Uterus Liberation Day, or, Don’t Say You’re Sorry

It’s been a whopping 8 months since my last post, and there is so much I want to write about. But first, I’m going to wrap up that last rant with this cathartic summation courtesy of John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.

Ok, it’s time for stories about things actually going my way. After 6 years of not changing my mind, my preferred doctor finally consented to giving me a hysterectomy.


I don’t care if it is a birthday meme, IT SPEAKS TO ME

The nightmare I described in the last post plus the severity of my pain was finally enough to convince her this was what I needed, PROMPTLY (reality: 5 weeks). I kept a handy countdown app on my phone.

COUNTDOWN CAP My friends and family were thrilled for me, and congratulated me while acknowledging that congratulations shouldn’t be necessary. Nobody congratulates you on getting your appendix out, and nobody makes you wait years to do it. I cared about my ute as much as my appendix. (Incidentally, like any good academic, I have a really really long appendix).

I am exceedingly lucky that I can count on one hand the number of insensitive friends or family that have disregarded or ignored my disease. Actually, I can count on one finger, and I bet you can guess which one I use to count him. In continuing evidence that I am surrounded by the very best people, my friends threw me a Hysterectomy Party.

Family even brought cupcakes from Boise for me!

Family even brought cupcakes from Boise for me! Courtesy of Lilly Jane’s Cupcakes.

UTEIATAEmily made me a pinata, complete with cysts and lesions and ovaries that will not cooperate. PERFECT.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to beat that uterus pinata with its own ovary. And we all concurred, burning a uterus in effigy was the most pagan thing any of us have done on Easter weekend.


or any other weekend, really.

I had hoped that once I set a date for my surgery, I could cope better with my pain. I could always remind myself “Only 30 days…only 25 days…” but I was mistaken. Every day was worse than the one before it. I couldn’t go to work for the five weeks leading to my surgery. You could find me miserable in bed from painsomnia, or miserable on the couch clutching an electric blanket because standard hot pads were insufficient.  And angry, I was always exhausted and angry. My psych let me up my anxiety medication from “as needed” to “three times a day.” I did cross stitch projects, which made sense since I couldn’t move around and all I could think about were needles.


Picked up this pattern from Etsy shop NerdyLittleStitcher, the cysts and scars and endo growths were my idea. https://www.etsy.com/shop/nerdylittlestitcher

I couldn’t exercise, I’d been putting on weight, I hated my body and all my clothes, and I was teetering on the edge of a midlife crisis, mourning the loss of my 20’s and all the freedom and energy I had then. (In my 20’s, I fell in love, graduated college, got married, traveled, and danced all the time. Even with all my accomplishments, I feel as if endo robbed me of that decade while I cycled fruitlessly through every birth control available, continually upsetting my hormones and only ever making the pain worse).

The 1-10 Pain Scale is totally insufficient for a person coping with chronic pain. It’s appropriate for someone who’s just fallen down stairs, or a tooth ache, or childbirth (I assume!), something acute. I was operating (sort of) with a daily baseline of what I interpreted as 7-8. Even driving hurt– every bump stabbed. My doctor asked me, “How do you live?” and my only answer was “Ten seconds at a time.” I couldn’t plan for anything, couldn’t look forward to anything with excitement; even the surgery. I was sure I’d be feeling awful for a few weeks even after “Eviction Day.” There was still no identifiable end. I even had to reevaluate my Level 10. Yes, I found a pain higher than the strongest pain I had imagined. I tried to enter 11s and 12s in my symptom tracker, but…


My doctor prepared me for two possibilities for my recovery. One, that since I had lived with so much pain, this too would suck. Both my previous surgeries left me worthless for at least 9 days. She prepared me for worse, with 40 oxycodone. The other possibility was that since I had so much pain, this would be relatively a breeze. After all, I had been “living” at an 8. I needed to take 15 oxy just to get me TO surgery. Vicodin no longer even took the edge off (and if you mention ibuprofen I might reach through the internet to slap you).

I was at the hospital by 6:30 a.m, and before the gas, my surgeon had me tell the surgical team about my hysterectomy party and pinata. They loved it.


I was home by 6:30 p.m. with the huge relief knowing I had left my uterus, cervix, both tubes, and left ovary at the hospital. I felt so good I tried to eat pizza (I admit, a bad idea). But aside from that stunt, I didn’t have nausea. I didn’t have any bleeding. I didn’t feel the air bubbles in my shoulders. As for pain, I followed to the recommended dose schedule of the oxy, but stopped after 5 days! I only needed 15 oxy to recover!* I went out for dinner with my sweetie 3 days after surgery. When I saw my doctor for the post-op appointment, I had been off pain pills for a week! A WEEK! She was flabbergasted (and yes, she apologized for making this a 6 year process, so hopefully the next Katie that comes around has it easier).

In my post-op appointment, my doctor confirmed I’m recovering fine. She said the weirdest thing… “I’d like to see you back in… no more than a year.”

