A Fractured Nation   Leave a comment

I made a Facebook post a couple of days ago about watching Tuesday evening’s  Democratic debate. Instead of filtering it to my fellow moderate to liberal friends, I posted it for any Facebook friend to see. Why should I be concerned if family and friends know I’m a Democrat? A friend asked me in the comments which candidate was looking good to me, and I responded frankly, “Anyone who can beat Trump, and I’m not sure who that is. I’m still stunned that the man got nominated and elected the first time, but this time around, now we know that we’ve got to consider his corruption, his lies, and his cult following in the upcoming election…”

A day or so later, a FB friend who was once a good friend in high school and for a year or so afterwards, posted that she was sick and tired of being put down, called crazy, and considered part of a cult because she voted according to her religious beliefs [as a devout Roman Catholic.]  I understand to a large extent why she cast her vote the way she did in 2016. The strategy was to vote for the conservative candidate who, if elected, would have the opportunity to appoint at least one conservative judge to the Supreme Court during his Administration. There was a Court vacancy upon the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, and President Obama was blocked (unconstitutionally, I may add) from appointing a judge for the rest of his term in office.  This new conservative judge would  then have a shot at overturning Roe v. Wade,  rulings supporting gender and sexual orientation equality, and upholding the 2nd Amendment as it was written in the 1700s.

But here’s the thing. The Supreme Court is suppose to be comprised of highly experienced, expert judges who are skilled in interpreting cases according to the U.S. Constitution. The Court is suppose to be non-partisan. As a private individual, certainly a judge can be a Republican or Democrat, a Christian or a Jew, or any other option  available to them. However, when hearing a case put before the highest court in the country, their focus is required to be on Constitutional law rather than personal beliefs. It’s…well, unconstitutional, to perform the job from any other stance.

Our country was founded on the principle that no State religion would exist that would  dictate the laws. Our Constitution gave people the right to practice any religion of their choosing or no religion at all without legal penalty. It means that no one can be forced to practice a religion. Everyone is entitled to worship (or not worship) as they deem appropriate, in their churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples, with their families in their homes, in their church-affiliated private schools, and at their religiously sponsored activities. At no time is it appropriate, according to the Constitution, to make state and national laws that are derived from religious texts and beliefs and force all citizens to conform to them.

Do people have the right to vote for a candidate according to their religious beliefs? Of course, they do. Are all people who voted for Trump crazy, stupid, and merely blind followers? No, not all. I have one very good, very intelligent friend whom I greatly respect who voted for Trump because he felt that it was the lesser of the two evils, and he qualified this by saying, “by a narrow margin.” Others felt the same way for whatever reasons they had. Trump was far from an ideal choice for many people, but they found Clinton unacceptable. I’m sure that many didn’t vote at all because of this situation. (Roughly 50% of our eligible population routinely doesn’t vote.) I wish that there had been a better Republican, Independent, or other party candidate to offer as an alternative to electing Trump. That whole election was FUBAR, and I’ve never seen such ugliness out of a person running for the presidency.

However, when I said we have to deal with his “cult following” in the upcoming election, make no mistake about it. There are Trump supporters who are “followers.”  There is plenty of evidence for that statement. They see him as appointed by God to save this country; God is working through Trump no matter how broken he is as a human being. He’s a Gift from the Almighty to save the U.S. from evil. To them, he is pretty close to being a messiah. No matter how corrupt he is, no matter how close he comes to destroying our democracy, no matter how irresponsible and irrational he becomes, there will be those who blow past all that and continue to back him. Those are the “cult followers” I spoke of. It’s not everyone who voted for him, but there are enough of them to be worrisome and frightening.

And I am both worried and scared. This country can’t be run by an oligarch and/or a dictator who thinks the rules and structure of our government are for other people but not for him, and his whipped-up backers, his “fan base,” support that. That’s the end to our democracy as we know it.

I’m exhausted with being called a f+*king libtard (or a liberal f+*ktard), a dumocrat, a whiny crybaby, a fragile snowflake, a pussy, a bleeding heart socialist, etc. We’re being blamed by the Right for everything from the price of avocados to the method of garbage collection.

