Archive for February, 2012

“The world breaks everyone…”

Another school shooting, this time in Ohio. Another teen died this morning, making two so far. We hear there was a football coach who chased the student/shooter out of the school, that he and another teacher had donned bullet proof vests they kept in a closet. And of course, the media is focused on the perpetrator, TJ Lane who is 17 years old and described as a “quiet” kid by some and an “outcast” by others. He attended an alternative school, for at-risk students. It was most likely a half day program – mornings at the regular school campus, afternoon bus to the vo-tech or alternative campus. Have we learned anything since Columbine?

Well, the book Columbine by Dave Cullen was surprisingly cogent and illuminating. It’s not about the stereotypes, outcasts, jocks vs goths or greasers and preps, depending on your decade. It’s about depression and pschopathology. It’s been reported that 6% of American teens suffer from clinical depression – that adds up to 2 million kids! Until we can revamp our educational system to serve ALL our young people, and not by shuttling the disconnected off to another campus, we will have to rely on teachers to buy bullet proof vests. Until we control how, where and who can buy guns, (sorry GOP) we will unfortunately continue on our wild west path.

My heart goes out to these families. And not just the victims, but to the Lane family as well. And now the President is being criticized for being “snobby,” for articulating what every single parent wants for their child – achieving a post HS degree. To survive high school with your confidence intact is a noble thing. The survivors in Ohio will have to fight to return to some kind of normal. We all navigated our way through adolescence in different ways. I was the song and dance girl, Bob was the brainiac, the Bride was brilliant and carried a big field hockey stick, and the Rocker? He was my music man who couldn’t care less about the hierarchy.

“…and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” Here is the rest of Hemingway’s prose that Clinton didn’t read: “But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” Thanks Ernest.

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Here is a picture of Ms Bean this morning, waiting patiently. She is waiting for me to get up, to feed her, to let her out, to pick up her totally demolished Lambie Pie and throw it high in the air so she can jump up and catch it on the fly, thereby exhibiting her long, gorgeous GoGo Gadget legs. She is waiting for Bob to reappear at the door, for the wind to die down so she can go out and look for him. She is waiting for me to drop a little crumb of my granola breakfast since it looks like I’m not moving anytime soon. She is wondering if there is any trace of rabbit or deer in the front yard under her favorite viburnum. She is wondering what I’m looking at. Just because her collar is askew and her ears are floppy doesn’t mean she’s not very particular. She is. She is particularly good at waiting.

Ms Bean’s humans are not quite so patient. Can you guess what we’re waiting for?

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It would seem that what happened in the Lone Star State without much of a whimper, is going to blow up in the Old Dominion. I first started writing about this repugnant piece of legislation called the “ultrasound bill” awhile ago, highlighting a woman delegate’s idea for a man to submit to a rectal exam should he seek medical care. Then Jon Stewart did a brilliant skit and VA became a national laughingstock. Now Gov Bob McDonnell is backing down. I guess his greater ambitions got the best of him. All it took was thousands of women standing mute outside the Capitol this week, and millions of signatures on petitions; and probably more lucid members of his own party. Today is a Day of Outrage for women and the men who love them in VA – if you would like to write to the Gov, please feel free, just ask him to “Please veto mandatory ultrasound and two-trip requirements for women seeking abortion care in Virginia.”
I did and his site was so busy it took a full 10 minutes for the email to sail off.

It got me thinking of Greta Garbo, the Flapper’s favorite actress. “I vant to be alone.” Then Bob looked up Justice Brandeis’ 1928 quote on his iPad. Speaking in Olmstead vs US about wiretapping, he said that one of a citizen’s most important rights is “The right to be left alone.” Now here was a man ahead of his time, he even envisioned a future where papers may not have to be taken from a drawer, but ‘by another means’ produced in court. Technology wasn’t a word yet, so he imagined a ‘psychic method.’ Imagine that before the Great Depression, he could envision computer hacking! Which led me to think about a landmark book, Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. This gifted Harvard Public Policy Prof has often said that with great social changes comes great controversy. Once we bowled in leagues after work, and now our social capital is diminishing – we bowl alone, we sit in cubicles in front of computers alone while ostensibly connecting with others. Here are some of his ideas for becoming more invested in a democracy:http://www.bettertogether.org/150ways. Hey Bob, check out #119…

Thank you women of VA, for telling the Gov we are watching, we want government to leave us alone! This religious attack on contraception and women’s health is unconscionable, outdated and immoral. Our bodies, our choice, our doctors! We knit together, and we vote – red, blue and purple.

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Happy, snowy President’s Day everyone. This weekend we avoided big box store sales and headed up the mountain to our very own Monticello. Even if we didn’t live here, I’d have to count Mr Jefferson as one of my very favorite presidents. His writing, his architecture, his grandchildren! We met cousins Anita and Skip for an author’s book launch lecture, “Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Victoria’s England,” by Ann Lucas Birle.

Ellen Wayles Coolidge was a favorite granddaughter. She was schooled alongside TJ at Monticello by her Mother in all the classics that young men would learn in the early 19th Century. Her retired Grandfather would hum Scottish tunes while he worked and always made time for little Ellen; calling to her, asking how many thousands of things she must have to talk to him about. She didn’t marry until she was 27, almost ancient for a bride at the time, and most likely because she was not only brilliant and charming, she was extremely witty. I imagine a young suitor may have been intimidated by her presence, along with the requisite entrance into the Great Hall in order to meet the President, her Grandfather. The not so young Mrs Coolidge managed to have 6 children in 5 years (there was a set of twins) and if ever there was a reason for contraception, Mr Santorum, just read some history!

