There Will Be Blood

I zippity-doo-dah around Google Images every day, collecting a variety of things that catch my eye, many of which are not anything I was initially searching for or associated with it. So when I stumbled across an antique Sanitary Belt pic, I had a head-rush of memories from when I was a teen just starting my period.

Having spent 32 years in birth work, I have talked about first periods hundreds of times. I’ve always been fascinated by the vast differences between women’s experiences.

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the picture I randomly found

What the Heck?

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I went to The Period Movie in 6th grade, girls only, smashed into the cafeteria. I still am clueless what the boys did while we learned about “menstruation.” (The link takes you to the Disney-made menstruation movie that came out in 1946. I could pretty much guarantee it was the same movie I saw in 1972.)

Watching the movie was my first exposure to what a woman’s body was capable of. My mom was mute when it came to anything remotely sexual, even something as basic as body changes in adolescence.

After we girls watched and learned, we chitty-chatted a lot, each telling the other when they began wearing bras, shaving their legs or growing public hair. The pies de resistance, however, was who had started having periods. Sitting here 45 years later, I cannot figure out why, but you were elevated almost to Goddess stature when you did begin.

That Brown Paper Bag

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artist, Nadine Faraj

When I finally started at 12, a full year after the movie, I felt like I was one of the last ones out of the gate. Hardly, but self-centered me, that was what I thought.

I told my terribly prudish mother (who blessedly, has loosened up considerably over the decades) and within a couple of hours, I went into my room and there, on the end of the bed, was a brown paper bag. I dumped out the contents and had absolutely no idea what to do next.

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A white elastic belt & an enormous pad with long gauze arms on each end. What the fuck?

I sat down and read the directions, seeing how the gauze arms were to be threaded through the hooks on the belt. It looked like a geometry problem… and I suck at math.

I did figure out how to put the pad on, then saw how I was supposed to wear it, elastic on my hips, pad between my legs. But when I tried to put my legs through the make-shift holes, the pad twisted wildly. It took several periods before I got the clue to hold it with one hand while putting my legs through the holes.

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Up there, do you see those pokie triangles on the metal that holds the pad’s gauze? Well, I suspect they are uncomfortable on most women, but on a fat teenager, they stabbed my flesh. In my mons and in the crack of my ass, I would get indentations that imprinted my body and by the end of the day, I would have bloody spots where the metal prongs went right through my skin. An alternative to these hook thingies was using safety pins, but those were equally painful, especially if they opened during flight and stabbed me while walking to my next class. Or while playing my flute as I marched on the practice field a mile from the bathroom. (Yes, it happened.)

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A Loaf of Bread? Are You Kidding?

Pulling the elastic belt up, the pad was finally positioned between my legs. I can remember it now as if it was yesterday. Being fat, my thighs never had “the gap,” not even as a toddler, so wearing the thick cotton between my legs became an adventure in hands-off, nearly constant, re-positioning.

If you’re one of the youngsters who never had to wear the baguette-sized pads between your legs, how lucky you are. This picture demonstrates the very real situation we dealt with for 5 to 7 days, every. single. month.

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My belts never went up around my waist like this mannequin’s, but were more under my belly button, the elastic stretching to its maximum capacity, gouging me nearly as much as the metal pieces. But you get the idea of how bulky (understatement!) these things were.

That is, until my fat thighs squished it like so much Play-Doh, being more comfortable between my legs, but the hell if it was able to contain the blood.

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Through the Bathroom Door

It was less than a year before I began wearing tampons, urged on by my girlfriends, all of whom had pools or went to the Y with me, except when, during shark week (which is the best name EVER for having your period; it didn’t exist in the olden days), I stayed ashore.

I don’t know who donated the box of Tampax tampons, but I am sure my mom had nothing to do with it. So, I sat on my bed while my three best friends described to me how to put the tampon in. They might as well have been describing how to install an engine in a plane.

After I was equipped with verbal instructions, I went into the bathroom, alone. Just me, the full box of tampons, including the written directions and a small jar of Vaseline.

Trial & Error

I sat on the toilet reading the directions, it really all being so foreign; I’d never touched my vulva except with toilet paper after peeing… and most certainly never put my fingers inside myself.

I opened one of the paper-covered tampons, looked at it from all angles, totally confused how that was going to go inside me. And the actual tampon was inside the cardboard container?

This was my Riddle of the Sphinx.