It’s been going on openly now for ten years. During those years, I saw a POTUS disrepected and mocked by hanging effigies of him from trees with a rope around his neck, posters of him with a bone through his nose, and the First Lady called “a gorilla in high heels.” I was appalled and angry. When did we become such a hateful country? I knew that it didn’t come on all at once with the election of Barack Obama (or as a group of our citizens like to call him, Obummer.) It had been roiling under the surface for a long time, probably since the 1960s and 1970s, and finally exploded like an angry pustule full of vile, toxic waste. It splattered and contaminated everyone with its vitriol.

And I remain bewildered that my philosophy has been so villanized by a large percentage of our population when I, too, am living and voting according to my spiritual beliefs. I do not belong to the predominant religion of this country, but I am a deeply spiritual and caring person and am active in my church. I believe and uphold that all people are created equal, and all deserve the same rights under the law. (Yes, I said all.) I believe that it is our responsibilty to help those less fortunate than ourselves. I believe that when we lift each other up, we all do better. I believe that we should protect Mother Earth and all contained therein. All life is interconnected, and we need to strive to see that “big picture” every day of our short lives. When did these altruistic — and yes, pretty much Christian — beliefs turn me into a libtard and a Dumocrat?

No one is immune to the effects of this national divide. I’ve been angry and depressed since the fall of 2016, and I’ve made my share of derisive remarks aimed at the “other side.”  I’ve received plenty of them as well.  Sadly, I’m very discouraged and despondent and not at all optimtistic that we’re going to see any improvement in this conflict during the rest of my lifetime. It may eventually result in this nation formally dividing into two or more countries, each with their own style of government and laws. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least, and maybe it would be for the best. I just hope that the formal divorce, should it occur,  doesn’t happen by violence, as it did in the mid-19th century.

I’m tired, boss. Tired of being on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain… Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head, all the time… Can you understand?

John Coffey from The Green Mile


In Remembrance   Leave a comment

1-upstairs loungeA couple of weeks ago I saw a story on social media describing the Up Stairs Lounge arson which occurred in New Orleans on June 24, 1973. It will be 46 years tomorrow that this fire caused the death of 32 people. The Upstairs Lounge was a gay bar, and this was the greatest loss of life in a single incident to affect the LGBTQ community right up until the 2016 massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. That’s 43 years that the Upstairs Lounge fire held this terrible record, yet I had never heard anything about it. I was just astounded at this because I generally know what’s going on in the world, and to have never heard about this in all these years just seemed really strange to me.

I assume that there are a few of you who haven’t heard about The Upstairs Lounge, either, and I’d like to tell you some of what I’ve learned over the past few weeks.

2 - Up Stairs Lounge FireThe Up Stairs Lounge was at the fringe of the French Quarter in a  “seedy” neighborhood. It was on the second floor of a three-story building. Once up the stairs to the lounge, one would enter the first room which was the location of the bar. There was a second room with tables and chairs for socializing, and a third room behind that where a stage had been constructed for theatrical performances and other live entertainment. This third room with the stage and piano was also used as a place of worship for the LGBTQ people who were members of the Metropolitan Community Church, and in fact, on the evening of the fire there had been a service held that afternoon in that room. The pastor, the assistant pastor and maybe a dozen members of the small congregation were still at the bar enjoying the weekly “beer bust.” There was bottomless beer for a fee, and folks like to get in on that, so the bar was hopping and crowded that night!

Around 8:00 that evening, the buzzer kept ringing down at the street-level door. Cab drivers would often do this if someone had called for a cab. This was years before cell phones so all calls were made on the bar’s telephone and the bartender that night (who was the manager) knew what calls had been made. Finally he said to one of his employees to go down and tell the driver that no one had called a cab. As soon as the steel fire door from the bar was opened, a fireball exploded into the bar. The entire staircase was filled with raging flames and noxious gases. Flammable indoor-outdoor carpeting caught fire, rayon wallpaper went up in flames, and the floor to ceiling drapery burned.

