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Ode to an Old Lady

Belly up to the old girls’ bar Stop digging your own grave Looking down might kill you It’s happened to other people People you know They couldn’t help themselves   Give away your old shoes Hang the black sweater on the rail Singing may keep you alive It’s written in a hardcover book There’s evidence A woman lived a…

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Catarina

Today in my Medical Anthropology class. we discussed a long article entitled, “A Life: Between Psychiatric Drugs and Social Abandonment,” by Joao Biehl. It is a condensation of a book of a similar name: Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment.  The article started this way: “In my thinking, I see that people forget me,” Catarina said to me as she pedaled an old exercise bicycle while holding a doll. This woman of kind manners and a piercing gaze was in her early thirties; her speech was lightly slurred. I first met Catarina in March 1997 in southern Brazil at an asylum called Vita. I remember asking myself, Where…

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In This Election: Politics Is Personal

The presidential election is painful for a lot of us girls. First of all, we’re conflict averse. Oh, we understand conflict and can wield a sharp sword but it’s on the silent battlefield where we win. Articulated conflict is upsetting, especially those of us of a certain age. So our response is borrowed from men who seem to us to have successfully managed disputes. “You drive like a man,” a male friend once said to me as I maneuvered my car around the turns of a five-story parking ramp. I took it as a compliment. I am known as a person with strong opinions but I have thrown unopened letters in the…

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Racist Reflex

I think if you’re an American, you have to watch the video. So I did. Here it is. Terence Crutcher getting shot while the emergency lights on his car are flashing. The irony of a man getting shot after he turns on his flashers to warn other people not to run into him and to alert passers-by, like police, that he needs help, it’s just too much. For the past few days, I’ve avoided looking. It sounded even worse than the ones before, if that’s even possible. Could this shooting be worse than the boy shot holding a toy gun after the police officer assessed the situation for less than…

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I Belong to the Band of Mothers

Originally posted on Red's Wrap: The world is encircled by the band of mothers. I know each one in every place and each one knows me. I speak each one’s language and understand what she does. And if one handed me her child today, I would listen to her instructions and do my best without question. She would do the same for me. We are the band of mothers. I thought of this a few weeks ago while I listened to Maria Hamilton speak at a Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force meeting. She stood at one end of the room, having waited her turn on the agenda, patient with…

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Finding My Son’s Mother: Not My Riddle to Solve

I thought I’d found my son’s mother. She had the right name. She was about the right age. She was born in his country. And she looked like him. I enlarged the photos of her on Facebook, studied her face. She was stocky like him, almost barrel-chested. She had a full proud face that looked like his, the melding of Indian and European that is Nicaraguan. I want to say she was the spitting image but it minimizes what I thought. I looked at her face and I thought, good Lord, I found her. In her profile picture, she was standing in front of a restaurant in Los Angeles, dressed…

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Old Friends

Some things people say turn out to be true. Forty years ago, my friend shouted out to me from her office, “Don’t you think we’ll know each other forever?” It was said like confetti, a joyful thought thrown into the air, and it rained down on me like luck itself. I was a single parent,…

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My Mother

Originally posted on Red's Wrap: This is a picture of my mother in 1939, taken two months after giving birth to her first child, my big brother John. One wonders how she could be so slim and so stylish. Her expression tells me that she agreed to hold the fish. It wasn’t her idea. But she likely caught it. She knew how to fish. She knew how to do things. She grew up somewhat well-to-do in a small town in Michigan. Her father owned a lumber yard and was a community leader. Her mother ordered groceries over the phone and had the dressmaker come to the house. My mother…

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Five Things on a September Monday

September Mondays are tricky and lovely at the same time. There’s something about their fleetingness that makes them precious, like if you died this very second with the sun shining, the wind blowing and the waves up, you’d be fine with that. It’s all theoretical, of course. We’re never fine with it. Dying. So walking…

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