My 3 girlfriends stood outside the bathroom door asking what was taking so long. I had no answer. The one who brought the tampon party favors with the side of Vaseline began coaching me.

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Did you put the Vaseline on the end? Not a lot.

Shit, I have a giant glob there. wiping some off with toilet paper

Now, use your left hand and open your lips.

My lips? Huh?

On your Down There.

I guess these are called lips, too?

I touched myself for the first time without toilet paper. scrunching up my face Hmmm, not bad.

Now take the tampon and slide it in a little, AIM FOR YOUR BACK! Don’t go straight in.

I pushed straight up and gashed my clitoris (that I didn’t know existed yet).

OW!

You pushed straight up, didn’t you! Don’t do that. Try again.

I took the offending object out and threw it angrily in the garbage can; it never occurred to me use the same one. I huffed reaching for another tampon, ripping the paper off, digging it into the Vaseline jar (with less goop this time) and breathed deep as I set out to find The Right Hole.

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I repeated this same scenario through at least 5 tampons, 3 of which before realizing I had to pull the cardboard applicator out. This was a freakin’ dexterity test! Thinking I had it in, I’d  walk to the door of the bathroom, ready to say, “I DID IT!” when, before I walked 4 steps, it either hurt like crap or fell out. Despaired, I went back to the toilet, only to begin again.

My friends would not let me leave that cubicle until I Got It.

Of course, I did eventually figure it out: AIM TOWARDS MY BACK. Wasn’t that the original advice? laughing, shaking my head

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The Midwife Who’s a Slow Learner

When I began working in birth, I sometimes thought back to my ignorance about my own body. As I figured out there were 3 holes on the perineum, that the clitoris brought enormous fun, that being fucked in the vagina is a really nice experience, I relished the position I held to teach others who, I found out, were as equally in the dark as I had been.

I send thoughts of thanks and gratitude to those three friends who taught me much more about my body in an hour than I had learned in 12 years.

I continue learning to this day.

 

Pick a Cause, Any Cause

(For some amazingly strange reason, this post cannot be formatted correctly, no matter if I work in WYSIWYG or HTML; I have tried for 2 days to fix it, to no avail. I apologize for the bizarre lack of paragraph breaks/doubling of paragraph breaks.)

I have a theory (that has surely already been discussed in other places) that the new administration has an entire strategy to create as much turmoil as possible, knowing there would be protests (because the Women’s March on Washington was planned well in advance of the Inauguration), then seeing even more protests with each Executive Order, their idea took on greater and greater maniacal glee.

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artist, Darwin Leon, Chaos After The News

Piling On of Causes

Suddenly, there are causes to the left, causes to the right, causes above, below, front and center. People are flooding into the streets to protest the lack of women’s rights, Muslims being banned from our borders and white supremecists wanting to speak at colleges.

There are even more protests, not pounding the pavement, but striking the keyboard or dialing the phone. Some, like the scientists, have found even more creative ways of protesting bans, denials and dissolutions. And others are crazed by the potential nominees for various posts in the administration or losing their Obamacare, incessantly calling & emailing their representatives to voice their opinions.

 Folks who have never protested a thing in their lives are making signs and finding their way to join hoards of others who have also never found themselves in a mass of protesters.
An aside: In a piece about an ACT UP workshop, this really important point was made:
You learn activism by doing it, they said. One of the main obstacles to activism is the idea that you have to be an expert to do it —

Spinning Plates

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artist, Jessica Joy – Finding Peace Amongst the Chaos

Because there are so many causes to fight, it can be challenging to protest everything one feels strongly about. Surely, the administration is having a field day cheering that fact.

I see people in my own life swirling around, grasping at causes willy-nilly, protesting 1 one day and another, 2 days later. This frenetic energy cannot possibly be maintained. Speaking up, living in crisis mode, changing one’s life patterns, even for a short time can exhaust someone, causing Outrage Fatigue.

Madison Wilburs says it perfectly in “On Outrage Fatigue“:

Every morning, we wake up to a fresh Trumpian outrage, as the orange one’s fat little thumbs have tapped out the latest vitriol via Twitter before we lift our weary heads off of the keyboards we fell asleep on because we were up past midnight planning how to block his Cabinet, or save ACA, or get to Burr and Tillis, or, respond to Russian hacking. Is it any wonder that some of us are experiencing outrage fatigue?

