Fear & Bigotry has become Our Culture

I’m heartbroken by recent events. The terror attacks in Beirut, Paris, Mali… the state of affairs in the Middle East… our own country’s failed policies where “fighting terror” is concerned… the racial strife I see everyday here in the US… the fear mongering and outright bigotry I see from many of our own elected “Christian” officials.

My views aren’t popular, and as soon as I speak them, people tend to tune me out. That’s ok, though. It won’t shut me up. Small as it may be, this is my forum. My place to say what’s on my mind.

Our hands – the hands of the United States – are not clean where any of these tragedies are concerned. We cultivated wars in the Middle East, we worked with others to kill millions in that region, and we now have the audacity to act confused, scratching our heads, wondering, “What caused so many people to hate us? Why are so many in the Middle East so radical these days?”

Those are stupid questions. The US didn’t consciously create ISIS and its sympathizers, but to pretend our foreign policy of the last 20 years had nothing to do with it is dumb.

Yes, dumb.

We made orphans of a lot of kids in the Middle East over the years. Those babies aren’t babies any more, and now that they’re grown, they have an axe to grind.

I don’t defend ISIS, I don’t defend evil, and I for damn sure don’t defend the death and destruction of innocent people. The thing is, I don’t defend those things in any circumstance. I don’t defend it when it’s ISIS chopping off heads, or deploying suicide bombers in crowded arenas, and I don’t defend it when it’s government-sanctioned drone attacks or boots-on-the-ground action in the Middle East either.

As a nation, we’ve messed up. That’s not an anti-American sentiment. It’s an honest opinion. I love my country. I love being an American, and I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere but here. That doesn’t mean I can’t speak out when I believe our government has acted foolishly, and it doesn’t mean I have to agree with or support the current climate among my fellow Americans.

What’s happening overseas is depressing enough, but that’s not the full story, either. Our own nation is turning against each other. Turning against fellow citizens of the United States of America. Racial turmoil is the highest I’ve seen in my 37 years of life. In some places, such as where I live, we seem poised for all-out war. A civil war, with sides chosen based on the color of one’s skin.

The hypocrisy of it all is astounding. Just. Astounding.

In one breath, I hear people taking rioters to task after the killings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and others. Screaming about how vile, vicious and violent the black community is. In the next breath, these same people are cheering Donald Trump’s stump speeches, while he deliriously yells that we should “bomb the shit out of Syria!”

We have people doing their best to refuse Syrian Refugees in their states, but those same people support the NRA. This wouldn’t be surprising, except that the NRA wants us to continue allowing people whose names are on the No Fly List to legally purchase assault rifles in this country.

Let me get this straight: You don’t want the refugees in this country because they might be terrorists… but if they happen to make it here, you want them to have the ability to purchase weapons?

What kind of sense does that make?

The answer is that it makes the same kind of sense that allowing people deemed too dangerous to board a passenger jet to purchase assault weapons makes.

As in, none whatsoever.

The common thread in all of it – whether ISIS and refugees from the Middle East, or people of color in our own neighborhoods – is fear. We justify our hateful, bigoted policies – domestic and abroad – by pointing to our fears. Fear of a religion we don’t understand, fear of people we don’t respect because their skin color is the wrong hue.

My heart is heavy.


5,000 Steps


St. Louis, Arsons and Churches

A suspect has been arrested in the St. Louis church fires.

These fires were long seen as a sign of the racial turmoil in the St. Louis area, as the churches were burned in predominantly black neighborhoods.

With that in mind, I wonder how many are surprised to learn the suspect is a black male.

I have long worried that people against peace in our city will stoop to such lows as to manufacture racial disparity in an effort to spearhead some sort of revolution. Not just black people, either.

The facts are still a long way from being sorted out. Maybe this guy did it, maybe he didn’t. We don’t know much yet, other than he’s been arrested.

Our city needs peace.