I went back to work in about ten days, and was able to attend graduation for “my” kids. I can exercise again. I love my scars. I can sleep and wake up rested and without pain. My clothes are starting to fit again. I am having days with no pain! When I do hurt, for the first time in my life, Aleve seems to do the trick. I’m still turned off to Ibuprofen.

There is so much left I want to write about, so I promise I’ll be back in less than 8 months this time. I’ve learned a lot this year about coping with chronic illness and hospitalization for both myself and my husband. Roughly a list of Do’s and Don’t’s, which I will begin here.

When I tell you about my hysterectomy, don’t say you’re sorry.

Endo wasn’t going to kill me, but hysterectomy saved my life.


Doc Shopping, or, Finding Katie’s Breaking Point

Today, I’m stepping back on my soapbox: endometriosis and the saga of finding the right doctor. Over the last year I’ve contacted and visited a half dozen clinics in the Portland area. I have been rebuffed from all of them, with different versions of the same reply.

We don’t do pain management.

Every time I’m told this, it hits me harder. I’m continually told I need to find a pain management specialist, that I will need to sign a contract about my usage of the drug, and I’ll have to go to the clinic monthly to pick up my prescription. You know, because I’m an addict.

The analogy I’ve used when searching for the right doctor is searching for a unicorn. A women’s physician who isn’t obsessed with babies? I reached out from Portland proper, and eventually visited a clinic in Salem (locals know I must be desperate if I went to Salem).

I was on the verge of declaring this visit another bust, because she told me she wouldn’t do pain management.  But she didn’t leave it there. She said she wants to end it. “Have you thought about a hysterectomy?”

I was totally thrown off balance. A few words stumbled from my mouth before I could say “I knew I wouldn’t find a doctor willing to do it for me.”

“You’re looking at her.”

angry_unicornI found my unicorn. I burst into tears. She told me that insurance wouldn’t want to pay for it, but if I could put together the money, she’d do it. This was an unexpected relief for me. I prepared to battle insurance for coverage, because mine seems to only care about women if they are or will be pregnant.

When I finally worked up the nerve to wade through the website and phone trees to clarify specific benefits, I was surprised to learn a hysterectomy is covered, pending a few consent forms. The end is in sight! I’ve spent more than half my life in pain, and had been mentally preparing to hurt for many more years. Imagine my joy!

Imagine then my sadness at learning that my unicorn does not play with my insurance. Sad, yes. Surprised…not remotely. I had to return to the Provider Directory. This is not a shucks, back to the drawing board turn of events. This is Alice falling back into the rabbit hole abyss. Almost like returning to Salem.

I’ve been in this cuckoo’s nest before, so I knew a few things. Some of the listings would be out of date. Some would actually not be taking patients at this time. Many listings would direct me to the Center for Women’s Health at OHSU (which I have explored before, but you’ll hear that later). Indeed, 4 physicians at OHSU came up meeting my search terms. The first thing I noticed was that 1 of them was listed 4 times.


This does not bode well.

Have you ever felt like a pinball before?

Phone number 1: “Hello, this is general cardiology.”

confusion3Phone number 2: “Hello, this is digestive health department.”

confusion2Phone number 3: “You’ve reached the toll free number for the Child Development Clinic at…”

whatitmeanPhone number 4: “You’ve reached the general information line for OHSU, for questions about…”

confusion4I tried a different strategy, and looked up that doctor in the hospital directory and found (naturally) another number.

Phone number 5: “Hello, this is the genetics clinic.”

confusion5This number makes sense, because she specializes in genetics. Evidently that’s related enough to pregnant women to list her as an OB.

But there are three other doctors, right? Right?

confusion6Act 2: calling the Center for Women’s Health, to ask about the remaining three practitioners.

Just for fun, I asked about Dr. #1. Naturally, “We’ve got no doctor by that name.”

confused 7Physicians 2 and 3 are legit. She knows their names, in fact they are fellows of the clinic. Good for them, bad for me. My insurance will only pay for me to see the residents of the clinic, which means I may see a different doctor at any time, and they don’t do pain management.

A half-hearted Hail Mary, I asked about the 4th doctor. She explained that #4 is also a fellow, and works from the fertility clinic. I could see that physician, if I see a resident and they are willing to refer me (and if I can get over the insult of going to a fertility clinic for a hysterectomy).

(I can’t.)

And before you pull a Green Eggs and Ham and say “Just go try a resident there, don’t be so picky,” I’ll leave you with the following moment, from the time I gambled exactly that.

With a wavering voice, I gave her a sketch of my story. Always had painful periods. Have pain without periods. Tried every daily birth control. Have had two surgeries, need a doctor for the next. With a straight face, she said

“Have you tried ibuprofen?”

…stunned… “You mean breath mints?”

“You know, like, a lot of it.”


