump wants excluded from America.

When Trump asked why America should let in immigrants from "shithole" countries like Haiti, I thought it worthwhile to point out why Norwegians aren't banging down the door. Maybe Knausgaard could afford to live in any American city, but why would he? Why would anyone leave Norway? I wonder how many Americans are trying, as I write, to become naturalized Norwegian citizens?

And Breivik--if he had the freedom to enter an American prison instead of a Norwegian one, would he? In Norway, people send him boxes in which he can place his neatly folded Lacoste sweaters. But If you believe in punishment, an American prison is definitely the place to get one. 

I can't help but remember Richard Nixon's foul racist remarks about numerous ethnic and sexual minorities: but his policies differed. He really didn't put his money where his mouth was. Although he appears to have enjoyed yelping racist remarks in private, in public he opened relations with China, founded the Environmental Protection Agency, put large sums of money into cancer research, peacefully desegregated Sourthen schools, and signed Title IX in 1972, a civil rights law preventing gender bias at colleges and universities receiving Federal aid.

And Trump? With his bigger button? But now he says he's good friends with the North Korean dictator? What about those talks with South Korea? Can a ray of hope gleam somewhere, soon?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Preying Man?

Yesterday, as I was returning to my university office after my last class, in the evening, I saw two men standing in the hallway who didn't look like students. They seemed too old, thirtyish or older; they had a casual, dislocated air. A secretary was just poking her head out her door to ask what they wanted and they answered, "We're looking for something." She withdrew her head. I walked past one of the men, who was standing in the middle of the hall chatting on a cell phone--also not typical for students, who, if they must make phone calls while waiting to see professors, sit down or withdraw to a corner. The other man had gone ahead of me, rounded the bend to the right of my office, where another small office was recently burglarized.
What was he doing there? Should I ignore him? If he was there to vandalize, I knew I was within screaming distance of the secretary.
I rounded the same bend, ten paces behind him, asking, "Are you looking for someone?"
I discovered the man on his knees, eyes closed, lips pressing the floor. He appears to have been praying. I left immediately, walked back to the secretary's office, knocked, explained. I wondered if the man was just a wandering, devout person looking for a quiet place to pray? Was this scene for real?
"Oh, yes," said the secretary. "People often go back there to pray."
My husband said another small hallway near the men's room was also used for that purpose.
Nevertheless: it is, for a woman, unnerving to find a man crouching in the hallway around the corner from one's office when the skies are dark and all other colleagues have gone home. 
Also, I don't think these guys had anything to do with the university. They were looking for an indoor place to pray. 
Praying people should have a place to pray that is just for prayer. A university hallway is there to get students and teachers from one end of the building to the other. Someone who is not there to take classes can easily be mistaken for a predator.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Critical Mom Thanks Michael Wolff

With a little help from Gilbert and Sullivan.
I am the very model of a presidential genius:
I have a fully functioning and very stable penis,
For weaponizing nuclear I have a bigger bu-uh-ton,
Than Kim Jong-un’s--mine works!--and let me tell you that his do-oes-n’t!
I know my bombs--his are so dumb--I will inflict a painful death,
While Rocket-man and company can barely even catch their breath,
I Harvey-Weinstein girls, I kiss and grab them when I'm in the mood,
And you will see how great I am: just let me hop into the nude . . . 

Gentle reader, check out the "Modern Major General" parodies of our president online--from Politico, from opera singers, from the talented thousands: Oh, thank you. I would rather laugh than cry, but it's getting harder not to do the latter.

I've just ordered your book, Mr. Wolff.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Irresolute? Happy New Year

I made no New Year's Resolutions. We enjoyed a family evening, just the five of us, as we always do, and my husband made hors d'oeuvres, open-faced lox sandwiches with capers, snails awash in butter and herbs, and then everyone's favorite: nachos baked with chopped scallions, grated Gouda, and salsa. All washed down with Aperol, Prosecco, tonic, and lemon. Then dessert. We watched Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and around eleven, the kids started shooting off firecrackers and Roman candles with my husband. The guinea pigs trembled in their cage, but every year they survive the noise and seem okay the next morning.
And why no resolutions? I don't like them. I don't make them. I make plans and try to stick to those. I'm not going to step on a scale until sometime next week, and I'm planning on resting, grading papers, and writing. 
But instead of resolutions I have hopes, big hopes. I'd rather not spray them across the page, having some notion that if I do, they won't come true. I'm happy to be done with the festivities and to be almost on my way back to work.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Gardasil Revisited

