Cancer, the Sequel….and a Non-Romantic’s Attempt at a Love Letter to the Healthcare Community….

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
~John F. Kennedy

This past October, I had my annual follow-up with my Oncologist.  “Everything looks great!”  He proclaimed after checking my vitals and lab work.  “Is there anything I should know about?  You feeling good?  No shortness of breath, any unexplained pain?  Any issues moving your bowels?”  He asked.

“Nope.”  I said with confidence, “I feel great!” and it was true, physically….mentally, I’m a shit show, but that’s to be expected.   It’s also true that I would probably die before I would ever talk about my pooping habits with him.

“Excellent!”  He said.  So, it’s time now that we add in a dermatologist for annual skin checks at your radiation site.  We have a doctor from Derm who works on our service.  I’m going to reach out to him.  His office will call you to schedule the appointment.”

“Sounds good” I said.

“It’s also time for a mammogram (joy) and we’re going to check your thyroid this year too. I’ll reach out to my colleagues and we’ll start working on getting those appointments scheduled as well,”  he said.

Me:  Has it ever occurred to you that I’m kind of like a body that has been donated to science, only I’m still alive so you get to work on a breathing corpse?

Dr. Most Amazing:  It hadn’t….

Me:  Well, you are welcome.

Less than a week later, I got a phone call from Dermatology to schedule my appointment and they were able to get me in within the month.  Before arriving for my exam, I made sure to thoroughly moisturize my radiation field, which extends from about the base of my collarbone down through my sternum.  (I could be making that up, because I’m not 100% sure where my sternum is, but I’m guessing I’m close).

Anyway, personally, I think that some maintenance/grooming effort is necessary whenever you see a doctor.  For example, before I see my gynecologist every year, I make sure I’ve shaved and moisturized my legs and armpits.  I give the old honey pot a good trim and I try not to poop before the appointment….just in case I miss a spot….could you imagine?

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Also, I ALWAYS wear socks.  Being barefoot is just too naked for me.

Before I go to the dentist, I dig out the floss I got from my last appointment, blow off the dust, do my best, and then hope that rinsing with mouth numbing/burning Listerine takes care of the rest.  Then, I tell the dentist….“Yes, of course.  I totally floss every day.  What kind of barbarian do you take me for?”  With a truthfull’ish face.

Turns out, I was NOT prepared for the dermatologist.  I hadn’t bargained on a full body examination.  Had I known I would be asked to strip down to my underwear, I would have for sure gotten a pedicure, thoroughly moisturized, shaved and most definitely, I would have worn different underwear and not the novelty joke pair that say, “Not Tonight” in big, red, block letters across the ass, that I used to think were HYSTERICAL when I assumed only my husband would ever see them.

So, as the doctor checked my scalp and in-between my toes and I tried not to die of embarrassment, I figured I would go ahead and ask about a dry patch of skin that had developed along my hairline on my left temple.  It was about the size of a dime and had been there at least a year.  At first, it was just a semi-flaky little spot that occasionally itched, but otherwise caused no real discomfort.

Then, this past summer, it began to get irritated.  The spot became itchier and then scabbed over.  Since I can’t ever resist picking a good scab, I struggled to leave it alone, which obviously made it angrier.

When I managed to resist temptation and put some effort into wound care, I would often end up accidentally brushing over it, causing the scab to break open and thus leading me to believe that I might as well just pick the rest of it off and let the scab start over.  I know, I’m gross.

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After the summer though, I resolved to really focus on healing it.  I began to properly clean and treat it.  I left it alone.  I kept anything other antibacterial ointments away from it.

After working out, I immediately cleaned it and I did my best to keep my hair pulled back and away from it.  But it wouldn’t go away.  It would sometimes take on the appearance of healing, but it never did.  It also never fully scabbed over.  Parts of it would, but other parts looked more oozy and crust-like.  Still, I wasn’t worried, not really.  There had never been a suspicious looking mole, or freckle in that area.

After everything I had been through as a cancer survivor, you’d think I would be jumping at the chance to point the spot out to a brilliant, highly sought after physician at one of the nations best hospitals and yet, even on the day of the appointment, I was on the fence about mentioning it.  I felt silly saying, “I have a scab that won’t go away, because I can’t stop picking at it.”  

Of course, it’s possible/probable that it was about more than that too.  There will always be a part of me that lives with the fear that cancer might come back and claim me.  That I’m living on borrowed time.  That the universe will eventually say, “Oh, crap, you’re still here.  We have to do something about that.”    

Sometimes, I think it’s made me crazy.  I over-exaggerate things I can reasonably explain (a minor headache must surely be a brain tumor) and over-simplify the things I can’t (that’s just dry skin).  It seems as though it’s my brains way of allowing me to run, while also caving into the underlying fear and anxiety that comes with being a cancer survivor.

But once I realized he was going to be investigating literally every square inch of my body, and I was already red-faced and ashamed at my scaly legs and chipped toenail polish and underwear choice, I figured I might as well go ahead and just speak up.

“Is there anything on your skin you’re concerned about?”  the doctor asked me politely.

(Besides the stubby beginnings of leg and armpit hair? I thought).  “Well, I’m not really concerned about it, more annoyed.  I just have this dry patch of skin I can’t seem to get to heal, even though I absolutely leave it alone (now) and have done my best to treat it with over the counter ointments (recently).”  I told him.

While the doctor took a look,  I was preparing myself for the fact that he would likely tell me it was psoriasis, or eczema.  That he would prescribe a cream and tell me to stop lying and LEAVE IT ALONE.  I was not expecting him to say, “Hmmmm….I think what we’re looking at is a basal cell carcinoma.”

Me:  I’m sorry….a what the fuck?

OK, so I didn’t really say that, but my face did.

Dr. Equally Awesome:  It’s no big deal, truly.  This is not something I want you to be worrying about.  It is the most common type of skin cancer.  Millions of people are diagnosed annually.

