Our Trip to Lubbock (food is involved)

Heading to Lubbock

Meghann had worked in our Holistic Healthcare Center for the summer and Zack and I were driving her back to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Zack was driving his F250 and we had a new washer and dryer for Meggie in the cargo bed. The path from San Diego to Lubbock is one of the most visually boring trips in the country. Lubbock is in West Texas, in the middle of nowhere.

Now, I cannot pee outside. When I have tried, I have had it running down my legs and into my shoes. It’s just gross.

But then there is the issue of finding a bathroom that doesn’t make me gag. Unfortunately, sometimes gagging is involved with urinating in a public toilet.

The Stop

We stopped at the smallest gas station on earth to fill up and let Meghann and I go to the bathroom. When we walked inside the tiny building, the man behind the glass counter…. Yeah, the man behind the counter.

He had no teeth and was holding a half-cooked greasy hamburger (without the bun) in his hand. The grease was dripping down his arm. Lots of grease. A river of grease. Dripping off his elbow onto the newspaper he seemed to be perusing.

It was revolting.

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We knew the bathroom was not going to be pristine.

Meggie and I took turns in the bathroom, one guarding the other because there was no lock on the door. And what if that man wanted to wash his hands. (As if.)

Walking out, we took one last look behind the counter as the man took a gummy bite into his burger, the grease oozing down his arm.

When we got in the truck, we laughed hysterically, partially from fear release. We kept asking each other if what we saw was real and validated each other over and over. That remains one of the most surreal experiences in my life.

BBQ in Lubbock

Once we delivered the washer and dryer to Meghann’s new apartment, we headed out for some Texas BBQ.

Walking in and sitting down became an adventure in staring; them, not us. Zack is transgender, but had not come out yet so people saw him as a very butch lesbian. I’m guessing that LGBTQ people are not a big part of Lubbock or Texas Tech. The whole walking in experience seemed to be in slow motion, every step taking 5 minutes before taking the next. I swear the place went silent.

We were seated at a large table against a wrought iron room separator. Zack sat next to the fence thing and cooed a hello to a baby hanging over a mother’s shoulder. The mother shot up out of her seat and tromped to the other side of the table and sat down for the duration of her meal. I’ve always wondered if she thought the baby would catch The Gay from Zack.

We could not miss the hushed volume compared to when we first walked in, and the stares continued. Looking around, we saw many men in cowboy hats and Zack made the comment that if we were in San Diego, they would be the ones being stared at. True, true!

The next morning, Zack and I hightailed it out of Lubbock. I was never so happy to leave somewhere, barring leaving my daughter behind, even though there was the greasy hamburger man a few hundred miles ahead.

It seemed more than worth it.

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Photographer: Kyle Polzin

 

 

Reviewing Disney Dining (for a book)

Back a long time ago….

Food Writing

I’d been writing reviews of meals for a long time, publishing them on Disney websites (for free). I got great feedback, so kept going.

One of the folks that read my writing was Susan Shumaker. She and her partner Than Saffel were working on a book on vegetarian dining at Disney World and surrounding areas. They asked me if I would like to collaborate by eating in a slew of restaurants they couldn’t get to because they didn’t live in Orlando and had to make trips back and forth to taste test for themselves. I jumped at the chance!

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The end result!

Dining Partners

I was in a poly relationship at the time with a woman and my former transman partner (who had not yet come out). We scheduled 3 weeks to hit all the restaurants on our list, staying in different Disney Luxury Resorts chosen randomly. Even though I was the one reviewing/writing, all three of us were fed for free. And, except for breakfast, also given fine wine, per course, at lunch and dinner.

I was the only one of us three eating vegetarian or vegan; they were meat eaters… and were served meat dishes throughout the tastings.

All of us loved red wine and drank copious amounts. (A separate post in the works.)

Memories! Like the corner of my mind.

Meeting the Chefs

It was a matter of course for the chef to come to the table to ask what my food preferences were. (No green/yellow/orange/purple/jalapeño/etc. peppers. Not terribly spicy. Love mushrooms.) We 3 had eaten (and paid for it) in most of the restaurants, so knew many chefs ahead of time. Sometimes, they’d sit with us and we’d talk about food and wine. Fun!

