Sunday, June 3, 2018

I can't believe it's not real news

I don't think it will come as a surprise that I'm really, REALLY liberal progressive*

I was raised that way. My dad was a union leader. I grew up learning protest songs. By 10 or 11 I could sing Joe Hill and We Shall Overcome and I'd Rather Be an Engineer, among others. I went to union meetings, union picnics, union softball games, and, every two years, the big NALC convention in some big city. This was really exciting because it meant we got to travel (dad was a delegate and so I think a lot of the expenses were paid for, or else we would have been at the Jersey Shore for vacation). It also meant I got to run around some HUGE fancy hotel for a week with the other union brats. It was the 70's, so as long as you didn't do any damage or get the police involved, yes, your mother would let you explore the farthest reaches of the Chicago Hilton. It is quite grand and I was dually impressed when my father told me about the riots that took place out front the year I was born.

So this is my filter, it's my experience. When I say I believe that protest is vital to democracy, or that corporate money disproportionately influence American politics, I am arguing through that filter. I may be biased, but I am NOT lying.

Mom told us it tasted just like butter. THAT was a lie.
This past weekend, if you've been living under a rock, a woman was killed and dozens injured when a car plowed into a group of people walking away from a protest. Heather Heyer was in Charlottesville, VA to counter-protest the white supremacist rally in her town. I'm not going into all the details, you can find plenty of that online. But lets take two disparate responses to Heather Heyer's death: 

From the Alt-Right (original site has been removed)

I'm not sure that Heather Heyer thought of herself as a comrade, although maybe she did. I am 100% certain she didn't think of herself as “A 32-year-old woman without children... a burden on society and has no value.”

Those are both biased views of a woman unknown to the writers. The basic facts of the story are true; Heather Heyer was a 32 year old woman, she died at a protest, she was childless. Calling her either "comrade" or "fat slut" (yes they did) is putting a biased slant on it to evoke an emotional reaction. That is propaganda. 

  1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
  2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
  3. the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.
There is another bias that appears in news articles that's not propaganda but it does, intentionally or not, set a tone that can impact the reader's perception of what's happening. A well-known story bias came out of the reporting on Hurricane Katrina: 

Looting or Finding?
The picture is from this Salon article that explains the whole thing, in summary, in the days after Hurricane Katrina, people responded to different pictures capturing survivors: the pictures of black people taking things from stores were captioned as "looting" and the pictures of white people taking things were captioned as "finding." More recently, people have pointed out a tendency of journalists to use the word "terrorist" when the perpetrator is a Muslim, but not when they're non-muslim.  This is bias and there are whole web pages devoted to avoiding it when writing.

     Bias: verb (used with object)biased, biasing or (especially Britishbiassed, biassing.
  1.  to cause to hold or exhibit a particular bias; to influence, especiallyunfairly: a tearful plea designed to bias the jury;
e.g. a survey biased toward highly educated people.

This brings us to FAKE NEWS:

"consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.[1] Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention." ( You should read the whole thing, it's pretty good

Fake news is completely made up. Pizzagate is fake.   Oliver Stone faking the moon landing for NASA is fake. 

A twitter post about Outback Steakhouses locations forming a pentagram is fake news. Huffpo's reporting of the tweet is dubious news. 

BUT the problem with fake news, as opposed to entertainment or satire sites, is that they are being set up to promote fake stories about political leaders and then bots are being used to promote the stories and give them widespread coverage. Sometimes for money or power, for hits and advertising, or just for shits and giggles. These entrepreneurial teens from Macedonia were raking in hundreds and thousands of dollars by posting sensational stories during the Trump campaign. 

Common sense media has a guide to figuring out if a story is fake and what can be done about it. In nursing school I learned to be wary of media sources, especially on the internet. You should ask yourself: 

  • Is this coming from a known and trusted news source. Even if they have a left/right wing bias, did they get the FACTS straight. If you have the facts, you can probably figure out the bias
  • Does it sound too sensational to be true. We have this amazing new invention called The Google. Take 5 minutes to search and get confirmation on the story. 
  • Who is profiting from this?
Here is a link to 10 fact-checking websites. 