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Dr. Equally Awesome:  Really, you can stop scaling that wall.  Don’t worry!  This type of skin cancer doesn’t metastasize.  We’ll do a biopsy to confirm it’s a basal,, and assuming I’m right, which I’m pretty confident I am, we’ll get you in with Derm surgery and they’ll remove it and you’ll be done.

Me:
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Dr. Equally Awesome:  It’s ok, you can climb down from the top of that credenza now.   You’re going to be fine.  I wouldn’t tell you that if I wasn’t certain of it.

Here’s the thing though….to a cancer survivor, the words, CANCER and METASTASIZE and BIOPSY and mother-f’ing CARCINOMA are essentially synonymous with whatever word this would be:

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As he spoke they are the only words I heard….

So I took a deep breath and a hit of Cal–Stat and then I said.  “I hear you.  But to someone who has had the kind of cancer that can kill you, hearing that I have it, again, in any capacity, is just really, really scary.”

Dr. Equally Awesome:  I get it.  We’re going to take care of you though.

Me:  So….once it’s gone, can I call myself a two time champ?  (Because humor….always humor….)

Dr. Equally Awesome:  Hell yeah!

My streak of seeing wonderful physicians continued.  The surgeon who performed the procedure to cut out the cancer was incredible.  It took two passes to remove the spot that went from being the size of a dime, to almost the size of a silver dollar, before she was able to obtain “clear margins” (no more cancer).

Before she started to close the wound, she handed me a mirror so I could see it and when I saw how deep it was, my first reaction was to ask, “Is that my brain?”  It wasn’t, in case you’re wondering.

Then, before starting to suture, she stood there for a moment, studying the spot and pondering the exact right method for closing.  She was determined to close the wound in a way that would leave the least amount of visible scaring.

She was treating my face as though it were some kind of prized artwork she’d been commissioned to restore, instead of the face of a forty-year old who had spent her twenties shirking sun screen and, on some level, was getting what was coming to her.  It was clear I meant more to her than just another patient in a long one of patients.  Not because I was special, but because that’s the way she treats all who come to see her.

These folks who have taken care of me for the last nine years are my hero’s.  And since the Coronavirus outbreak, I’ve thought of them constantly; for all physicians and healthcare workers, really.  I am so thankful for them.

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In support of their efforts these past many weeks, I’ve been doing my best to listen to them and to hear them and to see them.  I feel like I owe it to them to read and watch everything they are doing for us right now.

I’ve seen the pictures of health care workers crouched, exhausted and grief stricken, in hospital hallways.

I’ve read news articles about healthcare workers isolating themselves away from their children and significant others; working long and emotionally draining hours and then going “home” to hotel rooms.  Alone.

And I’ve seen the photos of what many look like after a long shift.  Bruised, with deep marks from masks and face shields imbedded into their skin.

I’ve seen photos and read stories about healthcare workers holding tablets and smart phones in hospital rooms, so that loved one’s can be in touch with sick family members and in some cases, say final goodbyes.

They have no motivation beyond helping people and they are, in some cases, literally killing themselves to do it.

And to put it bluntly, I’m really fucking disgusted by the scum of humanity who are screaming in their faces at protest rallies.  Shame on you.

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You aren’t a patriot, or whatever is you’re claiming to be, no matter how many clothing items made out of an American flag you show up wearing.

This isn’t your moment to rise up against a tyrannical government because the Demolition Derby at your county fair was canceled this year.  So please, go back to making moonshine and squirrel hunting, or whatever it is you do, and let the real Americans do their jobs.

And guess what, we “snow-flakes” don’t want the economy to collapse either.  I certainly don’t want anyone to suffer financially, emotionally, physically, or mentally.

But at the same time, and I’m no genius, the inconveniences and the state of the economy  right now, are the bi-products of a global pandemic, not the result of sub-prime mortgages, or a crash in the stock market, or some other economic screw-up we need the Warren Buffets of the world to help us dig out of, at least not at the forefront leading the charge.

So while I recognize the need to reopen the economy for many important reasons, shouldn’t it be done in a way that fully aligns with the recommendations of medical experts?

And by medical experts, I don’t mean some random podiatrist from Boca Raton whose pissed his practice has taken a hit, since his elderly patients are staying home instead of having their corns removed.  Just because you took a semester of immuno-biology, or whatever, doesn’t make you an expert, so stay in your lane.

I am a privileged person.  I can stay home.  We can manage work from here and we have the resources and tools and skills (debatable) necessary to manage homeschooling.

Mentally, I’m, well, complicated, but I’m not suicidal, or depressed, or alone.  I’m not an alcoholic and no one in my home needs to be afraid of anyone else in my home.

I believe all that means I have the responsibility to not be a dick.  I can stay home and so I will.  Even if it’s annoying, or *gasp* boring.

I’m going to do it, so that those who don’t have my same privileges can go to their jobs, or seek out the help they might need, without having to worry about whether or not my ass picked up COVID-19 at a neighborhood Pampered Chef party and my sneeze isn’t just a regular sneeze.

We need to allow the time and space for our next level essential workers and their employers to develop strategies for returning to their jobs safely.

Most importantly though, we need to give our healthcare workers the time and space to breath and recoup.  Shouldn’t we be letting our scientists focus on, you know, science’ing our way out of this if possible and if not all the way out, at least into a more controlled new “normal?”

But hey, if you think it’s in your best interest to rally at what amounts to nothing more than a glorified Guns & Ammo Expo on the front steps of some government building, I guess that’s your right.

I personally think the medical community should have the right to tell you and yours to F-off should you come dragging ass through the doors of your local emergency room though.  That should be the price you pay for assuming that, just because you know how to load an assault rifle and fashion a tube top out of a confederate flag, you’re also an expert on infectious disease….but they won’t, because they are good people, the best of us.

I just hope that if nothing else, you manage to at least choke out a thank-you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Church Pew….

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”
~Psalm 119:14

Directly across the street from Ground Zero in New York City is St. Paul’s church.  An Episcopal church that was built in 1764 and is the oldest surviving church in Manhattan.

