Friday, February 3, 2017

Mother Bear

If you have never watched or read the Little Bear series, do so immediately. Maurice Sendak illustrated the books. The videos (now DVDs or BluRays or whatever) are lovely.

Mother Bear is my hero.

It is not just cuteness and light. I am, as most mothers, seriously protective of my children.
We are faced now with a government who does not consider protection of children a priority. So how do we respond? Yes, call your senators and congresspeople. Yes, march. Yes, sign petitions, yes, join the ACLU.

I think of the Syrian boy on the beach and wonder how we can all go on as if this is OK. What if this was your child? But people like him are not welcome in our country. Not anymore.

My children are diverse. One was accosted in Seattle (in Seattle!?) last weekend for being with her girlfriend in public. One is in jail and faces years in prison for one mistake made with mental illness and drug addiction at age 18. And one is a straight A student who I am leaving the country with for a trip later this month and mildly afraid there will be trouble getting her back in. What if her adoption from a foreign country is questioned? Will my government deem her an immigrant who does not belong here?

She and I are headed to Guatemala, to help fit paralyzed kids into wheelchairs. Now I know, this sounds like a bleeding heart liberal thing to do. But we are joining a group who has done this for years, and we are hoping to learn something in the process.  What is the problem with liberals? Well, I guess it is we keep on trying, despite all evidence against hope.

I was reading today that Donald Trump asked his female staff to dress like a woman. I am wondering what this means. Today I worked to save lives, to lessen suffering and to parent my children. What outfit would best serve these purposes? For what it is worth, I wore pearls.

As a runner, I dress in whatever makes sense for the weather. Oiselle is a good source of women friendly running clothes. They also support strength and power.

I keep thinking about the man who accosted my girl and her girlfriend in a purportedly liberal city. What was it that bothered him so? Was it their beauty? Their strength? Their lack of need for a man?

I keep thinking about the legal system that thinks my son deserves prison for 10 years for one mistake, when he has mental illness and addiction. Will this help him be a better person? Is there any room for compassion and healing?

I keep thinking about adoption and China's weird thing about girls and my absolutely astounding daughter who seriously could conquer the world. In our small town, she faces racism. In our bigger world, she faces questions about who she is and where she belongs. Yet really, she is just a kid with mad skills at dancing and academics who plans to be a surgeon and who wants to make a difference in the world.

I am mother bear. I am angry, and scared and hopeful and protective. I will not stop fighting for my children, and for the children of others.

May compassion return to our dear country.






Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dancing and Death

BJ Miller has been getting some social media attention lately, which is cool. He is a Zen Hospice Physician, motorcycle rider, triple amputee, death expert. In this article my favorite part is "the 20's dude room" that came about when a young man with terminal cancer moved into  the Zen hospice house. But the most important part of the whole article for me was this statement: Regarding the mission of Zen Hospice, "It's also about puncturing a competing impulse, the one I was scuffling with now: our need for death to be a transformative experience. Miller says "Most people aren't having these transformative deathbed moments...And if you hold that out as a goal, they're just going to feel like they're failing."

The other day I was in a visit with a patient who was mortified and frankly in tears because their oncologist told them they had "failed" chemotherapy. Like chemotherapy was this test they should've studied for, and if they had only done better, then well, maybe there would have been something left to do. Because that was the other message they received, "there is nothing more we have to offer."

Recently a friend asked about my work and how it relates to what Dr Miller does. My work is not strictly the business of palliative care, though I have some skills (as any physician should) in this area. And although I do some hospice work, it is not that either. What I do, as my main doctoring gig, is meet people where they are and try to be a guide of sorts, as well as let them lead the dance now and again. Now, I can just see some of my old-school mentors barfing into their mouth a little at this description of doctoring. We are really supposed to be scientists, technicians, and masters of death, right? Our patients come to us for answers and solutions, yes? 