As the Day of His Ascendence (formerly known as Inauguration Day) approaches, the more the sense of impending doom and inevitability grows. After the election, outrage and disbelief propelled many into passionate, but ultimately quixotic pursuits. Flipping the electors. The Jill Stein recount. As those prospects faded away, and the names and hideous bios of Trump’s Cabinet appointees came out, many geared up to protest and block that odious pack of cronies, capitalists, and cranks from running the country. Lists of committees were drawn up, scripts written, action plans mobilized. The GOP then ganged up on ACA, as Trump fanned the flames. No, no, protest that! many online cried. Russian allegations exploded; Trump kept tweeting. Crooked media! Overrated Streep! All-talk John Lewis!

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Outrage Fatigue

As sure as I am sitting here, the White House and even much of Congress are devising ways to wreak havoc on America and betting “libtards” will be out en masse protesting within a couple of hours. They are counting on it. So far, we are not disappointing them.
But with the passage of time, people become numb and mute, collapsing with exhaustion, creating  an open, wide and clear, path for the “president’s” coup to complete itself. (And I do believe we are in the middle of a coup!)
Long-time protesters each speak about outrage fatigue, previously called burnout, in their stories. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) movement and even the LGBT(QAI+) (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, etc.) all find themselves teaching younger generations how to avoid the outrage fatigue that comes with long battles, ones we are surely just beginning with this “president.”
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What I Can Do!

I have Bipolar Disorder and struggle with depression and must be hyper-vigilant to not become overwhelmed with sadness and pain, something that’s been quite a challenge the last 6 months or so, increasing each day. I’m also physically disabled, unable to go out into the streets to protest.

But I can write.

Since the Inauguration, I have been sitting back and pondering… considering what cause resonated most with me, which one I would be most effective battling.

What bubbled to the top was Censorship.
As a writer/blogger, I’ve been censored several times, from Blogger slamming my blog shut for having nude women (giving birth and breastfeeding!) to my midwifery licensing organization strong-arming me to “edit” one of the most important blog posts I’ve ever written. (I did and deleted the original, something that still brings tears 9 years later.)
Government censorship has always made me crazy, but it’s been over there… you know, in other countries.
Until this “president” brought it front and center in the United States.
I could enumerate so many examples, but the loudest and most obnoxious recently came from “president steve bannon” when, on January 26, 2017, in the New York Times, he said:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while….”
You can imagine the response.
From shock to hysterical laughter, CNN’s Jake Tapper gave the best answer of all; an emphatic, “NO.”

My Strategy to Avoid Outrage Fatigue

I have chosen to focus on that one strength of mine… writing… and the topic that most resonates… Censorship.

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This way, I will be able to pace myself. During the couple of weeks with this new strategy, I’m finding myself able to see-and-toss the non-censorship posts, news pieces and videos, but am seeing, quickly and clearly, the pieces that relate to me specifically. This prevents news overload, which pulls me down towards depression. It is, sometimes, challenging to ignore the information on the periphery, but as I do, I find myself more and more at peace.
By focusing on my life-long writing skills as my major protesting mechanism, I am able to keep my interest level high and will have long-term focus on the censorship issue.

Many Hands…

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Guan Yin (觀世音菩薩), the Chinese Bodhisattva/Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness. I have “known” Guan Yin for about 3 decades working in birth, she is the Goddess who overlooks childbirth. When I remembered her “thousand arms” (in some depictions), she was the perfect representation of how I visualize the community (protestors/protectors around the USA) working to save our country’s liberties & laws… with compassion, mercy and kindness… for, and with, each other.
One last strategy is for me to connect with other writers, especially those who focus on censorship. Companionship fosters support and support can manifest in many ways including encouragement, reminders of the mission at hand and backing each other up when conflict gets nasty.
I’m hoping that as I send this out over the airwaves, it will find other like-minded people, but especially writers. I could use the support and suspect you could, too.
LET’S WRITE!

WordPress is Killing Me!

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artist, April Freeman Locke

I’ve got a really great post ready, but WordPress keeps fucking up the spacing between paragraphs.

When there are NO breaks between paragraphs, I go into HTML and do the <br/> there and then when I Preview, there are ENORMOUS breaks. Whether in Visual or HTML, if I fix those, it returns to the same tight look as in the beginning.

And then there are the lines that no matter how many breaks I put in, it stays attached to the paragraph before. (I am screaming until nearly hoarse over that one.)

I have looked it up and there are plugins (that cost $$) or the suggestion to get a more WYSIWYG Style (also costing dinero).

