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Unicorn Blood

OK, so Charlie Sheen can yap on and on about his precious “Tiger Blood”, but truly, I have what I’ve dubbed “Unicorn Blood” – because my blood type is AB-, the most rare blood type out there. (Less than 1% of the population has it.) I want to talk about how this news has changed my life, but I also want to back up a second, because it feels kind of crazy (and ironic) that I’ve become the biggest proselytizer for blood donations, given my deep-seated childhood fear of needles!

Yep, I was terrified of needles. Probably had something to do with the fact I was always in and out of the ER for many winters in my youth, with alarming fevers from strep throat. And to say they were alarming is pretty severe, given that I was raised by a couple of people who would pretty much tell you to go “Walk it off!” if you had any pain below, say, “Severed Limb” status. I had to google what in hell kind of shot I must have gotten (penicillin), but whatever it was, I was already in Rotten Bad Place before we got there, and getting a shot was just short of being beheaded, in my book. (I got my tonsils out in 3rd grade, which curbed a lot of the spiking fevers after that.) Flash-forward to the time I was riding a horse in the dark, and made it go through too narrow of a gate, resulting in a six-inch gash on my inner knee (because the horse lunged forward, and my inner knee caught on an extending piece of metal. The horse knew it wasn’t going to work, but finally did what my heels and voice told it to do!). I remember barely feeling anything, because I went into shock, but was ROYALLY PISSED that I’d ripped my new pants. I rode the horse back around the house and started shrieking for my dad, who took one look and yelled at me to DISMOUNT while simultaneously lifting me off the horse. We went inside, he took a second look and almost passed out, and fortunately, the female half of the couple we’d been visiting was a nurse, who gave me a washcloth and we applied pressure while calls to the ER were made and much hullabalooing about took place. I distinctly remember trying to convince everyone it probably wouldn’t require stitches, RIGHT? we could just use some of those butterfly bandages. Because anything if it meant avoiding needles! (I ended up needing 36 stitches – 18 internally – and had narrowly missed a major artery.) (My mother made me show her while my dad stomped off to find the ER doc and when the nurse hustled in, she immediately made my mom sit down & put her head between her knees BEFORE even addressing me.)

So because life involves immunizations and shit, my dad worked with me on my fear, and told me before I had my tonsils out to just make a fist and dig my nails into the palm of my hand as hard as I could, and the pain I created myself would be more than the pain from any needle. To be honest, I still do this, not to the point of extreme like I used to, but have always found it to be a good distraction. And now, it makes me think of dad, which has a bittersweetness I will always take.

Last fall, as we all scrambled to get ourselves to “Silver Status” in a three-month span to lower our health care costs, one of the events was a blood drive here at the agency. I signed up! I could use the points, and I’d never given blood before. I even got competitive about it (disguise your shock, please), and was able to make my donation in about 7 minutes, beating our boss. And then I waited for my card, which never showed up – until I got an email, asking for another donation and that if I donated, I could get candy sent to me (or someone else). But in that email it had my blood type! Finally! I knew what it was! So I jumped on the Googles and researched it and discovered that AB- platelets are one of the highest in-demand donations, because they are given primarily to cancer patients. I needed to do this.

The first attempt was merely that – I don’t have trucker veins, you can’t drive a semi down them and even have a wide-load swing wildly. My veins are a little mushy and princessy and require a little extra effort if we’re gonna use the apheresis machine. So the first try failed, because my return wasn’t staying contained in my vein. UNDAUNTED. I made another appointment, for the main facility in midtown, because, well, MIDTOWN. It’s a slightly rougher-tumble part of town, and I figured at HQ, those people aren’t going to screw around. This time, my vein cooperated enough to make it to one unit. I burst into tears, because I’d been having a conversation with the tech helping me and adjusting my arm and the machine to get me to that one unit, and all I could think of was my father’s death from cancer, and how perhaps this small little unit could make a difference. Hopefully.

