Lessons Number 1-10: Never Read the Comments

Lessons Number 1-10: Never Read the Comments

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Since the essay I wrote (and talked about in the previous post) was first published in the Los Angeles Times, it was picked up by several other media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, and papers in Alabama and Pennsylvania. The BBC called and had me record a version, which you can hear at the 38:20 mark here.

People with links to the trans community and support groups put links to the essay on their Facebook pages.

And at every one of these sites and outlets there were comments -- 44 and counting at the Los Angeles Times, more than 80 at the Seattle Times.

People told me not to read them. But it's hard not to see what other people are saying about the first thing I've written that has hit the eyes and souls of so many people at the same time. So I went. I looked. And there were many gratifying comments -- about my courage and bravery. And a few stupid ones saying I'm an idiot for thinking my feelings count in this at all, that Wasband is disrespectful (without asking the person involved how she feels about it, which is just fine). And then there were the other stupid comments, the ones about how there is no Caitlyn Jenner, only Bruce dressed up like a girl, that transgender is a liberal construct, that it's some mental disorder.

These are the comments that upset me the most. They are the ones I want to respond to, the ones that are most demeaning not just to my Wasband, but to me and our son.

There was an essay from Parents Magazine going around a few days back that caught my attention for many reasons. It was by a mother whose baby, born genetically a girl, from a young age identified as a boy. At one point in a therapy office, the mother asked him, "How do you know you are a boy?" His amazingly astute response? "How do you know you're a woman?" This is what I wanted to say to those trolls doubting my Wasband's gender, or Caitlyn Jenner's. They know their true gender as clearly as you do yours. Just because you experience discomfort thinking about what genitalia they were born with, what they may have now, and how it got that way -- and by the way, how weird that that's what you dwell on -- doesn't mean you have clearer knowledge of their gender than they do. It just means you think about genitalia way more than you should.

I didn't respond to many of the comments. They are written by people too angry and addled to respond to logic. And the Wasband has a phrase to account for some of the anger directed at me personally: Hurt people hurt people. I can't help them feel better, can I, no matter what I say.

Helen Boyd, who wrote She's Not the Man I Married and My Husband Betty, exploring her experience married to a man with a fluid gender identity, included my essay on her Facebook page. There were comments there that bothered me, and some to which I responded, feeling the need to explain myself further. The people who say Wasband is flip? She herself calls me her aspiring ex, and we have an equivalent sense of humor. Neither of us are hurt by the names.

There's a family joke about what my headstone should say -- okay, a joke I have with myself that I have imparted to the family and my friends. "Wait a minute, let me explain." Or else "I did this to get attention." But the explaining thing? It's why I feel a need to respond to some if the comments. At least the ones that aren't idiotic, the ones that question my word choice, my right to feel hurt or anguish or equate what I went through on a Thursday night in June 2008 to the death of my spouse. Yeah, death is forever, but my man is gone forever, too. And even though surgery took three years from when I found out it was coming, in my head, the man was gone, the woman rose in his place, but the body was roaming around like a spectre.

These are the reactions I have to people's comments. I could go on for hours further explaining myself. It's why an essay starts out as 3,000 words and gets published as about a thousand. And it's why the first 10 rules of writing essays are all the same: don't read the comments.

Instead, have your posse read them for you.

 

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An open Letter to Kris Jenner and Other Wives of Trans Women

An open Letter to Kris Jenner and Other Wives of Trans Women

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I wrote this letter to Kris Jenner one Sunday night after seeing her crying on a promo for her show. Mascara running, she was saying it was like she didn't exist. My heart just stopped, because I had been in that same spot, felt those same things. I never thought I'd have any empathy for Kris Jenner. I sat down at my computer and typed this. I actually tried to get this to her through a contact, but that failed. So I ended up posting it here. I didn't think she'd see it here, but I felt better publishing it anyway. And it ended up spawning an essay in the LA Times. So maybe she'll get some of the advice anyway.