The Pips Take Manhattan


On a non-academic subject, I had the pleasure of my first trip to New York. To celebrate graduating and my birthday, Bill took me to Manhattan and totally spoiled me. I know the wide panorama shots don’t get appropriate space in this format, but if you click on them you can see much larger and more detailed versions.

wpid-20150607_205014_lls.jpgI had no comparable experience to the size of…everything. It’s understandable that Manhattan made me feel small. The buildings are impossibly tall, the population is impossibly dense, the clothes are impossibly expensive. It almost couldn’t be easier to get lost and be invisible.


Like an Alice in Manhattanland, I also found myself feeling big. It’s the sensation of being close to history, in an epicenter of culture.

I stood where TV comes from (now to watch Law & Order and Friends and Seinfeld all over again). wpid-20150606_202303_lls.jpgIt’s where theater and music happens. Radio City Music Hall, Broadway… and like, half of the movies ever filmed.


95% humidity in Times Square

It’s Central Park. I mean, CENTRAL PARK. And would you believe that we ran into someone we knew from our days at Willamette University? It’s okay, me neither, but we did.  We saw street performers, awesome playgrounds with kids who don’t know how spoiled they are, and continued to boggle at our chances of running into friends.



wpid-img_20150606_141658.jpgIt’s where buildings used to be made like this:


It’s where our economy lives (Wall Street, right by that beautiful bull), and where America’s oldest history is retained and glorified.



wpid-20150607_132945.jpgBill was very permissive about my English Teacher pilgrimage walk through the New York Public Library. It has all the marble pomp and architectural glory of a church, staggering in size and full of the weight of its own importance. I loved it. It was closed for a private event the first afternoon we walked by. I am now seething with jealousy of people who go to special events there.



I may have drooled a little over this little thing typed on Langston Hughes’ own typewriter. It’s ok, it’s behind glass.

This is where art happens constantly. It’s being created, it’s being restored and protected, it’s everywhere. It was impossible to avoid art museums, public art, and graffiti (not that I would).


Visible from the High Line


Who let ME in the Met?

It’s where food is perfected.  We dined in a couple high-class umpteen-star restaurants, which also made me feel big and important. I maintained my coffee habit thanks in part to Blue Bottle, as recommended by angry_barista. He did not steer me wrong. And as a self-identified pizza snob (thanks, Flying Pie) that was naturally on the itinerary. Namely we sampled Majestic Pizza, known both for its classically NY thin crust bedsheet-size slices and for its proximity to the place

where everything, everything, everything, changed.

wpid-20150607_135851.jpgThis water feature sits under shade and reflects not only the sunlight and skyline, but the striking stillness of “Ground Zero.” In the middle of all the urgent business noise and bustling New York energy is a pocket of meditative, reflective space that only grows from the site of a tragedy. I was a senior in high school that September.

wpid-20150607_134848.jpgMy world view at 17 in Boise was far too small in scope to understand the magnitude of the WTC attacks. You could make a case that everyone (individually, nationally, culturally) had to reevaluate the possibilities of worst case scenarios, but I mean scope in the most basic senses. I had no frame of reference for a city so dense, for buildings so tall, or for acts of terrorism larger than, say, the Oklahoma City bombing (which occurred when I was 11, and my world view consisted of a one mile radius of my house). Just as nothing prepared me for the event, nothing prepared me for the memorial.

I couldn’t imagine a monument that could do justice to the shock waves of shock, grief, outrage, fear, and overwhelming loss. Luckily, I didn’t have to, there were better minds.

wpid-20150607_135016.jpgThis page can provide you with much more information than I can, so I’ll impart only the touchy-feely stuff. The empty space is incredibly powerful, the shape and flow of water stirred in me the profound sinking feeling I cannot attribute to any other chapter of my life. The elements of water, stone, and air are as stark and clean as the etched names of those we lost–the sharpest contrast to devastating chaos that destroyed them. I cried.

I sat on a bench in some shade to compose myself. I closed my eyes, and listened to the water and the busy noise of people. I felt the sun on my feet, and heard a breeze through the leaves. Patches of earth interrupt the stone walkways, with trees growing joyfully. The last element is human (or so the movie tells me), and as I looked around the crowd, my heartbeat slowed, and the tension in my neck relaxed because all these sensations meant one thing: this place is undeniably alive.

Maybe that’s the real monument.

7 months in 17 minutes, or however long it takes you to read this

wpid-20150625_120351.pngThere’s a rule in teaching that if one student asks a question, there are 5 more who have the same question but won’t ask (or 3, or 8, or a thousand like cockroaches, I’m not much into rules and numbers). So when one reader says Katie are you ever going to blog again or are you just going to leave me hanging and brokenhearted?? then I figure there must be a few others. The site says this still gets a few hits a day (thanks, Mom and Dad) so I envision a half dozen of my loved ones grumbling through their computers at me, on a regular basis. So thanks for the nudge (kick) I needed. I honestly didn’t realize it had been since October. Graduate school is all-consuming. All your time, energy, philosophies, sleep, printer ink… So this blog continues to reflect my reality: I am just now resurfacing from October.

But I do have some delightful news. I’ve completed my Master of Arts in Teaching, just attended commencement from Marylhurst University.


