Category Archives: Childhood Traumas

Earth Day / Science / Judy

Earth Day.  The Science March (which I sadly can’t attend until Science gets around to curing my damn Crohn’s Disease).  My late sister Judy’s birthday.  So I’m reposting this.  Hey – Jude believed firmly in recycling!

***

She’s been gone now for 17 years, Jude.  Not a day has gone by since that I haven’t wanted to talk with her, laugh with her, or, alternatively because she was my sister, smack her.  There really isn’t a relationship like you have with a sister.  Even long after they are gone.

*****

Today, April 22, is Earth Day!  It’s the Anniversary of the very first Earth Day.  Here  is Walter Cronkite’s report on the first Earth Day, 1970:

It would also be my late sister Judy’s 65th birthday.

Whoever made the decision to turn Judy’s birthday into Earth Day chose wisely.  Judy was a born environmentalist and recycler.

On the first Earth Day, Judy was a new, very young mother who believed in saving the planet.  She was the first “environmentalist” I ever knew personally, and well, I thought she was nuts.  There was a recycling bin in her kitchen for as long as I can remember.  And this was back when recycling took effort.  She believed in gardens, not garbage, and she made life bloom wherever she was.

I’ve got kids,” she’d say.  “It’s their planet too!”  

But years later, Judy took recycling to a whole different level when she helped people recycle themselves.  In the 1990s, Jude, who was then living in Florida, began working with the Homeless, assisting at shelters.   Then she actively began trying to help homeless vets food, shelter and work — to enable them to jump-start their lives.

When she died in early 2000, the American Legion awarded her honorary membership for her services to homeless vets.  A homeless shelter was named in her  honor.  So she’s still doing good works, my sister is.  That would make her wildly happy.

Jude also gave me the Beatles.  So it is very appropriate that they wrote a song for her.

You see, the night the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, it was MY turn to choose what we were going to watch.  And we were going to watch the second part of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh starring Patrick McGoohan on the Wonderful Wide World of Disney.  My four (all older and MUCH cooler) siblings were furious with me.  But I was quite insistent.  You might even say that I threw a Class I temper tantrum over it, but I wouldn’t admit to that.  Hey, I was seven.  And it was my turn to choose.  Fair is fair, especially in a big family with only one TV.

Somehow, Judy talked me out of my turn.  She was always very persuasive.  Thanks Jude.

Hey Jude, Happy Earth Day-Birthday.

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Only I Would Call It “Poop Week”

In May 2012, about a year after I started blogging, I came out of the closet here on FiftyFourAndAHalf.  Out of the water closet that is.  I fessed up.

I posted this:

My life is shitty.

No, no, no.  I can’t say that, they’ll think I’m suicidal.

My life is in the toilet.

Ditto.

Saturday, May 19th is World IBD Day.  World Irritable Bowel Disease Day.

That’s it!

Recently I learned about this, umm, holiday.  It is a very personal one for me.  Way more personal than I want to admit.  But of course it’s not my fault.   I blame my sister, Judy.

You see, some time in the late sixties Judy pasted a picture on the front of the medicine cabinet above the toilet in our one bathroom.

*

Little did I know at whatever tender age I was that that picture would illustrate my life.  Because in 1972, not long after it went up, I found out that I had ulcerative colitis.  An inflammatory bowel disease.  The bloody flux.  I was in and out of the bathroom and the hospital for much of my teens and early 20s.  What a blast!

Long story short, it ended up that I didn’t have colitis!  But we only found that out when a bunch of men (led by Dr. Herbert Hoover) came at me with knives, removed my large intestine and reorganized my plumbing.  That was when they found out that I really had Crohn’s Disease.

Crohn’s Disease, is, well, worse.  Partly because I can’t for the life of me spell it.  But also because it means I still spend way too much time in the bathroom (although I am very well read).  Oh, and it can affect the entire rest of your body.  Trust me when I say it’s nasty, and that there is no cure.  I would be delighted if that were to change in my lifetime.

*****

Fast forward to now, today, December 7, 2016.  Today ends Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week.  There will be a Thunderclap of posts, and tweets, blogs, and Facebook postings to call attention to Crohn’s and Colitis — to Irritable Bowel Disease — diseases that are often “invisible.” Because unless a person goes onto the Internet and proclaims that their life is in the toilet, well, nobody knows.  Unless perhaps if they are in the next stall.

In all seriousness, 1.6 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from Crohn’s or colitis.  These diagnoses are life changing — they cramp not just your gut, but your life.  Your life really does revolve around the toilet.

So I have a favor to ask of you guys.

You’ve all been wonderful, supportive friends, who have laughed with me about my poop problems.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Or maybe just from my bottom.

But here is the favor.