*I like progressive, because I'm FOR PROGRESS as opposed to being LIBERAL, like a grandma who gives away too many cookies. FYI. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Why You Should, No Must, Vote 3rd Party for NJ Governor

I’m voting for Seth Kaper-Dale, the Green Party candidate for NJ Governor, this Tuesday. It’s not a secret, it’s all over my social media and I’ve talked about him to anyone who will listen. 

I am a life-long, registered Democrat. So is my father, so was my mother. So where my grandparents. A strong union family, I grew up singing songs like, “Joe Hill” and “Which side are you on?” My father also taught me songs like, “We Shall Overcome” and “If you miss me in the back of the bus,” because, as a union leader, he knew that working class people had more similarities than differences. Prejudice had no place in our home, people were judged on their merits, not the color of their skin or their gender or any other outwardly defining characteristic. 

I grew up thinking that Democrats were the great equalizers of society. We didn’t talk down about Republicans, we just weren’t rich enough to be them. 

Now we’re days away from the election and I’m seeing people put on the Facebook pages, “Not voting is like voting Republican” and the perennial opinion that voting 3rd party steals votes from Democrats. And I’m here to tell you, New Jersey Democrats, you are wrong, wrong, wrong. 

In the last NJ Governor election, almost 65% of eligible voters didn’t vote. 65%. I don’t know their affiliation, I don’t care. That is 65% of voters that you didn’t reach, NJ Democratic Party, and it’s starting to seem like you don’t care if you reach them or not. For an election where we are all apparently sick of Chris Christie and his crowd, Phil Murphy has had pretty low visibility. It almost seems like he assumes he’s going to win. If that doesn’t piss you off, it should. I am tired of seeing Democrat candidates act like they deserve to win by spouting off a few key phrases: jobs, schools, middle class. Who’s middle class anymore, Phil? Most people I know are working 2- 3 jobs and are 1 paycheck away from financial disaster. And the Democrats are preaching to the choir, ignoring the needs of the majority of NJ residents because they know IT WON’T MATTER, THEY DON’T VOTE ANYWAY. 

I refuse to consider my vote for Seth Kaper-Dale a “throwaway” vote. Whoever wins Tuesday, it’s because they got the most votes. Period. If Murphy loses to Guadagno, it’s not because anyone “wasted” their vote, it’s because he Didn’t. Get. Enough. Votes. 

But I’m not certain of Murphy’s win. I’m betting on the guy who is going after that 65%. A guy who is going after those folks who don’t vote, “because it doesn’t matter.” The people who feel disenfranchised, unlistened to, overlooked. If you are a part of that 65%, go out and vote Tuesday. You can vote for Seth Kaper-Dale, who I happen to know and think is awesome, but vote for someone. Because that’s Democracy. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we got. And let the best person win.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How I Cook

I like to think that I'm less of a cook and more of a jazz performer. Cause I like to riff off of what others have already done. Also, I'm pathologically incapable of following a recipe. I mean, I have a weird variety of pantry items (e.g. pork fois gras)and a limited amount of time. Seriously, who has 2 teaspoons of Grains of Paradise in their larder? (Looking at you, Alton Brown).

Let's dissect an evening's meal decisions; they must be homemade, reasonably healthy and daughter-approved, but without relying on cheese or potatoes, which are the mainstays of her diet. Dinnertime approaches and I have a hankering for eggs. Daughter will eggs, I think, scrambled. Husband will eat eggs. I look in the fridge and discover I am the proud owner of a dozen and a half eggs. So far, so good. I google "egg recipes for dinner" and discover that Buzzfeed has 25 Delicious Ways to Eat Eggs for Dinner.  I love Buzzfeed, so that's what I click. They have many and sundry dinner-egg recipes-Croque Madame Casserole, Baked Eggs in Avocados...but I settle on this: Pappardelle with Chanterelles in a Light Cream Sauce. Doesn't that sound lovely? I am as likely to find pappardelle in the local Stop & Shop as I am of finding Adele roaming the aisles, but I am not deterred. Off to the store I go.