Back in 2015, I wrote a post expressing my skepticism about Gardasil--I interviewed the most prominent experts I could find, in the "pro" camp, the inventor of the vaccine, and in what I regard as the cautious camp, a thoughtful physician who was involved in evaluating the vaccine for Merck. My thoughts on the vaccination have changed to the point where my thirteen-year-old daughter has received the first of the two vaccinations. With no ill effects, weeks later. Why?
•The doctors whom I trust believe the drug will protect her from cervical cancer.
•They have never seen a bad reaction--not in over ten years.
•Some types of cervical cancer are epidemic in people under the age of twenty. 
•Since I've now had cancer myself--unexpected, breast--I think my daughter may be at higher risk. 
I'm leaving up my earlier post for anyone researching this topic--I think the controversy hasn't evaporated. But I also now believe I've done the right thing. If anything changes--if, God forbid, she has a reaction to the second shot--I'll inform my blog readers. I'm interested in hearing from readers on this topic.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

On Writing Christmas Cards

Writing them, with a pen, on paper, that is. That's what we still love to do. My husband takes family photos, makes up a beautiful card with a greeting, and I write something personal to friends, tuck in the little newsletter and the page of that year's fun photos, stick on a stamp, an airmail sticker, and write an address. In green ink on red envelopes. Is all this sounding too Martha Stewart? Ah, but the house lies in shambles beside me, the mountains of laundry decorate the floor, and the grading I haven't yet finished nods evilly at me from its neglected spot on the sofa. But those cards--they've just got to go out. A third of them thudded to the bottom of the mailbox today, as I sat in my office waiting for a young man to finish transferring the last few files of data from my 2009 computer to my sleek new Mac Air Book.
"Just another five minutes," said the young man who seemed to understand everything for which I grope toward even finding the right name in my new computer. 
Twenty Christmas cards later, a bead of sweat on his face, he confessed that somehow  it still wasn't possible for my computer to receive any upgrades. He was on it, he was fixing it, and another twelve cards later I said I'd head home. He'll be taming my computer over the next day or two, at least I hope he will.
I'll be writing Christmas cards--much more fun. I like getting them, too--not the horrid electronic kind, with the mechanical jingle bells, the fake snow, the trotting reindeer or flapping birds. The kind that come in envelopes that you open and display on the mantel or prop up in the middle of the dining room table. Do I sound very 1965? Well, I'm in a nostalgic mood. It's Christmas. I'm about to look up my recipe for refrigerator cookies, the kind you roll out and make with the aid of cookie cutters shaped like Tannenbaums, stars, half-moons, and hearts. Then you decorate them with sprinkles, glitter, and food dye. Christmas cookies. Yum.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Toto, I Don't Think We're In Trumpland Anymore

Ride 'em Roy. The Marlboro Man stunt backfired when the horse tried to buck that pedophile. Roy Moore's West Point buddies remember him as a hard worker and a guy for whom a girl's virginity was important. That, they remark, is probably why he wanted very young girls. 

Between Moore's wife announcing to a crowd that she wasn't against Jews because "one of our lawyers is a Jew!"--a remark she delivered with a big smile, as if she'd bowled a strike--and Moore's apparent love of the young because they're virgins, the American people just dodged a very big bullet.

It's harder to dodge that repeat-fire weapon of mass destruction who is "the president."

Toto's already pulled back the curtain. He's been yapping and nipping at our heels for months. The penalties Trump should pay for abusing women, his concealed and presumably outrageously out of line taxes, the Russian stuff, Jerusalem, the terrorist attack at the Port Authority in New York two days ago--Toto is barking loudly, America.

When Doug Jones won, America put one toe out of Trumpland. Can we go for a long jump next?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Don Doesn't Own Jerusalem--He Can't Buy Us

By the time I finish this sentence, some new awful event will have made the Jerusalem incident pale beside it, the way the Puerto Rico deaths, the Russian investigation, the taxes, and, despite Harvey Weinstein and company, the abused women terrorized by Trump, have paled before each new, dreadful Trumposity. 
The bully is still bullying--and none stand up to him. I think of King Frank, the first to lead Narnia in the series' inaugural book, The Magician's Nephew. King Frank thinks he's not cut out to be king, the very characteristic that Aslan, the book's Jesus figure, knows qualifies Frank for true leadership. King Frank is a boy from the countryside, he says, used to farm work, and his accent is cockney. Queen Helen, his wife, arrives covered with soapsuds, since she'd been doing the wash when Aslan transported her to Narnia, and both feel humbled by the attention from Aslan, by his confidence in them, and by the loveliness of the Narnian landscape. Love, above all, defines King Frank and Queen Helen, along with that very British desire to do the right thing. 
I feel I shouldn't put the two of them in the same sentence as Donald Trump, but they are such an ideal, the likes of which American politics rarely sees--Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Barack Obama may be the only two presidents approaching that ideal. How we slid from Obama to Trump is Vladimir Putin's best kept secret. But his doped-up athletes have been exposed, and wouldn't it be nice if he and Don got simultaneously deposed.
To be governed by leaders who give a damn about the people and the planet would be the best for which one could hope in 2018. Like the German comedian Jan Böhmermann, whose "Be Deutsch" went viral, we must, in the face of Trump's divide-and-conquer strategy, all "hold together--try to be nice."
My new year's resolution is to do just that, even when I'm introducing ideas to my family or other groups that might not be their favorite. Hold together, try to be nice.