Personal Responsibility Is Not Public Health

What kind of a shit show is going on over there at the White House, anyway? The new approach of people taking individualistic, personal responsibility, for whether or not they get COVID, and how they fair with it, is some wild ass horse shit I never saw coming.

Wild ass horse shit.

I feel like the Biden Administration, including his COVID Task Force, covered a piece of lumber with rusty nails and beat me over the face with it. Or they’re imploding. Or they’re just giving up and don’t give a fuck anymore.

Personal responsibility is not public health.

It’s quite literally antithetical to the word “public,” to the concept of public health. The scope of public health is, of course, to protect the community and the public, not cowtow to airline CEOs and Blue MAGAts that stopped caring the minute they were protected and found out it was just the Blacks and Browns, and the poors, mostly being affected.

A few problems with their Spring 2022 approach:

“We Have Solid Leadership”

No. We don’t.

We have people that tell us to live with COVID, while giving us no means to do so, or to spell out the risks of it so everyone understands.

We have people who lead by gaslighting; who say that COVID can be managed safely, while showing the world how they do it without disclosing the vast privileges they have above and beyond what average Americans have access to.

This is not leadership, and more and more we’re now hearing stories about people getting very sick, because they simply didn’t know any better but to listen to the President of the United States, whose primary focus is to keep you spending money and working more.

Perhaps the most disingenuous aspect of COVID in the US right now is in the vaccinations. Beyond the lie that we would have an Omicron vaccine by now, or that we could tweak the vaccines quickly, is the scandal of letting data sit for other vaccines while people die. Novavax has been on the FDA’s desk since January, Covaxin pediatric vaccine was denied with no reason; parents are being forced to wait for Moderna so Pfizer has an equal shot at getting product in arms. Did you all know that in the UK they have 6 vaccines? In Canada they have 8. Why do we deserve only a couple, and why are we not getting some honesty with the American people that for the vast majority, they’re as good as not vaccinated at this point?

Oh I know. Because corporations and the economic outlook.

Less than 50% of Americans are boosted. 30% of Americans boosted over 6 months ago. The vaccines don’t last forever, Karen… in fact, they don’t even last a year, which means that many people have zero protection; and Omicron BA 1 conferred no protection.

Did you get that? None.

We don’t have leaders warning people, telling people that now the question isn’t have you gotten COVID, but how many times have you had it? We have no one out in front being frank about the risks of getting long COVID, or a more serious case, with each successive infection.

If you all read nothing else I have to say, read this: the President of the United States does not give a fuck about you. They tell you you can take off your mask without knowing your personal health status. They tell you it’s safe because they want you spending money, and because some political consultant with his head up his ass thought it would help with the Midterms. They tell you “we have the tools” without funding those tools so that you can have them too.

And now they make jokes about it, as they did Saturday night. 1 million Americans are dead, millions more disabled; but the White House Correspondence Dinner was a good time to crack jokes at the expense of those victims, at an event held amidst unprecedented springtime community transmission nationally.

“We Have the Tools”

No. We don’t.

They do, and I guess for them that’s all that matters. But in many communities, Paxlovid and other treatments, including the preventative monoclonal Evushield, are still just… not widely available.

(And also, the United States is urgently studying whether or not Paxlovid and Mulnipovir have a widely observed infection rebound effect, which is fucking great if you want the drugs to be worthless by the fall/winter surge.)

There is no vaccine for the variants currently circulating, either.

No improved ventilation, pretty much anywhere.

But it isn’t even just that. In many areas, testing and vaccinations are gone for the uninsured. The free at home tests have run out, so have the masks you can pick up in the pharmacy. Congress has failed to pass funding for COVID, which we all saw coming when they gutted it from their omnibus budget (more than 50% of which was for military spending) earlier in the year. They always say “we’ll do it later, as a separate bill.” But as with their social spending bill that was burned to the ground by a single Democratic senator from West Virginia: it’s all smoke and bluster up the bum.

We also don’t have a CDC with integrity, an FDA free of special interest, and a White House COVID Task Force with an actual strategy.

“We Know What To Do”

No. We don’t.

At the same time the White House was hosting a poorly ventilated, mask-less, super-spreader this weekend, Amazon was making the announcement that they would no longer be offering 5 days of sick pay to employees who test positive for COVID 19. As a replacement, they offer 5 excused, unpaid days.

Personal responsibility as a response to a public health crisis.

Companies have already been doing this, but Amazon’s official change in practice will be the opening of the dam for the rest of the water to break. COVID protections in the workplace are over.

If an employee tests positive, they don’t know what to do. Go to work? Or stay home? If they stay home, how will they pay the bills?

They don’t know.

If a coworker tests positive, and you have an immune-compromising condition or comorbidity, are you protected? Don’t know. Should you wear a mask? Not sure. Should you get tested? Where?

No substantive public policy was ever made to address ventilation in the workplace, nor guarantee sick pay to protect others. We have the tools? We know what to do? We have leadership on this? The fuck we do.

But it isn’t just that. An important tool for people to assess their personal risk – given their own health conditions and vaccination status – is to know conditions on the ground in their own communities. But by and large, states and counties have cut further and further back on reporting. In California, we now only get numbers twice a week; in my county, it’s only on Mondays. Moreover, the CDC completely redefined their levels of transmission, and COVID ACT NOW has eliminated the rate of transmission on any portion of their website (while claiming it’s still available).