And then I made the next appointment. Each time has brought more learning, and thankfully, the people at the Community Blood Center are dedicated to getting it right. After all, platelets and plasma and blood do the very thing my daily job has never professed to do: save lives. We got even more learning from this donation, I got to the maximum of THREE units (and was euphoric!) and we know now even better settings for the machine for next time. Hearing from the staff about how excited they were to see me coming in, with such a high platelet count? That makes me PREEN for days. Yes, I have platelet vanity. Knowing you can give platelets every 6 days, I decided I would keep going, but at a slow lope, and aimed for every 3-4 weeks. Nope. Because they read the data and want you 100% healthy when you come in, so my turnaround time to generate red blood cells & more platelets is 8 weeks. (Yes, I called. I was convinced the computer was wrong. And while I was on hold waiting for a tech to come on the phone and explain what was going on, I saw that all of my units had gone to Children’s Mercy Hospital. I nearly lost it all over again.)
platelets

I have tried to explain this to several people, why this small piece of knowledge has blossomed into a sense of compulsion and duty, that I :must: give my blood/platelets, it’s not optional and that I hearken it to a religious experience. Because I was given this biology – I didn’t make it, I can’t eat certain foods to change it, I can’t “lose weight” and switch into a new blood type: it just IS. And what it is is rare. And vitally important for people going through what could very well be their worst time in their lives. Knowing that? How do I turn away? How do I say, well, I have this dislike of needles and all, and it’s kind of uncomfortable and it takes me 25 minutes to get there and about two hours total to go through the whole process, I mean, I have to do it on a Saturday, which is my weekend time? How do I say that and not be selfish? I can’t. I have something that requires a little effort, a little inconvenience, a little consternation and I can’t watch tv while I’m doing it because I have to stare with a furrowed brow and squeeze my hand really hard right before the return, because my blood pressure drops, and if it keeps messing up, we’ll have to end the donation. But someone else is waiting. Platelets only live for 5 days. Someone else, with chemo running through their veins is waiting. A child, with worried parents who are living their worst nightmare, waits for platelets to help restore their ability to clot blood.

So many people, just waiting. For unicorn platelets. Waiting.
For someone like me -and you- to say, “I need to do this.”

Truth #2

When everyone around you is wrong, the odds are high that the problem actually lies within you.

Reflect. Identify. Resolve.

Truth.

When we embrace the parts of ourselves that we feel are the worst elements, the ugliest pieces, the parts we ignore because they are so painful to acknowledge, once we look at them and wrap our arms around them in unconditional acceptance and love, that is when we truly find freedom.

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like

A friend of mine posted about how the UPS man wouldn’t hand over her package until she told him what was inside. He played that game. And I have to say, having experienced this sort of interaction more times than I could attempt to count in my 47 years on this planet, it’s probably one of the biggest contributing factors to my Face of Stone that makes people somewhat afraid of me when it surfaces, like a submarine rising to battle above the waters. Because fuck you, dude. Oh, I can hear it now. “He’s just flirting!” “He’s just having some fun.” “He’s just playing around, he probably likes you.”

You know what? I’m reached the age in life where IDGAF, because stuff like this, societally, blames me and says, “let’s excuse bad behavior because you’re not in the mood to put up with it.” And what dictates that I should be in the mood? Because I’m a woman, and I should welcome a man’s attention and interest and playful banter, even if all I’ve done is answer the goddamned door to receive a package, something I PAID FOR. No. Just, no. How about saying something like, “I hope it’s something you’ve been looking forward to!” or asking, “How’s your day been? What do you do for a living?” Because holding a package hostage under the guise of “just playin'” immediately tilts the balance of power. It says, “Until you give me what I want (the answer), I’m not going to give you what you reasonably expect to receive without issue.” It’s like holding a package high above a kid’s head and making them jump for it. And you can argue that on the grand scale of things, this is small stuff, but if someone thinks it’s ok to do, I really don’t want to know what other boundaries they might ignore. And I resent being “That Witch” who calls your supervisor to complain, or “That Cunt” who won’t play along with your idea of fun, or “That Humorless Bitch” who just won’t smile for you. The real problem, in my opinion, is that I’ve endured it enough that I could feel my anger as if it were happening to me.