Sitting here almost 20 years later, I cannot recall even one time I was disappointed by food made by a Disney chef… on either coast. And I’ve eaten in Disney’s Fine Dining easily 200 times.

Restaurants We Visited

We did not just eat in fancy restaurants and I did not eat just at Disney restaurants. We ate at restaurants in different Disney Resorts, from Value Hotels to Moderate ones, and of course in the Deluxe Resorts. When I ate off-property, those places were ghastly! No vegan food at all and Stouffer’s Veggie Lasagna was almost always the meal I was given. I ate at about 8 different locations off-property, but close to Disney World. I got to see some fun shows the tourists flock to, but the food sucked.

Where it did not suck was at Walt Disney World!

Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Whispering Canyon, Wilderness Lodge

We had breakfast at Whispering Canyon. Endless family style food. I was a vegetarian, so didn’t want the sausages. It was no problem at all. They asked what each person wanted to eat and if they wanted meat but were sitting with vegetarians, the meat was served on a separate plate. The food at that restaurant was yummy!

Whispering Canyon Breakfast Skillet
Whispering Canyon breakfast, Wilderness Lodge

Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

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Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

Besides being a lovely restaurant, food at the Flying Fish was awesome. I wish I had a picture of the foods I’d eaten at each place, but I do not.

heavy sigh

At a separate time, one of my friends having dinner with us was a Supertaster. He sat naming the ingredients in his dish… spices, too! We asked the chef to come over and test him. Amazingly, he was spot on with everything that was in his meal. The chef was impressed. I was stunned.

Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

Artist Point was my go-to restaurant, even having my entire family eat there with me several times. The food was fantastic and their wine list was a delight. I remember sitting in Artist Point for hours, slowly eating course after course, then having a dessert made especially for us. One of our favorite desserts was dark chocolate wafers with a dry Cabernet.

Mmmmm!

The chef got to know my poly partners and me and never made the same vegetarian dish twice. Always delicious! When I was eating for the vegetarian book, the chef made especially awesome dishes for us all. (One thing I remember about almost all of my meals was the pine tree-like rosemary sticking up from one mashed food or other.)

I haven’t been to Artist Point in at least 10 years, but know if I sat down there tonight, the meal would be amazing.

Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

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Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

Kona Café used to be the best place to get coffee at Disney World. The coffee beans were from Kona, Hawai’i and they really did make the most delicious coffee.

Researching right now, the space is actually a “casual dining” restaurant! With a sushi bar! The coffee is all but a footnote on the menu. I am sure it is still the best coffee in the World.

Cítricos, Grand Floridian Resort

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Cítricos Restaurant, Grand Floridian Resort

I’ve been to Cítricos only a handful of times. They serve seafood and Tuscan Italian food, which isn’t my favorite. It’s a gorgeous restaurant with great service and am sure my veggie dish was good (as I said I can’t think of one meal I didn’t like anywhere on Disney property.) and I don’t remember anyone complaining about their food but me. I do remember having Italian wine and missing the California wines I was used to.

Yachtsman Restaurant, Yacht Club Resort

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Yachtsman Steakhouse, Yacht Club Resort

The Yachtsman Steakhouse, obviously, serves steaks. Huge, giant slabs of beef. I cannot remember what I had, but do remember using a menu to hide Zack’s plate that had a pool of blood underneath his steak. Blech. Carnivores love the place and I might even like it now! I do have my steak medium well and eat it with ketchup. (I know… why bother?!? Kind of what I said for a long time as a vegetarian!)

Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Resort

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Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Result

I loved Maya Grill! And had a crush on Beatriz, the chef at the time. Beatriz took me back in the kitchen a couple of times, letting me photograph her hands as she prepped for the dinner crowd. One of the things she made was chimichurri, a dip I slurped up hungrily… until I saw it was made with green peppers. Then I couldn’t eat it anymore. Isn’t that silly? I know! But it just messed with my world view of hating peppers.

Mexican food is easy to make vegetarian and when we were food tasting for the book, my dinner was delicious… and very different from the other restaurants.

