Friday, June 30, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
This is not a virus that tends to get talked about in "polite company", at least not where I'm from and I suspect that it's also the case in other parts of the USA. That's probably because the most notable symptoms are severe vomiting and/or diarrhea (I, of course, had both symptoms). It's funny but none of my Arab friends seem to have any such qualms or hang-ups about discussing bodily functions. It's really liberating to be able to discuss such matters among saadiqiyaat (girl friends, homegirls, ya' posse).
In between retching and flushing, I planned on coming one here and writing a nasty little missive dedicated to the entire population of folks who happen to be blessed enough to call themselves fairly healthy. I was going to go on and on about how absolutely inconsiderate it is to visit someone when you know you're sick. As you can probably guess, that's how I got infected. Three of my beloved family members came to visit me and after having been here for several hours they mentioned to me that they had all just finished having a "stomach virus". By that time, I had already changed the baby's diaper once and received several very wet baby-kisses from her as well. That was all it took.
The very next day I woke up sick, very sick. However, I've decided not to call up the aforementioned relatives (though I felt sorely tempted) and say a bunch of very insulting things to them because they really don't deserve it. For one, I don't think most people know how long they remain infectious after they've stopped experiencing major symptoms. Secondly, a lot of people don't have the option of sitting at home and taking off from work until they are completely well. Then there's the fact that many non-disabled people view healthiness as normative; They just don't tend to stop and think about how their decisions and lifestyle impact people with disabilities. All of these factors deserve a lot more attention than they tend to get.
The first point has a lot to do with education. In this country, it's easy to say that people should be given more information from their doctors or pharmacists but that really doesn't/won't do much good if people aren't able to understand what healthcare providers tell them. It's a multi-level problem. Look at who tends to get sick the most. Is it a surprise to anyone that those living in poverty have the highest mortality rates? Or that poverty and educational attainment are also correlated? If anyone wants to take a look at some of the relevant statistics, you can get more information on these facts. You can take a look at this document by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about how different factors affect child mortality. On page 11 there is a chart where you'll find "Educational Attainment of the Mother" listed as one of the Characteristics for which they provide data. Notice how the infant mortality rates drop as the amount of education increases.
Educational attainment is an issue here but so are income inequalities. In other words, it isn't how much you make that determines where you'll fall between the totally dead to completely healthy range. What makes a difference is the the amount of income variation within the population. I really wish I had a program on my computer that I could use to create a chart to show this but I'm going to do my best here. If there is a big difference between the amount of money that the poorest people earn and the amount that the richest people make (within a single population like a state or a country, for example), then mortality rates will tend to be higher. Here's one reason why: Even if the really rich folks have great healthcare, they still share their general environment with the poor people (e.g. the folks who wash their cars and cook their food when they're blessed to have jobs at all). If the poor people can't afford see a doctor or pay for the prescriptions they get after seeing the doctor at the local "free clinic" or public hospital, then when they get sick they'll be much more likely to be walking around infecting those around them. Since that includes those folks who are being served by the poor people, even the mortality rates for the relatively rich will tend to be higher (View studies here, here and here). Perhaps a lot of affluent Americans can choose to ignore this fact right now because we don't have any extremely contagious usually fatal diseases in circulation right now. However, if history teaches us anything on this it's that such diseases crop up rather regularly.
- 165-180 AD Smallpox: causes around 5 million deaths
- 251-266 AD Smallpox or Measles: At one point, over 5,000 were dying in Rome per day.
- 1347-1352 Bubonic Plague: kills 25 million Europeans
- 1485-1551 Sweating Sickness: thousands died. Each died within 1-2 days after infection.
- 1918 Influenza: kills 40 million worldwide
- 1957 Influenza: kills between 1 to 2 million people around the world
I think the English Sweating disease provides a particularly good lesson for the affluent since it killed more rich people than poor folks. It was an especially nasty thing to come down with. Most people were dead within one day of infection and almost certainly within two days. It spread so fast that doctors were never even able to figure out what virus was causing it. Well, c'est la vie or, rather, c'est la morte.
