Nursing · politics

As Roe Falls- Reflections on being Pro-Choice.

This June marks my fifteenth year as a nurse. Fifteen years. Nuts. I’ve worked in emergency departments, inpatient psychiatry, outpatient psychiatry, as a COVID-19 vaccinator, and as a school nurse. Those I think were all of my “official” nurse positions. Unofficially I have nursed many people in many more settings including but not limited to my Dad, my kids, recently my dog, and many other friends and family members and strangers.

When I was 19 I took a bus to Washington D.C. on a whim with women I didn’t know, for the March for Women during the tenure of Bush. It was before I went into nursing school. It was when I didn’t even know why I supported being pro-choice. I was raised in a church that was pro-life. And my family didn’t really ever discuss it. But I felt in my gut that women should be able to choose for themselves at a very young and naive age.

I am still pro-choice but I can formulate coherent sentences around why now.

What I struggle with is that I know I personally, could never get an abortion. Well, I say that, but I have never been in the situations I have witnessed with friends and clients and patients. So I guess I will say, I do not think I could get an abortion- especially after my experience with IVF and pregnancy. Because I remember feeling the first flutter. And I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I could never get rid of this.’ But as I said, I worked hard for those boys. I wanted them with all my heart and soul. I have never had a pregnancy that I feared.

In my work as a nurse I’ve seen and been told some pretty horrible abortion stories. I have never counseled a patient to have or not have an abortion. It is a time of complete neutrality for me as a healthcare provider. I am essentially a wall for them to talk at. I have treated young teenagers who sought abortions, I have treated women in their 40’s homeless, addicted to substances, seeking later term abortions, I have treated women days, months, and years after obtaining abortions. It is always a part of their narrative. It is often a part of themselves that is sad, shamed, unresolved, and takes a great deal of courage to disclose.

I have treated women who had to walk through protestors, who couldn’t tell their families, who went to classes or work still bleeding, still in pain, and “powered through” because they didn’t want any one to know or ask or suspect.

Abortion is like mental illness- it doesn’t discriminate. Women have sex. Women get pregnant- often on birth control, using condoms, or some other method of birth control. It is often very unintentional. And the decision to have an abortion has never been made lightly. Literally. I have never met a woman who didn’t have feelings around having an abortion. Who hadn’t put significant thought and emotion into the decision.

I was pro-choice when I was 19 because I was a naive and passionate woman who believed completely in the liberal agenda. I am pro-choice at age 37 after 15 years of nursing because I have seen women make the choice. I have supported them, held their hands, given hugs, sat watching them cry and holding space for their pain, and I have been the only one in the world outside of the OB-GYN who they have told. I am pro-choice now because I have never known a woman who has made that choice without losing a part of herself. Abortion leaves a palpable scar and women seem to know going in that it will be there and they do it anyway because it’s right for them.

I am pro-choice at 37 because I have carried my own babies and I know the incredible journey of pregnancy and parenthood. I also know that for a woman to not be ready for either journey should be up to her.

I have never known a woman to take the advice of an outside party over their own intuition.

We trust women to raise our babies. Why do we not trust them to decide if they are not able to raise them?

Please note I have not stated any woman’s reason for obtaining an abortion- just that they did. Because it’s no one’s damn business why they do or do not obtain an abortion. Incest. Rape. Substance abuse. Homelessness. Fetal abnormalities. Teenage pregnancy. There are countless reasons a woman obtains an abortion. Literally none of them are your business or your right to know.

I was never surrounded by people who were pro-choice growing up. It was not something we discussed. I certainly was not surrounded by pro-choice people in my undergraduate in a conservative area in upstate New York. I just knew in my gut that women deserve autonomy, privacy, and respect. I saw a poster almost completely covered on a bulletin board at my college. It was a flyer for the Women’s March. I ripped a piece off the bottom with a phone number. I called the phone number. I was screened to ensure I was not a pro-lifer trying to infiltrate. Then I met a bus in a parking lot around 11 PM and got on board. I went alone. I do not even know if I told my parents. I was 19. I remember sitting on a full bus. We drove over night and made it to D.C. We disembarked, and made the plan to meet up at the bus later that day.

I do not even remember any one’s name that was there. We didn’t talk much. All these women and I. We had nothing in common except a belief so strong that we took a bus with strangers to march on a rather warm day on the Mall. I listened to Hillary Clinton speak. I remember the protestors barely made a sound because the numbers of women in the march was so overwhelming. I remember it was actually very quiet. There was the sound of footsteps and breathing, and our signs. I remember the looks on our faces. There was a quiet resolute determination. There were women in their 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, 40’s, and so on. I remember thinking never had I seen so many different women all in one place all for common belief in one right.

I can’t tell you the sadness I feel now knowing those marches will have to continue. That more than marches the Democratic party needs to be as well oiled, organized, and funded as the GOP. The Democratic party acts shocked and appalled with each move of the GOP, but it should not be a surprise. Their plan dating back to my 19 year old brain was very clear. Take away rights for women and the LGBTQ community and any and all minority that are not straight cis white men. They play the long game.

The difference now is I’m 37 and trying to survive as a single parent and business owner. I do not have the bandwidth and time and energy for marches. Political activism is a privilege. That unfortunately at this time I do not have. It’s a shit feeling. That powerlessness watching as our rights are stripped away.

mom of boys · politics

Lessons at Home re- Racism

There has been a lot in my life in the past month. Puppy. Kids. Business. Life. But two moments with my kids stick out. One- they brought home these pamphlets about the Declaration of Independence. It had pictures of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams on page 1. Along with a picture of the Bill of the Rights. There was a caption explaining that these documents gave “everyone freedom and independence”. On page two there were pictures of white and Black people all sitting, smiling, reading books, talking, etc. No caption.

It was weird. I asked the boys about it and they said yes we learned about Independence and that every one in America was free. I sat down with them on our couch and I said, “We need to talk about something important.” They looked intrigued, and I went on to explain that DOI and BOR did not in fact make every one free. That people with Black and brown (at which point Declan said, “And tan?”) color skin were not freed by these documents. In fact they would not be freed until about one hundred years later during the Civil War.

I pointed at Thomas Jefferson’s picture and said, “He actually owned slaves, and actively worked to ensure slavery would survive.” The boys now looked awed and somewhat confused, and I could see the wheels turning, and they definitely knew this was important and maybe even secret adult information that I was letting them in on.

