Archive for March, 2011

The Gall of My Gallbladder

Physicians perform laparoscopic stomach surger...

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I almost never get indigestion. Last October, around the same time as my dog went blind, I had one violent attack of tummy ache. I left work early and took some Tums and laid down. Since then, nothing, until about three weeks ago, when I dared to eat Jack in the Box for breakfast. I would recommend that if you know that you have gallstones (which I didn’t) that you lay off the Jack in the Box.

Pretty soon after that I was experiencing some discomfort. Then I decided to get lunch from Short Bus Subs. Short Bus Subs are excellent, and they offer some healthier sandwiches. However, eating again aggravated my stomach issues, and I went home early because I was in so much pain. The pain was in my central abdominal area, and it was like heartburn, only it wasn’t heartburn. It didn’t reach that far. What it did do was make me violently ill. I threw up in the women’s restroom before I went home.

The next night I went over to the Mr. Brewsters’ so that I could ghost write a cover letter for a job interview. We had chicken and spaghetti. Again, I experienced discomfort of the same sort as before. I drove home and threw up in my kitchen sink. I couldn’t make it as far as the bathroom. That was a Friday night, and I had pain pretty much every day thereafter. It would go away when I went to sleep at night, and I’d wake up the next morning feeling alright. I never knew what was going to set it off. I would eat something and then live in hell for the rest of the day. That is, until the following Thursday.

Thursday I went home a half hour early because that was all I could stand. I felt bloated all the time, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And I couldn’t get rid of the air. I popped into bed, took a ton of acid reducers and Tums and lay there miserable while nothing happened. The next morning, more Tums and acid reducers, and I was just as miserable. The pain had kept me up half the night. I chatted one of my coworkers who works from home.

i am so sick to my stomach lately; i’ve been sick since yesterday, and nothing i take makes it any better

do you feel nauseous?


could be your gallbladder. you better go see a doctor.

So, I made an appointment with “my” doctor. Actually, my doctor was in India again, so I made an appointment with someone in her office. I rattle off my symptoms, and the doctor says, “That sounds like it could be your gallbladder.” And I said, “I thought so.” This is because I have the internet and can diagnose and prescribe for myself.

The doctor explained to me that he was going to send me to get an ultrasound. The ultrasound was to check out what was going on down there. If it was my gallbladder, then one of two things could happen. If it wasn’t so bad, then I could live with it until I could schedule a surgery. If it was as bad as he thought it was, then I would probably have to have emergency surgery. He gave me a prescription for some hydrocodone. I went in to work for only long enough to explain to them that I had to go home and take narcotics.

After about an hour, the doctor’s office called. A different doctor than the one I’d seen originally advised me to hold off and schedule the surgery for later. Then the doctor I’d seen originally had a nurse call and tell me to get myself to the emergency room where they would be expecting me for surgery. So, I packed my little overnight bag and drove myself to the emergency room.

Turns out they weren’t expecting me. In severe pain, I walked, with my loaded suitcase and my purse, back and forth from the emergency room to my doctor’s office and back again, twice. They could not admit me. The doctor’s office hadn’t sent the ultrasound or anything they needed. Well, it turned out that the doctor’s office had sent it. I was just asking the wrong people, apparently. When I finally got a bed in the emergency room, after nearly two hours of waiting, a doctor told me that he’d been waiting on me and asked me what took me so long. He was under the impression that I was in my doctor’s office when my doctor called him. No, I told him, I was in the comfort of my own home, enjoying my pain pill. Then I packed my little bag and drove myself here.

Now, when I finally got a bed in the emergency room is when life started to get better. They hooked me up to an IV and gave me morphine. Morphine? I thought that was what they gave to people who were about to die, like terminal cancer patients. Morphine! But seriously, I love morphine. I didn’t even realize how much pain I was in until they gave me the morphine. Wow! This morphine stuff is great.

They moved me to a bed in the hospital. I was going to have surgery the next day. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything. Seriously, I think you’ve never had a gallbladder attack if you think I want anything to eat or drink. Go ahead and hook me up to that saline. I hadn’t eaten since just before noon of the day before. I never wanted to eat anything again for as long as I lived. What was eating but pain and misery? Eating: it’s so not worth it.

In the hospital, they wrapped my legs in these leg warmer pump thingies that they give you to prevent blood clots from surgery. When the orderly came to get me for surgery, first off, he helped me get my computer in my suitcase ‘cause he felt sorry for me, trying to keep the back of my hospital gown closed and close my suitcase at the same time. Then, he grabbed my fancy leg warmers ‘cause he said that they would charge me for new ones unless we took those with us. I am going to spend the rest of my short-lived life paying for this surgery, and every little bit counts. I loved the orderly.

I really don’t remember much about the first procedure, which was the gallbladder surgery itself. I was “under” before they put me under. It was a laparoscopic surgery, so that means that they cut a small incision on the right side of your abdomen, just under your rib cage, just right of your sternum. Then they poke two holes under the incision, further right. They pump you full of gas. They stick a camera inside of your abdomen, along with a light and a tiny vacuum cleaner, I think. Then they basically suck your gallbladder out of you and glue you shut. No kidding. They don’t sew or even staple anymore. They glue you. Someone should redo Operation as a video game and make the players perform simulated laparoscopic surgery. I think there could be some serious money in that.

After they sucked out my gallbladder, there was more! Once I woke up from the surgery they explained that they needed to do a second procedure to remove some gallstones stuck in a duct, along with some bile. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention. There was something about a wire going down my throat, and then a balloon, like an angiogram, and somehow the balloon was going to pick up on this bile and the stones. I wonder how that works exactly. Static electricity? When I woke up the second doctor (the balloon guy) said he “flushed” it four or five times, so he was pretty sure he got the last of the stones and crap. How do you flush something with a balloon? Maybe it was a water balloon. I think it should definitely be a part of the new Operation. Sounds fascinating.

