they chose me

“Didn’t know you were such a dedicated bird photographer!” My response is always a surprised….“Neither did I!”

I survived last Fall/Winter (in a cast boot and rolling on a jaunty scooter) by dreaming of standing in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park.

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Visualizing the crisp air, the bellowing bison, the pristine river valley and me knee deep in all of it, I planned the trip when I wasn’t certain I would be walking unaided. I assembled my group of fellow-dreamers. My diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy transported me to a new normal. Doctors stressed the chronic and progressive nature of this disease. No cure. The pain, the fatigue, the barrage of puzzling symptoms laid me low. My nervous system was shot. Did I have any role in designing my new reality?

I knew I needed a new camera. My last trip to YNP involved shuffling lenses. I never had the proper lens. A rainbow!….quick get the wide-angle on! A bear…..OMG!where is the long lens? I drove the Texan crazy and exhausted myself with equipment requirements.

Since I wasn’t able to do much but nurse my wounds on the bedroom sofa, I researched new cameras. It was time to fold my lens poker hand. I won’t go into detail now, but I purchased the Sony RX10M4 to take to Yellowstone. I spent weeks scouring the manual trying to learn to take a decent photo. Where IS that ‘on’ button? (I won’t write about it now, but if anyone would like to know more about this camera or read a review of it, I’m happy to oblige.)

Now….back to the birds. As I gained mobility, I practiced with my new camera. I walked in the country and pointed the lens at birds barely visible to my naked eye.

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As I exercised my doxy in the front yard, birds dive-bombed me. Birds….longing to be photographed! I had no idea avians were such attention-seekers. A kite dive bombed me while he was hunting. He landed in a tree and let me snap photos while scarcely 5 feet away.

blackshoulderedkiteI had multiple close sightings of a red-tailed hawk calmly displaying his beauty and proclaiming his affection for Amarillo.

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Thrashers were hovering over cholla, scissor-tailed flycatchers were swooping, quail were partying in my backyard and there were cardinals perched on my roof.

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Look up!….look at me!….they sang in unison.

Boy…did I ever notice! A hawk parent with 2 babies to feed.

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An eagle regally perched on a tall dead tree on….Independence Day! He let me get ridiculously close before flying away.

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I observed the lanky blue heron as he shyly revealed himself to me. Had me crawling and creeping through the brush…adorned in camo…to watch him fish and fly and to get a decent capture. He was a model of patience.

The sweet momma on the side of our cabin sitting on her eggs every day. She taught me a lesson in devotion.

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The towhee who energetically ate insects off my parked car. He was an industrious superstar and exuded energy.

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The birds were everywhere. I witnessed a colorful parade every time I raised my chin. I felt like a breathless 6-year-old seeing these wondrous creatures for the very first time.

That’s the story of my bird photography. They present themselves and I try to observe. ‘Oww….my foot is feeling crushed today….oh look, there’s a meadowlark!

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‘My feet and hands are in the fires of hell and I’m scared!…..oh wow, did you see that falcon!?’

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‘My back won’t let me get out of bed……you say there’s a pair of kites copulating in the front yard?? I’m getting up!’ ‘This relentless, annoying ringing in my ears is making me batty. Now I know why Van Gogh chopped off his ear. I think I understand the motive for suicide now….but look at that rufous hummingbird!’

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The birds are my ‘SQUIRREL!!’, I guess.

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This fondness for the birds can make me….how should I say it?….a wee bit strange. During my last two golfing attempts…..while trying to tee off….

“Kathy….what are you doing?”

Can’t you hear THAT?

“What?”

There’s a hawk calling!

“Hit the d*** ball!!”

But the blackbirds! The blackbirds are telling me they’re on the reeds by the pond!

“Will you please address the ball? There’s a group behind us!”