Fitbit, Honesty and Lore

I took a walk today.

For most people, this would have been no big deal. For me, however, it’s huge. Monumental, even.

After a recent life-changing ordeal, I made the decision to stop fucking around and get healthy. My family needs me, and they deserve to have a healthy, happy and engaged me. Not that tired, lazy hag they were getting before.

I set my Fitbit goal to 3,000 steps a day, with the intention of increasing the goal by 500 every Sunday. Sooner or later I’ll be at 10,000 steps per day. I have an activity goal of 20 minutes per day, planning to increase to 30 minutes gradually.

Gotta start somewhere.

So today, I decided to take a walk. I walked for 24 minutes, and while my shins are on fire, I have to admit it was really nice. The leaves have all changed to their fall colors, the temperature was perfect, and there was just enough of a breeze to keep things feeling fresh.

I strapped on my headphones and queued up an episode from my new favorite podcast “Lore”, and got to steppin’.

Walking around the neighborhood is probably the best choice for me right now. I could go to the gym, or walk up and down the stairs in my house (which I’m known to do if I’m this close to my step goal). The thing is, walking around the neighborhood keeps me honest.

Accountability and all that.

If I decide, 10 minutes into a 20 minute walk that I don’t want to do this any longer, that’s too bad. I’m stuck in the middle of the damn neighborhood, and I can either be stranded, or keep walking, until I eventually make it home. At the gym, in contrast, I can just step off the treadmill if I decide I’m too tired or bored to keep going. At home, I can just flop onto the couch.

No, this is the best option, because when it comes to exercise, I am devious and deceiptful in my attempts to avoid it at all costs.

All I can hope is that I’ll come to really enjoy it in time.

Mike Tyson, Donald Trump and the ’80s Icons

Oh. Ma. Jesus.

In the “this election cannot be for real” category, we learn Mike Tyson has endorsed Donald Trump for President.

He’s confident Trump is just an “average guy, like everyone else” who needs “time to grow”. He also doesn’t think The Donald means what he says about immigrants and Latinos.

Trump obviously meant every word he said. When someone shows you their true colors, believe them.

Looks to me like this is just one ’80s icon giving support to another ’80s icon, giving no thought whatsoever to any actual political issues and social challenges we’re facing today.

As in, 2015.

Tyson & Trump in the days of yore

Exercise, Weight Loss and the Five Mile Journey

After years of swearing (and believing) that I am allergic to exercise, I realize I have to get it together and get moving. I have a bike in my home office, but I never use it  I use it as more of a clothing/purse collector than an actual piece of exercise equipment. That’s a typical use for such contraptions, right?

So, we go to plan B.


I dragged my husband to Best Buy with me, and we purchased the FitBit Charge HR.

FitBit Charge HR

This device will track my resting heart rate, the number of steps I take, the distance I’ve gone, how many hours of sleep I had, and the quality of my sleep. With the corresponding Android App, I can track my food intake, and compare calories in vs. calories burned.

I told you. I’m serious, folks.

I plan to lose 70 lbs with a low carb diet and exercise.

In doing my research, I learned that the number of recommended steps per day is 10,000, which seemed like a lot of walking. I googled it and realized it’s freakin’ five miles.

Five. Miles.

I get winded just thinking about it.

Needless to say, this will be a bit of a journey. Slow and steady.

I’ve committed to 1,500 steps per day for now. Each week, starting on Sundays I’ll add another 500 steps. I’ll get to 10,000 per day eventually.

The Blessing of the Blood Clot

I had a come-to-Jesus moment recently, and it has shaken me to the core. Forgive the length, but I have a story to tell.

About two months ago, just days before her 17th birthday, my daughter was taken to a local urgent care facility. She was running a fever, was complaining of pains in her chest, and was extremely dizzy. Thinking she had some sort of upper-respiratory/flu/inner ear infection thing going on, I didn’t panic at first. In fact, I had meetings scheduled all morning, so I had my husband take her in so that I could continue working.

