A Most Solemn Occasion

Today Ruth Bader Ginsberg will be the first woman to ever lie in state at the US Capitol. And she has really earned that right. She fought for justice her entire adult life, and has done much to significantly increase women’s rights. She’s a personal hero of mine.

Because of RBG, women can have credit cards in their own names. Women can establish their own credit history and buy property in their own names. We can play sports in school. We can consent to our own medical treatment. Because of her, women in the military who get pregnant can both keep the child and keep the job. Military women also get the same family benefits as their male counterparts because of her.

Younger women have the luxury of taking all of the above for granted because of RBG. We older women know better. Women’s rights are tenuous at best, and there are people actively working to roll them back even as you read this. Many of those people are women themselves, and that’s a contradiction that I’ll never be able to wrap my head around as long as I live.

Think of this. Distinguished people have had the opportunity to have their coffins displayed in the Capitol since 1852. That’s 168 years. And in that entire time, only 2 females have been accorded such a privilege. The first was Rosa Parks in 2005. Again, she definitely earned that honor. But since she did not work for the government, she was said to be “lying in honor”, not “lying in state”. She was guarded by Capitol Police. Whereas Justice Ginsberg will be guarded the military. Sadly, because of the pandemic, the general public will not be able to be present at the ceremony.

But lying in that powerful building is a distinction that more women should be accorded. I cannot believe that only two women in 168 years have broken this glass funerial ceiling. This is the 21st century, after all. I can’t help but wonder what Justice Ginsberg would think.

I know, like all of us, she would be horrified to see her legacy besmirched by having the next justice rammed through in a few short weeks when it took an average of two months to confirm all the current sitting justices. I’m sure she’s spinning in her grave thinking that they’re going to confirm someone in an election year when the Republicans forced a slot to remain vacant for 8 months during the last election year. The hypocrisy is too much to bear.

If that really happens, then there truly is no justice. And RBG would be heartbroken to hear me say that. It’s the last thing she would want. In fact, those were her dying words: “My most fervent wish is that I not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

I wish I had the opportunity to meet Justice Ginsberg in person. I wish I could be at the Capitol right now, to pay my respects. All I can do is hope that she rests in peace and in power, and that future generations will see all these political dirty tricks for what they are.

Rosa Parks, Lying in Honor, 2005

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It’s Your Body

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post called Tickling, about how tickling can be a form of aggression, and how it can often be very unwelcome and inappropriate. That blog post resonated with a lot of people. It’s short and to the point, so I hope you’ll read it.

I thought of that post recently. I was really impressed to discover that one of my nieces is teaching her two-year-old daughter that no one should get to touch her in any way, shape, form, or fashion, without her permission. Forget about good touch, bad touch. It’s her body. She gets to say who touches it, good or otherwise. We all have that right, but we often forget that.

Just because Uncle Fred is a touchy-feely guy does not mean that he gets a free pass just so you can avoid ruffling family feathers. If he’s making you uncomfortable, that’s never okay. Not ever. Even if you love Uncle Fred to pieces. And that applies to recipients of those touches of any age, not just children.

Also, just because someone is in a position of authority, such as a doctor or a dentist or a teacher or a boss or a politician, or even an older relative or a spouse, that does not mean they get to decide how you are touched. Absolutely not.

I’m not saying that every person who is touching you inappropriately is automatically a sex offender who is grooming you. Some people are just clueless. But it doesn’t really matter. If you aren’t comfortable in a tactile situation, regardless of your age, orientation, or relationship, it’s your body, not theirs, and you get to dictate what happens to it.

Your body is truly the only thing in life that you will always have all to yourself. That’s why it’s such an extreme violation when someone abuses it. I love knowing that there are children out there who are being taught their own agency practically from birth. That’s how it should be. I wish it had been taught to me.

Always establish your own boundaries and make them crystal clear. That’s not being rude. It’s appropriate. And I think that you’ll find that most people are a lot more comfortable, knowing the rules in any given scenario.