My aim is not to take professional quality photographs, although I’m doing my best and learning along the way. I’m simply observing these gorgeous cheerleaders as I wobble along my meandering path. I’m making impossible decisions about my health and my body. The birds remind me to keep my gaze fixed skyward. I can be like a sticky, annoying 6-year-old shoving my latest artwork in your face. But, perhaps your path is uneven, steep, shadowy and your stride is tentative and stumbling. Maybe you could use a glimpse of something insignificant yet impossibly glorious as you begin your day’s journey.  I admit it….I want you to feel astonishment that the God who created the eagle, the flycatcher and the dazzling rufous thought the world needed one of you, too.

That’s my bird story. Time to go…I hear a blue quail calling.

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6-year-old love to all.

if I was your cell phone

I’m pretty sure you’d be demanding a refund. After dropping your phone, you noticed some glitches and they’re making you spew expletives.  *&+##*!! How could a gentle doink produce so many problems? Didn’t you just dress it in the newest and sportiest camo Ballistic cover?!

After being diagnosed with a stress fracture in September, my foot was put in a boot and I was told to be non weight bearing. I used a sporty scooter to ambulate. Problem was…..the foot became more and more painful. It wasn’t healing. One day I noticed my entire right leg was bright red and my foot was swollen and icy cold. Water droplets from the shower were like needles piercing my skin. After being lectured by the podiatrist for 4 months I was being overactive and continuing to injure my foot, he finally diagnosed me with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy CRPS/RSD. A condition so nice they named it twice. “Whatever you do, don’t Google it. You need an appointment with a pain clinic”. I Googled it. My nervous system is shot. No cure. Your phones’ motherboard is no bueno.

You’ve dutifully changed the battery, but your phone either doesn’t work or it pursues a devious purpose all its’ own. When you call your love-interest, it insists on calling your minister. 50 times! That’s when you take the battery out and stomp it. When you get the new battery installed….and the phone is blessedly working….the first received call is from your pastor. “Are you OK?! I’ve been getting calls from you ALL DAY!”

CRPS causes a myriad of unusual symptoms. A pain in the hip, a twinge in the knee, a muscle sprain in the back. Your toenails/fingernails take on a ridge-y yellow, thick cast and even seem to quit growing. Your hair falls out. (I’ve taken to wearing a weave….that can be a stand-alone blog post)

 

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The fabulous Johnny Plant making it look like I have thick, glossy hair!

 

 

The worst symptom for me is the speeding freight train of full-body small fiber neuropathy. Imagine a pitcher of ice-cold water being slowly poured over your head. The frigid water begins meandering down your spine. It picks up speed as it grips your arms all the way to your blue fingertips. It completes the journey as it trickles down your legs and pools at your fragile feet. No cure….just gabapentin or lyrica to try to ease symptoms.

 

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reading the lyrica side-effects info

 

 

Oh….and of course….a good dose of antidepressant. Gotta get more serotonin in the brain! On bad days the frigid water over my nerves is incessant and makes me upset, confused and grumpy. On good days, I feel like my feet and hands are periodically held over a smoldering campfire. S’mores, anyone?

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Your dropped phone doesn’t play videos very well now, either. Oh….you can see them, but sometimes they blur and the sound is crackly. So much for your Netflix subscription and your THE CROWN addiction.

I’m grateful for my sight and I take special care of my eyes because of the problems from Sjogren’s Syndrome. But sometimes I wonder whose glasses I’m wearing. Details aren’t always crisp and clear. My hearing seems to be OK, but there’s been this constant high-pitched screeching in both my ears. Well that is, until last night. Told the Texan I woke up several times in the night thinking the ceiling fan motor was on the fritz as it had developed an annoying, rhythmic whirring and whooshing sound. Problem is, when I turned the fan off the annoying whirring, whooshing sound is now being produced in my right ear. Hey….I can hear it now! We don’t need a new ceiling fan, but you desperately need a new phone.

Sometimes your bestie complains that your calls are dropped. She states she can hear your voice through the microphone, but sometimes the sound is muddled.