Dear Kris,

Every time I see a picture of Caitlyn Jenner in a magazine or online, or see a clip of her on television, I think of you, of the twinge of pain and grief you must be feeling. You might deny it to others – put on a smile and say how lovely she looks, how brave. Inside you might be thinking something more snide -- that just about anyone looks great with a glam squad and professional photographer -- because you are still raw and angry and sad. I know this because I, too, am the wife of a trans woman.

A few weeks ago, flipping through the channels one evening, I saw a clip of you saying something like, “I feel like I didn’t exist.” That phrase stopped me in my tracks. The words I said to my Wasband – that’s how I refer to the person who was my husband and is now a woman who isn’t my wife but will someday soon be my ex – were that I felt negated, erased. If he really was always a she, then were we ever really an us? She still doesn’t really understand how I can question the reality of the 13 years we were married before her big reveal, any more than I understand how she subjugated her feelings of gender dysphoria for the greater part of those 13 years.

When my Wasband announced in 2008 that all in all, he’d rather be a she, I would have killed to know there were others out there like me, who had gone through this experience and come out the other end whole. I went looking. I asked people I met through an ever-widening circle of contacts in the trans community if they know of spouses or exes of trans men and women who might talk to me. While I found a few kids of transgendered men and women who would talk to me, there were no spouses who wanted to chat.

Even as recently as 2008, trans issues were not often discussed, and when they were, it was with a salacious tone. People gawked like it was an accident on the side of the road. And the topic discussed wasn’t the wife or family of the trans person, but the trans person him or herself. The headline was of the pregnant man, or Chaz Bono, or the second time that man got pregnant. I found no peer reviewed academic literature on how healthcare professionals could help the spouses and children of trans people through their own transitions. I can still find none.

So here I am, Kris, ready to share with you some things I wish I had known.

First, I want to tell you it’s going to be okay. There is a way through the anger and sorrow and grief back to joy and happiness. Maybe you’d tell me you’re over it already, that the things I see on TV are months old, that the Vanity Fair shoot was a while back, that this is all old news for you. But there will be times even years from now when you will be beset with sadness. You will see something in your youngest daughter that reminds you of Bruce; you will wander into a room you seldom use and see that picture of some beach vacation you took together; or you’ll pick up a book and see an inscription from him to you. Something will trigger your sadness anew. The other day I looked at my son’s hands which are nothing like my hands. My son has my Wasband’s hands: long delicate fingers, thin hands. They are hands that have gestures just like the man I married. When he was a toddler, my boy would sit up in bed every morning and scratch his little chest just like his father, and I would laugh at the idea that my husband, when he was an old man, would share this gesture with his son in middle age, and maybe with his son. Only there is no old husband, and here I am typing this with a lump in my throat again, so many years after the loss of that particular happily ever after. Sometimes I still feel erased.

Find someone who you have known since creation, a childhood friend, a high school bestie. There may be more than one person, but don’t choose more than two or three. Whoever it is, it cannot be anyone who is beholden to you in any way: no one in your pay or whose relative you employ, no one who just hangs out with you at clubs or calls to see if you have tickets to some concert. It needs to be someone who knew you pre-fame, the kind of person who -- if you suddenly found yourself without wealth, having to shop at Value Village and working at a fast food restaurant that leaves your “vintage” clothing smelling of French fries -- would still hang out with you. A sibling will do. Under no circumstances can it be one of your children. It is to this person that you direct every snide comment you want to make about your marriage and Caitlyn that you cannot swallow into submission. It has to be someone you trust not to repeat what you say no matter how much cash is waved before her by a tabloid, who will nod and smile when you say something awful about your ex, and will agree when you are warm and loving toward her, as well.