That was Saturday afternoon, and I was told that it was possible that I might get out by Sunday. I called Lubbock, and she insisted on picking me up and having me stay with her for a night or two, and that’s what we did. I called the Mr. Brewsters, and they would have come to visit me on Sunday, but I got released from the hospital before they could make it there. Lubbock drove me to her home where I promptly swallowed two hydrocodone tablets and passed out on her couch. I slept right through the Charlie Sheen special on the Biography Channel. I slept right through a neighbor coming to visit. I slept until sometime in the early morning.

I didn’t get much sleep in the hospital. Someone was always waking me up to change an IV bag or monitor vital signs or poke me with something or other. Not to complain or anything, but I liked the day nurse better than the night nurse. At least he let me sleep some.

On the Tuesday following my surgery I had to go back to the hospital for some kind of test involving kidney function. I gave blood again. Then I decided to go to my doctor and see if the back pain I was experiencing was normal. My doctor couldn’t tell me if that was normal or not. So, I went to the balloon dude’s office, and that doctor’s nurse also didn’t know if it was normal to have back pain after gallbladder surgery. Seriously, haven’t these people heard of the internet? The balloon dude’s nurse sent me to the surgeon’s nurse, who just so happened to be a really hot guy.

Here is one foolproof sign that I am now a middle-aged woman. When I was in my 20s I remember delivering an entire comedic monologue while I was out to dinner with some friends, over pizza at EZ’s, about how I hated that doctors were always wanting to see me naked. I have a cyst on my face. The doctor wants to see me naked. I have chigger bites. The doctor wants to see me naked. I have hives. The doctor wants to see me naked. What is up with that? Why do I ALWAYS have to be naked? My modesty was offended. But on the upside, that little rant is how I came to date Dr. Mark, who found it amusing.

I no longer have any sense of shame or modesty. And I haven’t even had a baby. Now I practically volunteer to strip in front of anyone who says he’s a medical professional. The dermatologist who removed my cyst was really, really cute. And I remember being embarrassed about that somehow. With the hot nurse, I no longer care. I’m flipping up my shirt for the whole world to see my scars. Yes, the back pain was normal and was from the gas they pumped me full of. Both the hot nurse and the surgeon poked at my abdomen and declared me healed, then helped me up off the examining table.

After my hospital trip that Tuesday I went to Lubbock’s and hung out, watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie on cable. It was my last day to play hookie. I was going to work on Wednesday. When she got off work I nuked a dinner I’d purchased from Wal-Mart earlier in the day, while I was waiting on my prescriptions to be filled, and we ate dinner together. I think we were watching another Charlie Sheen special on TV.

I said, “You know what I love about surgery?”

Lubbock said, “Pain medicine.”

“That, too. But I was thinking about the sense of accomplishment that you get.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that everyone gets excited about milestones that you first achieved when you were a baby. Like, look, Ma, I can walk and eat solid food and pee in the potty by myself. Just wait ‘til I have my first bowel movement after the surgery!”

“I think that’s too much information.”

March 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm 3 comments

A Time to Rape

A Time To Kill

In the 90s a book came out that was later made into a movie. This book was the first book published from the pen of John Grisham, the lawyer turned author. In my opinion, it’s his best book. In some ways, it’s a modern day retelling of To Kill a Mockingbird. In Grisham’s A Time to Kill two ne’er do well good ol’ boys pick up an underage black girl named Tonia Haley and beat and rape her so severely that the damage from the rape makes her infertile.

Her father, Carl Lee Haley, realizes that in his mostly white Mississippi town two white boys will never be convicted of harming a black girl and that they will most likely go free. Carl Lee confers with a local counselor, the struggling defense attorney, Jake Briggance, and asks Jake if he’ll defend him should he need it. Jake, himself the father of a young girl close to Tonia’s age, agrees to defend Carl Lee should he need his services. Following that conversation, Carl Lee takes a shotgun to the courthouse on the day of the rapists’ arraignment and shoots the two men down in cold blood, accidentally shooting a peace officer as well, in the process.

The rest of the movie is about the fight to keep Carl Lee out of prison and away from the gas chamber. A Time to Kill is a story about a hate crime, specifically focused on race relations. In the end Jake gets Carl Lee acquitted by asking jury members to close their eyes while he describes the rape of a 9-year-old girl in gruesome detail. When he’s finished presenting the picture of a little girl tied up, raped, beaten, urinated on, and left to die he says, simply, “Now imagine she’s white.”

I want to tell you a story. Don’t close your eyes or you won’t be able to read the story, but you can see what I want you to see in your mind’s eye. This is the story of a little boy. This boy lives in a small Texas town that’s fraught with racial strife. The boy is Hispanic, and he’s 11 years old. He’s also a straight A student. His mother has been hospitalized recently with some health problems, and his father is an unemployed construction worker.

The boy has spent a lot of time hanging out with older kids in a bad neighborhood lately. People in this neighborhood have spotted him there on numerous occasions. They wonder what he’s doing there and why his parents don’t keep closer tabs on him. The boy is also on Facebook. On his profile, he says he’s 13 so that he’ll look older and tougher than he really is and so that maybe, just maybe he’ll attract older girls. He’s made posts involving drinking and sex.

One day the boy is out walking after school when three older boys offer to give him a ride. He accepts. He knows these boys, and he’s hung out with them before. They’re all African American, and they’re all much older than he is. They’re high school age. The boys all drive to a small blue house in the bad neighborhood, one that belongs to the aunt of one of the older boys.

The house is empty except for the four boys. There are no adults present. They go to one of the bedrooms of the house. They’re hanging out. Maybe they watch TV. Maybe they drink a beer or smoke a little pot. Suddenly, one of the older boys says, “I want you to suck my cock.”

The young boy is stunned. This request seems to come from left field. He tries to laugh it off.

A second older boy stands up and says, “You’re going to suck all our cocks.”

The little boy says, “And what if I don’t.”

The first older boy chimes in again. “First, we’ll beat you. Then you can walk home.”

The little boy looks at the older boys, and he realizes that they are serious. Any one of the three of them could pulverize him. The little boy doesn’t even weigh 100 pounds. These are big guys. They lift weights. They play high school athletics. One of them is double his size. His chance of taking on all three or of escaping is nothing.