I used to sing quite a bit. I suppose it’s natural to lose your voice as you age, but my voice is ‘like a box of chok-lits….you never know…….’ Yeah right. Blah, blah. I still try to offer my muddled and misunderstood voice to folks at the area nursing/veteran’s homes on Monday mornings with my senior choir from church. Nursing home residents mainly only care if you wear a smile and offer a warm hug and handshake. I can’t count on the quality of my voice, but I’m an enthusiastic hugger.

Finally, let’s explore the camera function of the dropped phone. Believe it or not, it takes pretty decent photos. You enjoy the editing choices, as well. A newer model phone might have a slightly bigger sensor but you’re pretty satisfied. Even though most of the functions of the phone are unreliable, the camera is still working pretty well. How about that?

I’ve enjoyed taking photos with my new camera (Sony
RX10m4….another whole blog post) every evening. I go out just before sundown to check on horses and look for photo opportunities.

 

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the common killdeer

 

 

The wiener dog waddles along and helps me with equipment. She’s really good at sniffing out possible subject matter, too.

 

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a recent hawk sighting

 

I’ve become the John Muir of the great West Texas mesquite forest or the Thoreau of the playa lakes. No detail is too mundane during the golden hour. I’m officially obsessed. I can hear the birds over the ringing and swooshing and I can still amble with my CRPS leg. Not too shabby. The scooter, wheelchair and walker are in the attic.

 

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An example of Muir-ing and Thoreau-ing on my golden hour photo tour

 

Thanks for hangin’ in with the phone analogy. I’ve been thinking of how to describe what is going on with me without being pessimistic or ‘poor me’. I’ve been having some great days and blogging and oversharing help me laugh at these dumb chronic diseases. The pain doc has been my godsend. She tries to keep me going. I’m probably not the person you want to engage in conversation about the opioid crisis or legalized marijuana. More blog post subject matter? Maybe so.

Know you are coping with your own issues. Keep laughing and don’t fall into a hole while looking at your cellphone.

Ernestine….’one ring-y dingy…two ring-y dingy’ love to all.

 

noticing

As I worked on the computer today, I glanced over to notice one of the succulents was sporting new blooms.

whiteflowersI thought the blooms merited a photo. That’s when I discovered the delicate white petals appeared as though they were crafted of the finest velour towel from the Four Season’s Hotel.

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Who knew I had Four Season’s fluffy white towels growing in my sunroom? I certainly didn’t until I took a closer look.

Since I’m on a roll with noticing, thought I’d share some things I spotted on my recent walk in the country. The large picture is still drought-y, crunchy and brown, but if one looks close enough…..well, you’ll see. Presenting a country walk in macro:

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cactus

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leafbuds

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ants

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Oops….this isn’t a macro shot! It is proof of the brown, parched landscape. Mesquites don’t even think about budding until mid to late May!
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Satisfied?

Who knows what surprisingly beautiful thing you’ll notice in your environment?

Eyes-open love to all.

your majesty

 

I never was a passenger on the Downton Abbey train. That’s why my addiction to The Crown on Netflix puzzled me. I viewed two entire seasons in 3 or 4 days. I enjoyed the history and I was forever fact-checking details of the series:  Winston Churchill, WWII, the Great Smog of London, and the Suez Canal.

 

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photo Netflix

 

 

I was also fascinated with the pomp, tradition, royal crimson carriages, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, horses, Dukes, Duchesses, crowns and corgi-dogs. Like most Americans, it’s not in my DNA to comprehend royalty. I only understand it dimly as a snotty kid with nose pressed to glass. I don’t ‘get it’. Oh….and the titles and rituals involved with meeting royalty:  ***curtsy***  ‘Her Royal Majesty, the Queen”, ***only offer your hand if she offers hers***back away slowly when conversation is over***. I devoured the coronation episode with the dress and the official portrait and Westminster Abbey and Prince Phillip and trumpets and the CROWN. Breathe out. Guess I don’t have to fully understand the monarchy to realize they are something pretty darn special.