I have been working with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America to get member of the House of Representatives to join the Congressional Crohn’s and Colitis Caucus.  These Representatives will, hopefully, help direct funding into research towards a cure.  To, in fact, get me (and 1,599,999 others) off the pot.

Please send an email to your Congressman/woman (you can find their information here:  http://www.house.gov/representatives/) and ask them to join the Caucus.  In fact, just cut and paste this into the email/form:

PLEASE JOIN THE CONGRESSIONAL CROHN’S & COLITIS CAUCUS!

Led by Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL-4) and Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), the Congressional Crohn’s & Colitis Caucus is a bipartisan group of Members of Congress dedicated to educating their colleagues and the American public on Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The Caucus works together to raise awareness, support IBD medical research, and protect patient access to care. The Caucus also works to assert the patient perspective in regulatory decision-making, including the development of a biosimilar regulatory pathway. To join or to learn more information, please contact Matthew Moore in Rep. Crenshaw’s office (matthew.moore@mail.house.gov; 202-225-2501), or Dana Miller in Rep. Lowey’s office (dana.miller@mail.house.gov; 202-225-6506).

Thanks.  You guys are the best.

be-idvisible

 

 

 

 

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The Show Must Go On, Usually

Of course I said yes, even though I had never before had any interest in going on stage.  It wasn’t every day that I was asked to participate.  Usually it was the popular kids who got to perform.  I certainly didn’t qualify.

But Liza was in charge, and Liza was my friend.  Liza was also the tallest kid in 6th grade.  I was the third smallest (Betsy and Annette were smaller, if you’re wondering).  So I was perfect for the part of George Washington’s granddaughter.  Liza, the playwright and tall person, would play General George Washington at the end of the Revolutionary War.

We were set to perform Liza’s play in front of the 4th, 5th and 6th graders on the big stage in the auditorium.  We were even allowed to open and close the stage curtains!

auditorium

Google Image

My part was small, but important — General George Washington’s granddaughter, Nelly.  This is how my big scene was supposed to go.

Following a couple of battle scenes, General George/Liza appears in the living room of his granddaughter, Nelly, who is delighted to see him.  Nelly/Elyse runs up to Grandpa/Liza, and jumps up to give Grandpa a big hug, and say:

“Grandpa!”  Then I was to slowly get down, looking at how Grandpa George/Liza is dressed — in civilian clothes, and continue: “Where are your pretty soldier clothes?”

“I have put them away for good, Nelly,” Grandpa George/Liza responds.  “The War is over.”

It didn’t quite go that way during our performance, though.  Because you see, I was a little bit over excited.  So when it was time for my big scene, well …

The curtain opened…

“GRANDPA!” I screamed, and I ran at Grandpa George/Liza like a ball of fury, and I jumped!

I jumped so hard, in fact, that Grandpa George/Liza dropped me on my butt before falling on his.

You know the adage “the show must go on?  Well I’m assuming I’d never heard it.  I was quite young you see.

I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to deliver the rest of my lines.  Liza managed to choke hers out, somehow.  We were greeted with riotous applause when we did our curtain call.  I’m pretty sure that the kids in the audience liked the improvised version better than the original.

It was years before I would get up the courage to get on stage again.  And while I never again literally fell flat, I did have additional humiliating experiences, so obviously my fear was justified.

***

I tell this story because someone who followed me in school, and performed in my high school acting group just hit the big time.  And not with her butt.

Alison Porter, who won The Voice last night, also grew up in my hometown, Westport, Connecticut.  She is wildly talented.  And upright.

 

Of course I have never met her, or seen her perform in real life.  Still, it’s good to see a hometown girl make good, standing on her own two feet.

 

 

 

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I Found My Donor!

Well, it’s been a while since I discussed the topic that is near and dear to my, ummm, heart.

Poop transplants!  — The ultimate solution to my Crohn’s disease woes.

OK, it’s nearer to my hiney, but you can’t claim you weren’t expecting that.

Earlier today I was discussing my future poop transplant with my boss.  (It’s true, I have no pride what so ever.)  She’s very interested in the idea.  She wants me healthy, of course, but really, I think she wants to see what happens from a scientific perspective.  And, frankly, I can’t blame her.  I want to know what’ll happen from a scientific point of view, too.  And from the perspective of a toilet paper consumer.

You may recall that  I’ve mentioned that you have to be very choosy when choosing a poop donor.  If the donor is fat, or depressed, or psychotic, well, the recipient can become fat, or depressed or psychotic.  I haven’t researched what happens if you choose someone immature, though.  Perhaps I should.

Anyway, the issue was on my mind tonight when I began reading the news. And I found my donor!

He is young and healthy, albeit a little younger than I was thinking of;  he’s living in Florida with his mother.  In fact, it was his mom who brought him to my attention.  Well, and to the attention of people with a deep seated interest in poop.

