Solving Problems


We are your lawmakers.

I watch a lot of news. As in, way too much news.

I was a political science major way back in the seventies. And I studied and taught history for a bunch of years. I am a huge fan of the United States of America, and of its founding principals.

So I am feeling pretty freaking frustrated at the inability of our elected officials to solve any problems.

ANY PROBLEMS.

Even the most obvious, most smack you in the face problem can’t seem to find an answer.

For example, let’s look at the suddenly-salient-once-again issue of abortion. So many of our elected “leaders” are suddenly determined to stop all abortions. They are so serious about stopping this medical procedure that they are threatening women with life imprisonment or death if they find themselves so desperate to abort that they go forward with the procedure in spite of the laws.

Those on the right scream about being “pro-life!” and pat themselves on the back for being the protectors of innocent children.

I get it. I was a patient at an infertility clinic for several years. I would have given anything to have had a baby. I understand the pro life position. I do.

But then those on the left scream about the attacks on women and on female power. They insist that they are protecting the rights of women to protect their own bodies, their living children, their family units.

I remember when I found myself shockingly and unexpectedly pregnant when my second child was only 6 month old. The child who was conceived using a boatload of high tech interventions.

I never thought about abortion, but I was badly shocked and thrown off to find myself pregnant, anemic, nursing and working full time.

The fact that I could have made choice to end that pregnancy, protecting myself and my other two kids, gave me a sense of peace.

I get it. I REALLY get it.

I chose to go on with my surprise pregnancy, but nature ended it for me only four weeks later. I grieved for a long time for that lost child, but I am eternally grateful that I had the freedom to choose whether or not to go on with the pregnancy.

I understand the desire to end our need for abortion. I understand our desire to keep our choices in place.

But here’s what pisses me off.

If we, as a society, TRULY wanted to limit the number of abortions in this country, we could do it tomorrow.

It isn’t that hard.

We just need to do more research into the best and safest forms of birth control. We need to be putting a whole boatload of money into finding a successful male contraceptive.

And when birth control is safe and effective, we should offer it out there to EVERYONE. It should be given out at high schools, at colleges, at workplaces. It should be free. Easy to use. Easily talked about.

There should be public kiosks where you could get yours.

Cuz, you know what? The whole idea of limiting unwanted pregnancies by limiting sex is so far beyond ignorant that it can only elicit a laugh.

ALL life is designed to procreate. Mammals do that through sex. We all want sex. A lot. Babies are a side product of our natural, God given, scientifically proven desire to mate.

If you want to stop the unwanted pregnancies, you don’t do it be shaming people about sex. (Weren’t these legislators ever teenagers? I mean….seriously!) If you want to stop pregnancy, you push for birth control.

Easy. Logical. Clear.

So why isn’t that the plan?

I don’t know.

Maybe because those who hold power benefit quite a bit when we “little people” are engaged in street fights about our bodies and our sex lives.

All I know is this: If those people being paid with our tax dollars really wanted to eliminate this problem, they could do it.

Right Now.

To Sleep or Not to Sleep


Maybe I snore a little…once in a while…..

OK, fine. Sure. I snore.

I know. Snoring means that you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea means that you’re gonna die. Real soon.

Fine.

I finally gave in to the gentle hints from my husband, the shrewd observations from friends who’ve been forced to sleep in the same room with me, and the evidence from my own tired self.

I talked to my doctor and I was scheduled for a sleep study.

I was not a happy old lady, but I went ahead anyway. I went to the appointment with the very, very, very sincere hope that I will not be diagnosed with apnea.

I don’t want to have chubby older man disease. How humiliating that would be!!

I am, after all, a chubby older WOMAN. I believe I should be immune to this particular problem.

A CPAP machine is my least favorite wish for my aging self.

But, I went ahead. I drove to the sleep study place. I met with the chubby older man in his scrubs, and filled out the questionnaire about my sleep. I listened as he carefully described how to put on the torture device/sleep study machine. I took notes.

That night, I got ready for bed. Paul and I had decided that I should sleep all by myself in the guest room. No chance of the talking torture device waking up him up. No chance of the dogs deciding to chew up the plastic tubes or plastic headset or plastic chest wrap.

Because I am a very good girl, and because I would rather drop dead tomorrow than do this again, I carefully followed all directions. I placed the forehead sensor on my forehead. Eager to be a good patient, I tightened the shit out of it. There were plastic sensors embedded into my temples. I let them stay.