We talked some more about it, and they named the one kid in their class with “brown skin” and I said do you think it’s scary for that person to be in a class with all kids who are white? They thought about it, and said maybe. I said being different can be hard, and it can be scary. You guys have two mom’s and that’s different from most other kids in your class.

We had a long discussion, as long as six year olds can tolerate anyway, and I don’t know if I did it “right”. In fact the whole time I was struggling with how to word things, and how much to tell them. But I kept putting myself in the shoes of Mom’s of Black children. They don’t have a choice. They have to have much harder conversations than this one. And I don’t want to raise kids who are “colorblind”. I want to raise kids who see color, who understand racism is real, and who will hopefully, actively work to dismantle racism instead of taking part in it.

I have a print of Ruby being escorted into school on that day when she, as a child, faced down segregation. It hangs on the way toward my home office. A couple weeks later one of my sons asked me about it, and asked why we have that print. I told him, because I like it, it inspires me to be better because Ruby was just a child and she had to face such hatred and at a time in her life that should have been full of innocence and fun she was faced with brutality and hate. I explained the importance of Ruby and her bravery and I pulled up a picture of Ruby now as an adult. To which Jackson said, “So now she’s old people’s?” I mean. I guess. She’s older than she was. The point was that she’s alive still. This was recent that Black people did not have the same rights as white people. That was a mind-blowing fact to them.

Our curriculum is whitewashed and my town voted a board of education slate that are Republican, and who have publicly stated on social media that they don’t believe racism exists. Racism is like science. You don’t have to believe in gravity to fall on your ass. Racism exists whether you “believe” in it or not.

You ever see Bad Boys II? There’s the moment when Martin Lawrence realizes he’s going to have no help from authorities to rescue his sister. Will Smith sees it. You can see their countenance change. You see them walk away with this look that they are resolved in a decision. Will Smith’s next line is “We just gonna have to do it on our own,”. Then you see all these cops and agents one by one follow them out.

That’s how I felt when I saw that pamphlet. I’m just gonna have to do it on my own. Because our education system has not evolved since I was in school. I know what I learned. I know what I’ve had to do to unlearn it. I’m not going to let my kids wait until adulthood until more Black people are killed to discover for themselves what systemic racism is, how we participate in it, and steps we can take to stop it. It’s hard. I’m sure my home lessons will cause some interesting discussions in their classrooms as they get older. I’ve never told them not to discuss these lessons at school. I’ve never encouraged them to either. I’m just winging it.

Ruby will continue to hang on my wall. Hopefully she will inspire my kids as much as she inspires me.

#COVID-19 · politics

White Privilege Explained. Again.

There are still people I talk to who do not understand white privilege. So I’ll keep writing blog posts trying to define it for y’all. I also will comment on “skinny” privilege. Because as a person who has been fat and skinny I can attest: that’s a thing.

In a previous blog post I wrote about my COVID vaccine. What I didn’t mention is what I was thinking as the security guard blabbered politely and practically tripped over himself to escort me to the correct building. I was thinking, ‘would he be doing this if I were a Black woman?’ ‘Would he be doing this if I were 50 lbs heavier like I was two years ago?’

I didn’t have men tripping over themselves to escort me places when I was two months post partum with twins. Since I lost weight (and this has happened in my 20’s when I lost a significant amount of weight also) men are more apt to hold doors for me. They are more likely to ask if I need help in a store. They are more apt to smile and say hi to me when I’m hiking.

Today I went grocery shopping. I parked far away because I don’t have depth perception, and I have a big car so I usually park far away to avoid hitting a car or guardrail. My eye doctor tells me I am eligible for a handicap sticker but for real. I can just park far away and walk. Anyway, I am loading my groceries in my car and I hear some one say, “Ma’am may I take your cart for you? I just wanted to check.” A young man from the grocery store who was out collecting carts walked, pretty far out of his way, to collect my cart.

Again I wondered if he would have done this for a Black woman.

My guess would be no. Because I am white and thinner than I was two years ago and people open doors (literally not figuratively), follow me to get my cart, ask if I need help, and NEVER suspect I am going to commit a crime. EVER.

I literally have been pulled over for speeding, using my cell, speeding again, and again…and not gotten a ticket. Because even when I am actually breaking the law they see my whiteness. My apologetic smile. My thinness. My profession. And they let me go.

This is all white privilege.

My favorite is “But I never owned slaves.” I didn’t either. But I can clearly see how I benefitted from a system based on ideals that whiteness is superior. I was raised in a white town with some of the top public schools in the state which allowed me entrance into some of the top colleges in the country. I was instantly approved for loans when I needed them to pay for school. I was instantly approved for car loans, mortgages, etc.

I was hired into two of the top hospital systems in the country. Because I had a stellar white education. Because I worked hard, but I had the advantage of generations of white people before me who also worked hard and were never enslaved. Wealth was not passed down to me in money, but it was passed in my intelligence, my skin color, and my geographical location. My ancestors moved out of the Bronx to New Haven then out of New Haven to the suburbs.

To be descended from generations of slaves leaves a scar emotionally, financially; and in so many ways that white people can only begin to comprehend. While our ancestors moved here for religious freedoms the ancestors of Black people were enslaved here and stripped of their culture, religion, and freedom.

I think of slavery like I think of suicide. It leaves a scar so pervasive and painful that unless you have experienced it you cannot begin to imagine it.

White people- we have not experienced it. We cannot begin to imagine it. THAT is a privilege.

I’ve had men tell me I should smile more, talk less, be less direct, be more polite, be less assertive…I’ve had men call me fat and I’ve had men call me skinny/sexy/beautiful/gorgeous and I’ve had my ass slapped by two men I did not even know. One of them was subsequently kicked out of the bar. The other was not. There are pro’s and con’s to being thin. Pro- my blood pressure rocks. Con- Men think they can tell me how to look/feel/act. Men & women have felt entitled to touch me without my consent.

Overall I have absolutely benefitted from white supremacy in my thirty-five years. So has every other white person who exists. Hopefully no white person in America today has owned slaves. That doesn’t mean you haven’t benefitted from a country built on the backs of slaves. You don’t have to own the history of our nation but you have to at least acknowledge that it exists and that it shapes our society today. It allows the murderers of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor to walk free. It allows the murders of people that were video taped to not only walk free but be defended and protected by the system that defines our country.