Information is another kind of tool, and it’s being intentionally restricted. Why? I have my suspicions, and I’ll meet you at Applebees to discuss it. (See what I did there?)

We can talk later until we are blue in the faces about why this is happening, and the real crisis of morals America – nay, the world – finds itself in. For now, we need to focus on the fix. What is the solution at this point? For myself, I’m not sure. I’m doing everything I can to keep my own family safe, but finding it increasingly more difficult to do so when I don’t even know what is lingering on the other side of our front door.

The Biden Administration has made themselves abundantly clear, and beyond just being about economic interests, I believe it’s about election prospects this year as well. But letting the pandemic reach it’s most fucked up point yet, with more people than ever saying that at least with Trump we had funding (I would be one of them), it’s hard to see how the Democrats can expect to do anything but lose this year. Bigly.

The consequences of this of course will be disastrous, but what do we do? Sit and lie, gaslight even ourselves and say everything is fine? Or do the opposite: advocate louder and harder for a reverse course, even if it means Blue MAGA cancels us as radical and “anti-vax” (an absurd accusation unto its own that has grown among elite, neoliberal Democratic circles in recent weeks).

But I am still an optimist on this, probably to a fault. It’s never too late to fix this. To admit mistakes, take responsibility, and kick COVID in the balls.

There’s that word again though. Responsibility. The government is making damn sure to demand it from us, while making it impossible for anyone to really and truly do so in a way that is ethical and fair.

And, at the same time, they are running away from any of it themselves.

You can’t point the finger forever though. At some point, you’re left with no one to point at but yourself. I just hope we change course before that’s all that’s left.

It Is Never Too Late To Defang This Stupidity

I feel as though we have really reached peak bullshit in this pandemic. It is exhausting to even just get up in the morning, let alone live, breathe, and witness the rampant stupidity that seems to now be at the wheel in controlling this thing.

I’m here today to say: it is never too late to defang this stupidity and change course.

You Can Still Get Vaccinated

I am by no means asserting that all people unvaccinated are morons. Let me be abundantly clear on this: that is not what I am saying. I. Am. Not.

There are a host of reasons people are not vaccinated still in the United States, as well as the rest of the world: poverty, access, eligibility… you name it. Even here in the United States, it’s estimated that a fair percentage of those unvaccinated would like to be, but work seven days a week and simply just are unable to afford any time off to do so. Also, no one under the age of 12 is currently eligible for vaccination; and I think we are grossly underestimating how many people that truly represents in this country.

But there is also that lawless group of mouth breathers who have the access, have the ability, and who have just folded up and said: NO. These are the morons, the mouth breathers, the plague rats that are keeping this going in an endless circle of chaos, destruction, and death – because this is what they live and breathe by.

These are the people that have covered their Facebook profile photos with banners that say “proudly not vaccinated,” who respond to news articles about the death of a child from COVID with the laughing emoji, and who walk into stores coughing all over everyone without a mask on and say really stupid things like “I identify as having an immune system.”

Morons.

You Can Still Implement NPIs

NPIs – for those unclear – are non pharmaceutical interventions. Things like social distancing, stay at home orders, masks… these are the things that are tried, tested, and proven to be effective in mitigating and slowing the spread of epidemic diseases.

I’m not advocating for “lockdowns” (which, let’s be clear, we never by definition had in any corner of the United States, with perhaps the exception of the Navajo Nation for a couple of weeks last year). I’m not even really advocating for stay at home orders, with vaccines and more medical treatments becoming available, of course some mitigation can/should loosen.

But limitations on capacity in indoor public spaces and masks seem very reasonable solutions to the newest surge of COVID being seeing in virtually all of the United States. And the misrepresentation by politicians and public health professionals that they were gone for good was, frankly, irresponsible.

So why won’t governments, private businesses, and public health agencies do them more assertively now?

Well, for one, they screwed up. If I know anything about contemporary American culture, it’s our unique inability to ever admit when we have done something wrong.

The newest rash of idiots taking center stage at this shit show we call life though are politicians, public health officials, and corporate stakeholders making the argument against the assertive and targeted use of NPIs in public spaces because: “we can mandate masks all we want, we will still have people refusing to wear them., so therefore we are choosing to do nothing”

[crickets]

“We can’t make seatbelts a law because some people will still not wear them” is what y’all dumbasses sound like when you say you won’t make public health guidance that is consistent with tried and true, evidence-based science, because a couple of hillbillies that probably have the collective IQ of a salad bar won’t follow said guidance.

You Can Still Open Schools Safely

Let’s be clear on this: the opening schools plan in the United States is not safe. This is the problem with stateside rugged individualism, and the inability of our government and broader community to rally around doing at least this is perhaps the blackest of marks that will go on our permanent record. Why is this what I believe? Because it is going to kill innocent children.

The refusal by some states to put in place any and all safety measures, and others to not offer alternatives, hybrid, and synchronous off campus instruction for students uncomfortable with returning to the classroom is something I continue to have a difficult time wrapping my head around.

Now those of you that have been around a while know that I have homeschooled my own children for more than a decade at this point. But the fear, terror, and abject horror of so many friends and family members – scattered all over the country – as their kids are being given virtually no options, or being sent into the classroom with masks optional, ventilation a joke, and distance an idea that never crossed anyone’s minds – is really starting to get to me. It is unconscionable, and for most of the summer I just could not understand.

