Saturday, February 25, 2012

Off to the Caribbean To Swim In Salty Water

Soaking, swimming and floating in very salty sea water sounds really good to me after a season of inflamed skin. Tonight, I am on my way to Bonaire with a friend for the sole purpose of spending hours of each day floating in that turquoise Caribbean sea. Skin rashes and redness are not something new in my life. They've come and gone for sixty years. But I am really tired of this latest round of red, itchy, burning, blotchiness. UT dermatologists and McGovern Allergy Clinic say they believe I have contact dermatitis. This after skin tests and patch tests and over a year of monitoring. These periodic burning, itching red patches of skin are driving me nuts and no one knows the cause(s).
That last round of patch tests showed sensitivities to dairy, corn, rice, eggs, soy and honey. Though they didn't test for gluten (why not?), I know well that gluten has immediate effects on my skin, just as it has effects on my three daughters. So, I've cut lots of foods from my daily eating habits. You could say I am about 85% compliant. It's the 15% that still brings me down.
I am eating bunch after bunch of kale, lots of cabbage and broccoli and cucumbers. Lots of fish oil, salmon and anchovies. I got my juicer out and make green juice. And then I succumb to brie or cheddar and am always sorry. Or I sort of forget and eat Vietnamese and then again, I'm sorry.
Sometimes, I think I am a human canary, simply reacting to all the pollution, food additives and genetically modified foods we ingest.
My daughter Mary says, "Mom, I think your cup is already full and when you eat just a little brie or a spoonful, or two or three, of Blue Bell, it just tips you over the edge." She's probably right.
Back to finding the root causes. I had yet another medical consultation a week ago. I was left in the examining room while, apparently, a group of doctors conferred about rashes and blotches. My nurse practitioner, whom I like very much and has been diligent about searching for 'the causes', said, "One of the doctors said 'Treat the symptoms.'" To which she replied, "The patient doesn't want another steroid shot or more cortisone creams. She wants to know the root cause of this condition." I thank her for persevering on my behalf.
In the meantime, I am flying to Bonaire, because I remember very well the healing properties of very salty Caribbean water. I am going to soak in that water until my skin is wrinkled, not red. I will rarely take a shower. That salt is going to dry on my skin and do its work.
The next step? Upon my return, I have an appointment with a doctor who specializes in kinesiology. In preparation for that appointment, I've just printed out photos of how my skin looks today. I'm taking them when I meet with him after a week in Bonaire so he can see 'before and after'.
FYI, I got my toes painted Caribbean turquoise yesterday. I'm ready.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Trail Riders Come to Town

Yep! They're here, wagons, horses and riders, almost at the end of their annual journey. Just about a mile more to Houston's Memorial Park. Those trail riders are just in time for Go Texan Day. Just after noon today, I turned east on W Gray and there in the two lanes headed west were dozens of trail riders. Right there in the middle of River Oaks Shopping Center. Looked like they were headed straight into River Oaks itself, though I knew they'd be turning right at Shepherd, going toward the park. I had to laugh at the juxtaposition of chuck wagons with la Griglia, Sur la Table and La Mode Lingerie.
Then I heard their music, loud country and western and then a tease of zydeco. I burst into tears. I was sure that the music kept these trail riders moving forward. I just felt it. Music takes you places, frees you up to become who you really are without all that thinking and intellectual pondering. I hear music so irregularly, that a great lack, a profound loss enveloped me. I remember how it is to dance, to let go and live in sensation and rhythm, move into a moment, the space where time and place become immaterial.

Barbara Ehrenreich had it absolutely right when she wrote "Dancing In the Streets, A History of Collective Joy". Human beings are made for dancing and celebrations. I quote from her website:

"Dancing in the Streets explores a human impulse that has been so effectively suppressed that we lack even a term for it: the desire for collective joy, historically expressed in revels of feasting, costuming, and dancing.

"Drawing on a wealth of history and anthropology, Barbara Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture. From the earliest orgiastic Mesopotamian rites to the medieval practice of Christianity as a “danced religion” and the transgressive freedoms of carnival, she demonstrates that mass festivities have long been central to the Western tradition. In recent centuries, this festive tradition has been repressed, cruelly and often bloodily. But as Ehrenreich argues in this original, exhilarating, and ultimately optimistic book, the celebratory impulse is too deeply ingrained in human nature ever to be completely extinguished."

