The answer to gun violence is ‘all of the above’

As the gun control debate rages on, the most frustrating aspect of this ideological fight to the death is its “either/or” nature.

It’s not “either/or”. It’s “all of the above.” It’s injecting sanity into our gun laws, like raising the purchase age to 21. If you aren’t yet mature enough to buy a six-pack of beer, you sure as hell aren’t mature enough to purchase lethal weapons.

As for assault-style weapons, ban ’em. They’re designed for killing people. Period. They aren’t hunting weapons, unless the hunter just wants to blow an animal to bits and, in that case, s/her needs a mental health evaluation before being able to purchase any weapon.

If assault-style weapons can’t be banned outright because too many politicians have the NRA’s tongue down their throats, then a secondary license should be required, just as is required for driving an 18-wheeler or bus, and that includes a mental health clearance.

The NRA would scream bloody murder over all these ideas. Let ’em. They’ve become the proponents of bloody murder (follow the gun industry money), so let them scream it too. The national tide is turning. We don’t have the stomach for stepping over the bloodied corpses of children to worship at the altar of the Second Amendment anymore, and that includes many NRA members themselves. The NRA’s screaming is — finally, thankfully — starting to fall on deaf ears.

We don’t just need sanity in our gun laws, we need it in our schools and communities as well, and yes, much of the burden falls on schools, simply because that’s where the kids are. The financial burden, however, should fall upon you and me, the taxpayers. We need to step up and provide funding that puts a mental health professional on every campus. Wouldn’t that be entirely more cost-effective than stationing an armed guard on every campus? And entirely more sane than arming teachers? That’s about the looniest idea ever. I can just imagine some terrified first-grade teacher firing a pistol wildly at an armed shooter bursting through the door, as bullets from his/her own gun ricochet around the room and kill the very students that teacher is trying to protect.

No armed teachers.

Just no.

Not a viable part of the “all of the above” solution.

Rather than arming them with weapons, we must arm teachers with advanced training in psychology and mental health, so they can spot students who on the psychological edge, and get them right over to that on-campus mental health professional. Teachers need a more useful tool in their toolbox than stamping “suspended” across the foreheads of students who seem too difficult to deal with.

Another factor in making schools, our communities and our country safer is to inject the notion of “civility” into our schools; make interpersonal and communication skills, anger management and conflict resolution part of the daily curriculum.

In other words: teach students to behave like humans, to respect each other’s boundaries and be kind to one another. And by the way, high school is far too late. It must begin in kindergarten. Maybe earlier. Before you exclaim that it’s impossible, go talk to the folks at The Treehouse preschool here in Winters. They’re already doing it, with toddlers. Our schools then continue with these interpersonal skills at each grade level. So, don’t say it can’t be done. It’s being done. And if we can do it in Winters, we can do it anywhere.

So, we’ve been focusing on what everyone else needs to do, which is the go-to strategy for all armchair quarterbacking and pontification, but alas, you and I don’t get off so easy. Like Michael Jackson sang, change begins with “the man in the mirror.”

What can you do, in your own community, to help make it safer? Who in your community is slipping through the cracks? Made to feel ‘less than’? Doesn’t have a place at the collective table?”

Figure out the answers to those questions, and start there. Volunteer in a reading program or for a suicide prevention hotline. Coach a sports team. Clean up graffiti. If you don’t have the time or strength to do those things, give financial support to programs that provide such services or activities, even if it’s just a little bit. One dollar by itself isn’t much. But one dollar donated by many adds up. There you go! A starting point: create a “Give a Buck” effort and collect dollar bills to support a good cause.

For me, the answers to those questions led me to Wolfskill High School. It never sat well with me that anyone in my community gets labeled “uninvited.” “Unwanted.” In the “adding insult to injury” category, besides being treated like pariahs, many Wolfskill students are dealing with difficulties and situations that would crush the rest of us… on top of navigating the social and hormonal maelstrom of adolescence.

What possible good comes from ostracizing a struggling teenager and systematically dismantling whatever shred of self-esteem s/he has left? Let me field that one: None. Absolutely none. Moreover: What possible bad comes from that? A cornucopia of horrific possibilities.

My own “walk the talk” commitment was to reach out to those students and through the vehicle of their own school newspaper, strive to elevate their confidence and self-esteem, develop basic job skills, and raise their position in the community; to give them a platform to show their worth and talent. Three years in, it’s happening. Those students continue to amaze me with their stories and personal development as writers. It didn’t take much, really, just patience, coaxing, and encouragement. All they needed was an opportunity to shine — as opposed to being relegated to the shadows.