California Grill, Contemporary Resort

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California Grill, Contemporary Resort

Ahhhh, now the California Grill. I’ve eaten there dozens of times… as a vegetarian, vegan and carnivore. Never ever ever have I had to send something back. As the name suggests, the cuisine is California-oriented, and it is delicious.

If you are lucky enough to eat here, you must ask for Walter. He opened the restaurant and is still there 22 years later. He is worth waiting for, I promise.

Besides the food, the restaurant overlooks the Magic Kingdom. In the picture above, you can see the fireworks over Cinderella Castle and how lovely Space Mountain is covered in lights. While watching fireworks from inside is nice, I prefer the catwalk outside. In the olden days, very few people knew about that 15th floor perch and I took friends out there to impress them. And they were impressed!

Used to be you could just go up for the fireworks, but now you must have reservations to be allowed on the elevator up. So, make reservations! Eat dessert and coffee if your budget is on the small side (you do not have to tell the podium folks what you are going to eat… keep it to yourself!) or dinner if you’re wanting to spend some money on magnificent food and wine. Reservations around firework time are harder to get, so we usually made reservations either far far in advance or about 6pm and just eat several courses slowly. Tip your waiter damn good if you stay at the table for 4 hours!

There was a Dessert Chef we knew up there at one time and we’d sit at the small area overlooking the making of the desserts. Watching them being made is magic! Incredible soufflés, wondrous crème brûlée and then the most creative desserts for kids! From rice cereal sushi to bowls of dark cookie dirt with gummy worms hidden inside.

For the food review, I know we had an amazing time, a window table overlooking the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon, with peeks at the Polynesian. That meal I can remember like it was yesterday. Exquisite.

I last ate at the California Grill with my daughter Meghann her family and my mama. We had a beautiful time! And yes, Walter was our waiter. As he was for Meghann’s honeymoon meal 10 years earlier and the server for many, many of the great meals I had on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort.

Serendipity

It was pure luck that I was able to go around the World and eat and drink so well for 3 weeks. We had so much fun! I think everyone should be able to do the same.

It’s your turn!

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Vegetarian Dish at California Grill

This is Not a Drill: CDC’s 7 “Forbidden Words”

 

CENSORED-FACE
vulnerable

entitlement

diversity

transgender

fetus

evidence-based

science-based

Newspeak

The Washington Post relayed the information from a CDC & Trump Administration meeting Thursday night, December 14, 2017 that when the CDC presents their upcoming budget paperwork, they are forbidden to use the above 7 words.

I thought this was fake, ran to Snopes… nope. It is real. Checked Twitter. Real. Checked valid news agencies. Real.

I’m shaking I’m so angry… and even scared… of what this administration is doing to our democracy. By forbidding words, it is no longer a democracy.

Democracy has been dying since Trump took office.

Treating science as a matter of opinion rather than an objective, evidence-based reality appears to have become a hallmark of the Trump administration, particularly when it comes to climate change. So, too, is scrubbing certain words and information from discussions, documents and websites that don’t fit with Donald Trump’s vision. The Department of Health and Human Services has dropped information on its website about LGBTQ individuals.”

Orwellian Dystopia

This edict is one of the most terrifying things that have happened and are surely not the last we will see.

We cannot sit quietly and let this happen. I know many many people have been out protesting, but we have to find another way to be heard.

I am apoplectic… and hope you are, too.

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When It Was Brand New

For some odd reason, I decided to put on Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits this morning and suddenly found myself back with Zack and the little kids in Frankfurt, Germany, circa 1987-1988.

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Frankfurt am Main Kristkindlmarkt, a place Zack and I traipsed around several times, babies carried on our backs, we being out, something we could not do frequently because of the oppression of the military back then. Holding hands in public was quite the act of defiance.

Good lord, we were in love. Crazy, all-consuming, mesmerizing love. Emotional, yes, but also physical. We could not keep our hands off each other, having sex several times a day. Zack, being in the Army and nursing two young babies, barely slept. In the morning, home to nurse for lunch, when he came home and then all night long. How he ever functioned is beyond me.

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The 4 babies under 4. My chair where I nursed all day long. The yellow cup a tender memory for Zack because I made him drink tons of water when he was pregnant.

