Everything Old is New Again... In Women’s Reproductive Health Issues

Houston Chronicle Friday, 1/20/12 pg A5  Associated News
  “CDC finds teens clueless about pregnancy”
              Study of thousands of teenage mothers who had unintended pregnancies: About 50% did not use birth control.  Of those who did not said they did not because they didn’t believe they could get pregnant. Study did not explore why they believed that.  Other studies however, found common reasons for believing they could not get pregnant to be: they thought the 1st time would not result in pregnancy, thought they were sterile, or that they could not get pregnant at that time of the month.

Shades of my youth!  I think the biggest misperception of my generation might have been that you couldn’t get pregnant unless you were married.  I actually knew better than that because I had a school friend confide in me that she was pregnant and couldn’t bear telling her Baptist parents.  Not long after, we were told she died from a “sudden illness.”  Truth is she killed herself.  I remember her telling me “It was just the one time.  I loved him, and he said if I did, I would.”  The boy went on with his life, her death not even a blip in his emotional landscape, although he dutifully attended her funeral.  As far as I know, her parents never knew she was pregnant, and he never admitted to sex with her.  I don’t know if she ever told him she was pregnant either.  Mind you, in those days,  most of us didn’t go on dates at 13-15 either.  Our “boyfriends” mostly walked us home, held our hands and maybe stole a kiss on the front porch before going home themselves.  Out of parental sight however, they pressured us for sex.  Or they had a girlfriend and pressured some other girl they’d never dream of “going with” for sex.  Someone less attractive, or poor, or shy, or emotionally vulnerable girl.

Only “bad girls” had sex before marriage in my generation.  On TV and in movies, married people slept in twin beds.  Single women slept in twin beds too, but alone.  Not sure single men slept at all! 

This article made me wonder:  if these girls know so little about getting pregnant, what do they know about being pregnant, about delivery, about parenting?  I like data, so here’s a little sobering data on young mother hood.

Ø  Even under optimal conditions, young mothers, especially those under age 17, are more likely than women in their 20s to suffer pregnancy-related complications and to die in childbirth 

Ø   The risk of death may be two to four times higher, depending upon the woman's health and socioeconomic status 

Ø   Young women face greater risks than older women of hypertension, cephalopelvic disproportion, iron-deficiency anemia, and unsafe abortion 

Ø  Untreated pregnancy-induced hypertension can cause heart failure or stroke and result in the death of both the mother and infant. Hypertension occurs most often among women having their first child and accounts for a large proportion of maternal deaths in women under age 20.

Ø  Young mothers, especially those under age 15, have higher rates of premature labor, spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, and low birth weight infants. 

 McCauley, A. P. and Salter, C. Meeting the Needs Of Young Adults. Population Reports, Series J, No. 41. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Population Information Program, October 1995.   http://www.k4health.org/pr/j41/j41print.shtml    

Some obvious qustions arise.
1. Why is any woman having an unsafe abortion?  The obvious answers are lack of access, whetrher finances, intimidation by anti-abortion groups, or legislation restricting abortion is responsible (or some combination of these) I don't know.  However, I would be interested in seeing the data on unsafe abortions broken down by race and income level.  If there is a racial impact, attacks and demonstrations in front of Planned Parenthood clinics, restrictions on Medicaid or county health service abortions might be seen as genocide -- sexist genocide at that.

2.  What role has "abstinence only" sex education played in this cluelessness about pregnancy?  Some reports online that I didn't paste here suggest that indeed religiosity plays a strong role in preventing proper pre-natal care. Abstinence only has not decreased the birth rates among teens taking such courses, and actually have increased STD transmission.  Perhaps the problem lays not in "enforcing morals" but in working toward full equality for women.

I cringed when Rick Santorum said that if he had a 15 year old daughter that he would not approve of an abortion, but would support her through the pregnancy and delivery.  OK, Rick, that's fine for your daughter who will probably get excellent pre-natal care, calcium supplements, and deliver at a first class hospital which might save her life if problems develop.  What about your grandchild's health?  Don't you care that he/she would face a higher risk of death, possible lifelong medical conditions?  Or will you just put it up for adoption and let some institution or adoptive parent cope with all of that fallout from your opposition to abortion for your daughter?  And what gives you the right to make that decision for other teenaged daughters?  Perhaps they would prefer NOT to see their daughter put her life at risk during delivery or their grandchild suffer from lifelong health conditions (and their daughter).  I would argue that opposition to abortion & contraception is sexist; only the mother (not the father) carries the risks: emotional, physical, financial, and social.

Teen girls have sex for a number of reasons:  pressure from a guy they believe they love, peer pressure from other girls who don't want to be the only one doing it, desperation to have or keep a boyfriend, rebellion against parents, feeling unloved at home and in general.  A surprising number of unwed mothers, in a study I read long ago, said they wanted a baby so "I'd have someone who loves me."  Not, in my opinion, an indicator of effective parenting!  What do all these reasons have in common?  A lack of self-esteem and insecurity that overwhelms whatever moral teaching they have.  Look at Bristol Palin                           

When sons are raised to realize that woman also have sexual desires and curiosity during their teen years but mature, rational men make the woman's life plans as important as their own, we may see further decilnes in teen pregnancies.  When men realize that women cope with their desires through sublimation or masturbation, perhaps men will also realize that just because you have the urge, sometimes you aren't going to get it assuaged, and it's emotional abuse to pressure women with your demands, exploit emotionally vulnerable young girls you wouldn't want to "be seen in public with" or date/marry, and to allow young women to have their health put at risk for the sake of indulging those urges, then perhaps women will have full inalienable rights.  Remember, God made Eve from Adam's RIB to walk BESIDE him, not from his tailbone to be SAT UPON or to FOLLOW!