So, here's to the hundreds of trail riders flooding into Houston for an annual celebration, bringing music and some soul to those concrete streets leading into Memorial Park.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Patriarchal Men Aren't Going to Take It Anymore

Perhaps the most life-changing happening of the 20th century was the widespread advent of birth control. For the first time in the history of human kind, women - millions of them - could control their ability to have children. 'When and with whom' became everyday decisions. Suddenly, women's were able to move into new career paths, seek greater educational opportunities, travel the world, support themselves and development friends with common interests and goals. And hasn't that changed the female/male dynamics worldwide?
We so naively believed that once there was birth control, life would simply be better for everyone. Well, life is better for woman and families who excercise birth control. But A LOT of men in suits and bishop outfits are just fit to be tied. They are staging a battle. Enough of this open ended feminine uppityness and independence.
They are not going to take it anymore - not this freedom of women to pursue lives that do not always depend on men's decisions and whims.
I've just read a terrific summation of this state of affairs, "Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control and Why We'll Still Be Fighting About It 100 Years From Now," written by Sara Robinson, editor of AlterNet's Visions page.
Several years ago, I began to hear that all the passion that motivated the anti-abortion movement wasn't really just about abortion. No, sooner or later, some folks intimated, the focus would turn to contraception, because all this angry fervor is really about women and 'their place.'
How slow we've been to see what's happening right in front of us. Who yells the loudest outside of abortion clinics? Angry, heterosexual white men. Who railed against Nancy Pelosi when she was Speaker of the House and displayed her on posters with a Pinnochio nose? Angry, heterosexual white men. Who have fewer of their numbers graduating from college and heading for law school and corporate ladders? Angry, heterosexual white men. It's all just too much for them and they are very angry because they've lost their footing, feel outranked, not 'in charge.' This cannot be.
Folks, read up and see the lay of the land. Make some strategic plans for yourself and for all women. Our gains for ourselves and our families, our sons and our daughters, will be short lived if we don't recognize the backlash of anger and begin to confront it. We could wake up and find ourselves once again, legally barefoot and pregnant.
We cannot and will not take that anymore. So, let us get busy with the task of holding on to our own gains and the gains passed on to our daughters and grand daughters. Let us not forget that the first women to fall prey to this anger will be poor women without resources. And let us not forget that we women are all in this together - rich, poor, young, old, black, brown, yellow and white. We have strength in numbers. Let's put those number to work. NOW.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Bloggers Nail Komen and Brazos Books Will Sell 'Breasts'

For some fun reading on the Komen Foundation from other bloggers, see the Reclusive Leftist. I'm glad I found her. Read Ordinary Mer and find another woman who just 'never liked Komen' and didn't know why. I'm with her. And then there's commentary from The Stir, noting how much money Komen has spent sing other smaller cancer awareness organizations for using their tag line.
And I just read a quick review of 'Breasts' by Florence Williams, coming in May to Brazos Books. Here's a paragraph from the Brazos Books E-Newsletter that takes me right back to the question "How about spending a lot of money and time and effort to find the causes of breast cancer? I'll read this book.

"Around midway through the book, Williams seems to find its true thesis: that we have thus far vastly underestimated the role of chemical contaminants in breast health. The author interviews a variety of breast specialists and puts herself through a barrage of tests in order to pin down exactly how hazardous our chemical-filled lifestyles are to our most sensitive organs. The answer, to say the least, is eye-opening. Every woman should be aware of the information Willimas presents in these chapters, and too few women are."

Komen's Karen Handel Resigns

Handel resigned and she did not take a severage package when she left, so I suspect we'll hear more from her. Handel's letter of resignation was published today by Daily Kos and she isn't backing down from her belief that Komen made the right decision to drop funding to Planned Parenthood in order to better serve Komen's mission. There are millions of people in this country who heartily disagree.
BTW, there is a fine article in today New York Times Science Section titled 'Real Race in Cancer Is Finding Its Cause.' I'd say so. The article, written by Susan Love, M.D., Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, mentions other organizations that are studying environmental causes of breast cancer: Breast Cancer Action and the Avon Foundation. The National Breast Cancer Coalition has set itself a deadline of 2020 to find a breast cancer vaccine.
Love concludes, "We should continue to speak up when we find that health care services are in jeopardy, but we cannot be satisfied with the status quo. We must move breast cancer advocacy to the next level, beyond screening for cancers that are already there, even beyond the cure, to finding the cause. That is true prevention."
Last night I listened one more time to the trailer for Pink Ribbons, a timely documentary on the Komen Foundation. Nancy Brinker's inital statement statement is about money. She says, "We have raised over a billion and a half dollars...." Well, that's terrific, but I tend to think that with that kind of money, we'd be further along finding not only the cures for breast cancer, but the causes.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Komen's Stance A Tipping Point