Matilda, regarding diplomas

I have never felt more adult in my life than when I got my teaching license. Luckily, that moment was short because then I devolved into a giggling mess. I ran around telling the other teachers and students, because I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who genuinely cared about the work I was doing and saw my struggles and triumphs.

2015-01-31 15.46.08

Over a weekend, my teacher and I painted this on the most prominent wall of the classroom. Attendance is kind of an issue.

My first work sample unit was centered around satire, social commentary through political cartoons, and censorship. An unfortunate serendipity occurred: the Charlie Hebdo attack. They could not have been better primed to explore and discuss the events as they unfolded. This led to a project where students created detective-style connection-boards of articles and photos related to a new story that they would follow for two weeks. In addition to Charlie Hebdo, they tackled the political posturing that happened around the release of the film The Interview (here’s a little something about that), they commemorated Leelah Alcorn (see here) and explored data about suicide rates among transgender teenagers (unforgiveably high). Anti-vaxxers came under scrutiny, the school shootings since Sandy Hook were plotted on a map, and police brutality against teenagers was viewed with new intensity in light of Trayvon Martin and the countless other deaths they read about.

I gave them a heartfelt rendition of John Green’s Will This Be On The Test? and watched them follow their curiosity (or outrage) in directions I could never have led them. And when everything was  done, tacked on the walls in a hundred pins, the last question on their assessment tried to pull them full circle. “What was the overall point of this Non-Fiction unit? What did I want you to get?” I promise, Girl Scout’s Honor, that these are their honest verbatim answers.

2nd quarterI was so excited about these responses that I printed out several copies of this for the classroom, hallway, staff room, and principal. I think I’m adopting that middle one (bold is my emphasis) for my mission statement. Free of ignorance? A sense of pride and integrity? Be still my teacher heart. I told the student as much, but they still seem reluctant to admit their way with words.

It was with all that under my belt that I decided to try the inevitable unit, the one I’ve seen to be most polarizing in an English classroom: poetry. The groans you get for suggesting it are amazing, and could be really discouraging for a teacher (or even for the student who likes writing poetry). I fully understand that many of the writers and pieces that are “standard” for academic spaces can be difficult to tackle or feel irrelevant. For most students, the worst thing you could do is begin studying poetry in order of historical eras and genres. Yes, a Shakespeare sonnet is a marvel of language, meter, form, and spirit; but you don’t give a baby a bite of steak, they don’t have teeth yet. So I started with the premise that everyone is a poet, but that doesn’t mean everyone is a Poet. Shakespeare, Plath, Poe– these are all poets. So are Silverstein and Billy Collins, and rappers like Tu Pac and Aesop Rock, and comedians like Bo Burnham:


From his book, Egghead

In order to adequately crush the dead-old-white-poet standard, I kicked it off with my favorite kind of poetry: slam. Since the kids really like movies, there was only one natural starting point: the movie Slam. It’s cast mostly with slam poets, including a cameo from Taylor Mali (teacher/slammer, this is probably his most famous piece). Saul Williams is a powerhouse; and the movie is brilliantly written. The ending was so powerful one of my kids ran out of the room to find his best friend to say “OH MY GOD THAT’S HOW IT ENDS??” Here is a performance of Amethyst Rocks, just one brilliant piece featured in the movie. You’re welcome. It’s sampled in music and even blown up into…

a musical!

Later we watched Dead Poets Society, which proved to have more parallels than I could count. Daring, restless young boys (one group black, one white) trapped in an institution designed by old white men (DC prison and Welton Academy) in order to enforce principles and shape behavior by squashing individuality. In each, a teacher encourages their students to write honestly, passionately, and with abandon even when (especially when) someone is trying to silence them. Oh, and there’s a gun in both but I won’t tell you where they hit. I will tell you that a half dozen of my kids have said “Oh Captain, my Captain” to me and I glowed every time.

John Keating is like, 1/3 of why I became an English Teacher. Taylor Mali is another. And then probably my senior English teacher Mrs. Norton.

My kids blew me away with the work they created. Yes, I had to nudge many of them. But once they’d gotten permission to write anything, even if it was ugly or unhappy or angry, they dropped their guard and showed incredible honesty and strength. They are so often silenced, urged to act “appropriately,” and seeing the weight off their shoulders when they were allowed to say anything told me just how much pressure they’re under all those hours outside of my room. It was transformative for them, because one of the things about being adolescent (ok, or an adult) is that your experience feels wholly unique to you, which can be isolating. So when a student writes about their awful experiences with X (a family member, an obstacle, a disease…) it’s a leap of faith. But when they read that out loud, and it resonates with ten other students, suddenly no one is alone. We did not have enough tissues.


The school district’s art show is held at the school I worked in, so that was a nice close to the year. K’ahi Pele even showed up and spun some fire for a really good group, with good food, outside a school full of really great student art. The show was all ages of course, but my kids wanted to share their writings and performances, so we made our classroom “Exploring the Edge,” the uncensored space that was not for child audiences. A video ran on loop featuring their slam performances, texts were posted in big print, and lots of supplies for blackout poetry were handy.

