Friday, June 29, 2018

Last words

"You walk for me, I'll sleep for you."

Those were almost the last words from my friend. I was exhausted from radiation, and she was recovering from a fall.

Behind those words were almost 50 years of friendship, going back to high school when the same boy was trying to date both us. We were always grateful to him for being the catalyst of our friendship that saw us through the high and low points of our lives.

Her parents became substitute parents. Her father never let a father-daughter event go by without making sure he took both of us. He cheered me on in my adventures "I never thought a little girl from Reading, like you would travel the world." We were penpals. Her mother delighted in my daughter.

There was nothing I couldn't tell her and I believe vice versa.

No matter how dire our situation, somehow we were able to find the strength to laugh and in the laughter found the strength to go on.

At one point when things had been bad for both of us and a few weeks went by without talking she called and said, "I'm not just a FOUL weather friend, you know."

She was right. Our friendship was much more than helping each other in bad times.

It was dinners in Harvard Square, an impossible calculable number of hours on the telephone, time with her family in Maine walking and eating blackberries in a scene that would have qualified for an ad for any woman's product.

It was her teaching my daughter needlework, starting a life-long hobby.

It was a visit to Geneva.

It was getting potato sticks in the mail.

It was celebrating the good things making us foul and fair weather friends, an all-weather friendship.

We joked we were twins born from separate wombs.

When her partner called to tell me she hadn't survived surgery some light in me died too. The problem with losing a close friend with whom you can share everything, you can't share the loss of that friend with them.


I don't know why, for some reason, despite the years that have gone by, I miss her more today.

There is comfort in knowing the last years of her life brought her so much happiness as it has mine.

I can still imagine her making my feeling of loss a joke. Before the day is out, I must laugh in her memory. She'd like that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Blockblusters

Blockblusters is not a typo. It is an expression of my feeling for this summer's offerings and granted most of them are box office hits. In fact most of the top grossing films so far this summer are the franchise films which also tend to be blockbusters.

When they count receipts, my money will not be among them.

A French movie director once said film making in France is an art form. In the US it is a business, which doesn't mean that every French movie is wonderful.

I only saw a bit of one of Daniel Craig's James Bond. It was so ridiculous that I shut it off. And I guess I feel that way about most special effects. There is so little new, although they must be fun for the makers to create. One, where I walked out of the theatre, had a car falling and falling and falling and falling. Well over three minutes after I checked my watch.

What do I want in a movie?
  • Story
  • Character
  • Story
  • Clever filming 
  • Story
  • Meaning

I remember watching the bonus on Road to Perdition. Hanks and Newman are playing a duet. The camera shifts perspective and we can see the bottom half of Newman's son, who is jealous of the relationship his father and Hanks have.

There is another scene in a car where a father and son are having an argument. The bar of the window is between them UNTIL, they reach an agreement. The point of view shifts so nothing separates them.

In fiction writing we are taught show don't tell. Don't say someone was angry. Have them slam their hand on a table. Don't say they are worried about money. Have them trying to decide which bills they can pay, and which they have to postpone till the next pay check. Show the two piles.

Some movies can be funny without any great message. A good laugh is therapeutic. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was funny, but it also said a lot about cultural identity and family.

My housemate talks about "nincompoopy" movies, often chick flicks where you feel good after watching it. But most of these have character and story even if we know that everyone lives happily ever after.

With the mess in the world, sometimes that is a welcome relief.





Monday, June 25, 2018

Doubles

I was sitting at La Noisette with my friend and writing cohort in the last bit of shade. We were about to do our writing exercises, the first in a long time because of our schedules.

I glanced up at the church and for a second I thought my husband was coming out of the church. Not possible since just a few minutes before I'd left him at home with Sherlock, our dog.

"Good grief," that looks like Rick.

My friend turned around and agreed. The hair, body type, glasses and way of walking were identical. All the man lacked was a beard.

I'm beginning to think Argel├Ęs is the village of doubles.



My dad's double lives here. The man has the same cleft in his chin, the mouth, the nose, the eyes, the baldness and remaining hair color. There is one difference--my father 37 died years ago.