If a police officer walked into my house and shot me then my face with my blue eyes, white skin, pretty smile, and two adorable kids would be plastered on news channels. My family members would be shown crying in all their whiteness. The police officer would be charged. I have no doubt. But I also have no doubt that no police officer is going to walk into my home and shoot me by mistake. That’s white privilege. If you’ve never been scared of the police you have privilege. Accept it. Own it. Do something about it.

#COVID-19 · homophobia · politics

Why I’m Grateful for #45

These last few weeks have been turbulent. I went to sleep on election day thinking I would wake to a repeat of 2016. Then I woke up at midnight. 2 AM. 4 AM. 5:30 AM. Nothing was called. What a long week. Waiting to catch COVID. Waiting to see who would be elected President. Never giving up hope on PA and GA.

In that time I saw my small little Republican heavy town voted for Trump by about 100 votes. They did a recount. I found out today my town voted for Biden by 33 votes. 33. Our population is about 7,000. Roughly 5,000 people voted. If my town can go blue it’s possible anywhere.

I cried most of the day Saturday after it was called. Sunday I scrolled through social media and cried seeing the posts about Kamala and the projected appointees to their cabinet. They are Black. Women. Thank God.

I spoke to some one today at work who fears a Biden presidency. I don’t get it. I tried to. But I don’t. I have lived in fear for the past four years. I feel a weight lifted. I’ve been seeing Biden’s appointees for the COVID task force and there are scientists.

Not family members.

Scientists. Not family members.

Scientists on a pandemic task force should not be a novelty. It should be the expectation.

Black women in a cabinet should not be a novelty. It should be an expectation.

I don’t believe there was voter fraud. I believe in our democracy.

I told some one recently I never ended a friendship or relationship because some one voted for Bush. I never felt unsafe around a Republican until this administration. The hate and the lies are overwhelming. I’m not ready to mend those relationships that I have lost. But I’m glad we have elected a President who is a better than I am.

Some one told me we should be grateful for #45. I am grateful. I am grateful to have the most caustic homophobic and transphobic administration come to power in a time when I had the ability to do something to create change. Without #45 I would never have opened my own practice. I would never have decorated my business website in rainbows. I would never have discharged clients for being overtly racist. I would never have started this blog. I would never have taken a stand for what is right.

I am grateful for #45 because his administration showed me how much hatred and discrimination still exists in our country. He made me examine my whiteness in ways I never have before. He made me have hard talks with myself and with my friends and family members. He made me understand white supremacy in ways I never could before. He made me research, read, learn, and grow in ways I never would have been challenged to under a Democratic Presidency.

Could I have done without him? Sure. But the silver lining of his presidency has been the activism, education, and awareness that erupted in response to him.

Except in Florida apparently. Seriously. Parkland and Pulse…you all seriously couldn’t turn blue after being the site of two mass murders??? The work is not done.

But as I scrolled social media and saw all the pictures of all the children of all my friends watching Biden and Kamala’s speeches on Saturday I thought yes. For the first time in four years there are people we can allow our children to watch because they speak with respect and unity.

I am grateful to #45 for showing me exactly the man I don’t want my son’s to become.

I am grateful to see my niece’s face as she watched Kamala’s speech and think that she will grow up in a world where women can Become.

Mostly I am grateful because while I have seen true hatred in the last four years and pure prejudice I have also seen true bravery. True courage. I am grateful because I have the privilege of attending to the mental health of the Queer community in a time when they are most vulnerable.

In the face of hatred and murder transgender individuals still went forward with transitioning. I have seen Queer people come out to their Trump loving family members. They were terrified but they did it anyway because it was more important that they Become who they needed to be than to give in to the fear of hate. I am grateful to bear witness to some of the most courageous quietly stalwart individuals as they took stands for who they are and who they would be.

#45 I am grateful for your hate because it showed me the bravest most loving souls.

#45 I am grateful for your lies because out of them came monumental truths for so many in my life personally and professionally.

#45 I am grateful for your chatter because out of the chatter came a silent majority.

#45 I am grateful for your division because out of it I was able to feel total unity with my Queer community.

#45 I am grateful for your racism because it revealed to me my own engagement with a white supremacist system and allowed me to start taking steps to dismantle it.

#45 I am grateful to all the family members and friends of the 200,000+ lives lost to this pandemic for calling you out. I am grateful for this disease because it showed the lengths you would go, the lives you would sacrifice, to cling to your backward belief system where you come first and the lives of “your” people are disposable.

#45 on a personal note, I’m grateful to your homophobia for showing me the people in my life who understood, without me saying a word, that the Queer community needed allies and that I specifically needed allies. I am grateful for all my friends and family members who not only flipped you the bird in order to stand by my side, but also stood up to their own family members and friends for minorities. If ever I had doubts of how well supported I was the last four years have shown me I am not alone. For that I am eternally humbled and grateful.

#COVID-19 · politics

RIP RBG & WTH Happened Last Night? (We have a lot to unpack)

There’s been a lot to unpack in the last few weeks. First off who knew when I named my kitten Ginsburg back in July her namesake would pass so soon. My wife cried. Granted she cries easily. But not usually about politics. We both have broken down at some point over the last four years of this hell.

My breaking point was the murders this year and my Black clients having the life sucked out of them. My wife’s was Ginsburg. May she rest in peace.

I watched the debate. All 90 soul sucking minutes of it. Then I stayed up until about 1 or 2 AM contemplating.

Then I posted on FB that I was most horrified by his inability to condemn white supremacy. It was one sentence. The follow up sentence stated generally to all people on my feed that if they somehow had snuck through since 2016 now was the time to unfriend me. Because I would not tolerate supporters of #45 on my feed.

Even the quiet ones.

Some one responded…which I love…that I shouldn’t bring emotion into politics.

I’ve been saying it since 2016. I’ll bring my emotion anywhere I freaking want. She tried to shame me for having emotion involved in calling out racism.

