movies, reviews

Yesterday, I watched Kate’s Secret; it almost made me puke.

I could totally write about all of the crazy stuff in the news about Donald Trump today… but I don’t feel like writing about the turd. I also don’t feel like writing about Anne Heche, who I have heard has passed away after her car accident last week. The last news I heard about Heche is that she was on life support, so that any viable organs can be harvested and donated. However, I also heard that there was cocaine in her system when she crashed, so I don’t know…

Anyway, I’ve decided not to write much about those topics this morning, because frankly I don’t feel like it. It would require more research than I feel like doing. If you read my travel blog post today, you know that I partied too hard at the wine fest last night. So, in the interest of what I was doing earlier this morning, I’m going to write today’s post about a 1986 made for TV movie called Kate’s Secret. This movie aired in November of ’86, when I was fourteen years old and kind of obsessed with eating disorders. At that time in my life, I engaged in disordered eating myself, although my behavior was never bulimic (binging masses of food and purging/vomiting).

Meredith Baxter talks about making “Kate’s Secret” and “The Betty Broderick Story”, another hot topic on this blog. Meredith says that people still come up to her and ask her about this movie. The interview is much more recent than the movie is.

Kate’s Secret is mostly about bulimia, and stars Meredith Baxter, who was then going by Meredith Baxter Birney and starring on Family Ties, which was a hugely popular hit sitcom. Baxter was, at that time, married to her second ex husband, the recently late David Birney, a fellow actor who starred with her on the 70s era show, Bridget Loves Bernie. Baxter is now married to Nancy Locke, having come out as a lesbian about ten years ago.

An upload of the whole movie.

Because I was so interested in eating disorders when I was a teenager, and I was a fan of Family Ties, I remember being very eager to watch this movie when it originally aired. Having watched it again yesterday, I kind of have mixed views. It’s pretty dated in a lot of ways. I’ll get into that in a minute, though. First, an obligatory rundown of the plot.

Kate Stark (Baxter) is a beautiful thirty-something California wife to a superstar lawyer who is busting his ass to make partner at his law firm. Kate’s husband, Jack (Ben Masters) works very long hours with a beautiful female lawyer named Monica Fields (Leslie Bevis). Kate tries to trust him, but her overbearing mother, Faith (Georgann Johnson), keeps nagging her about the threat Monica poses to Kate’s marriage. This constant riding by her mother about how she should look, and how she should be worried about Monica, makes Kate nervous and insecure. However, it’s clear that Jack loves Kate, and is disappointed at the beginning of the film, when she denies him sex so she can go running. Later, Monica hits on Jack, and he rebuffs her. So, while Faith’s instincts about Monica being a man stealing ‘ho are correct, her instincts about Jack being the cheating kind aren’t.

A short clip showing Kate’s secretive and damaging eating disordered behaviors…

The couple has a daughter, Becky, played by Summer Phoenix, who was about 8 years old at the time. Kate doesn’t let Becky eat sugar, and forces her to drink watered down orange juice. Becky is a Brownie, though, and her mom is very involved in the troop. She’s excited, because she’s about to become a Junior Girl Scout. At one point, they show Summer in a 1986 era Brownie uniform, which gave me a flashback. I, too, was briefly a Brownie in the late 70s, and I wore the 70s version of the uniform, which I hated. It was so itchy! These days, they don’t make girls wear those uniforms anymore. That’s a good thing, because they were very “extra”.

My uniform was just like this one. I was in Troop 819.
Becky’s uniform is a little different than mine was, but it appears to be accurate to what girls wore in the 80s. I hated wearing that shit to school.

Kate somehow manages to keep her bulimia a secret. She’s shown stealing food at the grocery store, buying huge fast food feasts in her car, using the excuse that she’s “surprising her daughter with a treat”, and gorging on party leftovers. Then, one day, while doing aerobics with her friend, Gail (Shari Belafonte, who was then styled as Shari Belafonte-Harper), she passes out. This causes her to miss Becky’s promotion ceremony, as well as missing getting to her husband’s law office in time to pick him up for the ceremony. She calls Jack from Gail’s health club, and he bitches her out for trying to squeeze in aerobics before their daughter’s ceremony, which she had nagged him to attend.

After Kate recovers from fainting, she goes to Becky’s school to pick her up. The child is understandably upset and sulks as she sits in the front seat of the car. Eight year olds in the front seat! Another dated aspect of this film. Kate tries to explain herself to Becky, but then passes out again and has an accident. She moans “Becky…” as she crashes the car, her face planted in the steering wheel, which had no air bag. Curiously, Kate’s face isn’t bruised or banged up after the crash.

Poor Becky is very upset and unable to call for help, since there were no cell phones. She cries for Kate to wake up, and all we see is Kate’s face planted in the steering wheel as the horn blows. Becky frantically tries to rouse her mother.

“Mommy, wake up!”

After the horn scene, we see Kate and Becky at a hospital, where the nurses all wear white dresses and have nursing caps. It’s hard to believe that they still dressed that way, even in the mid 1980s. It makes me feel so OLD. This is where Kate gets sternly chewed out by the emergency room doctor, who is astute enough to see that his patient has teeth marks on her fingers, swollen jaws, and bleeding gums. Seriously? He had time to do all of that evaluation while Kate was unconscious? She’s had lab work done and cardiac tests, and he’s had time to call Dr. Resnick, a psychiatrist played by the late Edward Asner. Resnick shows up just at the right time to confront Kate and tell her she needs to be locked up in a treatment center. She starts crying, moaning that they’re going to “ruin her life”. And of course, Jack doesn’t know what bulimia is, so Dr. Resnick explains.