Until I realized it was all about the money.

If kids are still given the option to stay home and still have access to an accredited teacher and all of their materials, yes you will still have a lot of parents (1) claiming unemployment every week, and (2) not returning to the physical office, continuing to work from home instead. I can see wanting to avoid this scenario before the current surge that involved a more transmissible variant affecting kids.

But the silence and the refusal to revisit school reopening plans now that cases and hospitalizations in kids are seeing their own exponential growth – both in heavily vaccinated and uvaccinated… masked and unmasked communities – is a level of ignorance on the part of policymakers, teachers unions, and education administrators that borders on criminal negligence. And it pokes holes in their previous arguments that any measures last year were about anything other than protecting only themselves.

I am not even sure who everyone seems to think will stay with the kids at home as they go in and out of quarantine from exposures, outbreaks, and positive tests themselves. 14 days is a long time to take off work unpaid, and the disruption our children have in store for them to their learning is perhaps even more profound than at any other point in this pandemic.

You Can Still Take the Politics Out of the Pandemic

I keep hearing people say the real shame in all of this is that the virus and the pandemic have been politicized. In a voice that sounds like the village idiot, or Sheriff Barney Fife on Andry Griffith, everyone just says “well I dunno what to do now that this whole thing has been politicized.” [shrugs shoulders and picks nose]

The real simple solution is that we stop using that excuse. Just stop. Stop politicizing it. Stop using the politicization of it as an excuse.

Policymakers can stop determining their policy by whether or not it’s favorable.

Local politicians and public health officers can stop tying what measures they take to whether or not their constituency polls favorably on it, or if there is a segment of societal mouth-breathers that won’t comply.

We are at what I believe to be the most dangerous point of this pandemic. It is the most chaotic, the most unhinged. This is the time when we have the most unknowns of what is to come: where projections are proving themselves wrong in all directions, and the science is continuing to change rapidly, while policy is not changing along with it.

Overarching all of it, though, is that our collective idiocy has taken the forefront of the conversation, or rather it’s taken over. Remember what Einstein said about the next World War: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Everyone keeps on calling this a war, and at this stage I do believe this could be argued as our third World War. It is unrelenting, it is resulting in mass casualties, and the enemy is literally everywhere. But if this is a war, we are fighting it with stupidity, and that is why it is taking us all down. When all of this is over, if it’s ever over and if any of us are left standing, we will have to have some very serious and broad conversations about education, and our failure in it over the decades to adequately prepare ourselves to defang this stupidity.

That is if it doesn’t eat us alive first.

Stop Calling This A War

The global pandemic we currently find ourselves in is, without a doubt, not a war. It is not. Analogizing it to one is both incorrect, and irresponsible.

Let’s walk through this.

Credit: Classic Art Memes @Facebook

Donald Trump Is Not A War Time President

Early on, after finally admitting that the virus causing COVID-19 infections and deaths around the world was actually a problem (and not just a hoax brought on by the fake news and Democratic party), Donald Trump switched gears and decided this was “the unseen enemy.” He was to be our honorable Commander in Battle.

While it is tempting to label this virus an enemy, as we do with a lot of medical maladies, really it’s just a talking point. A talking point for the victims who fall ill with it to feel empowered; a talking point for those who swoop in with remedies to claim victory.

But Donald Trump is not a war time president, and this is not a war. It’s is a global pandemic of a highly communicable virus, that in rare instances causes mortality. Unfortunately, at the present, enough instances are proving to occur on the whole that the mortality rate is quite high for us, in a healthcare system that was taxed going in.

Allowing Donald Trump to overshadow the egregious and flagrant wrong-doings in the prior days, weeks, months, and years of his Presidency – including, but certainly not limited to, the fact that only months ago he, a sitting President, was Impeached on counts of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress – to overshadow all of that, and come out of this spinning the inevitable success of modern medical science into his position as a war hero (conveniently in time for the 2020 Presidential election) would make every person that ever likened this to a war complicit in the necessary election win that would come with that honor.

Donald Trump is not a war time President. This is not a war.

Credit: Chris Murphy CT @Twitter

Frontline Workers Are Not Soldiers In Battle

This is probably my point that will flare the most feathers, but before jumping to conclusions, hear me out.

The sacrifices and risks associated with working in any quote-unquote essential line of work right now are, unmistakably, great. In particular, those that work in medicine, pharmacy, even janitors in the hospital setting; and especially in light of the on-again off-again relationship they have with adequate and complete personal protective equipment – well, those people are by and large in hot water from now until the time a vaccine is readily available.

So are the grocery workers, who have every cough, sniffle, and sneeze effectively sprayed all over them several times a day. So are a lot of people that continue to work to allow the rest of us to afford such luxuries as food, water, and electricity.

But they ain’t soldiers. We will not be erecting a monument to them that looks like doctors, nurses, and janitors Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. They may receive additional compensation and pay for risk assessment and to incentivize them to work, but it is not hazard pay.

This isn’t a measure to disrespect or discredit the work they are doing, and the sacrifices they are making. Do not mistake me: they are heroes.

Infectious diseases happen, and while COVID-19 is new and a lot about it is unknown, it is a part of the job. It is a part of the call to duty that came well before that person in the wet market in China even thought about eating the undercooked bat. Every time you step foot in a medical facility, there is always the element of the unknown. Sure, this time it is higher of a probability that you could catch it. But even I wonder to myself whenever I’ve had to take my kids to the emergency room for a sports injury or high fever: you know, I wonder if the person in the room next to us has bacterial meningitis and here I am exposed to it. Because it is a very real possibility, and that possibility is always there.