I am going to get back to this point in a minute, while I pause to give you a holy sonnet by John Donne. Which has the point that death should not be so full of itself. Is death the be-all and end-all? Should we fight it with all our might? Should people die, actually? Because when they do it really feels terrible. Is death a beginning or an end? Is death just another phase of life? Should doctors be good at end of life care?

Which brings me back to the barf-inducing take I have on excellent doctoring. I propose though, that it is scientifically sound and as an approach might actually let people live longer. Like, all the way until they die.

A few things about what I believe are requirements for health:
1. Civil Engineering.
2. Freedom from terror, and a place to call home.
3. Trust that your society and community have your back.
4. Healthy food, adequate exercise and decent sleep.
5. Good luck.
6. Knowing what matters to you and what matters to those you love, especially if you are their Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
7. Occasionally, extremely cool technology like transplants, gene therapy, extraordinary medications, and the like.
8. 3-D Printers. So damn cool.

Number 6 above is well explored in Gawande's book Being Mortal. Number 6, that is Beethoven's 6th,  would also be one of the songs on my deathbed playlist, a concept introduced to me by a hospice nurse I don't know well, and whom lives across the country from me but with whom I feel a connection. Maybe we met once in another life too? Do we get more than one life? What say you, Tomás?

Number 6 is where I find my groove as a physician. The people I serve are not easily classified, but share being on the older side and medically complicated. I (usually) know just what medications to prescribe, and just what tests to order and when to call in the specialists and when to call in hospice. This is why I spent years of my life training to be a doctor. But none of it, NONE OF IT, matters if I do not understand their goals of living. And then get out of the way, much like BJ Miller got out of the way so the young man in that article could live out his days without the specter of a "physician guru" all in his space.

In a practical sense, there are dozens of examples of doctoring with the spirit of palliative care throughout the spectrum of illness and life. Yes, there are technical aspects (symptom control, a multidisciplinary team approach, excellent and learned communication skills). But often it comes down to recognizing the person wearing their disease(es).

Here are things I consider and my team does and I argue anyone claiming to be a healer, particularly toward the end of life should have some clue about:

Is that person feeling safe and dignified?
Who do they need to see or speak with, especially if they are nearing the end of life?
What kind of atmosphere do they wish to live in as they near death?
Do they need to go down in flames (prolonged ICU stay, last ditch futile medical efforts) to feel cared for, and if so, why?
Would you be surprised if they were not here in 6 to 12 months? If so, might they consider hospice care, which is grossly underutilized? And, ironically, hospice can often extend people's lifespan due to the tender loving care and de-escalation of toxic medical therapies.
Do they need a palliative care consult? There are actually specialty trained physicians with teams who do this well, including a great and innovative team,  right in this town.
In regards to the elderly, do they even want to be hospitalized, and if so, do they have someone to advocate for them while they are there? Hospitals are uncomfortable and can lead to confusion and debility sometimes for weeks to months in older adults.
Do they need spiritual support?
Do they even like harp music? I don't, so please, no harps at my bedside when I am in my last days! No offense to harpists, or lovers of harps or harpists, or family members of harpists, or harp makers or people who kind of like harps.
Do they need their toilet unplugged? Because this is a real issue for some people living in less than desirable housing situations and our team will unplug a toilet in the name of comfort and good health (see number 1 above, civil engineering).
Just some of the other things our team has done: cut invasive bamboo, cleaned massive garbage piles, offered mindful meditation by a trained coach, prescribed tai chi, prescribed writing letters to great grandchildren (on an actual Rx pad, for the person to bring home, and it was tucked into their bra at the visit so I know they took it seriously), provided blankets and heaters for cold apartments and homes, cooked dinner on house calls, gone to bat for people with their slum lords, helped find safe refuge from abusive situations, advocated for the autonomy of our "patients", helped find housing, provided showers for people, including those who have not had access to a shower for a year, prescribed and helped purchase comfortable and appropriate shoes, reunited estranged family members,  and prescribed the 4 important things to say before we die (Thanks, Dr Byock).