On September 11, 2001, as the towers fell, the church stood its ground.  Not a single pane of glass in the sanctuary was broken.  Not a single headstone in the cemetery was damaged.  Only one tree fell; a giant sycamore almost a century old.

In the days and then months that followed, St. Paul’s served as a relief site for emergency workers.  It stayed open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for eight months, providing food and rest and a sanctuary for moments of silence and prayer for hundreds of firefighters, police officers, volunteers and other rescue workers.

In 2006, I visited New York City with a group of girlfriends.  We hadn’t specifically planned to visit the site where the Twin Towers had once stood.  It had been less than five years since the attack.  The New York City Medical Examiners office had only recently ceased their efforts to identify remains.  And we didn’t want to be tourists there.

But one afternoon, as we were walking around the city near Battery Park, we ended up close to the site.  Though, it really couldn’t be missed.  The size of the devastation was staggering.

Then, we saw St. Paul’s church, perfectly intact, stoic like, defiant, amidst so much destruction.

It was clear the church was open and so my friends and I made our way toward it.  We walked around the grounds for a while and then we entered the chapel.  Inside were dozens of displays and memorials honoring those lost in the attacks.

After walking the perimeter of the church, we took a seat in one of the pews and a woman approached.

“See all these markings?” she asked, pointing to the large scrapes that rang the length of each pew.  “Those were caused by the boots and belts worn by emergency personnel who came in to rest.”

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I ran my hand along the markings and was overwhelmed by the weight of what those pews had held.  They had served as a place for so many tired bodies to rest and refuel….and for tired souls to pray and hope and cry and rage.

Sitting in St. Paul’s that day, I thought about the hundreds of people from New York and all over the country and all over the world, even, who had come into the chapel in the wake of September 11.  Many religions and faiths were represented in that church, as well as non-believers.   And they sat alongside one another, united in grief and fear and disbelief and anger and hope and love.

It always seems that in the immediate wake of a tragedy, we see the best of humankind.  Strangers helping one another, consoling one another, praying together, making sacrifices for each other and so on and so on.  And we do it regardless of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation.

I think that when it matters most, when we are called, really called to be good humans, we answer the call.  We rush towards those places and people who need us to help in whatever way we can.  Some rush directly to the front lines to offer their skills, others rush to places of worship, or into groups/organizations that are lending their support from afar.  We rush to family and friends.  We organize and we pray together and we just be together and we embrace one another, strangers and family and friends alike.

I was in college on September 11,2001 and later that afternoon, as we students wandered through the day in a dazed fog, I remember being in the dining hall that was unusually quiet as we picked at our food, going through the motions.  Then, another student whose name I didn’t know and still don’t know, stood up and said,“Would anyone like to pray with me?  

And we did.  The dining hall full of students, believers and non, stood and we held hands in a large circle.  He led a very short prayer, followed by silence, in which we prayed across our own denominations and faiths and beliefs.  I wasn’t sure if I felt God in that circle, but I certainly felt a steadying and comforting energy as I shared that intimate moment with people who were otherwise just passerby’s in my life.

A year or so ago, I purchased an old church pew from a large, beautiful church in a small rural town in Maine.  The church had been sold and was being renovated into a mixed use space for the community.  I wandered the aisles of the church inspecting the pews, all of which were still affixed to the sanctuary floor, until I found the one that spoke to me.  Then, I brought it home.

The story about those pews in St. Paul’s church had stayed with me and I loved the idea of bringing something into my home that I think represents a part of what makes us great; the coming together for a shared purpose or passion.

For the last several weeks, we’ve been again watching as New York City, the current epicenter of the pandemic in the US, suffers.  This time though, we’ve been watching from our own communities that are also under siege and we can’t rush anywhere.  Not to one another, or to the places that feel familiar and safe.  We can’t congregate to hold one another up and together.

The comforting energy created when we are able to be together, that urge to connect with touch (a hug, a pat on the back, a handshake, a handhold) is palpable.  Our impulse to rush is as innate as breathing and in our most desperate moments we are, for each other, like those pews in St. Paul’s chapel; holding one another up, offering one another a place to rest.  Together, we help carry the weight of our collective grief and anger and we share our hope and joy.

This experience has left many, myself included, feeling disconnected and alone, even in homes where we aren’t technically alone.  I’m fortunate to be isolated with my husband and our son, for which, I am incredibly grateful.  But still, I miss the casual connections that tether us to community and the broader experience of being a human.  Right now, it feels as though my small family and I are an island of our own.  It feels tenuous, fragile.

In what was normal life, I am as introverted as a person can possibly be, but I have come to realize, in all this, how deeply connected to people I actually am.  How simple, natural, day to day interactions with strangers and friends and acquaintances and neighbors…. interactions I was never even fully cognizant were happening….have always been tiny little strings connecting me to an enormous community.  I’ve come to understand that although I have often said, I enjoy being alone, I need alone time….I have rarely been truly alone.

Of course, true to our nature, we are finding new and beautiful ways in all this to rush to one another, to hold one another up and together.  However, I don’t think anything can replace what happens when we are able to literally close the distance between us.

I hope that when this is over, we have a greater appreciation for one another in every way.  I hope we are softer and gentler and more patient.  I hope the slowing down of life gives us a fresh perspective about what it means to be alive and a part of something far greater than just ourselves.

I think it would be a shame if we simply fell right back into the exact same lives we lived before we were given this opportunity to stop and reflect.  Yes, opportunity.

Because I do think there is room, in all this madness, to consider that it includes a gift or two….

Is it just me, or is it starting to feel a little Hunger Games/Children of the Corn Out There?

Dr. Burt Stanton: I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with C.
Vicky Baxter: Corn.
~Children of the Corn

Not too long ago, like, last week, but I can’t be certain because time has ceased to be a tangible thing in my household….I was confusedly reading headlines that declared Trump wanted the country reopened and “raring to go” by Easter.

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I smell collusion….

