The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained … Nor Puréed, Neither

Your sympathy is appreciated. Your victim blaming — eh, not so much.

Content Note: Following includes puppy abduction and dark humor. No Shakespearean phrases are used or abused after this point.

My husband and I are dog people. We have loved and shared our homes with dogs throughout our 35 years together and separately before that. What’s more, we like to drive around with the dogs happily hanging their faces out the windows, taking it all in, like they do. Now you know what kind of folks you’re dealing with!

On Wednesday, May 5, 2020, exactly 4 weeks after we adopted him, our 9.5-week-old puppy Data was stolen from our locked but ventilated vehicle, parked about 100’ from a Walmart entrance, an hour before sunset. (All 4 windows were open a little, allowing for a cross-breeze and smells of people Walmart-ing.)

The breaking and entering and theft were witnessed by a Walmart employee and our other two dogs (who declined to talk to the po-po), and all was captured by security camera, which couldn’t distinguish the fleeing vehicle’s license plate. My husband filed a police report, put an ad in the paper, and made numerous posts all over social media. The comments soon followed.

Some people on social media have chosen to question our reality and actions rather than to express sympathy or offer to help find our dog. Or to say nothing. That’s right, people, saying nothing is an option. Just move on, without leaving a comment. Try it. I double dog dare you!*

While obviously quite different in a number of ways, there are some similarities here with my experiences when divulging my health and/or disability status. Some people readily express sympathy or empathy, while others quickly get defensive for reasons I imagine are personal to them, of which they may or may not be aware. Some comments are beyond my comprehension and others I understand all too well as cruel. A few peeps will kindly offer help. More than a few will find fault with me. If only I had done this or avoided that. A very, very few will listen. Bear witness. With kindness. Love, even.

Bearing witness to someone else’s troubles is a simple task that is also quite difficult for many to pull off. I think it’s natural for us humans to want to assess a situation quickly, to know what we’re dealing with. But sometimes it’s best to hold back, reserve judgment, get more information. Waiting, not judging or controlling, can be very uncomfortable.

As the late, great Tom Petty used to sing, “The waiting is the hardest part.”**

I have certainly been guilty of rushing to judgment many times in the past. (I will probably also be guilty in the future. Right now I am innocent! Now! Right now!) I have figuratively put my foot in my mouth on several occasions. (I used to be able to literally put my foot behind my head. Then the other one. Circus-style yoga trick. I can still put my big toe in my mouth — not that I do — but I can. This is all true!)

Point is, I get it, I do it, too. And nearly every time I’ve done so, unthinkingly put forth the what ifs — soon after I’ve thought, O, why didn’t I just wait, listen, be still, ask questions? After all, procrastination is a well-honed skill for me! The answer — if I’m brave enough to accept it — is usually something like, … I got scared because it’s out of my and their control and there is nothing more to be done other than feel all the hurt, sadness, and other yucky feelings. Aaaaaahhhhh!

No one (or almost no one) wants to be a victim.*** People don’t want their stuff taken from them and some go to great lengths to assure that. Many succeed. Some don’t. Because bad and awful things do happen. Crime. Serious illness. Abuse. War. Accidents. Natural disasters. Unnatural disasters. To bad people who had it coming. Allegedly. To good people who did everything right and therefore did not deserve it. Supposedly. To mediocre people who made mistakes, sure, who doesn’t, but, I don’t know, they just seem to be taking a lot of punches lately, y’know? Oh well, they’re survivors!

You have to have survived something to claim survivor status. In many cases that something is being the victim of a crime and/or trauma. I hereby reclaim the word victim. It is not a dirty or shameful word. Victims are not culpable for the crimes and abuses committed against them. Just as victims are not responsible for the accidents, disasters, traumas, illnesses they endure. For the official record, I don’t believe anyone deserves to be victimized or to suffer. I don’t wish suffering on anyone. Truly. Not that it matters. Life is full of suffering. Some get more; some get less. (Wow. I sound more Semitic than usual there. I’m a Yo-Yo Semite most days. 🥸)

My husband and I are victims of crime. (Puppy Data, too.) It’s been a week and we’re … ok. We got a lead Monday and passed it on to police. The waiting and hoping continue. As does the grieving. We’ve parsed the shoulda woulda couldas — all the alternate scenarios in which Data would not have been there, then. But the victim is not the one in control of the actions of the perpetrator. The loss of our fabulous puppy is very painful. Some people’s comments are hurtful, too. We choose to honor our pain. We are not ashamed of feeling our pain. Nor of being vulnerable. Of being victims. We are survivors.

Jeff and I deeply appreciate the many folks who have given and continue to give sympathy, help, support, kindness!

Data, we love you and miss you! We pray you are safe and well cared for, wherever you are. (Also, impressed your abductors kept up your reading lessons!)


Now for Fun With Confounding Comments, because it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to!🤨

If only he was microchipped!

Alas, we were but days away from handing Data over to our veterinarian for vaccines and insertion of this incredible technology. If only … then we could activate his chip through our Find my iPup app, which would pinpoint his location and send that special dog whistle to my Jewish space laser to take out the bad guys, no due process necessary. (I’m not quite sure what happens for you goyim. Maybe you just get the location of your pup, which you need to reach within an hour lest the chip erases all your puppy’s memory of being housebroken?)

Obviously, I’m joking. That is 100% not how microchips for dogs and cats work. It is, however, how the nanochips in those Covid19 vaccines work!🙄

Why would anyone ever leave a dog in a car?

Just spitballing here, but what if their helicopter was in the shop? Then they’d have no other choice, really.

What if pup’s favorite song is playing on the radio and doggy insists on sitting there through to the end?

