Saturday, August 30, 2008

Get Out and Barack the Vote!

“I get goose bumps when I think about the election. It’s so nerve-wracking, because it’s my future, and I want it to be good.” ~ Dominick

The monthly dark of the moon cycle, that short period of time filled with the strange forces of unsettled energies just before the New Moon, and its cresting, refreshing energy, appears, has brought some discomfiting news this morning.

John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. What an obvious, pathetic attempt to redirect all of Hillary’s girls over to the dark side! Give me a break! They must realize that we women do not vote for a woman just because she is a woman just as an African-American would not vote for an African-American just because he or she is an African-American. Hello? Is anyone out there thinking at all? Do they think we’re that dumb?

Or maybe, just maybe, McCain is thinking that she might bolster his image with right-wing conservatives, who will be pumped up by her pro-gun, pro-life, anti-choice, anti-conservation heroics in the aerial land and shoot genocide of Alaska's wolves and bears. It seems it's the trophy hunters and other big fat losers that McCain wants to impress.

One of my favorite bumper stickers out there is: Frodo failed; Bush has the ring. Now it seems Bush has given the ring to McCain.

This is just the latest in disturbing trends coming out of this election. I heard the other morning that ¼ of white voters have a “problem” voting for a candidate of color. Horrifying. Pathetic. And completely unsurprising. I know, too, that pollsters found a large number of men who had a “problem” voting for a female candidate. Horrifying. Pathetic. And completely unsurprising. I assumed at the time that most of these voters with “problems” were Republicans voting for the old white man stand-by, John McCain, the “safe” guy with the lopsided, POW face and the gun rack. So what do they do now, now that he’s chosen a woman to run with? Is the vice president position perceived of as a lesser role, and therefore unimportant, or unimportant enough, that they’ll overlook the fact that she is a woman—a bad driver, most likely, even though she is a self-described “hockey mom,” an emotional wreck, clearly, since, at the age of 44, she most likely is perimenopausing all over the place, and a mother of five, five!, so many children to take care of—and assume that she’ll take on the role of John McCain’s submissive, docile “wife”, deferring anything important to her more dominant, stronger “husband?”

Palin recently said, "We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question." That scares the crap out of me. Does that scare anyone else?

It is, after all, about having choices. And I’m glad there’s a woman on the ballot. Really, it’s about time. I do cast my votes for other reasons, though. Because, whether it’s a Bush dressed as a McCain, or a Palin, or just a bare Bush in all his wretched glory, to quote another favorite bumper sticker, the only Bush I trust is my own.

There are oodles of reasons why I think Obama is the best choice. He speaks to me. He inspires me. And more than that, I think he has the capacity to inspire each and every one of us, transcending party politics to bring us together to find common ground and work together to make better sense of this world. I believe in him, and I believe that he is the one to be able to reinvigorate the brain trust, empower the creative thinkers, and embolden the problem solvers, tapping into a collective consciousness and grassroots community effort to tackle some of our toughest problems. He’s smart, thoughtful, engaging, unifying. He believes in Ubuntu. And on a very personal level, I can relate to him. I, too, was raised by a single working mother in the 70’s, relied heavily on my neighborhood community for care, fun, and rides to the doctor's office each time I fell off my bike, struggled through some of my early years (ok, yeah, I’m still struggling), and feel passionate about many of the same potentially divisive issues that he does. We’re of the same generation, and actually, that counts for a lot in a race when his opponent does not know how to use a computer. And not only does McCain not know how to use a computer, but he does not use one. Period. There are quite a few people out there who don’t know how to use computers, but they use them anyway, because, if anyone out there has noticed, we are well into the computer age, one that makes it easy to stay connected to the world at hand. The fact that McCain has not put in the effort to keep up with the rest of us, and instead, has made sure to stay the course (oh, and we know that’s trouble) and put his energies into not learning anything new, especially something as sinister as the computer and all its henchmen-- e-mail, Facebook, Skype, the world wide web, and Arthur and the gang at—is troubling indeed, because let’s face it, in this day and age, it would take some serious stubborn willfulness to avoid learning and using a computer. And that alone is scarier than not knowing how to say “nuclear.”