'Komen Incites Women's Tahrir Square Moment', writes Gloria Feldt, former CEO of Planned Parenthood, in The Daily Beast. Komen's defunding of Planned Parenthood and its subsequent mishandling of its decision has galvanized women nationwide to stand tall for women's health.
Feldt is right. The fervor is not abating. We are angry because women have been played, used and abused by Komen. They gave women pink ribbons and hope, while they pursued an agenda diametrically opposed to women's health issues.
Today, my daughter Jeanne sent me a link to a trailer for Pink Ribbons, a new documentary film from Canada about the Komen Foundation. Couldn't have come at a better moment. Here's the link to the trailer. We need to see that it hits our neighborhood theaters soon.
And just so you can get even more mightily angry, check out this article about Discount Gun Sales - maker and distributor of PINK P-22 'Hope Edition' weapons. Discount Gun Sales and Komen both deny any relationship with one another. DGS says they'll now donate part of the proceeds from the sale of 250 of these new pink killers to the American Cancer Society. Terrific news.

Furrowing Fabric

I like furrowing fabric. I spent the day in my studio furrowing faded brocade as I simultaneously made high res scans of old 1980s black and white negatives. Scanning takes awhile at high res, so I could start the process and then turn to a table set up for furrowing. I am liking the piece that is evolving. With every stitch, the piece changes and remakes itself. I can see a series of these things.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Komen Foundation, I Never Really Liked You

Now I know why. My instincts were right all along. This week, we saw Komen's true colors and they are not girlish pink. I never warmed to this foundation with its pink fun runs and endless merchandise spouting pink ribbons. Didn't know why. My sister-in-law and many dear friends have undergone treatment for breast cancer. They are survivors. How come I couldn't support the Susan B. Komen Foundation?
Last week, I participated in writing and reading endless emails and Face Book comments about Komen defunding its grant to Planned Parenthood. My State Representative Carol Alvarado emailed me, and I assume hundreds of other constituents, a copy of her letter to Nancy Brinker, expressing outrage and sadness. Another email from a friend included a copy of the letter sent to Nancy Brinker by Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism .
Suddenly, I began to understand why I didn't ever warm to the Susan B. Komen Foundation. Their political agenda was suddenly transparent and the more I read and heard, the more I realized that they've always had a political agenda diametrically opposed to all I believe in. And it isn't the same one as Planned Parenthood's.
In the last five days, two things became clear. We know a lot more about the Susan B. Komen Foundation and its founder Nancy Brinker. And we know just how powerful social media can be as a change-maker.
Was it just last Wednesday when I clicked on a YouTube clip to hear Nancy Brinker's firm, humorless speech defending Komen's actions? Truth be told, I thought the icy sister of Susan B. Komen was pretty scary looking as she told us the foundation was not budging from its decision to unfund a commitment to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening. Brinker was fierce looking and almost resembled Michelle Bachmann in that presidential candidate's most fiery moments. Do powerful Republican women have 'a look'?
A day later, more emails flooded my screen. Brinker's foundation rescinded its decision to halt funding to Planned Parenthood. For this year. The foundation has not yet made its known its intentions for next year and the years after that.
Nancy Brinker and her Board of Directors saw the writing on the wall, or on the web. They saw the millions of dollars in donations pouring into Planned Parenthood, including a substantial donation by New York's Mayor Bloomberg. They heard from women who said they would no longer financially support Komen or wear pink. Ever again.
The Komen Foundation got a really big message. There are huge numbers of women and men in this country who don't follow the hard-line take-no-prisoners opponents of women's health care. There are millions of Americans who believe, not only that breast cancer must be cured, but that Planned Parenthood does a fine job of offering women basic health care. I think that Komen was caught totally off guard. Just had no idea how many folks disagreed with their decision or their political agenda.
Good. Komen got the messages. But the flurry this week is just the tip of an iceberg. We supporters of Planned Parenthood also got a message. Komen's political agenda is becoming transparent and it's not pretty. For details of that agenda, read 'Behind the Pink Curtain.'
We know there is a well orchestrated move to crush Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion folk, but the overarching issue is this:
Right now, women are under premeditated assault in this country. Planned Parenthood is under attack because it is a vital link in freeing women to make choices about their lives. Breast cancer is also primarily a woman's issue.
So, it is not a stretch to think that a 'divide and conquer' movement is in play. Let women fight and scramble over breast cancer and health care while others (who are the 'others'?) take advantage of the split to further disempower women.
Take a moment and remember the 1970s. The women's movement brought tremendous gains for each of us. Think about the days when women couldn't get credit cards in their own name, couldn't buy their own home, were unusual if they became a doctor or a lawyer, and always received much lower pay for the same job. Remember? Right.
But there are those who don't particularly like our gains and working to take reproductive choice away from women will severely undercut our recent advances. That's what this is really about. And Komen was caught using a woman's issue while aligning with the enemy. No wonder there was outrage and sudden flashes of enlightenment in those emails.