Then Jack finds out the ugly truth… This scene really blows me away. This is all being discussed in the hall, and they act like she’s going to be compelled to go into the hospital. No HIPAA in 1986, of course, but I don’t think they’d be having this scene in a hallway, even in 1986. It makes for good 80s era TV, but it’s not really rooted in reality, even back in those days. Poor Kate gets confronted and dressed down, and Meredith really pours on the melodrama with lots of fake crying and moaning.

Jack is all pissed off, but agrees to let the good psychiatrist haul his wife off to the psych ward. Kate isn’t given a choice in the matter; it’s all settled by the men. Next we see Kate in the psych hospital, where a doctor is explaining everything. As she’s checking in Kate, she tells her about her roommate, a bulimic model named Patch (Tracy Nelson). Again, no HIPAA back then, so it’s okay to tell Kate about another patient’s medical problems. The doctor tells Kate that the bathroom door is locked, but she’ll open it whenever she needs it.

Then we’re introduced to a crew of other women with eating disorders, to include Dayna, played by Mackenzie Phillips. Mackenzie had plenty of her own real life psych and drug dramas to add to this role. The women give Kate the scoop on what is expected, then we see her bonding with Patch, who like Kate, has a troubled relationship with her mother. The group therapy session scenes are kind of cliched, as one of the women confronts Kate for not admitting her problems. The women are taken on a field trip to a local grocery store, where they are taught to shop for food.

And then Kate asks Dr. Resnick if she can have a “pass” to attend a party for her husband. Dr. Resnick says no, so Kate sneaks out, wearing one of Patch’s beautiful dresses. I’m surprised the dress wasn’t under lock and key, and I’m also surprised that Kate can fit into it, as Patch is supposed to be a model, and Kate is an average sized woman at about 120 pounds (per the obligatory scale scene). She’s talking about how she can’t fit into a size four dress at the beginning of the film. I would assume Patch would wear smaller clothes. Patch helps Kate sneak out of the hospital to go to the party, a decision that will cost both of them dearly (duh, duh, duuuuh!).

When Kate wakes up from surgery, she finds out that Patch overdosed after having to deal with her awful mother. Patch took all of the diuretics she stole and had a heart attack. Kate proceeds to have a huge meltdown and confronts Dr. Resnick, babbling about how no one cares about her unless she’s “good”. Then she has a breakthrough, wailing to the doctor that she’s terrified that her husband will leave her, because her father abandoned her. And her mother had blamed her for her father’s absence. Kate is very distraught to learn about her friend’s death, but Jack declares that he loves Kate and will never leave her. This seems to be when she decides to get well. Again… kind of unrealistic, especially when she says she’s been hospitalized for six weeks. She must have had some great insurance, but I guess her lawyer husband could afford the bills. The movie ends as Kate is seeing her meddlesome mother off at the airport… pre 9/11, so she was allowed to be at the gate as Mom leaves.

I love a good melodrama, and Kate’s Secret has a lot of it. I used to love movies of the week for that reason. In some ways, this movie is not terribly realistic and you have to suspend belief. However, for its time, it’s pretty well written and, of course, in those days, there weren’t any movies about bulimia. Anorexia nervosa was probably considered a more dramatic malady, and probably more compelling for viewers, since anorexics don’t tend to binge and purge (although sometimes they can). Watching someone vomit isn’t as visually appealing for most viewers as watching someone restrict food. I really like Tracy Nelson in this movie, too. I wish they’d made her Kate instead of Meredith. But I guess she was too young for the role, as she was only 23 at the time this was made.

Summer Phoenix, who played Becky, is the sister of the late River Phoenix and, of course, Joaquin (also known as Leaf) Phoenix. Their family is famous for its acting and musical talents, as well as being former adherents to the Children of God religious cult. You can search this blog for more information about the Children of God. The family left the cult in 1977, the year before Summer, who is the youngest child in the family, was born. Summer grew up to marry Casey Affleck, Ben’s brother, and had two children with him before they divorced in 2017.

I suspect a lot of people will read this post, because I tend to get a lot of hits on posts I write about eating disorders. But now it’s time to wrap it up and take an antacid… So I hope you enjoyed my recap/review/relook at Kate’s Secret. And please remember, kids, not to try this at home. Bulimia, that is…

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bad TV, healthcare, nostalgia

Trapper John, M.D. is basically The Love Boat, but with a medical theme…

In the featured screenshot, Gonzo gets physical with a teenaged deaf patient, whom he calls “sweetheart” as he ties her to the bed… Eew. He later manages to “tame” her and get her reacquainted with the mother who abandoned her when she was a baby.

There are several serious issues I could be writing about today, but it’s Friday, and Bill is coming home tonight. Aside from that, it’s a gloomy, rainy morning, and I just don’t feel like wading into the bad news that is all over the Internet today. Nah… I’d rather write about something totally off the wall and goofy… I suspect only people of a certain age will even care about this post. That suits me fine. So here goes…

For some reason, I’ve been binge watching old episodes of Trapper John, M.D. all week. That show, which was loosely based on Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel that brought us the movie and television show, M*A*S*H, premiered in September 1979, when I was seven years old. It was a medical drama, with occasional elements of comedy, and as I recall, it aired on Sunday nights at 10pm on the in the eastern U.S. time zone. In 1979, I lived in Fairfax, Virginia, which is a suburb of Washington, DC. Trapper John was on way past my bedtime in those days, but I do remember my mom used to watch it. It ran for seven seasons, finally ending in the summer of 1986, when I was about 14.