The 4 things:
1. Please forgive me
2. I forgive you
3. Thank you
4. I love you

Death, be not a competition. "Dying Well" and a "Good Death" are good catch phrases to get us talking about it, but these sayings also kind of irk me. Often death just plain hurts, and sometimes it is mundane. Frequently it is fraught with the unfinished business of families and friends. Too often it strikes those who have not yet had a chance to live fully, and that does not just mean "too young", because I have known some very young people who died having lived fully, with incredible presence right until the very end. And sometimes death strikes when unexpected, and does not allow anyone to even ponder the idea of a good death. Sudden death is like a meteor out of nowhere and the crater it leaves behind can be formidable.

Death is not negotiable. But excellent care at all phases of life, including the last one, should be expected, the same way we expect good care when we give birth, or when we take our kids in with a broken arm, or when our appendix bursts or when we have pneumonia or when we have a potentially curable yet serious illness. It does not take a master like BJ Miller to offer compassionate and decent care in the face of serious illness or dying. It should be the norm. But thank God for people like BJ for having the courage to show us that suffering can be tended to, most especially if we acknowledge it as part of being a human being.

I have had a fair amount of loss in my life, and in recent months have watched friends and family mourn for loved ones, and a nation mourn for a bunch of iconic, lovely people. Let us not forget the very real fact of mourning. Tending to the dying can be beautiful, but it is never easy. Continuing living after saying goodbye? Now that takes a special kind of courage.

Grief

Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand. Somewhere people are waiting.
They have drunk nothing for days.

Your name was the food I lived on;
now my mouth is full of dirt and ash.
To say your name was to be surrounded
by feathers and silk; now, reaching out,
I touch glass and barbed wire.
Your name was the thread connecting my life;
now I am fragments on a tailor's floor.

I was dancing when I
learned of your death; may
my feet be severed from my body.


















Friday, December 23, 2016

Comfortable in My Skin

The other morning, about 6am, my eldest kid and I were running in the woods. It was dark, because it is December. But we had headlamps and the mountain lions dared not approach us with our trusty and fierce poodle at our side. We ran in the 38 degree, starry morning. All was good until my kid suddenly caught her foot and flew into the air, landing hard on her hand and arm. Thankfully no broken bones but her hand got good and ripped up.

The skin. Our largest organ. Just sitting out there for the world to abuse it and for people to see it. It is a great source of money for industries of beauty. It can get you shot, depending on the melanocyte count. It is waterproof, it stretches with holiday overeating, it keeps our bones from showing and it let's the world know what we do for a living or for fun. Farmer's tan? Red neck? Calloused fingers? Smooth and perfect skin of the white collar world? The finger bump of a writer, the shorts and sock tan of a runner, the "I wash my hands 700 times per day" red and dry hands of a healthcare worker, the wrinkled palms of a bath enthusiast, the speedo tan of the lifeguard, the scars of accidents, surgeries, and births. The hickey marks of a good date and the blisters of a soldier with ill-fitting boots. Our skin can show our diseases from autoimmunity or infection or heart disease or high cholesterol, like vitiligo, butterfly rash, Janeway Lesions, or my personal favorite, atopic dermatitis.



I take medications to suppress my immune system so it does not attack my skin quite so viciously. I need to work, after all. Have you ever had poison ivy or a bunch of mosquito bites? Imagine that 24/7, head to toe. Anyway, it could be worse. But the 60-100 mg of prednisone it can take to battle my inner demons has made me lose 1:30 minutes per mile speed on average in my running. And that just plain bites. I mean, gosh yes I am glad I can still run at all, and holy moly, things could be much much much worse. But I like to run, and I like to run fast, and I just cannot anymore, because the largest organ in my body is being dive bombed with a nuclear arsenal every second of the day.

Speaking of skin issues and nuclear arsenal.

But I digress.