Anyway, he seemed fixated on getting people back to work and church pews packed for Easter Sunday services, virus be damned, as he compared the Coronavirus to the seasonal flu and car accidents; “We lose thousands and thousands of people to the flu.”  He said.  “We don’t turn the country off.  We lose much more than that to automobile accidents.”

Of course, later, came the damage control.  “The President knew it was more wishful thinking than a realistic goal.”

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But the fact of the matter is that his words sends too confusing a message as we all struggle to make sense of what’s happening, what it all means for our families, our finances, our economy and how long it will last and even, how serious it is.

I’ll admit, we get tiny moments of what feels like real leadership from the man, but those moments are quickly followed by immature Tweets applauding his television ratings as though Covid-19, 2020 is the hot new show.

Would anyone like to bet that when this is over, he either Tweets, or says at a press conference: “Coronavirus.  You’re fired!”

Meanwhile, almost everyone else….medical experts, my state government, many other state governments and the leaders of other countries….are simultaneously directing people to PLEASE continue to stay home for the foreseeable future.  They are announcing extended school and non-essential business closures and stricter shelter in place/keep your ass at home, or so help me God, orders, etc.

Most everyone, that is, except for Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, who more or less said that grandparents, himself included, would totally be willing to die to save the economy.

Specifically, he was quoted as saying:  “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in. My message is that let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living.  Let’s be smart about it and those of us who are 70+, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.”

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I asked my in-laws who are self- quarantined in Florida who, pre-Coronavirus, were loving life as retirees after having worked and scrimped and saved their entire adult lives in order to be able to comfortably enjoy their golden years, if they were ready to be rounded up and dropped into a volcano or something….so that I can go back to experiencing Target the way God intended and not this, curbside pick-up, but only essentials, (none of which are fun) crap….to which they replied, more or less, “Fuck that.”  (I’m paraphrasing….they never say the F-word).

Personally, while I appreciate Dan Patrick’s willingness to take one for the team….I really do….I feel like he’s perhaps not thought this sacrifice all the way through.  By “take care of our ourselves” is he suggesting that all those who are elderly are planning to just go ahead and, like, die at home should they become ill?  Maybe, slink off like cats to die somewhere discreet and out of the way?

Because, I’m not sure it helps anyone for our elderly to take up that shitty death march if they are also going to want medical treatment as they go about the process of dying.  I mean, isn’t that one of the key points of social distancing at the moment?  To try and control/slow the spread of this disease so as not to completely topple our already overwhelmed healthcare system?  They need time to better understand this new disease, to create treatment protocols and, hopefully, a vaccine.

But as it stands, there isn’t enough PPE to go around, physicians and nurses and support staff are getting sick, some are also dying….and that’s with current social distancing guidelines in place and sort of being adhered to.  Imagine the crisis if we all just said, “Eh, I’m over this now.  Let’s go back to work!” 

And what about the millions who are not 70+, but who are undergoing cancer treatments, or people with underlying medical conditions, like my 8yo niece who has cystic fibrosis?  Are we saying, let’s go ahead and let nature takes its course?

I’m no economist, but a survival of the fittest, Hunger Games style approach to moving on doesn’t exactly seem like the best way to instill confidence among consumers.  Especially since it potentially means eliminating millions of them. Unless, our economy will now focus entirely on the production of Hazmat suits and face masks and THAT will be our new normal.

Instead of Lilly Pullitzer for Target shift dresses this summer, it’ll be Lily Pulitzer for Target full body bio suits and for the rich, Louis Vuitton face masks.

I feel like Kanye West already has a leg up on that idea with his Yeezy line, no?  Maybe he is some sort of profit after all?

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Vanity Fair

Fortunately though, it appears that our fearless, orange leader has walked back his Easter goal. His most recent statements and his recommendations regarding the extension of social distancing guidelines suggest he’s no longer got the date of the Biblical resurrection in mind for America’s economic resurrection.

I’ve read it’s because his advisors told him his statements weren’t doing him any favors toward re-election, but I bet it was really because someone thought about it for a second and said, “Oh shit Mr. President, you do realize that the majority of our political leaders, THE PATRIARCHY, are all old, white guys, right?  If we start to go, all that remains are surviving minorities and women and those damn, ambitious millennials.”

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 (Yes, millennials, all this rhetoric about them being the one’s hosting Coronavirus parties and drinking from communal beer bongs on Spring Break is misplaced….it’s Gen Z you want).

Maybe it’s not such a bad way to drain the swamp, actually….do a little reset?  Seems that Gen Z would be all in.

While the Boomers are busy yelling at the Millennials to stay home….and the Millennials are like, “Shut it Boomer, I’ve got four kids and a mountain of student loan debt and I’m always at home because I have no money and it’s all your fault,”….and the Gen-Xers, like myself, the OG latch-key kids, are currently reliving our childhoods; home, bored and forgotten….Gen Z are like the Children of the Corn, or maybe, Quarn….

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A large percentage don’t seem to give a crap about the rest of us, as they flaunt their possibly super-powered immune systems at Coronavirus themed parties with DJ’s and bartenders, while the rest of us are opening our mail with tweezers and sanitizing our groceries with black market Purell and trying to figure out how to build decontamination chambers in our garages.

They just shrug and say, “I’m not giving up a $10.50 flight to Toledo….gotta Spring Break somewhere!” 

It seems no matter how we implore them to please, for the sake of nana, STAY HOME.  They seem to be saying, “Screw nana, what’s she done for me, except destroy the planet?”  

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I’m afraid that if we don’t figure this out soon, our first female president may end up being Kylie Jenner and most of us won’t get to vote, because we don’t know how to use Snapchat.

I’m sure the parents of these little Isaacs and Malachis are doing their best. Quite frankly, it’s unfair that these “kids” are too old to ground, but not old enough to be kicked off parental provided health insurance, but I don’t know what the answer is.

However, I did read an article yesterday, an April Fools’ Day prank, but still….that suggested a possible solution.