The manager knew of a rear exit behind the stage in the third room and gathered up as many as he quickly could – about twenty people – whom he was able to lead to safety. This exit was obscure, hidden behind the stage and piano, and the exit sign no longer worked. Others didn’t know it was there. A few people got out by way of the fire escape, which required that they jump from the second floor to the sidewalk below. There was no ladder on it to get down. Some refused to jump. Others took the fire escape stairs up to the roof level and jumped across to the building next door. Glass was broken out of the tall windows of the bar so that people could escape but metal bars were across the windows. This had been done at some point to prevent people from falling out, but in the case of an emergency, no one could get out that way; the bars were too close together. One or two people did squeeze through the bars, but most of the deceased were found crowded against those windows in their failed attempts to climb out.

3-upstairs loungeThe fire department responded promptly when businesses across the street reported the fire, and within 20 minutes, the fire was out, but it had burned so hot and spread so fast that the bar was destroyed within minutes. A can of lighter fluid used as an accelerant was found on the stairway. Earlier in the evening, a patron had been asked to leave after drunken, unruly conduct. Witnesses heard him say, “I’m going to burn this place to the ground.” A man fitting his description had purchased lighter fluid just before the fire at the Walgreen’s down the street which matched the can found in the stairwell. The police interviewed him once, but no charges were ever filed, and the man took his own life a year and a half later.

The fire was horrendous but what occurred in the aftermath is what I find truly heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. Just some examples – The fire trucks at the scene didn’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the second floor, and one fireman was overheard saying, “Just let the faggots burn.” Some radio personalities were bantering about it on the air and one said, “What are they going to bury them in?” The other replied, “I don’t know. Fruit jars?”

It took the mayor of New Orleans seventeen days to make a statement about the fire and loss of life, even though two hotel fires, one in 1971 and another in 1972, with a combined loss of ten victims, earned his immediate attention, public condolences, and a fund set up to help the victims. No such offer was made to the Up Stairs Lounge families and survivors. The mayor’s office wished to keep this disaster under wraps due to the clientele of the bar. You couldn’t let it leak out that New Orleans had gay people! It could be bad for their reputation and drive tourists away!

Upon hearing of the disaster, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, Reverend Troy Perry, along with a few other MCC clergy, flew from Los Angeles to New Orleans to help with the injured and assist with arrangements for the deceased.

I’ve mentioned the Metropolitan Community Church a couple of times now and some of you may not know what this church is about:

The first service of the Metropolitan Community Church met in living room of Rev. Troy 4-Upstairs LoungePerry in Dec. 1968. Rev. Perry was an ordained Baptist minister who had been fired from two churches, one in Illinois and one in California, for occasional homosexual encounters. After the second firing and the demise of his five-year marriage, he tried to take his life. Although a serious attempt, it was a failed attempt. Soon thereafter, he came out as the gay man that he was.  He was inspired to start his own Christian church that embraced the needs of the LGBTQ community. There was obviously a tremendous need for spiritual community in a population who often had been excommunicated or abandoned by their former churches. Over the following years, MCC congregations were established across the United States and in other countries, and MCC currently has roughly 43,000 members.

After arriving in New Orleans following the fire, Rev. Perry wanted a place to hold a memorial service. He was turned down by several churches, including a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, and a Baptist church who didn’t want to get involved in any controversy it might cause. The pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, which had a very liberal congregation, offered his church. Representatives of other churches were invited to attend, but none of them did. Nor did any city official attend the memorial service.

Rev. Perry was concerned that no one would attend the memorial service at St. Mark’s because being associated with it might “out” people to unsympathetic friends, family, and employers. Rev. Perry assured people that there would be no cameras and that their anonymity would be protected. The small church was full at the time of the service. Towards the end of the service, Rev. Perry was informed that TV and press cameras had been set up across the street. A plan was devised where Rev. Kennedy, the pastor of St. Mark’s, would lead people out the back door and into the alley. Some attendees insisted that they should all walk out together, come what may. A woman (known in those days as a “dyke”) stood up and shouted, “I came in the front door and I’m damn well going to leave that way!” In an unprecedented act, the crowd rose and headed down the front steps of St. Mark’s, prepared to face the cameras with their heads held high. Perry stood in front to corral reporters and body-block cameras if necessary. Perry recalled, “That was the first time, for a lot of people, that they had ever joined together with other gay people in the light of day, though they’d known each other at night.”