Never forget that your body belongs to you and you alone. Always.

Inappropriate Touch

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In Honor of the 200,000

By the time you read this, we’ll have blasted past 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in America, with no end in sight. That’s an inconceivable figure. Its so large that most of us can’t accept it.

That’s 200,000 grandparents, parents, siblings, children, friends, loved ones. Every single one lived and laughed and worked and loved and mattered. If each of those people only had 5 people on earth who loved them (a very conservative figure, in my estimation), then there are 1 million grieving people out there, right now, and it has only been 6 months.

We were all devastated by the victims of 9/11. Now imagine that 9/11 happened more than 67 times over, or basically every other day since this pandemic started. That’s what would have to happen to get to 200,000 deaths in that tragedy.

This is a grizzly thought, but given the average height in America is 5’6”, if you lined up the 200,000 dead head to toe along some rural highway, they would stretch for 208.33 miles. Driving at 52 mph, it would take you more than 4 hours to pass all those bodies. Seriously, that’s a lot of soul-crushing loss.

And lest we forget, dying of COVID-19 is a horrible way to go. Each one of those people suffered. Each one struggled to breathe. Each one felt as if he or she were drowning in their own bodies. And they weren’t even able to have a loved one there for comfort. They died all alone.

And the vast majority of these people died needlessly. Other countries have demonstrated that the death toll doesn’t need to be this high. Our COVID-19 death toll is 597 deaths per million Americans. That may not seem like much until you compare it to other countries. New Zealand has had 5 COVID-19 deaths per million. Japan has had less than 12 deaths per million. Venezuela has had 17 deaths per million. Greece has had 29 deaths per million. Australia, 32 deaths per million. Egypt, 57 deaths per million. What’s it going to take before we realize that something is seriously wrong with the way we’re handling this virus?

We need a leader who leads by example. One who doesn’t disparage those who wear a mask. One who does not encourage his base to congregate, maskless and shoulder to shoulder, to worship him. We need adequate testing. We need accurate reporting. We need financial support. We need supplies for frontline workers as well as the general population. We need a president who actually listens to his own staff, multiple members of whom have come forward to say that they’ve begged him to wear a mask, to set an example, to only share accurate information rather than insane speculation, and not politicize this virus.

In honor of the 200,000 people who can no longer do so, please be sure to vote in the upcoming election. Their silence was forced upon them. We have to speak for them. Please vote.

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Mukbang

I’m on the ragged edge. Between this accursed pandemic, the thick blanket of smoke that’s blotting out the sun, the loss of our beloved RBG, unnecessary drama at work, and discovering that someone I love more than life went to a large, multi-day party and posted pictures of himself marinating in the maskless, close-knit crowd, when he knows I know firsthand how precious and fragile life is, and how it should never be squandered, I’m at the end of my rope. I mean, just look at me funny right now. I dare you.

Fortunately, there is a way to turn off my brain without the use of electric shock. It’s called mukbang. It’s a Korean word that loosely translates as “eating show”. And that’s about the size of it. You can find it all over Youtube. You just sit there and watch people eating way too much exotic food, often while talking to the camera.

Yeah, I know. Maybe this is evidence that I’ve lost it already. I have to admit that I find mukbang oddly comforting. Maybe it’s the crunch, crunch, crunch sound. Maybe it’s because when I’m really angry, I tend to eat, and these people do the eating for me. Maybe it’s just that I get to watch people just doing their weird thing at a time when the world seems so utterly out of control. I don’t know.

My favorite mukbang channel is Stephanie Soo. She sits there and eats and talks about true crime, which is another interest of mine. Check it out and tell me what you think.

My second favorite channel is Food Monster. This one shows footage of a girl working really, really (supposedly) hard in the Korean countryside, and then coming home and (supposedly) eating about 6000 times more than a normal person can eat. It’s kind of funny.