And there are two things most dangerous about likening the “frontliners” as we now like to call them with warriors in the trenches of something like WWI, or possibly worse: it sets a dangerous precedent for their own personal actions that could, in effect, result in even more death.

For one, in continues on this dangerous “take one for the team” mantra we Americans like to espouse. Arguably, this mantra is one of the things that got us here in the first place. We don’t feel well. We have chills, body aches, maybe a cough. But your [insert workplace] needs you. You are so essential that if you call in sick, the ship will go down. So you go to work, and infect several more people, putting more stress on the system than what would have come of you just staying home for a few days until you got the all clear from your immune system.

A more dangerous one:

Early on in the worst of Italy’s days, a nurse committed suicide because she started feeling a little punky, and decided to swab herself. She tested positive for COVID-19, and rather than just recover as 98% of other people do, she committed suicide to prevent spreading the disease to anyone else. Dangerous does not even begin to describe the precedent that we set when we then venerate this poor, clearly unwell, woman as something like a kamikaze doing the right thing by her country.

Tangential to this as well is the fact that the vast majority of people working in these essential jobs deserve a recognition of their own. Like the firefighters and many police after 9/11, or actual soldiers that have fought and won wars for centuries, their position in this is unique and should be treated accordingly. (Perhaps a monument would be appropriate, somewhere and at some point… but to replicate Iwo Jima would be a discredit to both today’s and yesterday’s heroes.)

Credit: Classic Art Memes @Facebook

The Messaging Is Blinding Us With Fear

In World War II, the messaging and propaganda was so profound, particularly in European countries in opposition to the allies (mainly, Germany) that people were so blinded by fear of the war, that they largely did not see what was going on right in front of their faces. The same went for Americans: blinded by the fear of another costly and deadly battle, Americans resisted involving themselves in the war – in spite of the humanitarian crisis that had unfolded in the Jewish and “undesirable” communities in Europe.

This is what happens in a war: diplomatic and political messaging is so critical for the community to get on board with whatever the agenda of the leadership of the time happens to be. Everyone does it. Now, in treating this like a war, our community leaders and politicians are doing it again.

Every week seems to have some sort of a theme to it. The first was all about the exponential growth charts, and statistical analyses, and the Johns Hopkins interactive website. The second were 45 paragraph letters from Emergency Room physicians who are really so busy they aren’t sleeping much, but also have the time to write lengthy explanations of exactly why we should be concerned about COVID-19. The third week was the rash of viral posts from Italy. Warnings to Americans. Rising death tolls. And that horrible video of the woman leafing through the obituary pages that went on and on and on, as if we weren’t sad enough about this already. The fourth week started the stay at home campaign, which continues today; coupled with a lot of mixed messaging coming from all sides of the political spectrum. Take the hydrochloroquine, but don’t. It works, but Trump touted it so probably skip it. Listen to your doctor, question him. Bill Gates is a hero, I don’t trust what he says. Open the economy, no don’t. Go for a walk to get exercise, just kidding that’s a bad idea. Dip your groceries in bleach, wait just kidding soap and water is fine bleach will kill you.

It is exhausting just listening to all of this: the analysis and the arguing and the incessant viral postings about what this politician did wrong and what that politician said, and who is complicit in this and who is a hero, and PPE and bats and … and … and …

This is the point of propaganda, and while I’m not likening what Trump, his “task force,” and more local governments are doing right now to what the Germans did in WWII, there is definite messaging going on here. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t have new buzz phrases, like “in these unprecedented times,” and “we are navigating through unchartered waters,” and – my newest favorite, “we are here to meet this moment.” You also wouldn’t have gotten probably 600 emails from every place you have ever shopped or spent money at, in an effort to let you know what increased measures they were doing to keep things safe and clean – all the same copy and pasted letter full of buzz words and messaging that was meant to calm your nerves, but only – instead – piqued your fears.

What happens when we are afraid in times of war and stress is we act irrationally. We fight with our community members, we shutter our hearts to those in need. A nursing home in my community got flack a week ago for telling a patient he could not return because he had suffered from COVID-19, even though he had recovered and tested negative two subsequent times before being released from the hospital. A homeless man a town over was unable to get a propane bottle for his camping stove, that allows him to cook his food and keep himself warm, because it is now considered a “non-essential good.” One woman in a Mom’s Facebook group I am in locally sparred it out with me about this, when I commented on a post about it asking how we could help him. The defining moment of our argument was when she said that because we live in California – “no one is going to freeze to death!”

Credit: Cracked @Facebook

The Social Contract In Times Of War

Few people realize that what is going on right now in our own communities from a public policy perspective is a matter of the social contract that we all live in as American citizens. The basic premise of our structure in society and government is that in exchange for the protection of our overarching body of government and government leaders (and all the services that come with it, including public hospitals, police, and fire), we are willing to in effect sacrifice certain freedoms and liberties in exchange for that protection. The idea comes from the great political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whose writings inspired our revolutionary forefathers when he said:

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry… no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (see: The Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes)

It’s a bit wordy, so I’ll break it down for you: if left to our own devices at certain times in society, life would be unnecessarily awful and painful; and would end quickly, whether we liked it or not. Sometimes, let us help you. You just have to give up a little for us to be able to do that – in times of war, mainly. But pandemics are also times that it could be argued we have to retain less to be able to live more.