Here's the hard, cold facts: Even if the "developed" world doesn't care anything about the fact that over two million mostly people of color die of treatable diarrheic diseases every year, sooner or later that attitude will kill us all but when the next really nasty (read: quickly fatal, incurable) viruses and bacteria crop up--which we know will happen and probably soon, at that--there's a very big chance that it's going to take out all of the constant-lysol-spraying, antibiotic-resistant folks (who could have done a lot more to make healthcare a right for everyone) pretty quickly.
When poor people who don't have healthcare get sick, they either die or get over what's wrong with them or they become carriers and just infect others while going about their lives. So, those that don't survive without treatment or without adequate treatment get weeded out of the gene pool. The folks who live long enough to reproduce are those who are genetically more fit (i.e. best adapted for the environment they live in). That doesn't happen as much with affluent people. If you can afford to see a doctor when you get sick and you have healthcare insurance to pay for things like heart transplants and and expensive medications that cost as much as some people's rent, then you'll live through illnesses that would have killed off those who don't get treatment. These affluent people marry each other pass on their (sometimes defective) genes to their children. The end result are offspring that may be significantly less fit (i.e. less hearty) than the poor people.
We see the results of this phenomenon already in the U.S.A. Middle and Upper class people catch more colds than those in the lowest class. Poor people whose children get exposed to germs while they are young are better equipped to deal with exposure when they are older. While it's just colds that we're talking about now, what about in the future? The Avian Flu could kill millions within our lifetime. I guess as long as it's just killing Asians (people of color, as expected) the average American doesn't feel too threatened.
While there's no cure for Avian Flu, the millions of people who contract diarrheic diseases each year need not die. Dehydration is the main cause of death for those who contract diarrheic diseases. I myself lost eight pounds in three days due to my own bout with gastroenteritis last week. Now, if I had come down with this very same virus while living in a place like Sudan or Kenya, in all likelihood, I'd be dead by now due to dehydration. Fortunately, a simple solution of salt, sugar and water (Oral Rehydration Therapy) can prevent these deaths by treating and preventing dehydration. You can find the very basic recipe here. For those who can not make it themselves, there are commercially-available packages of Oral Rehydration Salts. It only costs around 10 cents to produce a packet of ORS that will produce a liter of rehydration solution. Sadly, even this can be prohibitively expensive or just plain unavailable for people in many regions of the world.
At this point, I really hope you're wondering what you can do to help. Well, a good start would be to take a look at this and simply decide which activity you'd like to do. As you can see, everyone can do something and if everyone did just a little bit or maybe even one single thing, we can save all of these lives. If you've ever had the "stomach flu" and you are still alive then please consider what might have happened to you instead. We may not have the cure to every disease but when the most highly effective treatment only costs ten cents to make, no one should ever have to die from dehydration. At least consider it, please.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Sunday, June 18, 2006
A couple of days ago, I mentioned how my parents are in the process of trying to convert my daughter. That doesn't exactly explain the situation. VanGoghGirl is spending the summer in Dallas, where half of my family relocated to after Hurricane Katrina. She usually spends the summer at my mother's house which allows me to go out of town for internships or vacation or just healing from procedures that I try to get scheduled for that period. She looks forward to it and, during the year, it's a good way to motivate her to behave at school. VanGoghgirl and I lived with my mother and step-father up until she was seven years old and she views their house as home. Spending this summer with my parents was especially important because she hasn't been able to spend much time with them since the hurricanes.
When we were getting her ready to go, she talked about how much she eager she was to go to the congregation that my parents attend. When we lived with my parents, we attended religious services three times a week. Well, when I moved out, we did attend services kind of often but after awhile that wound down quite a bit because I wasn't so mobile anymore. I felt very guilty about it because VanGoghGirl would tell me that she really missed going. Every once in awhile, I'd get it together and take her and she'd be so-oo-oo happy on those occasions. To be honest though, I think that half of the reason I found it so difficult to go on a regular basis was because of how disenchanted I'd become with the religion.