The New Orleans MCC pastor, Bill Larson, died in the fire along with ten members of the 5-bill larsonMCC congregation – about a third of their membership. When Rev. Larson’s mother was contacted in Ohio about her son’s death and the circumstances of his death, she refused to claim the body. She allowed the Metropolitan Community Church to claim his body and take care of his funeral and interment. Several other victims whose identities were never established were buried in the local “potter’s field.”


Major newspapers news networks in the United States reported very little about the fire once the first couple of days had passed. It was MCC who declared a national day of mourning that was observed at MCC chapters in no fewer than 46 U.S. cities, as well as in Great Britain. Donations to help the survivors came through fund-raising efforts by MCC. Begun by the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, the MCC memorials for the Up Stairs Lounge victims initiated a new wave of “gay pride” and a continued striving for acceptance and equality.

On June 22, 2003, two days before the thirtieth anniversary of the Up Stairs Lounge fire, a 6-upstairs lounge (2)heavy bronze plaque 30 inches by 30 inches was placed in the sidewalk in front of the former Up Stairs Lounge. It read: At this site on June 24, 1973 in the Up Stairs Lounge, these 32 people lost their lives in the worst fire in New Orleans. The impact went far beyond the loss of individual lives, giving birth to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights movement in New Orleans.”

It took thirty years but the victims and their families finally had their day of acknowledgment.

The plaque is a little worse for wear these days. The printing is worn away.7-upstairs lounge

And today, 46 years almost to the day after their tragic deaths, all of us here in this sanctuary remember them – as the beautiful and whole individuals that they were. 8-uptairs lounge

Discrimination is real. Marginalization exists. Hatred, intolerance, and bigotry are, unfortunately, alive and thriving. We see that in the news every day. These things have a force of their own if allowed to continue unchecked. People like us, people who believe in the self-worth and dignity of every individual, must take a stand against this wrong. We must be a voice of conscience in whatever ways, great or small, we can. Leave no one behind or forgotten.

As the song from 1970 said, “United we stand, divided we fall, and if our backs should ever be against the wall, we’ll be together, you and I.”  9-upstairs lounge

The Truth is Out There!   Leave a comment

A few days ago, I was thinking about something from my early childhood, the incident of a neighborhood kid drowning in the Ohio Canal that was across the street from our house. The only concrete information I had was that his name was “Dougie.” Parents repeated this information to their kids for years. It became an urban legend – “Dougie, The Kid Who Drowned In The Canal.” I wondered if it happened as I remember it being told to me. Who was Dougie? Where did he live? I was told I played with him, but I don’t remember that.

I have an inquisitive mind and the internet has provided me with endless hours of discovery (and the wasting of time.)  I belong to an Akron Ohio (my hometown) Facebook group, and questions and debate come up all the time about what former businesses were  where on such-and-such a street. I have learned how to use the Historic Akron City Directories which can be accessed online through the Akron Public Library. There are two parts to each year’s directory: the first part has all the streets listed alphabetically and who lived at each address, and the second part has the people and businesses listed alphabetically and where they were located.

I turned to my Akron City Directory for 1958 and found out who all my neighbors were back then. For some reason, I thought Dougie lived across the street. I took the last names of my neighbors and went to my account on Ancestry. I plugged in Douglas and the last name. No hits on Boulevard St. down at my end of the street.

I entered my home address on Boulevard St. into Google Maps, zeroed in on the Ohio Canal across the street, and figured out what was the nearest street to the Canal that was still in my immediate neighborhood but NOT on Boulevard St. I came up with West Thornton St., a street that is at least still there after Opportunity Park razed that end of neighborhood in the 1970s. I got the range of addresses for that area of W. Thornton St. and went back to the Akron City Directory. For both sides of the street, I wrote down all the last names for a block in either direction from the point closest to the canal.

Going back to Ancestry and plugging in those last names and Douglas as the first name, I got a hit on Douglas Ferrebee who was born in 1953 and died in 1960. He died in Akron. Did he live with that Ferrebee family at 262 W. Thornton St.? The name in the directory said that “Ferrebee, JA” lived there. That’s all I had, and there were a number of Ferrebee families that lived in Akron. I found Douglas Ferrebee’s brief birth information on Ancestry. In the space for Other, it listed Carmichael. From experience, I know that the name listed there is the mother’s maiden name. So… Ferrebee/Carmichael. Would that lead me anywhere?