Every once in awhile, when I was growing up, I’d manage to see an episode of Trapper John, never realizing that it was basically a spinoff of M*A*S*H, which also aired during my childhood. I remember watching M*A*S*H more regularly, as it came on at a time that was more conducive to my bedtime. But it wasn’t until I was a lot older that I found out that the two shows, which seemed so different from each other, were related in any way. If I recall correctly, both aired on CBS, which always seemed like kind of a stodgy network to me. And now I realize that by even mentioning a big three network, I’m dating myself. Today’s young people have no idea about the struggle of only having a few channels to watch. 😉

Watching Trapper John, M.D. has been an interesting experience. Last night, after watching I don’t know how many episodes, I concluded that the show is basically The Love Boat, only with a medical theme. Every week, there were different guest stars, some of whom recurred in the same role, and some who came back as different characters. I remember The Love Boat was similar, in that a lot of people had more than one voyage on the Princess, but as different characters. Both shows, as well as shows like CHiPs, Dallas, Dynasty, Fantasy Island, and the like, were great vehicles for aging movie stars and Broadway performers.

In Season One of Trapper John, M.D., Trapper’s scrub nurse is a heavyset lady with a distinctively clear speaking voice named Starch. Starch is, of course, a nickname, and she was played by Mary McCarty, who was in her 50s at the time. Mary McCarty was a well-known torch singer and actress who did a lot of stage work and some movies. She was even in All That Jazz, a movie I never get tired of watching, but didn’t discover until I was 18– again, because I was only seven when it was released and it was rated R. Sadly, Mary only lasted a season on Trapper John, because she died very suddenly of a heart attack at just 56 years of age. I’m only seven years younger than Mary was when she died, but I think I look a hell of a lot younger. That’s another thing about the 70s and 80s… I don’t think people held their ages quite as well then, probably because of all the smoking.

There were a lot of other legendary actors on that show, as well as a few less legendary ones. A couple of days ago, I happened to catch an episode from the first season that starred Robbie Rist, aka “Cousin Oliver” on The Brady Bunch. I follow Robbie Rist on Facebook, because I think he’s hilarious and I agree with his views on a lot of things. He changed his profile photo yesterday, and I was able to make a comment, even though we aren’t “friends”. The picture he posted cracked me up; so I said so, then mentioned that I’d just seen him on Trapper John, M.D. The episode is called “The Surrogate”, and it was made just as Robbie’s voice was changing.

So true.

Robbie asked me where I found his episode, so I shared the link. For some reason, the uploader has versions of Trapper John that were partly dubbed in German, which of course is useful for me, especially since they also helpfully included English subtitles. What’s strange is that only parts of the episode are in German. The rest of it is in English, minus subtitles. Robbie then shared the link in a separate post and even gave me a shout out. I enjoyed reading the comments from his friends.

This episode also features Kim Cattrall, whose belly dancing character comes from the Middle East as is promised to Gonzo Gates in marriage. I guess it makes sense, since Iran was very much in the news in 1979. I clearly remember that, even though I was only 7 years old at the time.

It’s only been somewhat recently that I’ve started to accept the fact that I’m getting old. Today, I spotted the beginnings of what will probably be a varicose vein on my upper right thigh. I noticed a small section of a purplish looking vein popping out of my flesh this morning, then remembered that my mom has similar looking veins on her legs. I’m a lot like my mom on many levels. If I were standing next to her, you would definitely be able to tell that she’s my mom. I already have the dreaded spider veins and ruddy skin that comes from Celtic genes, just like she does. And I’m sure I will have high blood pressure, if I don’t already have it. She has it, and my grandmother had it. On the few occasions I let a doctor see me, they’ve assumed I have it, although so far, they haven’t been able to make that diagnosis. Of course, I haven’t seen a physician in over ten years.

Watching this show has the weird effect of reminding me of when I was very young, and also reminding me that I’m now getting old. I listen to the sexist, paternalistic language from the show’s male stars– Pernell Roberts in the title role, Gregory Harrison as the hot Lothario doctor, Gonzo Gates, Charle Siebert as Stanley Riverside, Jr., and Brian Stokes Mitchell as the token black doctor, Jackpot. Trapper and Gonzo are particularly paternalistic, especially toward the women. They call their female patients and colleagues “kiddo”, “baby”, “young lady”, “girl”, “sweetheart”, and “honey”. A lot of my regular readers, and people who actually know me, know that I hate pet names from people with whom I don’t share a bed. I think I would lose teeth from compulsive grinding if I were in the hospital and my doctor called me cutesy names. But I guess this was considered appealing back in the day…

What is also interesting to me is seeing how improbable the storylines are. For one thing, the patients all look way too healthy to be in the hospital. There are very rarely any truly convincing dramatic moments on this show. Very few patients ever come close to actually dying. Most seem to be on vacation, electing to “stick around” for a few days. I watched an episode this morning in which a lupus patient elects to take herself off all drugs and treatment protocols in lieu of a holistic approach. Then she checks out of the hospital and goes home with a guy who has developed the new holistic approach. He’s rich, and has a huge house with servants. We see him pouring her champagne as they lounge on the patio… Suddenly, she’s moaning in pain. Gonzo shows up with an ambulance, which the holistic guru turns away.

Having earned a master’s degree in public health with a health administration focus, I know that nowadays, you have to be pretty sick to be hospitalized. People in the hospital don’t just stay there for a rest. And certainly, none look as hale and hearty as the ones on Trapper John. I saw another episode yesterday with a woman who had Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was bright and beautiful looking, but was sitting in a wheelchair. When she knocks over her checkers game, she pleads with Gonzo not to tell Trapper, because he’ll “put her to bed”. Sure enough, Trapper does try to order her to bed, but she says no thanks, and wheels off to do her “living”. That does not seem like a very realistic scenario today, and I doubt it was in 1979 or 1980, either. No one on Trapper John really looks sick… and it doesn’t seem to have even occurred to the writers to even try to make them look the part. Yet this show lasted seven seasons!