Further Reading
http://www.webmd.com/baby/teen-pregnancy-medical-risks-and-realities  (Read the associated articles as well, especially on why teens have sex)Obstetric Risks of Pregnancy in Women Less Than 18 Years Old      JOLLY, M. C. MBBS, MRCOG; SEBIRE, N. MD; HARRIS, J.; ROBINSON, S. MD, FRCP; REGAN, L. MD, FRCOG  FREE article!
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Teenage Pregnancy?

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/179224-what-are-the-long-term-effects-of-teenage-pregnancy/#ixzz1kibUOabX 

M C McCormick, S Shapiro, and B Starfield (High-risk young mothers: infant mortality and morbidity in four areas in the United States, 1973-1978.). American Journal of Public Health January 1984: Vol. 74, No. 1, pp. 18-23.doi: 10.2105/AJPH.74.1.18
High-risk young mothers: infant mortality and morbidity in four areas in the United States, 1973-1978.M C McCormick, S Shapiro, and B Starfield The Hollywood Reporter How Elizabeth Taylor's 'Sexual Intensity' Helped Tear Down the Production Code 12:52 PM PDT 3/30/2011 by M.G. Lord

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-elizabeth-taylors-sexual-intensity-172887    

Infant Mortality Statistics from CDC    
BLACK INFANT MORTALITY    CHILD HEALTH USA 2011   Child marriage in America:a health risk      DR. LISA DANA    posted: 08/28/2011, 11:17 pm 
FACTS FOR LIFE   
 The Children of Teen Parents.  Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Bone HealthFAMILY PLANNINGSAVES LIVES   The state of Roe V. Wade in 9 Charts
   http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/the-state-of-roe-v-wade-in-9-charts/2012/01/23/gIQAXo6XLQ_gallery.html?hpid=z2#photo=1    

An Assessment of the Incidence of Maternal Mortality in the United States (1978)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1651959/pdf/amjph00631-0028.pdf    

Does legalizing abortion protect women’s health?  http://www.nrlc.org/UN/MMEnglsh.pdf    

 


 
 
Dear Representative Ragan

,I am a tolerant person.  My Christian upbringing taught me to love my neighbor -- nothing in the Bible says he or she has to be like me in any way before I do.  I would like to ask you to seriuously consider an idea I have.Your response to Mitchell Gilbert's email to you prompted this email.http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/01/26/did-you-know-your-genitalia-determines-your-sexual-orientation-this-and-other-amazing-revelations-from-republican-lawmaker-in-tennessee/ 

First, there is NOTHING "loving" or Christian about bullying.  I am and always have been straight, but I was bullied in middle school and high school because I was tall, broad shouldered, chubby and a bookworm with excellent grades.  People whispered that I was a lesbian because I didn't spend all my waking hours flirting with the guys and gossiping with other girls about the guys and shopping and doing my hair and nails.   I didn't bat my eyelashes at them and tell them how big and strong and smart they were.  I knew I couldn't compete with the cheerleaders and drill squad, so I just didn't try.  I was also still mourning the loss of my father 5 years before, longing to have a "steady" and terrified of rejection.  Sports bored me, as did guys who talked about them all the time.   Fact was, the boys in my school were mostly not smart enough to interest me even if they had been looking at me. 

 I have never known any feelings of being attracted to a woman sexually.  I have female friends I love deeply, but there's nothing sexual about it.  

My sophomore year in HS, I met a guy a year ahead of me.  He was extremely popular, good looking, friendly, charming, intelligent, and he liked me.  I got my first kiss from him.  He told all the popular kids to invite me to their parties. (I was too young to date yet because I had skipped over 1st grade).  When I arrived, he'd rush over, hug me and introduce me to anyone I didn't know, telling them how smart I was and how witty.   [edited to remove some too personal data about someone else]  Always the gentleman.  No groping, no pressure for anything but to be there and have fun.  He came by my house almost every day to talk, do his homework while I did mine, sometimes eating dinner.  I loved him simply because he was loving to me.  That was 1967.   We had one date to a movie in August 1968.  In August of 1969, just before he left for college, he told me he was gay. 

What he did for me was build my self-confidence, make me feel beautiful and lovable.  That's the greatest gift any man can give a woman. 43 years later, we are still friends who can say anything to each other.  He has been with the same man longer than I have been married, which is going on 23 years.  However, in his professional life, he still has to pretend to be straight because he lives in the Deep South.  

For the first time this year, he began speaking out about bullying of gay kids.  What set him off was the suicide of Jeffrey Fehr.

Your response indicated that you know about trans-gendered people (you may call them hermaphrodites).  Do you know how they come to be the way they are in terms of genitalia?  It's not genes, Rep. Ragan, it's the flow of hormones through the placenta during gestation, during the development of the genitalia.  Think of it like mixing paint -- the right amount of blue and amount of white, and you get a soft baby blue.   The right amount of red and white, and you a soft baby pink.  All developing fetii require some testosterone and some estrogen.  What happens during the development to create someone with both genitalia is that the amounts  get out of proportion and maybe the timing is wrong too -- that is, from my understanding of these things in "normal" development, the estrogen and testosterone flow into the placenta at different times, not at the same time. I'm not a doctor or biologist however, so I may be misunderstanding what I read on that score or mis-remembering it.  At any rate, something goes wrong with the mix, and instead of blue or pink you get lavender (both kinds of genitalia).  I know someone born this way, and as an infant they made her into a "woman."  She is currently a lesbian. 

 I might point out, though, by your apparent definition of what makes a person like men or women is their genitalia.  Logically, that would make these people bisexual.  They have both gender's genitalia so they should be able to have sex with men or women.Or perhaps you would say that if they have breasts they should not have sex with women because that's homosexual?  If they also have a penis (and these are usually non-functional) they should not have sex with men, because that would be homosexual?  Celibacy doesn't work for most people.  We have seen that with priests.  Why would you say it should work for people who have one genitalia but find themselves attracted to people with the same genitalia? 

 Human beings crave emotional connections, except perhaps sociopaths.With that desire for emotional intimacy comes a desire for touch by the beloved.  