The boy submits to the rape. The older boys take pictures and videos on their cell phones. The sexual activity takes place in a bedroom and in a bathroom. While the boy is cleaning up in the bathroom he hears the older boys talking on their cell phones and inviting some of their friends to also come over. The aunt who owns the house has come home, and one of the older boys takes him out of the bathroom and sneaks him out the back of the house and into the car.

The little boy has gone silent. Perhaps he is in shock. They made him do things he didn’t want to do, things that hurt him. He is bleeding. The older boys drive him to an abandoned mobile home in a trailer park on the edge of the bad neighborhood. He’s been here before. The yard is strewn with trash, and there are household items that probably belonged to the last, evicted tenants, lying on the curb.

More older boys and even some men show up, and they all use him sexually, too. Sometimes he is made to service more than one man at a time. He is afraid to say anything because there are now several men in the trailer, perhaps as many as 20 or more, and he is afraid that if he protests or fights they will beat him. They continue to take photos and video as they cheer him on. The little boy is tired, sore, and hurt. He wants to go home, but they won’t take him home until they are done. The attack takes several hours.

Finally, they do take him home, and in his humiliation he says nothing. He showers and goes to bed and resolves never to speak of it. He doesn’t want to shame his father or hurt his mother, especially with her health issues.

One day soon afterward he is called into the principal’s office because one of the perpetrators of the attack has emailed or texted pictures and video of the boy’s rape to several of his classmates. He is afraid and alone, but he tells the truth.

That’s a sad story, isn’t it? You feel sorry for that boy. You never question where his parents were during the attack. You never question why he accepted a ride with three older boys. You don’t think, like I once heard another blogger say about a rape victim, that the police were sent in to do a father’s job, as if only single mothers parent rape victims. You know, or at least you assume, that since the boy is posting about experience with drinking and sex that implies he’s no longer a virgin. You know that he’s working hard to appear older than he really is, with his Facebook profile, his clothes and appearance, and the friends he hangs around.

But you never thought he deserved what happened to him, did you? You never thought it was a racial conspiracy to get a whole generation of black men, did you? I hope you never blamed the boy for not protesting or trying to run away. I don’t think you probably thought that the boy had brought this on by his behavior or his appearance, although if his rapists were homosexuals it seems conceivable that they just couldn’t help themselves, or maybe not. What do you think? Do you think the actions of any 11 year old boy could cause a man to somehow have to rape him? You think this is a horrible crime, don’t you? And you think the boy’s not at fault for what happened to him at all. Now imagine the boy’s a girl.!5780022/media-blows-it-with-pathetic-gang-rape-coverage

March 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm 7 comments

Because I’m Worth It

ER (TV series)

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I got my first gray hairs when I was 19. They came in my bangs, so they were very prominent and visible to me. Shocking white and coarse, they were more like horse hair than any of the other hair on my head. I used to search for them and pluck them out from the root. I had a boyfriend who referred to them as “platinum blonde.” God bless him.

My hair at that time was a very light brown or almost a dishwater blonde color. Frankly, I’ve been coloring it for so long now that I don’t know what it would look like naturally except that there would be a lot of gray with some kind of brown color mixed in. I got wise and started coloring my hair almost immediately after I spotted the first gray. This wasn’t solely because of the gray. I didn’t have enough back then. I started highlighting it at first. Next, I went blonde. Then I went red for many years. And now I’m a brunette.

During my redhead years I was really serious about the hair dye process. I bought my own salon apron and a box of gloves, my own reusable applicator, etc. I had my very own salon. I would go to Sally Beauty Supply and pick out a bottle of color and a bottle of crème developer and mix my own color. It was cheaper that way.

If you’re coloring your hair at home and you don’t have a fancy sink like they have at the salon or a detachable shower head, then the easiest way to rinse off the color is to just step under the shower head. So, I got into the habit of doing my color one night on the weekend and then combining the rinse and a shower before I went to bed.

One Saturday night I decided to try a new color. I picked out this slightly more outrageous red color from L’oreal. You know how the boxes of home hair dye come with instructions that say to always do a patch test? A patch test is when you mix a small amount of the hair color with the developer and then apply that small amount to a small patch of your skin and wait for a while to see if you experience an allergic reaction. I don’t believe in them. Patch tests are, as Charlie Sheen might say, for trolls and clowns. I’m a winner. I don’ need no stinking patch test.

I mixed the color with the developer, put it on my hair, waited for the required amount of time, and then I got in the shower and rinsed out the color and washed myself. When I got out of the shower I grabbed for a towel and rubbed the excess moisture off my hair. Then I used the same towel to dry off my body before ultimately wrapping it around my head like a turban and putting on my nightshirt.

I went to bed. At about 3 AM I was half awake and itching. So, I scratched the itch. I went back to sleep. At about 5 AM I started itching more. This became sort of an uncontrollable compulsion, and it spread all over my body. I finally realized that this was not normal, so I got up and went to the bathroom to look in the mirror.


The person in the mirror was not me. Instead, it was this hideously swollen, red bumpy thing. Hives! I’d seemingly broken out in hives, and my face had puffed to about four times its normal size. A quick scan of my body confirmed that I had the same problem all over. I was a giant raspberry, and an uncomfortable one. Naturally, I wanted to stop the itch, so I reached in my medicine cabinet and found a bottle of calamine lotion. I liberally slathered the calamine lotion all over. It didn’t work, of course. I still itched.

Then I quickly put on some clothes and shoes and grabbed my purse and my keys and headed for the nearest emergency room. When I show up at the emergency room I am the only person there. It was the only time I’ve been to an emergency room in my life when there was no wait. I sat right down across from a nurse who started taking my vitals and I guess performing triage.

The nurse was very sympathetic to my plight, and I remember spending what seemed like a long time talking with her. Since my blood pressure wasn’t super high and my breathing seemed alright she didn’t seem to be in any rush to get me in to see a doctor. Maybe she thought I normally looked like a giant raspberry.

