Monday, December 11, 2017

Terrible Tales of Ta-Tas

The other day I was looking through some photo albums to see if I had pictures my older brother wanted. As I was paging through, I came across a picture that got me thinking --- more about the picture later.

My boobs were a huge part of my life from early on (nice segue, I know). As a kid, I developed earlier than the other girls. It was not a good thing. Some girls, who were pretty flat chested, which was normal for the age, would make comments about how I should give them some of mine. When I was older, junior high or high school, I don't remember, I told them I would gladly give them a donation if that kind of thing were possible.

No matter what I was doing or who I was with, it seemed like my boobs were always brought up in one way or another. I think I started to play into the jokes and comments because they weren't going away. One time I was bra shopping with my mom and sister at May Co. (later became Kaufmann's Department Store and then Macy's) at the Euclid Square Mall. I was in the fitting room trying on bras --- not cute ones because those were for cute, perky boobs. No, I had no real options except white, beige, or black. While I was in there, this HUGE bra came flying over the door and my mom and sister were laughing on the other side. The intent wasn't to hurt me (well, at least not from my mom. A teenage older sister may have). To them, I was in on the joke.

As I grew and the boobs grew, things became painful, physically and emotionally. They looked terrible. These weren't implanted-Pamela-Anderson-boobs that stay up. These were like water balloons hanging from my chest. Picture what it is like to hold a water balloon by the knot. Then add stretchmarks. Sexy, right? I played soccer from 1st grade into my senior year. Sports bras weren't really made for someone like me. I wore a regular bra with hooks in the back which wasn't meant for sports. In the middle of the season my senior year, my back pain took me out for the season. I'm not sure I played enough games to warrant getting my 4th year varsity letter, but I did get it.

When I got to college, I was as self-conscious as ever. That is when real consideration of a breast reduction came in to play. The surgeon had ridiculous standards for me to meet before she would do it. She told me to go on this insane diet. I don't remember how many calories a day I was told to have, but weight came off and I was starving. And, with this diet, she also wanted me to start working out. Again, not enough calories taken in to be working out. Guess what, the weight didn't come off my boobs! Also, my parents' medical insurance wouldn't cover it, so there went that.

Then I was out of college and into my career. It took quite some time, about 4 1/2 years, for me to revisit the whole thing. At a 42 DDD, I decided to give my insurance a shot and see what happened. I made my appointment to see Dr. Seth Eisengart. Everything changed. He had barely said two words to me and I was crying. It was the tremendous relief to have him listening to me; a huge weight lifted off my chest (see what I did there?). I told him about the previous surgeon I saw in college, who was a colleague of his. He told me the expectations she placed on me were not good. He confirmed for me that weight loss from the breasts through diet and exercise for someone like me was not going to be significant. He said he couldn't imagine trying to exercise and play sports with a chest the size of mine. 

My insurance came through to cover having a reduction. So, planned things out. He told me the style he preferred to use. He wanted me to understand that I may not be able to breastfeed. At that point, I didn't care. I wanted this done and I was headed to the convent, so whatever. We went forward with surgery. My company only wanted me to have a week off, he personally, not his staff, called the short term disability group and argued on my behalf. He got me two weeks. A post-op appointment had him telling me that it was about 5 lbs removed, about 2.5 lbs each. Breasts aren't typically symmetrical, so it was a give or take on the 2.5 lbs each. When he told me that, he said he couldn't imagine going for a run with a sack of flour around his neck. All of this was freeing me. 

He was willing to take me as small as I would like, but he said it could look awkward if we went too small. So, 42 C it was. A very scary looking 42 C at first. My first time in the shower I almost passed out as I looked at them. It was the first time they were unbound since the surgery. My mom had to come help me. I called them my Frankenboobies. But, they were healing and the scarring wasn't terrible.

A year-ish after surgery, the convent was a thing of the past and I met Shawn...I had been feeling great with weight loss, I was wearing clothes I couldn't before, and I was on meds for the horrible depression I had been in...and now my boobs had me self-conscious again. Remember, I didn't care about the scarring or the possible inability to breastfeed. There I was with this guy that I really started to have feelings for and could see having a relationship with and I had these boobs I was happy to have, but were scarred. Then, time went on and we were trying to have a baby and I thought about how the results of the surgery could keep me from breastfeeding. Things worked out with Shawn and my boobs. The breastfeeding would end up not being an issue, though, thanks to infertility. But, in the end, the reduction was one of the best decisions I made.