Because, yes, you will want to be nice about her again. More often than you may believe right now, and not just for the press. People who swore they loved your husband to death will suddenly be willing to speak only evil about Caitlyn and you will find yourself defensive about this person who you know, but you don’t know. Give in and say nice things. And remind people that once upon a time, this was your handsome prince. You were writing a fairy tale ending together and you don’t need to hear them speak ill of your decision making skills then or now. Those things you loved about Bruce? Well they are still there in Caitlyn. The things you hated about him are in her, too. Same person. Different gender. You’ll find that surprising. You’ll expect Caitlyn to be very different somehow – if he was angry before, you may think that being the true woman she was meant to be would reduce that anger. But no. Angry Husband begets Angry Wasband. Chill Husband begets Chill Wasband.

You know that talking smack about your ex to your kids is bad. This is like that only magnified. Whether you want to be or not, you have become an ally and advocate for the trans community. You can brook no one trashing Caitlyn, not only in your presence when you are with your children, but even in your presence alone. Why? Because there are people who will say awful things to and are willing to do physical harm to Caitlyn because of her transition, and they are just as willing to let you and your children know exactly what they want to say and do to her. Your job is to shut it down. “You’re talking about my children’s other parent.” “Wouldn’t your parents be proud of your behavior!” “Did you grow up wanting to be so unkind?” I could come up with dozens of comebacks. “Stop being a bully!” usually works in a pinch, too.

You also can’t accept nasty words from your children about their other parent. Whether step- or blood relative, their anger and sadness and confusion is real, and they, too, should have a designated person to complain to. But you are NOT that person. If they speak ill of Caitlyn – and they may -- you need to put a quick stop to it. How? Here are a couple ideas: “You are talking about the man I married, the man I loved, the man I wanted to spend my life with.” “That’s your parent, who loves you and to whom you owe a measure of respect. Do not speak of her in that manner in my presence.” I have more if you need them. They, too, are now allies and advocates. If you want to hear awful things said about Caitlyn, there are plenty of people willing to voice them. You don’t need to get it from each other.

My son was worried about what his peers would say, whether even at the small choice school he went to, he would be bullied. We brainstormed responses to “Is your dad a girl?” the most likely comment he thought they would toss at him. We came up with these responses: “What does it matter to you?” “Is that a question or a statement?” “Why are you interested?” “Yes, and….?” You’ll quickly figure out what the difficult people in your life will have to say. Come up with good responses and practice them. Even you and your family, who live in the spotlight, could benefit from having some ready answers on the tip of your tongue.

People will feel they have a right to all sorts of information they wouldn’t dare ask if you had a typical split: when did you know, what did he tell you, what kind of sex life did you have, what kind of genitalia is there now and what does it look like. You don’t have to tell anyone anything. Stop it like this: “Wow! I can’t believe you asked that!” “That’s really not your business.” “Why would you want to know that?” Just because you have a show on television doesn’t mean you have to share everything, or anything.

I always felt those questions were a way of looking to blame me – for marrying someone I shouldn’t have, for not seeing something I ought to have noticed, for pushing him to a point that he needed to leave his masculinity behind. It seems ridiculous to write that last phrase, but she has a relative who broke contact post transition who put the blame for it firmly on me. Apparently, I’m emasculating to the point that I cause men to have their penises turned inside out and made into vaginas.

In the end, what happened before doesn’t matter. What I knew, when I knew it, and how the gender dysphoria made its presence known has no impact on my life going forward, so why does it matter to anyone now? The before is only of interest to others in the way a plane crash is: it’s an oddity, it’s not me, let me see the wreckage up close.

You will have to learn to live with the happy happy joy joy that Caitlyn is experiencing while you are in the middle of your grief cycle. Our Wasbands are like teenagers when they start their hormones during transition. One of my trans friends says it takes about two years post-surgery for the new person to truly become settled in herself. It’s been two and a half years since my Wasband had her surgery and I’d say has proved true. But getting there was a journey. She would come over and joyfully announce every increase in bra cup size, every time the electrolysis lady reached another milestone – done with all the white hairs, done with the neck, done with the chin – and every time there was another step towards legal or physical womanhood – scheduled the surgery, got the birth certificate that says “Female”. And while that happy dance happened to the right of me, on the left side, my heart ached, and she was oblivious to the pain. The announcement of my husband’s death happened one Thursday night late in June, but the actual death occurred in little moments over the course of a few months.

