New Data Just In!

We interrupt our irregularly scheduled programming to bring you this week-old breaking — or at least actively trying to break things — news.

Actually, it’s been a day over a week now, but 8-day-old news just doesn’t flow the way week-old does. Data has been accruing for over 6 weeks now. Or seven? Those formerly supervising the whole project affirm a startup date of March 1st … which they insist was over 7 weeks ago. The calendar confirms those folks are worse with linear time than I am. (At least in this case. Could be a pandemically exacerbated or induced chronological disorder?)

So, last week we adopted a Great Pyrenees mix puppy, after his mother’s sudden death. Nearly 3 years ago we adopted a small, black, cute but funny looking, pughuahua* at age 5.5 weeks, when her mother rejected the runt. After weaning The Artist formerly known as Super Puppy Draymond,* I declared we would never again adopt a puppy so young, but that’s exactly what we did with big, white, classically adorable Data. Apparently, we are in our puppies with mommy abandonment issues phase.

Creamy white Pyrenees puppy lying on left side with right frontpaw tucked under chin, looking at camera
He is so very soft!

I now present Data, pronounced day-tah, like the Star Trek TNG character.** Other similarities to the fictional android: he looks white, but he’s also got a creamy, pale yellowish tint — way more attractive than it sounds. While he is friendly and wants to fit in, he is hilariously awkward. His strength and ability to take a fall are impressive. An intrepid explorer, he is generally calm, yet emotionally immature. Even when he’s being really annoying, it is impossible to not be in love with him.

We are a family of D’s: The dogs are Duke, Draymond, and Data; plus Daddy and I’m Deb. (Dogs prefer Deb to Mom. Remember those aforementioned mommy issues?) Data has already earned a few nicknames: Mr. Big, Soft Paws, Whitey Bargers [right in], Young Sheldon Chewbacca.^

For you First Contact fans: Yes, I totally feel as though I am the Borg Queen when yelling Data! in moments of urgency, such as when Mr. Big is chewing on an electrical cord or furniture or lamp or window still. Sorry, my guy, teething rings arriving soon; now, stop gnawing on the wall!

Now, for the autoimmune angle. May 31st is our eldest dog Duke’s 14th birthday. And I think Data might just help him make the party! Duke was diagnosed with Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis back in 2011. He’s had some rough spots in 2021. There are no guarantees, and while I have had more than one thought of am I healthy enough for (this) exercise, I clearly see the positive impact of Data on old man Duke’s health. On the other old man, too, minus the bite marks. And Draymond, Data’s currently same-sized play partner. And tired, but happy me. He is so soft!!^^

Creamy white Great Pyrenees puppy sits on cluttered table with head  cocked to his right, looking at camera.
Young Master Data ponders the mixed messages about his being on the table.
Bust of android Data in uniform, head tilted down to his right, looking at camera. Skin has yellow tint.
Lt. Commander Data of the Starship Enterprise considers getting his ass off the cluttered table as well.🤓

*Also known as Chug, Draymond is half Pug, half Chihuahua. We will celebrate her 3rd birthday May 1st. At 6 weeks I could hold her in one hand! Read about The Duchess Draymond Pugbelly’s first 3 years on her Facebook blog at MyUglyPuppy.

**Star Trek: The Next Generation — starring Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Series began with a god-like nemesis called Q, short for Q Continuum — no Anon. Q is omniscient and omnipotent and usually took the form of actor John de Lancie, across franchises. And yet again!

^ Yes, I be mixing my Starry Wars and Treks! O, forsook! Yeah, no. Like Chewie, our Data has a very unique growl. And whine. And combo. Whrowl?

^^ There is a joke to be made about hard data v. soft data, but I can feel the brain fog rolling in on big cat paws … much like our new puppy’s paws!

Creamy white Pyrenees puppy lies on right side, left rear paw lifted too widetoo wide open mouth as if singing. Caption reads: I sing a song of love.
As if you have never pretended your hand is a microphone!

HaiKoo TooLooRahLay

Haiku adjacent
Poetically inclined
No rhyme nor reason

Vertigo without nausea?
I’ll take some of that.
Overnight shipping, please. Thanks.

I don’t often eat fried chicken
But when I do
I eat it with my hands

You won’t let me use yours

A disease, it is
Migraine, not just a headache Chronic … a lifestyle

Not a choice lifestyle
Events neurological
Fill my calendar

Bright lights and colors
Music only I can hear
Soon this too shall pass

Soon…
This shall pass
And yet it remains
Part of me
Now

The Full Wolf Moon over Albuquerque, New Mexico on 28 January 2021. Photography by Jeff Hartzer.