My daughter's hand (back to our early morning run) will heal. That is the other thing that blows me away about skin. We can shoot each other, saw open the sternum and sew it back together, get blistering sunburns, and falls and accidents and we still can heal. And even when the skin is not broken, but our hearts are torn apart, we can heal. And even when hate seems to be the new love, as cool to us as a president who is stupider than most of us and somehow therefore makes us feel better about ourselves, even with that cold, hard fact-we can still heal.

My skin, well that is another story. But despite it being the most uncomfortable organ I own, I will still keep walking around in it. My Dad, who had a heart transplant, learned to be wth a brand new ticker. My Mom, who lost a breast to cancer, learned to stuff the fake breast into her bra and head out for the day. I cannot remove or transplant my skin but I can remember the strength my parents showed in hard times, and I can also appreciate the fact that beauty is skin deep.

And although all I want for Christmas is beautiful skin, like the kind of skin where I could bare my arms and legs and back and midriff and face without embarrassment, and the kind of skin that would allow me to be a fast runner again and the kind of immune system that didn't make me bald every couple of years and the kind of skin that did not make me feel like a freak of nature, I can see that things could be worse. I just wish the world was a kinder place and that how we looked did not matter quite so much. I fear the next four years will not offer us a leader who will be kind to those of us who are not beautiful, who have "too much" melanin, who have outward evidence of disease or imperfection. I hope the American spirit of kindness kicks in and saves us from descending into truly believing that hate is the new cool thing. I hope.




Sunday, December 4, 2016

Darkness

The days are getting shorter. In a couple of weeks, we will have the least daylight of the year. Already the evening dog walks and runs are in darkness. We step through our backyard cathedral of redwood trees, headlamp as lucifer, the fog as incense. The dogs are unmoved by daylight savings. At first, they demanded dinner an hour early because their internal stomach clocks were not privy to the ways of humans. They seem to have adjusted. They do wonder at the live, piney tree with honest to God sap still flowing sitting in our living room. Once decorated, they will eat at least one ornament, as if it is their sacred duty.

Darkness seems appropriate as we complete this year. Certainly no year can be all out "bad". Years do not actually have feelings, qualities or actual existence. We create our calendar, our weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds to define a life passing by us indescribably fast. Time is not real, but it is all we have. 2016 has brought us personal grief: a son in jail, death of loved ones. 2016 has brought us public grief: somehow hate has become OK, and we are soon to lose a leader of grace and decency. Also, he knows what the hell he is doing, and though one might not agree with his policies, one must at least agree, he studied for the job, and understood his duty.

Darkness might include getting rid of Medicare. So many people I have cared for over the years depend on Medicare.

Darkness might include registering my Muslim friends. Yep, I won't take that one.

Darkness might include disrespecting my brown daughter, my lesbian daughter, my son with mental illness.

Darkness might include disrespect for women.

After December 21, though, the light takes over again. It is cyclical, like many powerful things in this life. January 20 might try to be dark, but January 21 will involve women shining light upon many American cities. It is a time for us to be awake. Awake to poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.

In the realm of running, I find solace. I go to the woods and the beach and realize I am a small part of a much bigger beauty. I count, but only insofar as I am aware and awake. I count on Mother Nature for healing and for getting dirty, quite literally. Mud, sand, redwood fronds and the rain soaking my clothes and shoes and dogs into a mess of smell. The floors I walk on cannot escape the detritus of our outdoor excursions. My home welcomes what the peace of wild things bring inside.

Time is irrelevant and irreverent. But it is what we have. As a doctor of elders, a mother of precious beings, a cousin of young mothers who have been lost to cancer, a daughter of parents gone too soon, I recommend never taking time for granted.

Also, Barack Obama? Yep, he knows what he is doing, and he cares. About all of us.

I think though, we have seen the light. And no one can ever take that away from us.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Full Catastrophe

Donald Trump is the newly elected President of the United States of America.

There, I said it.

I have people I love whom voted for him, and though I don't get that I admire them for at least showing up and voting. Why did almost 1/2 of our country not vote at all? Seriously, voting is an honor, a privilege, something people died for the right to do. This, maybe more than anything, is what infuriates me about this election.