I remember back in 1997, I spent a few days in an Austrian town called St. Poelten. I was alone, so I spent time in my hotel room, watching TV. Trapper John, M.D. was airing, and I distinctly remember watching it, along with annoying German dish detergent commercials. One was for a product called “Lemon Frisch” and had a jingle that ripped off the melody for the late 50s pop song, “Lollipop”. I guess this was a popular show in Germany and German speaking countries. I have never been in a German hospital, but I have always imagined German doctors to be on the authoritative side, kind of like Trapper and Gonzo… although I’m sure they don’t romance their patients or use terms of endearment to address them before they send them a bill for services rendered.

Watching Trapper John, M.D., one gets the sense that these doctors were in the business out of the goodness of their hearts and never charged their patients a cent. Why else would wine swilling Gonzo Gates live in a crappy RV called The Titanic, parked in the hospital parking lot? He regularly romances nurses in the RV, and they are all somehow impressed solely by his good looks, rather than repulsed by his primitive living conditions. We’re also supposed to believe that the nurses don’t all end up hating Gonzo for loving and leaving them, as he must, since he’s single and constantly on the make.

The doctors on Trapper John, M.D. freely discuss patient cases with anyone and everyone– with other doctors, with family members and friends, and even with perfect strangers! These were the days before HIPAA, don’t you know? Seems like just yesterday! And in Germany, it still is yesterday, since HIPAA isn’t a thing here. My dentist is happy to tell Bill all about my mouth when we go visit him. He’ll even do it in the hallway, where the rest of the waiting room can hear. I notice that they often had storylines that were kind of topical in the 80s, though. Like, for instance, one episode involved a child living in a bubble, much like the case of David Vetter, a Texas boy about my age who had such challenges with his immune system that he was forced to spend his entire life in a sterile environment. Nowadays, I doubt David Vetter would live that way.

Another thing I noticed, besides the improbable storylines, is that Trapper and Gonzo often work outside of their areas of specialization. I saw an episode last night that had Trapper and Gonzo, who are hotshot cardio-thoracic surgeons, doing a delicate eye surgery on a young woman. And they are being led through the surgery by a retired alcoholic eye surgeon who had just been on a bender and had trembling hands. That particular episode included a mention of the “n-bomb”, which was not such an uncommon thing in the 80s. They also work on pediatric cases, such as the episode involving Robbie Rist

This week, while binging on this show, I have learned that the exterior shots in the opening credits were filmed at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, a hospital in Los Angeles that is now owned by a South Korean company. The real life hospital doesn’t get the best ratings or reviews on Google, however, most of the patients are evidently of Korean descent. I keep looking at pictures of that hospital, trying to find the iconic tower shown on the opening credits of Trapper John, M.D., which had a pretty realistic looking set at 20th Century Fox Studios.

And finally… the last thing I noticed is that Trapper John, M.D. has sort of a kinky element to it. Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least three episodes involving patients being restrained to protect them from themselves. One episode in particular, involving a deaf girl with celiac disease that Gonzo almost runs over with his crappy R.V., shows the girl being restrained several times. And Gonzo develops kind of a quasi parental-romantic attachment to her. It’s definitely a bit cringeworthy. On the other hand, I’m sure there are women out there who might fantasize about being restrained by Gregory Harrison. He was quite the hottie back in the day… or, at least some women (and perhaps even some men) thought so. Even a lady on Robbie Rist’s thread about this show mentioned how “dreamy” ol’ Gregory Harrison was in his Gonzo days.

We’re gonna help you whether you want it or not! And if you don’t behave, we’ll get out the restraints! Maybe this is why the show aired after 10pm. It seems very family friendly by today’s standards, except for the occasional n-bomb being dropped.

Incidentally, I did some research on Gregory Harrison. He’s been married to actress/model Randi Oakes for about 40 years. Randi Oakes famously played a lady cop (and car thief) on CHiPs. She was also on The Love Boat. The couple share four grown children– three natural daughters and an adopted son. Sadly, it appears that Harrison’s son has had some legal troubles and is currently incarcerated in Idaho for sexual offenses against a minor under age 16. His daughters, on the other hand, are quite gorgeous and seem to be doing well.

CHiPs was another show that was blatantly sexist and featured characters that were overly involved in the lives of the guest stars’ characters. It’s a show with very little basis in reality. But I guess we liked that shit in the late 70s and early 80s… It’s hard to believe I was alive when that kind of show was the norm. I don’t know why I watch it, since today, it would all be considered dreck. I guess I’m just fascinated with the past, and how very quickly years pass once you’re over 21.

Anyway, I know I should watch some newer shows… and I have downloaded some. There’s something very comforting about old shows, and a reminder of how things used to be, back in the days before the Internet… and COVID-19. But if I ever have a horny doctor with a receding hairline and a beard who calls me “kiddo” or “young lady”, they might have to get out the restraints for me, too.

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healthcare, law

One brave Texas physician has already defied the new abortion ban…

The featured photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, where Bill and I lived before we moved back to Germany, and where our absentee ballot votes go when it’s election time.