If she lived today, she’d be a blogger! She wrote almost daily in her “fully indexed” travel diary from 1838 to 1839 and as a result, we can now read about her first trip to England. Ellen Coolidge’s health was failing after such rapid-fire childbirth, and so the trip was planned to restore her body, mind and spirit. Her writing is fiercely personal, but with lightening flashes of divine satire. It’s as if Edith Wharton met Jon Stewart. She writes of the Coronation, the Tower, of art and the great English writers she meets. And about Thomas Jefferson she says:

“My grandfather can never be a favorite of the few, being himself the friend of the many. There is a perpetual opposition between the rich and the poor which makes an advocate for the one always appear an opponent of the other; but this is temporary; posterity, although divided into the same classes, judges with less ‘esprit de corps’ the actions of past times and tardy justice is done….”

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That February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month?

And that for the first time in 18 years the Senate did not approve the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). “It was reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2000 and again in 2005. Not this year.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/14/violence-against-women-act_n_1273097.html

That on average 3+ women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day in this country? That one in five women are raped – one in six will be stalked? Look at a class of say 20 middle school girls; this means that four of them will experience rape in their lifetime. There’s something happening here…

Let’s spread the word…

Yeardley Love trial

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By now you must know I married into a family of doctors. Bob’s father and his two uncles were doctors. He has a cousin on Long island who is an orthopedist, and one who was a practicing OB back in NJ. We have the MD gene and it runs deep. We would pack the kids up for the annual trip back to my MIL’s Seder each year, and one room was always devoted to a pick-up medical clinic – a Woody Allenesque review of sprained joints and aches and pains. So I’ve been hearing the disheartening rumbling with managed care for a long time now; but I’ve only recently heard about the Concierge or Boutique practice model.

Yesterday, a woman at the knitting circle mentioned her Cville doctor was turning his office into a Boutique practice and she was very willing to pay $1,600 a year for his time and attention. Now that’s just the fee to stay one of his patients, he’s whittling down the numbers from around 2,000 to only 500 patients. Some doctors will take medicare and insurance, others have given up completely and bill you, insisting the patient deal with the third party.This woman also said she thought that Proctor and Gamble owned the company that was going to run his new office. Look around, Family Practice and Internal Medicine docs are flocking to this model, officially called “retainer medicine.” This annual fee she felt would guarantee her access to the doctor, via email and phone, immediate appointments and even house calls!

I was surprised at my reaction. I said that’s too bad, because I see it as an ethical dilemma. In our great country, where the public option was taken off the table in the new Affordable Health Care reform act we barely managed to pass in order to appease insurance companies, a Concierge practice will only broaden the socio-economic gap between those who have so much, and those who are struggling to get by. The broad part of the middle class will become more fractured. I became slightly edgy, ranting about our fee-for-service medicine like I was some kind of, dare I say, socialist liberal. My knitting suffered. Intuitively, I just felt it was wrong. How can America be so alone in the world at not providing universal health care for its citizens? Here we are, with Africa…

Yet when I searched a popular physician website for “Concierge Medicine” there were 8,340 articles – all of them positive. They compared it to the choice of a private school over public, they said that while waiting for government to fix the system they decided to “…take matters into their own hands.” They reported about doctors going bankrupt! http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/01/concierge-boutique-label-discredits-retainer-medicine.html They almost made me a believer. Almost. What do you think?

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I have not got my divas mixed up. This is one of my favorite Tina songs, my generation’s “Rolling in the Deep.” What’s love got to do with it? On this Valentine’s Day, amid all the saccharin sweetness, I’m reminded of the underbelly of passion; about breaking up, breaking hearts and spirits in the process. When the news broke about Whitney, some talked about her demons, her drugs, but I thought about her ex. You stay with your codependent, coaddicted, abusive partner too long, and you sink into the abyss. Whitney, you really could have had it all.

In the Yeardley Love murder trial, the jury has been hearing evidence from the medical examiner. This beautiful girl, tried breaking away from George Huguley. They lived in the same area, right up the street from a favorite bar, both played lacrosse for UVA, and had an “on again, off again” relationship for the last two years of college. It’s too simple to blame alcohol for his brutal attack, for the bruises on Love’s neck and the bleeding in her brain. We also can’t blame the victim, as the defense is trying to do, to reveal a justification for smashing in her door and smashing her head on a wall – was he jealous, did she take too much adderall? This is unconscionable in my book.

At some point we all grow up and take responsibility for our actions. In a perfect world, date violence could never happen. The girl says “No,” the boy says, “OK.” The first time the boy slams her into a locker, or puts a choke hold on her neck, the girl says, “So Long, See Ya, Goodbye.” But what’s happening to our girls in college? These young women grew up under Title IX, they work hard and play hard. They are under tremendous pressure to compete on the playing field, make the grades, AND look beautiful/thin/happy all at the same time. The Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) cites nearly one third of all students are seeking mental health counseling.

Sometimes a peer-run group can do a better job at catching those students who don’t seek out counseling. Yeardley Love’s friends and team mates must have felt tremendous guilt after her killing. We always ask ourselves what we might have done. Did someone hear her pleading? Should I have called her Mother? Was she not eating and sleeping normally? To Write Love on Her Arms http://www.twloha.com/ is a non-profit that seeks to help people with anxiety, depression, self-injury and body dysmorphic disorders. It has charters on many college campuses, in fact there is one at UVA. So if you think your roomie is suicidal – or drinking too much and blacking out – or being abused by her boyfriend, instead of doing nothing, you can gently engage them in this charity. Fostering empathy and compassion in a booze-fueled, fast-paced, “hook-up” culture is a good thing.

Whitney we will always love you. Tina you will always inspire me to dance like no one is watching. And Yeardley our community will remember you always. And to all you lonely hearts out there, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to suck! Buy yourself some tulips, spring is right around the corner.

A Valentine Breakfast

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