Falling in Love Again … with the Same Old Guy

Over a year of “quarantine” together can really test a relationship, even after 35 years of committed coupledom through better and worse. Recently, the man has presented me with the opportunity to feel the love — instead of/more than the irritation.

I guess I won’t kill him just yet.

1. He declared a gorgeous Black woman stunning! Very early on, he told me he didn’t find Black women attractive. Was nearly a deal-breaker for me, despite knowing of the bigoted environment of his childhood(+), coupled with our collective culture that doesn’t honor Black women for their beauty. And brains. Et cetera.

2. In a calm and loving voice he clearly explained to our younger dog, age 2 years and 11 months, why she should abandon her efforts to widen the hole she started under the couch cushion. Though she looked as if she understood him as well as a toddler, she has, in fact, stopped attacking the couch.

3. He is very excited that our vehicle is destined to be on screen, clearly — maybe even prominently — in a season 6 episode of Better Call Saul. He is practically ecstatic that he’s been involved in 1 or 2 episodes each of seasons 2–6 of BCS. Below is a still of him in action on the tee-vee.

4. He started watching the movie Queen & Slim without me and loved it so much he knew he had to hold off watching more until we could enjoy it together. (Film is amazing, intense, and possibly best enjoyed with a loved one.)

5. While reflecting on Easter holidays, he said, “I was severely Catholic as a kid.” Now we can’t stop playing with Severely Catholic. Band name? Clothing line? Dog-training method? Pasta sauce!

Foreground: busts of 2 major characters talking face to face. Between them is a red arrow pointing to a fuzzy image of a person in the background, features indistinguishable.
That’s my man under the big, red arrow. So handsome!

Am I Not a Woman?

I think I am a woman. Therefore, I am not a man?

Are those the only possibilities?

It’s International Women’s Day, people! How shall we celebrate?

Remember that nursery rhyme about girls being made of sugar and spice and everything nice and boys of snips and snails and puppy dog tails? (What is a “snip” in this context? Sounds like a cute but annoying magical critter from Harry Potter’s world.)

I resented the bejeezus out of that poem as a kid. I did not want to be defined as everything nice! I kinda identified as a tomboy, but that term didn’t make sense to my precocious self. Shouldn’t it be tomgirl? Either way, it didn’t really capture how I felt. I liked being a girl. I just didn’t like trying to fit into other people’s idea of what a girl should be.

(Also, what’s up with nursery rhymes and disembodied animal tails? Three blind mice lose theirs to a knife-wielding madwoman and puppy dogs have to sacrifice their tails to the formula for human boys? Mother Goose is a freak!*)

I am a cisgender, straight/hetero woman who firmly believes in and advocates for equal rights for all. I believe transgender and non-binary folks are the ones to dictate how they identify and wish to be known. (Goes for everyone, really.) I have no trouble respecting their wishes. Which is not to say I haven’t messed up a few times. I have. And, yes, I do still stumble occasionally over they/them/their in reference to an individual. Nowadays, mostly when reading. Progress — one awkward step after another. Awkwardness is a small price to pay in order to convey respect, to honor people for who they are, just as they are.

There is a new app designed to help “people who menstruate” track their periods. Some folks are incensed over this wording. Supposedly, not because women are people, but because, in the objectors’ opinions, only women menstruate. And get pregnant and give birth. (And endure endometriosis and undergo hysterectomies. Relish the joys of menopause…) These people feel threatened by non-cis folks, particularly by trans women.* Somehow, if society recognizes them for who they are and stops discriminating against them, they will not only no longer be marginalized, they will rise up, abuse cis-women, and roll back women’s rights to the early 20th Century. Or worse. (And worse?)

This kind of backlash against recognition of non-cisgender identities is not new. Last year JK Rowling* went public with her anti-trans thoughts that, among other things, only women menstruate; if allowed access, transgender women would threaten the safety (and sanctity?) of same-sex spaces such as women’s restrooms and changing rooms; and that all transgender persons should undergo extensive psychiatric testing and analysis before being permitted to transition — as in days of yore. Ah, 2020!