To understand what Komen owes to women's recent history, read Linda Hirshman's 'What Breast Cancer Advocates Owe to the Women's Movement'. Hirshman gives us instant insight on Atlantic on-line on the reasons why social media went on overload this week over breast cancer screenings and I quote:

"Looks like the pink ribbon ladies at the Susan G. Komen cancer foundation learned the lesson about politics being a body contact sport. Pulling their cancer screening program from the beleaguered Planned Parenthood under a transparently concocted rule they applied to no one else, the beribboned sisters were flayed to ribbons by a coalition from feminists online to the billionaire Mayor of New York City. How could Komen imperil women's health in a sacrifice to the war on choice? Yesterday they gave as close as it comes in the spin world to an apology, denying any wrongdoing and telling their critics to pipe down. No politics in their decision making, nosirree.

"Let's cut through the pink ribbonry. This presentation of the issue completely obscures the real issue: the war on choice itself. Organizations like Americans United for Life, which is heavily involved in the Komen flap, have been waging the war for years without setting off an internet firestorm. What made Komen's move different is that it's supposed to be an organization for women's lives. And like it or not, preserving women's lives is not a stand-alone enterprise entirely divorced from the value of the lives you save. Valuing lives is the business of politics. Valuing women's lives used to be known as feminism. If feminism had not revived the claim that women's lives have value, there would be no breast cancer movement. Why should there be?

"Attention to breast cancer, like the availability of abortion to women with unwanted pregnancies, did not come from some Texas Republican whose sister, Susan G. Komen, sadly, died. Before political feminism, breast cancer, like everything having to do with women's reproductive and sexual lives, was hidden, treated as slightly dirty, and not worthy of huge amounts of medical resources. Most people date the change to the 1974 announcement by then- first lady Betty Ford that she had the disease. After Betty, Vice President Rockefeller's wife Happy and the television star Betty Rollin also went public.

"Years later, when Betty Ford died, Komen Foundation president Nancy Brinker said that "Betty was very important in my life, to the life of Komen for the Cure and to the world."

"Betty Ford supported not only breast cancer awareness but the Equal Rights Amendment, and, throughout her tenure in the White House, abortion rights, a.k.a. the feminism that dares not speak its name. This is not an accident. Abortion, or the ability to control reproduction, including, of course, all methods of birth control, is central to women achieving not mere survival, but flourishing lives. After 40 years of legal abortion, perhaps the Komen flap will enable women and their sympathetic male supporters to remember that it was feminism and the feminist fight to make abortion legal that freed them from the wheel of uncontrolled reproduction, with its attendant impoverishment and, well, abortion, of their hopes and dreams for education and better jobs -- the ordinary markers of a flourishing life.

"Others, notably Peggy Orenstein and Barbara Ehrenreich, have brilliantly documented the decline of the breast cancer movement into a parody of conventional femininity, with its pink teddy bears turning women into children and its boobies bracelets turning the site of a life-threatening disease into a sexual turn-on. Why would those bear- hugging boobie-bearers want to do something as aggressive and self-actualizing as, say, get an abortion when they are too young and poor to start a family, or when their family is as big as they can afford?

"Social movements come and go. I am hardly the first person to notice that the feminist movement, including a seemingly toothless Planned Parenthood, has gone a long way (baby) from the era of courageous women like Betty Ford. Meanwhile, other movements, like the gay revolution, have shown new pathways to activism that might inspire a revived feminism, should anyone be willing to pay attention. Maybe the Komen flap, by highlighting the incoherence behind caring for women and trying to strip them of control over their reproduction, is just the opening a revived feminist movement has been waiting for."