You have lost your husband in a way can only compare to death. You will see Caitlyn in the future and catch a glimpse of the man you fell in love with in the woman she has become and there will be a catch in your throat when you realize that man is gone forever. And you will wonder again if he was ever there at all, and if he wasn’t, if he was always she, did you ever have the marriage you thought you had? Your children, regardless of their age or maturity, will be confused and wonder if the things they thought they knew about their dad were true and if they weren’t, then were the things he said before he was she true? And you will shepherd them through it, and you will pray that you do it with a modicum of grace and serenity. And you will all come out the other side and be happy and whole again. It will be different. You will forever be associated with this thing Bruce Jenner the Olympian did late in his life. You will forever have to admit that it was a brave thing he did in becoming Caitlyn, that it was a hard life he had to live before her transition because that is truth. You will forever be an ally and advocate because that is the right thing to do for your children. And in a way, that sucks, because it ignores your truth – the loss you experienced, the anger and grief you are entitled to feel but have to hide from most people because of that bravery and because of the children. But you, too, have a chance to remake your life. And it’s going to be okay.

Promise.

All the best to you and yours,

Lisa

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On Memory and Brian Williams, with a side-trip to Bruce Jenner

On Memory and Brian Williams, with a side-trip to Bruce Jenner

People have been piling on Brian Williams for the last two weeks over his lapse of memory related to events that took place in 2003 in Northern Iraq. NBC suspended him without pay over it. But I think we need to take a beat before assuming bad intent on his part. I ask this as someone with deep experience on how memory of even the most monumental events can be as elusive as that little bit of egg shell that gets into your bowl of scrambled eggs: try to pick it out and it dives down into custardy oblivion, never to be found. Until you bite into it.

When my husband told me he was going to undergo gender reassignment surgery, time stopped and I remember that moment so clearly: I can hear my heart pounding and the rush of air as I drew in the kind of raggedy breath that comes when you’re on the edge of panic and anger and grief and trying hard not to lose it.

As I went through the following year, I thought multiple times about keeping a journal. But I didn’t, partly because I just didn’t have the time or energy to relive my day and my grief and my anger and panic. And I didn’t because I figured I’d remember the important stuff. But the thing is that I don’t remember a lot of it. At the very least, I thought I’d be able to feel around the edges of memory. I remember this plastic topographical map of California we had in my fifth grade classroom. I could close my eyes and still feel the indentation that was the San Francisco Bay, the hills over which lay Santa Cruz. I thought I’d be able to remember key points in this journey the way I could recognize what the Bay Area felt like under my fingers. Not true.

A year or so ago, I was driving at night, north on 405. In my memory, it was raining, and I was heading north to meet with my writing group listening to the local NPR station. That memory is wrong, though, because the one dark night I met with them, I was with another person in the car and we were talking, not listening. Memory is tricky.

It took a lot of brain excavating to remember when I took that trip and narrow down what I was listening to -- it was either a program on Big Picture Science or The Takeaway . Both are interesting pieces on the nature of memory that resonated with the struggles I was having recalling that first year after my husband revealed his intentions.

In his book Pieces of Light, Charles Fernyhough notes something about memory that is surprising, yet true when you think about it: when we recall an event in which we were an actor, or remember something that happened to us, we don’t remember it as if we are ourselves, looking out of our own eyes. We remember it as a third person – from above or outside ourselves, as if we were a camera recording the event. We become a character in our own memories, an unreliable witness to our own history. The general belief among researchers is that there is just one event that happens, and no reliable recreation if there aren't cameras to record it. Even then, the lack of perception of the people who experience the event render the cameras' recording an incomplete picture. This is why movies like Rashomon are so interesting, and the set up it uses, telling a story from various participants' perspective, continues to work in literature and film. There is no true memory: just the way we -- and others who are with us during an event -- reconstruct events.