Through all the meandering I did on Ancestry, I found the marriage license for J. B. Ferrebee and Mildred Carmichael. Well, J.B. didn’t match up with J.A. living on Thornton St., but I’ve seen worse mistakes in printing — way worse! All three — J.B., Mildred, and Douglas — are buried in a cemetery in Pennsboro, West Virginia. (Small world. My father moved to West Virginia after his retirement and lived in the tiny town of Pullman, right nextdoor to Pennsboro.)

I still hadn’t proved that Douglas lived on Thornton St. I was thinking, thinking, thinking, and just pulling up stuff on Ancestry, my brain trying to figure out how I was going to take circumstantial information and turn it into a concrete link. I do not take circumstantial data and turn it into fact, not without having proof. This is particularly true when I’m working on family tree data.

Somewhere during all this pondering and trying to find obituaries and such, I happened upon a link that I’ve seen before on the Ancestry site. It asked me if I wanted a subscription to newspaper articles found in thousands of newspapers for decades. Seven-day free trial? I have nothing to lose! I signed up. My hometown newspaper, The Akron Beacon Journal, was available and I search for Douglas Ferrebee, hoping to at least find his obituary from 1960. Here was the article:


The “urban legend” was real. What I remember being told about the incident as a kid in kindergarten was real. The only two things that I had incorrect was that Dougie did not live “across the street” (not on Boulevard St., anyway), and he was not four-years-old when he died, which is what I had recollected from the story. However, there it was, in black-and-white and available on the internet 56 years later.

The truth is out there! You just need to know how and where to look! (If I had had that newspaper archive subscription at the outset, I could have saved myself a lot of searching once I had the link between Douglas and Ferrebee, but the route that leads to discovery is not always a straight line!)

Posted January 4, 2017 by StPaulieGrrl in Daily Life

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First World Choices   Leave a comment

Two Harbors Rainbow

Ore Docks Two Harbors MN, June 2016

For a dozen years now, my husband and I have talked about where we’re going to live upon retirement. Duluth has figured prominently in the discussion. We went as far as buying a five-acre parcel of land in Two Harbors, 22 miles up the Lake Superior shoreline from Duluth. It was a decision based on keeping our options open. That land is ours, and we can build on it if we choose. If we don’t choose to do that, we can hang onto it or sell it.

Over the last year or two, I’ve become quite vocal about not wanting to live in Two Harbors. It’s a town of about 3,700 people. There are some shops and a few restaurants, a grocery store, a hardware store of the “general store” variety. There is a very small hospital. It’s within a half-hour’s drive of Duluth, which was my firm requirement when considering a healthcare emergency involving two people of retirement age. Two major medical centers are in downtown Duluth. However, I can see the writing on the wall that I would be spending a fair amount of time in Duluth: shopping, participating in activities with the Unitarian Universalist congregation, volunteering with wildlife rescue and humane societies, taking advantage of the many festivals and other entertainment opportunities. I don’t want to spend my time driving back and forth from Two Harbors to Duluth. I want to be there.


Duluth MN

We’ve begun to explore that option now. I’ve found an area of Duluth that I really like, the Woodland neighborhood, which is near to the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the College of Saint Scholastica. If one gets out on the edge of that neighborhood, he’s in a less developed, rural-like setting but still only a few miles from the hub of the activity. It’s got a good feel to it, combining the natural setting I love, the peace and quiet, and the close association with wildlife while still being very convenient to all the small city amenities. (Duluth is a city of 86,000. That’s the same as the population of the largest Twin Cities’ suburb of Bloomington where the Mall of America is located. The total population of the Twin Cities metro area is approaching four million people.)

Change is hard for me, though. Moving in particular is very hard. We don’t do it very often! We spent sixteen-and-a-half years in our home in South Minneapolis. We now have been in our current first-ring suburban home for twenty-one years. The move from South Minneapolis to Maplewood was very difficult on me emotionally and I struggled with depression. I’m not looking forward to going through that again.

My husband recently turned the reins of this proposed move over to me with my emotional well-being in mind. He said, “You’re driving this decision. I want you to be happy.” I’m grateful for this. Truth of the matter is that there is part of me that doesn’t want to leave the metro area. This has been my home for 40 years now, and a fine home it’s been.