First off everyone needs to watch Hamilton and memorize the line he says to Burr, “Stop the niceties I’d rather be called divisive than indecisive!” Because I heard that line and it resonated hard within me. That’s essentially how I live my life. And I’ve been told since I could talk that I’m too opinionated. Too passionate about causes. Well so was Alexander Hamilton.

I feel emotion around white supremacy. I feel emotion around racism. I feel emotion around homophobia and transphobia. I think there is something wrong with you if you do not feel emotion around these issues.

Emotion is not required where complete objectivity is. But if I’m stating I disagree with white supremacy and I’m upset and disgusted that our current president seems incapable of stating the same…then I’m entitled to emotion around that.

People are entitled to feel emotion around the mishandling of Breonna Taylor’s case. We actually don’t need permission from any one to feel angry, betrayed, or gut-wrenchingly grieved because of a justice system that is incredibly flawed and favors white people.

I don’t need permission to feel scared for our future. I don’t need permission and I don’t need advice telling me to take emotion out of my political beliefs. Because today, here and now, political beliefs have taken the form of basic human rights.

Being Queer is not safe. Being Black is not safe. Being an immigrant is not safe. Because we have an administration who says it’s okay for us to be marginalized and criminalized and assaulted and fired and tossed aside.

I’m going to feel fear, anger, betrayal, grief, fear, and so much more; and to those people who are not minorities you have no right to dictate how we are allowed to feel right now. You also are not allowed to dictate how we react. As the white supremacists in this country so frequently point out…it’s a free country. If I want to say I’m angry that there are white supremacists enabled by our administration I’m going to say it and I’m going to feel it.

I’m in a few of therapy/mental health professional groups on FB. People are freaking out because therapists are talking politics. Therapists are all shaming each other for talking about politics and then other therapists are like how can we not be talking politics? Then one accused me of “letting your underwear show” if I was making my political beliefs known to clients.

I’m still unclear where the underwear reference came from. I mean I understand it was an analogy but poor taste. She was a white woman who posted “Why can’t we just stick to talking about Mommy and therapist issues?” In a group of mom/mental health professionals. I, of course, mentioned my cat Ginsburg and made a lovely analogy without mentioning body parts. Essentially pointing our her privilege. She got a little salty that’s when the underwear comment came out.

My point was that I do not tell people who I vote for. I do not tell people I am a Democrat. I do not tolerate racism, homophobia, or transphobia in my office. And I don’t have the speech impediment that impedes our president. I can actually state that I don’t agree with white supremacists or their beliefs. It flows quite easily from my lips. If it didn’t…then I’d likely be a white supremacist.

I had an issue with a client. They were treated horribly at a local hospital because of their race. I pursued the medical director for two weeks and got him on the phone. He pulled up the chart and I explained the situation and he agreed it was absolutely inappropriate care based out of racism.

He was going to actually do something about it. My client was grateful that I was an ally. I didn’t want the gratitude though. I want our system to do better. I told the medical director I never wanted to make a call like this again. Fix this. Stop this.

If you don’t believe that white supremacy is a problem then you likely have no exposure to the African American community. That’s on you my friend. Fix it.

My point to this post is to stop telling people not to feel emotion in politics. When politics revolve around race and discrimination; people are allowed to feel. If you feel nothing then I’d question your humanity.

My other point is that politics is invading every aspect of our lives. If you work in mental health during a pandemic during the worst election ever and you work with minorities or anyone with compassion and empathy…you will have to hear about politics. You will have to decide how you respond. I’m not here to tell you how. I think it’s case by case, minute by minute, client by client. Definitely not a one size fits all approach.

But to just shut it down and say we shouldn’t talk about it and we shouldn’t feel about it…that’s messed up. That’s your privilege showing and you’ve likely got a lot you need to start unpacking.

****In the midst of the loss of RBG we had family pics taken, and my sons went to the closet and took out my Dad’s ties. We didn’t mention them wearing ties at all. But they seemed to instinctively remember that we had the ties and that they should wear them for pictures. It was a touching tribute that grounded me. Throughout the pandemic the grief for the loss of my Dad has ebbed and flowed as grief does. That day and those photos are bittersweet. Bitter for the loss of him, and sweet for the remembrance.****

#COVID-19 · politics

COVID-19 Journal Entry- My Son Got Stung By a Bee…and all the drama.

Both my sons are dramatic. I mean I don’t know where they get it from. (everyone who knows me personally is side-eying right now). I wouldn’t say I’m dramatic. Sometimes. It depends. Sometimes I am. Very. Dramatic. But in crises I’m usually chill.

My son stepped on a bee. Leading to a bee sting.

They are both dramatic in different ways. There is one son who would have been able to rationally discuss the stinger now sitting in his foot that needed to come out. There is one son who is not rational with anything related to boo boos. Of course that was the one with the stinger in his foot.

He literally walked around on it for hours before even admitting it was a problem. Then when he did admit it was a problem he didn’t want it fixed. He wanted to live with the stinger in his foot in harmony forever. But it was already looking mildly infected.

I grabbed the tweezers and grabbed his foot. You can imagine the screaming that ensued. Before I even actually touched his foot with the tweezers. He wouldn’t let us soak it first, and because he walked around for hours on it there looked to be some pus already building up. Enter the sewing needle; sterilized. Yeah I had to pop it. We don’t go to the doctor in this house when you live with a former ED nurse and former EMT.

He didn’t actually move during all of this. He stayed still. He just screamed. His twin brother was horrified. Running around in circles directly behind his brother screaming and flapping his arms; not distracting at all. After the pus came out we really needed to soak it for me to get the actual stinger out.

So we soaked it. He let us because I think he didn’t want us coming at him with the tweezers. We all took a breath. His breath was hitching as I snuggled him and Spider-Man from the 80’s (his choice) was on the screen. My other son was sitting with us devouring some fruit snacks saying, “Mama I think you should bring him to the Doctor. I think dat’s a good idea.” I gave him the choice. You let me try and get it again after it soaks or we wait until morning and you go to the doctor.

He held up his foot for me. He started screaming again but I had put the needle away so it was only the tweezers. I squeezed it with my fingers and then easily pulled that stinger out. I inspected his foot to make sure and it was all out. No pus, no stinger. I felt pretty damn good about it. But literally for the next forty-eight hours I had to hear about how I “hurt” his foot and that he understood it was to get the stinger out, but I still “hurt” him. He looked at me with such shock at the betrayal.