Sadly, none of her reactionary thinking is new. The only thing new here is that transgender people are gaining acceptance and progress is being made in ensuring their rights. Over 20 years ago(!) I listened to a group of women trot out fear-based, anti-trans ideas like Rowling’s to justify their policy of limiting participants for their women-only retreat to “women born as women.” Among the organizers were a couple self-described radical lesbians who were —how shall I put it — not fans of men. (I was a hired entertainer and had no say in the matter.) Their belief was that a person born (biologically) male, even one fully transitioned to female, could never shake the male privilege bestowed upon him by society. He/she* had the lived experience of a man for most of life so far, which colored his/her future as a so-called woman. Women at the retreat would not feel safe — maybe not be safe — with such people around.

Many of the women attending the retreat had been victimized by men in various ways. Some had been victimized by women. Some of us lucky born female types, by both sexes. I have yet to meet a person who has been physically or sexually assaulted by a transgender person. I do, however, know one person who was emotionally abused by a trans person. Which to me is a weird kind of progress. One’s gender identity or sexual orientation or race or religion or lack thereof (the list goes on) does not erase the possibility of being an abusive jerk. Or worse. Or better. Even much better.

By the time of the women’s retreat mentioned above, I had had the pleasure of meeting several gender non-conforming people, including persons born with indeterminate or otherwise unusual sex organs. All of them had experienced discrimination and most had survived more than one kind of abuse. In the years since, I have met several more such persons and all have had experiences of discrimination and some have endured abuse as well. Some of those experiences have been in women’s and men’s restrooms and locker rooms. That trans women were victimized in women-only spaces did not surprise me. As a woman, I have never felt all that safe in such spaces. Not only because I have seen Carrie and Mean Girls, but because my body and womanhood have been picked over and negatively assessed by other females in such spaces since puberty and I was once physically assaulted by a gang of teenage white girls for not knowing my place. As it is, little more than convention prevents a man, looking and feeling like a man, from entering a women’s restroom. Obviously female as I am, I have mistakenly entered a men’s restroom twice. Both times I found myself inside a urinal-lined facility, I apologized emphatically while making a hasty exit, flabbergasted at how easy it was to blithely go through the wrong door!

In justifying her anti-trans position last year, JK Rowling disclosed that she has been a victim of domestic abuse and sexual assault. In Rowling’s reasoning, this history that she shares with so many women is why she so fervently advocates for “safe” same-sex spaces. And thus, those efforts are to protect women and further the cause of women’s rights, as opposed to seeking to deny transgender persons their rights. (Or to police who is and is not truly a transgender woman.) In my opinion, Rowling’s position does disservice to women, men, and transgender people. Yes, women have a long history of being abused by men. In that history there is no such thing as a truly safe place. (Sorry, but that’s just factual.) It is also true that men are not the only abusers and women not the only victims. Awareness of the problem has grown, women have learned how to protect themselves, ensure their rights, and lead the effort (with many men and gender nonconforming folks working with them) to prevent such abuses, and the societal issues that often factor in to them, from occurring. In other words, I feel Rowling’s position, similar to the anti-trans policy of the retreat organizers, pits women against men, and sacrifices transgender people’s rights in the name of promoting the illusion of a safe and loving sisterhood of the female sex. A sisterhood that embraces menstruation, the “miracle” of birth, and a rather fragile view of femininity.

My celebration of womanhood need not narrowly define woman by bodily functions like menstruation. Nor do I need to blame “others” for what has befallen women over the years. I don’t need to have enemies to get ahead. The ongoing fight for women’s rights, healthcare, pay equity, and against domestic and sexual violence will not be diluted by including others. Quite the contrary, the more the merrier and stronger. In fact there is a lesson here in past women’s movements excluding more marginalized groups (usually fellow women) for fear of weakening the effort, only to regret it later. People’s rights are not a limited resource. A transgender person enjoying their rights does not do so at the expense of any of my rights as a woman.

And just in case it needs to be said, the idea that a transgender woman is nothing more than male privilege in women’s clothing, hormones, and maybe genitalia, is a profound misunderstanding of who transgender women are.

Yes, some people menstruate. Most of those folks are women, born as such. But not all. And some women don’t menstruate — and never did. Born with clear female genitalia but no uterus, for example. Or cancerous ovaries removed before puberty. I rather envy them. I haven’t menstruated since I was 36, when a surgeon liberated me from my uterus. (I almost wrote the uterus, but it was definitely mine.) Recovery was rough. In part because of the interconnectedness of the thing, but also due to a couple life-altering deaths that came on the metaphorical heels of that organ removal. (What kind of heels would my uterus have worn? I’m thinking impossibly tall stilettos that cause bleeding blisters, painful bunions, etc!)