She did seem concerned about the fact that my skin was peeling, but I assured her that was the calamine lotion. Yes, the calamine lotion I slathered on had dried rather quickly and started cracking and peeling, causing my face and the rest of my body to look like my skin was falling off in patches, sort of like a bad sunburn or maybe leprosy.

At one point during our interview, the nurse said, “It’s a shame about your hair. That’s such a pretty color.”

To which I responded, “Why? Are they going to strip it?”

Not my finest hour. I was suffering a severe allergic reaction to hair dye, and I imagined that once I was admitted to the hospital the doctor was going to sit me in a barber’s chair and begin applying beauty treatments.

Finally, we got done with the triage, and the nurse disappeared behind a door and down a hall for a little while. I heard some snickering. Then the door opened back up and the nurse came out to get me. She led me into an examining room where I was told to wait for the doctor. The room was cold.

Finally, the doctor came in after what seemed like an eternity in freezing itchy hell. He looked like he was working hard to suppress a shit-eating grin.

He said, “So, you had an allergic reaction to some hair dye, huh?”

“Yes, I think that’s what it was. I colored my hair last night. It was a new color. And in the morning I woke up like this.”

“It is a pretty color.”

“Thank you.”

“What’s up with the peeling?”

“That’s calamine lotion.”

“Why did you put on calamine lotion?”

“I thought it would help with the itching.”

“Well, it doesn’t. Calamine lotion doesn’t do anything.”

“I guess I figured that out.”

“You know what does?”

I shook my head no. He held up a syringe.

He gave me a shot of cortisone, and I felt better almost immediately. Then he asked me if I had driven myself to the emergency room. I told him I had. He told me that he was going to make me wait for a while to make sure that I was alright to drive before he would release me. He also told me that in the future Benadryl was something I might try for reactions like mine and that maybe a patch test wasn’t such a bad idea. Then, my favorite advice was that maybe I might want to avoid using the same towel to dry both my hair and my body in the future since using the same towel was probably why I had hives all over my body instead of just on my scalp and my face.

I must have stayed for at least an hour and a half after that, and every twenty minutes or so the door to the room I was in would open a crack or so and a head or two or three would peek in, shut the door and then laugh it up in the hallway.

March 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm 1 comment

I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke

The recent political unrest in predominantly Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East has seemed like a stack of dominoes falling. The dictatorships of Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya: they all fall down like toy soldiers. Of course, some people in the United States have been terribly alarmed at these turns of events. It is disturbing, but it’s also refreshing, isn’t it?

These people have been under the rule of brutal regimes in some cases. In all cases they have been subject to economic hardship that maybe even the poorest of those of us in the United States would not be able to comprehend. The countries are overpopulated, and their young people cannot find work. In fact, I’ve read recently that the Muslim population of the world is the fastest growing population in the world.

What’s worse is that in many of these countries our government has been complicit in keeping these people under the thumb of tyranny. We’ve supported inept, corrupt leaders who were guilty of countless human rights violations in order to ensure that we had someone in power who supported American interests.

A lot of things I’ve read recently have been coming together for me with a click. I’ve read about our government’s enslaving poor nations into crippling debt. I’ve read about Arab people all over the world having economic difficulties. I’ve read about political unrest in predominantly Muslim nations. How much of the political unrest do you think comes from political and economic oppression?

I’ve read about people in these countries demonstrating for democracy, for the right to be heard and for their concerns to be validated. I’ve read about many of these people being women, and there’s been more than one article written about the feminists in Tahrir square, as well as how the Muslim Brotherhood held hands to form a bond of chains around the women so that they could protest alongside the men safely.

I read an excellent Newsweek article on Hillary Clinton and her tenure as Secretary of State and how she champions women’s rights globally. I saw an interview with Melinda Gates about how empowering women in third world countries provides further opportunities for both women and men alike. I read Half the Sky where women who were the benefactors of microfunding produced profits for their investors and themselves. They became entrepreneurs and created income for others. There’s no reason why the same model, with maybe a few tweaks, can’t work for men as well.

I read an article in The New Yorker about Mo Ibrahim, a multi-billionaire Sudanese Muslim businessman who made his fortune in the cell phone industry. He retired to start his own charitable foundation that now bestows a prize to any leaving African political leader who has made a significantly positive contribution to his society. For the last two years it’s been awarded to no one because no one was deemed worthy of the prize.

Ibrahim’s foundation keeps records on African countries and their rulers. The Ibrahim Index assigns a numerical score based on human rights, gender, sanitation and access to clean water, corruption, and economics among other categories. It then judges Africa’s leaders’ effectiveness based on these criterion.

China, India, and, indeed, all of Asia is undergoing enormous change. Economic opportunity abounds. This is nothing new. It’s been going on for decades. We’re on a cusp now of a real revolution in Africa and the Middle East as well. We can help these people flourish and encourage them in their efforts to define democracy for themselves. Or we can do what we’ve done in the past. We can covertly support their poverty and enslavement.

In the past the Western world has been reluctant to invest in this part of the world because it’s unstable. But is it poor because it’s unstable or is it unstable because it’s poor? Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

Most of these people don’t actually hate Americans, you know. They’re not really fond of our government – with good reason, I might add. But I think we might find, like Greg Mortenson did when he was nearly dying on the descent down from a mountain climbing expedition, that people are people.

We can win the war on terror, and we can win gender equality for women in countries where there is none. But we aren’t going to be able to win the war on terror with weapons. Remember that old saying? Kill them with kindness? We need to change our foreign policy, both as a government and as individuals. We need to invest in these countries and these people.

We need to throw our economic and political support behind the countries that meet a certain standard on the Ibrahim Index and withhold our support from those that don’t. We need to forgive the debt of African countries. We need to work in tandem with these people to create a sustainable environment of prosperity and invite women to participate. When men in these countries see tangible results from the efforts of women, when these results benefit them and result in more economic opportunities for them, then they won’t protest so loudly anymore.