Zack made me feel beautiful for the first time ever. Until him, I had never had sex without a shirt on, covering my ugly body, but especially my belly that bore the effects of three huge babies. I remember the first time in bed with him, me in a shirt. He looked at me flabbergasted and said, “Fuck that shit!” and took my shirt off himself. Then he made love to all of me in a way that had never happened before despite having had several lovers and lots of casual sex.

The way he touched me, sliding his hands over my body, nearly worshiping every soft and gooshy part of me, kissing me (and my entire body) with complete abandon, learning quickly how to pleasure me… and doing so over and over again.

(Words seem so inadequate, so trite, so overused in trying to describe these experiences. Forgive their mundane-ness.)

The babies were in our bed so we had pillows, blankets and sheets kept under the TV in the living room and as soon as all four kids were asleep (and I do mean as soon as!), we were laying on our make-shift bed on the floor, touching, kissing, licking, fucking… and orgasming over and over and over again. I never came so much in my life as I did when first with Zack. Insatiable doesn’t begin to describe that ravenous time together.

Sometimes we tried to have sex in the bed, the babies settled on either side of us. We had a fiber-optic flowery thingie up in the top of the closet and when we were going to have sex in the bed, we opened the tiny upper door, giving us faint light that shifted and rolled as much as we did with each other.

fiber-optic

(Writing, Whitney continues singing, not stopping to allow me to catch my breath from crying so hard, memories nearly drowning me. How can she be so unaware of my need to stop for a moment? That I need to feel, relive, remember these sensations lest they vanish into the ether once again. I keep having to stop writing to wipe tears and blow my nose.)

The babies were really young… right at about a year, year and a half… so were nursing often. It was not unusual to have to stop our lovemaking session to walk to the bedroom, climb onto the waterbed and nurse one or both of the babies back to sleep. I used to be s0 frustrated with that process; Zack was matter-of-fact about it. (A much better attitude, for sure.)

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Resting here, “seeing” that time flowing inside my mind. I could write for years and never cover the expanse that was our love back then. I write, yes, but he and I share secrets with each other we will never tell another soul… the Take-It-to-the-Grave sort of hidden thoughts and experiences.

See me sitting in the middle of the living room, waiting for Zack to come back after nursing the babies?  Me, listening to Whitney Houston singing songs I would listen to in 30 years, my quilt of memories covering me from the cold of old age and loneliness.

Oh how I love that man. I’ll call and tell him so today.

Open Letter to the Tapestry of Pulse Responders & Healers

I initially wrote this on my Navelgazing Midwife blog, but it needed to be shifted over to here. It was written on July 4, 2016. I remain endlessly in awe of those that responded to the call for help in saving lives on June 12 and  13, 2016.

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Touching Life

I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.

I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.

The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.

angel colon
Pulse Survivor Angel Colon speaking at ORMC Press Conference.

I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together those first 24 hours, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.

Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.

Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.

Thank you to:

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– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.

– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.

– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.

– Local law enforcement agencies throughout Orlando, especially the Belle Isle Officers.

– The Special investigators who are still at work.

– Our National FBI personnel who keep finding needles in the acres of haystacks.

– The entire Orlando Fire Department, especially Lt. Davis O’Dell Jr., Orlando firefighter paramedics Carlos Tavarez and Joshua Granada, all of Fire Station 5.

– All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.

– All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.

– All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.

911 operators
miraculous 911 operators

– All 911 Dispatch Operators… my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.

ORMC
Orlando Regional Medical Center, June 12, 2016

– Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.

Florida Nightclub Shooting
Nine trauma surgeons and survivor Angel Colon speak to the media for the first time about the aftermath of the Pulse Shooting.

– The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.

– The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.

– The dozens and dozens of Doctors – ER, OR & ICU – for utilizing everything you’ve ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.

– The Orthopedics teams… your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so very much.

– The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.

– The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.

– The beloved Nurses – Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery… it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.

– All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed never-ending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.

– Residents – who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.

At Least 50 Dead In Mass Shooting At Gay Nightclub In Orlando
overwhelming response to need for blood

– OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.

– The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again… thank you for your skills and dedication.

– The Radiology team – your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.

– The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.

– To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay… doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.

– To you amazing Anesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists… while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.

lab
lab services

To ORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.