Boundaries. Respect. This is what a feminist looks like. Basically the same shit everyone wants and expects from the humans they come in contact with.
Bighairjen

scraping the hull

It’s been a rough month, indeed. There was a brief respite – a quick trip to Vegas – that was an utter escape, lots of fun (no big wins) and I’d say Vegas is definitely like a Disneyland for adults. The rough spots have been lots of work, some serious brain chemistry working against me, and now, we find ourselves at a terrible spot with our younger dog, Tripper. He’s got a detached lens on his eye, an infected tooth, and his fever was too high for surgery. Now he’s panting, not eating, not drinking, and I’m desperately dropping pills down his throat to ease the pain and fight the infection(s). Plus an ice cube just now to try to get a smidgen of fluid into him. I’m taking him back to the vet tomorrow, and I fear deeply that unless they have answers and can stabilize him, our vibrant, goofy loving dog will be crossing the Rainbow Bridge before old age should have taken him. I’ve pretty much spent my weekend crying, not unlike each day the past month, so I’ll work to stay hydrated as well, and hope we all get through this with love, kindness, caring and the least amount of pain possible. And I’d like to ask for a new deck of cards, because I’m not doing well with what’s getting dealt to me.

#TilItHappensToYou

I wrote this blog post a year ago. I’ve carried the words inside me for 29 years. I’m an open book but I can also be intensely private. This is my story. I’m tired of pretending it’s not part of who I am, or that it influences my life. Today, I watched the video “Til It Happens To You” from Lady Gaga, and it’s like it happened yesterday. I’m done. Secrets eat you alive.

I look at your profile on Facebook once in a while.

Holding my breath the whole time, I don’t realize I’m doing it until I click away.

Your cover photo shows you standing with your wife and two sons, smiling. The American Dream, right? The comedy of the picture, with a previous family photo of you all lined up, on the stairway behind you.

I look at those boys.

Awkward in their teenage states.

I wonder, under my breath and in my head, “Will they grow up to be rapists, too?”

Because that’s what you were that night. My rapist. Mine. And then I click away. Avoid.
AvoidAvoidAvoidAvoid.

The bell that can never be unrung.

The night started out fun, a typical college fall weekend, drinking and laughing and all of us running outside, off to the next party. We kissed because you wanted me, and I thought what the hell, l’m having fun. It’s fun to be wanted. But. You were too needy. Some part of me sensed this, had always sensed it about you in regular interactions. Somewhere along the line, in my drunken stupor – I gave you the slip.

Went back to my dorm, the room began to spin, and I went into the co-ed restroom. Proceeded to get sick. Then I heard your voice in the hallway, and froze. You were calling out my name, banging on my door. I held my breath. Then another classmate said, Oh, she’s in the bathroom. Oh.
How I wish you hadn’t told him that.
Why did you do that. Oh.
I pretended to be passed out.

Would you tell your sons how you got under my arms, and dragged me out the door, back to my room? I opened my eyes in the hall, saw the girl who’d given away my location, pleaded with my eyes. But it was too late.

In your memory, I bet you don’t remember me telling you “No.” It was the only word I said.
Over and over. As you pulled my robe off. Pushed me into bed.
No
NoNoNoNoNo.
But it was not enough.

Years later, a therapist would explain to me that the reason I metaphorically left my body that night was to preserve myself. To save me further trauma, as you hunched over me, barely looking at me, absorbed in your own triumphant conquest. Thank god for small favors, right? You finished, you borrowed my robe to go to the bathroom, returned, dressed yourself & went back to your dorm room.

And you called the next day. A gentleman? Hoping for more? Pretending that word never happened, that it was some magical night.

NoNoNoNoNoNo.