So, will it have an effect? Will my community be safer because of this effort? I believe it will. I hope so. At least it’s action, which is worth its weight in gold, as opposed to thoughts and prayers, which carry no more weight than the air with which they’re uttered.



Our problem isn’t gun violence — it’s domestic terrorism

School shootings — they always happen somewhere else.

Except when they don’t.

How many of us, for one fleeting, guilt-drenched nano-second, felt a flash of relief that the latest mass shooting didn’t happen in our own town? We dodged a bullet. Many bullets.

This time.

Who amongst us ever even heard of Parkland, Florida before Feb. 14, 2018? It was some average little town, filled with average little people going about their business, and with the pull of a trigger, instantly became the center of the universe.

Well, for now. Until the next shooting. Film at 11.

What if next time, it’s your town or mine that becomes the center of the universe? Are we ready? I decided to find out and do a story for next week’s Winters Express, and interviewed our superintendent of schools, Todd Cutler, and police chief, John Miller, to find out what they’re doing to keep our schools and community safe. The short answer is: everything they can. The other short answer is: not enough.

Is it their fault that it’s not enough? Heavens no. They’re doing what they can with what they have to work with. Both entities have taken some excellent proactive steps. Our school district rekeyed every classroom door on every campus, and every door now locks from the inside. Efforts are made to raise student awareness about being alert for potentially threatening behavior on campus and on social media, and to report it. There’s an unarmed security guard at the high school keeping watch.

Our police department takes reports of threats very seriously and checks each one out. They have a school resource officer visiting campuses and building relationships. Our police department also benefits from Chief Miller’s expertise in active shooting situations — something in which he was trained after the 1999 Columbine shootings.


How can these school shootings not only continue, but be escalating. What has happened to us, as a nation?

Miller outlined for me some law enforcement history regarding mass shootings and how to deal with them, beginning with the 1966 mass shooting at the University of Austin, which resulted in the creation of SWAT teams.

Fast-forward to the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida. SWAT teams were on the scene, but many victims died because the emergency medical personnel were trained not to enter such a situation until the shooter was either captured or killed. As a result, EMTs now receive protective gear and special training to enter “warm zones,” escorted by law enforcement, and get to shooting victims sooner. With each new horror, law enforcement learns a new skill, but sadly, those with evil intent learn much quicker.

We talked about sociopaths managing to kill many, even where guns are illegal. All it takes is a crowded street and a car. How can you prevent this? Ban crowds? Or cars?

Consider the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, using a homemade explosive device contained in a pressure cooker. Do we ban pressure cookers? Or the 1995 Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City, detonated from a rental truck containing a bomb made from fertilizer. Do we ban fertilizer or rental trucks? It struck me that these two bombings were labeled “terrorism,” and then it struck me yet further: Why aren’t school/mass shootings?

What, exactly, constitutes terrorism? I consulted with Professor Google, and discovered a website,, that lists definitions from several agencies and entities. I zeroed in on the Department of Homeland Security’s definition:

“(15) The term ‘terrorism’’ means any activity that— (A) involves an act that— (i) is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources; and (ii) is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States; and (B) appears to be intended— (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”

Mass shootings inarguably qualify under section (A), and because there’s an “or” in section (B), they also qualify there: (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population. It’s all right there: Mass shootings are dangerous to human life and illegal, and are intended to intimidate civilians.

Mass shootings ARE terrorism.

It’s paradigm shift time.

Let’s call “school/mass shootings” what they are — terrorism — and get the full weight of the Department of Homeland Security behind our gun violence epidemic rather than expecting small local police departments to save us, because people, our homeland is anything but secure right now, and it’s not because of Islamic extremists or ISIS. It’s because of US. WE are the enemy, and we’re under seige.

Redefining the problem will guide us toward more effective strategies than will our collective disgust for the morally bankrupt NRA. The NRA, vile as it is, isn’t the problem. The problem is human evil… terrorists. In my mind, “evil” and “terrorism” are not only interchangeable words, but the true problem.

Does that mean we shouldn’t tighten up our gun laws? Oh, hell no. Were it up to me, they’d all be collected and melted down into rebar for reinforcing our decaying bridges and overpasses. But the trouble is (and it simply destroys me to acknowledge that the NRA is correct on this point) only law-abiding citizens will give up their guns and criminals won’t. Laws mean nothing to sociopaths and criminals. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them, and tighten them up, too. But even then… there are still pressure cookers. And fertilizer. And cars. Evil.