To the Other Orlando hospitals that freely gave a seemingly endless supply of personnel and supplies, especially Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Florida Hospital who responded immediately to the call for help.

joshuastephany
Dr. Joshua Stephany, compassionate Medical Examiner of Orlando.

To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especially Joshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.

To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.

To the Chaplains of the Orlando Police Department and the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.

ptsd
ptsd needs will be enormous as time passes

To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.

To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.

thecenterorlando

– To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.

To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.

– To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms… no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.

barbara-poma
Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse Nightclub, at a Pulse Benefit.

– To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.

– To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.

– To those wondrous people who gave blood in the days after the massacre. We do still need to fix the No-Gay-Men rule! Fix it NOW!

To the Hampton Inn & Suites for opening their doors and hearts in the immediate aftermath so survivors, family and friends had a place to congregate as they learned the fate of their loved ones.

– To the Translators who offered their love and gift of language to those who would have been lost without you… especially Eddie Meltzer who had the job of telling families their loved ones’ fate as well as helping them through the shock of learning their child/mother/family member/father/friend was also gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/queer. Your grace under pressure will always be appreciated.

ORLANDO PRAYER VIGIL
Religious leaders gather June 13 at the altar during the closing song, “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” during the “Vigil to Dry Tears” at St. James Cathedral for victims of a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Pictured from left are Jim Coffin, Interfaith Council of Central Florida; the Rev. Tom McCloskey, First United Methodist Church in Orlando; the Rev. John Harris, Downtown Baptist Church; the Rev. Robert Spooney, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church; Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan; Huseyin Peker, Atlantic Institute–Central Florida, Bishop Greg Brewer of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida; Imam Tariq Rashid, Islamic Center of Orlando and Retired Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic) See ORLANDO-PRAYER-VIGIL June 14, 2016.

Special note to the Religious Community… Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians… who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.

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Victoria Kirby York speaking eloquently about not only accepting the LGBTQ community, but embracing them into our lives and churches.

One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers’ pens.

To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.

Ongoing Love & Support

While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.

I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.

Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.

And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.

To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are:

Stanley Almodovar III, 23

Amanda Alvear, 25

Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Antonio D. Brown, 30

Darryl R. Burt II, 29

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28

Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25

Luis D. Conde, 39

Cory J. Connell, 21

Tevin E. Crosby, 25

Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50

Deonka D. Drayton, 32

Mercedez M. Flores, 26

Juan R. Guerrero, 22

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Paul T. Henry, 41

Frank Hernandez, 27

Miguel A. Honorato, 30

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Jason B. Josaphat, 19

Eddie J. Justice, 30

Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25

Christopher A. Leinonen, 32

Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49

Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35

Akyra Monet Murray, 18

Kimberly Morris, 37

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27

Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24

Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24

Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Shane E. Tomlinson, 33

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25

Luis S. Vielma, 22

Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37

Jerald A. Wright, 31

Opiate Addiction: the Slide Into Hell

I’m 2 years clean this month from addiction to the opiates Norco and Percocet.

looking at that statement above with amazing pride and happiness

turning-heart-to-the-spiritual-world

How It Began

It’s funny (not haha) that I cannot even recall when I was first prescribed Norco, but I am pretty sure it was around 2005 for back pain. Around 2007, my Primary Care Doc was concerned with my still being on it and ordered an immediate blood test to see if I was abusing them. I was baffled, not even having a clue what she was talking about. I took them exactly as prescribed… never even dawned on me to do otherwise. I was a midwife, for crying out loud. I had to keep my wits about me! Opiate addiction had yet to make headlines.

Then in December 2008, I broke my foot falling off a Wii Fit Board and had surgery to put a pin in it a couple of days later. The Norco wasn’t quite taking care of the pain, so Percocet was added to the mix. I had at least a year of terrible pain as there were 3 surgeries altogether; I remained on the meds throughout, compliant as could be.

I was an active midwife until early 2011 and that is about where I can see I went from use to abuse. Surely I was dependent a lot earlier, but being unaware of the cycle, I bypassed it without notice.