As soon as Trump started declaring National Emergencies, Major Natural Disasters, and referring to himself as a wartime president, the road was paved for every Tom, Dick, and Harry politician, from big time national leadership, all the way down to Mo, your local City Councilman who shows up for the council meeting drunk and in his swim trunks every week, the diplomatic and political power to chip away at those freedoms and liberties we hold so dear to us, in the name of the social contract and protection in times of turmoil.

Do I think that there are a lot of measures that do – absolutely – need to be taken to curb the spread of the novel virus that causes COVID-19? Absolutely. Shutting down bars, movie theaters, churches… that all makes sense. Social distancing and increased hygiene and safety measures – absolutely.

But locally, at least where I am, we have gone far afield from just shuttering non-essential businesses and asking people to stay home as much as possible. Now, here in California, cities are requiring by law that people wear face coverings, even when just driving down the street to get their mail. Alone. They’ve shut down sections of stores that disconnected and privileged city officials think can wait a while, like the clearance clothing racks at a local Wal Mart – in a community that houses thousands of migrant workers who are low income and do not have access to computers to simply order online.

Overreach doesn’t really describe what is going on here. And while I get it: we need to stay in, we need to physically distance, we also have to live our lives.

In recent days, I have talked to several seniors that are either family, or friends of family. They all sounded the same, exact resounding chord: they appreciate the community trying to protect them, the most vulnerable; but at this point, quality of life is an issue, and this is not a life worth living. One where you cannot go for a walk in the warm sun, or have the smallest of gatherings with less than 10 people seems cruel.

Perhaps the most striking thing told to me, which I then heard a physician – a medical doctor – echo on television about his own 87 year old mother’s sentiment: what if I die in isolation here, and I have never had the opportunity to hug my grandchildren one more time?

Certainly, the social contract is a necessary part of what keeps us alive. But only in war should it be evoked to such the degree that it is being evoked in communities through out America right now. And this is not a war.

It is tempting to liken this global pandemic to a battle. It requires strength, perseverance, and fight within all of us to get through whatever effects we feel from it – be they physical illness, economic hardship, or mental health belaboring as a result of the physical and social restrictions placed on us. But it is not a war. And we are not warriors.

Credit: Heather Christena Schmidt @HeatherChristenaSchmidt.com

It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like F&ck This

Sorry for that whole censorship ‘o’ the title thing, but a lot of times blog posts won’t make it into email boxes if they have swear-y words in the title.

Fortunately that doesn’t apply to the content. So here we go.

It’s beginning to look at a lot like FUCK THIS. That has been going through my head over and over, AND OVER, again for about three or four weeks now.

I don’t know about you guys, but Christmastime is a combination of magical wonder and complete and utter bullshit for me. I have been screwed over, stressed out, raked over the coals, and that was just in the prep leading up to the *big day.*

Some of it didn’t even have to do with the holidays, either.

  1. Thankless Thanksgiving

I wanted to do that thing on Thanksgiving that yuppies do, where they go around the table and everyone says something for which they are appreciative. We don’t pray, and the other adults in our house have a hard time being grateful and complimentary; so I just thought it would be a good time to set a better example for the kids, you know?

I was too buried in mashed potatoes and mixed emotions to even remember to have everyone do it.

The thankful part of Thanksgiving – unfortunately – went largely unrecognized. This isn’t to disregard the sincere and kind comments made by our guests; I’m really just referring to the 25 times I had to ask the people that live here “is it good? Is the turkey moist? Do you guys like the sweet potatoes?” …only to receive grumbled “it’s fine”s, or to notice that many of the dishes I lovingly prepared went largely untouched.

Which was fine. We had enough leftovers for me to spend the day after Thanksgiving turning all of it into freezer meals that fed us for roughly 9 days.

2. Who has time for hurt feelings, though, when medical stress descends upon you?

We’ve had some medical situations that sort of pumped the brakes on the rest of life, anyway.

My oldest daughter – almost 16 years old – had been having weird pain symptoms for some time, and because she’s a woman, naturally, every doctor we had seen prior to the last two months has dismissed her as “just another chick complaining.” She’s had three, main things going on – simultaneously: migraine headaches, severe abdominal pain, frequent and unexplainable “sports injuries” (in bilateral joints). We’ve been blown off by doctor after doctor after doctor. “Just a chick with migraines.” “Oh obviously you are playing too much tennis and not resting enough!” “Cramps are normal.”

One doctor at UCLA Women’s Health – a woman, younger than me no less – had the audacity to look me blank in the face, say “believe it or not, pain is actually common in many women that experience periods.” Then she asked me to leave the room and asked my daughter what kind of birth control she was really there for.

So in the last couple of months, it’s all sort of gotten worse. My daughter has hardly played any tennis or worked out at all, and yet she’ll still feeling pain in her knees or her shoulders as if she’s been training 6 hours a day. Her migraine headaches have gone from once a week or two, to Imitrex every day. And a few weeks ago, she started having the abdominal pain she got intermittently, which she describes as barbed wire being wrapped and pulled around her waste and back (those of you familiar will immediately think endometriosis, I know…); well that’s been happening almost daily now, and so badly we’ve wound up in the urgent care, the emergency room, and a solid two weeks of one doctor’s visit after another.