So, what does all of this have to do with a picture in a photo album? I'm starting to wonder myself.

When I graduated college, I went on a 10 day service experience in the inner city of Cincinnati. It was through the Marianist Volunteers. I was there and so were my big boobs. The picture I came across was of me sitting with four of the head volunteer staff.  We are all smiling and laughing and I notice that the one leader has her arm around me with a big smile on her face and her hand was hovering over my breast, ready to go in for the grab.

I don't remember this exact moment. I'm not sure if I knew she was doing it at the time or if I only found out once the film was developed. Maybe I was in on the joke. Maybe I made myself play along with the joke. Like I said, I don't remember.  Maybe this is my #MeToo. I don't know. 

I know things are different for me now.

And, I just realized, after this blog about boobs, I have my routine mammogram, yeah...there's that.

Saturday, December 2, 2017


I've been in my head a lot lately. Thoughts have been swimming since the ever growing list of celebrity men committing sexual offenses of varying degrees. The spectrum is immense; things I never could have imagined were being done.

A movement took social media by storm, a hashtag movement (I've talked about the hashtag movement thing before). It was #MeToo. People were using it for solidarity with the women coming forward about being victimized by the celebrity men. The popularity of it was to reveal just how many women have fallen victim somewhere on the spectrum of offenses.

I didn't Facebook and Twitter post a #MeToo statement. As I thought about my life, I just wasn't sure that I experienced anything which made me feel like a victim in any kind of sexual way. So, I opted out of the hashtag activism this time.

As the #MeToo posts were flooding my social media, I did find myself questioning the validity of the person posting. In part, I guess I just couldn't imagine that that many people could possibly have experienced something #MeToo worthy. Also, I know some to be wolf criers who love social media. I'm sure some of you have those people in your lives. Those people who jump on a bandwagon and then cry wolf at the top of their lungs for the entire trip. Perhaps my cynicism is too strong, but crying wolf has been around for a long time and social media has taken it to a new level. I'm not anti the #MeToo movement, not at all. It just bothers me that some may hijack the hashtag which minimizes the value of those who really have a #MeToo story to tell. 

If your still with me and haven't decided to hate me for the previous paragraph, I do have some other stuff to say.

As the names of the accused started to roll out, our family was gut punched.

Shawn, Conner, and I have been huge Louis C.K. fans. Earlier this year, we had a family night out including dinner and than going to see Louis C.K. do his stand-up. It was a good time.

And then, months later, we are left with a giant WTF? and how could he possibly have done something so horrible? For me, I won't speak for them, I'm disgusted and done. I felt the apology was some kind of PR written bullshit.

Then, more names start to be revealed.

Early on in our relationship, just a few months, actually, a new radio network was launched. It was a progressive radio network, Air America. It was how Shawn and I first heard of Rachel Maddow and look where she is now! Another personality from the station was Al Franken. For me, his progressive politics were a bigger hit than his SNL career. Shawn and I connected through this. We bought Franken's books and even ended up seeing him at a book signing here in Denver. So many shows on the network were speaking to our progressive minds. we're hearing the stories....of one...then two...then 3 and 4....and 5 and 6 women coming out with stories of Franken's sexual offenses toward them. Again, I'm done. Again, the released statement sounds like such bullshit.

It's weird when you come to realize how much stock you put into the character of a celebrity of whom you are a fan only to have that stock's market crash.

Now, we jump to Matt Lauer. He's the latest to be added to the list of scumbags. However, I've always had a dislike for him. Something just didn't sit right with me. My douchebag radar must have gotten something right with this one.

The lesson I'm taking away from the revelation of his various sexual offenses is that sometimes you should read the comments' thread.

Now, typically, I've been trying to avoid reading comments on posts because it leads to anger and frustration that will not get resolved. Then, a bottle of Ativan later, I'm still trying to bring myself down. I would still say this is a good rule. It's especially helpful when reading articles and posts that have a huge following of strangers. But, thanks to Matt Lauer, I learned it can be helpful to read comments.

When the Lauer shit was hitting the fan, I found that I had many friends and "friends" (social media leads to a separation of sorts) in common when it came to a lack of surprise. Then, there was that one post.