Okay but I got the stinger and all the pus out. Saved us a trip to the doctor during a pandemic and with a high deductible health plan it was all worth it.

We were trying to reassure him at some point and my wife and I both told the sad tales of our own bee sting experiences. It’s a double whammy because you get stung which sucks, but then you have to get the damn stinger out. Double sucks. It’s like a rite of passage.

I remember thinking that this felt like such a normal moment. That normal things still happen. Even sucky normal things. Kids still get bee stings during a pandemic. Parents still have to pull the stingers out. While my son screamed and my other son yelled at us for hurting his brother it was a moment of insanity but also normalcy.

Then it feels insane that a normally insane moment feels normal.

I often wish we had cameras in our house to capture some of the insanity that occurs. This was definitely one of those moments. His brother flapping around in the background yelling to bring him to the doctor was hysterical. He also then sat next to him and tried patting his leg like I was doing and patting his back. Considering they often emphatically say they are not each other’s best friend it was nice to know they do care about each other.

I think one of the worst parts about the pandemic is the loss of normalcy. To accept this chaos as our new normal doesn’t feel right. So we hold out hope for the old normal. Even though we know realistically it is so far out of reach.

Then I go down the rabbit hole of it’s only out of reach because we have people who believe we sprang from the Garden of Eden leading this country. Science has no value here and I work in a field based in science. I attended a University that when I go to conferences, the presenters quote literature published by people who trained me.

I feel so angry at the lack of leadership that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. But then I try and tell myself to just be grateful for this normal moment even though it’s a sucky normal moment for my son.

You see why we are all losing it a little bit?!

I can vouch for the fact that we are all losing it. I’ve never been this busy as a practitioner. People who have been stable for a long time are not anymore. New patients left and right. People losing it because they are losing family and friends to COVID and they can’t say good-bye.

Biden finally picked a VP. Within an hour #45 referred to her as a “nasty woman” for reasons that are unclear to me. But he wished Ghislaine Maxwell “well”, he said, “I wish her well,” a suspected child trafficker and child abuser he wishes well. The VP nominee with a stellar history and um no child abuse record…he calls nasty. He wished a child abuser well. That has gotten below my skin more than anything else he has ever said. And he’s said a lot.

I theorize he said it because one monster recognizes another. It’s like the lesbian head nod. Except between two perpetrators…one of whom is our F-ing President…it’s a level of fucked up that causes such a visceral response in me that I can’t describe it. Utter disgust is part of it though.

2020 is better for me than 2019. My Dad died in 2019. So COVID. Elections. Mental Health Crisis. Horrific Presidents and hundreds of thousands of deaths still seems more manageable to me than coping with the grief of losing my Dad. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person I don’t like to analyze it too much. At surface it means I loved my Dad and I miss him. So much.

When I was popping the pus bubble I remember my Dad putting some horrific stinging pink stuff on a cut on my knee when I was young enough to be seated on the kitchen counter. He tended to escalate when I escalated so he wasn’t yelling but he was anxious as he dabbed it on and I screamed and cried. He hated to see me cry. I’ll never forget that. The smell of the horrid pink stuff and his face as he dabbed it on looking horrified and determined at the same time. I laugh now thinking about it. And cry. So many normal moments I miss and crave.

Never in my life has a bee sting felt so right.

 

I mean 2020 has us all fucked up. Don’t judge.

The boys jello jigglers melted in the heat. I’m pretty sure the stinger was in his foot already.

 

politics

When Will You Rise Up? Black Babies vs. White Babies and the Statistic that Hasn’t Budged since the days of Slavery

IMG_9042I saw 15 clients today. I’m in the midst of business ownership hell due to external circumstances and I had to cancel my hair appointment yet again last week. No color or cut since…I don’t know when. “A while ago” as the boys would say.

But I can’t get this statistic out of my head. And as much as I don’t want to be staring a computer screen again right now here we are.

I finished this book over the weekend, “The Peculiar Institution”. It was over 400 pages written in 1958 by Kenneth Stampp. In the other anti-racist books I was reading they kept referencing this one. So I decided to go straight to the source. It’s incredibly objective. It dismantles every single proslavery argument systematically, logically, and with evidence and sources. Needless to say I was impressed but also saddened that this was written in 1958. 1958. And literally the same shit still gets said. Slavery was abolished in 1865 in the United States. It was abolished in England in 1708. Yeah let that sink in.

I don’t think I learned that in US History. Or that the founding Fathers were mostly slaveowners scared of England outlawing slavery in the USA. The Revolutionary War was about more than independence. It was about maintaining a free labor force. Follow the money. Always.

The one astounding fact that got me in this book though; in over 400 pages, was the infant mortality rates estimated by the author of African Americans versus whites in the Ante-Bellum South. The infant mortality rate was roughly slightly more than double for African American slaves than for white people. In other words twice as many Black infants died as white infants. He guesstimates that this was due to poor pre-natal care, intense manual labor up to day of delivery, and malnutrition, and as mentioned in this passage Tetanus. Which we now have a vaccine for. Ah hem. Vaccines save lives.

This figure struck me because I was vaguely aware that the infant mortality rate of Black babies in America in the year 2020 still is roughly double to that of white babies. See this website for the source from The Office of Minority Health. Infant mortality rate in 2017 was 11.0 per 1,000 babies born for “non-Hispanic Black” and it was 4.7 per 1,000 for “Non-Hispanic white”.

So literally. Since the days of slavery we have not as a society been able to prioritize the health of infants of Black women to decrease the rate of deaths in Black infants.

That’s fucked up.

Now I knew this statistic, that’s why it rang a bell for me while I was reading the statistic in a book from 1958 guesstimating from the 1800’s. I have been taught this statistic in my nursing school classes and it is often cited in literature (scientific journals as well as popular media to display the racial disparity in our country). But I was never taught that this rate, the percentage of Black babies dying being more than 50% of white babies- No I was never taught that has been the case since the days of slavery. I guess I should have thought that through in my head. But I didn’t. Privilege. That’s privilege. That’s my white privilege showing. Yours too I bet. Now the number of infant deaths has decreased in both races. Obviously 11 and 4.8 per thousand is better than the estimated 58 per thousand in whites and over 100 per thousand in Black people in the 1820’s and 1830’s. But that percentage gap- more than half- more than 50% more Black babies die than whites- that hasn’t budged.