First, I go to Pino's, the local liquor store/drinking establishment/hipster hub. The recipe calls for Chardonnay and by God, Chardonnay we will have. I find a nice Mendocino Chardonnay for $12.99. It says Mendocino right on the label and it has a flower. I'm sold. Then I head to S&S. There is, of course, no pappardelle. Because, outside of Brooklyn, the only pappardelle to be had is made by Ligurian grannies. Or is that Tagliatelle? I ponder the immensity of Italian pasta choices and settle on Barilla's cansarecce, made by Sicilian grandmas. Or something. Seems homey and meant to be eaten al dente, so I buy it. Stop & Shop is also lacking in chanterelle mushrooms, so I  buy ready-sliced baby bellas. And Italian parsley and frozen organic peas. Because baby bella mushrooms NEED peas. They go together like, I don't know, peas and carrots. I do NOT buy parmesan, which will haunt me in the end, but never mind, I'm committed.

Back home, hubby has put water on to boil. I crack open said Chardonnay because I'm not the only one who can drink and cook. I see that there are uncooked brussel sprouts in the fridge. I put the oven on to roast because no matter what else happens, my daughter is sure to eat brussel sprouts. And then she has a vegetable and I'm a good mom. And I have bacon. Brussel sprouts and bacon-that's love, right there. So I figure I'll cut up the bacon real small, cook it and put some in the sprouts and some in the pasta, as if it's pancetta. Genius. The recipe doesn't call for pancetta. Whatever. Pork is always welcome in an Italian meal. The bacon is frying, the oven is heating and the water is boiling. Va bene.

I realize that daughter probably won't eat cansarecce, cuz it's foreign. So I cook the pasta and when it's done, I'll use the water to cook tortellini for her. I pour myself a glass of Chardonnay. I cut brussel sprouts and onions and garlic. Once the bacon is done, I put sprouts in the pan, season with salt and pepper and put in a 425 degree oven. When I'm satisfied that the pasta is "to the tooth", I fish it out of the water, put it in a bowl and cover, and start cooking tortellini. By now I have another pan with olive oil heating and put in the cut up garlic, onion and then mushrooms. And thyme. I despaired of finding it, but I did still have some in the fridge. And everyone knows thyme and mushrooms and peas are so yummy together.

I'm worried the sprouts won't be done in time. I didn't cut them in half like I usually do, for science, but now I'm worried the bacon will burn before they're cooked. I had meant to save some of the bacon for the pasta but then said fuck it and now all the bacon AND sprouts are baking happily together. mushrooms, onions and garlic and making a lovely smell in the kitchen. I have more wine. Wine is not really for thirst, right? Cause I'm thirsty, too, but surely the Romans drank wine for thirst. Thus assured, I add wine and broth to the mushroom mix. And let it simmer. I take a spoonful of liquid from the pan and put it in a jam jar with some corn starch. I wanted to use flour, but Gary had cooking class this week and the flour is in the trunk of the car. I stir it together. When the pan looks all "simmery" I add the corn starch liquid back in and let it simmer some more. Meanwhile, the tortellini are done. I add more olive oil and salt and call daughter to come get. I let her know that brussel sprouts are still cooking. I portion out the cansarecce into 2 bowls and add the mushroom mix over the top. I have washed and rough chopped parsley, which goes on top. Gar comes up, goes to pour himself a glass of wine and says, "where'd the wine go?" "In the recipe," I say. And my belly. Anyhoo, He takes the brussel sprouts out of the oven because by this point I'm on my third glass of wine and clearly too drunk to take things out of the oven. Gar takes bowl and wine glass and heads downstairs. I take my bowl of pasta, mushrooms, onions and peas, and brussel sprouts and bacon and head toward my favorite chair. People seem to be eating and the animals are up in my grill trying to see what I'm eating. No sounds at all from any level of the house as people chow down. My brussels and pasta combine together in such a glorious way that I wish I would have eliminated the middle man and just put the sprouts and bacon straight into the pasta. Then I take a taste and realize that Brussel sprouts taste like cannabis smells. I text this valuable insight to Gar, downstairs. He yells up,"I know, right?" And a happy dinner is had by all.