I know this isn't the first post about this topic but I keep coming back to it because I'm still struggling to come to grips with it. Down here in Southeast Louisiana, Catholicism is very prevalent so it's common to hear a lot of jokes about "Catholic Guilt". What I grew up with was much more pervasive than the sort of guilt that might make you give up alcohol or cigarettes for Lent even though you haven't gone to Mass in years. It can be kind of embarrassing to talk about but my childhood religion/denomination is really one of the worse that I've encountered and I've studied many religions over the years. Looking back at how the organization was set up, I really believe that they are really just one or two steps from qualifying as a full-fledged cult. I swear, if ever they start telling their members to move to one state and form a commune, I wouldn't even be surprised.
Though my formal ties to the religion ended years ago, I'm still in therapy trying to deal with the emotional abuse that I was subjected to while I was a part of it.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I just re-read yesterday's candy-coated post. Who is that girl? Well, if you don't know then you really haven't been paying attention. She is the girl who took her medication yesterday. Well, some of it, that is. After having been totally without it for a few days, taking a dose is like swallowing all of the emotional cotton-candy that your brain can absorb. Sticky-sweet memories taste wonderful on a hot day...but after awhile they melt away...and I am what's left after the torridity makes you vomit them all out again. So, this is the view from my mirror.
VanGoghGirl is gone for the summer. She's busy being converted into the church of Everybody's Wrong But Us. You'd think they'd have had a revelation of their own given the fact that most children who are born into it choose to get as far away from the religion/denomination/semi-cult that they tied around my neck like a noose. I guess I shouldn't have expected anything different. I remember when I first started studying about Islam, one of my Arabic language classmates took me to the side and warned me to stay away from those who weren't born into the religion. He said that it's the converts that tend to become the fanatical "true believers" who would gladly see every free-thinker not only dead but eternally tortured. I didn't believe him until I (recently) remembered that many in my own inherited religion those who were the worst to me happened to be converts. On first thought, I'd think that if someone were going to leave whatever religion they once had, they'd switch to something less hateful, more logical, more compassionate, et cetera. Given further thought, I realize that instead some people turn to whatever religion justifies the worst things about their personality.
The painter's roses next to my computer have been dead for months. I love the way they all rise out of the vase on charcoal brown stems. The dead blossoms point downward like a head hung in shame. When I was a teenager, I wanted to get a tattoo of a black rose on the back of my hand. In a family where living on the edge meant wearing lipstick before you were sixteen, that was never going to happen. I used to write a lot of suicide poetry back then. That got boring so I "graduated" to suicide attempts. Have I ever written about the two times that I was committed and what led up to it? Well, I guess I won't do it tonight. I was going to and I actually just finished writing two paragraphs about it but I decided to erase them after they became too graphic for me to risk VanGoghGirl reading about here. I'll just say that I've suffered from depression for a very long time and before I had cancer, I had a hard time understanding how precious life really is. Isn't that the greatest irony?
The German went and picked up the medication that my psychiatrist called in. Finally, I have both of them to take on tomorrow. We'll see how I feel then. Maybe I had best go to sleep now and try to get my "relative sanity" button to reset.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I remember when I was living at my parent's house and he used to drive an hour and a half just to see me on every day that he was off from work. My friends were sure that he was in love with me long before I was able to see it. They said any guy who'd travel from another city just to pick you up from class every other day has got to be in love. In my mind, we were still just friends.
My mother was the first to tell me that he'd be the guy that I married. She's never said that about any other guy who came over to see me. I suppose the fact that he was the first guy to win my brothers' approval impressed her a lot. Considering the overtly hostile response that all my other boyfriends got from them, I was pretty shocked myself. They scared most guys off from even getting involved with me. Altogether, I've literally only had four guys who actually made it into my parent's house. I think it helped that he looked like he'd fit in to our family. He has no tattoos, no piercings, no long hair, and he was willing to go to our congregation with my family whenever he was asked. My step-dad was going to be friends with him even if I dumped him once he found out that The German knew how to fix cars. Side note: The German is still fond of telling people how Germany builds the best cars and that Germans are the world's best engineers.
I don't think I've ever talked about how the two of us met. Well, I was sitting in one of the buildings on campus where a lot of students tend to congregate between classes. I'd just had lunch and I was trying to get some trigonometry homework done while chatting with my friends. The German was at my university for a NSBE meeting and was talking to some of the same people that I was talking to, even though we weren't talking to each other. He saw me struggling with the math and he asked me if I'd like some help. Well, I'm never one to turn down some free help, so I let him look at it. He said that he didn't have time to explain the whole lesson to me but if I faxed him a copy of my homework problems, he'd break it down for me. Well, since his proposition only entailed us exchanging fax numbers, I decided to take him up on his offer.