Next, I stuck the nasal cannula way up into my nostrils, then carefully tightened it so it wouldn’t fall out and ruin the whole study.

As for the chest strap…..gentlemen, please look away. Ladies, picture this: You have to sleep in a sports bra, only its been rolled up above your breasts so you feel it all night long. There’s a lovely plastic clasp in the back that will dig into your ribs, your vertebrae and your neck (what the hell…) all night long.

The next step in this lovely adventure involved pushing a tiny button on the top of my headset. A woman’s voice instructed me about what to do. “The Unicorder has been turned on. Lie on your back, look at the ceiling and DO NOT MOVE.” Beep…beep….beepie beeples….. You may now go to sleep.”

Sure.

I laid on my back, but the squeezie rolled up bra device dug into my spine. I rolled to my left side, but the head set was on so tight that my left temple started to throb.

Try the right side. Ouch.

Try the stomach. OUCH! Bring back my nose, please……

Left side. Ouch again.

This went on for quite a while, but eventually my old body won out and I fell asleep. All was well until at some point….somewhere between midnight and 4 AM….I woke up to hear the same calm woman scolding me: “Adjust your forehead sensor. Adjust your forehead sensor. Adjust your forehead sensor.”

Holy bitch. “I did!” I snapped. I adjusted. Everything still hurt like hell, so I figured that all was well.

I dozed. Had nightmares. Tossed. Turned.

I might have snored, but who knows?

Eventually, I woke up. Filled with relief that I’d managed to wrangle with the torture device and still get some sleep, I reached up to turn off the recorder.

And this is what I heard:

“”The Unicorder has been turned on. Lie on your back, look at the ceiling and DO NOT MOVE.”

Hearing That “Click”


I’ve always been enormously grateful to have married into a fun, warm, welcoming family. My husband’s extended family is full of people I really, truly love. A lot. They laugh. They kiss. They’re just plain fun.

But from the beginning of our dating life a few decades ago, I’ve also been aware that I am a little more ethnic than all those gorgeous blonde cousins and their kids. I remember times over the years, where I just felt so ridiculously Italian.

Like the time I ate dinner with Paul’s family and was so impressed with the meal. I had never had anything like it! I was both delighted and amazed. “What do you call this?” I asked innocently. Even 35 years later, I remember the awkward silence, the glances around the table, and the answer to my question.

“It’s a pot roast.”

Yup. I felt a little out of the WASP world at that moment.

But one day Paul and I went to visit his Uncle, a man I hadn’t yet met. Paul was eager for me to meet Uncle Curt and his wife, Mary. All the way to their house, my sweetie talked about how much he loved the delicious veal cutlets that Mary cooked.

Mary, it turned out, was Italian. 

When we got to their house, Mary greeted us with a big smile, a hug, and warm brown eyes. She took both my hands, we smiled at each other, and there was a magical little “click” somewhere in my heart.

I don’t remember much of the visit, but I remember that when I met Mary, I met an image of myself. I met a friend. I know that we laughed, we talked about red wine, we talked about food.

It was a wonderful day.

I’m not sure that I every saw Mary again. If I did, it was only once or twice, and only in a crowd. Still, she’s always stayed in my memory. Her lemon cutlets and her big smile.

And that “click”.

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A couple of years ago, we were away on Paul’s annual camping family reunion. It was a beautiful July night, and everyone was gathering around the “Happy Hour” table. There were a few people there that were new to the yearly experience. One young couple came with their little year old baby boy. I didn’t actually get the details about who they were, and how they were related, but I smiled and admired the baby.

I was happy to meet everyone, but I was also a little distracted. You see, my daughter was within a couple of weeks of her due date to deliver our first grandchild. My thoughts were mostly on her as we all set up our campsites.

Still, as I talked to the young woman with the beautiful curly hair, as we compared our feelings about motherhood, as I looked at her warm, smiling face, I swear to you: I heard that tiny inner “click” once again.

But I didn’t have a chance to think much about my new “click” or what it meant, because my daughter went into labor at midnight, and instead of spending the weekend hanging out with relatives, I hung out in the maternity unit, meeting my sweet Ellie.

I nearly forgot about the “click”.

Until very recently.