I was scrolling through my news feed as one is wont to do on Facebook. I came upon a post from a "friend" regarding the Matt Lauer story and she said something about being surprised. So, since I wasn't surprised, I headed to the comments to say that I wasn't and I kind of pegged him (not in the way he probably is into) for that kind of pig. As I was heading down to comment, some previous comments caught my eye. Now, I knew the "friend" was conservative, but I still managed to be surprised by some of her friends (they seemed like the kind not in quotes). It was a mix of statements about how this needs to stop; it's getting out of control; stuff is probably made up; these men are being ruined; accused people shouldn't lose their jobs unless the accusations are confirmed; strong women can handle these things. SKREEEEEEECH! Hold on a second! Let me back up and see if that was really there. Yep. Strong women.

In my greatest moment of comment war self-control, a stopped myself from commenting. Now, you may think I should not have backed out and that I should have set that person straight. Believe me, I wanted to at first. But, I was reading a sea of comments that showed me that I had no chance of making an impact. Yes, I wanted to leave the proverbial two cents, but I could tell my two cents wouldn't be received very well. In comment conversations/wars, seldom does anyone give a penny, take a penny like at the counter at the gas station. Everyone just tosses their pennies out all willy-nilly.

In the end, I opted for un-friending that "friend" like I've un-fanned those celebrities.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

So called volunteers

"Did you know that so called 'Volunteers' don't even get paid?" Why, yes, Mr. Simpson, I know that all too well.

This entry touches on something I posted on Facebook the other day. Given that I've been working for a heavily volunteer dependent non-profit, I started to think a lot about volunteering. I really got thinking about the different sides of it. The way people treat volunteers and the expectations people have of volunteers.

I was updating a spreadsheet that is a list of the adoptions for the year. There were over 600 entries. That is over 600 animals who have been saved. Mostly cats and dogs are on the list, but who can forget the pigs, chickens, homing pigeons, snakes, turtles, guinea pigs, rabbits, and more that I'm certainly forgetting. Then, it got me thinking about what is involved in getting those numbers on that spreadsheet. Yes, obviously my typing get them in the spreadsheet, duh. I'm talking in the broader sense.

I'm sure I will forget things because, well, me. The list below includes the work of a handful, like toddler sized handful, of paid staff and volunteers. Just pointing out that I'm fully aware of actual paid staff.
  • There's transport: driving a box truck to rescue animals from other states; the hours to do this; the wear and tear on the truck; the listening to whining and mewing; the smell of piss and shit and animals; the cleaning of the truck 
  • There's maintenance: the truck; the house we work out of; yard work; repairs; building a pig pen and chicken coops
  • Receiving transport: corralling all the dogs in the backyard; taking cats in kennels down to the care center; vetting the animals (vaccinations, preventative care, microchipping, and anything else they need based on paperwork); oh, and doing all of our own paperwork
  • Fostering: coming to a transport arrival to pick up the dog they are fostering; taking them to vet appointments; keeping them until they decided to adopt them or until they get adopted; taking them to meet & greets that hopefully end in adoption, but not always, so they have extra wear and tear and gas for their cars; sometimes bottle feeding if they take on the tiny cats or dogs
  • Cat Care Center: cats are housed in our office building until ready for adoption at a PetSmart or the Denver Cat Company; I could go downstairs but I'm lazy so I'm guessing we have 30ish cat cages; the cages house multiple cats if there is a litter of kittens; there are 2 shifts of cleaning out the cages and feeding the cats; sometimes there is the additional task of steaming the cages; there's medication to be given sometimes; their an isolation room of cages when things like ringworm breakout; cleaning kennels; and cleaning litter pans; laundry from blankets and towels; washing food and water bowls 
  • There's office work of various types. That's my "specialty". Things like spreadsheet updating; microchip registration; adoption packet creation
  • There are adoption events: they involve fosters bringing the available dogs; means more travelling; leash holding; people selling our merchandise; on the spot adoption application processing; the "go home" paperwork review and fee payment; putting up and taking down our fences and tents and tables and such  
  • Adoptions that aren't at an event: reviewing of applications; processing of applications which means phone calls for landlords & vets, sometimes, and personal references all the time; scheduling of meet and greets to finalize the adoption, or sometimes to have the adoption fail; the meeting needs to have the adopter, the foster, and the volunteer or staffer who will finalize the adoption, yeah, try coordinating all those schedules; more travelling for the foster
  •  Other fund raisers: all kinds of work that I've never really been a part of, but I'm sure lots of volunteers are involved
These are all the things I could think of off the top of my head. These are all things people do in their spare time. So, if it seems like a lot, I'm pretty sure there is much more. But, it is what goes into those 600 plus adoptions.