One day Katy Vasquez discovered that the Lord moves in mysterious ways.  And goes into mysterious places.  Because, You see, one day when she was changing his diaper, she saw this sign that things were going to get better.:

Halla-Poo-Yah

This picture was taken by my donor’s mom, Katy Vasques, and posted to Facebook and the Huffington Post (where I saw it).

It’s Holy Shit!  What more could I ask for from a donor?

HALLA-POO-YAH!

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Earth Day/Birthday Redux

You may have seen this before, but I tried to write something new about my sister Judy.  And, well, this piece really just sums up who she was better than anything I’ve come up with since.

She’s been gone now for 16 years.  Not a day has gone by since that I haven’t wanted to talk with her, laugh with her, or, alternatively because she was my sister, smack her.  There really isn’t a relationship like you have with a sister.  Even long after they are gone.

*****

Today, April 22, is Earth Day!  It’s the  Anniversary of the very first Earth Day.  Here  is Walter Cronkite’s report on the first Earth Day, 1970:

It would also be my late sister Judy’s 64th birthday.

Whoever made the decision to turn Judy’s birthday into Earth Day chose wisely.  Judy was a born environmentalist and recycler.

On the first Earth Day, Judy was a new, very young mother who believed in saving the planet.  She was the first “environmentalist” I ever knew personally, and well, I thought she was nuts.  There was a recycling bin in her kitchen for as long as I can remember.  And this was back when recycling took effort.  She believed in gardens, not garbage, and she made life bloom wherever she was.

I’ve got kids,” she’d say.  “It’s their planet too!”  

But years later, Judy took recycling to a whole different level when she helped people recycle themselves.  In the 1990s, Jude, who was then living in Florida, began working with the Homeless, assisting at shelters.   Then she actively began trying to help homeless vets food, shelter and work — to enable them to jumpstart their lives.

When she died in early 2000, the American Legion awarded her honorary membership for her services to homeless vets.  A homeless shelter was named in her  honor.  So she’s still doing good works, my sister is.  That would make her wildly happy.

Jude also gave me the Beatles.  So it is very appropriate that they wrote a song for her.

You see, the night the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, it was MY turn to choose what we were going to watch.  And we were going to watch the second part of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh starring Patrick McGoohan on the Wonderful Wide World of Disney.  My four (all older and MUCH cooler) siblings were furious with me.  But I was quite insistent.  You might even say that I threw a Class I temper tantrum over it, but I wouldn’t admit to that.  But hey, I was seven.  And it was my turn to choose.  Fair is fair, especially in a big family with only one TV.

Somehow, Judy talked me out of my turn.  She was always very persuasive.  Thanks Jude.

Hey Jude, Happy Earth Day-Birthday.

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I Really Don’t Look for this Shit

Yeah, I know you don’t believe me. But I don’t go looking for this shit.  Really.

It’s just that, well, I spend a lot of time reading the news.  Because after all, you depend on me to let you know which way is up.  Or which way is down.  Or maybe just getting flush with it.

Because you see, a new museum has opened up, and we all need to get our asses over there.  — Mark, are you paying attention????

National Poo Museum opens doors on Isle of Wight

Just in time for you to plan your summer vacation! Can you imagine a better reward for your children, who suffered through the British Museum, the Tower of London and Madam Tussaud’s,  than the prize at the end of the tunnel than the National Poo Mueum?  The National Poo Museum, you will not be surprised to learn, is a museum dedicated to excrement, with examples from the animal and human world.

And it’s just opened up!

There are 20 kinds of poo captured in resin — who needs to bury or flush?

Poo Museum 1BBC Photo.  Because who else would claim this picture?

Because I couldn’t possibly make this up, I will just let you know exactly what they are producing at this museum:

The exhibition at the Isle of Wight Zoo features faeces from animals such as elks and lions as well as a human baby.

The National Poo Museum has been created by members of the artist collective Eccleston George.

“Poo is all around us and inside us, but we ignore it,” said co-curator Daniel Roberts.

Twenty illuminated resin spheres show off the different types of faeces with facts hidden behind toilet lids on the museum walls.

Poo Museum 2

They have handsome men offering fun activities.  Look!  Weigh your poo!  (But I promise you, this is a contest I would win.)

There is old poo and new poo.  Dino poo.  Seriously, if you have ever dreamed of dinosaur poo, this is your golden opportunity to see it.  Well, it’s probably more like black gold (Texas tea).

And I truly believe that what they say about poop is true:

“Small children naturally delight in it but later we learn to avoid this yucky, disease-carrying stuff, and that even talking about poo is bad,” he said.

“But for most of us, under the layers of disgust and taboo, we’re still fascinated by it.”

This is why I blog.