Over the past two years, I have started to get together once in a while with that lovely young woman. She’s now the Momma of two beautiful boys, and I’m the Nonni of two little ones. We both love the time we spend with the kids, but we also both really love spending time with another woman in the same situation.

It’s kind of hilarious. My young relative, Angela, is young enough to be my own child. But when she brings the boys here for a play date once a month, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels instead like I’m with one of my friends. Like I’m with that rare and most prized person, a woman from my tribe!

When Angela and the boys are here, we push back the furniture. We put out bowls of snacks, let the kids empty out the toy box, and just watch what happens. The kids play. They argue. They take turns on the potty. They eat, they spill, they climb on the back of the sofa.

Angela and I drink coffee, begin sentences we never finish, scoop each others’ kids up, grab the milk, make peanut butter sandwiches.

And the years, for me, melt away. I am back in the days when I was a young mom, sharing the joys and stresses with my tribe of women friends.

For me, the “click” I heard when I looked at Angela has lead me to a place where I feel less alone. I’m not the only ethnic one around. I’m not the oddity of an old lady taking care of babies.

Instead, I’m a woman in our family. I’m a caretaker. I’m a maternal figure. Like my heart’s own “clicking” friend, Angela, I’m a diaper changer, bottle giver, bandaid applier, sharing-rules-teacher.

And I am not alone.

And it took me six months to figure out that Angela is Mary’s granddaughter. Isn’t that just lovely???

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Sometimes we give in and pop in a movie.

 

 

Plus Size? Plus What?


I’ve been thinking about the strong reaction that comedienne Amy Schumer had to having her image published in a “plus size” edition of Glamour magazine.  I’ve been thinking about it because I honestly have a whole LOT of reactions to the whole issue.

Number 1: Who the hell needs to buy a magazine called Glamour anyway? Most of us are living in the burbs, trying to keep the laundry done, the dogs fed, the bills paid and the fridge stocked. Glamour? No one I know has the slightest idea of what that word even means.

Number 2: What the F* is “Plus sized”? Plus what? Like, “You are a woman, with extra”. Extra depth? Extra personality? Extra cellulite? What?

Number 3: Amy Schumer is fabulous. Smart, funny, articulate, warm, open and beautiful. In every way.

This whole thing just strikes a real nerve in this old Nonni.  I will tell you a story to explain my anger at this entire pile of bullshit.

When my oldest child, my daughter Kate, was 14 years old, she won an award for a piece of art that she had created. She was invited to the Massachusetts State house for a special reception with other award winning young artists.  I was so proud of her!

In preparation for the big event, I took my Kate shopping for a dressy pair of pants. We went to the mall, and into a popular store for young people. The salesgirl met us, asked a couple of questions and took some measurements. “Ooooooh,” she sighed to Kate, “Wow! You’re a size 00!”

That means “double zero”.

Kate looked at me, unsure of how to respond. My mama bear self reared up right then. I sure as hell did know how to respond.

“Excuse me?” I asked in my frostiest voice. “Are you telling my daughter that she is less than zero?”

The young salesgirl blinked at me. “Um. Yes. She’s so slim. She’s in a size double zero.”

Now here’s the thing.  My Kate was barely pubescent.  She had always been thin, but that was party because she’d had some health problems.

I absolutely hated the fact that at the very cusp of womanhood, my beautiful, tender daughter was told that the smaller and skinnier she was, the more admired she would be. Even more than that, though, I was completely appalled that the smallest size pants in that store were telling a woman “You are even less than nothing!” And: “We love that!”

I blew off a little steam at the poor salesgirl, and hauled my young artist out of there.  I stood her in atrium of the mall, my hands on her shoulders. I looked into her big brown eyes. “Kate,” I said, “You are young. Young women are often thin. You are lovely. You are going to get bigger and even more beautiful.”  She nodded. I’m pretty sure she had no idea of what had pissed me off so much.

So we went to Sears, where the sizes ran in actual numbers.  We got the pants, and a nice white blouse. We went to the ceremony in Boston, and we had a lovely time.

But here’s the point: Sizes need to run in normal, predictable ordinal numerals.  You know, the smallest would be “1”, the next would be “2” and so on.  No “Double zero”. No “Zero”. No “Plus”.

Women should be able to buy a pair of jeans without being told how the people who buy a magazine called “Glamour” choose to to rate us.

Amy Schumer, you are a goddess.

And so is my still slim daughter.