McCain’s obstinacy around using a computer does not bode well for this country. A huge part of Bush’s problem has been his inability to listen to others, learn from others, and incorporate that new knowledge and wisdom into his thinking and decision-making. He’s been such a Texas Tiger (and a lot of other things) that he’s alienated, pissed off, and let down much of the world community. And here we are, on the brink of a global environmental catastrophe, economic collapse, and energy calamity that will no doubt change the literal face of the earth much sooner than everyone thinks, and McCain, close on Bush’s heels, is jockeying to lead us into the dark ages.

A friend sent some Garrison Keillor on the subject: "And it's an amazing country where an Arizona multimillionaire can attack a Chicago South Sider as an elitist and hope to make it stick. The Chicagoan was brought up by a single mom who had big ambitions for him, and he got scholarshipped into Harvard Law and was made president of the law review, all of it on his own hook, whereas the Arizonan is the son of an admiral and was ushered into Annapolis though an indifferent student, much like the Current Occupant, both of them men who are very lucky that their fathers were born before they were. The Chicagoan, who grew up without a father, wrote a book on his own, using a computer. The Arizonan hired people to write his for him. But because the Chicagoan can say what he thinks and make sense and the Arizonan cannot do that for more than 30 seconds at a time, the old guy is hoping to portray the skinny guy as arrogant. Good luck with that, sir. Meanwhile, the casual revelation last month that Mr. McCain has never figured out how to use a computer and has never sent e-mail or Googled is rather startling. It's like admitting that you've never clipped your own toenails or that you didn't know that toothpaste comes out of a tube because your valet always did that for you. It's like being amazed at the sight of a supermarket scanner. What world does Mr. McCain live in? Where does he keep his sense of curiosity? My 94-year-old mother has sent e-mail. Does somebody plan to show him how it's done and will they explain to him what "LOL" means?"

And let’s not forget that the Arizonian could not remember how many houses he owns—yep, that many. That kind of ridiculousness makes my stomach ride into waves of revulsion. McCain's convenient "senior moment" seems to be such a symbol of the rift between the very rich and the middle and working classes, the growing great divide that makes it impossible, as Obama says, for McCain to “get it.” And there have been other instances of this. McCain has apologized for voting against making Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday earlier in his career. Well—just how much earlier? It’s not exactly the same as if he were apologizing for inhaling once when he was in college. This man is dangerous. And so, it seems, is his running mate.

Sure, Sarah Barracuda Palin supposedly cleaned up a lot of Alaska’s corruption, but she’s pushing to make a much bigger, destructive mess in her plans to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for off-shore drilling (which McCain has opposed) and construct a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope, both of which would put Alaska’s already imperiled marine and land mammal population in deeper trouble. And her husband? Despite being depicted as a commercial fisherman by many of the big networks, he only fishes in the summertime, and actually works for one of those big oil companies that his wife supposedly "took on." Yep, I bet she took him on, alright.

But it’s been clear that Miss Wasilla has not been thinking of the larger impact of such decisions: she’s also sued the Department of the Interior over their decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species. A no-brainer: she didn't want anyone's concern over the polar bears to get in the way of her bid to bring offshore drilling into their prime habitat. It seems that she just doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the very reason why Alaska is Alaska. Perhaps she should move to New Jersey, and leave Alaska to those who aren’t willing to risk sacrificing the very things that make Alaska a beautiful and unique place just so some fat-assed jerks from out of state can bag their big game. Miss Congeniality? Hmmm, that's funny. And it goes on: despite the fact that she’s an avid angler and hunter herself, she also recently opposed a statewide ballot initiative to prohibit or restrict new mining operations that could affect salmon in the state's streams and rivers. So much for conservation. So much for making sure there’s some left over for her five children and their children. So much for being a part of the solution. So much for being a woman I could feel proud of, or would ever want to vote for. No thanks.