I have been pondering the concept of giving up a lot lately. I mean, I have a kid in jail, I have barely tolerable health on risky immunosuppressant medications, I have become wildly out of shape, and my work, though I love it in many ways, is Sisyphusian.

My yard is overgrown, my driveway needs sweeping, my car needs cleaning, my piano needs tuning and there are a couple of upcoming presentations that I have written up and prepared only in my mind, which unless Spock teaches me to mind meld stat will do no good on the day people show up to hear my thoughts.

I was signed up for the California International Marathon in December, but deferred till next year, because...wildly out of shape My foot has been hurting. My work days lengthening. My energy ebbing.

My hair has the Obama effect, and though I am glad to have hair, I have more salt and pepper now than either of my parents did at age 60.

And then, a guy whom the KKK wants to cuddle with is my new President. Sheesh.

I am currently re-reading Full Catastrophe Living. It is a treatise of sorts, on mindfulness. I have been dubbed Zennifer at times in my life, but honestly I am so type A and so constantly on the move that I see myself as far away from Enlightenment as Sarah Palin is from cleaning the maggots off a homeless person's wound. Which I have done, but that's a story for another time. The other day I was cracking myself up: having 25 minutes to grab a bite to eat, I went to my local co-op (check-mindful), ordered some organic stuff (check-mindful), opened up my magazine with a lead article "Hope & Healing- Buddhist Wisdom for a Troubled Time" (check -mindful), then shoved down my food while reading the magazine and rushed back to work with a sort of leaden feeling in my belly (yeah....not so mindful).

For the doubters out there, mindful meditation has been shown to reduce pain, stress and other symptoms of chronic illness and of being human. You don't have to be Buddhist to do it. It is kind of all the rage right now, which makes me a little concerned that it is a potentially mis-used or poorly executed therapy or practice. Best to seek someone who knows what they are doing and learn how to meditate.

Learning to be mindful is like doing a mind meld with a toddler. Or a very old person with dementia. Can our experiences be distilled into a literal breath-to-breath wonderment? Can we let go of our talkative inner mind and allow space for something less judgmental and toxic?

Yep, I am pretty much a Californian now. Born in Michigan, raised in Wisconsin, and always, always drawn to the coast. My first ocean experience was the East Coast. As a kid, and this is the Gospel truth, the first time I saw the ocean I just sat there and stared for at least an hour. Now I am a connoisseur of the North coast of the Pacific. I love the smell, the wildness, the fog, the sharks, the sandy dunes and the steep cliffs and the complete lack of pretense. Unless you count my poodle, who could've been registered for his purebred glory, but I was too cheap to fork out the dough and too embarrassed by the prospect of giving him some weird name, like Sir Poops A Lot or whatever.

All of this is to say I could very easily quit. I could quit trying so hard. I could quit my country. I could quit reading and quit meditating and quit running and quit trying to heal the broken people who show up for care.

But then I turn off my mind's chatter and I just be.

There are certainties in life:
1) we will all die
2) this too shall pass
3) I was fast once, and again shall I be fast
4) number 3 refers to running, not some Trumpism about my female attributes
5) I could quit, but where is the fun in that?

You guys, if you are type A like me, this election is like the best, most challenging assignment any teacher or boss ever gave you in your entire life! And if you are better than I, i.e. Type B--well then, just breathe, and be kind, and most likely, things will sort themselves out.

The full catastrophe is life. Life is precious. People are generally good. We have some work to do.

First of which is I totally gotta get back to running.
Second of which is I better get my presentations out of my brain and on my computer.
Third of which is we ALL must fight tooth and nail for compassion, rights, and sanity in this, our country. We shall overcome.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Spirit Animals

I was running along the bay in San Francisco the other afternoon. It was a crisp, overcast but not foggy day. I was on the flip side of an 8 mile out and back, just going down the hill above Fort Mason that I had climbed on the way out, when a huge thing swooped next to me and alit on the branch of a cypress to my left.  I stopped, having identified it as a bird of prey. A red-tailed hawk, I believe.
It was not as if I had never seen such a hawk before, but the way it swooped in so close and landed there, then eyed me, in the middle of a city? That was different.