I know this argument has a tendency to sound oversimplified, and no doubt it is greatly oversimplified and idealistic. But there’s something to the old Southern saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. We can’t just buy the world a Coke and teach them all to sing, but if someone bought you a Coke would you then be inclined to blow him up with an improvised explosive device? I wouldn’t.

March 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm 3 comments

Healing Menstrual Blood

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatm...

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Well, I got your attention with that title, didn’t I? Perusing the internet the other day I came across an article on Time Magazine’s Health Section that was interesting, to say the least. Remember all the controversy regarding stem cell research? Advocates like Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox and even Nancy Reagan shouted its cause.

The controversy comes from the use of aborted fetuses for the purposes of research. While I highly doubt that many women would ever undergo an abortion in order to produce stem cells for research, the religious right argued that their use in stem cell research was immoral and that federal funding for such research should be disallowed. In fact, they believe that such stem cell research shouldn’t be performed.

I have mixed feelings on the subject myself, for while I’m ultimately pro-choice for reasons that I’ve previously mentioned on this blog, I have real misgivings about abortion. My feelings are that the procedure should be safe, legal, and extremely, extremely rare. That being said, I couldn’t see why an aborted embryo should be relegated to mere biohazard status when it could possibly be used for research to save or improve the human life of someone who has already been born.

It turns out that there are other alternative methods of procuring stem cells for research. One of those alternative methods is through the use of human placenta and also through the use of menstrual blood. There are other ways, but their efficacy is questioned, and I don’t feel like enough of a science expert to be able to explain them.

If you’re squeamish about body fluids at all, then you’ve probably already stopped reading this article. Just in case, though, you haven’t stopped reading you might want to stop reading right now.

Here’s how it works. To store menstrual blood for future research a woman inserts a cup shaped like a tampon into her vagina on her heaviest flow day for approximately 3 hours in order to preserve a specimen of 10 to 20 milliliters of blood. That is then poured into a container and shipped back to a lab to be used or stored for future use. As I understand it some women are paying a fee of $499 and then an additional $99 per year to store their own menstrual blood for future use.

The stored cells can be thawed and used to help in the treatment of breast cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s or any one of a number of possible future health problems for you or for a beloved family member. That’s the selling point, anyway.

I wonder if anyone will ever think to so conveniently package a storage method for women who just wish to donate menstrual blood in order to help others. A woman has an average of 500 periods in her lifetime. That’s a lot of stem cells from just one woman.

Imagine if you convinced as many women to harvest menstrual blood as the women who donate blood to the Red Cross annually. How many people could benefit from stem cell’s curative properties? How much progress could be made towards research to find a cure for life threatening diseases? And the best part is that I can’t think of a single moral or ethical issue that anyone could come up with for not using the stem cells gathered from menstrual blood or umbilical cords from full term pregnancies.

I doubt this will ever catch on like wildfire because of people’s initial gross out factor. However, it’s not as though anyone is asking for someone to ingest actual menstrual blood in order to facilitate healing. The stem cells are extracted from “processed” menstrual blood. Given the strange things that a lot of quack “doctors” have recommended as “cures” for desperate terminal patients, it wouldn’t shock me if some terminally ill patients would be willing to drink menstrual blood if it meant the difference between life and death.

It’s kind of cool to know that it’s an option, storing menstrual blood to harvest stem cells, that is. Instead of throwing your period out with the trash, you could use it to preserve or improve someone’s life. That someone might even, someday, be yourself.

March 11, 2011 at 12:49 pm 6 comments

The Worst Date Ever

The cover removed (for photo shot), Dot matrix...

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The worst date I ever had I got out of the way when I was relatively young.  I was 18 and working at the media center on the campus of State Mental Hospital University. The media center was in the communications department, so we catered mostly to the journalism and broadcast journalism majors, but we also delivered audiovisual equipment all over campus.

This meant that sometimes I had to carry whole television sets up and down stairs in buildings that were so old that there were no elevators available. This doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, but keep in mind these weren’t plasmas or LCD screens. These were old school cathode ray tube TVs, my friend. I only dropped one once. I think it was because I forgot to wrap up the cord, and I stepped on it. I got lucky because the TV still worked afterward.

It was actually a pretty cool job. I met a lot of people. I learned how to setup filmstrips and operate slide projectors and how to play films. I learned how to splice and repair film and how to edit videotape. I learned this on professional videotape, the old school ¾ inch kind. And I became the official spokesmodel for many college guy’s assignments to make a fake TV commercial.

There were several other students working part-time at the media center. I wasn’t the only one. I think we probably had ten or twelve people on staff. Only two of us were women. I think the carrying TVs thing might have had something to do with that, and I wasn’t a brawny woman by any stretch of the imagination.  But I guess carrying TV sets is intimidating. I know it was my least favorite part of the job.

One day one of the guys I worked with at the media center decided to ask me out. His name was Andrew, and yes, that’s his real name. I won’t give you his last name. Andrew was a nice enough guy, but I didn’t find him particularly appealing. I worked with my best friend, a closeted gay man, and he said I should go ahead and go out with Andrew under the philosophy of giving a guy a fair shot. So, I couldn’t argue with that logic and told Andrew I’d go out with him.

Here’s where it starts to get dodgy. Andrew gets on a computer and types up a letter giving me options for our first date. Scarily enough, ladies and gentlemen, I still own said letter, obviously printed on a dot matrix printer. I will spare you the entirety of said letter. I’ll just recreate the best parts.


Bonjour! I’m sorry I’ve not been able to get in and make plans for this weekend. I have been a bit busy, and I know you have also, but please let me know when is the best time. What do you like doing, etc would really help me plan for this weekend.

Okay, here are a few of the things we can do. Check the ones that you like or would like to do and I’ll see what I can do to get this weekend in order.

Friday, November 9, 1989

2-5 pm : I work at the Nursing Department

Give me about one hour to shower and get myself ready.

Here are your options for this evening.