Before I make my final points, I'd like to address your comments about "feelings,"  what most of us would call attraction.  Surely you don't expect us to believe that "feelings" didn't play a part in the woman you chose to marry?  I can promise you that if I didn't have "feelings" both emotional and sexual toward my husband, I would not be married to HIM.  I'd lay dollars to doughnuts, you would say the same thing about your wife. 

 I have no idea why my friend from high school has an attraction to men, but I have a speculation, based on the science of how people with both kinds of genitalia come to be. Now I've read the research, and the jury's out on what makes someone gay or lesbian.  One thing they do seem to have established is that the structure  and chemical flows in the brains of gay men are more like those of women, and the structure & flows in the brain of lesbians are more like those of men.  My theory is that perhaps the hormonal flow through the placenta has an error in the mix, not as severe an error as to cause both kinds of genitalia to develop, but "off" enough that the development results in the body of one gender but the brain chemisty of the other gender.  To return to our paint analogy, perhaps you get mauve or periwinkle  -- a kind of "bluey pink" or "pinkish blue" pastel.  Something to think about.

Children are fragile emotionally.  Bullying is never OK.  Moreover, haranguing doesn't make people change:   it doesn't make them lose weight, or start exercising, or gain self-confidence, or become straight.  It CAN make them sink to such despair that they kill themselves.  Why would you think that it's OK to do it out of religious convictions?  It is abuse of another human being, and NOT what God commanded of us.  You took exception to Mitchell Gilbert's words to you.  He was angry and he harangued you.  

What I do know is this:  God made all of us, and He commanded us to love one another as ourselves.  I am angry too.  Over my lifetime, I have lost a couple of good friends, a boyfriend, a couple of co-workers and neighbors, and a precious student (I was a teacher) to suicide.  Know this.  If I had a gay or lesbian child, and we lived in Tennessee, and this bill passes, and my child killed himself or herself after being bullied by other kids under the protection of your bill, I would hold you morally responsible and seek a wrongful death conviction for you and the kids who did the bullying.  Haranguing, even on religious grounds, is emotional abuse of another human being and it is wrong.  It is wrong in the eyes of God as per the Second Commandment, and it is wrong from a human rights perspective.  It is wrong for the US and its reputation for protecting the rights of all Americans, the guarantee in our Declaration of the inalienable rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 

 I will be praying that you reach a deep enough understanding of the Second Commandment to withdraw this bill and end bullying and emotional abuse of anyone.  God works in truly mysterious ways, Rep Ragan.  Consider that perhaps God created gay people to bring you to a deeper understanding of what loving others is and is not.  I don't know what your religious upbringing is, but I was taught in Sunday School that none of us can conceive of the mind of God, and that His mercy is available to anyone He chooses to bestow it upon.  From where I sit, you are presuming to know the mind of God.  Wouldn't it be ironic if He admits my beloved gay friend to heaven and you end up in hell for this bill?  It could happen. It's God's place to judge each and every one of us.  So I do not judge your righteousness.  I merely offer you a perspective to think about.  God be with you.

Anne Nelson
 
 
For me, the greatest blessings have always been the people who come into my life.  Some of them stay.  Some of them go.  A few became lifelong friends; others were around for a few years.  Many of them are momentary or casual encounters, such as retail employees, clerks in offices, medical personnel at hospitals.

I have blogged before about two of these people.  Tonight I want to write about another one. He works part-time at the ALCO Store here in Houston.  He also works at Auto Zone.Nothing wrong with his work ethic!  

Twice now, during my shopping trips I have had the opportunity to talk with him.  He's a young Black  with children.  I haven't asked his age, but I'd guesstimate it in the 27-32 age range.  He's cheerful, considerate and extremely helpful.  Tonight I ventured into ALCO alone, so he helped me take my purchase out to my car and load it in.  We were chatting about one of the items I bought, and I discovered he was born with a heart murmur.  I told him of losing my father at age 46, just days after my 10th birthday and how it tore my life apart.  I begged him not to eat so much salt, since heart disease in Blacks takes more of them  at earlier ages than it does Caucasians.  Then we chatted a bit more about nutrition and its importance in combating heart disease.  

That conversation took a glissade into living each day as if it were your last.  We both felt that that attitude goes a long way toward putting things into perspective.  It's very hard to remain depressed, angry, or selfish if one asks one's self each day "If I die today, how will people remember me?"  It's also hard to rush through life oblivious to others and to the beauties that lay around every corner, whether that beauty is the laughter of a child, a carefully tended flower garden in a run-down area of town, or something else.  

"I try to do God's work every day," he said.  Now in one of my smart mouthed moments, or with someone who knows my warped sense of humor well, I might have retorted "So what's wrong with God today that He can't do his own work?  He call in sick again?"  Instead, I commented that we never know just what it is that God wants us to do every day, or in our lives.  We may think we know, but only God knows.  Maybe it's a kind word to a stranger badly in need of kindness, something seemingly inconsequential.  The conversation ended with him telling me to take care of myself because, he said, "I love seeing you up in here, moving and smiling.  You have a beautiful smile."

Each of us has an opportunity to be a blessing to someone each and every day.  It need not be a grand gesture.  Nor need it wait until Christmas when one is feeling generous.  Hold the door open for a person in a wheelchair, even there is someone pushing them. (You might be surprised how hard it is to open a door and push someone through, even the person being pushed is helping.)    Take a couple of cans of food to the local food bank every week.  People have to eat all year long.  Order an extra packet of vegetable seeds and send them to a community garden in an "urban desert."  If you see someone at the gas station driving an old beat up car, wearing old clothes, pay for an extra gallon of gas for them.  You can think of a 1000 ways to do little things for people, at little to no cost to you.  Suspend your judgment about whether they "deserve" it.  Do you think God withholds His grace because "(s)he didn't deserve it?"  If that question gives you a problem, perhaps you could look up "grace" in a dictionary and rethink your answer.
 