I am a woman. One who has not menstruated for 20 years. I have birthed no babies. I have recently survived menopause. (For me that is very much the appropriate verb and, frankly, I want a badge attesting to same!) I am also a survivor of abuse and assault. You may share my public restroom, if you like. No matter what your gender identity, I respect you as a person. Because denying people their rights based on fear and stereotypes does not ensure anyone’s safety. I will also not let my guard down in such a place. Because I am strong and aware and am not a readymade victim because I am a woman. And because it’s a goddamn public restroom FFS!

*Don’t get me started on that Aesop fella!

*I’m using “trans woman” instead of “transgender female/woman” as the shorter is how my transgender women friends identify themselves. A couple of whom have had menopause-like hot flashes. Sorry, gals! Would have spared you that if I could’ve, but, you know — estrogen!

*Why, yes, that Harry Potter reference earlier was a foreshadowing device. Nice of you to notice!

*We didn’t use “they” back then. Even so, “she” would have been appropriate in this context, but the anti-trans women would not allow themselves to use female pronouns for trans women.

Sunday Unfunnies

Content Note/(trigger warning): Among other things, the following post discusses death and grief and includes a brief description of a violent death.

Whelmed, am I. Totally and completely whelmed. More than that. Beyond whelmed. Uber whelmed. Utterly overwhelmed. Which is redundant, technically. (Look it up. I dare you!)

Welcome to Sunday morning thoughts with Underlying Conditions Lady in the midst of another prednisone-mediated lupus(+) flare. Here you’ll find a mixture of to-do lists, pain scales, grief, dogs at play, gratitude, shame, feelings of obligation, feelings of failure, loneliness, word etymologies, questions of science, questions of art, the letters P-T-S and D, and a few audiobook highlights, all in a misty fog, flavored with a soupçon of irritability á la that little bitter pill.

Prednisone, it’s a hell of a drug!*

I’m more than two weeks overdue for my monthly infusion of my DMARD, because of yet another urinary tract infection.* Antibiotics and my Biologic, a sophisticated immune system … modifier(?) … modulator(?) … Wolf tamer (?), do not get along. They’re rather at cross purposes. And this was a kidney infection, in truth. An aggressive affair. You know how colonizers be!

All I want to do is sleep. Which I do. Badly. That’s not really true. I’m working on the sleep thing. It has taken a lifetime and now chronic, debilitating illness (yeah, I said it) and the various resources of the internet to sort out which sleep disorders I do not have, the one I very well may have, the continuing role PTSD plays in my bedtime behaviors, and a commitment to being kind to myself to arrive at this place of lovingly addressing my sleep issues. That last part is the hardest. But you probably guessed that.

The Wolf in predator mode that is a flare of autoimmune disease activity and the common yet somehow extraordinary drug that is prednisone are at odds when it comes to sleep. They’re at odds regarding just about everything, really. Except they both destroy the body from within. They are terrible houseguests, awful to their hosts. No, that’s not it. It’s more like a hostage negotiation. In your home. With a repeat offender. And the only way to achieve any success is with that negotiator you hate, who wrecks your house — every single time — but is still the only one who knows how to keep the offender from stabbing you in the gut repeatedly.

But this post isn’t about having a flare. Or prednisone. Or sleep issues. It’s about … something. Being foggy? Overwhelmed. Needing a break. Ok, wanting a break. I want a guarantee that no more big stressors will hit until, say, after I finish the taxes. Yes, I know that won’t happen. I mean, I won’t even be able to get this post finished and published this sunny Sunday, due to the interruptions and intrusions of Life in the Foggy Brain Lane.

Did that sound whiny? Am I doing it? Am I doing it right?! My psychotherapist is a believer in whining. Moaning, that is. Expressing one’s pain out loud. I totally agree — in theory. For other people. Although I’ve been seeing this therapist for several months, she still feels new. Fresh. I like her a lot. I want to please her — and I know I need to be careful about that impulse, or at least aware of it — but, moaning out loud? Me? I mean, even my autocorrect avoids the word! Meaning … Moving … Morning?

What about … Mourning?