What has made the situation all the worse is this: everyone is a fucking asshole.

Healthcare in this country is total garbage. And I’m not just talking about the expense of it.

I made an appointment with one specialist over 100 miles from our home. We got halfway there and were going to be a few minutes late for the paperwork check in time (but still on time for the appointment), so I called, only to find out that the person who made the appointment never actually scheduled it. We turned around, defeated.

In a startling turn of events, when it was time to figure out the migraine situation – in late November – I learned that there is exactly one neurologist in the entire county that sees children. And he isn’t taking any new patients right now. One. Apparently kids don’t have neurological problems where we live, this is just too perfect of a place, right?

Luckily I found a phenomenal physician in LA County, we just have to drive 57 miles each way to see. Every four weeks.

(But wait…the migraine maintenance medicine he prescribed makes her so groggy and sleepy she can’t even do her schoolwork.)

What else…

  • A kid in the ER one night threw up on me.
  • Over 6 different people have suggested that birth control will resolve everything (it won’t, in fact birth control makes migraines worse and if she really does have something like endometriosis, birth control or any hormones for that matter are not the answer).
  • We hit our out of pocket maximum, and yet everyone is still collecting the money up front, leading me to be owed over $4,000 now at this point in refunds, reimbursements, and “hey this is YOUR share of the medical expenses.”
  • For pain, someone gave her Naproxen, and even though she has no problem with Ibuprofen, with the Naproxen, she broke out in over 20 canker sores inside her throat and mouth.
  • I asked the nurse practitioner at our primary care physician’s office to send her for abdominal ultrasound, just to be sure…sure, sure, no one thinks her pain is anything legitimate, but can we just check? The ultrasound came back with her left ovary literally swarmed by ovarian cysts. (The nurse called to tell me the news and suggested I put her on birth control, even though one day prior we had discussed just how that was not a solution and would only worsen her migraine headaches.)
  • In response to the news that my teenage daughter, who has been experiencing pain in some way or another for at least six months now, to the point that she is unable to function in her normal life on many days, was going to have to start having tests and seeing specialists to get a handle on what is going on, my husband asked me when the budget would be freeing up for him to get some things preventatively done on his commuter car.

The good news is that we are – hopefully – finally getting to a point that we are going to be taken seriously. Why? Because finally the neurologist suggested I just take her to my OBGYN practice. They are old men and they don’t really deal with menstrual disorders, but they won’t blow her off and they will advocate on her behalf to get good care.

3. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this

And then there was Christmas. Because of everything going on, Christmas was a scurry in the last couple weeks to make magic. I think I slept about two hours a night, while the rest of the time baking like crazy, ordering gifts on Amazon, and – finally, in a moment of desperation – paying my 16 year old (who is too nonfunctional to do much else) to wrap the majority of the gifts.

I did manage to take the kids to a light show, like we do every year; although – lesson learned – my dad can’t go in the future because he just rushes everyone through it, complaining about how cold he is and ruining the evening with his griping.

When the real FUCK THIS came up, though, was about a week before Christmas, when I attempted to take my kids to the Polar Express train ride out of Fillmore and Western.

If you are in Southern California, you know that one of the priciest and – supposedly – magical Christmas experiences is actually to take a ride of the Fillmore and Western Polar Express. Everyone shows up in their Christmas pajamas, there’s lights and music and they act out the movie/book in front of you as you take a train ride and sip hot chocolate. Everyone gets a bell; it’s fun.

We had never been, and I decided with everything shitty going on, it would be a fun break one evening for my kids. So we attempted to go, and the bad news is that my 3 year old – who gets startled pretty easily – was getting on the train with me, and a man behind us started yelling to his kids who were ahead of us. It scared my little guy, and he started to cry.

Not like a screaming tantrum crying though. A basic cry. It was honestly so loud in there, my other two kids didn’t even know he was doing it.

Nonetheless, we were sitting in the front of that car, and had barely even sat down; he was still crying and I was starting to calm him down, when the train employee came over me and told me I should take him off the train to calm him down.

I understood, but I also didn’t. Like I know my kid, and I know that I can calm him down before the train leaves. We still had 30 minutes, and literally no one could have noticed what was going on. I also knew that if I did take him off the train, there was no way I would get him back on. When a toddler cries for a calmer situation and immediately gets what he wants, instead of learning to self soothe and adapt… well, come on…

Still, I understood that the lady was just doing her job. Right? And I don’t like the thought of being one of those people that ruins the experience for everyone else with drama; especially at an event for kids. So we got off the train, and I – obviously – couldn’t get my little guy to go back on. The train left, without us.

So I emailed customer service, and this is where it gets really annoying. I told them what happened and just asked if they could maybe send us the bells. At the end of the whole thing Santa gets on the train and gives everyone a bell. My kids just really wanted their fucking bells, and I paid for them, you know?

I got an email back from them not apologetic. Not saying I could have my bells.

I got an email back saying it didn’t happen. That what I said DID. NOT. FUCKING. HAPPEN.

At that point, I just gave up and gave in. Christmas became fuck this. I did the gifts, the day. All of it with as big of a smile as I could manage. I made Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, and we did all the things and I’m sure that it is a fact that my kids had fun.

But I was also just done.