 
The ITO Club stands for "I'm Totally Oblivious."  It consists of people who move their days without ever engaging their minds on the people and situations around them.  I came up with this idea while driving in Christmas shopping traffic.  You know, the drivers who block exits from shopping centers, streets where people are waiting to turn on to the freeway feeder, back out without looking to see if anyone is coming.  Those people.  Some days, all of us belong.  Each of us can have a day so crammed with errands and minor crises that we cannot get our mind off them long enough to look around and see what is happening around us.

Last Saturday at IKEA, I had a particularly disturbing encounter with a member of the ITO Club.  This woman and what appeared to be her mother were in line in front of us.  Mind you, on such shopping expeditions, what we do is form a little train with my wheelchair and the shopping cart.  I hold on to the cart handle and put my feet on the rail beneath it and steer it by exerting pressure on the side we need to turn.  My husband is the "engine in the rear" who provides the forward momentum.  One consequence of this arrangement is that when my bag (it's not a purse, more like a beach bag) rides in the child seat.  Well, guess what?  I cannot see OVER it.  When the cart is full of stuff, I cannot see under it either to see what is directly in front of me.  Another disadvantage is that if I turn to speak to my husband without shouting over my shoulder, occasionally my legs will shift and scoot the cart forward a little bit.  This is what happened Saturday.

I bumped the back of the lady's big yellow shopping bag, completely by accident.  Ron said, "don't hit that lady's rear."  I immediately pulled the cart back with my feet and apologized.  In a few minutes, the lady and her mother stepped forward, and I took the opportunity to stretch my legs out a little.  I have this hinky knee and when I keep it bent up for a long time, it starts whining.  What I hadn't seen was that when the lady stepped forward, she had set her bag on the ground BEHIND herself.  So I bumped the cart wheels into the bag.  I guess I pushed it into the back of her legs.  I don't really know, I couldn't see the bag. She whirled around and growled something I didn't quite catch but it ended with "..what you're doing."  Her tone was both irritated and condescending, like she was speaking to a child.  I said, "I'm sorry,  I couldn't see that your bag was in front of my cart"  She didn't say anything, and she didn't move the freaking bag either!  She just stepped forward one more step.

I got really steamed.  Granted, I'm sure she was inconvenienced.  However, I didn't mean to bump her bag.  What really griped me is that she seemed to completely ignore that anything she had done had contributed to the incident.  Nor did she make any allowance for the fact that I was coping with a wheelchair and a shopping cart.  I said "WOW!  You don't have to be so rude about it.  It was an accident and I can't see over this cart or under it.  I had no idea your bag was on the floor in front of it."  She completely ignored me.  Her mother looked at her and gave a supercilious little smile that screamed "well we both know SHE is the rude one."  I wanted to bowl her off her feet with my cart!

What the Christmas holidays taught me was that a lot of the world has apparently either never given a thought to what shopping from a wheelchair must be like, or they assume that if you are in a wheelchair, your legs don't work at all.  I got several surprised then instantly suspicious looks when I would use my feet to scoot my wheelchair along an aisle, or I would stand up to see something on a shelf.  It's not that I cannot stand or walk.  It's that I cannot do so for long.  the looks I got seemed to reflect a suspicion on their part that I wasn't disabled at all but somehow using the wheelchair for some kind of ulterior motive.  More than once, as I negotiated my way through a store, I got glares as if I were taking up too much of the aisle, or moving at the wrong speed.  Maybe I do both those things.  What floors me is the apparent expectation that I should be moving around as if I were not in a wheelchair, or stay the heck out of the stores.

I am happy to report that a number of people were incredibly kind, even getting things down off high shelves for me, or offering help I really didn't need.  By and large these were Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, and the Caucasians who were kind were largely not American born (I could tell because most of them had accents.)  The most ITO Club members were almost completely Caucasian Americans.  I'm not sure what this says, but from where I sit it certainly suggests a cultural difference in attitudes toward the disabled adults of the world.  I say adults because I have never witnessed anyone behaving toward a child in a wheelchair the way they behave toward me.  I will note that the lady whose bag I injured (I never actually bumped her person) and her mother appeared to be Hispanic, not of the Latin American variety, but the South American. The lady had a slight accent similar to the ones I have heard in Argentinians, Chileans, Colombians, but I could be mistaken.  So it's certainly not exclusive to any group to be rude or to be kind.

What made me laugh were the people who either spoke more loudly or talked in really slow, precisely enunciated sentences with very short words.  I'm neither deaf nor simple-minded.  Still, I give these people points for making an effort be polite and helpful.   The ITO Club can kiss my rims!
 
 
Don't get me wrong.  Politicians from both parties say idiot things.  The reason I'll be talking about Republicans today is that the Republicans are the only party with a Presidential primary this go round, and we are bombarded almost daily with  their idiot comments.  

The first idiot thing I want to mention is Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) saying that disabled children are "punishment from God" for earlier abortion(s) by the mother.  First, it's pretty clear that Marshall knows NOTHING about the causes of birth defects and disabilities.  Many birth defects are in fact, GENETIC, caused by an error in the DNA.  Many others, if they are punishment for anything, are the result of drug or alcohol use use during pregnancy or getting the measles!   Down's Syndrome is related to the aging of the parents and the physical decaying of their components of the embryo (egg and sperm).  Some are caused by combinations of things, including lack of proper pre-natal nutrition, and mother 17 or younger.  Still others have not been definitively assigned a cause.