My dad in the photo above was opening a present at a surprise party I had given to announce my pregnancy to him. He had teased all his brothers and sisters about being so old they had grandchildren, they all asked me to let them know when I was expecting so they could tease back. 

When I first told his look-alike in French he looked a lot like my father, he acted stand-offish. My actions were un-French. Later when I showed him a photo of my dad, his eyes opened and he agreed. Since then when we pass each other, he smiles and we greet each other. I doubt, however, if we will ever get to the two-cheek-kiss stage, which is okay.

Somehow I find comfort in seeing my dad's double. As for my husband's? I'm happy he's still alive.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sharky

Meet Sharky, the Dolphin.

Our neighbor bought him for Sherlock and he has become the dog's favorite toy, so much so, that the stuffing began to appear on the floor.

Sharky underwent surgery and is recovering nicely.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Abortion methods


As part of my research for this book, I looked at abortion methods used by desperate women throughout history. 

Some were ineffective. 

Some killed the women.

If abortion is made illegal, hospitals will go back to having 20 to 30 beds to treat women from bad abortions and many will die.

Nothing will ever stop abortion.

Physical Abortion Methods Mentioned in Historical Documents/Art

The methods of premodern abortion are varied with various degrees of efficiency and results:

·       Blood letting

·       Climbing

·       Coconut heated and then laid on the stomach

·       Diving

·       Fasting

·       Girdle tightening

·       Hot water poured on the abdomen

·       Jumping up and down, touching the buttocks with the heels at each leap

·       Miscarriage-encouraging drugs

·       Pressure on the abdomen

·       Sitting over a pot of steam

·       Sitting over a pot of stewed onions

·       Candles shoved in the cervix (no reference on whether they were lit or not)

·       Any pointed device shoved into the vaginal canal

·       Water flushed into the uterus

·       Liquids of many types some that burned the vaginal cavity beyond recognition

·       Foreign objects that would create an infection if left in the vaginal canal

Surgical attempts were less frequently found but they did exist.



Oral Abortifacients

What women will put in their mouths or up their vaginas to end a pregnancy is horrifying, especially when many of the treatments are poisonous. To them, the risk was better than bearing a child at that moment.

Over the centuries plants and metals have been used to bring on abortions alone or in combinations with varying effectiveness including:



·       Birthwort

·       Cyprus

·       Diachylon, a mixture of lead and plant juices

·       Dill

·       Ergot*

·       Galen

·       Gin

·       Hellebore, white and black

·       Iron chloride

·       Iron sulfate

·       Italian catnip

·       Lavender

·       Opium

·       Pennyroyal

·       Potassium permanganate tablets

·       Rue

·       Sage

·       Savin (juniper)

·       Savory

·       Scammony

·       Soapwart

·       Slippery elm

·       Spanish fly

·       Squirting cucumber

·       Tansy

·       Tea marjoram

·       Thyme

·       Turpentine

·       Watercress seed

·       Worm fern or prostitute root

·       Spanish fly

*Ergot, a fungus found on rye was most often used by doctors, nurses, midwives and others for abortion. In the late stage of labor, it reduces hemorrhaging, blood loss and postpartum. The negative effect is that it causes unremitting contractions. If the fetus did not move as expected, the drug could cause the uterus to mold itself around the child, rupturing the uterus and killing the child and/or the mother.



Extreme Oral Abortifacients

Other remedies for unwanted pregnancies flash thru historical references. The list may show the desperation to have an abortion. They include:

·       Black-tailed deer dissolved in fat

·       Camel Saliva

·       Crushed ants

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Living a sensual life

I consider myself a sensual person. Merriman-Webster's definition of the word is "relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses."

I see it more as an awareness of color, smell, taste, touch, sound to enrich my life.

It is being thrilled when I bite into a juicy plum. I shared some this week with my landlords and they returned my bowl with fresh cherries. Not only do the cherries taste great, their color makes my eyes happy. My tongue circles their round hardness. I roll them around in my mouth until I free the seed. It feels harder still. When I spit it out, I admire the various tones.

When I see the cherries I am reminded of the drive to Ceret in the spring where the cherries come from. We passed orchards pinkish with the blossoms. I imagine the smell, sweet, but we've never stopped. I am reminded of the apple blossom smell from the apple trees on the land I grew up on.