20150303_133807My internship was challenging, exhausting, sometimes insurmountable, grueling… but also illuminating, inspiring, and hilarious. Alternative schools are not for everyone… but they are for me.

There’s one more thing I’d like to share with you: a reference sheet I created that tries to address many kinds of identity that young adults wrestle with. Adolescent behavior can seem senseless, elusive, even volatile, and it’s important that adults interpret those behaviors carefully. On one side of an 8×10 sheet, Signs of Possible Crisis in Young Adults, arranged as a spectrum of related ideas.

matrix front

The other side of the page shows how I deal with just about anything… books.  Helpful Reading for Teachers of Adolescents Facing Crisis arranges books and authors that may be useful to each topic on the spectrum.

matrixteacherbooks copySo this is how I see things. What I learned in grad school was: to value resilience and growth mindset, to embrace creative risk-taking, to reject the idea that anything is polar, to connect and reflect, and to critically examine your actions and motivations constantly.

I missed you, dear reader. But I have been preoccupied. Happy to be back.

The annual re-post, Thirty Days of Solitude

Believe it or not, dear reader, I’m working on a much-overdue post for you, condensing many crazy months into one post that will explain where I’ve been.

But for now,

I revisit a story from 2009. I re-post this every June because I feel lucky this time every year, and this is why:

Thirty Days of Solitude, or All She Ever Wanted Was to Poop Outside


It should come as no surprise that it’s about Matilda.

Stay tuned for additional tales from the classroom and travel pictures!

Feminists don’t have a sense of humor, an evenhanded exaggeration

wpid-2014-10-03-10.34.54.jpg.jpegThis is a little of my handiwork this week. For when someone says “I don’t remember the title of what I was reading, but it had a blue cover…” Those books needed to be organized, one way or another. This is easier than alphabetical or genre, and way more eye-catching. I was really pleased with the response from my students. I think it makes the books a little easier to browse, at least for reluctant readers.


This is a little something I created for the teacher I’m working with this term. With the “help” of the worst thesaurus ever. One synonym for teach? Really? Educate, yes. But how about instruct, enlighten, tutor, coach, discipline, inform, explain, nurture, profess, illustrate, school, guide, or mentor?

…said the English teacher.

wpid-20140910_164751.jpgI hope you enjoyed the movies in the last post. At the risk of setting a precedent I cannot maintain, here’s another digital storytelling project. Returning readers know that I’m not shy about sharing my experience with endometriosis. This blog has been home to plenty of words and pictures that I’ve created in non-pharmaceutical therapy for my pain and frustration. Occasionally, I have hesitated to be “too open” about it. And then I remembered, whatever, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want, just like I always have. I threw TMI into the wind and allowed myself to be vulnerable, and the response has been positive, sympathetic, even grateful.

I’m not the only one you know dealing with this, I’m just the loudest. I’ve moved from wordless art to various writings, but now I’ve got words and pictures and music. I offer this little digital piece for endo sisters and all those who love them.

Please share!


FREADOMYou’re still here? Brilliant, you are my kind of reader. Curious, independent, and patient with my lapses.

This week has been designated by the American Library Association as Banned Books Awareness week. Obviously, I spend a lot more than one week a year thinking about book activism, but at this time I get the benefit of echoes from other voices and other media.

Banned Book Week is not (just) a way of promoting literacy. It is not (just) a chance to read a good book.

It is evidence that our libraries are more than stores of books and resources. Libraries are sites of protest. Those books sit on contentious ground. Did you know there is a Library Bill of Rights?

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas. (the complete Bill of Rights can be found here)

Honestly, when did it occur to you that a library might need a Bill of Rights? It’s totally okay if it was just right now. It was pretty recent that I had to adjust my concept of libraries. Growing up, other kids had sports and church to fill their weekends. I spent mine in the safety and comfort of the library stacks. It represented nothing but positivity, possibility. There couldn’t possibly be anything WRONG with a library. And I was lucky enough to be in a community that seemed to share my enthusiasm.


Yes, that really is the Boise Public Library I grew up with, and it really does have an exclamation point (which is an excellent story for another time).

So you might imagine my surprise this April at seeing my childhood district in the news over a challenged book.

You might imagine the indignant face I made at all this mess. Students who have read it say The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian with genuine affection and excitement. I moved it to the top of my reading pile, and I’m glad I did, for all of these reasons.

Cut to this summer, where I was given the task of creating a digital story in service of a cause of my choice. Here’s what I came up with:

Here’s one from a fellow talented writer that Marylhurst is lucky to have; Timothy Merrit:

Closing thoughts, ala Sherman Alexie:

I suddenly understood that if every moment of a book should be taken seriously, then every moment of a life should be taken seriously as well.

Further reading: thinkbannedthoughts, bannedbooksweek.org, and now that school is back in session, here’s the update to that story.