Hawk, SF, October 2016
Next morning, I ran before sunrise. I was running up Lombard and hit that weird dead end at the top at Kearny where you have to either break into someone's gated stairs down the big hill near Chinatown or run further up a hill around the corner to God knows where, and as I stopped to ponder what to do next I saw just ahead of me, in the middle of the street, a coyote. My head lamp made its eyes glow and I was not particularly scared. Just a little thrown off. Too thrown off to snap a photo. It finally trotted away after eyeing me for awhile. I am surprised it did not try to eat me. God knows I have enough meat on me these days to keep it hale for a good week. I turned around and found my way back to a feasible route. Headlamp was also helpful to avoid stepping on any of the homeless folk sleeping on the sidewalks.

I never get used to that. I bet they don't either.

I used to work for a mobile medical clinic in San Francisco, back in residency. We would search out the homeless in their various haunts (i.e. places they felt safest). I remember coming to work at clinic on that day we call 9-11 now. But clinic was cancelled, which I could just never quite figure out. The city was eerily quiet that day. Maybe the lack of airplanes flying over, and people just sort of huddling close together indoors. At least the people that had indoors to huddle within.

While driving home along the 101 today, there was a golden retriever in a truck. But not in the flatbed like you are picturing. He was in the cab with his people, sitting on his haunches but facing backward, and the middle back window was open. He had his paws up on the window frame and his head sticking out with the biggest smile on his face.

I count that as 3 spirit animal sightings in 3 days. Now I have always considered the whale my personal spirit animal. I seem to have intense dreams involving whales whenever something big is about to happen in my life. But I am open to the idea that we are constantly being offered messages from the world around us. We are mostly too busy with our nose in our iPhone screen to notice them. I am guilty as anyone of this. I also often stop to wonder what would happen if you plated out a culture from everyone's iPhone screens. But I digress, into potentially award-winning middle school science fair projects and my own insecurities thanks to my medical school infection and immunity professor. I only ever flush the toilet with my elbow, thanks to him.

According to my highly dubious sources, the hawk may represent being able to see meaning in ordinary experiences. Also seeing the bigger picture, having vision and intuition. It might be telling me to step back and look at a difficult situation with a new perspective. The hawk is telling me to pay attention. So I tried to ask it for more details, as I am a scientist and I want some details gorramit, but this is what it said:



I interpreted that as "See ya, sucker. You ask too many questions. Now go finish that run."

The coyote made me so happy. Apparently it is meant to make you stop taking yourself so seriously. It might be time to let go, and get on with things. Irony and a trickster spirit are its specialities. Wisdom and folly go hand in hand, and, for heaven's sakes play more often.

I told a friend about my sighting and she said if I see a roadrunner next she is calling a doctor for me.

That dog in the truck, well it could mean letting go of doubt, as there is plenty of knowledge, skill and support to achieve my goals. Also,  it is telling me to let go of material things and stay focused in the present moment.

OK I buy that last part. Has anyone out there ever in your entire life met a Golden Retriever not focused on the present moment? Or any dog, for that matter? OK, my dog Miles is often focused on getting to the beach, which is often in the future and past, but he is also an avid fan of television and likes to hump 12 year old Zoe the golden doodle in the window for all to see. So, Miles may not be the best example of the deep wisdom or spiritual awareness of dogs. He likes the Warriors (even after last night!), hates the Simpsons, and patiently watched the presidential debates. He prefers long beach runs to food, likes to lay on his back and stretch his front legs out as far as they go. He burps, snores and irritates the hell out of my teenaged daughter. He chews on good literature (literally) and doesn't mind butting my hands with his curly head in the middle of a technically difficult piano piece. He gets upset if the family plays raucous games with each other and likes to sit on our feet and lean against our legs till he slides over onto the floor. Mainly because he, like most other standard poodles, has no ass.