Linda Hirshman, you put the pieces of this puzzle together so well. How could we not have seen the interconnectedness of breast cancer, reproductive freedom, women's health, education and job opportunities? They are all fingers on the same hand. Our hand. May each of us enter the fray and see clearly.

And to Komen, now I understand why I never really liked you. Most of the time, you were wearing a pink mask to hide your true agenda. It's not fair to hide behind women who are stricken with breast cancer. A lot of women believed you were on their side, that you were an advocate for women's health care. What more can I say here?

One last thing. Click on this link to read precisely what is happening to women's health care in Texas. And most of our legislators are delighted about their slash and burn efforts. They are not the legislators that I vote for.

(Note: In 2007, I was keynote speaker at a Komen fundraising luncheon in Temple, TX. I met many wonderful women in Temple and my diatribe in this post is focused on the political agenda of Komen's founder and Board of Directors. My talk in Temple centered on PurseStories, a variation of a speech I'd presented before another group a year earlier.)

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Fabric Atrophy and a Load of Plates

Early this morning we woke to a thunder storm crackling over the top of the house. Torrential rain. We need each drop that fell. The rest of today has been damp, chilly and dark. I determined to 'carry on' despite the weather and the heavy sleepy feeling that an antihistamine gives if it's taken too late at night. The antihistamine effect is over by mid-afternoon, but morning hours can easily be spent doing nothing at all if I don't exercise a bit of will power.
So when ES went to his studio, I went to Michael's - in the rain - to buy metallic rose colored pens that that will leave their mark on the vintage china plates I bought days ago at The Guild Shop. Yeah, I did it. Bought thirty-five pieces of well worn English china. Four sets of plates, dinner, salad, dessert and saucers, all hand painted in a rose metallic floral motif.
ES and I will play with these plates. I'll write cryptic little messages on some and he'll draw figures in love on others. Then we'll bake them in a low oven as per instructions. Our words and drawings are 'set' with heat. Dishwasher safe too, though I expect I'd wash these plates by hand. We will use them for entertaining friends and/or put them a new exhibition, i.e. Second Seating II.
Perfect dinnerware for this season of romance. I am speaking about Valentine's Day. However, I'd have bought these plates absolutely any time, because they are a bit weird.
I bought more than china writing pens at Michael's this morning. I also chose two embroidery hoops and packages of embroidery floss for making a fabric wall hanging that has, of late, been evolving in my head. Days ago, I found some chair cover fabric that was once red, but after a summer on my screen porch faded to a pale peach creame, except on the edges where the fabric was tucked under the chair frame. It is very distressed fabric with history and character. I recovered the screen porch chairs last spring and saved the faded fabric because I just knew I'd use it sometime. Of course.
Days ago, I read instructions about furrowing fabric with needle and thread. Perfect. I'll furrow with embroidery floss, ornament the entire piece with random beads. I have already decided to call this new work Atrophy. You can figure out why for yourself when you see photos of the work in progress and finished.
I have a bit more pinning to do and then lots of furrowing and ornamentation. The embroidery hoop will hold sections of the fabric together, as I conjur up embroidery stitches remembered from girlhood. Didn't we call learn to embroider back in the day?
So, I spent the entire afternoon playing with two faded chair covers. Here is what I saw and what I began to pin in place.
I also have a grid of nine distressed tapestry-like pillow covers on the studio floor. They were salvaged after Hurricane Ike. I owe a real debt to the interior designer who threw her sodden cache of sample fabrics out on the street after Hurricane Ike flooded parts of our neighborhood. I know the designer suffered a great loss, but I see great beauty in these distressed fabrics.
Many of the salvaged fabrics became the 10' x 14' foot patchwork table cloth for the banquet table at Second Seating. And now, the nine tapestry pillow covers will become one big piece. I have no idea where it's going at the moment. I am simply dropping various objects on to the tapestries. I am watching and waiting and thinking about how it will come together.
Tomorrow, I will write about all the other things that are happenng in the world and my world, like the Komen fiasco, Mitt Romney's blunder about 'the poor', my IRS audit, ES's new gallery and upcoming travels. I have plenty to say about all of these subjects. Later. ES is here and has a pound of shrimp to be boiled. He has a glass of wine to be sipped. And then.