Heat oven to 425
Put pot of water with T of Salt on to boil
Heat frying pan with 2 T of good olive oil

Boil ~300g canserecce pasta in the salt water
Fry up chopped up bacon-4 or 5 slices
clean and cut Brussel sprouts

when bacon is almost done, add sprouts and salt and pepper to pan, put in oven. Stir every 5 minutes or so.

When pasta is done, put in plates, cover to keep warm
Get a frying pan, heat olive oil and "bless" the oil with garlic.
Sautee onions and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add mix to pasta when ready.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I miss my mom

I miss her in ways I didn't expect. I think, "I should call mom today." And then I remember that she's not there. She's not here, she's not anywhere. No where I can call, anyway.

I miss her when I go to call my dad, and my phone says "Mom & Mick" on the screen. I missed her last week after I had a tearful talk with the 18 year old daughter of a patient dying from cancer. I missed her when I had a sick, 78 year old woman who was scared, I missed her when I had a funny ER story to share with her. I missed her when I couldn't remember where Grandma was born.

At the same time, I have the weird and also unanticipated sensation that I can't believe she's dead. It's like I'm fine and then all the sudden I'm plunged into icy water. It's not sadness. I'm not sure what it is. How is it possible that she can be dead? How can my mother be dead? I have never lived one second of life without her until 28 days ago. I knew, from a certain age, that theoretically she would die, it just didn't seem likely. Now I live with the conflicting sensation that she is both dead and that her being dead is not possible.

But still, she is not here.

I lived with the reality of her mortality from the minute I heard her diagnosis. Her one doctor took me aside to make sure that I understood the enormity of her condition and that we'd get her to a leukemia specialist. I knew it when that specialist reviewed everything with us and said that he had one patient who lived two whole years while receiving cancer treatment. When your doctor is optimistic about a two year survival rate, you know this can't be good.

She did not get two years. She got seven months from diagnosis to death. Nine, maybe ten months from when she started not feeling well. Here's the kicker-the chemo was working. It was keeping the leukemia down (but not remission, there's no remission for a 78 year old with AML). It's just that it was killing everything else: her heart, her lungs, her bone marrow. Every treatment resulted in hospitalization, in blood product replacement, in fluid overload and heart failure. Every time. I'm not enough of a nurse to know oncology, but I know hearts. "Mom, why didn't they give you lasix after the transfusion?" "Mom, why are your numbers still low?"

"I don't know," She'd say, "That's what the doctor ordered." She was an old school nurse and had complete faith in medicine. You didn't challenge the doctor or maybe she didn't want to know. I only know that they only had to mention hospice once to her and she made the decision to come home. She was tired of spending every other month in the hospital and I guess she just knew. She told my brother, "Look, either the cancer's going to get me, or my heart will. One or the other." So she came home.

My mom was not my best friend. I hated every mother's day when people would post these sickly sweet things about their mom and how she was always there for them, or whatever. My mother was not always there. I said if you wanted to hang yourself, she'd make sure you had enough rope. That's an ungenerous thing to say, but she did say that she thought it was best to mind her own business and stay out of her children's affairs. I always wanted to ask her why, but I didn't want to challenge her, or maybe I didn't want to know. And she didn't really want anyone to know about her problems either. One day I was over her house and found insulin in the fridge. "Oh, yeah, that's for my diabetes." I asked her how long she had had diabetes and she just waved her hand, "For a while." It wasn't denial. When we cleaned out her stuff I found notebooks dating back at least 20 years, written in her neat, Palmer Method cursive. Dates, blood sugars, amount of insulin injected. She never wavered. She may not have questioned her doctors, she did not question her 1950's ideas of nutrition, but she was meticulous about keeping track. She probably had diabetes for a decade before I found out. It just wasn't really important enough to talk about.

She'd nonchalantly bring up information about herself, so the best thing, if you wanted to know something, was to hang out, ask a few innocuous questions and get her talking. One day, when I was about 10, she was talking with some women at a party. We had migrated into the kitchen, as women used to do, and she mentioned that she had had 2 miscarriages. I was stunned. I thought I was nine years younger because I was an accident. I never asked for too many details. Decades later we were discussing women's rights and, out of nowhere, she opened up about how hard it was to carry a dead baby inside of you for 5 months, because in the 1960's they wouldn't give a woman drugs to induce labor, nor would they do a D&C on a woman who had fetal demise. They "let nature take its course." I was horrified. She waved it away, "That's how they handled things back then."