 

 

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Psst! Need a Christmas Tree?

Since I was a tomboy/ragamuffin hybrid as a kid, nobody called me “Princess.” And the one time I tried to be a princess – the time when I was 4 and dressed up as a princess for Halloween and fell on my face in a Queen-size mud puddle – that pretty much cured me of any princess fantasies I might have had.

But there was one time, one time, when I really did feel like a princess. I felt that like a princess because I stood in an actual ballroom.  That’s where princesses hang out, isn’t it?

I looked around the room in wonder.  It was, of course, huge.  I easily imagined hundreds of beautifully dressed dancers waltzing around the floor. There were floor-to-two-story-high-ceiling windows all along the back of the room, covered in Scarlett O’Hara’s curtains. Thick, heavy green velvet drapes with gold brocade tassels holding them back. And through them, I could see to the sea. Long Island Sound.

I had forgotten my cell phone that day in 1965, so I had to use Google Images. Tthanks, Google!

This isn’t the actual room, although there are similarities.   You see, I had forgotten my cell phone that day in 1965, and couldn’t snap a picture.  I had to use Google Images. Thanks, Google!

A balcony surrounded the ballroom on three sides, and it too rose way up. The floor is what I remember most clearly, though: Black and white marble, a massive checkerboard, without a single scuff mark in the entire room.

As was true of all of my childhood adventures (or since it was a princess-thing, perhaps I should call it a fantasy), this one came to me courtesy of my brother, Fred.

You see, Mr. Richardson, the wealthiest amongst our very wealthy neighbors, had invited us to his house. And we were to use the front door! Because we — me and Fred (and our sister Beth) — were heroes.  Heroes always use the front door.

Wanna know what happened?

Well, one hot summer day, Beth and I were out in the backyard, when Fred came racing in from the outer limits of our yard, near “the fields.“ The fields was a tract of land owned by Mr. Richardson, located behind our yard.  It stretched for several hundred acres. Part of it was meadow, but part of it was made up of small, neatly spaced and impeccably trimmed pine trees.

The Fields Behind My House. I think. Google Image. So really, it could be anywhere.

The Fields Behind My House. I think. Google Image. So really, it could be anywhere.

“Tax haven,” my Dad said, rolling his eyes, when he realized what Mr. R was planting.  “A Christmas tree farm.”

Well, yeah. Probably. Whatever.

But Mr. R believed in investing in land, and he bought anything he could. (He was away when our house went up for sale, or according to my Dad, my childhood would have been spent elsewhere.  I will always be thankful for that trip of Mr. R’s.)

Anyway, Fred came running in from the fields, shouting “FIRE!” “THERE’S A FIRE IN THE FIELDS!!”

Beth and I didn’t ask any questions, but apparently we rushed into the house, called the fire department, grabbed brooms and blankets and rushed out to where Fred had seen the fire. That’s where the fire department found us. We had contained the fire, and there was very little damage. Without our intervention, well, who knows what might have happened.

So back to the Ballroom.

Mr. Richardson had invited us over to thank us. And he gave us a gift!

“I want to thank you for putting out the fire in my fields.  You were very brave, and I am very proud of you both.  And as a reward, from now on, for as long as you and your family live in that house,” Mr. R said, “You and your family may take any Christmas tree you want from my field.”*

 

Before becoming heroes, we had managed to get our Christmas trees for the $2 that Dad bartered with with for as long as we all could remember.  But our heroism took us to the upper crust of Christmas trees.  Because from that year on my family did, indeed, get our Christmas trees from Mr. R’s field.  We chose the biggest and nicest of them all, cut it down, and dragged it home.

But (and you know there’s always a “but” or a “butt” in my stories), it wasn’t strictly Kosher.

You see, not a whole lot of years later, in 1972, Mr. Richardson died. He willed the land to the Audubon Society, and ever since then, the Audubon Society has been selling those very Christmas trees. No mention was made, apparently, in Mr. R’s Last Will and Testament, for heroes who got free Christmas trees. No mention at all.  Naturally that didn’t stop us. But we also didn’t mention our prior claim to the Audubon Society.

And there was another issue.

If you guessed that my brother, accidentally started the fire, well, I will simply remind you that the Statute of Limitations is 7 years.  We’re way past that.  The Statute of Limitations is still 7 years on Christmas tree theft, isn’t it?

* I think there might have been other rewards; at least I hope so. Because I’ve always thought of Mr. R as a really nice guy. After all, he let me be a princess that one time, and, honestly, it was pretty cool even if I was more Cinderella than Snow White.  So I don’t want to think he was a skinflint who just gave us kids, who wouldn’t be paying for them anyway, free Christmas trees, for saving them.  Then again, it was the 60s.  Everybody didn’t get a trophy.

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