Abortion is probably the last thing I want to write about today. That’s why I reposted four book reviews. Trust me… this is a topic I’m getting really tired of revisiting over and over again. I feel like this issue should have been settled about fifty years ago. But it’s hot news right now, and too many people seem to think it’s right to deny women this basic right to determine what happens to their own bodies. So here I am, writing about this again…

Actually, today’s post may be a bit more upbeat than outraged. One of the first news items I read this morning was in the Washington Post. It was about San Antonio based OB-GYN Dr. Alan Braid, who wrote an op-ed about how, on September 6, 2021, he violated Texas’s new abortion ban law. A woman received an abortion from him. Although she was still in her first trimester, she was further along in the pregnancy than six weeks. According to the article:

“I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly,” Alan Braid, a San Antonio OB/GYN, said in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. . . . I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

As I read that part of the article, all I could think of was– wow… what a BRAVE man. This is a man who cares about women and women’s health. He’s put himself at great risk. I would say that not only is his career at risk, but his very life could be at risk. He practices medicine in a state where just about anyone is allowed to carry a gun, and there are many religious nuts running amok.

I had to read Dr. Braid’s op-ed for myself, so I clicked the link in the article I read about it. In his opinion piece, Dr. Braid explains that he started practicing medicine on July 1, 1972. I was eleven days old on the day Dr. Braid began taking care of women’s health. I will be 50 on my next birthday. This is a man who has been in his field for a LONG time, and has seen and done a lot.

Dr. Braid graduated from the University of Texas medical school, and during his time as a med student, he was taught that abortions are an “integral part” of women’s health care. However, when he began practicing, abortions were effectively outlawed. It was only legal for a pregnant woman to get one if a psychiatrist certified that she was suicidal. I find that limitation curious, given that some women have medical issues that would also call for terminating a pregnancy for the sake of her health.

In those days, if a woman wanted an abortion, Dr. Braid would advise her to travel to a state where abortion was legal– California, New York, or Colorado. Some would go over the border to Mexico, which incidentally just recently decriminalized abortion. That’s interesting, isn’t it? It used to be, people from Mexico would come to the United States for medical care; but now, thanks to the extremely high prices of medical care and ridiculous laws such as Texas’s S.B. 8, Mexico may soon see more American women coming into the country for medical care.

As of September 1, 2021, Dr. Braid found himself in a similar situation that he faced in 1972. A 42 year old woman came to see him. She was pregnant, though she already had four children, three of whom were under age 12. Dr. Braid told her she should go to Oklahoma, a nine hour trip one way. He even told her he could help with the funding. The woman said, “Who’s going to take care of my kids? What about my job? I can’t miss work.”

Dr. Braid wrote:

Though we never ask why someone has come to our clinic, they often tell us. They’re finishing school or they already have three children, they’re in an abusive relationship, or it’s just not time. A majority are mothers. Most are between 18 and 30. Many are struggling financially — more than half qualify for some form of financial aid from us.

Several times a month, a woman confides that she is having the abortion because she has been raped. Sometimes, she reports it to the police; more often, she doesn’t.

Texas’s new law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

And I have noticed that Texas is also doing nothing to help pregnant women, either. I have not read or heard of any child or family friendly policies being put into place to help pregnant women get the care they need. I have not heard for a push for better sex education or making contraception widely available, easily affordable, and accessible to everyone. I have heard a lot of slut shaming, though.

Yesterday, I read another article about this new law. The focus was on Johnathan Mitchell, the main architect of this legislation that violates women’s self-determination and privacy. Mr. Mitchell is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, a very conservative Christian school. I knew about it before I heard about Mitchell, since I once worked with a guy who attended there. It was back in the 1990s. I remember my co-worker was very smart, even though he was selling ice cream at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was also VERY Christian. Anyway, I digress… except to say that I know Wheaton College is a prestigious, selective school, but it’s also a school for Christians.

Mr. Mitchell wrote, in a brief for the Supreme Court:

“Women can ‘control their reproductive lives’ without access to abortion; they can do so by refraining from sexual intercourse… One can imagine a scenario in which a woman has chosen to engage in unprotected (or insufficiently protected) sexual intercourse on the assumption that an abortion will be available to her later. But when this court announces the overruling of Roe, that individual can simply change their behavior in response to the court’s decision if she no longer wants to take the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.”

Based on this comment, I’m assuming that Mitchell doesn’t believe that women can get pregnant as a result of rape and incest. I’m guessing he’s akin to Missouri Republican Todd Akin, who famously said “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Did either of these two men ever take a biology class? Have either or them ever studied sex education? Sure, women sometimes get pregnant because they, or their partners, or both parties were “careless”. But not all sexual intercourse is consensual and, in spite of what these men seem to believe, sometimes women DO end up pregnant afterwards.

Aside from that, sometimes pregnancy makes women very sick. Sometimes it even threatens their lives. I don’t understand why, in the age of healthcare privacy laws such as HIPAA, a woman should have to justify her need or desire for an abortion to anyone. But I haven’t heard or seen any provisions in the new Texas law that allows for that scenario, either. Instead, the law encourages neighbors to spy on each other and file lawsuits in healthcare situations that absolutely none of their business. What makes this law even more sickening is the fact that the people might theoretically sue haven’t suffered a personal loss due to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. But, by suing, they may stand to gain a financial incentive, which seems very unethical to me.

I will admit, however, that Mr. Mitchell is certainly correct that a woman can “refrain” (I hate that word) from having sexual intercourse. And, quite frankly, it would serve the men of Texas right if women went on a sex strike and denied them that pleasure. In fact, I hope Mitchell isn’t having sex and never does again. If I were his wife, I would certainly keep my legs closed around him. He should be deeply ashamed of himself.