The most heinous story to come out of Alaska in recent months was the intentional killing of wolves—over 670 in four years—by Alaska Fish and Wildlife officials, in a supposed effort to boost moose and caribou populations. This land and shoot hunting scam reveals the cold-hearted, short-sighted, self-serving stupidity that plagues so many people—the reason for wanting to strengthen numbers of the big beautiful caribou and moose? Government officials, including Palin herself, will tell you that it’s because they are “administering” the wildlife, that killing the wolves is justified for wildlife management reasons. Uh-huh. But the people of Alaska know better, and so do we: it’s so that sport and trophy hunters, mostly out-of-staters, (and all of you New Hampshire folks thought Massholes were bad) can more easily take their prey. This is not about subsistence hunters who need the meat, this is about making a profit off of the urban bozos who travel to our last great frontier to make a testosterone-fueled kill. This is also a different kind of hunting: this is the aerial hunting of wolves and bears, using aircraft to chase the animals to exhaustion before shooting them from the air or ground. It is inhumane, it is savage, and considering the ethical and political dynamics involved, it is unconscionable. The hunting lobby, of course, has taken over the Board of Game, who is responsible for regulating this type of action. Incredibly, this is an example of the state of Alaska taking advantage of a loophole in a federal law, one that many lawmakers and conservation groups are trying to close so that aerial hunting does not spread to other states. Protect America’s Wildlife Act would close the loophole in the Federal Airborne Hunting Act, but we know how things work in DC. Who knows how long it will take.

In the meantime, NRA-member and Governor Palin has done her best to block this item from appearing on the ballots, knowing that the people of Alaska will vote, as they’ve done twice before, to put an end to this monstrosity. And if that doesn’t do it for you, consider this: in recent months, Alaska Fish and Wildlife conducted an air raid on the wolf populations, killing over forty wolves, and orphaning fourteen pups, who were then summarily shot and killed with rifles while they huddled in their den. Lovely. And illegal. The perpetrators knew it, and tried to cover it up, failing to include the fact that they had done the forbidden—shot baby wolves in their den—in their press release. Oops!

Palin’s record on these type of environmental issues is frightening. At a time when we need someone in the White House who will devote him or herself to restoring and strengthening environmental protection laws and keeping a close, sensitive, intelligent, pro-active eye on conservation issues, it is in-con-ceivable (said with a lisp, like the guy in A Princess Bride) to think of McCain and Palin, who doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change (no? then who?), running the show.

And here’s the hypocrisy for me: Palin, a pro-life, anti-choice zealot, has said that “we understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential.” When Palin was pregnant with her fifth child, genetic testing showed that the boy had Down's Syndrome. Palin and her husband chose to have the child, Trig, so I understand where this sentiment comes from, but in the wake of her pro-life stance and utter lack of support for abortion rights for women who might not have the same resources as she did when faced with such a decision, I have to question whether or not she really gets it--does she understand how imperative it is for women to retain the right to choose what happens to their bodies, to choose to use birth control, to choose which breast surgeon and facility to go to for cancer treatment, to choose to have a mastectomy, or a double, to choose to have an abortion if necessary, to choose to have a baby, keep it, give it up for adoption, or not? Because trust me, it is all about having choices, and it's never, ever an easy decision to make. The horror of Palin's stand on abortion is that she doesn't even support a women's right to choose in the face of rape or incest. And exactly who's life is being honored in that scenario? (and she calls herself a feminist?)

You know, maybe those young girls who have been raped by their fathers and are now forced to carry their half-sibling-children to full term because the government has restricted access to safe, legal abortions even in cases like this would prefer to just be chased around by Alaska Fish and Wildlife officials in hovering, menacing aircraft until they dropped, exhausted, in a heap, only to be shot and killed and put out of their misery by Sarah Palin.