Thoughts & Words

morning pages2

I kept Journals during the abuse years (ugh, years!), doing the encouraged 3 pages a day, Morning Pages, as described in The Artist’s Way. The rhythm of the words went like this:

  1. Contentment for a few days after the prescriptions were filled… writing about going to the Y or some birthy topic or other… what my partner Zack was doing at the time… just chitty-chatting.
  2. Heightening “concern” I might be taking a few too many at a time, but not really caring and continuing to take them anyway… yet the distant knowledge that I was going to have to count as I wound down towards the end of the prescription. Non-drug topics becoming fewer as I wrote.
  3. Starting to get antsy about the middle of the month. Even a tad squirmy. I started counting pills. Shit, I’ve taken that many already? Crap. My words became jittery, talking about running out in 2 weeks.
  4. Finding myself worrying now about how the hell I am going to make the pills last through the end of the month. And what about my pain? What am I going to do about my pain? I’d gone through the gamut of physical therapies trying to fix the pain, I had learned pain coping methods in my life several times, but they escaped me whenever it was convenient to do so.
  5. The last week before the new prescription was ready was the worst. My writing was nothing BUT how worried I was about getting my meds. I wrote about counting, rationing, taking 2 pills a day instead of 16. Tears smeared the ink many days that last week.

norco2

(Writing this, I can feel those feelings all over again. My bowels are in an uproar.)

Oblivious to Stupidity

The Percocet at the time was a medication I had to have a hand-written Rx for (Norco is like that now, too, but at the time, I was given 3 refills at a time) and I had to first: Call the doctor’s office, leaving a message asking for my refill Rx, second: wait for the 5 days before they would have the Rx ready to be picked up, always terrified they wouldn’t fill it in time, or worse, at all… third, if they didn’t call me to tell me the Rx was ready in 5 days (usually 2 days before it was time to be refilled), I would get in the car and go sit at the doctor’s office until it was ready. I learned pretty quickly that the law allows one to fill a prescription 2 days before it is due. That meant I had two fewer days to ration the pills I had left.

That wasn’t the last hurdle I traversed. Pharmacies have the power to refuse filling any prescription they want to. As my addiction swallowed me up, I would have diarrhea dropping the Rx’s off at the pharmacy, terrified they would not fill my meds. About a year before detoxing, the pharmacy did exactly that, refused to fill my Percocet Rx’s. I remember sobbing at the counter, begging them to explain why? Why were they punishing me when I was just in pain! They were cruel and sadistic.

I changed pharmacies and resumed receiving my drugs.

And the cycle began again, taking 12-20 pills a day for 2 weeks, blah blah blah. (Re-read above to follow along.)

Stupidity_definition

Delusions

What is so very strange is this pattern, including writing in my Morning Pages, really was so predictable… was nearly identical every. single. month. For years. And yet, I was so deep inside the cycle, I couldn’t climb out.

There were times when I completely ran out and began asking family and friends for their extras, “just until mine came in,” then I would pay them back. They gave me what I asked for, too. I got those extras about a dozen times and rarely paid them back when I got mine. One friend told me I needed help. I didn’t call her for a long time, livid she would deny me. If I’d have had money, I would have bought them. I Googled what to take if one needed pain meds and I cannot even tell you the incredible advice out there. Nyquil (did it). Benadryl (took tons). OTC sleep aids (check).

My partner Zack clearly saw what was happening and tried, several times, to help me get control. Near the end, he hid my meds, divvying them out one day at a time. I madly searched out his hiding places and took what I wanted. He began counting them and saw what I was doing so got a lock box and locked them up. After he’d locked them that first time and left the room, I sat staring at it and cried for far too long. Sometimes he would be exasperated and just leave me to my own devices, but eventually locking them back again.

The Pain Specialist

My insurance, after a certain amount of time, too long I know now, required me to see a pain specialist to evaluate my medication usage. When I walked into the office, they handed me a cup to pee in. A random drug test. I broke out in a sweat and thanked the Universe it was at the end of the month so he wouldn’t see the copious amounts of drugs I would be taking in a week. I passed the pee test.

Sitting in front of the doctor, I recounted my injuries, faking limited mobility, vowing to him I was not addicted to the pain meds. It was obvious he didn’t believe one word I said. He said I needed to get off the meds, writing me a prescription for Suboxone. He wanted to see me in a month to see how I was doing. I never went back and stuffed the prescription into a drawer.