I have copied the HTML, put it in Word, started a new Post, dropped it, but that still doesn’t work.

WHAT AM I MISSING?!?!?

WTF DO I DO?!?!?!

 

My Inner Islamophobia

I have often said here that I have a Muslim (Internet) lover/boyfriend, my cub. With all these horrific Islamophobic things happening in America, I’ve seen my saying this in a totally different light.

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You know how it sounds when someone says, “I have a black friend/boyfriend/partner,” and are saying in parenthesis, “So I can’t be racist,”… how racist that sounds… how racist it is? It is the same with my making loud declarations of having a Muslim boyfriend. I am clearly professing, “See me? I’m not Islamophobic, but I am a really progressive liberal atheist who can sidle up to a person that much of the world wants to destroy,” making it All About Me.

I find that really disgusting.

Islam

I know very little about Islam and discussing it with my cub has taken us into really uncomfortable territory. We’ve pretty much abandoned the topic because my atheism is so contrary to his deep beliefs. I have Googled and read about Islam, sharia law, the different ways to be Muslim, Islam in the United States versus in mainly-Muslim countries and, the really tough part, Islamic extremists and why violence is so important to their causes.

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Islam is an incredibly complex and varied religion, much more so than Christianity or Judaism, both religions I know and understand pretty well, having been both in this life. I’ve been told that it can take many years and a plethora of scholars to explain the Qur’an. How does a heathen learn about Islam when it is such a pain in the ass to understand?

Just looking up “Moderate vs. Radical Islam” images for this piece brings intense emotions for me because the hate in the photos and comics are so, so despicable. (Is my cub considered a moderate? A liberal?) I don’t even know what to believe anymore. Is Islam a cruel religion that does not delineate between a Muslim here or in Syria? Are all American Muslims really potential terrorists given the right circumstances and their anger level at how they are treated by Americans? (This is, I have found, one of the most common beliefs and it is excruciating for me to even utter it because I know how my cub is going to hear it.)

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One of the nicer comics I could find.

For fuck’s sake, how brainwashed am I? Where did it come from? Islam is a brand new experience in my life comparatively. The horrible things I’ve learned have all been based on violence against others… against the LGBTQIA+ communities, women, American journalists, random strangers who’ve made life difficult for the killers… really skewed pictures and stories that have clearly imprinted in my mind.

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How do I counter these negative beliefs? I am not sure where exactly to look because the information on the Internet is widely contradictory and, I have learned, laced with radical ideas the murderers use to recruit marginalized Muslims. When I’ve asked my cublet for help, things devolve into major discomfort so we just agree to let the topic go.

I’m lost, but I don’t want to be anymore.

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When Suicide Seems the Right Choice

A woman being sent back to Chile instead of being let into the United States tried to kill herself on Friday at JFK airport in New York City. She was found and Narcan administered, saving her life. She is at a hospital in stable condition.

Airports

Today, folks from the countries that evil man listed, were detained at airports around the world, many sent back from whence they came. Families were separated, some people arbitrarily allowed into the United States while others sent away.

Thankfully, around the country, people came out in droves and protested at major airports.

Lawyers also came out, pro bono, to help folks get into the country, stationing themselves at all the major airports and working, sitting on floors, in fast food restaurants and wherever they could find to help those that needed it so badly. Goddess bless lawyers!

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Immigration Lawyers at LAX.

Then the ACLU initiated the fight against the executive order and “a federal judge granted an emergency stay Saturday to bar deportation of people with valid visas who landed in the U.S., following chaos and detentions after President Donald Trump’s executive order related to immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.”

Absorbing the Pain

Today is only Day 8 of that evil man’s reign in the US and I already feel immense despair. I do not watch the TV news or even look at video of the news on the computer. I get all my information from Facebook and Tumblr feeds, reading the articles posted there. I am not supposed to listen to the news… my psychiatrist and therapist have both forbidden it because of how it affects me.

As the day wore on, I felt more and more despondent, falling to a very low place about 10pm. I talked to my Muslim lover, each of us sharing our own sadnesses… and then feelings of hope at how things were playing out around the world as the hours passed.

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artist, David Kessler

I’ve had some really horrid thoughts about that man in charge of our country today. I am not a violent person, do not visualize mean things happening to anyone, but out of nowhere, really ghastly thoughts manifested all day long. I tried not to judge my random thoughts, but just allowed them to come and go without holding onto them too desperately. (A Mindfulness skill.)