The gist of the joke was that in Greece, the PM had turned over the power of enforcing quarantines and issuing permits for approved outings to the women of Greece….in response to the announcement, a “Petros Kakavas” from Peristeri, Athens was quoted as saying, “I don’t know if I will ever see the light of day.”

Because, ladies like this, mean business….

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I have a friend who is Italian.  His nonna is about the closest I’ve ever come to knowing a mob boss.  She isn’t literally a mob boss, but she seems to instill the same amount of fear.  One DOES NOT disobey nonna.

Perhaps this is what we need?  All those culturally stereotypically mean moms and grandma’s out there, slapping these little bastards around.  It could work…something has to give, right?

Stay sane and stay home, folks….or, at least, stay home.

 

We Can Be Hero’s….

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”
~Maya Angelou

I, like I imagine most of the rest of the world, have been watching closely as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our world.  Over the last several weeks, I’ve been skeptical and scared and confused and frustrated and amused and hopeful and curious….all of the feelings.

My stomach has been in knots and my anxiety has been on full alert and I’ve imagined men in black and conspiracies and government “doctors” and secret quarantines and people disappearing without a trace and Putin as Voldemort….I don’t know, I feel like it’s totally plausible.

I’ve found myself diving down rabbit holes created by various media reports, social media posts (shamefully) and our current administration and the governments of other countries.

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And no, I don’t really believe in all the places my brain has taken me.  I think it’s just my minds way of trying to understand and explain this series of events for which we have no prior experience.

At times, I’ve felt as though this really can’t possibly be happening.  It seems so surreal; like a movie.  Only, it’s not exactly the way I imagined an apocalypse of sorts would go down.  Am I really being told to just, like, Netflix and chill for the foreseeable future?  I had always imagined there would be a lot less electricity and a lot more Spam.  Toilet paper and hand sanitizer weren’t the commodities I thought we’d all be hoarding….but alas, here we are.  To be clear, however, this is apocalypse enough for me.  I’m not complaining.

And while I may be losing my shit a bit, I am trying really hard not to be an asshole about it.  I am not among those with a six-year supply of toilet paper and a lifetime, plus twenty years worth, of hand sanitizer.

A few weeks ago, when things started to get weird, I took inventory of our supplies like dry goods, the food in our freezer and yes, of course, our TP situation, and then made my way to the store to purchase what I thought would be necessary to carry my family through the early days of a quarantine, assuming that, along the way, I would be able to continue to have some degree of access to these items; through online ordering, or perhaps, authority controlled trips to the grocery store.  I did not, however, bargain for the Matt and Noah Colvin’s of the world.

A few days ago, I was scrolling through the news and I came across an article published by the New York Times about a guy with 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and “nowhere to sell them.” 

The image accompanying the article was of Matt Colvin, an Amazon merchant, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Family Man, Family Business,” looking downtrodden as he stood among his hoard of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes.

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The New York Times

 

According to the article, the day after the first U.S. death connected with the COVID-19 virus was announced, Family Man, Matt and his brother, Noah, set off in an SUV and commenced clearing the shelves of hand sanitizer from Walmart, Dollar Tree, Home Depot and Staples in Chattanooga, TN.

Then, over the next three days, brother Noah Colvin embarked on a 1300 mile road trip throughout Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling up a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and antibacterial cleansing wipes he purchased from any retailer he could find with stock to sell.

Meanwhile, Family Man Matt stayed home, preparing for the arrival of pallets of even more sanitizer and wipes he’d ordered online, while also getting to work listing the bounty on Amazon.  According to Family Man, Matt, he listed 300 bottles of sanitizer that quickly sold for between $8 and $70 each; “crazy money.”    

But then, the next day, Amazon pulled his items, along with thousands of other listings from other Amazon merchants who were also selling sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and face masks at huge mark-ups’s leaving poor Family Man, Matt with a boat-load of much needed resources and seemingly no solution to be thunk up.

He was quoted as saying, “It’s been a huge amount of whiplash.  From being in a situation where what I’ve got coming and going could potentially put my family in a really good place financially to ‘What the heck am I going to do with all of this?’”

I read that and thought, Um, how about you and your douche-bag brother start returning it all to the stores you wiped out so that your neighbors, the parents of your children’s friends, their teachers, nursing home staff, your local medical providers and the emergency medical personnel within that 1300 mile radius you two morally bankrupt scumbags pillaged, can access those much needed supplies?

To be fair, Amazon and other retailers also increased their own prices on supplies in the wake of the pandemic….(REALLY Jeff Bezos….REALLY?)….though not to the same extent.

Still, according to the article, it wasn’t until consumers and regulators applied pressure that any of these companies chose to crack down on the way their merchants were capitalizing on the fear and desperation of people DURING A FUCKING INTERNATIONAL PANDEMIC.  In fact, until then, businesses like Amazon and Ebay profited from their merchants behavior via the percentages they took from those sales.

Moving forward, I will wipe my ass with my own hand before I order a thing from Amazon.

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Shortly after the article was published, Matt Colvin “donated” his stockpile of supplies as the attorney general’s office in Tennessee began investigating him for price gouging.  The  national backlash the Colvin’s apparently received from the public was swift and incredibly harsh.  While I don’t believe the death threats were appropriate, he’s otherwise getting what he deserves.

Sadly, Family Man, Matt isn’t the only one out there hoarding supplies and trying to profit off the suffering of others, he was just the only one dumb enough to be the spokesperson for the Scrooge McJerk-Off Union.

But, casting aside the trash, I believe that in the midst of all of this, there is an opportunity for greatness.  In gestures both large and small, we all have the chance to be a beacon of light in all this dark.

Lean into your communities.  Support your local small businesses as best you can.  These are often the businesses that sponsor your kids little league teams and donate to a wide variety of fundraisers benefiting your schools and the community as a whole.  If you can’t afford to spend any money at the moment, you can still show some love by promoting them across your social media.