Fernyhough noted in an interview on NPR (not the one I was listening to that rainy night; another one): “We don't record events like a video camera recording, you know, what's going on. We gather together lots of different kinds of information. We store it sometimes for decades and then we put it all back together. In the moment, we reconstruct those events from the perspective of now.”

So there is no truthful memory of an event. It happens and is gone forever. How I remember it may be some sort of true, but how someone else remembers it may differ in significant ways. So Williams, who has been recalling the events of 2003 in different venues for different purposes over the years, has always had to recall them based on the particular moment of recall. When talking to David Letterman, he has to recall them with an eye to making a joke; when recalling them for his newscast, he has to make it dramatic. It's easy to see how that now moment would influence his then memory.

We all like to think we have a good memory. I have some memories from when I was a toddler – running down a hill I thought was very steep. It was grass covered and I was running to where my brother was with two older girls. In my memory, they were teenagers, but I was two, so everyone was old to me. I remember what the doctor looked like who stitched up my head when I was two and a half and fell down the steps leading to our trailer home. He had Buddy Holly-style glasses. At least that’s my recollection.

I remember lots of moments from Kindergarten. The first day, I sat with a girl named Maria who became my best Kindergarten friend. I remember holding hands with her when we went out to recess, where I would have a snack – perhaps a Space Food Stick, because I remember taking them out of my bag on occasion.

But how much have I forgotten that I was sure I would remember. Now, here I am, half a decade on from finding out my husband was going to change genders, that unless I found my inner lesbian and found a way to live with my Wasband as woman and wife, I was going to be single in middle age, that the dreams I had of my golden years were never going to be realized. And I can’t remember things I feel I should.

I don’t remember telling my closest friends. I have a vague memory that when I told my friend H, she actually pulled her car off the road. This is significant because H had a habit of calling me without a hands free device while sobbing and driving in rush hour traffic. That my news wigged her out enough to pull over means it was pretty big news. The way I thought I told my best friend M? She says I have it all wrong. And I don’t remember telling my friend and rheumatology nurse S. I called her early on because I needed her to up my dose of antidepressants.

She was in Iowa on a biking vacation at the time. I hate calling her for health reasons on her off time, but sometimes you have to when your provider is also your friend. She doesn’t remember any more than I do, other than that I was very calm.

I don’t remember exactly what I said to my brother, but I called after I wrote the letter I would send out to family and friends in August 2010 to inform them of the change, but before I actually sent it. I have an email response to a request I sent him for 15 minutes of time when I could talk to him unimpeded. It’s dated August 10.

I called him on the 11th and filled him in. It was a selfish move on my part: I needed advice on how to tell mom and dad – whether to tell them on the phone or let them read the letter. And I wanted him to run interference and answer questions from anyone who had them, since I was uninterested in taking a shitload of phone calls from panicked friends and family who wanted to rubberneck. Maybe in their heads it would have been showing concern, but I viewed the prurient interest of others in the story as nothing more than wanting to see the gore at the side of the road and be happy it wasn’t happening to them.

I’ll say this for my concern, too: People hear the story even after all these years – or read it if I write about it – and I can hear their eyes go wide. And even if my friends and family are really concerned about me, I think there is still something in their questions that is akin to my dog salivating when I eat animal products, something lustful in their desire to know about man becoming woman. You see it now in the way people are reacting to the story of Bruce Jenner’s transition. It angers me.

This is not to imply that my nearest and dearest don’t care about me and my son, or even the Wasband. It is simply an acknowledgement that people are very curious about oddities.

Here’s another memory. There was an episode of the Waltons I remember reading about in the TV Guide when I was an adolescent. The episode summary said something like “John Boy has a freak accident at the mill”. I found those two words “freak accident” so alluring that I was adamant about watching that episode. Because a freak accident was something freaky, right? I have no idea what the accident was – I think some gnarly cut with a saw. I remember nothing of the episode. I only have a clear memory of reading those words in the TV Guide.

If what was happening to me now happened to someone else, I’m pretty sure I’d be just as curious. Only I’d couch it in terms of my profession, and my right to be nosy as a way of making a living.