Second, Marshall throws out a statement saying the number of disabled children born subsequent to an earlier abortion has risen "dramatically."  Since what year?  What is his source of data for this allegation?  How does he know the mothers of the disabled children had earlier abortions?  I don't know of any study which has asked motehrs of disabled children if they had earlier abortions nor of a study that follows women who obtain abortions to their next pregnancy to see if that child is disabled.    If such exists, Marshall should be able to provide the source, and indeed, a responsible user of statistical data would supply the source of data for such an allegation.  If there WERE such studies, wouldn't they violate the women's privacy rights?  OK possibly someone has conducted such a study on women WILLING to participate.  The question then becomes how much self-selection warps the data.   What are the odds a woman who doesn't want to tell anyone about her abortion(s) who has a disabled child would participate?  And what are the odds women who had an abortion but don't have disabled children would be included, or participate if they were somehow invited to participate   As it is, it appears that Marshal is either practicing MSU  (Making S..T Up) or he fails to comprehend the basics regarding unbiased research design and statistical analysis, or both.  Why would any voter accept this kind of assertion, give no data to back it up?  Unless they are intellectually or educationally disabled themselves?  (If you suspect you don't understand statistics, or you just don't trust them, please read my "Liars, D***d liars, and Statisticians essay under my The Language of Math page.  If that doesn't help, contact me directly and I'll become a  Statistics Instructor just for you. :)  I did that for years and published in international Statistical journals.  

The second idiot thing I wish to discuss is Rick Santorum's call for higher birth rates and his assertion that cjhildren are our greatest resource and create wealth. Is he attributing the US's post WWII growth with the baby boom?  More babies means more GDP?    Apparently Rick leaps his logic right over the devastated European economies who needed American goods to rebuild, as well as over the shuttered American factories which don't make anything any more.  In Research Methodology, this is called confusion of correlation with causality.  The classic example is the old joke about "100% of people who smoke marijuana drank milk as infants, therefore drinking milk as a baby must CAUSE marijuana use."  Now quit laughing like you just inhaled a doobie! ;)   Just because two things happen in order does not mean one causes the other.  Let's take a look at some US household sizes over time here.  The average US household size has been falling since 1790, even through the Baby Boom.  The Baby Boom was also partially an artifact in changes in the timing of births, caused by the war.  On one hand, you had couples rushing to have a baby before he left, unmarried women giving birth to children conceived when their intendeds left before the couple could get married, and after the war, couples separated for several years rushing to make up for lost time.  Moreover, there may be a causality working in the opposite direction.  The prosperity of post-WWII America, combined with the loss of so many American men in the 18-35 age range (prime childbearing years) may have encouraged couples to have more children than they would have without that prosperity.  The GI bill made it easier to buy a home and go to college.  Jobs, and salaries were plentiful, especially in the eyes of new young parents who had grown up during the Depression when large families often found putting food on the table difficult.  Rick Santorum seems to be unaware that the world has changed: unaware of the unemployment rate compared to those during the Baby Boom, unaware of the falling median income, the larger percentage of families living at or near the poverty level, and the larger number of older Americans who will fall into poverty from being laid off so long that they are now unemployable according to many human resources people.  Those with children are the fortunate ones, as the children may be employed and making enough to help their parents.  If nothing else, they may combine their households, which is happening more and more now.  Those without children may find themselves at the bottom of a deep deep pit from which the only escape is death.  Just who is going to profit from having more children?  Since the Industrial Revolution, when the added hands on the farm weren't a benefit in the city, groups have risen on the economic ladder by having fewer children, not more.    China is perhaps the most extreme example,  with India not far behind.  These are rising economic stars which many economists expect to eclipse the US in the next 25 years.  Both have instituted compulsory birth control policies.  China opted for mandatory abortion if the couple did not use birth control to limit the family size to 1 child.  India opted for encouraging and providing free birth control pills and devices.  Both encourage rigorous education in math and science, for men and women.  Historically, female education has been the single greatest predictor of falling family size and increased household wealth.  I know, I'm not providing the data to back up these statements.  However, I have studied these issues since I took my first demography class in 1972 or 3.  I encourage you to learn to find these statistics.  They are readily available online, easily searchable   using the terms I have used here.  You will find statistics to support what I have said.  You will not find any credible, unbiased design studies to support Santorum, or Marshal.  If you do, I'll eat this post.  I'll also write a blog entry called "Idiot things Bloggers say and do."  Go for it!
 
 
I went out shopping Saturday.  Started off at IKEA.  Spent most of the day there, actually.  Ate breakfast for free, then went in search of the woman I've been trying to talk to for two weeks about the last cabinet for my bathroom redo.  Still have not connected and that's beginning to irk me a good bit.  Just how many times am I supposed to leave a message for someone without getting a call back before I begin to sniff something unpleasant in the air?  That's not the point of this blog, though.

Couple of additional errands there were on my agenda:  legs for the three bathroom cabinets, and a foray into my favorite part of IKEA, the AS IS room.  Ended up missing out on a $32.50 6' bookcase by dithering about whether to get it or not.  Oh well, no doubt the universe has a better bookcase in mind for me..  We headed back to the restaurant for lunch (buy one entree, get one free).  When that was done, we got to watch some young dancers in traditional dress do Bollywood dancing..  Then they asked for volunteers to take a lesson, the one voted best by the audience would win a gift card to IKEA.  A young girl maybe 7 or 8 next to us started to volunteer and then nerves got the best of her and she retreated.  I wanted to hold up my hand and volunteer to do the best "chair version" of it that I could...if she would come with.  My husband wasn't crazy about the idea of me wheeling out there and making a fool of myself, so I didn't volunteer.  I told him later why I wanted to do it.

Instead, when the lesson started, I found myself suddenly and copiously overwhelmed with tears.  When I was three years old, the Ballet de Russe de Monte Carlo came to Houston.  That was when I decided I wanted to be a dancer when I grew up.  My parents looked around and found a teacher who would take me at that age.  After a couple of years, I started studying dance at Margo Marshall's school.  When puberty hit, rather than the long and lean lines of a ballet dancer, I had the rounder figure of a Vegas showgirl or a Rockette, but not the height.   I realized my future was not in professional dance, but the love of dance and motion never left me.    I continued dancing as a hobby, adding ballroom and belly danciing to the ballet, tap, modern, and what was called "stage dancing" (musicals, rockette,  showgirl style).