500,000 dead. Well over that. In just under a year of COVID-19 in the US. I correctly predicted the date we hit 150,000. Nailed 250,000. Was within two days of 350,000. Then I stopped that mental “exercise”. Not good for my mental health. And other things occupied my mind. Christmas in the ER. Not long after S moved out. Because her aunt died. Now it’s lonely here again. Then the insurrection was live on television. And Facebook. Reddit. Twitter. The ‘Gram. And then T died all of a sudden. I wanted to hug her mother for a week, but we just talked, masked, over the fence. Texted, a little. That was just a month after Aunt I died. (Not my aunt.) Valentine’s was Aunt P’s first yahrzeit. My Aunt P. But not only mine. I miss her. May 31st will be our dog Duke’s 14th birthday. If he gets there, that is. He’s been a very, very good boy.

This is about loss.

In less than a year five people died on our street. None from COVID-19. Not directly, at least. Three deaths were due to long-standing health problems that probably weren’t being treated as well as should have been due to pandemic conditions and were likewise exacerbated by the stressors of the pandemic and the lack of concern by so many for one’s fellow human being. One person died by an overdose that may have been intentional. And one death was of a man having a mental health crisis. Body cam footage shows he had a knife. The police disarmed him with several gunshots to his body at close range.

A descanso* marks the place up the street where he died. There was a small, peaceful, at times joyous protest there last summer. The cops parked a couple squad cars in the middle of our street, a couple doors down, and hubby and I, masked, watched them standing there, drinking sodas, talking and laughing easily with each other, their torsos heavy with armor and weaponry.

I’ve been dealing with loss all my life. I should have an honorary doctorate or two in loss by now. Except the older I get, the more unsure I feel about what I know. And don’t know. I know I feel a heaviness in our neighborhood. As if all this absence left by these losses and their rippling effects has a weight to it. We can bear this unseen weight, isolated behind masks well enough. For a while, at least. But, dense as it is, this absence is also weightless somehow. Intangible. Just out of reach. It hangs there — like a fog. Yes, time heals. But community is a balm like no other. Funerary rites are important. Displays of remembrance and communal grief. We need follow up, too. Restoration. Good grief. My neighborhood is hurting.

Good grief! I remember being very confused by Charlie Brown when I was a kid. Why was he shouting out grief? Aren’t you supposed to keep that sort of thing quiet, locked within you, gnawing at your joy and sanity slowly over time? And why did he keep playing football with punkster Lucy? Given my so-called best friend at the time told me in all sincerity that I was bound for Hell, I probably should just move on.

My basic thesis of loss has long been thus: Each relationship is unique. Each relationship makes an indelible impact on each party. The more intimate the relationship — for better, worse, both — the more intricate the connections. Death severs that relationship and thereby changes the survivor further. I had an Aunt P. I loved her. She loved me. I love her still. I am forever a person who was deeply affected and influenced by my Aunt P and now I am a person without her. I am grateful. Truly grateful. And I am sad. For the aunts and the many people who loved them. For my neighborhood. For our rabbits.* For my friends who are struggling in various states of isolation. For over half a million COVID-19 deaths here. For I don’t know how many around the world. For the healthy life I thought I would live in middle age. For my darling dog.

I grew up in the foggy Pacific Northwest. There I learned that sometimes it’s okay to drive through fog. But sometimes you are at its ephemeral mercy. You cannot control it. You have to accept its existence and wait for it to dissipate, to let you through. I suppose brain fog is like that. Maybe? Or maybe that’s grief. Or both. A heavy, obscuring blanket of emptiness. Impenetrable, even as you move right through it.

I’m just so sad.

I could use a break. But that’s not how it goes. One has to roll with the punches … adapt in order to survive … yadda yadda. No breaks guaranteed. Fine. In that case, I could use a good house cleaner. Must like dogs!

Black short-faced dog peers out from under bedding encircling her face.
Young Duchess Draymond Pugbelly is all about self-care!

*Appreciation to Rick James and Dave Chappelle! (If you don’t understand that reference, well, I just can’t help you.)

*Autocorrect actually filled in, urinary Tracy infection. Apologies to all Tracy’s out there! Also, DMARD = disease-modifying, anti-rheumatic drug. Do you feel enlightened now? Well, do ya?!

*Descanso, a roadside memorial or marker that commemorates a site where a person died suddenly and unexpectedly.

*In the near future I will write about Bunnytown USA, a 25-year adventure that concluded just before that first lockdown of March 2020.