Or, hear me out now, maybe because people in stores do not have allergic reactions to dogs resting comfortably in cars and not in those stores reserved for human interaction (and a relative few service animals).

(For real, how do you move your dog(s) around town? No stops ever, because you’re … you? Or do you take your non-service dog inside every place you visit — a part of you that can’t be denied entry, just like your white privilege?)

Maybe he’s just lost.

Oh … kay. So, you weren’t listening? Missed some deets? Accustomed to folks realizing their dog is missing and crying, “Thief!” I do appreciate your stab at sympathy, but no, it is not our style to assume a crime occurred without evidence of such. Although … hubby did recently accuse me of stealing his bag of blue corn chips. But that was really a product of long-time marriage man-brain. As in, bag of chips isn’t where I remember leaving it, so spouse must have put it somewhere else, which is like stealing for me, due to my chromosome-based, manly inability to search our kitchen. (Yes, I do, in fact, dearly love my XY husband, inability to locate a jar deftly hiding out incognito behind another jar, and all!)

Would you leave a two month old child alone in a car?

Can you hum a few bars?

Depends on how well it pays.

Is infant clearly dead in car being dredged from lake? Then I’m going to leave it as is for the crime scene investigators.

Were you good at the long jump? Because, dearie, in jumping to conclusions, you can make some distance, I tell you what!

Dogs die just like babies!

Fact! Do you feel better now?

Data doing his bunny impression!

*Ironic pun intended.

**Yes, that lyric right there is totally, utterly out of context!

***We can debate whether or not there are people who truly want to be victims (note I do not equate victim and martyr) at a future time round about never.

If You Make That Face

Hit again and ‘gain
Two-fisted hammered
My face just won’t crack

Made that face long ‘go
And, indeed, it did
It stayed that way

Now my well-made face
At once young and old
Has no home with me

Bring down the hammer
Chips off the old block
Is all I can do

Proof in the pudding
I lack the strength
To destroy myself



Copyright 21 August 2020
Revised 19 April 2021
Closeup of black puppy face with protective cone around head, looking forlorn yet adorable
THAT face is absolutely priceless! (Super Puppy Draymond survived this indignity — I swear!)

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.

Excuses, Excuses … Ex-Cue-Says … X Q Sez!

I have not posted anything — nope, not a damn thing — in 3 months. Here are all the WHYs, in no particular order:

  • Doubt
  • Depression
  • Thanksgiving tradition of a visit from my Big Bad Wolf, annual flare of autoimmune disease activity that dwarfs the others, leading me to deny my distress and need for help during those lesser flares, but also …
  • Prednisone is a hell of a drug!
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Broken tooth
  • The shiva of “Auntie” I
  • Pandemic everything
  • Perfectionism
  • Publishing is the problem. There, I said it. Not writing. Not editing. Finishing. Committing to transferring to this platform — in some cases to typing or {gulp} dictating first — and then I have to end it. Stop myself from writing about the next connection and the next my mind makes. Or discovers. Is it important to distinguish between the two? Is one better than the other? Ha! Define “better.”
  • Doubt
  • Fuhteegue!
  • Say it. I mean, write it. Do it. Own it!
  • Pain
  • Foggy brain
  • PTSD
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Ole Friend variant
  • Another broken tooth
  • I almost got through 2020 without going to the ER.* But that’s where I spent 6 hours of Christmas morning. Viral gastroenteritis, turns out. Great news that I didn’t have a certain respiratory virus, but {sigh} I could have been treated better. Trying to follow up with troubling test results, but …
  • New medical insurance
  • It’s not “prior authorization” — it’s authorization! You either do it with or without authorization. I have enough trouble with time as it is!
  • Ok, I have to dedicate more of my loving-kindness meditation to the insurance industry. Obviously.
  • Doubt
  • Insurrection Coup Riot totally predictable yet also incredible thing
  • T died suddenly
  • MuthaFuhteegue!
  • I can’t post anything else, until I publish part 3 of Collaborating with My Wolf. And I can’t post that until I finish it. Which I very nearly have. Except that’s only true of the longer version. I could publish the shorter one right now. Except I haven’t been able to do that for over 5 weeks. The other version keeps pulling me toward disclosing my abuse history, or at least part of it, and I don’t know if it’s ok to disclose part and not all at once and that last thought reads as super odd as it feels, but I’ve kept all these secrets for so long, because I’m a good girl, and I don’t know how to spill them without confirming that I am the terrible person that I have secretly thought myself to be most of my life.
  • It might be ok to publish a post or two while working on part 3. I just can’t make the official launch until I finish and publish part 3.
  • I now have 4 other posts in Drafts.
  • Deleted the poetry posts. Formatting disaster. Category 4. Will try again. Promise.
  • Anxiety. Is that fear + doubt? Feubt? Looks German or French; however, I don’t believe it is either. I could be wrong.
  • The consistency of split pea soup, it comes on little cat feet and causes my brain to lose track of all the usual routes in its atlas. Wow. Metaphor-maggedon!
  • Pandemic burnout
  • Lupus burnout
  • I just don’t feel good burnout
  • Despite my best motivational speeches, neither the dishes nor the laundry will “do” themselves!
  • And now … taxes!
Black wolf-like dog with white fur outlining his muzzle, lies asleep in a tight curl. Watercolor effect to photo
The marvelous schipperke Duke at rest

*Yes, really, it is the Emergency Department — not Room. I do know that. The issue is that nowadays “ED” is most often used for “erectile dysfunction” and most everyone in the US still understands “ER” basically means the same thing as Emergency Department. So, yeah, I am part of the problem.