The terrifying part is that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just the start of it for us. Now we have birthday after birthday after birthday, Easter…Moms have it hard you guys. We don’t just do it all, we bear the mental and emotional load of it. We are the figure it out-ers, we don’t just have to take our kids to the stuff, we have to figure out how to make it all work and advocate for them and make sure everything is where it needs to be so that things don’t get worse.

But also, we do it all because we want to. And that is where being a Mom is the weirdest and most emotionally conflicting job of them all.

So if you had happy holidays that resembled the most picture perfect scenario you could ever imagine in a Hallmark movie or quaint Christmas card hanging on someone’s mantle, I am genuinely happy for you. If you’ve had it rough this season, I feel you also. Or, if you are like me, and it’s a mixed bag of negatives and negatives, but also positives and unbelievably happy children – in spite of it all… well, I am right there with you in the trenches, my friend. This is a weird place in life to be. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this, but also fucking bring it.

Are We Really Supposed To Believe Angelina Jolie Is A Heroine Or Something?

Yesterday Angelina Jolie announced to the world that she underwent an elective, preventative double mastectomy after learning that she was positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation that greatly increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For being aware and doing what she felt was the right decision for her and her family in the face of heightened risk, I applaud her.

But all over Twitter, Facebook, and the Google News aggregate, people are harrowing her as a 21st century heroine; a pioneer in women’s health and preventative medicine. She is so brave and an inspiration to us all – blah blah blah.

Huh? Are we really supposed to believe Angelina Jolie is a heroine or something?

Jolie decided to undergo a genetic test after careful consideration that she might be at heightened risk because of her mother’s own cancer death. She had the money to spend on a test that many, many women cannot afford, and that very few insurance companies even cover. Why does the fact that Jolie had the money to have this test, and therefore went ahead with it, make her brave? A national heroine? Wealthy women around the country do this test every day. Do they all get to write op-ed pieces about their harrowing experience? Does Twitter make them national legends and pioneers in modern medicine?

Or what about all the women that very likely carry the gene, know they probably carry the gene because of their strong family history of disease, and yet cannot afford to ever know? Do they get hashtag trends like #bravewomenthatwillneverknow or #alwayslivinginfear?

When Jolie found out she was positive for the gene mutation, she decided to have an elective, preventative, double mastectomy, with nipple preservation and complete reconstructive surgery. In other words: another pile of procedures that are expensive and usually not covered by the vast majority of American health insurance policies. So basically, up to this point, all Jolie has done is opt to have a number of medical tests and procedures done that are reserved for the wealthiest and most elite members of society. She has opted for luxuries when it comes to her medical care, which many women in this country have absolutely no access or ability to afford.

How is Angelina Jolie a heroine and pioneer in women’s health again?

Many doctors do not even recommend prophylactic mastectomy in the event that a woman has a heightened risk with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. There are a number of preventative hormone treatment options available, increased preventative testing, and lumpectomy options that are much less invasive and expensive. Why this is worth mentioning is in the discussion over our country’s current trend towards going to extreme lengths to eliminate risk (which can never truly be eliminated entirely). And in understanding the drastic difference between risk factor and cause – as Americans, we tend to misunderstand that risk does not equal certainty or causality.

But as a culture obsessed with trying to cheat death, we tend to heighten risk into the most extreme measures possible to the point that we do more damage than good. People are so afraid of the extremely rare risks of vaccines, so they avoid them altogether and then die of polio. Families are fearful of GMOs and processed foods, so eat only whole foods and fats then die of heart disease from ingesting high fat foods for years on end. And we look to national figures, such as Jolie, for guidance on what we should do. How we should think. Even when we don’t have the same resources that they do.

Each woman’s health is a different matter entirely, though. As is her financial status, and the risks and health issues that she will face. I am not suggesting that Jolie or anyone should or shouldn’t do any particular thing relative to her own health. That is not what I’m saying here. What I am saying is that none is more special of a circumstance than the next. We are all the same in the playing field of life. We just have different stories.

I have always believed that the only real preventative medicine we should be engaging in is accepting the imminence of our own deaths and enjoying every minute of our lives, rather than spending them all cowering in fear of what may come. Or at the very least, let’s worry about things that are really important right now. Not saying breast cancer risk is unimportant or should be forgotten, but much worse by the dozen is heart disease risk, obesity, diabetes, war, famine, the threat of nuclear holocaust, global warming.

Congratulations to Angelina Jolie on her new, risk-free boobs. Now can we all shut up and move on already?

Dear Ignorant Parents That Refuse to Vaccinate Your Children

This post has sadly been removed due to publication and copyright laws. You can still read it, though, by buying B(itch) Against the World for unlimited viewing, plus more great and new posts from 2011. And it’s only $2.99! Click the picture of the cover for more details!

 


The World Does Not Stop…

I’m not quite sure why this has happened, but more and more it seems that people have this weird idea that the world stops just because [fill in the blank] has happened to them.  To be honest (and I’m sure this will annoy some of you closest to me), it really makes me pause and question just where our heads are.  Sad to say, I think they are on (ahem, in) the wrong end.

So to help us all get those proverbial heads out of our real-life asses, I’ve decided to make a list of things that the world does not stop for.  The point is not only to advocate for a healthier, less egocentric viewpoint (typical of the misanthropic vein of this blog); but more importantly to harken back to the idea of happy and healthy balance that we discussed yesterday.  There is hope for everyone, and there is no room for “well everyone has different priorities…”  So with that in mind:

The world does not stop … because you are having a baby.  Remember that first blog on this new site about the tendency people have now to act like they are the first people on the planet to have a baby?  Well, you aren’t … and the world does not stop for that very reason.