Stay engaged in productive conversations with your neighbors on your community social media pages.  I know these groups often come with a few curmudgeons, trolls and self-righteous know-it-alls, BUT, if you can weed through the BS there is a lot of good to be found, including a wide range of opportunities to be of service to people and groups in need.

Start a donation pile.  That closet, garage, play room, etc., you keep saying you want to purge and organize, here’s your chance.  Toys and games that you no longer need, could be a welcomed gift for another family in your community right now.


If you have too much, give it back.  Take it back to the stores directly, or make care packages for your neighbors, in particular, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.  Or, donate extra supplies to the agencies in your area that are in desperate need.  Especially medical supplies like masks and latex gloves.  We can’t afford to lose our health care professionals to this illness, but we will if they can’t do their jobs safely.

I recently read that many health care professionals are reusing personal protective equipment they would have discarded between patients, but at this point, it’s reuse it, or go in with nothing.  WTF, America, that can’t be the solution.

Unless you have a legitimate reason for needing a stockpile of masks and those 4,000 pairs of latex gloves in all the sizes (and BTW fear is not a legitimate reason) you have no business hoarding them….doing so is, quite literally, killing the team.


Be the good.  There are so many ways to do good things in this world that won’t cost you anything but a little bit of your time.  And right now, time is pretty much all we’ve got.

Do something that makes another human smile, or laugh, or leaves the earth a little bit better than you found it.

Write a letter to a grandparent, a friend….not an email, an actual letter.

Leave a book review for an author you love, or a local small business.

Go to a local park, or a hiking trail and pick up the trash.

Pray….to whoever, or whatever you believe in.  I happen to think it helps, but regardless,    it certainly can’t hurt.

Share your talents.  If you’re a writer, write.  If you’re a musician, play.  Sing, draw, paint.  You don’t have to be famous to create and share content.

Let your significant other breakdown.  Let your kids breakdown.  Let yourself breakdown.  Let it be and then let it pass.

Say thank you!  There are so many people working tirelessly to treat patients, gather supplies for those in need and keep our stores as stocked as possible.  They too have the well-being of themselves and their own loved ones to think about.

My dad works for a truck-stop chain as a shop manager.  His role is considered essential because of the fueling needs and tractor-trailer repairs that are necessary for truck drivers to keep goods moving throughout our county.  My dad’s in his 60’s now and he’s had a number of health complications over the years, including serious cardiac related issues.  He’s among those most at risk for developing serious/fatal complications should he contract COVID-19, but right now, he’s “healthy,” so off to work he goes.

Acknowledge these folks.  The work they are doing is very much holding our communities and country together at the moment.

And if nothing else, just simply do whatever is being asked of you by the authorities and experts who are desperately trying to get us back to some semblance of normalcy.


Find the Good.  Every day my 8yo sits down at the computer to doodle with Mo Willems.  If you’ve never heard of him, he is, among other things, an award winning and best-selling, children’s book author.

For 30 minutes each day, Mr. Willems talks and draws with the kids who are watching. He gently guides them through the days doodle, while sharing information about his characters and his career as a writer and illustrator.  At the end of each session, he reads and answers questions that kids send in via email.

For my son, this has been THE COOLEST.  For as long as he’s been able to articulate the desire, my son has talked of being a writer.  He has dozens of notebooks in which he’s written out short stories with illustrations.  He loves to read and for him, he is in awe of his favorite authors in the way other kids might be in awe of professional athletes, musicians, actors.

My son looks forward to his 30 minutes with Mo every day.  His face lights up and he carefully follows along and then proudly shows me his work and tells me all the things he learned during the session.  “Did you know that Mo worked on Sesame Street?”  “Did you know he made up stories when he was a little kid, just like I do?”

It’s an incredible gift Mo Willems is giving, really.  He certainly doesn’t have to, but he’s showing up.  He’s one of the lights.

And there are more!

Museums and Zoos are offering virtual tours of their exhibits.  Actors and teachers and writers and musicians are reading stories for kids online.  Chefs are hosting online cooking classes.  Trainers and gyms are offering online workouts.  Musicians are live streaming “concerts” from their homes.

And yes, I know, these things aren’t available to all.  They require the luxury of a computer, or a tablet or a cell phone.  You need internet, or a cellular connection and not everyone has the privilege of having those things.

So….


Share the Good.  If you are among those able to continue working from home, if you aren’t facing a disruption in your pay and if you have a little to give, then find an organization that is helping to ease the hardships others are facing and make a donation.    There is no such thing as too small a financial gift.

Show up in whatever way you can.

We belong to each other.

Let’s be hero’s.

Wild Potato Chip Bags….

“Don’t be afraid to walk alone.  Don’t be afraid to like it.”
~John Mayer

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be heading out for my annual trek on the Appalachian Trail.

If you’ve been following the news of late, you might have heard a lot about the trail recently.  Sadly, two hikers were attacked on a section in Virginia this past Saturday.  One of the victims, a 43-year-old military veteran named Robert S. Sanchez, was killed.

Deaths along the trail are rare, and killings even rarer; two to three million people from all over the world, hike all or part of the trail annually, yet Saturday’s murder was only the 10th in the last 45 years.

And yes, I understand that’s of small comfort to those who know and love the victims.

My heart breaks for them and their family and friends.  And it breaks for the trail too.  I know that probably sounds strange, but there is just something about taking a long walk on a dirt path that’s so very good for the soul.

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I’ve been section hiking the trail for the last 5 years.  Not continuously, of course, but in sections.

There are a few ways one can endeavor to hike the trail.  You can thru-hike….which means you start at either the northern or southern end and go all the way….2,190 miles through 14 states, stopping at intervals to resupply, shower, wash clothes, etc.

You could slack pack….which is a thru-hike with a twist.  Slack packers carry a small backpack with a day’s worth of supplies.  They hike (some run) a bunch of miles from a designated starting point to a designated stop on the trail, where a car is waiting to transport the hiker to a meal and a bed….and then back to the trail to pick up where she left off, and repeat….day after day….until completed.