Roughly an hour after they left, my husband called me. He told me that the doctor had seen “something” on an MRI that concerned him. As a result, they were loading my child into an ambulance, and transferring her to the closest emergency room. This was the first time I’d heard the words that have since changed our lives:

They are concerned she may have a blood clot.

She’s 16, for heaven’s sake! She’s healthy, she’s an athlete, full of life and vitality. Teenagers do not get blood clots.


I rushed to meet her in the ER, where the doctors ordered some blood work. Specifically, something called a d-dimer test. While far from fool-proof, this test can help doctors in their quest to diagnose patients with symptoms similar to my daughter’s. If the score is below a certain number, blood clots are not a concern. If it’s higher than a certain number, it’s possible a clot has formed somewhere within the body. The higher the score, the more likely a clot is present.

My child’s score was so high, they couldn’t chart it. The test only goes up to 5,000, and her numbers were “somewhere” above that.

It was all-but certain. My daughter has a blood clot, probably in her lung- a pulmonary embolism if you want to get fancy with it.

The doctor immediately ordered a CT Scan, and while we waited for the results, I hoped against all hope that this was a fluke. That they’d come back and say, “False alarm! There’s no clot! This is nothing a little cold medicine can’t fix!” Part of me knew, however, that I was in denial.

After viewing the scanned images, the doctor told us what we dreaded hearing: our child definitely has a blood clot in her lungs, possibly two. It was either one very large clot that started in her lower lung and curved up to the mid-way point, or it was two clots. Hard to tell. Regardless, immediate action had to be taken.

As he gave us the news, I glanced at my daughter, just in time to see a single tear roll down her cheek.

I was numb.

Arrangements were made to transport her by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital in the city, as the hospital we were currently at was not equipped to treat her. The doctor explained that due to her age, she’s still a pediatric patient, and needed to be admitted to the “PICU”. Nodding my head, I went through all the motions, signed the paperwork for transfer, asked the appropriate questions, and did the best I could to keep everyone calm.

I began calling my parents, my boss, various family members to tell them the news. I felt like I was watching myself talk as I explained what I knew up to that point. Almost as if I was observing things as they happened, but was not actually participating in any of it.

My husband had briefly left the room to make some phone calls of his own, and wasn’t there when the doctor explained the need to get her to PICU by ambulance as soon as possible. When he returned, I filled him in, but stumbled on my words…


It was then, as I stuttered out that dreaded acronym, that it hit me. Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. My child could die.

I quickly ran from the room, my tears were hot on my face, and I didn’t want her to see that I was afraid. I rounded a corner somewhere, and leaned against the wall, sobbing. All I could think was that I’d thought it was the flu.

I treated my daughter’s pulmonary embolism for the last 48 hours with Nyquil. Who does that?

I tried my best to pull myself together, and the ambulance eventually arrived. Climbing in behind her, I held her hand as we raced to Children’s Hospital, trying to ignore all the beeps and buzzing sounds coming from the various pieces of equipment they’d attached to her body, monitoring… what, exactly, I didn’t know.

She spent two nights in the PICU, with a 24-hour-a-day heparin drip. Her blood was drawn every four hours, and though she was in pain, she couldn’t take pain medicine because of the impact it could have on her blood. They had to monitor her “levels” so closely that they couldn’t risk allowing her to ingest anything that could skew the test results. The heparin, I learned, is a powerful blood thinner, designed to begin the slow process of dissolving what we now knew to be one massive clot in my baby’s left lung.

I spent those nights on the pullout chair in the room with her. She could only have two visitors at a time, which annoyed various family members, as I refused to leave the room, except to pee. That meant only one other person at a time to see her. I didn’t care.

The blood thinner was so strong, she started bleeding randomly. Her nose would bleed, or her gums when she brushed her teeth. Just days before she’d been so full of life, so vivacious, but now, I didn’t even recognize her. She had huge bags under her eyes, and she looked so tiny, hooked up to all those IVs and monitors.