Today, another type of royalty entered Jerusalem. He didn’t come in a gilded carriage, or on the back of a sleek, black war-horse. He wasn’t adorned with velvet robes and he did not sport a jeweled headdress. He entered Jerusalem on a……donkey? A lowly ass?

 

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photo courtesy Audrey Moore

 

Still, the people lined the thoroughfare with their precious garments. ‘Hooray, Hooray!! Salvation is here! Salvation belongs to the King! Let all the angels sing hooray, for Salvation is here!!’ Their joy so overflowed they cut palm branches and waved them gleefully in the air.

Would I have clapped my hands and joined the crowd in shouting ‘Hosanna!’ that morning? Would I sheepishly follow behind? Would I bring a friend to join the happy parade, or would I hide in the shadows? Would I recognize Jesus or would I knowingly size him up as another carnival-barker? Is my face lined with weariness of years waiting for a Savior? What is this ‘living water’ and why should I give a damn? I don’t have time for this! Who IS he?

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Oh….I go to church and I sing in choir and I try to do good things. But, what does that stranger on the back of a humble donkey mean to me TODAY?  Do I act like a new creation because I claim to know Him?

 

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photo courtesy Audrey Moore

 

I don’t have any pat answers. I continue to wrestle. This seems like an excellent week to ponder the questions.

Hope your Holy Week is inspiring.

Royal-love to all.

 

chronic love

Chronic:  long lasting and difficult to eradicate. Persisting for a long time or constantly reoccurring.

I had four appointments with physicians/specialists last week. My old-lady-thinning-hair is even scarcer and grayer. My shoulders are affixed to my ears and I’m trying to unclench my fists. A couple of highlights:

Doctor #1 “How’s your mood?” She insisted I must take an anti-depressant because of my battle with chronic (there’s that word again!!) pain. I told her the last anti-depressant I tried caused my hands to shake uncontrollably. “Let’s try another one!” OK, I’m trying. My hands are shaking. **sigh** Maybe this will pass. The doctor was perfectly lovely and sympathetically communicated what a good job she thought I was doing with all my chronic (damn word!) diagnosis. Oh yeah, she’s sending me to a neurologist. Good times.

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Doc #2, a good friend, is helping my dry eyes improve. I’m having BIG blood draws and they are spinning the plasma into therapeutic drops for my eyes. That’s right…..blood eye drops! How cool is that?

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The last blood draw was a bonafied vampire cocktail. 25 vials of blood. My right arm spigot coughed up dust after 18 vials. My over-achieving left arm rallied for the last 7. Phlebotomist: “Does it hurt?” After 10 vials, I requested a squeegee for my purple, sweating face.

Doc #3-the cardiologist. My least favorite, most blood-pressure-popping doctor’s office. No matter what time your appointment, you are greeted with the dreaded long check-in line.

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Wait, wait, gaze at waiting room TV, wait, wait. Do I hear my name? Score!! Get called back and put in room. Blood pressure, temp and EKG. Wait, wait, look at phone. Med student comes in to take your history and ask about today’s problem. Wait, wait, thoughtlessly pick nose and boom, in strides the confident doctor. Asks a few questions, the most ironic is….“Is your fast heartbeat concerning to you?” Not really doc, I just adore visiting your office and navigating this maze to enter the Holy of Holies and gaze upon your godlike face ’cause I have nothing else to do! **sigh again**

Got hooked up to a heart monitor for a week. Opened the instructions upon returning home.

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These photos of the ‘heart-monitor-model’ piqued my curiosity.

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Wonder how many offensive linemen wore these in the Super Bowl? Don’t NOBODY wanna see a picture of a typical heart monitor patient.

 

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Proud to be keeping the hell in healthcare!

 

After having irregular heart rhythms for a year….every day!…not one peep out of my heart for the 5 days I’ve worn this device.