  1. All you can eat SEA FOOD dinner in Guthrie
  2. Movie (Look Who’s Talking)/(Lethan Weapon II)/ etc.
  3. Run out of gas
  4. Go shopping

Here’s where I stop with the letter, but I’ve tried to faithfully reproduce it with all its glorious punctuation intact. I give the guy points for presenting me options, but this wasn’t something we could have discussed over the phone? Plus, the rest of the letter goes on to describe the rest of the options for the rest of the whole weekend. We were going on a first date, and scarily, he was giving me an itinerary as if he were the cruise director for a weekend excursion. One date! I agreed to one date!

My favorite part of the letter is that he left it out on the counter for everyone we worked with to see, and since everyone we worked with meant mostly guys I got one hell of a razzing, especially about the running out of gas option. I’m pretty sure that he left the letter open and out on the counter for everyone to see because he wanted everyone to know that he was dating me. It didn’t have to be top secret, but one date does not a relationship make.

I chose the movie option on Friday night. This was safe. I figured he couldn’t mess it up too badly. I figured wrong. First off, he was about 45 minutes late picking me up. He didn’t call to explain that he would be late. When he finally picked me up I found out that he had absolutely no plans for the evening. Our first stop was to his parents’. Andrew’s parents were missionaries, and he was adopted. Andrew’s parents had many, many children. Andrew’s parents lived with another church couple who also had many, many children.

Ostensibly, the reason we went to Andrew’s parents was so that he could get a newspaper with the movie times. The real reason was so that he could beg to use a nicer car on his date. I overheard this conversation but pretended that I didn’t. I got grilled by dozens of little monkeys on whether or not I was Andrew’s girlfriend. The younger ones climbed on me like a trellis and sat down next to me on the couch and showed me their booboos and special talents. I think we were there for at least a half hour until Andrew gave up on getting the nicer car.

I was a little confused about why the nicer car was so important since it had served us well enough in getting us from my house to his parent’s home, and also, I had accepted a date with him not knowing or caring what kind of car he drove. The evening got worse before it got better. We did finally decide on a movie: Look Who’s Talking. We got dinner. The conversation was stilted, but at least the movie was alright.

There was something about Andrew that just didn’t sit well with me. I remember it as hands down the worst date I ever had in my entire life. After that date I did agree to do something with him again as friends, and he asked me to play on some kind of bowling league. I had never been bowling in my life (something I warned him about ahead of time), and he was very competitive against this other team. As you might guess, this was awkward. But if you add in the fact that every single time I went to pick up my bowling ball Andrew used it as an excuse to grab my ass, it went beyond awkward. I said I would never again go do anything with that creep, and I kept my word.

March 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm 2 comments

International Women’s Day

International Women's Day rally of the Nationa...

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Today is, apparently, International Women’s Day, and CNN’s website and The Huffington Post and Time all have feature articles involving that in some way. The Huffington Post, especially, has a lot of articles on global injustice toward women. There are blog posts by Marlo Thomas and Annie Lennox, amongst others, bemoaning the sad state of feminism today.

We need to shed light on injustice in the world. We still have such a long way to go towards achieving gender equality. The collective rape of women in the Dominican Republic, and the “corrective rapes” in South Africa, which may be the rape capital of the world, as well as the brutal gang rape of an 11 year old girl by at least 18 men in Texas are featured articles in the news today. There’s also mention of the importance of “V Day,” which is I guess what some feminists are embracing as the celebration of Eve Ensler’s vagina monologues in a tie-in with Valentine’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong. Human rights violations based on gender are disturbing and appalling, and we should work to bring attention to them and, hopefully, towards the end of such cruelty. However, sometimes I wonder if the whole label of “feminist” has become associated with victimization rather than power. How often are we demonizing men instead of really helping women?

On International Women’s Day I think it’s important to remember:

Yes, women were once banned from receiving an education or a higher education, but some men worked to change that policy. And then those same men taught some women in their chosen subject of study.

Yes, women were once banned from owning property or receiving an inheritance or holding a mortgage note, but some men worked to change those laws and policies. And then those same men gave women property and approved loans for women.

Yes, women were once largely banned from the workforce with the exception of teachers and nurses and secretaries, but then some men thought that wasn’t right so they hired women for other jobs. Then those men trained those women on what they needed to know to do their jobs.

Yes, women are victims of sexual violence more often than men, and men are more often the perpetrators, but some men thought that wasn’t right. Those men made laws to see that justice could be applied so that women could be safe. Some men even risked their lives to enforce those laws.

Yes, women once couldn’t vote, but some men thought they should be able to vote so they passed a law so that women could vote, too.

Yes, women can give birth, but they haven’t figured out how to do it yet without some form of contribution from a man.

We’re here where we are today in large part because of some extraordinary men. Don’t forget to put the accomplishments of the women’s movement in perspective. We didn’t do it all by ourselves.

March 9, 2011 at 12:04 am 4 comments


After the uproar surrounding Sheen’s rant on Lorre, where he referred to Lorre as Chaim Levine, Sheen goes on a talk show to let us know that he’s not an anti-Semite. In fact, Sheen says he himself is Jewish, and he’s proud of that fact. His current wife and two of his children are Jewish as well. Sheen’s mother’s maiden name was Janet Templeton. I don’t know if that’s a common Jewish name or not since it doesn’t end in either “stein” or “berg.” Should I have just “known” this?

My Grandmother’s maiden name was Rider; does that mean I’m Jewish? Wynonna Ryder is Jewish. It wouldn’t bother me if I were Jewish, but the point is that I don’t know. Sheen did. Sheen’s a celebrity. Sheen’s said nothing all this time.

What I do know is that I’m not buying this “Jewish and proud of it” stance of his. I have to wonder, how come it is that someone who’s been famous for the last 30 years can have kept the American public in the dark as to his Jewish heritage if he is indeed, as he asserts, proud of it? Emilio is no different.

Scour the internet for hours. Look. You can find tons and tons of interviews with Martin and Emilio and Charlie, and no mention until this recent scandal, of the fact that the Sheen children are, in fact, by Rabbinic law, considered Jewish. You can even go on a website called Guess Who’s the Jew, and be told that Emilio Estevez is definitely not Jewish. So, how “proud” are they really? Just because Charlie Sheen is Jewish, does that mean that he isn’t or can’t be guilty of anti-Semitism?