And given her mistreatment of animals in her home state, does she really consider herself pro-life? Do animals not count? What about the innocent lives of the massacred wolf pups? Aren't they, too, filled with "wonderful potential?" What about protecting that kind of life? As the Bush administration goes about trying to quietly redefine contraception as a form of abortion (oh, don’t get me started), I think it’s pretty important to start thinking about what crazy things McCain/Palin might do if elected. Because seriously, Bush has so befouled the office of presidency with all the unsightly messes he’s made (and I’m not talking about the time he peed on the couch in the Oval Office after a few too many scotch and sodas with the boys) that it’ll take Obama and Biden a long time to clean it up and reestablish any kind of respect for the office. But they’re the ones to do it, absolutely, and they will, not McCain and Palin. (Sounds like a lot of McPain to me.) Anagrams aside, Obama and Biden have demonstrated respect for the environment--and women and children--in their policies and voting records and campaign promises and that to me is more pro-life than anything McCain or Palin have done.

Pro-life? Just what does that mean, anyway? Anyone who is pro-choice will tell you that they are pro-life, that protecting a woman's right to chose what she does with her body, and whether she ends a pregnancy through abortion or not, is all about honoring women and children and what's best for them. It's about safe-guarding a woman's health, and her basic rights to have access to safe, legal abortion, and to make a decision, or not, to end a pregnancy, particularly in the case of the unimaginable horror of rape or incest, or potential harm to her body, or that of her fetus. No woman (or man, for that matter) I know is pro-abortion, because the choice to have an abortion is always deeply difficult--often clear, but embroiled in much emotion. I'm pro-choice, and having choices, and exercising them, should be a basic human right. Man, this really gets my blood boiling…

“When angry, count four. When very angry, swear.” ~ Mark Twain

@#*!!! There, I feel better. As a descendant of William Henry Seward, as a woman, as a citizen of this great planet Earth, I felt I simply had to speak out against Palin and particularly about her record of environmental destruction in one of the last areas of pristine wilderness in this world of ours. What does this choice say about John McCain?

Here's a bit from The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund (
Shocking Choice by John McCain
WASHINGTON-- Senator John McCain just announced his choice for running mate: Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. To follow is a statement by Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.“Senator McCain’s choice for a running mate is beyond belief. By choosing Sarah Palin, McCain has clearly made a decision to continue the Bush legacy of destructive environmental policies.“Sarah Palin, whose husband works for BP (formerly British Petroleum), has repeatedly put special interests first when it comes to the environment. In her scant two years as governor, she has lobbied aggressively to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, pushed for more drilling off of Alaska’s coasts, and put special interests above science. Ms. Palin has made it clear through her actions that she is unwilling to do even as much as the Bush administration to address the impacts of global warming. Her most recent effort has been to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the polar bear from the endangered species list, putting Big Oil before sound science. As unbelievable as this may sound, this actually puts her to the right of the Bush administration. “This is Senator McCain’s first significant choice in building his executive team and it’s a bad one. It has to raise serious doubts in the minds of voters about John McCain’s commitment to conservation, to addressing the impacts of global warming and to ensuring our country ends its dependency on oil.”

This election is about choices. I'm grateful that I have one to make. And I'm awfully glad I have such a good one to make. I'm always, always grateful for choices, especially when they are loud and clear. I didn't plan on airing my political bellows on my blog, but I've gone and done it anyway. If there's one thing I've learned this past year, it's that life is short, voices are to be used, and there's no time like the present. Of course, as Edward R. Murrow said, "Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar."

"Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." ~ Maggie Kuhn

It's time to do right. Goosebumps, indeed. Time to get out and Barack the Vote!!