Yes, there is a reason to criticize mukbang. It promotes extremely unhealthy eating habits, food waste, and in some extreme cases, animal abuse. I don’t condone or encourage any of this. And yet I can’t seem to look away. (I’d never watch the animal abuse ones, though. Never. Give me a little credit.)

I know, this is nutty. But it takes my mind off the fall of civilization. And hey, I once wrote about my obsession with pimple popping videos. Surely this is a step up. Right?

Tell me I’m right. Please.

Stephanie Soo

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On Being an Adult

When I was little, I longed to be an adult, because I figured that would mean I could do whatever I want. Boy oh boy, but I had no idea what I was talking about. Not a clue.

It’s true that grownups can do whatever they want. They can commit crimes. They can be selfish. They can be greedy and thoughtless and cruel. They can abuse the planet. They don’t have to pay taxes even though they take advantage of the infrastructure that’s provided by taxes. They can make idiotic decisions. They can disrespect their elders. They don’t have to think ahead or consider consequences or feelings or take any responsibility whatsoever.

Grownups can get away with that stuff. And since 2016 I’ve been seeing more and more grownups doing just that. It really makes me weep for the future of this planet.

But what I’m beginning to realize is that even though all adults are grownups, not all grownups are adults. It takes integrity and conviction to be an adult. It takes maturity. It requires that you realize that the world does not revolve around you. It is all about understanding that your actions effect other people.

One simple, straightforward example is the wearing of masks during a pandemic. Doing so may not be fun, but it says that you care about the people around you, whether you know them or not. And yet I’ve heard so many “grownup” excuses.

For some reason people think getting tested is some get out of jail free card. Testing negative only means you haven’t been positive for COVID-19 up to that moment in time. You can test negative and contract the virus 5 seconds later. You still need to wear a mask unless you’re selfish. And unless 100% of the people you are spending time with are getting tested every 5 seconds, the risk remains. “Some of us get tested” is just not good enough.

Another convenient excuse is, “Well, I tested negative after my risky behavior, so what’s the big deal?” To that I say congratulations and thank God. But do you want a cookie for that? Because you gambled with your life, and the lives of everyone you come in contact with. This time you won. But that doesn’t mean you always will.

People also think that if their job puts them in a high risk situation, then there’s no reason not to engage in high risk experiences while off the clock as well. That’s like saying, “I’m exposed to radiation all day at work, so I may as well get irradiated when I’m home, too.” In contrast, an adult is even more cautious at home, to reduce their odds of shortening their lifespan as much as humanly possible.

We are all under an enormous amount of stress right now, so some people believe that a little self-care by socializing with friends every once in a while is worth the risk, because it improves their mental health. Poppycock. One person dies of suicide every 12 minutes in America. That’s horrific. But one person dies of COVID-19 in America every eighty seconds. So you’re 9 times as likely to die of COVID than you are of suicide. I’d rather be alive and mentally disturbed than sane and run the risk of killing off another human being.

And what’s wrong with socializing with a mask on and 6 feet apart? Why do people have to be all up in each other’s faces, taking selfies cheek to cheek? I know it feels like you’ll live forever, but no. Death comes for us all. No need to flirt with it.

Yes, self-care is vital. But your right to self-care stops right at the line where your actions can potentially harm others, especially the more vulnerable amongst us. Adults know that. They understand that the golden rule isn’t a suggestion. They have a moral compass.

Adults also realize that other people love them and worry about them and they make decisions accordingly. Adults realize they have responsibilities and obligations. And adults know that they have to set an example for others who look up to them.

I don’t know how so many of us were never taught the importance of being an adult, and the importance of taking care of others. It’s a serious failure of society at large. I think, perhaps, that was why societies were invented, though. Societies are meant to protect us from the grownups who refuse to be adults.

We all live within a societal contract. There are rules we are meant to follow in order to experience society’s perks. It’s not supposed to be a tug of war. The contract isn’t supposed to be null and void every time you get a wild hair to cut loose. It’s supposed to be common sense.