The world does not stop … because you have a big project going on at work.  This one hits really close to home for me.  While I know that in a trying economy, employees want to bend over backwards to please their employers or open new career paths, there still must be a balance to make sure you do not hurt your entire life in the process.  If you cannot have that balance, you either need to find a new job or consider whether it is the best time in your life to take on that extra level of responsibility.  Just because you are working 24/7 does not mean that bills can go unpaid, kids can go uncared for, prior commitments can be canceled, and relationships outside of work can just set to autopilot.  That just isn’t the case.

The world does not stop … because you are planning a big event.  It could be a wedding; it could be a baby shower.  In any event, as important as that big event seems to you, a lot of people around you don’t care.  Remember with friends, family, and coworkers to talk about things they are interested in; and give them a chance to talk about their big things too.

The world does not stop … because your girlfriend/boyfriend dumped you.  Get over it:  there are plenty of fish in the sea, right?  Just because your girlfriend/boyfriend couldn’t take your snoring/feet/body hair anymore, doesn’t mean life around you ceases to continue.  Marriage is a much different story, but as for kiddie-type relationships that probably never went further than first base, try and move on.

The world does not stop … because your favorite TV show/sporting event is on.  God is there nothing more annoying than someone who will blow off an important phone call because of Dancing With the Stars; or someone that spends an entire dinner watching the baseball game showing on the big screen behind them.  Invest in a DVR if it’s that important to you.

The world does not stop … because you walked in the room.  More accurately, I should probably say “… because you got on the freeway.”  These people that act like they own the road (when the rules of it generally mandate that we should all be sharing …) really have gotten bad.  It starts with those people that do not realize they are supposed to yield to traffic when they are entering the freeway; and is capped off with those that change lanes without even looking.

The world does not stop … because you are on the rag.  Yep, I did just say that.  What a terribly sexist thing for me to say; but I’m a woman and I can say with absolute certainty that the worst thing ever is a woman that thinks the world is supposed to bow to her because she has cramps and a foul attitude.  It goes for men too (because they do, in fact, go through monthly hormonal fluctuations just like women); so perhaps I could soften it to “… because you are in a bad mood.”  However it’s phrased, take note.

 

The list could go on, but you, faithful blog followers, get the point.  Head-in-ass-syndrome could very well be substituted for “egocentric” or “narcissistic personality disorder.”  There is a healthier, balanced way to live life than you are.  Wise up and realize that the world does not stop for anything.

Pig flu, pig head

The CDC just released a zombie apocalypse preparedness memo on their blog and hoards of Americans are now scrambling around in terror over the fact that the CDC would give credit to such a thing.

Okay, maybe it hasn’t been in terror, but a lot of people are most certainly taking it seriously.

Sad to say, but the post by the CDC was actually a joke.  Well, not even so much a joke as a backhanded way of trying to make Americans prepared for actual emergencies facing us every day.  And they said just that in the opening lines of the post:  “maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

What does this have to do with the pig flu you ask?  A lot.

By pig flu, I am of course referring to the 2009 H1N1, which raised a very serious issue in our culture, that being that in our paranoia over things we should not be paranoid about, we completely disregard the things that should actually cause us to worry.  The zombie apocalypse included.

The CDC recognized this when 2009 H1N1 made the news:  people were rushing out to buy HAZMAT masks and unnecessarily throwing away their pork products, all the while ignoring what they needed to do to actually protect themselves from the virus, and (more disturbingly) the more deadly Influenzas A and B.  In response to this alarming trend to ignore real concerns in favor of ones that we should not worry to much about, the CDC issued a statement in 2009 that hysteria over things that we should not be made hysterical about inspires us to ignore real issues that threaten the safety and lives of ourselves and others around us every day.  And boy does it ever.

Anyone remember when people were so paranoid about the possibility of a biological terrorism that they began buying gas masks and duct taping themselves into their homes?  Countless people across America fed so strongly on that paranoia that they ignored basic safety and closed off all of the air inlets to their homes, many of whom died of suffocation and carbon monoxide poisoning.  And I’m sure we all know someone who has considered (dear God, please don’t say actually followed through with) not giving their child innoculations due to unreasonable concerns about the very rare, possible (and some unproven) side effects.  Daily we see horror stories in the news about situations like this:  someone is so concerned that they will get the superbug that they refuse to take their antibiotics and develop pneumonia and die; a couple is so worried over the BPA scare that they refuse to sterilize their baby’s bottles “to be safe,” only for the baby to get deathly ill with ecoli  poisoning.  Somewhere, at some time, we stopped listening to our professionals and our own common sense.

I recently read an article that old and previously dormant diseases are now cropping up again, such as old strains of tuberculosis and whooping cough; and that this was undoubtably a direct result of the decrease of people receiving immunizations out of a growing (unproven) concern that thermosil causes autism.  What is sad about this is that the people we want to protect the most – our children, our family, our friends – are so negatively impacted by unreasonable paranoia.  If the zombie apocalypse were to ever happen, I’m pretty certain it would not get out of control by some randomly occurring, bizarre mutant toxin.  No, it would come of people’s ignorance – of disregarding basic matters of safety and health in the name of having our dangerously close-minded and opinionated hysterics.