My patio has not only a jasmine plant, tickling my nose, a friend has given me lavender which I place on my brown wooden table that feels hot from the sun when I touch it. I inhale deeply as the two strong smells meld together creating their own perfume.

I iron my pjs. Yes, you read that right. There is a warm smell when the iron slides over the fabric and the material caresses my body more softly when I wear them. Unironed clothes have a different feel, a roughness that brings different sensations but I prefer the smooth as I snuggle in bed. On cold nights we have an electric under sheet that prewarms the bed. My muscles almost smile as the heat carasses my back and legs.

I search for color everywhere: not just flowers, but on all things that that cross my vision: cars, houses, walls, stones, animals, the different tones in my puppy's fur. This isn't deliberate. It just happens.

I enjoy the sounds of the village: The church bells, the garbage men slamming the empty bins down, the mumble of neighbors walking by, the sea gulls cry, the wheels of a suitcase as people come and go.

My husband right now is organizing and I hear the shuffle of devices and a zipper being closed. There is a distant whir of the dishwasher running.

Some may think that a bombardment of senses is distracting, but it isn't. It tells me I'm alive and life is wonderful.










Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It won't stop



“Almost half of American women have terminated at least one pregnancy, and millions more Americans of both sexes have helped them, as partners, parents, health-care workers, counselors, friends.” Katha Pollitt May 1997 The Atlantic.

Ever since a woman missed her period, across every culture throughout time, there have been abortions.

Making abortion illegal is useless. It will continue no matter how many laws are passed. Women, who do not want a baby for any number of reasons, will find a way to end their pregnancy. Legal or illegal doesn’t matter.

The more I researched the topic of American abortions prior to 1973 to write Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, I realized the topic is almost endless. I’ve searched scholarly studies, newspaper articles, TV programs, websites, court documents and first-person accounts and interviews. The more I searched, the more I’ve discovered.

For every woman who has decided to have an abortion, there is a back story.

The idea that overturning Roe v. Wade will stop abortion is as impossible as saying by next Monday there will be a second sun next to the current one.

I want to send this book to every legislator and every person who thinks outlawing abortion is the answer. The same energy in making it easier to prevent pregnancy, a far better solution.

Physical Abortion Methods Mentioned in Historical Documents/Art
The methods of premodern abortion are varied with various degrees of efficiency and results:
·       Blood letting
·       Climbing
·       Coconut heated and then laid on the stomach
·       Diving
·       Fasting
·       Girdle tightening
·       Hot water poured on the abdomen
·       Jumping up and down, touching the buttocks with the heels at each leap
·       Miscarriage-encouraging drugs
·       Pressure on the abdomen
·       Sitting over a pot of steam
·       Sitting over a pot of stewed onions
·       Candles shoved in the cervix (no reference on whether they were lit or not)
·       Any pointed device shoved into the vaginal canal
·       Water flushed into the uterus
·       Liquids of many types some that burned the vaginal cavity beyond recognition
·       Foreign objects that would create an infection if left in the vaginal canal
Surgical attempts were less frequently found but they did exist.

Oral Abortifacients
What women will put in their mouths or up their vaginas to end a pregnancy is horrifying, especially when many of the treatments are poisonous. To them, the risk was better than bearing a child at that moment.
Over the centuries plants and metals have been used to bring on abortions alone or in combinations with varying effectiveness including:

·       Birthwort
·       Cyprus
·       Diachylon, a mixture of lead and plant juices
·       Dill
·       Ergot*
·       Galen
·       Gin
·       Hellebore, white and black
·       Iron chloride
·       Iron sulfate
·       Italian catnip
·       Lavender
·       Opium
·       Pennyroyal
·       Potassium permanganate tablets
·       Rue
·       Sage
·       Savin (juniper)
·       Savory
·       Scammony
·       Soapwart
·       Slippery elm
·       Spanish fly
·       Squirting cucumber
·       Tansy
·       Tea marjoram
·       Thyme
·       Turpentine
·       Watercress seed
·       Worm fern or prostitute root
·       Spanish fly
*Ergot, a fungus found on rye was most often used by doctors, nurses, midwives and others for abortion. In the late stage of labor, it reduces hemorrhaging, blood loss and postpartum. The negative effect is that it causes unremitting contractions. If the fetus did not move as expected, the drug could cause the uterus to mold itself around the child, rupturing the uterus and killing the child and/or the mother.