In my county, we’re not supposed to gather in groups of more than 5. We’re supposed to wear our masks. We’re supposed to remain 6 feet apart. It’s not fun and it’s not fair and some people view this as judgmental or political or controlling rather than a matter of life and death. Those people are not adults.

Humanity is becoming more of a disappointment with each passing day. And we’re all going to pay the price. It’s all so senseless. I’m becoming so scared that I’m practically blind.

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This Feels Like the End of the World

The west coast is on fire. Fortunately, none of those fires are very close to Seattle. Yet. But all that west coast smoke got blown into the Pacific Ocean, hit an induction current, and headed right to Puget Sound like a freight train from hell. We now have some of the worst air quality on the planet. Poor Oregon has it even worse. I’m struggling to breathe.

The day before yesterday, when I got home from work, I was coughing, my heart was pounding, and I had a headache. Air matters. I kept having to fight down a panic attack when I felt as though I wasn’t getting enough.

My inner child was freaking out. “You’re gonna DIE!!!” “Help me!” I was on the verge of tears for most of the day. This feels like the end of the world.

Yesterday I brought a respirator to work. A respirator. And we thought masks were bad. I would never have predicted that I’d be relying on a respirator. This is not the world I had planned to live in. The smoke has blocked out the sun. It’s a perpetual twilight.

But with time to think, I was able to compare my situation to others. Not being able to breathe is terrifying. I thought of my late boyfriend, Chuck, who had to fight for every breath he took. When he was having a really bad asthma attack, he’d want me to put my hand on his heart and talk calmly to him, so he wouldn’t freak out. “You’re breathing. You’re breathing…” I can still hear myself saying it. I learned to say it even before I was fully awake. Now I get it. I get it, and I’m heartbroken at the thought of it.

I also feel even worse about George Floyd. Lying there in the street, being choked to death by a cop. He was looking at the crowd, who were desperately trying to talk the cop out of this, but the crowd, for good reason, was too afraid to physically intervene. How frightened and alone he must have felt as he died.

I feel for those in industrialized China who have lived with this air quality every single day for years. It’s a travesty.

I’m outraged for those prisoners in Guantanamo. Many are still there, and some have been waterboarded more than 80 times. What animals are we to do that? It has long been proven that torturing doesn’t yield valuable information.

I weep for all the people who have died of COVID-19, each one struggling for breath as they went. And they had no loved ones by their side to put their hands on their hearts and talk calmly to them. So much of this has been unnecessary.

Winter is coming and the fires will die down, but we’ll still have to deal with this pandemic. In the best of times, I struggle with depression during these Pacific Northwest winters. The isolation. Not seeing the sun for weeks on end. The raw, wet, unrelenting rain. Now add a heaping helping of COVID-19 on top of that, and I fail to see how any of us will make it to spring with our sanity intact.

Please, God, do not visit an earthquake upon us right now. I can’t take another thing. Stop 2020. I want to get off.

Stay safe everyone. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Vote.

Me, just trying to breathe. 9/12/20

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I Am My Mother’s Mother

Recently, I watched an amazing movie, Life Itself. I highly recommend it. It’s a multi-generational tale, and it shows how the actions of one generation impacts the next and the next and the next. We all are intertwined, part of a legacy. We each carry with us the choices of our forefathers. Here’s a quote from one of the characters in the movie, Elena Dempsey-González:

I’m not sure whose story I have been telling. I’m not sure if it is mine, or if it’s some character’s I have yet to meet. I’m not sure of anything. All I know is that, at any moment, life will surprise me. It will bring me to my knees, and when it does, I will remind myself that I am my father. And I am my father’s father. I am my mother. And I am my mother’s mother. And while it may be easy to wallow in the tragedies that shape our lives, and while it’s natural to focus on those unspeakable moments that bring us to our knees, we must remind ourselves that if we get up, if we take the story a little bit farther… If we go far enough, there’s love.”