After all of my thinking about volunteerism and Homer Simpson's profound wisdom, I thought about volunteers being people who do favors, lots and lots of favors.

If you need something from a volunteer, be kind, be patient, and be appreciative.


Monday, October 30, 2017

What'chu talkin' 'bout, everyone?

It's about time for another trip down amnesia lane. This is such a part of my life, yet I still manage to be surprised by it.

The combination of the electroconvulsive therapy and my very strong reaction to anesthesia just wreaked havoc on my memory. My life right now involves watching "Stranger Things" 1st season for what I think is the 3rd time. Things do seem familiar this time, so progress? I check with Shawn to see if I'm responding the same way this time. Did I cry like I did now? Back when we watched "Captain America; Civil War", I think it was that, he said I said the same things. It's so bizarre to experience your lack of experience around something.

I wonder if things will get to a point where Shawn doesn't preface statements with, "You probably don't remember...", or "Do you remember?" Will my memory be sharp again? Will it always be slightly off when it comes to present moments, present information retention?  It's certainly not what it was before this shit went down.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Life is better for whom?

Earlier this year, I started volunteering for the animal rescue where we got Jarvis 4 1/2 years ago. It was kind of an idea that Shawn, my PsychNP, and my therapist were all pretty much no board with. My PsychNP and Shawn really didn't think I was in any shape to get back in the actual workforce. Actually, this conversation may have started at the end of last year, you know, the time of my life that is lost to me. For some reason, I think my ECT psychiatrist was in on this whole thing, too.

It took me awhile to work through my anxiety enough to contact Life Is Better Rescue. Then, I think it may have taken some extra drugs to actually go that first day. The first few days involved cleaning out the cat cages at the Care Center. I had this super skinny, super tall, young kid showing me the ropes. One day, I was slated to go solo, I grabbed Shawn for the assist. As the part of my DNA that is strong within my siblings and I kicked in, I was gagging to dry heaving to being on the verge of vomiting. For some reason, taking a little green poop bag and grabbing Jarvis' shit isn't so bad; but cat boxes and kitties covered in the shit they shat is more than a Kendel (or maybe Sawhill, it might be my mom's genetic contribution) kid could bear.

So, I sucked up my overwhelming sense of failure and additional anxiety, and confessed to my ineptitude.

There was still other work to be done. I didn't have to deal with people or shit (it's hard to tell which of those things is worst) nearly as much. I was doing spreadsheet updates and microchip registrations. Officey, nerdy, anti-social stuff. I was fitting into my niche. But, anxiety still reared its ugly head because, well, fuck my life. I am still filled with an overwhelming sense of ineptitude.

New challenges have been added to my plate. I wish I was talking about a nice piece of chocolate cake, but this is the proverbial plate. So anxiety is kicked up yet another notch. My intolerance for idiocy and assholery is strong. I take the comments of bitches and douchebags too much to heart. I need to get stronger. I need to get harder. But, I also need to be tactful in covering up my disdain for those telling me to "contact me ASAP!" about their application; telling me they'll just go to a breeder; and, telling me I have taken their potential "Savior" away.

With all of these things that probably sound pretty miserable, I manage to muster my way through...still with breakdowns because I am still the mentally fucked up person I've been for much of my life.

The rescue's name is Life Is Better. It's about making life better for the animals we bring into the organization. It's about saving Fallon from euthanasia because grass awns (google it! YIKES!) were in all four of his feet and the shelter couldn't handle that. Now, he has a family ready for him and he walks just fine. Or, there's Gabe who was displaced from his shelter due to Hurricane Harvey and managed to survive treading water for 2 days. And, my loves! The Rottweilers Carl and Chloe, a 1 year old male and 6 month old female who were impounded when their owner was busted for drugs.