Or, you can section-hike the trail….like me, completing chunks of the trail over a series of backpacking trips until you’ve pieced all the sections together and completed the whole thing….it can take years.

No matter how you experience it though, it’s an experience worth having.  I love the trail.

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Sunset, Mt. Killington Summit, Vermont

I love the people you meet on the trail….fellow hikers and wanderers from all walks of life; the ridge runners, caretakers and the people who live along the trail and are often eager to provide a little trail magic to those who amble past.

Like, the cookie lady who leaves out plates of fresh baked cookies for passing hikers.

And Jim Tabor, a trail maintainer in Pennsylvania who leaves hand-carved, wooden spoons along the trail.

And the caretakers at Upper Goose Pond cabin in Massachusetts who make pancakes every morning for hikers who stay the night.

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Upper Goose Pond Cabin, Massachusetts

I love that you can feel totally comfortable taking food from a stranger you meet on the trail….or bunking down next to one in a tent or a shelter.

I love snuggling up in my sleeping bag at night….cozy in the confines of my tent….reading by the light of my headlamp….or simply lying there and listening to the varied sounds of the woods at night.

I love how people are happy to connect and share a bit about themselves and their own journey’s around pots of trail food and campfires.

I love how, inevitably, the conversation almost always turns to gear and pack weight and how I learn something new from a fellow hiker every time I venture out.

I love the huge sense of accomplishment I feel after conquering a particularly difficult section of trail….and how grounded and centered and confident I feel from having lived for days in the wilderness carrying everything I needed to survive on my back.

I love that I miss it when I leave it.

I love the natural beauty of the trail, its history and the stories of the many unique individuals who have hiked it.

People like Earl Shaffer, a World War II veteran, who, in 1948, told friends he was going to “walk off the war” and became the first known person to thru-hike the trail from end to end.  His journey has inspired dozens of other military veterans struggling with PTSD.

Emma “Grandma” Gatewood was the first woman to thru-hike the trail solo in 1955….at the age of 67 and wearing a pair of Keds sneakers.

At the time of her journey, Emma was divorced, having survived a 33 year marriage, during which she was often savagely beaten.  She later said that when her husband became violent, she would run from the house into the woods, where she found peace and solitude.

One day, she told her grown children she was going for a walk….and then she completed the AT.

She hiked the trail again five years later at the age of 72….and again at the age of 75.  She was the first to hike the trail three times.

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Emma “Grandma” Gatewood

In 1990, Bill Irwin was the first blind person to hike the trail.  He relied solely on his guide dog, Orient, as he ascended mountains and forded rivers.  A recovering alcoholic who turned to religion in his sobriety, Mr. Irwin once said the first bible verse he learned was from Corinthians: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”   Not long after, he decided that an AT hike would serve as a powerful example of living his faith.

In 2016, a group of 40 thru-hikers carried a pair of size 13 boots known simply as “Paul’s Boots,” the entire length of the trail.  Each hiker carried the boots for hundreds of miles before passing them off to the next hiker waiting to take Paul along on the walk.

Paul was an Australian who had dreamed of hiking the trail, but never got the chance.  He died of a heart-attack in July, 2015 at the age of 53; leaving behind a packed backpack and three pairs of polished hiking boots.

His wife wrote a letter to Paul’s favorite podcast, “Dirtbag Diaries” hoping that perhaps someone might be able to take a pair of Paul’s boots out onto the trail, just for a picture, but the trail community did far more than that.

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Paul’s Boots on the top of Mt. Katahdin, Maine. End of the trail.

I don’t know that I will ever attempt a thru-hike.  I’m not sure it’s my style. I earned my trail name, Mosey (yes, we take on trail names which are typically bestowed upon us by another hiker), because that’s the way I hike the trail.  I mosey.

It’s not unusual for me to plan my hikes based on a campsite I want stay at, or a particularly beautiful overlook where I might like to hang-out for an afternoon and read a book, bird-watch, or just simply sit awhile.

One afternoon, I was sitting on a large rock in a small river, soaking my feet, reading a book and having some lunch, when a thru-hiker I had been crossing paths with off and on for days stopped and said, “You really do just mosey along, don’t ya?  That’s your trail name, kiddo, Mosey.”    

I’m not concerned with crushing the big miles.  I’m not racing the change in seasons.  I have the luxury of time on my hikes and so I try and absorb every step of it.

But don’t get me wrong.  Thru-hikers are beasts!  It takes a significant amount of grit and fortitude to tough it out and that, in and of itself, is it’s own special journey.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to complete a section with my dad.  He filled a chunk of my childhood with memories of long hikes in state parks, canoe trips down winding rivers, bike rides along abandoned railroad beds, fishing from small, tucked away ponds only my dad seemed to know about, long drives on rural, country roads, camping and boating.

It was from my dad that I developed a deep love, appreciation and respect for the outdoors.

“Never do this.”  My dad would often to say to my brother and I as he stooped to pick up a discarded wrapper, bottle, or can tossed along a trail.  “Never litter.”

“Why?” My brother and I would ask when we were young.

“Because….it turns wild.”  My dad would say.  “Haven’t you ever come across a wild potato chip bag?”

“No!”  My brother and I would exclaim, wide-eyed.  “What do they do?”  

“Ooh, they are vicious!”  My dad would say.

Thanks to my dad, over the years, the outdoors became a peaceful sanctuary and a trusted friend, where I love to disappear as often as possible with a book in hand….or my husband and our little one in tow….to spend hours happily embraced by the woods or a mountain….exploring a new trail, rock-hopping across a stream, or just quietly sitting and watching as my son explores the abundance of rocks and trees and sticks and flowers.

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Since the terrible tragedy that occurred this past Saturday, I have been getting dozens of texts and social media tags from concerned family and friends with links to the articles.

“Are you still going this year?”  They ask.  “Aren’t you afraid?”

And the answer is, “Yes, I’m still going and no, I’m not afraid.”