In related news, Rush Limbaugh was recently called out for basically asserting that most of the American public don’t actually consider Barack Obama to be a black man. Normally, this is something I’d get all bent out of shape over, but I get what he means. He’s talking about the fact that Obama has a white mother and seems, more often than not, to fit our cultural stereotypes of behaviors consistent with that of a white man, not a black man.

Even some of the black people I know who have been most proud to see the United States elect its first black President have secretly told me that a “real” black man would never have been accepted as President by the American people. The implication here is an old one. Obama, like O.J. Simpson, and Oprah Winfrey before him, is being accused of being an “oreo.” Black on the outside, white on the inside.

It’s a funny observation, and it’s the opposite of the old 50s melodramas I watched on TV as a kid that used to reduce me to tears. I remember being enchanted and enthralled with two movies made about race relations during that time period. The first was the remake of, “Imitation of Life,” made with Lana Turner and Sandra Dee. In the movie, Lana Turner’s character, Lora, a single mother, crawls her way up off the streets to become a wealthy and successful Broadway actress.

Lora throws her lot in with a black housekeeper named Annie, who is herself a single mother, and the housekeeper agrees to keep both their children and provide a good home for them while Lora pursues her dream and eventually brings home the bacon. Annie and her daughter Sarah Jane are, to the outside world, hired help, but to Lora and Suzie, within the confines of their home, they are treated as family.

The widowed black housekeeper’s daughter is so light skinned that she can “pass” for white. As she grows up, aware of the prejudice around her, the housekeeper’s daughter becomes increasingly frustrated with the options available to her as a colored woman and decides to present herself to the world as a white woman.

As a teenager, she gets her first boyfriend (played by a young Troy Donahue in one of his first on-screen roles) and deceives him about her heritage until he finds out the truth and brutally confronts her on the street. Thereafter, Sarah Jane runs far away so that she can construct a new past for herself and so that any future bosses or boyfriends won’t be confronted with the reality that her mother is a black housekeeper.

It is only after it’s too late that she decides to return to her family, crying and screaming alongside her mother’s coffin. Annie dies young, and Lora throws her a grand funeral complete with horse drawn carriage, but by the time Sarah Jane finds out her mother was ill, it’s too late for her to reconcile with Annie. Juanita Moore, the woman who played the black housekeeper, Annie, was Oscar nominated for her performance of a mother who was most cruelly rejected but eternally loving and understanding.

The second movie that really made an impression on me was, “Band of Angels.” This movie starred Clark Gable, Yvonne de Carlo, Sydney Poitier, and Ephrem Zimbalist, Jr. In the movie, de Carlo portrays Amantha Starr, the spoiled daughter of a white plantation owner. Amantha’s mother died in childbirth, and it is always assumed that her mother was the mistress of the manor, but when her father dies while Amantha is attending a posh finishing school back East, Amantha finds out, instead, that her mother was a house slave, and that this makes her legally a slave. She is sold as just one more of her father’s possessions, in order to cover the debts of his estate.

Amantha is placed on an auction block in New Orleans, Louisiana and sold to the highest bidder. The highest bidder is a man named Hamish Bond, played by Gable. Gable buys Amantha and brings her to live in his plantation. Over time, it becomes clear that she’s there to become his mistress. He doesn’t force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do, and he feeds and clothes and cares for her well.

When Amantha discovers that Hamish used to be a slave trader, she is disgusted, and she runs away. However, what she doesn’t understand is that the majority of slaves Hamish Bond keeps on his plantation stay of their own free will, and he provides an exceedingly comfortable life for them in order to atone for his former sins. He purchased Amantha on the auction block in order to ensure that she wouldn’t be mistreated by a white man with less scruples than himself.

The movie is a pretty hokey romance, with Amantha running back to Hamish in the end after she discovers that her white pastor boyfriend (Zimbalist) doesn’t intend to marry her any longer now that he knows that her mother was a slave. Poitier’s character is a rebelling slave from Hamish’s plantation.

The thing that made the movie memorable for me was the dramatization that anyone could be a slave. Seeing Yvonne de Carlo get sold on an auction block had to have brought home the humanity of African Americans at a time when race relations were about to undergo radical changes. Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954. “Band of Angels” was released in 1957, and the “Imitation of Life” remake was released in 1959.

Prejudice is a funny thing. For instance, in America, anyway, there’s a perception of animosity between the Hispanic and African American communities, as well as between the African American and Jewish communities. One would think that this wouldn’t be the case. Who could understand better than the Hebrew people and African Americans the yoke of slavery? Wouldn’t this provide a common bond for them?

We white people tend to shake our heads in confusion and despair when we hear of this, but even we white people liberally sprinkle the term “poor white trash” on Caucasian people who display cultural traits generally attributed to other races. That’s when we don’t call them wiggers.

Minorities tend to sit in judgement of even their own kind with distinctions such as skin tone, with the lighter skin almost always being the universal “preference.” In the African American community this phenomenon is referred to as colorism. I just wonder when, if ever, we’re going to get to a time when none of this nonsense matters.

March 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm 2 comments

Funny Women: Linda Bloodworth Thomason

Linda Bloodworth Thomason is a writer and television producer. Born in 1947 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, she went on to obtain an English degree from the University of Missouri. Upon graduation she secured a teaching position at an inner city high school in Los Angles’ Watts neighborhood.

Later, she worked as a journalist for the Los Angles Daily Journal and did some freelance writing for television. Her breakthrough was with a script written for an episode of M*A*S*H*, co-authored with actress Mary Kay Place, and entitled, “Hot Lips and Empty Arms.”

Linda also wrote the original pilot for the Norman Lear produced One Day at a Time, which introduced the American public to a young Valerie Bertinelli. The show was created by Whitney Blake (the mother on TV’s Hazel and the real life mother of Meredith Baxter) and Blake’s husband Allan Manings.