Doc #4-the pain doctor. Got up early for my long-anticipated and long-ago-booked appointment to have my sympathetic nerve block (for my bum leg) and a spinal injection for chronic (you guessed it!) back pain. Texan drove me to the clinic and was to be my chauffeur home. We arrived to a dark and locked clinic. Waited. Called. Waited. Called the answering service. Answering service said they should be there. Waited 30 minutes and then left. No back injections today.

I’m truly grateful for my docs and they seem genuinely sincere. Since there’s no easy answer or ‘cure’ for what ails me, doc visits are frustrating and tear-inducing. We’re all doing our best, I suppose. I may have to call a ‘time-out’ on doctor visits for a while. Spend more time brushing my horse.

Today I’m meditating on Jeremiah 31:3- Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you. 

Sometimes I feel chronically frustrated. My life….my health….it’s a hot mess right now. Just when things seem on an even footing, there’s a mudslide. Makes me remember my Mom’s favorite saying, “That’s the way things are when you’re headin’ West”.

In the midst of my chaos, my uncertainty, and my brokenness….God loves me with an everlasting love. A chronic love. It ain’t goin’ nowhere.  That’s God’s healthcare plan. It’s already been purchased and there’s no copay.

Let’s keep givin’ them hell-thcare!

Chronic love to all.

broken hallelujah

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For 14 weeks I’ve employed this walking aid.

Or this one.

k3And sometimes this one.

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Is it possible to proclaim any hallelujahs for the Christmas season with my pitiful metatarsal? Can I fa-la-la-la-laaaaa in the whirlwind issues inflamed by entombing my lower leg in a black neoprene and plastic shell? What am I learning from my grand cavalcade of walking aids?

k6People are kind. (My tennis team went to Dallas without me, but they remembered me with these cool flowers!)

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It’s possible to drive a 4-wheeler with a boot and getting a horse kiss is good for the soul. Doxy begs to differ.

k4Discovered a friend who shares my ambition to marry Gus.

k8Never underestimate the soul-calming properties of a butterfly. Better than Xanax. The Amarillo Botanical Garden is a peaceful respite on a cloudy, autumn day. Knee-scooter friendly, too!

k7Some people wear jeans at least a size too small. No matter….grateful for her help. No way I could do yard work!

k10My grand is a fantastic artist. He draws ’em as he sees ’em.

k11A succulent makes a fine Christmas tree.
Sprout #2 is a gem. She cheerfully assisted in getting me into the grandsprouts’ Christmas activities. Never let on like I was a bit of trouble. She even allowed me to sing with the piano man at her party. Crikes!

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I’m upright now and ever-so-slowly rehabbing. Grateful for the boot, knee-scooter and wheelchair because they’ve unearthed a certain beauty in brokenness. I’m still learning the humble lesson of needing another and accepting help with gratitude. For each and every walking aid, praying-partner, yard-tidier, meal-maker, phone-encourager, yoga-stretcher, mri-taker, pill-dispenser, wheelchair-pusher, and Sprout-cheerleader I lift my palms and shout a broken hallelujah this Christmas.

Do you have some broken hallelujahs to raise to the Christ-child? Offering them would create a gift more priceless than frankincense, gold and myrrh, if you ask me.

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Banging my drum of gratitude for you and for this season. Wishing you a most blessed Christmas. Thanks so much for reading.

Proud-but-gimpy love to all.

 

good girl

‘Just be a good girl, won’t you?’  ‘C’mon….why aren’t you being a good girl?’  ‘It’ll all be over soon, if you’re a good girl.’

Try not to let things get too heavy here on the blog, but today I’m angry. I feel positively possessed to pen this social commentary. As always, you don’t have to agree and your comments and thoughts are welcome.

Watched a movie over the weekend….Wind River. The movie’s topic is incredibly timely, as every day we witness sordid revelations about sexual harassment/abuse/rape of women. As the movie demonstrates, misogyny is a sin easily tolerated.