Springtime for Katie and Marylhurst, a photo essay

wpid-2014-04-09-22.14.25.jpg.jpegHello, dear readers. Believe it or not, I think of you often. But graduate school has demanded most of my writing-energy and time, so I’ve been away from my WordPress. Luckily, my professors seem to like my writing as much as you do, reader, and that means a lot to me.

I’m halfway through my program, and it’s been a whirlwind. Here are a few glimpses.wpid-20140409_202647.jpgGuess which one I helped on? The one with no straight lines and obvious structure, of course… complete with a ladybug (top right).

wpid-1398040825649.jpgBasketball was really fun– for a while.

wpid-2014-06-12-12.04.23.jpg.jpegThe first time I saw the sunshine caught in the campus fountain. Wow.

wpid-20140512_201854.jpgIf you have homework on your birthday, wear fabulous glasses, have chocolate and wine.

wpid-2014-05-12-18.12.48.jpg.jpegOh yes, I had a birthday. 30 circles around the sun.

wpid-2014-06-05-17.44.26.jpg.jpegI got a label maker.

wpid-2014-05-14-11.45.27.jpg.jpegI got to explore a hunch I’ve had for some time– that the words people use to challenge and ban books can be used to incite curiosity in readers. So I’ve been doing a little project that is one part research, one part art, and one part cheeky teacher. The above books are popular or frequently required reading and are just as frequently banned. I taped them all to block out the covers, titles, and authors. I labeled them with praises and criticisms, and then I taped the books shut.

2014-05-14 11.42.57 I want to draw attention to how people try to censor entire books based on single themes, scenes, or words. Taping them closed elicited a stronger response than I expected, and I realized that one of the best things about books is that they are so inviting. Drop one on the floor and it opens up, saying “read me!” Opening a book is automatic, it is instant gratification. Preventing that brings on emotional (and physical) responses from frustration to anger. It makes for fascinating conversation with students– even kids who hate reading discover they have an opinion on censorship when they learn the only book they ever liked gets banned all the time.

wpid-2014-06-09-08.52.31.jpg.jpegI spent several weeks observing at the nearest alternative high school. It’s a perfect place for me.

wpid-2014-06-09-08.50.40.jpg.jpegIn the spirit of the art project/phenomenon, Before I Die (which I did in the fall with my class). Here’s another good example.


We were visited a few times by the blondest raccoon I’ve ever seen. Matilda agreed. But if there’s any place for a ginger raccoon, it’s my backyard. wpid-2014-06-12-11.41.12.jpg.jpeg

Speaking of Matilda, she’s in pretty good shape these days. Diana’s cat got an upgraded cat tower for Christmas, so the old one was bequeathed to Tilda, and Emily and I did some improvements on it.



To top it all off (literally and figuratively), my mom made a wee little quilt for Matilda’s tower, which happens to fit perfectly. She sits on this at the window for hours every day with a look that says “What took you so long?”


I write this on an anniversary of an important day for me and everyone who ever loved Matilda. So forgive me a re-post of my most popular entry, Thirty Days of Solitude.

Here’s a balance-in-the-universe prologue to that story: earlier this spring I saw a cute little calico hiding in our yard. A few days later I saw Lost posters in the neighborhood for the strictly-indoor-tortie. I called and met the lady, and I recognized the tightness in her throat and the hope in her eyes. Luckily, her kitty was still in our yard and they were reunited after 6 days. I had so much trouble communicating to her just how much it meant to me that I got her calico back to her. It wasn’t just a good deed, it was paying it forward.

So pet your pets, and tell your loved ones you love them. I’ll be back with more stories soon.


What took you so long?

The Condition is Usually Not Serious – and other things not to say to women

funny-stork-baby-birth-control-vintageI’m not going to talk about my diet today. Well, not directly. One of the most important habits I took on when I changed my food was to journal my symptoms dutifully.  It’s great because if I choose one day to eat a buttery glutenous cinnamon roll covered in cream cheese frosting, I can consider in an experiment instead of a failure of my willpower. If I experience cramping or digestion issues the day after, I know my body does has a problem with those ingredients. If I start my period two days later, maybe that craving was a function of where I was in my cycle. I won’t call it PMS.

When your ute makes a demand, you make it happen.


No three letters can dehumanize a woman faster than p, m, and s. To say it is a stigma is an understatement. It is an assumption, a dismissal, and a punchline. Women’s menstrual pain is dismissed far too easily, even by health professionals.

You can see the dismissal even in the technical definitions. “Although some pain during your period is normal, excessive pain is not. The medical term for painful menstrual periods is dysmenorrhea”  Some pain is normal? “Dysmenorrhoea refers to painful periods, including severe menstrual cramps. The condition is usually not serious but it can be debilitating” (Menstrual Cycle & Irregularities). After the words usually not serious, no one hears can be debilitating.

I use the MedHelp application. It allows me to be startlingly specific about my symptoms (menstrual, emotional, pain, and nutritional) as well as my treatments (medications, supplements, baths) and have enough data to see patterns that I would not have found otherwise. The part that is especially important for me is their Pain Tracker. 