But, in my time volunteering, I've come to learn that the name applies to the human animal. Life Is Better. I get to play with and just hang out with dogs and cats of all types and ages. I'm almost a cat person, if the litter box isn't involved. I have syringe fed kittens who don't even have their eyes opened yet. I've learned cats have lots of breeds. I've felt the choke in my throat and the tears in my eyes when a dog I've come to love finds the exact family he/she is meant to have. The happiness that comes when a person emails me about the joy they feel knowing his/her application was approved.

So, yes, all of my issues pop up and almost win the fight; inadequacy, anxiety, and all the other shit my medication cocktail should be helping, come at me full force. But, a lot is better for this human animal's life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Different World View

The other day I was at my gynecologist's for my routine, annual exam. It struck me, again, just how differently I see the world these last few years. There are a lot of things that happen in the world that show a sort of denial about the existence of the infertile. Perhaps some people would call me the "snowflake" of infertility. So, who knows, maybe this post will convince everyone of that.

Getting back to my appointment at the gyno. Since my failed attempt at infertility and my hysterectomy, I have to take a deep breath and brace myself for my appointment. The waiting room is filled with professional portraits of newborns here, toddlers there, and families, too. Then I wade through all of the women in various stages of pregnancy. I think to myself, "Can't they make separate waiting rooms?" How about a waiting room for obstetrics and a waiting room for gynecology? There are more people like me, I think...maybe.

Another place that doesn't always have a view of infertility is the grocery store. I remember when the struggle was fresh and real and I was still getting my period. I went to buy tampons. Where did I have to go to buy them? The baby aisle. I had to walk by diapers and wipes and baby oil and all the other stuff to get my box of tampons. I believe I teared up the first time. Not every grocery store is set-up that way, but I've managed to be in the ones that were.

The world view I really wish would change is the view some people have of people without children. People think it is okay to ask questions and imply things. There's the times childless people are holding a baby, "Oh, that looks good on you?" Or, "The clock is ticking." Those questions/comments are so intrusive, not funny. There can be a number of reasons for not having children and people should start to realizing they should keep their noses out of it. Also, if you do know that the situation is infertility, don't ask about adoption or surrogacy or embryo donation. In my case, not that it's anyone's business, my trying to get pregnant was for Shawn and me to have a baby together. I wanted a piece of me and a piece of him to come together for me to carry. It was about us coming together in the closest way possible.

So please, just think about someone else's silent struggles.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

My favorite color's green except that one shade

Last weekend Shawn and I were at a comic convention to promote his comic, The Specialists. Conventions are always an interesting experience, and this was no different.

As I was sitting there and as I walked around, I took in so much. At the end of it all, I had a mix of emotions. I wouldn't call it envy, that green eyed monster, because I think that has anger behind it. I wasn't angry. I admired the creativity that was expressed; the art and the writing. And then I felt sad. It was a sadness about my wasted talents.

Years ago, I did draw. Not the black & white doodles that were worth framing and displaying in my own house, but realistic images in pencil. The last one and one I'm most proud of was a little over 20 years ago. I did a drawing of my nephew from a photograph I had. Is it convention worthy? No. I probably wouldn't be able to get any money for it, but it was good. I look at it and I know it is him.

Why did I stop taking art after 9th grade? Why did I stop doing it on my own? I don't know. I guess it wasn't on my life's trajectory.

Then, there's the writing. College papers and my creative writing course about wrap up my use of writing. I never wrote very long papers. Really was a minimum requirement kind of gal. The longest story I could manage was a single page. Why didn't I do more with that? I was an English major....I was an English major who didn't want to teach and was headed to the convent where something would be figured out.

These thoughts about my undeveloped talents are happening in the midst of some of Shawn's thoughts about himself as a writer. His doubts about his talent. His thoughts that when he writes nothing good comes out.

Shawn is amazingly talented. His creativity with the wedding vows he wrote put my vows to shame. I mean, Mad Libs and Dr. Suess? Who does that? Who does that well? Then, he writes The Specialists and has a vision of the story that will culminate in 12 chapters. He also comes up with these vignettes about himself and our dog, Jarvis. They are so funny. He is, indeed, gifted.

In thinking about all of this stuff, I've come to realize that my brain doesn't work in fiction. I don't have imagined stories to write with made up characters and places heading toward some plot point to resolve. My drawing needs to have an actual, existing thing for me to follow. And now, my hands get the shakes at any old time they feel like it, so that's not conducive to drawing.

Maybe, if I did more way back when, my brain would know how to make stuff up.