Extreme Oral Abortifacients
Other remedies for unwanted pregnancies flash thru historical references. The list may show the desperation to have an abortion. They include:
·       Black-tailed deer dissolved in fat
·       Camel Saliva
·       Crushed ants

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Coat Hangers, etc.



Chapter 1 of Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles: 
Tragedies of Abortion in America Before Roe v. Wade



A Victorian Woman Speaks


My grandmother, Florence Stockbridge Sargent, Dar to everyone who knew her, was the perfect Victorian lady. Even in the early1960s she would never leave the house without her hat, gloves and corset.

I couldn’t imagine her having sex, and that is not a grandchild’s lack of imagination. She bragged that her husband had never seen her naked, but they must have had sex at least three times because she had three children.

She repeated the story of helping at the birth of her nephew, Lawrence. Her sister-in-law was in agony.

“You are next Mrs. Sargent,” the doctor was reported to have said.

“Not until I forget tonight,” my grandmother claims to have replied.

She must have forgotten. My Uncle Gordon was born in 1910, his sister Lois in 1915.She died during her first year in my grandmother’s arms, cause unknown, but she had failed to flourish.

My mother was the replacement child in 1917.

Anxious to preserve my purity, my grandmother cautioned me on the proper distance on the dance floor with a boy. After I had dated my future husband for several months while a sophomore in high school, she asked if he’d ever kissed me. When I nodded, she asked, “On the mouth?” I did not go into our petting sessions in his 1950 green Chevrolet.

Thus, when my grandmother referred to the “knitting needle” method of birth control, I was shocked not that she said it, but with the same way she would have said, “It’s time for bed,” or “What will we have for dinner tonight?”

Sex was somehow not all right, but abortion, when necessary was. My teen brain didn’t understand.

The mores of the time, was that good girls didn’t have sex. Part of it in our middle-class existence was described by Marilyn French, that a virgin had a chance to attract a better husband if she had a “factory-fresh hymen.”

Good girls did have sex and good girls did get pregnant, more because even though oral contraceptives were approved in 1960, doctors were not allowed to prescribe them by law to unmarried women. They also could not talk about older methods such as diaphragms and rhythm.

Women told and retold an unfunny joke “Question: What do you call a woman who practices rhythm? Answer: Mother.”

Information about Intrauterine Devices (IUDs), which had been around for centuries had been improved until failure rates hovered about 0.8% with copper devices and even less 0.2% with the hormone levonorgestrel. These too, were off limits to married women.

Before I married I knew better to try our family Dr. Halligan who’d seen me thru childhood diseases and poison ivy. He resembled an aging Irish Leprechaun and when he walked into the room, his patient automatically felt better.

I did try Dr. Land. Even a Woolworth’s wedding ring did not fool him. The law served its purpose: I stayed pure until I was married.

As we went thru the sixties and into the seventies, I had friends struggle to find someone to provide birth control to unmarried women. They were braver than I was and when they were caught, tried methods from riding horseback to throwing themselves downstairs. They resorted to do-it-yourself chemical methods to seeking an abortionist that might or might not kill them.

The other alternative was to marry. We planned one friend’s wedding when we were at university. She could not face an abortion, more from fear than conviction. About an hour before the wedding, she got her period and cancelled the wedding much to her and the groom-to-be’s relief.

Much has improved over the years. Birth control is available as is abortion. Yet many years later, the right of a woman to control her body is under threat once again.

Abortion is a horrible choice. Women who have had abortions do not make that decision easily. Some of have confided, “My child would be ten now.” Yet asked if they would do it again under the same circumstances, a large percentage would.

This book looks at what it would be like to go back to the bad old days, when the solution to an unwanted pregnancy (especially if birth control is harder to get) would be like.

One thing is certain. If abortion is not available legally, a woman who wants an abortion will find a way to do it illegally or to herself. The only thing that is not certain, will it be safe or will it kill her too?