My deep dark secret?  When disco dancing bloomed, I was in heaven.  There was a club on Richmond, just west of 610, where backgammon and disco ruled.  I forget the name of it now.  I went there one night with a group from my second job, at Stouffer's Hotel on IH 59 in the Village area.  There were only a couple of guys in our group, but they both had "old school" manners and danced with every woman at the table.  At the close of my second dance, a fellow tapped me on the shoulder as I started to leave the dance floor and asked me to dance.  The tune was Donna Summers Last Dance..  We were pure magic together on the dance floor.  I totally lost myself in the dance., feeling that he and I were alone on the dance floor.  When the song ended, I realized we WERE alone on the dance floor, and the audience was applauding.  Couple by couple, they had vacated the floor to watch us move. My friends later told me that we were mesmerizing to watch.  For several weeks, he and I danced together, there, at after hours clubs, and once in a little place that served breakfast, and nobody but my group was in the place. The music came out of a jukebox.  There, we had a huge empty space in which to dance, and we filled it.  When we finally tired, the restaurant staff was standing around watching.  Even the kitchen staff had come out.

Never since have I danced so well with anyone.  He was Colombian, and married.  Our relationship revolved totally around dancing together.  We never went to dinner or a movie or had a formal date.We just showed up at the club and danced together until dawn spread pink and gold tentacles over the city.  Then one night, he didn't show up. I never saw him again.  His name I have also forgotten.  What I have not forgotten was the feel of moving with him, of the perfect wordless communication of our bodies.  For those few weeks, I was the dancer I had dreamed of being, the one everyone watched and wanted to be.  I shall ever be grateful to him for giving me that, because I don't think I could have ever had it without him.


What had me in tears today was the deep burning desire to learn Bollywood dancing, to feel the music in my soul and set it free in motion.  My body just cannot do that any more.  For that physical imprisonment, I wept.
 
 
Houston's been getting water lately.  What a relief after the drought.  I really want to install guttering and a set of rain barrels.  For now, however, we are collecting water in  those big laundry detergent buckets like you get at Sam's Club and Costco and other places and old large storage containers whose lids have disappeared.  We just place them under the points where water would be fed into guttering, but comes down in sheets now.  The rain barrels I want are here:  However, the cost is prohibitive.  What I have found is a local recycling place offering 55 gallon drums for about $25, and there is a video on YouTube explaining how to convert such drums into rain barrels with a few parts from Lowe's or Home Depot.  OK, so these are ugly neon blue plastic.  There's a solution to that as well.  Cover the barrel with netting (and even the down spout, and grow something that will climb the netting.  Perhaps a nice maypop (passionfruit) vine?  Added benefit?  Edible fruits which are both native to my area and very expensive in stores!  Perhaps combined with runner beans as shown here.  

When I had my dead pines cut down, I didn't have the logs hauled off.  Nor the chipped wood.  The chipped wood I'm now using as mulch in my garden.  It protects the roots of  plants through cold or drought, and when thick enough (3-5") holds down the weeds.  I'm using a good bit of it to lay out where I plan to have vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in the spring and summer.  I just dump it over the grass, and after a good rain, move it around a bit and pull the grass out almost effortlessly.  Since I'm talking about Bermuda grass, that "effortlessly" part is important to me!  Eventually, it also breaks down into food for the soil and plants.  Another bit of it, along with the leaves I keep raking up, I'm dumping on some low spots to build them up and level the front yard across a culvert (although I confess I'm now also thinking about putting in a water feature there, so maybe I won't level ALL of it out!)  The trees that survived are those around which I had dumped kitchen & yard waste for decades.  

The logs I was thinking about making into lumber, but that's more expensive than buying lumber.  Some we are going to slice down the middle to use in bujilding raised beds.  Others we are going to slice into 3-4" rounds and use as stepping stones.  Still others we plan to cut into rounds and place on legs for use as garden stools and a table (after varnishing them.  My bees seem to still be around, so I may end up having some honey one of these days.  Not that I'm eager to be the one to collect it!



 
To close,  we got three oranges off our Republic of Texas orange tree.  I had no idea the flesh would be red inside!  the stm area was pithy -- not sure we picked them at the right time.  But the rest of the fruits were juicy and sweet,  So pretty too!    Our spinach is doing well, radishes should be grown soon, Ditto for beets and carrots.  The bunching onions are surprisingly small for the length of time since planted.  Need to get out the packets and see how long they need  to maturity.   Peppers still producing, and we have a few little green tomatoes.  Lettuce, purslane and pansies make some tasty salads, along with the little carrots I'm pulling to thin the rows.  Kale is magnificently abundant.  It's true, everything tastes better if you grew it yourself :)
 
 
This house has an accumulation of things dating back to before 1957 when my parents bought it.  What's worse is that it has an accumulation of things from 4 generations and 6 households.  My mother's parents' things, my parents' things, my own things from when I lived alone, my brother's things from when he lived alone, and my husband's things from when he lived alone, and what we brought home from my father-in-law's after his death.  To be fair, the last two households don't account for much of the "stuff" around here.  More stuff seems to keep coming in. Not sure how with our reduced financial circumstances.

As long as my mother was alive, it was her house.  She had this vision of  the house as she and my father intended it.  Changing anything, getting rid of anything, was harder than getting  Sarah Palin to go away. My brother has now moved out, into his bride's house, which is about the size of a postage stamp.  They're building an addition, but ti's slow going.  Mostly because her own mother has moved here from Oklahoma, and my sister-in-law's time has been occupied by that instead of meeting with the architect, contractor, etc.  So most of his "stuff" is still here.

 If I look at the whole, it's overwhelming.  So I have adopted a "five minute burst" philosophy.  I spend five minutes doing what I can.  On good days, those bursts come close together.  On bad days, I might have as many as two bursts.  On the worst days, I have none.  I focus on the progress, not what remains to be done.  I realize most outsiders would walk into this house and see what has not been done. To the judgmental of those observers, I'd say "Spend five minutes HELPING rather than criticizing."  