Again. Fucked up.

I say this to all the white people reading this: If the fact that the disparity in the deaths of babies between races has not changed since the days of slavery- if that doesn’t make you feel rage deep in your toes rising into your belly and shame and grief and at least a basic understanding of why there is a movement called Black Lives Matter then you need to walk away.

You need to look yourself in the mirror and you need to ask yourself why the deaths of babies being doubled in a race different from your own since the days of slavery doesn’t encompass you with rage and shame. Why do you not see your privilege now? And if you can see it if you can feel it then what are you doing so in another year, not another hundred years, then what are you doing to prevent babies dying? What are you doing to advocate for Black Lives. Because make no mistake they are more at risk than white lives.

Now I’m not talking about the police. I’m not talking about gun violence.

I’m talking about babies. Again- to all you pro-lifer’s…why are you not sounding the alarm over these disparities of infant mortality rates? Where is your white lady outrage over the deaths of these babies?

Because I feel it. I felt it deep when I read that. Why hadn’t I learned about this in my US History classes? Why hadn’t I learned this in nursing school?

Why hadn’t I ever had to read this book in any of my schooling? Why did I have to read biographies on Jefferson and Washington which painted them as heroes instead of slaveowners seeking independence from a country that outlawed slavery in 1708.

And why can we not prioritize the lives on newborns? Why have we not been able to decrease the percentage disparity since the days of slave ownership?

Black Lives Matter. This is one statistic. There are unfortunately many more to explain why they need to matter more than they do.

 

 

#COVID-19 · politics

Dear People. 10 Things On My Mind. COVID-19 Journal Entry. Week…17. I counted.

A few things have been on my mind. Maybe 10.

  1. Those memes where people say “I believe in science” irritate me. Science isn’t a belief system. It is fact. The Earth will still rotate without anyone “believing” that it can. The arctic glaciers will still melt as long as we continue to heat up our atmosphere. Germs spread disease. And all humans didn’t magically procreate from two white humans in a garden with a snake. Religion requires faith and belief. Science doesn’t. Science requires discoveries. Humans have to discover scientific facts. We confirm them we don’t magically make them up. The elements in the periodic table existed before the periodic table was developed. They didn’t require a belief system to come into being. When we say we “believe” in science we put it into the same category as a religious faith. They shouldn’t be in the same category. Two very different situations. One based on faith one based on fact. They don’t belong together. Stop saying you believe in science. Say you accept scientific facts as fact. By making it into a “belief” we make it possible for people to “not believe” it and we validate that it’s okay for people to not believe in it. So stop it. Because it exists whether they believe in it or not.
  2. Freaking birth control. Don’t think that Supreme Court decision is anything but a continued war on women’s rights. Do they not cover vasectomies if they don’t cover birth control? Do they not cover ED medications if they do not cover OCP? Vagina’s are scary and penis’ have power. It’s what we are taught to think and believe. Not science. Not fact. Don’t fall for it.
  3. If the 131,000 lives we have lost due to COVID were embryo’s or women’s eggs prior to fertilization…Republicans would be shoving masks on all of us. Apparently pro-life only applies to lives currently or soon to be living in women’s wombs?! I’m not sure. I’ve never been able to get a pro-lifer to explain it to me. I’ve also never been able to get them to explain why they aren’t pro-Brown/Black/immigrant lives if they are “pro-life”. I’ve tried. Believe me I’ve tried. I’ve gotten blocked from a number of “pro-life” platforms for asking such questions. But they still won’t answer even when the freaking block me.
  4. Businesses are either imploding or exploding or staying afloat during COVID. It’s like a marriage for a couple; makes or breaks you. It’s more stressful than I can describe to you. Unless you are a business owner and your family depends on your income you don’t get the stress that I’m referencing. To those of you who do…solidarity and fist pumps. Hang in there. We got this. It’s definitely added an interesting and otherwise unthought of chapter for my “How to open a private practice” novel I’ve been working on. “Surviving a Pandemic in Mental Health” who knew I could write that from firsthand experience?! Living the dream here.
  5. I read this book called “They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South” written by a Stephanie Jones-Rogers, a Black woman. I was disturbed by the content. I can’t imagine the painstaking research she had to do and the actual emotional pain she felt while doing it. I don’t like non-fiction as a rule. But this was captivating. Like the car accident you can’t look away from. I was in awe of the research and bibliography. I like research and I appreciate the bibliography and I, unlike most every one, comb through it soaking up the details and pondering where and how she accessed some sources. I felt deep shame at being white. I felt deep pain for all the Black people descended from such abuse. I felt horror at the youth and ages of the women with firsthand accounts of owning and abusing slaves as young as age 3. It made the “Karen” memes so much more than just angry white middle age women. It made the “Karen” stereotype based out of generations of entitled racist white women. I recommend reading it. And everything else so we don’t become another generation of “Karen’s”.
  6. My sons started a new preschool. It’s a fucking pandemic. My wife had toured it a year ago. They had a waitlist. Silver lining of pandemic…finally no waitlist and two spots. But. I had to drop my four year old sons off at a building I couldn’t go inside of with people I had never met, wearing masks so I couldn’t even see their faces. It was the most bizarre and surreal experience of my life. They started Tuesday and both mornings my sensitive one has been asking me to come inside with him. I’ve had to explain I can’t and this morning he looked me right in the eye and said, “Bye Mama” really slow, like he didn’t want to leave me at all. I’ve cried both mornings as I get into the car and drive away. It’s the most helpless feeling I’ve experienced as a parent. Tonight he’s been crying for the past two hours. I finally just let him sleep on the floor in my room like he does when he’s sick (it’s carpeted and we pad it with blankets. He likes being near me and I’m fine with it. Don’t Mom-judge me.) He doesn’t handle transition well and between our cat dying and a new school after being home with us for four months…yeah it’s a bit of a transition. I just feel robbed. I am so grateful to have three days with them at preschool again so I can work from home in the silence. Silence I haven’t heard for four months. But I’m angry. I’m angry I can’t support them through this as well as I normally would.
  7. My cat. We put down Rajha a couple weeks ago because she was sick and dying from cancer. My other cat Maddy. She’s a year or two older than Raj. And I thought she didn’t like Raj. I mean at all. In fact I had to put her on Prozac years ago because Maddy was attacking Rajha. Blood. Bad. I had to bring her to a pet psychic. That actually helped more than the Prozac. Maddy was like a cat on Xanax when we left the pet psychic. Anyway. They tolerated each other. Then Rajha dies. Maddy has been losing it. Wandering around crying. Purring really loud in my ear at 2 AM. Meowing more in the last two weeks than in my entire fifteen years with her. It’s nuts. I may have to bring her back to the pet psychic for more ethereal xanax or whatever ju-ju she did. Then because I’m doing telehealth and most of my clients saw Raj on screen…they have been asking about her. I don’t lie. I say she died. Then I’m like should I really be telling this depressed kid that she died?! I dunno. I’m a horrible liar. So yeah. That’s happening.
  8. I was driving home the other day. Crying from the new preschool. I remember there were kind of a lot of cars on the road and I was like, huh this is new. But then I remembered, no this is what it was like before COVID. Remember life before a pandemic? I remember thinking back in March this was temporary. Life would be “normal” again soon. But it’s not. I miss those days. Normal. Before the pandemic. I mean if I really sit back and allow myself to dig in deep and truly feel in my gut about it…yeah I could be brought to tears with how much I deeply miss those normal days before COVID. It sounds so stupid. Because I’m a New Englander and we adapt and we move forward. Don’t cry. Don’t feel. But I do. I feel it hard. Four months in and I want normal back with an ache so deep I can’t describe it.
  9. I watched Hamilton. I googled a lot during and after. I don’t like surprises so I googled Hamilton’s wikipedia profile during the movie. People in the theater would have hated me had I been able to afford to go. I was in awe of it. Lin Manuel is a genius. So is Renee Elise Goldsberry. They were my two fav’s. Daveed Diggs would be tied maybe though. Everyone was dynamic and powerful. Duels are stupid. I still don’t understand why anyone would partake in one.
  10. Our current administration leads me to the same emotional pain as I experience when contemplating white women slave owners. I never thought I would be so deeply ashamed to be a citizen of our country as I am in these days of 2020. Science is fact. Germs are real. The fact that our President doesn’t accept fact and spins fact and jeopardizes human lives while the same senators who preach pro-life rhetoric sit and watch our people die from the spreading of germs…makes me angry/hurt/resentful/grief/fury.