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." ~ Mark Twain

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tasting the Fruit

“Live in each season
as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit,
and resign yourself to
the influences of each.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

There’s a certain mournful indolence to these waning days of summer. I just don’t want it to end, so I purposely slog along, wallowing in all the lovely sunshine and breathing in the crisp morning air that has graced our days, storing up, shoring up, down to my bones, for the long cold winter that’s coming. Dressing these last August days in the slower summer shuffle of intentional spontaneity is a desperate, futile attempt to somehow avert the incoming tide of the post-Labor Day routine, that is at once both welcome and wretched, spinning our time into neat little boxes to be filled with art classes and soccer practices and ever-orchestrated play dates. The discombobulated, every-which-way rhythms of summer are about to give way to a more refined, orderly routine, and I’m simply not done. There’s much creativity and freedom to be found in discombobulating. Oh, if only summer would last a little longer! I’d like to discombobulate a little longer.

The usual, intrusive back-to-school marketing blitz and media assault, from the damn catalogs that stuff my mail box with fall colors and apple picking images to the store displays of school supplies and Halloween candy, jumpstarted the fall season back in early August, threatening to snuff all the fun out of the remaining days of summer. Just when the weather turned from dismally damp and grey to brilliantly bright and blue, and the air suddenly snapped out of the tropical humidity stranglehold and washed through with a refreshing, cleansing energy, the push towards the end of summer began. I've never appreciated this premature drive to discard the finer days of summer and rush into someone's idea of the perfect New England fall--and this year it was even more pronounced, this feeling that someone was yanking my summer right out from under me, and so, I yanked back, and ran the other way, to soak up every last ray of unfettered sunshine and latch on to each and every moment of unhurried bliss.
And it’s been absolutely beautiful. Despite the fact that the herald won’t officially usher in fall for another three weeks, there’s still plenty of summer to be squeezed out of this season. These days, when summer’s growth starts to slow amidst mounting signs of death and decay— fat spiders bathing their yellow bellies in the sun amidst the crinkly browning of the leaves, the light, earthy smell creeping out of the woods, the overgrowth of garden rot and neglect tumbling its wildness over lawn and meadow—there are other signs that this late summer season, of luscious, ripening fruit, of bountiful harvest, of shifting, glorious weather, is just beginning. Get carried away by the rush to abandon summer and embrace this falsely contrived back-to-school fall, and it’s easy to miss the subtleties of summer’s last gasp.

The other morning, while a friend and I sat on a curb in a park, talking about all the twists and loops and spirals of life, a perfectly yellowed leaf, its edges jagged with teeth, suddenly appeared before us, alighting on the ground as if to join our conversation. Change, it seemed to say for both of us, is on the horizon. And it’s true; despite my denial, fall is coming, and with it, change. It whispers in the winds that have started to spiral down these first yellow and red leaves, now appearing in isolated patches along the edges of our wetlands, and soon, in flaming salutes to the sun at the tops of the trees. It shows its face in the sun, too, shifting lower and lower in the sky each day to cast longer, deeper, cooler shadows across the day. And it beckons and teases, in the cool, dewy mornings and chilly evenings, in the bright return to the yellows and russets of early spring, in the snap and tartness of the first fall apples.

The stripeys are back, too, bright green caterpillars that arrive each summer at our potted parsley plants to beef up in preparation for their long, arduous overwintering, before emerging in the spring as black swallowtail butterflies. The milkweed still stands tall in the garden, its leaves well-sampled by visiting monarch caterpillars, and its purses of seed pods full and ripe and green, ready to dry and burst and spread parachutes of milkweed seed across the land. Fields and meadows blaze yellow with goldenrod, where the dog has taken up her part-time job as a seed disperser, returning from her forays into the edge of the woods to retrieve Frisbees and tennis balls full of burrs.

We’ve had a string of sunny days, giving us the sense that it’ll last forever, but it won’t, because, alas, it never does.