In another article I read about this issue, author Chavi Eve Karkowsky writes:

“Every week, I see examples of morally necessary pregnancy terminations that, under the Texas law, could put doctors in legal jeopardy. In one case, a 14-year-old with brain damage had been raped by a caregiver. In another, my diagnostic ultrasound 15 weeks into a patient’s pregnancy showed that her fetus had developed an empty space where a brain should be and would not survive more than a few hours past birth. In another case, a patient, whose heart had become weak during her previous pregnancy and had never fully recovered, sought an abortion so she could live to care for her toddler.”

Can you even imagine? Can you fathom being a woman in any of those situations? Or a doctor? It’s sickening.

I totally get that many people find abortion distasteful and morally wrong. I find it distasteful, too. It’s probably not a choice I would make for myself, but I can’t say I would never make it. Because there are situations when it really is the right thing to do. I am lucky enough to be in a situation in which I could go elsewhere for an abortion if I needed one. I am also at a point in my life at which I won’t be affected by potential pregnancies.

However, this new law does open up a Pandora’s Box that could affect other people besides women of childbearing age. Who’s to say that, based on this precedent, lawmakers don’t try to screw with people’s healthcare privacy in other areas? What if a law was designed to deny vasectomies to men? What if we incentivized private citizens into reporting on the men who want vasectomies by offering a $10,000 bounty? That’s just one example off the top of my head. The same theory could easily extend into other controversial areas… say, gender reassignment therapy, or marijuana use, or euthanasia… I’m sure I could think of more if I tried.

Anyway, my hat is off to Dr. Alan Braid. I think he’s a hero. This may be one of the most lifesaving actions he’s ever taken in his entire medical career. I know he’s a good man. I knew it when I read this comment from him:

I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

What a dedicated, brave, inspirational, kind, and excellent doctor Dr. Alan Braid is. He deserves all of the respect and all of the support that is coming to him.

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Germany, silliness

Greetings from the Schwarzwald… where pan pipes are considered soothing.

Yesterday was a very busy day. We woke up early, with plans to go to Stuttgart and see our dentist. We were long overdue in seeing our dentist, Dr. B. It had been over two years, mainly due to COVID-19, and the inability to travel with ease coupled with conflicts of schedules. Originally, I had planned for us to stay in Stuttgart, but our favorite hotel was totally booked. Then I remembered how much I liked visiting The Black Forest when we still lived near it. So, even though our hotel is 100 kilometers from our dentist’s office, I booked us in a very nice resort for four nights. But we spent most of yesterday in our old stomping grounds.

I am pleased to report that I had a good checkup. Bill was not as lucky. He’s been complaining about his teeth recently and, sure enough, as the dentist was probing, one of Bill’s fillings fell out. Bill has to come back to Stuttgart next week. He’ll just take the ICE train and do a one day visit. We both got very thorough cleanings that were much needed and appreciated. My gums are a little sensitive today.

After our dentist visit, we had a hearty lunch at a steak joint. Then we met someone in my wine group who was going to be picking up corks. I collect corks from our many bottles of wine to give to the crafters among us. After chatting with the lady from the wine group, we headed back to the hotel, spent a little time at the pool, and then I hung out at the bar, while Bill talked to his therapist online. It was a little strange sitting alone in the bar. This resort is loaded with German couples and families, most of whom don’t seem to speak English. I caught the bartender glancing at me, probably wondering where Bill went.

Over the sound system, they were playing music from the 80s and 90s. We’re talking Celine Dion, All 4 One, Boys to Men, and Phil Collins. It was actually a little depressing. For one thing, those songs were all hits when I was a lot younger. As I was listening, I was reminded of my 20s, when I was younger, healthier, and probably prettier, although you’d never know it by my non-existent love life in those days. I had images in my head of going to bars and feeling invisible and broke.

Add in the fact that while this hotel is very pretty and has old school charm, it’s also a bit dated. And so, I felt almost like I was in a time warp, accented by the outfits some of the people were wearing. Not that I can talk about that myself…

This hotel also pipes annoying Muzak into the halls and restaurant. It’s basically a step up from the horrible Muzak my dad used to force me to listen to on our car trips. Bill and I were eating breakfast and “Careless Whisper” by Wham came on, only it had been softened into a soothing version of the original. And that arrangement included pan pipes!

Who in the hell wants to listen to pan pipes in an 80s song about breaking up? It reminds me of the time I heard a Muzak version of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses.

I know… I know… who pays attention to the music piped into restaurants? I do. I’m obviously not the only one. I am a frustrated musician. Every time I hear pan pipes, I’m reminded of Zamfir. He used to be on ads in 80s and 90s, selling his pan pipe versions of the day’s hit songs. It made me want to tear out my hair.

Yikes! This gives me chills.

In college, I joined Sigma Alpha Iota, which is an honorary music fraternity for women (as opposed to a sorority). Pan pipes are part of SAI’s insignia. Members have pins they wear that have pan pipes in the middle of them. I appreciated being a sister of SAI, but I’ll be damned if I will willingly listen to pan pipes by choice. I’d rather visit the dentist, as long as he doesn’t play Zamfir’s greatest hits during the exam.

As Bill and I were discussing the pan pipe infused hit song, “Careless Whisper”, originally made famous by George Michael, somehow our conversation morphed into chat about patient privacy. Germans actually have a very interesting approach to privacy. Bill was lamenting about how our dentist, who was trained in the United States and is half-American on his dad’s side, doesn’t have any qualms about talking about other people’s issues. HIPAA does not exist in Germany. So Dr. B will tell Bill about my teeth, and he will tell me about Bill’s teeth. He doesn’t bat an eye… and in fact, he speaks loudly enough that anyone in the waiting room can hear him.