We ARE moving from this home only six miles from downtown St. Paul, even though my husband said that staying here is certainly an option on the table. I’m good with the option of moving. We’re going to let some other family live in this bedroom community of people who work for 3M, Ecolab, the State of Minnesota, Wells Fargo, and other corporations nearby. We’d also like to build a home, our dream home. It would be a single-level home built with ADA-assessible doorways and bathrooms so that we can stay there as long as possible into our geriatric years. If we stayed in the Twin Cities area, though, where do we go from here?

Several of my biggest losses if we moved are my healthcare team (my primary care doc and

st paul river view.jpg

Downtown St. Paul MN on the Mississippi River

my behavioral health provider), my cat-specialty veterinary clinic with vets and staff I really like, and my professional cat sitter who is top notch. We’ve got a couple of close friends here that I’d hate to move away from. With those factors in mind, I’ve been exploring the east side of the Mississippi River around Cottage Grove, Newport, Saint Paul Park, Afton, outlying areas of Woodbury. Of course, if we get too far out to avoid being in the middle of a current or proposed surburban development, then we’re talking driving a half-hour to get anywhere! We’ve lost the convenience of having things close by and easily assessible.

This past week, I’ve been back to liking the sound of Duluth. It’s a calmer, quieter environment. The suburbs aren’t encroaching on the available land at the edges of the city. If we buy a secluded property, it’s going to stay a secluded location. Everything we need is there on a smaller scale, and the reality is, who needs a hundred choices when five is more than adequate? It keeps life simple. Simple is good. It’s sounding better all the time. As much as I hate to leave Dr. Stiffman’s care, I could find an adequate primary care physician in Duluth. I could even keep my behavioral health team here in the Twin Cities because I’m low maintenance most of the time and could schedule some trips here periodically to check in. I would need to replace my vet clinic and my cat sitter, but there has got to be some suitable options there, although no one can really replace Parkview Cat Clinic, the notorious “Dr. Grant” Gugisberg, and “Auntie Lisa,” the cat nanny. Replacing friends? No, that can’t be done, but we can visit. Our one close friend in particular was born and raised in northern Minnesota (as my husband was), lived in Duluth years ago, and loves it there. There would be some driving back and forth, but we could all manage it.

This decision is nudging towards the forefront now, no longer something that may occur five or ten years from now. My husband retired after thirty years of service with his company. He’s enjoyed the retired life for four months now. I’m still working for the State of Minnesota but not for much longer. He seemed to be enjoying retirement so much that upon his encouragement, I told my supervisor two months ago that my last day would be October 4. Three months from now I’ll join the ranks of the retired folk. Next month, around the time of my 61st birthday, I’ll collect all my documents and get my application for retirement benefits turned in to Human Resources. After forty years in the workforce, that phase of my life is coming to an end. It feel strange. (I’ll get used to it!)

I’m restless and impatient right now. I’d like to know where I’m ultimately going to land with this decision. It’s going to need to simmer for now, though. Rushing it is not a good plan.

First world decisions. So many people don’t have these choices. How fortunate I am!

Eve of Destruction   Leave a comment

Sea turtle having straw extracted with pliers

Sea turtle having straw extracted with pliers

I saw the unabridged version of this video yesterday (click on highlighted phrase to see the video I’m talking about), watching while they tugged on this sea turtle’s nose with a pair of pliers for eight minutes. The turtle was clearly in agony and bleeding with each tug over these many long minutes. It was terrible to watch in its entirety.

The “surgeons” are marine biologists, both students and graduates in the field, out on an expedition. They are in Costa Rica. They are part of a larger organization, and there are other sponsors and professionals involved. By their own report, they were hours from shore.

Even given all that, I have very mixed emotions about the course of action they pursued. The eight-minute version of the video gave no indication that they stopped and had any kind of discussion about what to do when they realized they were dealing with a plastic object and not a worm as they had originally thought. They got a couple different pliers from the toolbox and just kept pulling and twisting until the thing finally popped out, all four or five inches of it.