The point of this little blog is this:  Is there an elderly, disabled, or both person in your life?  In your neighborhood?  Give them 5 minutes of help once a week. What a blessing it would be to me if just a handful of people gave me 5 minutes of help once a week.  A dozen people giving me 5 minutes a week is an hour of help.  It takes very little time to make a big impact in someone's life.  Look around.  Someone needs 5 minutes of your time.                                                                                          
 
 
I had a particularly disturbing encounter with the Harris County Hospital District today.  When I visited the clinic in late December, the physician referred me for echocardiogram and gastroenterology consultions.  The gastroenterology folks called today to set up an appointment.  They don't have anything until March 13.  My appointment with the doctor was made for 1/26, without anyone asking if I had any input on the date.  What is the point of going to see the doctor (and by the way, they scheduled me to see the third different doctor I would see in three visits) without test results?  I asked the woman who called, and she suggested I call my doctor and ask for a provider-to-provider urgent appointment request.  When I did that, his nurse informed me they could do no such thing.  Eventually I got Ask My Nuirse, and she triaged me to see a doctor within 24 hours, and said she was going to call the doctor's office and make that recommendation.  I'm still waiting for the call back.

Now here is why this is so disturbing.  First this entire process took about four hours as I was shunted from one number to another, waiting through long robo-operator menus (which are incredibly oddly organized).  The other, more disturbing factor is that THE MAIN REASON I WAS HOSPITALIZED IN MID-MAY was abdominal distress of unknown causes.  My private rheumatologist,, who is seeing me for very low fees (lower than the bill I got from the Dr at the public health clinic!) thought I might have Crohn's disease, an ulcer or ulcerative colitis.  Since my blood platelets were very low (37000 when normal is 150,000 -400,000+), if an ulcer or a varices began bleeding, I could have bled to death in minutes.  After I was admitted to the main hospital in the HCHD system, did anyone investigate those issues?  As far as I know, they didn't even test for blood in my stools.  They certainly didn't run the gastro test/examination I'm STILL trying to get.  The good news is my blood platelets are up.  The bad news is that they are still on in the 80,000 - 90,000 range, and I am experiencing sudden bruising and what I suspect to be small  amounts of blood in my stools.  I asked  this question:  If I don't have the test until mid-March, and then I won't be able to get the results or treatment of any kind until they manage to find some time to give me an appointment I can make, how is this healthcare?  Their response "go to the ER."  I asked "Will the ER run the gastro test if I make it to the hospital?  Should I go NOW or wait until I'm possibly bleeding out?"  THAT question is what got the nurse to recommend the "within 24 hours" triage.  Half of that 24 hours has passed with no call.  If they call tomorrow, I have no way to get to the Dr's office, since my husband is still working 9-3 at his temporary holiday just above min wage job, and we need the income.

Ron Paul wants religious hospitals and other charity hospitals (like Shriner's) to supply healthcare for the poor.  To him, I'd like to ask this question:  if they have the capacity and manpower to do that, WHY ARE THEY NOT ALREADY DOING IT?  IF they CAN and WILL, why did we ever have to create a public hospital system paid for by taxpayers?  Would it be BETTER?  I suspect not.  

I could write an entire systems analysis report on what's wrong with the HCHD facilities.  From their admissions process to the telephone system.  What's eating the money is not patient care.  It's bureaucracy.  Making an appointment for a patient without any consultation as the scheduling is not only disrespectful of the patient's dignity, but disrespectful of the patient's schedule and life.    I wonder what % of the staff time is spent moving these casually made appointments?  I have been assigned a Primary Care Physician whom I have NEVER seen, and I was not scheduled to see him this upcoming appointment either.   I have to submit a form -- which they do not have online, cannot mail or FAX me but must obtain at the clinic -- to change my PCP.  They have the records of who I have seen.  Surely this could be done over the phone?  As a final example, the robo-operator offers an option for "established HCHD patients."  When I pressed the option, I had to listen to a lengthy recorded set of instructions on what to do if I didn't have a current a Gold Card, and then offered the option to press a number if I had a current Gold Card.  So I pressed the number, only to be greeted by the SAME lengthy instructions about what to do if my Gold Card wasn't current.  Hmm,  I have a current card and pressed the option indicating that I did, so what's the point  of having me AGAIN wait through this and press another number verifying I have a current card?  To put me to sleep so that when they finally pick up, they'll think nobody is there and they can hang up? (Don't laugh, it happened the last time I played "Call the clinic."  Oh and by the way, you cannot change an appointment AT the clinic if the one they gave you is impossible, you have to call in from home.  ::eyes rolling::

With the exception of the nurses on my floor, one admissions nurse,  one medical student, and one nurse in the ER, I am not impressed with the hospital staff.  As far as I can tell, neither of the two hospitals I have any experience with have a rheumatology department, and the staff seemed woefully ill-educated regarding lupus and its complications (despite the fact that their client population is disproportionately African-American, when African-American women have about three times as great a risk of getting lupus as Caucasian women.)   I'm pretty sure the diagnosis of heart failure was incorrect  (the echocardiogram is confirm that.)   As it now stands, it will be close to, if not more than a YEAR between my first symptoms last May and a final diagnosis and treatment.  If I survive the wait.  

 
 
After 8 hours of sleep, I feel like road kill that still has a working brain and all six senses.  Don't get the wrong impression!  I'm not screaming in pain. It's not "sprain your ankle" pain.   It's not "someone keeps sticking huge knives into my joints" pain. It's more "someone bruised every muscle in my body with a nerf bat" pain.  All my joints are stiff.  Frankenstein is more graceful than I am today.  I'm not complaining;  I'm deeply grateful it is NOT "sprain your ankle pain" in every joint in my body.  I've had those days.  They made me lay in bed and cry.  