But those moments I remember thinking would be burned in my memory forever, like telling my mom? I remember sitting on the couch where I am right now. I remember holding the phone. And that’s it.

The rest is a blank.

 

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Good things come in small packages — and come from small steps

Good things come in small packages — and come from small steps

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This week for my Health123.com blog, I look at the power of small changes and how, over time, they can have a big positive impact. It's not just intuitive truth, but scientifically proved.

A lot of the literature and idea-banking of small changes is about diabetes, in part because it is such a huge problem, but also because it appears so responsive to taking incremental positive steps. A Mayo Health blog post covers how little things can both impact your health post diagnosis, and even prevent it from becoming a part of your medical record.

Health 123 isn’t alone in the quest for doing more by doing a little over and over again. Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden is the face of a new organization focused on men’s health that’s committed to making small changes, too.

Read more about some of the studies, and get some tips for making small changes here.

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The art of ignoring bad news

The art of ignoring bad news

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My shrink and I have spent a long time talking me into being less of a news junkie. Because when I focus on the news too much, I get depressed. Really depressed. Stay in bed depressed.

So I have avoided the news as much as possible today. I know that five men decided that the "religious freedom" of a company is more important than the religious freedom of women when it comes to their reproductive health. I know that three teenagers were murdered in the Middle East for the temerity of being Israeli Jews (and probably, some number of Palestinian youth were killed because they were unfortunate enough to be born Palestinian, or on the wrong side of the Israeli border, or of the wrong sex or sect). I know that there are people who want to kill people because of the borders they live within, the religion they espouse, the politics they follow, the books they read. I know that Republicans hate Democrats hate Republicans and poor people the world over will risk their lives and the lives of their children to come to this country. And I know that although the Seattle Mariners are doing a remarkable job this year, they will not likely make the World Series.

But on days like this when the news is so overwhelmingly sad or maddening I turn on the news but listen with half an ear; I skim the paper; I read the entertainment news and get mad that the Kardashians are eating up printer ink and trees because that's a safer kind of anger. I focus on cute kitty and puppy memes and girl empowerment videos from big corporate entities (who have helped distort the body image of generations of women -- but I ignore that part).

And I will sit on the deck as the sun sets and watch the youngsters of the Seattle Mariners trounce the Houston Astros (8-3 in the middle of the eighth as I type this) and not care if they tank late in the season or if they win a wild card spot in the playoffs only to lose in the first round.

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YA reading: It’s a generational thing

YA reading: It’s a generational thing

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Since I asked last week for some ideas for good books for high school readers to donate to Treehouse, I've had a lot of comments from folks of my generation. And I find them astounding. Most of the books are adult literature or things that would be considered appropriate for middle grades now (read the comments for the post to see what I mean). Crime and Punishment and Are You There God, It's Me Margaret.

Now, there is a whole industry for young adult books -- things like the Hunger Games and Matched trilogies.

When I was at Powell's in Portland yesterday, I dropped some money (guess how much in the comments to this post! If you guess right, I'll send you a book of your choice, or donate one in your name to Treehouse!) I shopped with my Darling Niece, who helped me pick some books by authors popular with her late-high school crowd -- Sarah Dessen, David Levithen --  while I pulled stuff like the first two books in the Hitchhikers Guide series and some Jasper Fforde (and the ever-uplifting Go Ask Alice). My brother picked out Jules Verne, further proving the divergence between then and now when thinking of what kids on the verge of adulthood might like to read. Because I'm guessing when he wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mr. Verne wasn't thinking of marketing it just to teenagers.

We have made a specialness out of a period of growing up that didn't exist before industrialization and the creation of child labor laws. Before that, children were young and incapable of work, and then capable of work. Not two decades after the bulk of child labor laws were enacted in the 1930s came the beginnings of books written with teenage protagonists, largely written for that market. This post from the blog The Side of Wonder, talks about how Catcher in the Rye marked the true beginning of YA literature.