My objection to this impulsive extraction is that this foreign body could have been there for months or years. The fact that itstraw in turtles nose didn’t pull out easily indicated that it had been there long enough to have caused scar tissue formation.  Take a look at the right end of this object and notice that it doesn’t even resemble a plastic straw anymore. There were adhesions and calcifications as the body tried to encapsulate it.  It may have been stuck to bone or the lining of a sinus.  There may have been chronic infection. The object of unknown length could have extended far enough into the reptile’s sinus cavity to have punctured it. It could have even extended into the brain. Leaving a foreign body in place and undisturbed can actually be the preferred course of treatment in these cases so as not to cause further damage, bleeding, and systemic infection. They had no idea of the shape, consistency, position or length of this object when they started attempting to pull it out.

Getting professional help would have required a long boat ride to a marine veterinarian or a call for assistance to get one to come to them and evaluate the situation. Considering that they were sea turtle researchers, making this their life work, it seems to be logical to assume that they had marine veterinarians in their cell phone contact information. There had to have been other professionals involved with this research venture who could have lent some advice and discussion of the options. No such contact was made. One of the researchers, Chris Figgener, mentions fines and penalties associated with moving a sea turtle, and I just have to think that seeking professional assistance for an endangered injured animal would waive such penalties. They tossed that consideration aside.

I would have preferred to see this magnificent reptile appropriately transported to a professional setting. Surely, sea turtle researchers should be aware of how to transport a sick or injured turtle. Turtles can be out of the water. They don’t breathe through gills. I would have liked to see this creature evaluated with x-ray or ultrasound to determine the size, shape and position of this foreign object and assess any potential complications associated with it’s removal. Pain management would have been appropriate. In spite of a number of Facebook commenters saying that turtles can’t be anesthetized, my research indicates that they can and should be if they’re in pain.

I can’t call these people heros for what they impulsively did. They may have caused more harm than good in spite of their good intentions. They returned the sea turtle to the ocean once it appeared to be breathing okay and the bleeding had stopped. I hope that it survived the pain and trauma of the ordeal and no complications claimed its life later.

So many commenters on this Facebook posting criticized lazy humans for littering and tossing their rubbish in the ocean. These folks do not realize that a single person dropping a straw on the beach most likely did not cause this problem. The problem is much larger than this. The problem is the tons and tons of trash we generate globally on a daily basis. We can put it into waste receptacles without fail, but where does it go once the trash management companies pick it up? It doesn’t just disappear then. It may be out of sight and out of our minds, but it’s dumped somewhere. Sometimes those places are in landfills near bodies of water. Sometimes the oceans themselves have been used as dumping grounds. It’s just one more way that we’re destroying this planet.

No turtle should have to endure what this one did because of a man-made object. I hope that he survives our human meddling in his environment and our crude, and perhaps misguided, attempts to help him out of a bad situation. Godspeed, Lepidochelys olivacea.

Posted August 14, 2015 by StPaulieGrrl in Animals

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The Web of Life   Leave a comment

11825003_994496367257224_3000291602222827098_nSad week, not only because of the news that a wealthy Minnesota dentist took the life of a collared, beloved male lion in Zimbabwe so that he could mount the head on a wall, but also because of the controversy this publicity has incited. There are many condemning this publicity, and indeed, even being insulting and nasty to those who have found themselves caring deeply about what happened. Nasty to the point of saying, “You need to get a life if you care that much about a lion. Get yourself to therapy asap.” I’m sure that many of you have seen the “but” posts. “But what about the lives lost in Chatanooga? Don’t they matter?” “What about all the black lives lost due to shootings?” “But what about the xxxx number of babies killed this year in abortion clinics? They’re more important than a lion.”

I’ve heard in many variations, “Human lives matter more than a lion’s life. Enough about the damn lion already.”

I have my own “but” statement.

But that’s where humans have gone off the rails.

We’ve lost that sense of interconnectedness to this world. We live in a vacuum, convinced that we as humans control the world and all that’s in it. We’re entitled to plunder and pillage, raping the land for all its riches, polluting the rivers and oceans, graying the sky with exhaust and emissions from our industry and machines. We kill the animals for food, a largely justifiable reason, but also to satisfy our rich tastes and need for superiority and “sport.” We treat wild animals and birds as commodities. Why? Because we can. Because their lives don’t mean anything compared to our desire to dominate and control. Worry about extinction because the animals are losing their habitat? More important things to worry about! Entire species facing extermination due to abuse and sport? Bigger things to concern ourselves with. They’re just animals after all!