But… people who commit crimes in Germany are often not publicly named. Here, there exists the right to be “forgotten”. They don’t go in for canceling people. So, if someone commits a crime, he or she can do time and then try to rejoin society. Read a newspaper about a crime and you’ll see a photo of the alleged perpetrator, face blocked by a binder and first name and last initial used instead the whole name.

Germany also has an annoying Data Privacy law, which requires Web sites to state upfront that they use cookies. Every time I hit a site in Germany, I get a pop up that tells me about cookies… and any site that doesn’t want to comply is unavailable over here without the use of a VPN.

I’m sure there’s more to the privacy law than pop up ads. A few years ago, when I was having issues with quitting Hello Fresh, I read that if I wanted to make a big stink, I could remind them of the data security law to light a fire under them. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, although there was a lot of swearing involved with getting them to completely delete my account.

Anyway, no one screams about HIPAA here, because there is no such thing. Our dentist will happily talk about my last remaining baby tooth, which will turn 50 next year, should I live that long and it doesn’t get abscessed or anything. He’s probably told his other patients about it. Every time I see him, he mentions it. I think he said that prior to meeting me, the oldest person he had ever met with baby teeth was about 35.

Yesterday, as we were driving back to the Black Forest, we passed by our former digs… or, actually, we didn’t go by where we lived. We just passed the town, and where we used to turn to go home. It was a little surreal. We spent four years there. It was mostly a good time for us, except for dealing with our former landlady, who seemed determined to paint us as people we aren’t and make us pay for things that weren’t our responsibility. That experience kind of soured me a little… I would have preferred to have left on much better terms, as we have in almost every other living situation we’ve been in as a married couple. But I guess this kind of thing happens sometimes.

I tried to appreciate how truly beautiful the area where we lived is. It really was a naturally beautiful place. Where we are now isn’t nearly as idyllic, although it is also an attractive area. It’s just that the Black Forest is extraordinarily beautiful, even at the edges, which was where we lived. I miss being able to take off on weekends and be in the forest, where there are stunning views everywhere you look. And it’s nice to be back down here… Germany is different in this area than it is where we are now. God help me, if you were to ask me where I feel more at home in Germany, I’d have to say the Stuttgart area… as whacked out as it can be on many levels. I do love it here… and it’s great to be back. I hope we can do some more short visits. I guess if COVID keeps up, we may keep traveling within Germany.

Well… Mr. Bill has come back to the room. He’s excited, because the sun is out, and he wants to go for a walk. I suppose I owe it to myself to take a walk and exercise my old bones. It would be a good idea, since today is high falutin’ culinary day. We have reservations at two fancy restaurants today, since there are weddings tomorrow. So I’ll stop here… and try not to get too upset over the news… or pan pipes arrangements in piped in music from the 80s and 90s. The Schwarzwald is beautiful… but it probably appeals most to people of a certain age. Alas, I am reaching that age.

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Duggars, healthcare, law, stupid people

Jessa’s new plant baby, and my evident status as a “sheep”…

Even though Counting On has finally been cancelled, we can’t escape news about the Duggar family. Yesterday’s big news is that Jessa Duggar Seewald gave birth to her fourth baby on July 18th. Or really, maybe they consider it her fifth, since she reportedly suffered a miscarriage last year.

In any case, baby #4, a girl named Fern Elliana, was born on the same day as her grandfather, Jim Boob, was in 1965. Jessa wisely opted for a hospital birth this time, rather than giving birth on the couch in her tiny house– the very same house where Anna Duggar birthed the first of her babies. In fact, I believe Anna gave birth to one of her sons on the toilet in that house.

Sure enough, People Magazine is on it…

Baby Fern joins big brothers, Spurgeon and Henry, and big sister, Ivy. I’m not sure what is up with the plant based names for the girls. When I think of the name Fern, I’m reminded of Aunt Fern in Steel Magnolias.

Aunt Fern was played by the late Ann Wedgeworth, who also famously played sex crazed cougar “Lana” on Three’s Company.
Aunt Fern famously made the armadillo cake…

Jessa and her husband, Ben, make beautiful babies. I expect Fern will be as adorable as her sister, Ivy, is. I do wonder what the next girl baby will be called, though. Tumbleweed? Tiger Lily? Primrose? Marigold? The possibilities are endless.

In other news, I got called a “sheep” yesterday. Why? Because I told someone, in a Facebook comment section from my hometown newspaper, that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. The person who called me a sheep is evidently one of the proud anti-vaxxer types who live in the area where I grew up. I guess she agrees with Jill Rodrigues, who posted today’s featured photo to her Instagram account. Jill is the proud mom of thirteen allegedly malnourished kids who, evidently, aren’t going to be getting vaccinated.

Generally speaking, I’m big on personal freedoms. I do think that personal freedoms must be limited, though, when they can harm other people. It’s not a mystery that COVID-19 is deadly to a lot of people. Infections are going down and/or are not as severe in areas where people are getting vaccinated. I got fully vaccinated over a month ago, and all I suffered is a temporarily sore arm. So I am a big proponent of getting the shot(s), if you can. I think it’s crazy and stupid not to… even though I try to recognize your right to personal liberties.

Anyway… the person who called me a sheep was responding to a headline posted about how hospitals in the Peninsula region of Virginia are requiring staff members to get the vaccine. My only response to the headline was “Good.” Because, folks, people who are hospitalized have enough medical issues without having to worry about a novel virus that has killed a shitload of people over the past 18 months or so. Hospitals are FULL of germs, and they’re actually quite dangerous places for those who are immunocompromised. Why? Because hospitals are full of SICK people, and even though there’s supposed to be an emphasis on hygiene and cleanliness, the reality is, sometimes hospitals aren’t as clean as they should be.