My Own Despair

What was disconcerting were my own feelings of not being connected to my body, my mind floating around without having much control over it. I wrote “Immigration Ban Horror” trying to get some of the pain out of my body, but the distress actually grew instead of diminished.

I’ve thrown up several times, wanting to purge the awful feelings inside.

When I was talking to my cub (my Muslim love), I confessed I have been having thoughts of such despair I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it through the night.

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My cublet was very loving and gentle with me, reminding me of all the reasons I must stay here on the earth (kids, grandkids, my mama, for him… and to write). Just sharing with him released enough of the pressure, the near-compulsion, that the urge has passed.

(And yes, I know enough to go to the hospital if it gets too bad again.)

What distresses me is I am not even Muslim, a refugee or someone who is being targeted with being kept out of the United States, yet my emotions have been so strong.

I can so relate to the woman from Chile who tried to kill herself on Friday; I understand her desperation intensely.

I need to figure out how to moderate these feelings or else just get off the computer altogether for the next 4 years.

Helplessness

I feel helpless to do anything. The only thing I can do is write and most of what I am writing is news already out there or my responses to the news. I don’t feel like I have anything new to offer, nothing of real substance, just my emotions as I react to it all.

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My cub said my writing has joined the chorus of support for Muslims and disdain for the horrid man in charge, that my voice is important to the message. That was soothing.

Exhausted

Writing has drained me. I am going to go lay down and try and sleep. I have Hamilton on (it’s been on all night) and I’ll probably leave it on… I love it so much!

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

thinking nasty thoughts about that evil person in DC that would make tomorrow better

Immigration Ban Horror

How can this be happening? Just when you think nothing can get any worse with that horrible, evil man who is our president, he descends deeper into a hell the world has to cope with.

Of course, those fleeing torture and death… they definitely have it worse than many of us… directly affected by the sweeping executive order that slams the door of salvation in their faces.

Does This Make You Sick? Cry? Want to DO Something?

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3-year old Aylan Kurdi died fleeing Syria.
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5-year old Omran Daqneesh

Tonight at JFK Airport

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How can these horrible “christian” people and lawmakers turn their backs on human suffering? I cannot wrap my head around any kind of logic they could conjure. Pro-life? Fucking pigs. What about the children who are dying waiting to enter our country? The women being raped and tortured in refugee camps? Men, hopeless, feeling useless and powerless.

I wish I had answers. I suppose letting our representatives know how we feel? They don’t give one shit. No one has the cajones to stand up against that fascist dictator we now have “leading” our country.

Thank you Canada, Germany and France for stepping up and saying they will accept those trapped in American red tape. Strangling red tape.

My heart feels like it is going to fall out on the floor, I am in so much distress over what is going on. All I can do is write my feelings, trying to see through the tears, knowing I am not alone dealing with this disgusting, horrid man.

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Sacagawea Brings Hope

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Sacagawea: A heroine when we most need one.

I was given 2 Sacagawea (Sah-cog-uh-wee-uh) dollars this morning, reminding me of the resilience of women.

On the coin, Sacagawea, a Shoshone Native American, is wearing her baby Pomp, who was 2 months old when the Lewis & Clark Expedition continued their journey with her as one of their guides (along with her husband).

I often gave this coin to my pregnant clients, especially those who were really nervous about childbirth and parenting, letting them know that if Sacagawea, at 14-years old, could toss her baby onto her back and traipse across the wilds of the pre-United States, leading a group of men and saving many lives along the way, they, too, had the inner strength to be a parent. I was told it comforted many of these women.

So how does this relate to today’s times when so many human rights are being destroyed within days of the new administration, so many more to be lost soon as well?

Sacagawea reminds me of the resilience of the human spirit. Stolen as a girl, married at 13-years old, birthing Pomp at 14 and onward with 33 men (with only one dying during the 2.5 year journey), assisting the Corps of Discovery as they ventured forth on their SCIENTIFIC Expedition. She helped them tremendously with the foods and medicinal plants, helping them chronicle everything for President Jefferson… much of the knowledge still relevant today.

These times are indeed dark, our most basic knowledge, love and understanding for others, many of whom unlike ourselves, are being vilified and negated. But, our country has had other difficult times (albeit not with the threat of annihilation by nuclear weapons) and overcome them. I believe if we cling to each other and, with guidance and support as we traverse new territories, we will make it through.

I will make it through with your help. I need you all.

And I am here for you as well.