Because the 1-10 scale with smiley to frowny faces is so crude a representation it is laughable to those coping with any sort of pain disorder. Now I have a journal programmed with important varieties of pain (burning, discomfort, stabbing, hypersensitivity, twisting, cramping) as well as a body map where you can pinpoint the areas affected.

Are your periods normal? Sounds like a simple question. But it’s one that I hate the most at the Dr.’s office. What they’re asking is, Are they 28 days apart and result in moderate bleeding and bloating?  I wouldn’t be visiting a specialist if they were. The real question to ask is, What is normal for you? Frequency, duration, and severity are only three of so many dimensions to consider about the chronic injury that is menstruation.

I was spurred into this post after reflecting on a telephone conversation I had today with a nurse. She must check with my doctor before clearing me for a refill of my Vicodin prescription. I understand.

“Because, it’s highly addictive, you know.”

Yes, I know.

“We don’t want you taking it regularly.”

Yes, I know. I don’t want to, either.

“It says here you were going to do some sort of… pain management… thing?”

Oh yes, I remember. I was considering participating in The Violet Petal Study, a clinical trial of a treatment for endometriosis pain. I’m thrilled that this study has advertisements in the area via radio, TV, and internet. Based on my age and the course of my treatment I am exactly —exactly— the participant they want, and my doctor gave me her full support to enroll. 

But I have decided against it. I am desperate enough to try something experimental, yes. But I’m not desperate enough to gamble on a placebo that 1/3 of participants get. They would allow me to continue Vicodin for pain… but it’s highly addictive, you know.

The American sign language speaks the truthShe asked if my condition has improved and was appropriately concerned when I told her that in the last weeks, my pain has increased. She said she would call in my prescription and genuinely urged me to make an appointment right away, so my Dr. and I can do something about it. I broke a little inside. I was overcome with a feeling of futility all too familiar to women dealing with pain or infertility. 

I knew that rushed appointment would be just like my last in August, and the one before that, and the one before that; I’ve exhausted all my medicinal options, and considering the last time I had health insurance was 2009, I can’t afford to make an appointment, no matter how earnestly the nurse believes it will help (while knowing literally nothing about my history). I wanted to tell her, there is nothing to be done… but I don’t believe that. Once I get medical coverage, I want to explore surgery to remove one or both of my ovaries. But this means, once I get coverage, I have to find a new doctor. Mine refuses to jeopardize in any way my chances of getting pregnant, even though I’ve made it repetitively clear that I’m averse to the whole fiasco.

You’re still in your 20’s, you’ll change your mind. She specializes in infertility, so of course she is going to act in a way that protects my reproductive bits. Motherhood is magical, and it gives fulfillment to millions of people– but it is not for everyone. I’m just one of a growing number of women who are eschewing pregnancy and receiving incredulity and pity instead of support.

Childfree inspiration

The Childfree Life is gaining some public recognition, and I must further that conversation by continuing to say my piece. Armed with my symptom journal, sparked up over the Vicodin talk, and my feet firmly rooted in feminism, I came to write this post. I had to meander a bit, so thank you for coming with me. I’m nearly to the point.

And I am more than my illness.

I finally realized what I need to communicate on behalf of people like myself. When someone says you’ll change your mind, or keep your options open, all I can hear is I don’t believe you, and you don’t know what you want, or you’re not old enough to say that. Don’t protect me. Help me live in good health. Even when (especially when) it is scary and potentially involving scalpels.

Someone who seeks surgery (women like me for oophorectomies, men for vasectomies) is not taking the decision lightly. I have some rough numbers I want to give you, in an awkward attempt to say… forcing me to be able to carry a child is as cruel as forcing me to have one. How old do I need to be before I am taken seriously? Isn’t 35 about when they start saying you’re too old? Let’s go with that, say I wait until I’m 35 to prove I don’t want to carry, that’s 6 years. If my condition and treatments stay roughly the same as the last 6 years, what am I in for?  42 periods, totaling 270 days of bleeding, necessitating 120 Vicodin. Careful, it’s highly addictive, you know. My endometriosis pain is not limited to menstruation times. In addition to those numbers, I’ll face 420 days in pain severe enough to distract me from my tasks. This will require an additional 300 Vicodin. Round it all off with 1-2 laparoscopic surgeries, and what do you have?The fault in our starsCruelty.
Versus: One surgery, potentially liberating me from Vicodin, tampons, condoms, PMS….. oophorectomy is fun to say, but I’ll tell you one thing: it’s not habit forming.

A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.

Maty says "Oh hi nice to see you!"

Maty says “Oh hi nice to see you!”

Maty has been absent from the blog a while, too. But that’s because he lives in Ashland and my camera does not have that good a zoom. I am here in Shakespeareville for Thanksgiving.