I know she was proud of me. She told me. She was proud that when I struggled through being a single mom and finished nursing school. She told me how proud she was that I was independent. She told me how proud I was when I went back to school and got my BSN, something she couldn't see in person because she was hospitalized again.  And I was proud of her. I was proud that I had a mom who went out to work and was a nurse and did cool things, like help operate on people. I was proud that I had a mom who never batted an eye to anything I did, who I brought home, or what I spouted off about. "Just don't go on Jerry Springer and tell the whole world." Which, to my credit, I never did. Thank you, mom.

She didn't say I love you, much. A handful of times, I think I can remember them all. She always made sure I had food, had a place to do my laundry, someone to watch my kids. When I was single mom she and my dad drove all over NJ to pick up and drop off my daughter when I worked. But she did say it, now and then and before she died.

You didn't tell me a lot of things, but you showed me. And I miss you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Entertain the Stranger

I'd much rather write this anonymously.

I don't want it to look like I'm tooting my own horn.

"If I could toot my own horn, I'd never leave the house"

Honestly, it's a reinforcement of a lesson that I kinda already knew. A review never hurts, though.

This week I turned down a job. A per diem job, to be sure. Not a major career change. I just thought that once I graduate I'll have soooo much free time I might as well take on a second job. Don't judge. So I applied for a job in Executive Health. If you don't know, Executive Health is for people who have money, or who work for companies that have money, who pay above and beyond in order to have "concierge health." That's a nice way of saying that with enough moolah, you get a sweet suite and all the doctors you possible need come to you: cardiologist, gynecologist, GI, whathaveyou. They examine you, take your blood, perform your stress test, check under the hood, all in one day. With lunch thrown in. Because VIP's are very, very, busy people who don't have time to schedule multiple doctors appointments, tests, etc. Unlike the rest of us who work two jobs, clean our own toilets, raise our own kids and still need to fit in healthcare. It goes without saying that these VIPs need their own nurse for the day. 

I'm not sure what I was thinking. I guess I thought it'd be a break away from the sweaty masses in the ER for a few hours. My husband said it might lead to networking and new possibilities. And I am, if I say so myself, gracious and pleasant and customer friendly. In the ER, they usually give me the VIPs. At which point I steal myself and do my very bestest to please, even though I rather take care of a dozen pregnant meth-heads than one rich person. 

God, I'm going to die poor, aren't I?

but rich in spirits. I mean spirit. 

In other news,  this week I offered to help my church welcome a woman and her daughter from Afghanistan. They are refugees and I didn't know anything about them except (maybe) the woman is a doctor in her own country and her daughter is 7.  My pastor gave me a hundred bucks and asked if I could buy some groceries so that when they arrived in their new housing it wasn't completely void of sustenance. Yes! I love grocery shopping. A little too much, because I wanted to buy them everything. In the interest of time and money, however, I did ask some Muslim friends what people from that part of the world might want and/or need. And then proceeded to buy twice as much stuff and probably could have bought three times more. Because really, how do you start with nothing? I mean, you need salt and oil and baking soda and I don't know, look at all the stuff that's in your pantry and imagine having to replace it all. I settled for salt and pepper, garlic and onions, some veggies and fresh fruit. Granola, cereal and two kids of yoghurt. Canned soup, carnation milk and fresh milk. Coffee and tea. Sugar. Potatoes, lentils and rice. I forget, some other stuff. Gerber daisies, because they're bright and cheerful and strawberries because they're in season. And Oreos! Because I asked the daughter, "If you were coming to America for the first time, what cookie would you want to try first?" And Oreos was the answer.