This got me thinking about my own family. I’ve written a lot in this blog about how, at age 49, I moved all the way across the continent to Seattle, a place where I had never been and knew no one, just to start over. People tell me that this was brave. I just thought I had nothing to lose, and it turned out that I had everything to gain. But I am not the first person in my family who has taken a leap like this. Far from it.

My mother, at age 48, moved us all from Connecticut to Florida. She, too, felt she had nothing to lose. I wish, for her sake, that that risk had worked out as well for her as mine did for me. I landed on my feet and then some. Her situation became much, much worse, in terms of finances and lifestyle and location. It’s really heartbreaking to think about. She deserved so much better.

Her mother, my grandmother, came through Ellis Island when she was 23. She learned English on the way over, using an English/Danish dictionary and the Saturday Evening Post. She had $10.00 in her pocket, and she was met in New York by a Danish minister. Her husband, my grandfather, worked his way over on a Danish ship.

My great grandmother and my great great grandmother on that side seem to have never left their home places, but my great great grandmother’s husband committed suicide, leaving her with seven children, and that must have been a challenge all its own.

My great great grandmother on my grandfather’s side was born in Sweden but moved to Denmark in her 20’s. That may not seem as extreme, but back then, I’m sure it was still a huge transition into the unknown. It would have been a language change. She went there looking for work. She most likely brought the BRCA1 genetic anomaly to our family as well, and many of us have been paying for that ever since. (Not all legacies are good ones.)

I don’t know as much about my Father’s side of the family, but I do know that his mother came to America from Ireland, young and single, and hoping to make a better life. She met my grandfather because she was a waitress in his restaurant. He liked to say that he only married her so he could stop paying her. In any case, he left her with 4 children to bring up on her own, which was far less than she deserved.

We each carry on a legacy. We each add to that legacy. I come from a long line of strong, risk-taking women. Sometimes those risks worked out, and sometimes they didn’t. But I’m grateful for all of them, because they led to me.

leap-of-faith-3238553_1280

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A Brief Pause for Helplessness

I just found out that a dear friend in Canada is in the hospital for at least a week. He’s all alone, in his 70’s. And I can’t cross the Canadian border without quarantining myself for two weeks. It’s frustrating beyond belief.

I’m feeling fidgety. I’m having trouble concentrating. I’m having trouble blogging. I’m having trouble.

I know what this is, though. It’s helplessness. I don’t do well with helplessness.

If I’m trapped in a corner with nowhere to go, it freaks me out. If I’m feeling bullied, and I can’t think of a way to resolve it without damaging important relationships, I struggle with that, too. I wouldn’t do well in prison. But the worst feeling of all is when someone needs help and I can’t give it to them. Not good. Not good.

But there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. So I’m going to allow myself a periodic brief pause to feel the helplessness, and then I’m going to do my best to set it aside and do what I can do. Because if I sit in this space for too long, I’m going to lose my ever-loving mind.

So, yeah. Just trying to get through the day, here. Hope all’s well with you, dear reader.

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“You Balance Me.”

I said that to my husband the other day as he was helping me down the stairs, and it’s true. We hold hands when we walk together, not only for affection, but also to keep each other from falling flat on our faces. I willingly admit that that is more likely to happen to me than to him. I get distracted and forget to look where I’m going. I trip on curbs more often than I’d care to admit. I miscalculate stairways. My depth perception is tenuous at best.

So we walk along, acting like a third dimension that gives structure and shape to what would otherwise be a flat, ineffectual plane. We lean on each other when necessary. We prop each other up.

And this extends to the emotional realm as well. It’s great when someone is willing to validate your thought processes. It’s nice to have a sounding board. It’s comforting to be able to give and receive advice. We each have different structural and emotional strengths and weaknesses. We allow each other those. We don’t cling or overwhelm. We supplement each other.

When seeking out a partner, it is important to have a lot in common. But don’t overlook the opposite qualities, either. If your ship lists to port and his or hers lists to starboard, you can meet in the middle and keep each other from sinking. It’s quite nice.

Lean

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