It has saddened and frustrated me to hear and read the commentary from people who are shouting things like, “Well, of course this happened!  They were out in the WOODS, with STRANGERS!”  

When, in reality, it was among the safest places they could be.

Safer than getting into an Uber.

Safer than walking through a major city.

Safer than attending any large scale public event (concerts, movies, marathons, etc.)

Safer than going for a jog through most neighborhoods….

What happened is not a reflection of the trail or the hiking community, and it would be a shame if it scared people away from the experience, but I don’t think it will.

I think now, more than ever, those of us who love the trail and are drawn to the adventure, will hike on.

What a waste it would be if we didn’t.

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Calm TF Down Keira….

“Its all about perfection, isn’t it?” ~Keira Knightley

Earlier this week, while perusing the internet in search of news that didn’t suck, I came across an article about a series of essays written for a book called, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies).

The book is a compilation of pieces written by a variety of women, from teenage activists to actresses; among them, Keira Knightley….I assume best known for her role in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

The essay written by Keira is called “The Weaker Sex.”  In it, Keira writes about her own experience with childbirth and then goes on to crap all over Kate Middleton.

In a book about feminism….

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When describing her own experiences with child birth, Keira writes about her vagina splitting open and her daughter being handed to her covered in blood and vernix and all the screaming, followed by the all the feeding and the shit and the vomit, etc., etc.

Now, I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 22 weeks pregnant.  My water broke at home six weeks before my due date and I arrived at the hospital wearing a Spiderman night time diaper that belonged to my step-daughter (she didn’t do princesses).

Because I was on a blood thinner as a result of clotting in my subclavian vein that had been caused by the ginormous mass that had taken up residence in my chest, I wasn’t able to get an epidural until the medication was no longer in my system; unless I wanted a spinal hematoma and I don’t know, that didn’t sound fun.  Not that my doctors were willing to take the risk anyway.

“No problem!”  Everyone told me.  “This is your first, it always takes awhile with your first.  You’ll have plenty of time for the feel good stuff before you have to start to push.”

Except, my son had other ideas.  He was ready and I had no choice but to push him out au natural.  At one point, I heard a loud popping sound and I asked, “What was that?”  

It was my tailbone….cracking.

So yeah, I get it, having a baby isn’t easy and I thought, Right on, sister.  I hear ya. 

But then, Keira started writing about Kate.  Now, let me first say this.  This isn’t a love letter to the monarchy.  I don’t get the whole British Monarchy thing.  What’s the point of being the Queen of England, if Queen Elizabeth can’t demand, “Off with her head!”  when it comes to Meghan Markle’s half-sister who won’t shut up.

Still, for whatever reason….I’m sure there is one….the monarchy is still a thing and the entire planet is apparently fascinated by the British Royal family.

These people can’t even fart without someone being around to exploit audio of it.  Their facial expressions, clothing choices, romantic relationships, family squabbles, funerals, weddings, child births, manicures, pedicures (or lack there of), are dissected and reported on daily.

So it seemed an odd sort comparison for Keira to make when, after describing her own childbirth, she segued (I had no idea that was how that word is actually spelled) to Kates.

Sure, they are both famous.

But, c’mon.

There is famous and then there is, if you so much as sneeze and a booger flies out, the entire world is going to see it….in high definition and with incredible detail….famous.

About Kate, Keira writes, “We stand and watch the TV screen. She [Kate] was out of hospital seven hours later with her face made up and high heels on. The face the world wants to see.”

Ok, yes, this happened.  Kate gave birth and then she exited the hospital, seven hours later, and she looked great.  But it’s not as though the birth didn’t happen, or that the experience of Kates labor and delivery was not every bit as emotional and raw as it is for any other woman.

And quite frankly, I think Kate got the shit end of the stick in a lot of ways.

Maybe she would have liked to have remained in the hospital for a few days post birth to rest and bond with her newborn.  But for every day she remained, I guarantee the throngs of reporters and “fans” waiting to catch a glimpse of her and the baby, would not have lessened.

Maybe she chose to leave when she did, because in doing so, it would eliminate the crowds gathered around the hospital as quickly as possible; allowing other mothers to  make their way to the hospital, settle in and have their loved ones come to visit without the crowds and the noise and the chaos encircling it.

And if she hadn’t, she would have been ripped to shreds for being selfish and self-centered.  Damned if you do, damned it you don’t.

Keira goes on to write, “Hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging. Look beautiful. Look stylish, don’t show your battleground, Kate. Seven hours after your fight with life and death, seven hours after your body breaks open, and bloody, screaming life comes out. Don’t show. Don’t tell. Stand there with your girl and be shot by a pack of male photographers.”

Um, how should she have exited the hospital?   In a pair of sweat pants, or hospital scrubs with her breasts leaking milk?

Why should she be called upon, postpartum, to expose that part of herself, so intimately private, as a fuck you to the patriarchy?  I’m sorry, but that’s bull shit.

So, Kate put on a nice dress and she looked beautiful and she stood on the steps of that hospital for a moment, approximately one minute and thirty-seconds (I looked it up) and she gave what the world was going to take from her regardless.  But she chose to control the ONE thing she could in that moment; her appearance.  Christ, give the woman a break.

And yes, it’s not a realistic portrayal of what its like for the everywoman, but HELLO! Nothing about her life is what its like for the everywoman.

She is referred to as “Her Royal Highness” without a trace of snark.  She has castles….plural.  She wears tiaras, and not the kind you buy at Party City for a Bachelorette Party.  One day, she’ll be the Queen of England.

The average woman, relates to none of that.  In fact, the average woman doesn’t exactly relate to Keira Knightley either.

Want to know how many times I’ve been airbrushed on the cover of a magazine, in a leather blazer and underwear, three months after giving birth?  Zero.  Zero times.  I’ve never even been asked, if you can believe it.

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Cover of Elle Magazine….the Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Sorry, sweetie, but you can’t call out one woman for acting out the same play you are, only on a bigger stage, and call it feminism.