As the comments have come in from my friends, relatives, readers, it has startled me how those of my generation have favorites that area clearly what is now considered adult fiction, while if you ask young people, they talk about the latest John Green book -- a man whose books are popular with adults, but clearly written with a younger audience in mind.

I have no big aha ending to this. It's not good or bad. Well, it's probably good, because I like many of the YA books I've read while trying to find something that appeals to Darling Son (while he's found the most interest in graphic novels like Maus and books of alternative history like 11-22-63). It's just interesting.

Thoughts? More favorites from your misspent youth? I only have about 10 good titles, and I want at least 20. So keep the comments coming.

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Doggy Update

Doggy Update

This is a picture of Ruby's neck with the swelling about half what it was. She's back to jumping on the bannister in the morning, but still not barking much or leaping on beds and people. But we're just 24 hours into treatment.

God bless antibiotics!neck

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What was your favorite book in high school?

What was your favorite book in high school?

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I have a lot of friends who just don't listen to me or follow rules well at all. When I invited people to my 50th birthday party, I specified no gifts, or gifts of books for the kids at Treehouse, a great organization that provides the little extras, as well as counseling and mentors to foster children in Western Washington.

Some of them, however, gave me gift cards to a monolithic e-marketplace that is currently attempting to crush Hachette Book Group, probably as a warning shot to other publishers. I'm not going to use those cards to cut into my 150-odd long books I want list. I'm going to buy books for Treehouse. I got hundreds of books at my birthday party, but most of them were for younger readers. So I'm going to focus on young adult books with this money.

Everyone knows that The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars are big hits with this crowd, but I don't want to leave out classics. So I'm asking you to chime in. Tell me what your favorite book was in high school. I figure I have enough money to get about 20 books. I have about a dozen loyal readers. Let's see if you all can share this and cajole enough friends and relatives to participate so that we get 20 different titles in the comments. I'll buy them all and present them to Treehouse the week after Independence Day, when I'm scheduled to take in a Prius-full of books to the Wearhouse.

So go forth and share. But only after you tell me: what was your favorite young adult read?

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Looking wistfully back to last week

Looking wistfully back to last week

ruby

We always want what we don't have, right?

I have long complained about the irrational exuberance of my dog, Ruby. She bunny hops on my toes to say hello, squeaking at an ear splitting pitch. This happens not just when I've been away for days, or even hours, but if she saw me two minutes ago, when I left the house to take out the garbage.

She barks -- we call it shouting -- at every truck, dog, rolling bin, and most neighbors who walk by. I find this an asset when I'm home alone at night or the neighborhood listserv has reported area break-ins. She does this regardless of the hour of day or night. I cancelled my CSA in part because they delivered at 3 a.m. It was noise only my teenager could sleep through.

She's never calm or quiet. There isn't a family member or friend she isn't beside herself to see again. For the first time since this morning. Or yesterday. Or a year ago. Her reaction is the same, regardless.

So it's very disconcerting these last couple days that my dog is -- well, like a normal dog. She isn't jumping or barking. She was, until today, eating. But she's been off. If she had continued to eat, I wouldn't be as worried as I am now, but she's refusing bananas and apple cores, which are two of her favorite things. As good as cheese.

I'm calling the vet in the morning. I'm hoping it's as serious as the last time I had to take her in -- she sprained her tail from wagging it too hard (not joking). Cross your fingers, think good thoughts, say a prayer: whatever it is you do when someone isn't well and you want to show solidarity, do that. I want my old irritating dog back.

Update: Ruby probably has an infection in her throat, caused by an abrasion or cut received by eating a stick or something else foreign and forbidden. Her lack of jumping and occasional limping seems to be just her being all tensed up because of the pain in her neck. We're doing a week of strong antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. If that doesn't work (and we'll know in a couple three days if we're on the right track), we'll probably look at doing some imaging requiring sedation. But for the time being, they don't think it's a mass, just a swelling in her throat. And tonight, she ate homemade chicken and squash stew with quinoa and red rice with a dollop of yogurt. She probably thinks she's getting a treat.

Thanks for the good thoughts.

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