So I will admit that I’ve been eating everything my father-in-law puts on the table. I have enjoyed it all immensely. But I am seeing the effects on by body, which means two things. Firstly, that my dietary changes were working; Secondly, that when I return home I’ll be back on the quinoa and rice tortillas. Since I have some space from classes this week, I’ll spend some time talking about the foods I aught to be eating.


This array represents the inspirational people I get to hang out with in class.

I basically covered the foods and ingredients that I’m avoiding. It’s much more fun to talk about what I’ve gotten to embrace.

The spiritual advice that my Dad has passed on to me is as simple as it is true. God was in a good mood when he made garlic. And onion. And beans. There’s something to that. Those are all beneficial to your immune system, and can block estrogen receptors so that estrogen-like things in food do not throw off your natural hormone levels. Eat more beans, carrots, broccoli, and kale? No need to twist my arm.


Flax and pumpkin seeds, plus my pretty measuring spoons.

I have added some seeds to my diet. First was flax, which has gained a lot of popularity in recent years on account of high Omega-3 Fatty Acids, anti-oxidants, and fiber. Did I talk about fiber? I’m consciously seeking out fiber for my diet so that my bowels move with ease. The muscles that take care of #2 are dangerously close to the muscles that ache and cramp from endo. One caution: they do contain plant estrogen, which your body can interpret as your own, so I make sure not to eat them daily or in excess.

Surprise about flax seeds: when you finely grind them and mix with water, you’ve got a surprisingly effective substitute for eggs! I mean, in baking dishes, not as breakfast. There are conflicting reports about including eggs in an anti-inflammatory diet; most of what I have read is against them, and it hasn’t been a problem for me to eliminate them, so that’s where I fall on the question.

Next up was pumpkin seeds, which I tried because they’re crazy nutritious, but I didn’t expect to enjoy. People go gaga about roasted pumpkin seeds at Halloween, and I’ve never cared for them. I love smelling them in the oven, but can’t be bothered to eat them.  Step one to loving pumpkin seeds: buy them already shelled.

They are full of protein and reduce inflammation. They have a lot of minerals, which is another thing I didn’t expect. They even have tryptophan, that magical Thanksgiving chemical that promotes rest and lowers depression. So for those reasons and more, I bought a bag and came up with the perfect plan. If this didn’t make pumpkin seeds palatable, then it would never be.

I eat this now as a when I’m craving salty chips, I put it on salads, add it to dips, whatever. It’s fast and easy and is worth the effort to do it right. No substitutions, commit to the fancy stuff.

Try about a quarter cup of shelled pumpkin seeds, put into a saucepan or small skillet, on medium-high heat.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of avocado oil. Stir the seeds often. Watch for them to turn toasty colors, listen for them to get steamed up and start to pop.
Season with truffle salt. Try not to burn yourself when you can’t keep from waiting long enough for them to cool.

Third seed: CH-CH-CH-CHIA! I couldn’t help myself. And be serious, if you were writing this blog you’d say it too.

Chia seeds have similar benefits to flax: high in fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3s; I hear they can also be used as an egg replacement. They’re full of good minerals (which I will elaborate on in Part 3 of this diet-blog business). For more info than you expected or will ever need, see here.

In the picture, the chia seeds on the left are hidden by the other delicious things in the mix I bought; it has slivered almonds, minced dates, hemp seeds, cocoa powder… See here for Chia Goodness. With this, I’ve been having pleasant breakfasts:

A couple teaspoons of the chia mix, a teaspoon of strawberry jam,
a dose of probiotic (I’ll elaborate later),
Add a splash of water or coconut milk, stir it, and go pour yourself a coffee. In a minute the chia seeds will start to expand.
Top with yogurt (Greek nonfat is best).

And maybe some granola or rice cereal on top for crunch. You know, like a parfait–but with lots of protein, fiber, minerals, and little fat.

Here’s a word loaded with sensory memories: cheese. A dear friend of mine for years–we do visit every few weeks or so now when I find brie in front of me. Instead, I’ve been using Daiya “cheese,” and I’ve been really happy with it (except the provolone–that one’s sub-par).

Pictured to the right of the Chia Goodness are dry sprouted lentils. Lentils have a lot of the same anti-inflammatory benefits of beans– particularly the fiber–but I don’t feel compelled to eat them often. Either they are too hard/undercooked or fragile/overcooked. Sprouted lentils have been gaining popularity for their particular properties. If you wish to get technical in comparison, I direct you here. I do not know how much drying the lentils affects the nutrition versus fresh. But these great. You can soften them just by placing in water or soup in the last minutes. I think I’ll try seasoning and toasting them one of these days.

wpid-20131110_112043.jpgAnother something that is going on: I have art up at Latte Play in Salem. Best part is that I have FINALLY gotten to hang my Gigantic Koi Painting. So go marvel at that and have a latte. See Masterful Matilda and Animal, shown here. But there is something shown here that is no more.

It finally happened. I grew hair long enough to donate, as long as I could stand for it to be. But it had started strangling me in my sleep. It broke the vacuum. It had to go.


So thanks for the line, Coco Chanel. My life has definitely changed.

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