That evening, I faxed him my homework and a little while later, he faxed it back to me with all of the answers and explanations for how to solve each problem. I was very grateful. In fact, I was so grateful that I continued to fax him my assignments and get lessons from him through the fax machine all throughout the semester. Eventually, I gave him my e-mail address and he would explain the more complicated stuff that way.
He turned out to be a pretty nice person to talk to. He never once said anything that set off the creep alert in my head. I know all the stuff that people say about giving your phone number to people you meet on the internet but I rationalized doing it by telling myself that we didn't technically meet on the internet even though we had only seen each other in person once and then for only a few minutes. We talked on the phone a little bit every now and then but he didn't really call me unless he couldn't figure out a way to write down all that he wanted to say about what we were working on.
We hadn't spoken on the phone in months when I got a call from him on Valentine's Day. He called me and seemed sort of nervous. He said that he hadn't expected to find me home and that he was just calling to leave a message on my answering machine wishing me a Happy Valentine's Day. I explained to him that not only was I at home, I was completely without anyone who'd even want to spend that day with me if they could. To tell you the truth, I was pretty down in the dumps that day. I didn't grow up celebrating any holidays but if there's any day that reminds you that you're single and without any love interests, it's Valentine's Day. I talked about this with The German at the time. He said that if he had known that I didn't have any plans, he'd have loved to have taken me out. I told him that it was quite nice of him to say that but, honestly, I didn't believe him at all. I asked him what he was doing at home alone that day. He said that he wound up spending Valentine's Day alone pretty much every year.
The two of us decided to spend that evening keeping each other company over the phone. We talked for hours about our theories regarding why no one was interested in us. He's really shy which makes it hard for him to meet new people or to know how to let them know he's interested in them. My problem was that I'd get involved with jerks and then I wouldn't know how to extricate myself from the relationship because I had that "stand by your man" mentality engraved on my head thanks to my religious background. It had gotten to the point where I just wasn't even trying to date anyone because I didn't trust my own judgment when it came to men. That night, The German and I gave each other outside perspectives on what we'd talked about. I don't think we got off of the phone until we were both dozing off. He was really there for me and I hadn't had that in years.
After that, we were fast friends. We'd talk about our occasional forages into the dating scene. Those were short conversations since neither one of us went on a single date during that time. I talked to him about being a single parent. Even though he didn't have any biological children, he spent years raising his ex-girlfriend's son. He talked about the birthday parties they celebrated and the times when he'd have the boy completely in his care for weeks at a time. His ability to relate to what it's like having all of the parenting responsibility on your shoulders really made me see that my feelings of exhaustion and frustration weren't because I was a bad mom; It was completely normal and definitely to be expected if you're doing the job that most people get to share with someone else.
Thanks to him, I passed my math classes with flying colors. At the end of the second semester, I called to tell him how much I really appreciated the help that he'd given me. I offered to pay him because I know the going rate of that sort of help and he could have been making some decent money from another confused math student instead of tutoring me. He refused to accept any money but he said that if I really wanted to repay him, I could do so by letting him take me out to dinner one night. I said yes, of course.
We wound up canceling our first date because he asked me if we could move it forward so that he'd have another week to kind of deal with his shyness. He wasn't just the sort of shyness where you blush a lot when someone flirts with you. He was really timid. What made it worse was that he's 6'4" and strong as an ox. People tended to assume that he was some kind of macho tough-guy and they treated him accordingly. That only made him go even further into his shell. I was really thrilled that he was even willing to take a chance and hang out with me in person. Waiting another weekend was no big deal to me because I didn't want him to freak out and get too nervous.
It turned out to be really worth it. We had a ball. We went out to the House of Blues and had dinner. We walked through the Vieux Carre laughing and talking until that night when he dutifully brought me home. On our second outing, we went to see former president Nelson Mandela give the commencement speech at Southern University. It was an amazing experience to share with a real friend because we could talk about it and reminisce together. Not only was The German really smart (He has an IQ of 151), he also cared about the world we live in. He was a history buff and made me feel like I was with a walking, talking encyclopedia. He was passionate about politics and open-minded about religion. It didn't take long for us to become best friends. All the while, we'd still spend a lot of time talking about what it would be like to find someone to love.