Colorless Life

I really thought I had zero side effects of the meds. Nevermind I was on a cornucopia of psych meds at the same time (and each doctor did know my entire medication list!) When I had agoraphobia, I was also prescribed a variety of anti-anxiety meds… known as Benzos… also highly addictive. Luckily I didn’t like how they made me feel, so just had Zack lock them away. I could see taking them when I ran out of the opiates and didn’t want to do that.

Writing was very difficult during these years. I thought I had lost my life-long compulsion to write. I could barely eek out my Morning Pages. My blog suffered mightily. I couldn’t keep complete thoughts formed long enough to type them out. I would feel rushes of desire to write when there were lively reactions to articles on my Navelgazing Midwife Facebook Page, but when I opened a Word Document, it stayed white with a blinking cursor. I just knew I was in the depths of writer’s block, that was all it was.

Losing words was the worst, however. Simple words escaped me. I kept a Thesaurus tab open on the computer so I could search for the words I really wanted to use. I began laughing that I needed to play charades to get a complete thought out. I honestly thought it was just an age thing. shaking my head in disgust

reality

Meghann First

Of course, when I was away, Zack had no control over my use/abuse. It was always a treat to travel.

When my daughter Meghann has her babies, I go to Texas to be her doula, birth and postpartum, staying for about 6 weeks total, helping wherever I could. She had her second baby, her second cesarean, in March 2014 and 36 hours after the birth, she nearly hemorrhaged to death, requiring another, more invasive surgery, to save her life. She was in the ICU for several days. Meggie has her own wonderful blog, Practically Hippie, and she tells her harrowing story in The Rest of Preston’s Birth Story (Part 1).

Once she was home, I was in charge of helping her with her pain meds. Norco. I was meticulous with them.

Until I ran out of my own. I took just one once. Not so bad, right?

Meghann was no longer taking the Norco after about 3 weeks, taking Ibuprofen instead. So, I rationalized, she didn’t need them. By default, they were mine, right? Standing back and looking at myself, even then, I was disgusted with what I was doing. When she exerted herself, she needed a Norco. I chilled for a few days to make sure she had what she needed. But if she didn’t ask for one for a few days, I helped myself again. She did have a refill on there. I could go get it and she would never know, right?

Zack’s Turn

My partner of decades, transitioned from female-to-male beginning in 2011, culminating in Sex Reassignment Surgery (“bottom surgery”) in early June 2014. (I will write plenty about my experience with his transition, I promise.)

The phalloplasty (when the penis is made) is such an extensive surgery it requires almost complete bedrest for 30 days afterwards and limited mobility for many months still. There are three surgical sites made at the same time: the forearm, where the nerves and veins and arteries are removed and used to form the phallus… an enormous slice of skin off the thigh in order to cover the cavernous arm wound… and, of course, the groin, where 100+ stitches hold the new penis and testicles onto the body. Most of us can barely comprehend the amount of pain this surgery creates.

Zack was prescribed Norco and Percocet for pain.

(You can already see the train wreck coming, can’t you. Sadly, I could not.)

We were in San Francisco for the surgery, staying in an Air B&B condo. We stayed right at a month, but it overlapped with my needing my meds mailed to me. It was a crisis when it was time, a fiasco that sent them to the wrong zip code and a couple of days later, my picking them up at the warehouse.

I’ll just borrow a couple of Zack’s until mine arrive. Hmmm, I’m already out of Percocet? A months’ worth, gone in less than 2 weeks. Crap, what am I going to do? I snuck into Zack’s bottle while he was sleeping 10 feet from me. He’ll never know.

Shockingly, he took the pain meds rarely. He has the pain tolerance of an elephant. Not me. I am a complete wimp. (I thought; I am not anymore!)

We finally got home and Zack was able to move about freely, albeit slowly. I am not kidding when I say the very first thing he did was walk to the counter and count his Norco. Many were missing. Even though he was wounded in many places, he was apoplectic. I was filled with immense shame at what I had done. He nearly cried telling me how sick (addicted) I was to be stealing his meds after the surgery he had just had.

I filled the prescription for the Suboxone that day.

Next up: “Opiate Addiction: Detox