I felt powerless. It is my job to keep her safe. I’ve protected her from the outside world her entire life. She wears her seatbelt any time she’s in a car. I have the passwords to all her social media accounts. She has a curfew. She can’t go to parties without an adult present. But you can’t save your kid when her own body revolts against her. While I was worrying about car accidents, something was happening inside of her. It threatened to kill her, and I had no idea.

Eventually stabilized, the doctors moved her from PICU to a regular room on another floor. Now that her “levels” were where they needed to be, she was taken off the heparin, and put on another, less drastic blood thinner called Lovenox. It’s an injection, and she had to learn how to give herself the shots twice a day before she could be released.

The focus shifted from life-saving measures to finding the root cause of the clot. Blood test after blood test was conducted. Questions about family history were repeatedly asked by specialist after specialist. I felt I had failed her again. I couldn’t answer questions about family history, because I’m adopted, and have no medical records whatsoever. Genetic tests, it was decided, had to be run instead.

Finally, we had our answer.

It turns out she suffers from a clotting disorder called Lupus Anticoagulation. In addition, she has received a diagnosis of Lupus. The two aren’t necessarily related, despite both containing the word “Lupus”. This isn’t something she will heal from, it isn’t something that she can simply move on from.

No, this is life changing.

Lupus, for those who don’t know, is an auto-immune disease. It’s caused by an over-active immune system that is unable to differentiate between one’s healthy cells and viruses. As a result, the immune system is always in “fight” mode. When there is no illness to fight, it attacks the body. Specifically, the organs. Kidneys, lungs and the heart are especially vulnerable. While in “fight” mode, one can suffer various symptoms, referred to as a “flare”.

The blood clot, it turns out, was a blessing in disguise. Prior to its forming, my daughter had no symptoms of Lupus. It’s likely it wouldn’t have been diagnosed for many years, had it not been for this event. As a result, we found out about it before any damage was done to any of her organs. While there is no cure, we can treat this disease aggressively. We have a new definition of “normal”, but also know she can live a full, active and long life despite the changes we know we all need to make.

She was on the Lovenox injections for several weeks. Ultimately, due to her diagnosis, and because we now know she will need a daily dose of blood thinners for the rest of her life, the decision was made to transition her from the injections to an oral medication. She now takes Warfarin daily, along with Plaquinil to fight the Lupus.

Her clot is not gone. That will take many months. We have standing orders at the hospital to have her blood drawn every few days to check her levels. The doctor tweaks the dosage of her medication according to the test results, so we spend every other day or so at the pharmacy getting prescriptions filled, and at the lab getting blood work done…

… over and over again.

She is my hero. In two short months she has gone from lying in the PICU, hospitalized for a week, to defining a new “normal”. She has returned to school full-time, and despite missing several weeks, she’s back on the honor roll. She is also the sole student in her school district to be nominated for a scholarship to a college in our state. She has returned to cheerleading (though she cannot participate in any stunts or anything else that can cause bruising, because she is at risk of internal bleeding). She even has a part-time job as a server at a local restaurant.

With a renewed commitment to service, she has spearheaded a fundraising event (a talent show at her high school) to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House, an organization that made our stay at the hospital so much less worrisome and dreary than it otherwise would have been.

This, she has decided, will not define her.

Watching her fight- for her life and later, for her quality of life- has changed me in ways I cannot begin to describe. What I do know is that I need to follow her lead. Renew my commitment to myself, to my husband, and to our other child, who at only 10 years old, has been yet another source of strength, determination and dignity throughout this entire ordeal.

In short, I need to be present. More present than I was before, and I need never take anything for granted again.

Many changes have already been made. More are sure to come.

I have been given the most amazing second chance with the most beautiful family on the planet. I can’t wait to show you what we all can do!


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