I got to the apartment which had already been furnished by churchy people and someone had dropped off toiletries, bed sheets, towels, and other basics. Being in a transitional housing apartment really brought back some PTSD  memories. The place was perfunctory and clean, dingy, but at least it didn't smell of cabbage, urine, or mildew. The furniture was pretty mish-mash, as my daughter would say. I put the groceries away but I didn't like the layout of the furniture. So I moved the kitchen table, set the chairs around it and rearranged the chairs in the teeny-tiny living room until the person on the first floor asked me to stop. I laid out the toiletries in the bathroom. Then, I looked at the bedroom and thought, no one wants to travel 16 hours from Afghanistan, move into a strange, dingy apartment and have to make their own bed. So I made the bed. Hospital corners, that's how I roll. Now, instead of feeling like you're in some strange apartment, you'll feel a little like it's a hotel. Maybe. Someone had gotten new clothes and a jacket for the girl, so I laid them out on the bed, like I was a Ladies Maid. Someone else had purchased a little girl's pink backpack, notebook and some play-do, which I put out on the kitchen table with the daisies and called it a night. At least now the apartment looked a little homey.

Then I thought about the other families living in this place and wondered how many of them had gotten this kind of welcome when they moved in? Probably zero. When I lived in transitional housing, you were shown to your bare room or apartment carrying whatever you could on your person. It wasn't prison, but it was pretty grim. God knows, you weren't there because good things were happening in your life. Wouldn't it have been nice if someone had put in a just a little pot of Gerber daisies and a welcome sign? This is my type of concierge service. If I could, I'd go around to every apartment with a loaf of bread, some coffee, flowers and maybe a nice picture or throw rug to brighten the place up. And I'd make the bed, with new sheets, because used sheets and pillows are gross. I'd leave a mint on the pillow and have a directory on the bedside table: the nearest bus route, grocery, library. People need nice things. Not expensive,  just nice. I don't know the bible verse, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't say, "give the poor the crap you don't want". It says, "entertain the stranger." Entertain. Be their host. Make it nice.

whaddya mean you're not hungry?

The pay is crap, but I feel better at the end of the day. Almost like a human being, or something.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The last few days of summer

getting buried in the sand

blanket drying in the breeze

ready for adventure

the best end to a summer's day

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Do people in non-humid climes know what muggy is? It seems like a word I've known all my life.

When I was a kid, we didn't have air conditioning (or cable, an answering machine or a microwave).

We did have a really enormous metal fan that took up the entire window at the top of the stairs, with metal bars that covered the front in concentric circles. It was no where close to being child safe. As a child I would give myself the heebie-jeebies by standing in front of it and imaging what would happen if I slipped my fingers inside the bars while the industrial size fan, big enough to power a small plane, noisily buzzed. Then I'd slide down the wooden railing to the living room below. Cause that's how we did back then.

At night, the whole neighborhood would sit on their front stoop, fan themselves and yell across the street to each other while trying to catch the occasional breeze. Ah, the 70's.

Anyway, today is really muggy. Here's a definition of muggy, if you want. But really it's like someone threw a warm, wet blanket over you and held you down. UGH.

I also found out today that a dear man from church is dying. Now the weather is matching my mood. I'm mad, mad at myself, for not getting to know him better, not spending more time with him. He is a wise and kindly person, I think I could have learned a lot from him. And now it's too late. That makes me feel sort of the same way, like I was blind sided by a big layer of hot fog and it's settled down over my whole being. And I had a fight with the husband, a discussion that turned hotter by the minute because neither of us backs down. I'm so tired of doing everything, including working on things. Couldn't I just have a day or two on autopilot, where everything is nice and lovely and goes the way it should.

So I laid down in a dark, hot room with the fan blowing on me and contemplated my existence. And I really missed my grandparents. I wish I could have known them as an adult. A middle-aged adult, not the selfish, always in an emergency, always busy snot of a 20 year old that I was then. I think by the time my grandma and I started to get to know each other, she was dying and it was too late. She knew, though, she finally knew what I was all about before she went, and accepted me, so that's something.

It all goes so fast. Sorry to be a downer, but it does. I am now at the age where I can look back and see things I should have done DECADES ago. God, I was so depressed. Why is life so complicated? Why do we fight? Why do we have to lose something before we see what it means to us? But, as usual, I got up, figured out some stuff I needed to do and did it, ate and drank something and got back to the business of living, muggy or no.