Every women who has lived into her sixth decade has stories. Tales of the too-friendly uncle whose octopus-y hugs lasted uncomfortably long. The condescending professor who made inappropriate remarks concerning your looks. Your friend’s husband who propositioned you at a Christmas party while she was in the next room. A co-worker you actively avoided in the office break room. It’s was a fact of life and a good girl rolls with it.

I’ve definitely got my #MeToo stories. I remember being a freshman in college in 1974. It was my first week at school and I attended (solo) a welcome mixer on campus. The nightmare ends with me narrowly escaping this menacing horn-dog’s dorm room. I was lucky to not be his rape victim. I was 17. I don’t remember any talk on campus of reporting behavior like his. I was young, overwhelmed and I didn’t know a damn thing. My hair stands on end today as I wonder how many women this overzealous brut might have abused. Perhaps his next target didn’t escape. My ‘head-in-the-sand’ ostrich behavior was wrong. I didn’t rock the boat. I was a good girl.

The dramas swirling the headlines today have the same basic plot:  gross abuse of power. It’s the movie mogul who systematically and repeatedly harasses women who star or want to act in his movies. He’s not content to simply abuse females, but he has the cash to hire lawyers to smear them and destroy their careers if they out him. This continues for years….other people know this is happening….very well-connected people, and no one says a bleepin’ thing! We can even hear this beast’s voice on tape cajoling his victim, ‘Oh….come on. Be a good girl. Don’t embarrass me in this hotel!’ Pervert.

It’s a former President abusing power by indulging his fancy for a certain White House intern. Don’t talk to me about it being consensual sex. That doesn’t alter the fact of the unbelievable imbalance of power in this sick relationship. Conjuring images of this young women crouching under the oval office desk servicing the President while he is on the phone, doesn’t speak of his undying commitment and respect for women. Hindsight is teaching us about this President and his pattern of abusing women through his early days as governor right through his ascension to the White House. Other people knew and other people did nothing. The young lady did nothing until she was forced to speak three years later. The media attacked her like rabid, hungry wolves. God bless her and I hold no ill-will of her, but was she a good girl? I think so.

It’s the actors, members of Congress (both parties!) and elite businessmen who abuse their female staff. Men who think it’s OK and perfectly reasonable to ask a woman to attend a meeting while they are in their underwear, or getting out of the shower or seriously in need of a massage. These are the power-crazed good-time-boys who want what they want when they want it:  anytime with no questions asked. The good girls are sucked in by promises of promotions or well-connected friendships or their own ignorance. Our current President has issues with his, ‘Grab em by the p***y!’ remarks. Hugh Hefner died recently. I say ‘good riddance’. Could never understand how placing a puffy rabbit tail on the backside of a female elevated her.

I’m not a feminist. I have no kinship to the women who identify as feminists. I feel the feminist movement is more about promoting a political agenda than it is about protecting the rights of all women. Feminists today only seem interested in protecting women of a certain political persuasion. Don’t believe me? Ask Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann or Sharyl Attkisson.

The only hope for solving this problem? We must make it safe for women to speak out against the horn-dogs. Not a year later. Not 5 years later. Not 40 years later, when the accusations can be chalked up to changing political or social ambitions.

I wish I could kick that college horn-dog in the nuts right now. I wish I had mustered the courage to tell every overly hand-sy guy to back off. I wish I had confidently proclaimed, ‘Your behavior is inappropriate.‘ Seems simple enough.

I want to teach my grand daughters it’s ok to be the outspoken girl. The ‘problem’ girl. The young lady who speaks truth to power. The girl who refuses to be harassed or abused. The girl who won’t trade on her looks. The girl unafraid to be accused of being a word rhyming with ‘witch’. A girl who believes and supports her friend when she returns from a date with a bloody lip and a black eye.

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Change is coming. The good girl needs to go.