Sometimes we'd pose as the other's Sig-Oth too. It started out with me being the featured poet at the Black History Ball on my campus. It was my third time performing at a black tie affair for the school. Every other time, I had gone alone or with a girlfriend. Well, this time around, all of my girlfriends had dates and I wasn't even about to consider being a third wheel. I was talking about it with The German and I asked him if he'd mind posing as my boyfriend for a night because I was getting really tired of people asking me who my date was whenever I was at a formal function. He was really nice about it and agreed to do it. I bought a dress and his mom even did the alterations on it for me. Doesn't that sound like a high school prom scenario? Well, it wasn't like my prom because I wasn't allowed to bring a date to that and wound up going with another girl whose mother belonged to the same religion as my family. Anyway, things worked out well that night. He made an excellent date. The two mayoral candidates were there and my mentor wanted me to go up and ask them some questions so that they'd know that college students are concerned about the issues. I schmoozed my way over to the first one and asked a few questions. To my surprise, The German also started asking him questions. He asked the other candidate even more questions. Even my mentor professor was impressed and let me know that he hoped to see more of The German in the future.
After that night, we decided that if we were in his city and we saw someone he knew, he'd introduce me as his girlfriend and I'd do the same in mine. It was great! I loved not having to hear all of my other friend's opinions on how I could "catch" a man. He became a constant fixture at my parent's house. He'd bring over movies for us to watch along with my little brothers. He'd go and run errands for my parents. I even felt comfortable enough to let him start being around my daughter. She thought he was the funniest thing around. My mom kept telling me (in front of him) that "He's a keeper". It was really embarrassing because I'd have to remind her that he and I were only best friends. She never did believe that no matter what I said and continued to insist that I'd better be careful or he might "get away"--as if he were some kind of catfish being weighed to see if he were the proper size.
Well, after almost two years of being friends, neither one of us had found anyone to date. I suppose that might have been the result of the fact that we were always hanging out with each other and showing up as a couple to all sort of events. There wasn't any point where we decided that we would be a couple for real (not just posing). Over time it just got to be that way. He never tried to kiss me or hug me until after I told him that I'd like for him to try. He just stepped into my life and became what I needed.
For VanGoghGirl's first day of kindergarten, he was there with his camera taking pictures. When I was living in Evanston, Illinois for awhile and VanGoghGirl was living with my mom, he'd pick her up and take her to the park on the weekends and made sure she had clothes that fit her and provided a constant influx of new books and toys for her to enjoy. He was there when the doctor told me that I have cancer. He was there with me every single day that I've ever spent in the hospital. He has never complained about having to do the bulk of the housework.
Whenever he's around my siblings, he always makes sure they don't need anything that we could help them out with. When my mother decided that she wanted to renovate her house, The German installed all of the floors, created custom tile countertops for the kitchen, installed the entire set of cabinets, raised the roof in one room, installed new bath-tubs, toilets, and sinks in each bathroom and helped my mom pick out the colors for each room. He has very strong religious values--the authentic kind, not the pseudo version that's synonymous with bigotry. When I die, I know that he's going to continue to raise our daughter to be tenacious and independent and assured that she has his unconditional love.
I won't say that we don't have problems but as far as such go, I lucked out. I'm learning not to freak out about the way he leaves his dirty handkerchiefs all over the place and has to be reminded to take out the garbage over and over again. He's still trying to learn to be more vocal about his feelings and I'm learning how to be a better listener so that when he does talk, he doesn't get drowned out by my abundance of words. He doesn't drink or smoke but when we go out to the jazz clubs, he seems to have just as much fun as everyone else. Yet, he's not a prude and never tries to get others to adopt the lifestyle that works for him. He's teaching me what it means to be a true pacifist. He doesn't yell or threaten or take any delight in seeing others do it. When he gets really mad, he stutters. That's my cue to take a breather and give him some space to find the words that he wants to express.