This freelance writing eventually led to the opportunity for Thomason to create her own series, Filthy Rich. Filthy Rich was quickly cancelled but not before she forged friendships with two talented performers, the late Dixie Carter, and Delta Burke.

Designing Women was a show that centered around an interior design firm helmed by the Sugarbaker sisters (Carter and Burke), a divorcee with two young children (Annie Potts) and a naïve single woman (Jean Smart). The four women employed an African American man (Meshach Taylor) who had previously spent time in jail for a wrongful burglary conviction. In later seasons the cast changed. The only original cast member who wasn’t Southern was Smart.

Designing Women explored many feminist themes and contemporary women’s issues through the lives of its female characters. The show featured broad physical comedy and standard sitcom fare but also frequently raised topical issues like racism, homophobia, domestic violence, AIDS, and prejudice towards overweight women. The show ran for seven years, from 1986 to 1993 and was a Nielsen hit for much of that time.

This success led to other shows such as Evening Shade and Hearts Afire. Hearts Afire starred John Ritter and Markie Post and marked the introduction of Billy Bob Thornton to most of the world, although he undoubtedly had earlier acting jobs. With the addition of Evening Shade and Hearts Afire, Bloodworth Thomason and her husband Harry Thomason were producing three television sitcoms at once, which makes her the female Chuck Lorre of her day, only one with a greater social conscience.

The Thomasons were friends of the Clintons, dating back to his days as governor of Arkansas, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s father made a cameo appearance on Hearts Afire. The Thomasons helped with the Clinton presidential campaign by writing excerpts for some of his speeches and producing promotional spots for television.

Currently, Thomason sponsors the Claudia Foundation, a charity that provides opportunities for young people, especially young women. The charity gives scholarships to young people who might not have the chance to go to school and provides the chance to engage in community service. The Claudia Foundation also supports literacy causes and allows young women to have cultural experiences that they might not have otherwise had the good fortune to appreciate, such as Broadway plays.

Linda Bloodworth Thomason has contributed significantly to American popular culture as well as to politics. She’s even stood up for fair reporting in this media age of increasingly polarized talking heads. Thomason and other Hollywood insiders stood up to call out MSNBC on their coverage of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential race.

March 4, 2011 at 4:44 am 3 comments

Anti-Semitism Rears Its Ugly Head…Again

Westborough Baptists Picketing a Jewish Commun...

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Four recent stories in the media are seemingly unconnected, but I beg to differ. I see a thread running through each.

Story #1: Charlie Sheen rants against the producer of Two and a Half Men, calling him Chaim Levine. Charles Levine is Chuck Lorre’s birth name, and, yes, he is Jewish. What it has to do with his disagreement with Sheen is precisely nothing. Sheen claims he’s not anti-Semitic, but I beg to differ.

If Sheen’s point is to call out Chuck Lorre on his hypocrisy with a name change to something less ethnic, then I think we need to see Charlie Sheen credited as Carlos Estevez from now on. Anybody wanna take a bet on whether or not that’s going to happen?

I think it’s strange that amongst the celebrities who have called to offer Sheen their support, Mel Gibson’s name is mentioned prominently. Do you think it’s because Mel understands the pain of being mislabeled as a Jew hater? No, I don’t, either.

Story #2: John Galliano is a fashion designer for the Dior house. He’s a British man who wears a strangely Hitleresque mustache. He was filmed making racist remarks against Jews in a French café.

Soon after this exchange hit the web, Natalie Portman, who is proudly of Jewish heritage and represents Dior, makes a public statement against Galliano. Dior fires him promptly thereafter, as they should have.

Story #3: At about the same time, Julian Assange makes a statement that Wikileaks is being attacked by a “Jewish conspiracy.” This is interesting, if only because it shows Julian Assange has a screw loose and that he’s also an anti-Semite. I find it interesting that the rape charges he’s facing are from two women in Sweden, where anti-Semitism is very much alive and well and perhaps even “trendy.”

The author Stieg Larsson spent a considerable part of his journalistic energies towards exposing neo-Nazis in his home country. Perhaps Assange’s comments are designed to prejudice a Swedish jury into being sympathetic towards him on rape charges. He didn’t rape anyone. Can’t you see it’s all just a Jewish conspiracy?

Story #4: The Roman Catholic Pope Benedict releases a book that reiterates the official position of the Roman Catholic Church since sometime in the 1960s. For the last half century, the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church has been that the Jews did not kill Jesus. Read my lips. The Jews did not kill Jesus. Jesus was not killed by the Jews.

Did you notice how repetitive that is? Good. Then you got my point. Why is this making the news right now? It’s not a controversial position. Unlike the Pope’s recent remarks about sexual activity and condoms, it’s nothing new.

I know that there are a lot of people who aren’t even anti-Semitic who get really tired of being reminded of the Holocaust. They deny the Holocaust or they downplay it or they simply don’t want to be burdened with having to remember something so unpleasant, something that didn’t happen to them, something they didn’t live through.

But it’s important to remember the Holocaust so that we don’t repeat it. Persecution of a race or a religion is nothing new. Prejudice is nothing new. But the inhumanity of men towards men that was displayed in the Holocaust is without parallel in human history.

Just as easily as the Jews can be made the scapegoats for the entire human race, so can blue eyed people or fat people or short people or any other arbitrary minority that we can hate. Remember that when you harbor prejudice and hatred for someone, when you repeat stereotypes or make so-called harmless jokes about the Pollacks, you are demeaning a whole class of people. You are opening the door for another Holocaust.

These four stories being on the heels of one another in the news is not entirely coincidental. People who believe in love and equality need to stand up and be heard. Westboro Baptist Church has a court-approved right to stand up and shout hatred. Stand up and shout love. I’m convinced that if everyone who believes racism and bigotry has no place in our world would stand up and shout that we’d drown out the voices of all these idiot Sheens, Gallianos, Gibsons, and Assanges. Make sure your voice is heard.

March 3, 2011 at 12:30 am 1 comment

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