At least we didn’t have phones in our rooms back then. Every time you called, I just shook my head. I’m pretty sure the senior classmate across the hall figured it out. She was pretty perceptive, even though we never talked about it. I went on to join a support group for sexual assault victims (I hate that word, “victim”, oh how I hate it) and I listened more than I spoke. Then I moved on to crisis counseling. I would channel my emotions into helping other people. I would gain weight, because nobody will ever be able to lift or drag me again. That powerless feeling is one of the worst feelings in my life, and I don’t know if it will ever go away.

Today, there’s lots of talk about addressing sexual abuse on college campuses. I listen to it quietly, and sometimes, if I’m getting ready in the morning and there’s a story on NPR, I’ll look at myself in the mirror. And my eyes fill with tears.

Because this will never leave me. I made bad choices. I got drunk. I kissed you back. And then, even though my voice said “No”, my physical being couldn’t defend myself and I was reduced to a warm body you used to your own satisfaction, never mind it wasn’t willing. “No.” I get to keep that word. You raped me. Your word is rapist. And I imagine now you talk to your boys, as a father, maybe you even say things about respecting women and you’ve changed the history in your mind, how I was a bitch who wouldn’t give you the time of day after a Friday night hookup.
What a bitch.
Yep.
The bitch who said no.
The bitch who will carry that night of violation and pain with her for a lifetime. Oh sure, like all scars, they thicken and they fade and they blur. But what has been marked upon cannot be undone.

You took my power from me, and I hate you. I hate that you have sons. I wish you’d had daughters, so a part of you could feel queasy inside, maybe you would look back on that night and think, maybe when she said no, she really meant no. No. I even said it. I said it. And you, you ignored it. And you would think, I don’t want that happening to my daughters. Because you wouldn’t, right? I will carry your name inside me until I die, but I’m tired of the pain you caused. Tired of being fucking triggered by Bill Cosby stories and fucking movie scenes that eroticize rape and tired of badly-written books that glamorize an imbalance in sexual power. Tired of hearing words like “unrapeable” because a woman isn’t pretty enough, thin enough, young enough. I’m tired of being silent about it. I am, in so many ways, a force to be reckoned with and a strong, intelligent woman. So I’m going to own it. Yes. If you know me? You know someone who was raped. No matter what the fuck I did, what the choices were that I made that night, you can judge me all you want, but I. Said. No.

And that word makes all the difference.

(P.S. – I’m editing this to add that someone who is incapacitated does not even HAVE the ability to consent. My “no” was actually unnecessary at that point, but I have still clung to it all these years because with everything that was taken, that remained mine.)

Unspoken

Unspoken

The spaces between us
Pile up with words
The silence collects them
Filling the room

None pass our lips
They accumulate in time
From our hearts
From our brains
Fear and circumstance
Leave everything unsaid

For every word that’s unspoken
Lies a matching response
They stack up in pairs
Nouns verbs all their mates
Full sentences of expression
Longing for breath
For the fullness of speech
Longing
Crushing
Invisible but
Tangible in the
Ache of
Never being voiced

Truth
In its purest form
No fear of reaction
Reprisals
Rejection
Still remains

Unspoken

When Will It Be Enough?

We’re inching ever-closer to some of the movies we thought would never happen – I’m thinking specifically of Natural Born Killers. The frenzy climbs, and media attention – even posthumously – seems to be the currency of the day.

I watched part of a video on CNN, the live feed of the reporter & cameraman being shot to death today. I recoiled, horrified, and cried at my desk. I want nothing more to do with any more video. I want to know nothing about the man who committed this crime, who posted more video on his Twitter account before going on the run and eventually killing himself.

I thought 20 children being killed along with their 6 teachers was when enough would be enough. I don’t even know what the answers are? But something has to change. This is heartbreaking.

A Compassionate Man

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, most people will agree on one thing: former President Jimmy Carter is one of the greatest humanitarians our country has produced, and arguably, the most active and involved living president, working to make the world a better place.