I’ll close with this. I have a vagina. I’m not afraid of penis’s. I don’t think they have special powers. Neither should you.

I know germs are real. I know disease is real.

I am repulsed by few things but our administration is one of those things. Some one please freaking explain to me how you are pro-life for embryos but not for humans dying of COVID?! Pease. I’m trying to understand your belief system even if it is not based in science. Or facts.

Never mind. Don’t explain it. Just wear a mask and educate yourself.

Science exists. It’s NOT a belief system.

Yup. I yelled at you. All caps. Take it. Sit with it.

 

#COVID-19 · politics

COVID-19. Journal Entry 20? My cat died & Silver Linings.

It’s been a rough couple weeks. We had to put one of my cats down. Rajha. I had her for 15 years. She was my baby. Maddy’s my baby too, but Maddy’s my baby in a moody teenager way. Like when she snuggles with you it feels really special because most of the time she just ignores me. Rajha was the opposite. I wanted space from her sometimes. A lot of the time.

She was glued to my side, legs, head, arms…whatever appendage of mine she could be touching. She liked to lick. She liked to be held. She liked to cause trouble. She was my lap cat. She started to suffer though with Lymphoma. So we had to make the decision.

There have been a few silver linings of this pandemic. The one I will be most grateful for is being home with Raj the last months of her life. She was diagnosed the last week of face to face sessions for me. The following week started our stay at home orders. She passed last weekend. So for three months we got to give her unlimited time and attention.

It’s been such a blessing to be with her so much. It also made our decision at the end come much easier because we had seen the decline, and we saw when she started to suffer.

It wasn’t fun telling my sons that she died. They quickly put her “up in the sky” with Poppy, Binx (My mom’s cat who died), and “That lady who’s not your mom but like your mom…” (My Nana their great grandma). Later that night Jackson sobbed “She’s really gone,” and it was possibly the most heart breaking moment we’ve experienced so far as parents.

Around the same time we were told the daycare we’ve been on a waitlist for has openings. Due to the pandemic many children are not going back to their previously preschool or daycare. So we made another tough decision to have them start going back to preschool in July to a new school. Ultimately we think it will be best but another transition for them and for us.

Meanwhile I attended my first post-COVID funeral. I had to make black masks because I couldn’t go to a funeral in my Harry Potter mask. Masks for all occasions are going to be a thing I think. There was no singing. It was a huge church so there was space to social distance. We all wore masks. It was surreal. And hot. And sad.

There is so much anxiety around changes and the pandemic has forced transitions into many of our lives. The BLM movement is taking hold and it has given me such hope to hear all my young clients talking about it and engaging with it and going to protests and marches. Patient’s of mine of all ethnicities and demographics are talking about change and talking about privilege and they are all young. So young. I am proud of them all because I don’t think I was talking about this at age 15.

They ask me hard questions. They talk to me when they can’t talk to their parents who may be more conservative or racist. I had already been thinking and reading and doing and all these young people have made me question more. Think harder. Read more. Do more. Be better. It’s another silver lining.

There were hard days for me in the last few weeks. I grieve my cat. I grieve “normal”. But I am incredibly grateful for these last months with Rajha. I am grateful for all the telehealth sessions I did with her on my lap. I am grateful that she got to virtually meet so many of my young clients who have given me such hope for our future. I am grateful at a time of movement for social justice I am not limited to my own thoughts and beliefs. That I am pushed and prodded by my clients in so many ways.

I had one client tell me they hate #45 and they hate that they know people who support him. I responded that I am incredibly grateful for #45. He allowed me to clean out my friend list on FB easily. He allows me to know who is an actual ally to the Queer community and to me as a person because any one who supports him is not my ally and certainly not my friend. He is so decisive and so hateful that to support him allows me to check those people straight out of my life and to not always wonder if people are actually supporters of the Queer community or are just too polite to say otherwise in front of me.