Nor am I having a pity party.  I'm sitting in front of a space heater, despite a warm day, because the heat seems to "melt" the stiffness.  I have things I want to do today.  As long as I am alive, I will fight back., fight on.

What I am doing is trying to help people understand SLE.   Yesterday I spent at Lowe's and Michael's, shopping for items for my bathroom renovation and a crafts project. Then I closed the daylight down by raking leaves and using them to layout my front garden.  These I covered with heavier mulch from my dead pine trees pile, to keep them from blowing back over the yard.  Mulch is a wonderful thing.  It holds water in droughts, keeps roots warmer in cold snaps, and eventually breaks down and feeds the soil.  Also, for me, it's an easy way to weed.  A 3-5" layer will actually kill off the weeds and Bermuda grass.  So it's a labor-saving technique as well.  I need that kind of help.

Undoubtedly, due to my photosensitivity, part of what is behind my aches today is having been out in the sun, even though my raking was done late in the day when most of the area I was working on was in shade.  Just the drive to Lowe's and Michael's in the bright sun was enough to set off the fatigue and aches.  Lupus is like this.  One has good days, not so good days, bad days, and awful days. 

Everyday tasks like getting dressed, taking a shower, even getting out of bed take longer almost every day.  When I stand up from my bed or chair, I have to just stand there for awhile, sometimes as long as a minute or two, because the joints simply don't want to bend.  In case you haven't noticed, they gotta move to walk.  The 10' or so from my bed to the bathroom can take nearly a minute once I do start to move.  Going to the kitchen to fix a bowl of cold cereal takes 3-4 minutes sometimes.

So why do I care whether other people understand my illness?  It is not just me.  It's a million Americans with lupus.  Most of us don't "look sick."  90% of us are women.  African-American women are 3 times more likely to develop lupus.  They have an earlier onset, on the average, and more severe symptoms.  Many people who do not understand the disease take us for being lazy or unwilling to work.  Others expect us to perform at the same level as people without illness.  A Social Sedcurity paid doctor I was sent to see in about 1995 during the application for SSDI said I should be able to work because I was "educated."  OK, he had a point in that nothing was wrong with my mind.  Still isn't anything wrong with my mind (although some lupus patients do suffer from brain involvement).  What he ignored were the following facts:                                                                         

1.  Sudden, overwhelming fatigue made me prone to falling asleep at work, even after a full night of sleep.  Employers love 
      that SOOOOOOO much!  Another thing they love is employees who run out of steam, regularly, after anywhere from 2 hrs 
     after starting the work day to 6 hours.  I haven't seen many workplaces with nap rooms, have you?  Driving is hazardous 
     when you fall asleep abruptly too.  Then there were the days I made it through the workday, only to walk to my car and fall 
     asleep as soon as I sat down, too tired to drive home.
2.  Unpredictability about when the really bad days will happen.  I worked as a programmer for IBM.  One thing programmers 
     live with is deadlines, as do many other occupations.  So naturally employers are just wild about having employees who
     might have to cancel the last day before a deadline due to the inability to get out of bed, get dressed and get to work 
     because of pain and fatigue.  What do you do when all those little joints in your feet are so swollen that you cannot put 
     shoes on your feet?  
3.  IBM was also big on meetings.  The facility I worked in was huge, and the meetings were often at the other end of the 
     building.  How do I get there when I don't have a motorized wheelchair and I cannot propel myself because my shoulders 
    are aching, and the effort wears me out?  Even on days I could walk to the meeting, by the time I walk there, I was 
    exhausted, making focussing difficult and sometimes resulting falling asleep during the meeting.  The little twerp who was 
    my supervisor (and he was a twerp) was sitting beside me once when this happened.  I think his assumption was that I had 
    been up late the night before drinking or doing drugs.  Not that he ever asked.  Not that I could have told him either because
    at the time of this incident, my lupus wasn't diagnosed yet.  I knew SOMETHING was wrong with me, as I have always been 
    in tune with what was happening in my body, but not WHAT.
4.  The onset of the fatigue, the pain is sudden and unpredictable.  I would go to work feeling fine, in those early days, and 
      suddenly I would be too pooped to pop, or in such agonizing pain all I wanted was to get home, take some ibuprofen and 
      go to sleep until the pain stopped.  I certainly was no longer capable of productive work.  Employers don't like that.  
5.  Other people were dangers to me, especially people with children.  Shocking to say, but there are those who go to work 
     with the flu, or whose children have the flu, and they are carrying the virus.  Exposure to them was dangerous to me. A flu 
     episode could set off days, or weeks or even months of fatigue and/or pain beyond the level I had learned to live with.  Every 
     flu episode had the potential to develop into chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.  Employers don't like people who are out sick 
     often.  These days, they don't like people whose healthcare costs are high.

I actually had a former welfare department worker (in charge of assessments of eligibility) tell me in an AOL chat room that he thought "lupus was a made up illness used by lazy people as an excuse not to work."  This was around 2004, and it was clear to me that he was speaking primarily about Black applicants.  He never met the beautiful sister of my friend Theola Petteway, diagnosed with lupus at 14 and dead from it at 26.  He never saw her, as I did, laying in her bed sobbing from pain, with both her sister and I helpless to ease the pain.  He never saw her struggling to work as long as she could, as often as she could.  He never saw her applying for welfare either, because when she could no longer earn enough to support herself, her family, in  particular Theola, supported her.  He never saw me as an applicant either, because my family supported and continues to support me.  However, for every Black woman who found herself with no other resources to care for her child(ren) after being diagnosed with lupus and had to sit before him listening to him spout his ignorant, racist crap, I hope he rots in hell on earth and then in Hell after death.

The hardest part of SLE sometimes is not the illness itself.  It is the incomprehension of others.  The expectations.  The assumptions about our character.  The humiliation they seem to expect us to accept in order to get healthcare, disability, employment, financial support.  The hardest part is having a world that neither understands and acce