So when he announced he has cancer (melanoma) in his brain, despite the long and productive life he has led, my heart broke into pieces. Because my father’s cancer went into his brain, and I watched him rapidly decline from treatment. Because my husband’s grandfather had melanoma in his brain – and everywhere else – and we watched him, but a year ago, decline so rapidly he, too, was gone before we could fully process the news. And anyone who has lost a loved one knows that these reminders may not cause us to sob in the kitchen while the water is running, or even in the shower, for that matter, but they unsettle us. A snowglobe, shaken. Reminders of the pain, the heartache, the loss.

I thought I’d blogged about this but couldn’t find it, so I’m sharing my story, the only time in my life I’ve met a United States President, and that man was Jimmy Carter. The year was 1979. He and his wife were aboard the Delta Queen, traveling the Mississippi River, and I can still remember my father, turning to my mother, and saying, “He’s going to be in Guttenberg tonight. We should go. When will we ever have this chance again?” And that’s exactly what we did. We arrived early enough to see the majestic paddle boat, and my parents pointed out to me the Secret Service agents, positioned on top of the boat, black suits, hard to even see in the gathering darkness (it was around 10pm, on a Sunday night.) We found a spot along the chain-link fence and waited.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter appeared, and then disembarked the boat. They made their way along the fence, and my father, thinking quickly, realized there was no way for me, age 11, to shake President Carter’s hand. He wanted me to have that moment, so he gripped the fence with both hands, and I stood on his forearms, reaching way over the fence as President Carter approached. He looked up at me, smiled, shook my hand, and also, realized there was no way a child could be so tall, and he looked down at my father’s white knuckles, hanging onto that fence. And he patted his hands, acknowledging him and what he was doing.

It struck my father so completely. It was the smallest gesture, and totally unnecessary. But it was a great moment for my dad, who couldn’t shake his hand, but, unprompted, got the attention of the leader of our country, and was acknowledged for it. That moment of compassion, right there, was what cemented him as a good person, in his head, for the rest of his life. And don’t get me wrong, one hand pat from Jimmy Carter isn’t newsworthy. It is nothing compared the countless homes President Carter has helped build, or the nations and villages that are better because of the humanitarian aide his works have brought to their shores. But it was a cherished moment for my family, because in giving up his opportunity to have an actual handshake, it elicited the core of who Jimmy Carter is, and that is a man who recognizes his power, and acknowledges the sacrifices, and how everyone around him has helped him along the way. May this next journey only underscore all the good things about you, President Carter. Your faith and belief in the sacrifice for a greater good will live forever.

True Martyrdom

In-between meetings today, I saw reports that the suspects in the Paris massacre were killed, just as they hoped to be. They had stated they wanted to die “the martyr’s death.” As I have done my entire life, I consulted the dictionary, because I have sat here muttering at my computer screen that these acts of terrorism have nothing to do with a deep sense of strength or pride, or the Muslim faith, and everything to do with cowardice, fear and a cult-level brainwashing.

The first two definitions are:
1. a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
2. a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: “a martyr to the cause of social justice.”

There are two additional definitions of being a martyr, both defining one in that insufferable way, where you just want to tell someone to build a bridge and get over it (“it” usually being themselves.) That’s not what we’re talking about. You either suffer for a greater good, as an icon in society, or you believe so deeply in your faith that to do anything else would be a dissolution of self. But are these people, with their AK47s, killing people because they draw blasphemous cartoons, are they adhering to a religion? (RELIGION?) Is terrorism a religion? Because when I think of someone who died as a martyr, I think of Benazir Bhutto. A woman who knew she would die, just as her father did, but felt so compelled to help the people of Pakistan and bring them greater freedoms, that her ideals could live on, long after a bomb tore her body apart.

So I only ask that you think a little longer about it, and when you hear the reports that these men died as martyrs, to consider that those were their words, not necessarily the definition of martyrdom. Because – it is my opinion – this is the face of a martyr, a woman who gave her life to make her part of the world a better place, not through murder or destruction, but cared to the point she was willing to die if necessary so she could continue to work for the people of Pakistan. And her sacrifice should not even be in the same stratosphere as the terrorists who died today.

Benazir Bhutto

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