He’s not polite and neither are his supporters. And I like it. I’m direct. I like to know where people stand. I can still be friends with people who are pro-life and I can still be friends with people are religious or have different beliefs. But I cannot be friends with people who support him because he supports white supremacy. He supports trans-phobia and he condones violence against minorities. His administration is so homophobic that to support them is to explicitly be against my people.

So yes. I am grateful for this moment in time because it takes the guesswork out of everything for me.

But I digress.┬áThese past weeks have felt heavy with grief. They have felt heavy with adulting in so many ways. But the one silver lining of Rajha’s death was Maddy sleeping on my pillow that night and snuggling against my head. She has never done that. In the 15.5 years that I’ve had her.

If you look for silver linings they are all around us. These are chaotic and scary times full of change. But change is needed in our dysfunctional America. Change is coming and if my young clients are any indication…change is already here.

Rest in Peace Rajha. 06/20/2020.

696E5784-30F8-4173-BBD9-5BB72A0F21F9

 

#COVID-19 · politics

Dear Mayor DeBlasio, a response to your op-ed about drafting medical professionals…Truly yours, a nurse.

Having worked in the emergency department, which is essentially the red-headed stepchild of a hospital, I already know that people treat ED’s like crap until they need one. No one make massive donations to emergency departments like they do cancer centers.

We are unseen heroes.

Until COVID. Now all of the sudden people have taken an interest in our critical care skills. They are hard skills to learn. I felt like it took me a year to become a real nurse in the emergency department. Longer to master IV’s on a coding child with parents screaming in my ear. Longer to recognize the signs of a child who can wait five hours versus some one who can barely wait five minutes to be seen. I left the emergency department proficient.

I saved some kid’s lives along the way. I started a lot of IV’s. I pounded on chests with no heartbeat and I breathed air into lungs that could not breathe for themselves.

In six and a half years I was exposed to H1N1, Influenza B, Tuberculosis, Pertussis, Hepatitis C, and meningitis. More than once. I was kicked in the ribs the week of my wedding. I spent the week of my wedding dealing with bruised ribs and worker’s comp.

I carried with me the grief of parents and the sights of dying children.

I saw my co-worker’s brutally assaulted by patients.

Throughout those six and a half years I never had the support of management. I had to fight to get a Pertussis vaccine covered by the hospital after my third exposure. I had to send about ten e-mails and make multiple phone calls to get worker’s compensation to cover the emergency department bill that occupational health made me go to when I was kicked in the ribs. During H1N1 we had a shortage of masks and gowns and gloves. We were told to put up and shut up or be fired.

We never received raises consistently and we never got paid more during the H1N1 pandemic for risking our own health. Our hospital did not cover any costs incurred when one of our employees got sick with influenza or H1N1.

The day I left the ED I left my family, my co-workers, but I stepped into a new life as an advanced practice nurse where I could leave behind the crap that came with knowing some of the best people I’ve met in my life.

I’ve been reading the articles and watching the stories and hearing from my own friends of nurses shamed and scorned for speaking out when we don’t have protection or PPE and I know I made the right decision back in 2013 when I walked away from the emergency department. Hospital management did not have our back then and it does not have our backs now.

I’ve been approached by the hospital I work at per diem to put my critical care experience to use. My brain and my skills are valuable right now. But they don’t want to pay me adequately. My skills are desperately needed and I am deserving of pay equivalent to risking my life.

I unapologetically value my life at more than just 45$-65$ an hour with no hazard pay or differential. As should all nurses.

Mayor DeBlasio, you implore healthcare provider’s to come forward and just put their lives on the line. Yet we know that on a good day hospitals and management don’t have our backs. They have their own. You have offered no incentive for any nurse or MD to step forward and risk their life. Risk time away from their families. Risk infecting our families.

Pay us. Adequately. Forgive all loans for all medical professionals who respond. Partner with state colleges in NY, CT, NJ, MA and offer free master’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees once this is all over for nurses to advance their education.

Guarantee PPE. I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about PPE. But I said recently to a hospital employee if you could guarantee me a new N95, face shield, and full body PPE I’d sign up today. But they couldn’t. I have kids. I have a family. I am the sole financial provider right now. I’m not risking my life for hospital systems that haven’t risked anything for us.

I can tell you nurses and MD’s are not soldiers. We didn’t go into healthcare to risk our lives. But the longer you work in critical care the more you realize our lives are risked daily. Without a pandemic. And you see how little front line employees mean to the hospital system.

We are not flooding into the frontlines because you have not guaranteed us free healthcare should we contract COVID-19 while “volunteering” for you.

Most of us have deductible plans. Who is going to pay our six thousand dollar family deductible if I’m in the ICU unable to work because I heroically answered your call, worked the front lines without appropriate PPE, and contracted COVID-19? Are you Mayor DeBlasio going to guarantee free healthcare for acute COVID-19 cases in all your healthcare workers and also free mental healthcare long term for the PTSD that will inevitably ensue in all your front line workers watching people die? Because on your website and upon pressing by the media the response was “Well most of our volunteers have health insurance,” That is NOT good enough Mayor DeBlasio.

You say to draft healthcare providers. Soldiers receive college tuition, healthcare at top hospitals in the country, free housing, adequate pay, and many other benefits that should come with being a soldier. You are asking us to soldier up without offering us any reason to do so other than we just should because you are desperate.

Until hospitals and cities and governments start incentivizing healthcare providers by paying us adequately for risking our lives, providing long term financial ease by canceling all student debt for first responders, and guaranteeing free healthcare for any COVID related exposure illnesses that occur during employment and emergency response to a pandemic…then you can write all the op-ed’s you want trying to appeal to healthcare providers (especially those of us with critical care experience)…but no one is going to answer that call.

Many of us have been there. We’ve worked front lines before. We know the risks and we know hospitals and management don’t have our backs and in this case we also know there aren’t enough masks to have our front.

Prove me otherwise and then maybe you’ll get the people you need.

I’ll summarize for you- Pay me. Pay my loans. Offer free education afterward. Free housing and food during. Free healthcare during and after for anything related to COVID-19. Offer life insurance policies. And for God’s sake. Provide me with adequate PPE- not sterilized, not re-used- I’m talking full body suits. Look at some pictures from China.

Those are my conditions for re-entering the front lines. I hope every nurse demands the same.