Some religions speak of kindness and care for all animals and living things. I know that Buddhists feel that way. The American Indian people live in harmony with nature, particularly before industrialization took over. I’m sure that most of my congregation in the Unitarian Universalist free-faith tradition support a oneness with nature and contemplate the effects we have on all aspects of our planet.

There is no such thing as “just a lion.” There is no such thing as “just a hive of bees.” There isn’t any “just” in losing a species due to our abuse and neglect and attitude that we’re above all that.

We all live on this planet. What one does affects another…and another….and another. We either live in harmony, appreciating what we have, or we destroy what we have, and it’s gone for all. We are not above it. We dwell with it.

May we be humbled by what we have and recognize our place in this Universe.

Let it be so.

Posted August 2, 2015 by StPaulieGrrl in Animals

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Lessons from the Sixties   2 comments

I would like to wish a long-ago friend of mine a happy 60th birthday today, even though she will never see this. She and I became friends in 7th grade when she became a student at St. Mary Grade School, a school that taught grades 1-8. At that time, public schools ended their elementary edcation at grade 6, and students went to “junior high” for grades 7 through 9. Typical of that era in the 1960s, students went to the public schools in their district. There was no crossing of district lines then as there is now. Depending on the socioeconomic status of the district, some schools were safer and better than others. St. Mary Grade School acquired a number of new students at the beginning of 7th grade, all of them female and all of them African-American. Their parents didn’t want them attending the public junior highs in their neighborhoods.

Kim and I became very good friends, and as the friendship blossomed, we wanted to do things that were typical of young teenagers. We wanted to hang out at each other’s houses, have an occasional sleep-over, that kind of innocent stuff. I thought nothing of bringing up the suggestion to my mom for her okay, not even entertaining the thought that she would deny the request.

She said no. I was shocked. I didn’t understand what the problem was. Kim was a quiet girl and got very good grades in school. She wasn’t a troublemaker. There was nothing about her not to like! I wanted an explanation. The explanation I received was that she was “colored.” It wasn’t appropriate to have close relationship with “colored people.” I could be friends with her, but it was not right that she spend time in our home, have meals with us, spend the night.

I was incredulous. I had no idea how a situation like this could possibly exist! I was living in a home with two bigots, and I was angry about it.

I thought it might resolve with some time and patience, but it didn’t. Kim said to me one day that her grandparents felt we were getting too close and needed to back off from our friendship. (She and her mother, a divorced woman for many years, lived with her mother’s parents.) They felt that she was becoming too “white.” I was as dismayed and shocked with their attitude as I was with that of my own parents.

Kim and I remained friends for several more years, but the friendship never really grew much after the initial obstacles. I could never forget the hurt and disillusionment of finding out how harsh and unfair the world could be to two teens who went into a friendship colorblind to what lay ahead.

I try to understand what my parents and her grandparents were feeling. Desegregation of the public schools had only occurred in 1954, the year before Kim and I were born. The incident of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat in the colored section of the bus to a white person after the white section was filled occurred in December 1955. Even though the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, granting African American men the right to vote by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” was ratified on February 3, 1870, blacks were still excluded from voting. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote. 1965, people! I was ten-years-old before our government said loudly and clearly enough that that shit has got to stop! Racial tensions and civil rights demonstrations were frequent in the 1960s, and the March on Washington in 1963 was huge, involving 250,000 people.

My parents were born in 1916 and 1919. Kim’s grandparents were born earlier in the century. Black people and white people did not mingle socially. It was the way it was. In the 1960s when Kim and I met, the concept of close relationships between the races was still very foreign and unsettling to many. We were caught in those turbulent times.

I know where Kim lives and where she has her pediatric practice. I’ve sent holiday cards. We exchanged a couple of brief sentences on Classmates.com some years back. I came away from those encounters feeling that she was too busy to pick up a relationship from decades ago. The time had passed, at least for her, to follow that path. I felt sorrow over that. I think we would have had a lot to learn from each other, a lot to share.

Happy birthday, KIm, and many, many more!

Posted January 26, 2015 by StPaulieGrrl in Baby Boomers, Relationships

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