Tomorrow I board not one but 3 planes to go and see my beloved GodMom get married. She is just the best GodMother ever. I know for a fact she and my Mom used to hide in the bathtub, fully clothed, drinking coffee and chatting while 7 kids pounded on the door at various times looking for whatever it is kids look for from their ever-suffering parents. But aside from bath tub escapes, she, like my Mom, always has shown up. Shown up with spirit and tenderness and humor. Plus she rode on the Harry Potter ride with me at Universal Studios in Orlando a few years back. I thought I was going to have a heart attack, but she took it all in stride.

It has now been over 20 years since my Mom died. A few years after her death I found myself at a mindfulness retreat along the coast of California. I was out walking on a silent day, and there was a small wooden shed in the field on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean. I went in, and found it to be a shrine of sorts, with an altar and various significant pieces set there by many people over what appeared to be years. Some found, natural objects. Some photos and icons and treasure of sorts. As I sat there, I suddenly felt my Mom's presence. And then a small songbird flew in and fluttered about this small space while I sat there. It finally came to rest and we sat together for awhile. Then it spread its wings and sailed away from me.

Pay attention.
See the extraordinary.
Do not take yourself too seriously.
Consider play important, and material things overrated.
Sit quietly, and see what happens.
Show up for those whom you love, and those you don't love and those you don't even know.

Stop asking so many questions.

Finish the damn run.





Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Blog Before the Storm

My dogs will not leave my side tonight. I am not sure why. There is a storm brewing. It has been brewing all day. I did my house calls early in the day for fear that weather would preclude reasonable travel later. A smattering of rain, some bit of wind. No major storm yet though. It is sitting there in the air, like an about to be lit stick of dynamite. I feel like it is inevitable that things will explode, so please, just touch the lighter to the wick already.

My dogs may sense the storm. They may know of a "big one"coming. They may think I am a big piece of bacon. It is hard to say for sure.

Maybe they read the news. What is happening in the world is certainly scary enough. And the coming election is like being stuck as a character in To Kill a Mockingbird. Racism is over, right? Nope. Sexism is passé, yes? Nope. Unwanted sexual contact is illegal, YES????

When I was 16, I was on a bus to the Vatican in Rome. It was packed. A man came from behind me and as I held onto the hand rail above me for dear life, he grinded into me from behind. I was horrified. It happened again in Venice, on a gondola. When I was 18, I was in college, walking home from a café at night. A man followed me, I quickened my steps, he followed closer, I got to my destination and nervously got inside. I have a dozen more similar stories. I hardly get through a day, much less a week in my profession without a comment on my appearance. It is not OK. It is not OK.

It is not OK, because I am human. Not because I am a Mom, a wife, a daughter, an Aunt, a sister.

I like to run. I like to study. I like to play piano. I like to read. I like to think I can walk in the wilderness alone. I like to travel. I like to be a Mom of daughters and also of sons.

Here is what I have been told:
To run is to be thin.
To study is geeky and not lady-like.
To play piano is to wear the right dress and to be presentable.
To read is to like chic lit.
To walk in the wilderness alone is dangerous.
To travel, as a woman, is also dangerous.
To be a Mom is to be perfect. To be an example of hard work, morality, and to make the best cookies in town (which I do, if I do say so myself). And to work but not too much. To be present at every major developmental stage. To keep your kid out of jail, and send them to a big name college. To be presentable, perfect, kind, adaptable, and pretty.
Be pretty most of all. It might become law if The Donald becomes president.

My dogs are probably mistaken. Nothing big ever happens when we expect it. But I respect their commitment to me, or my perception of their commitment. They love me, for sure. They are not filled with hate or prejudice or misogyny. They just like a good run, a soft place to sleep and the knowledge that they are part of a pack that matters.

I think my pack matters. I love my family, my community. I welcome the coming storm. I run from nothing. I run to everything. Everything that matters.

And, please, Michelle, can you run for president?