My mom witnessed this firsthand when my dad was being hospitalized at Duke University Medical Center. She watched harried nurses and other staff members slipping up occasionally. I would expect that to happen, by the way. Nurses are human. But hospital staff members getting vaccinations is one important safeguard that can prevent illnesses from being spread by staff members to vulnerable patients. Seems to me it’s a no brainer.

So this chick, name of Mary, was bitching about her Constitutional rights being violated by this potential ruling by local hospitals. She wrote:

…an experimental vaccine? That’s insane and against Constitutional rights!

I pointed this out to Mary…

The government isn’t forcing you to get a vaccine. And hospitals aren’t forcing you to work for them. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, go work somewhere else, where there aren’t very sick people who are already at risk of picking up nosocomial infections due to hospital germs. P.S., the vaccines are safe and effective.  😉

Mary thinks I’m a sheep who’s been fed bullshit by the media. I really had a good laugh when she called me a sheep. This is what she wrote to me:

 “…you know nothing about how safe this vaccine is. You going by what you’re told! 🐑🐑

And this was my response:

I have a master’s degree in public health. I’ll bet I know a hell of a lot more about it than you do. I have also been fully vaccinated and have suffered zero ill effects, other than a temporarily sore arm over a month ago. Either way, you aren’t being FORCED to do anything. The Constitution protects your rights from the government, not private businesses.

Oddly enough, she had no more comments for me after that. Just for shits and giggles, I had a look at Mary’s Facebook page. I have a sneaking suspicion she’s a Trumper. She posted these things publicly on her page.

I don’t understand why so many people think that the Constitution, or laws like HIPAA, apply to every situation. They don’t. You have basic freedoms, but you’re expected to exercise those rights wisely. You may be free to do certain things, but you are not free from the consequences of those actions– especially if you violate someone else’s rights as you exercise yours. Your rights end where mine begin, understand?

Basically, the Constitution and HIPAA and similar federal laws, are about protecting the public from government overreach. They don’t necessarily apply to private businesses and companies. For instance, federal law prohibits healthcare professionals from talking to other people about your private medical situations. However, HIPAA coverage doesn’t apply to the everyday person on the street, nor does it necessarily apply to your boss. So yes, your doctor or nurse is required to zip it if they treat you for a potentially embarrassing medical condition. But if someone who isn’t in a healthcare profession gets wind of it and runs their mouth, they aren’t necessarily bound by HIPAA. In the United States, the Constitution does not explicitly guarantee a person’s “right to privacy”. However, most decent people recognize that a person has a right to privacy and will respect it on those grounds.

And HIPAA doesn’t protect a person’s privacy when it comes to things like getting required vaccinations and going to work. It’s not unusual, for instance, for people who work in certain occupations to be required to get a tuberculosis test before they can mingle with certain populations. They do that for public health reasons. Tuberculosis is a nasty, infectious disease that spreads easily, is hard to cure, and makes people very sick. It tends to spread in impoverished areas. So, if you’re doing work with poor people, it’s likely you’ll have to prove you aren’t a carrier of TB before you will be allowed to mingle with people who are living, for example, in a nursing home, or at a homeless shelter. This is not a violation of HIPAA, nor is it a violation to require employees to get a vaccination against tuberculosis or tetanus.

Ditto to the Constitution. We all know it protects certain rights, right? Like, you have the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means that the government will not punish you for saying things that may be offensive or even false. However, there are limits to freedom of speech, and having that freedom doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer consequences for exercising it in ways that other people don’t appreciate. For instance, if you called your boss a “cock sucking motherfucker”, you could expect to be fired for that, even though you have the right to free speech.

My “friend” Mary, commenting on the Daily Press article about healthcare workers being required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, cited the Constitution as a reason why the workers shouldn’t be required to get shots. I wasn’t the only one who explained to her that no one was being “forced” to get shots. At this point, the government is forcing NO ONE to be vaccinated against their wills. Private businesses and universities and other non-government entities are requiring them. And they can do that because NO ONE is forcing Mary, or her clueless friends, to work for them or attend classes at them. If Mary doesn’t want to get a vaccine, she can choose to work or attend school somewhere else. It’s as simple as that.

Moreover, Constitutional rights aren’t absolute, and in general, are meant to protect the public good. The Supreme Court has long held that protecting public health is enough of a reason to enact laws that might otherwise violate the First Amendment or other provisions in the Bill of Rights.

Given that the vaccines have been proven to be effective in reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections, as well as the likelihood that a vaccinated person will spread it to others, it makes sense that hospitals and other places where immunocompromised people are found would require employees to be inoculated. Infections are going down in places where people are getting the shot(s). At this point, groups of people who are getting sick and dying of COVID-19 almost entirely consist of people who have NOT been vaccinated. And this isn’t just true in the United States. It’s been true worldwide.

So… I get that Mary doesn’t trust the government (unless, of course, Trump is running it). I don’t understand why someone would trust Trump when he has a long, proven, history of operating outside of the law. I guess Mary is more interested in charismatic people who say what she wants to hear than actual facts and reasoning. Moreover, Mary’s hero has been vaccinated against COVID-19. So why is it a problem for her? The orange turd trusted it. Why can’t she? And why can’t people who work in the healthcare profession? It’s the caring and responsible thing to do… and it might just ensure that she stays alive so she can vote for the turd or his successors in future elections. It’s also one way we can get rid of the fucking face mask mandates, which I am ALL FOR.

Ah well… ya can’t fix stupid.

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