As life tries to push me back into the frenzied pace that left me temporarily derailed this past year, I go about my days acutely aware of my mission:

To spend this day in each moment, and each moment in this day, slowing down and refocusing my attention on the simple beauty around me, noticing the details, the delicate orange pronged horns that suddenly appear atop the caterpillars’ bulbous heads when touched, the tickle of grass beneath bared feet, the changing colors and landscape of the sky; feeling the lightness of gratitude as we bring in our first harvest of peaches and apples from our small, ungainly trees, taste the first fall raspberries, plump with flavor, and make a meal from our garden crop; immersing myself in the sounds of the evening orchestra—katydids, cicadas, crickets, owls, coyotes, frogs; and taking the time to find a few favorite constellations in the night sky with the boys, and feel the threads and connections that tie and tether and ground us amidst our haste to spiral out of this world. To have a Mary Oliver Summer Day before they are all gone, that is what I wish for today. Small measures of exaltation, all.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I've decided to postpone getting my new nipple. Originally scheduled for August 19, the procedure will now take place on October 14, which also happens to be my birthday. I did not engineer it to fall on such an illustrious day (haha); October 14th just happened to be the next available every-other-Tuesday that Dr. Pitts had open in the OR. What prompted my decision, you ask? No, believe it or not, I did not need more time with my nipple placements, though it has been quite enjoyable messing around with where the new nipple should go: a little left of center, riding up high, or blazing in the dead middle, my own ojo de dios. No, I made my decision based on more pragmatic reasons; quite simply, I wanted to to be able to swim those final days of summer away.

Since Dr. Pitts had told me during my last appointment that there would be no swimming allowed for a while after the nipple procedure, and that I might want to reschedule it for the fall, I decided to take her hint that only odd ducks get their new nipples during the summer, when swimming without worrying about how the water will make your new nipple sting and ache (not to mention totally mess up the multiple incisions and stitches) should be a daily right. Who wants to be an odd duck? Not me.

My new nipple will be the best birthday present ever, a little bit of mystery gift-wrapped in gauze. And until I can stand the thought of unwrapping the bandages to reveal my gift, it'll hide out and heal, under wraps, getting used to its new incarnation (after all, it was just skin before). Like most other perfect gifts, my new nipple will be functional as well as beautiful, though exactly what I'll be using it for has yet to be determined. My new girl is gradually regaining feeling, all those tweaked sensory nerves starting to regain their zippiness, and things are starting to feel fairly good on my left side. I suspect my new nipple, once installed, will be a strange piece of skin sculpture, a real oddity, for some time. But it's symmetry and balance I'm after, and my new nipple will offer a semblance of that--in so much as it will make it appear that I have two perfectly normal, perfectly matched breasts, even when I'm wearing nothing but a slip of a tank top. And if you talk to most women, having two nearly perfectly matched breasts will make me a bit of a freak, since lopsidedness seems to be the rule, not the exception, particularly among women whose breasts worked double shifts nursing ravenous infants and comforting demanding toddlers.

Trust me, they'll never be perfectly matched, just perfect enough. One is filled with real live breast tissue, the other with silicone. And that one? It has a raging scar running red tracks across the top. Not so perfect, just perfect enough, and for that, I am grateful.

So, it's official: the full moon of October 14 promises the long-awaited next phase in the reconstruction process: a new nipple for the start of my 44th year. Hey, why not? Maybe the OR nurses will sing Happy Birthday to me (and to my newly arrived nip-let), festoon the OR with streamers and balloons (latex-free, please), and give me a little extra valium, just because. I'll be sure to order up some tassels for my new nip-let, dress her up appropriately for the occasion. And perhaps later, once she's completed her nipple training, we'll have a proper coming out party for her--though of course, she may want to wait until she has been dressed in her regal colors of pinkish, areola hues. Who knows? Maybe I'll get tattooed for Christmas! Then my new girl will truly be ready to celebrate in full style for the New Year, tassels and all.