I have to be honest and say that it's probably a lot harder to live with me than it is for me to live with him. His sisters say that they can see he's much happier now than before we were together, so I'd like to think that I've contributed to his life as much as he has to mine. I'm not really fond of going on and on about how wonderful someone is because everybody has faults. However, I really believe that my Creator worked very hard to craft someone who was perfect for me and then put dropped him down into my life at just the right time. Sometimes people ask me if he's my husband or my boyfriend and I just never feel comfortable calling him either of those. Before him, I don't think I understood how meaningful the word "partner" actually is.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I have a slightly different view about this issue. I do think that they should have AT LEAST one historic AsAm doll. The collection definitely isn't complete without one. Then again, it won't be complete without an Arab-American doll or a Bolivian-American doll or an Argentinian-American doll. Do you see what I'm saying? There can never be a complete collection of American Girl dolls unless you include almost a doll from every country on this planet. So, I think it's pretty pointless to expect this company to try and create a "complete set" in their historic collection.Kaya (the Nez Perce doll) isn't Blackfoot or Crow like me but I was really happy to see her on the shelves because it's downright hard to find Native American dolls for my daughter. Although any Asian American doll wouldn't be enough because Asians aren't just one group, I imagine that it might be better than none in the eyes of those moms who are desperate to find something at least close to what they're looking for.
Having become fully immersed in the AGP line, I can tell you that MANY non-African-American girls buy Addy. She's really popular. That said, I've never bought any of the historic line of dolls because I wanted my daughter to have one that looked like her and since my child is of mixed heritage, none of the historic dolls look like her. Many of the African-American moms in my circle who have bought AGP dolls for their daughters chose Addy. It's hard to find a dark-skinned doll that is supposed to be Af-Am. That story behind Addy explains why slavery was wrong and why breaking the law can be justifiable if one has been denied freedom. The truth is, the class of girls whose parents buy these dolls are unlikely to get that message at their private schools and social events.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Today has been a really awful day. I was sobbing in bed when, thankfully, The German carefully reminded me that a good part of how I'm feeling is the result of my medication wearing off. I really do appreciate that he first said that he isn't trying to minimize how I'm feeling but he just wanted to help me remember what might be the reason why I'm so down. That does help some.
On days like this--I have made similar mistakes before that resulted in the same thing--it's really hard to find anything to counteract what the demons in my head tell me. You're fat. He doesn't desire you; He only tolerates you because he pities you. She'd really be happier living with her grandmother full-time. Why can't you fix yourself up to look nice like other girls do? You'll never look like those girls that he really likes. You'll never finish school. You are a real disappointment to all those professors invested so much time on you. Those universities that say they'll take you whenever you are ready to apply won't even remember who you are even if you do finish up your undergraduate studies. You don't fit in. You'll never be all profound and learned like those other people. There's nothing radical about being pathetic and needy. Eventually you'll say something wrong and they'll all laugh at you. You'll find out that they've just tolerated you so that they'll have someone to laugh at. You'll never have another baby. Nobody would let a woman with cancer adopt a child.
Really, I could go on and on. The German took out some clothes for me and says that we are going to the movies and then to dinner tonight. That might be nice. I wish that I had enough Lexapro in my system for me to be able to enjoy our date. Hopefully my psychiatrist will call in my refill to the pharmacy on tomorrow so that I don't have to go through too many more days like this one.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Part of the reason why this group claims that people shouldn't use the n-word is because elders would view it as a slap in the face and any use of it constitutes blatant disrespect for our ancestors. Well, who are they to decide what our ancestors would approve of? None of my ancestors gave them any authority to speak on their behalf. Furthermore, while the unnamed authors claim that the word can not be reappropriated, such reappropriation is already taking place. If it were not, then the very things that they complain about (e.g. it being used as a term of endearment, a greeting, etc.) would not occur at all.
The authors have decided, sans proof, that the term was created by slave masters when in reality, that is not an established fact. The truth is, no one knows who was the first to use it but the evidence points to the fact that it came from a word that was a relatively neutral descriptive term for dark(er) skinned people. Now, if someone feels that the fact that it was used by slavemasters is enough reason for them not to use it, then that's fine with me. However, I don't see that as any reason why others should change their own views about the word.