Rather than indulging in our well-deserved loathing of the NRA (because, let’s face it — that is a dead end), let’s turn our energy and focus toward our chronic, ongoing domestic terrorism epidemic. The sad and chilling fact is that as it stands, you and I, our children and our loved ones, are all potential victims of terrorism. We must stare the real monster in the face before we can destroy it. There are terrorists amongst us, right now. What do we do about that? I don’t have an answer. But I’m now asking the correct question.


It’s time to chop off the head of the gun violence serpent — and it’s not the NRA

Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers.

The next politician offering thoughts and prayers for the victims of our mass shooting du jour (today, it’s 17 dead in Florida) needs to be run out of Congress on a rail.

Here we are again. Another school shooting. It’s absolutely vulgar. We, as a nation, have become absolutely vulgar in allowing it to continue. Wasn’t the Sandy Hook massacre enough? That was six years ago, and nothing has changed. According the New York Times (, there have been 239 school shootings nationwide, with 438 students shot, of which 138 were killed.

And what are we getting from our so-called Congressional leaders?

More thoughts and prayers. I want to vomit every time I hear that phrase. We’re up to our eyeballs in thoughts and prayers. We need action, and we need it now.

That said, piling on to excoriate the NRA, while cathartic (and also richly deserved), is not the action that will change anything. The NRA only has as much power as Congress members give it. The NRA cannot make or change any laws. The NRA does not own the Second Amendment. The blame buck does not stop with the NRA. It stops with Congress.

If you can catch the first 30-minute block of the Feb. 15 Morning Joe news/talk show (, I implore you to do so. I beg you. It was the most passionate, sane, logical discussion in the wake of yet another school shooting I’ve heard yet. Maybe I feel this way because FINALLY someone who has a much bigger microphone than I is saying what I’ve been saying all along: Too many Congress members are beholden to the NRA because they gladly take their blood money in order to get reelected — even though only 96 percent of the American public (including many NRA members) want changes to our loosey-goosey gun laws.

The gruesome root of our gun violence epidemic is not the NRA. It’s the self-serving, morally bankrupt politicians who will take huge sums of cash from a morally vacant entity in order to protect their cushy jobs. Apparently there are scarce few politicians who can resist the lure of lining their campaign pockets with gun lobby cash, and this is where change must begin. It’s time to ban the acceptance of campaign funding from lobbyists — all of them.

Campaign donations should only be allowed from individuals, and maybe a cap on it, say, $1,000 max. This would help decontaminate our election process and even the playing field for all candidates. We’d hear from a wider variety of candidates rather than just the ones who wantonly accept any and all funding regardless of that donor’s moral fortitude or lack thereof.

Forget the NRA. Just forget it. Focus your outrage on the politicians who suck at their teat like greedy piglets, too weak-willed not to be seduced by generous donations. They must go. Weeding them out of Congress is something we all CAN do. It is ACTION.

Following the Las Vegas massacre last fall, ran the numbers on NRA donations ( Bile will swell in your throat when you read the hard numbers:

~ In the 2016 election cycle, $5,900,000 was given to Republican candidates; $106,000 was given to Democrats. Politico reports that, “The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan think tank that tracks money in politics, found that in 2016 more than half of the members of the House of Representatives — or 232 of the 435 — received money from gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. That money went disproportionately to Republicans. Only nine Democrats received campaign contributions from these groups.”

They key phrase is “more than half”: The majority of House Representatives are there because of gun lobby money, and are beholden to their donors. These are the individuals currently in office who truly deserve excoriation:

Paul Ryan, $171,977, Republican, Wisconsin, District 1

Martha McSally, $77,063, Republican, Arizona, District 2

Mia Love, $63,350, Republican, Utah, District 4

Kevin McCarthy, $42,000, Republican, California, District 23

Will Hurd, $35,850, Republican, Texas, District 23

Kevin Yoder, $34,050, Republican, Kansas, District 3

Bruce Poliquin, $32,400, Republican, Maine, District 2

Mike Coffman, $30,843, Republican, Colorado, District 6

Ken Calvert, $30,466, Republican, California, District 42

Ed Royce, $29,100, Republican, California, District 39

Barbara Comstock, $28,407, Republican, Virginia, District 10

Scott Tipton, $25,550, Republican, Colorado, District 3

The list of Congress members accepting gun lobby donations greater than $100,000 since 1990 shows some repeat offenders. Those currently in office include:

Paul Ryan, $336,597, Republican, Wisconsin, District 1

Don Young, $195,272, Republican, Alaska, At-Large District

Ken Calvert, $144,466, Republican, California, District 42

Steve Pearce, $129,250, Republican, New Mexico, District 2

Pete Sessions, $121,776, Republican, Texas, District 32

Ed Royce, $111,120, Republican, California, District 39

Bob Goodlatte, $104,900, Republican, Virginia, District 6

Martha McSally, $104,445, Republican, Arizona, District 2

Mike Coffman, $101,693, Republican, Colorado, District 6

There are many more who accept NRA/gun lobby contributions, but these are the greediest pigs at the gun lobby trough. This is where pressure must be applied, not useless cathartic railing against the NRA.

Bottom line: If you supported these people, you helped perpetuate our gun violence epidemic. Want to be part of the solution? Ditch your thoughts and prayers, and actively lobby against these co-conspirators, and donate richly to their opponents. Shine a light on those who aid and abet mass shootings, and shine it brightly.

When you vote for these people, you support the NRA and the gun lobby. Period. A vote for those who accept blood money is a vote for more innocent children to be slaughtered.

Maybe next time it will be your child. Your grandchild. Your spouse. Ask yourself if you’re okay with that next time you’re in the voting booth. The blood will be on your hands too.






Let’s abandon the Annual Light String Ritual

“So, are your Christmas lights up really early or are you really late taking them down?” asks Joe the Butcher, who I’ve re-nicknamed Joe the Jokester — Joekester for short.

Before you hurtle down the wrong mental trail, no, Joe the Butcher is not sketchy mobster-type Guido relative or affiliate on my Italian side. (And while we’re at it, let’s get over that sad, tired stereotype. All Italians do not have ties to the Mafia. The best in food, art, wine, fashion and culture, yes. Mafia, no. We’re getting woke about everything else, so let’s get woke about Italians too.)

Joe the Butcher actually IS a butcher, specifically for the world-famous Buckhorn restaurant, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a delicious filet or slab of prime rib, you’ve tasted his work. If you live here in town, you may also know him as Joe the Paperboy, walking down the sidewalk every Wednesday morning, tossing the Winters Express on this driveway and that. (And the ones that aren’t getting an Express tossed there… you’re dead to me… subscribe today unless you think getting all your local news from social media will turn out well. Here’s a short story about that: No.)

My house happens to be on JTB’s walking route, and yes, obviously I don’t really need an Express delivered to me, and could easily get one at the office, and yes, I already know every single piece of news in it because I either put it there or supervised the person who did, but I just like getting the newspaper at my home. It’s a comforting little reminder of days gone by, and the older I get, the more that matters.

Before I wander too far into the weeds, having established the setting of this story, let’s return to the plot: JTB is ribbing me because our house is the last one on the street with cheery Christmas lights still dangling from the roof. The annual ritual of putting up and taking down the Christmas lights has been delegated to my husband because I’ve tried to do it myself on numerous occasions and just can’t get those little plastic clips to stay on the lip of the gutters and also because I get mild vertigo if I go too far up on a ladder. After the second step, the world begins to sway and swirl.

As for taking them down, I’m only slightly better getting them off than putting them on, but I’ve developed my own system if Joe just can’t seem to get around to it: From the ground, I hook the light strings with a rake and rip ’em off by the roots. The clips break, sometimes the lights do too, but come April or May, right about the time I become obsessed with cleaning up the yard, I no longer care about the collateral damage that may result. I’m an intrinsically impatient person (ok, that Italian stereotype may stand) and I want them down NOW. But it’s not April yet. The Christmas lights are safe, for now.

I responded to JTB’s ribbing with a sarcastic smile, and said, “Take your pick,” but simultaneously had an epiphany: We’re going about this light string thing all wrong. Why put the light strings up and take them down at all? Brilliant solutions immediately flashed into my head, and now all I need is some brilliant engineering-type person to make it happen, or at the other end of the spectrum, someone looking for a nice little side business, because come on — the Annual Light String Ritual is just dumb.

First brilliant idea: Light strings pre-programmed to suit more than one holiday. Why should Christmas get all the bling?

So, beginning with Christmas, we get classic multi-colored lights. Like the newspaper in my driveway, they’re nostalgic and comforting. For New Year’s Eve, all white twinkle-lights, like champagne bubbles. Next, the lights change to pink and red for Valentine’s Day, then green for St. Patrick’s Day, and pastels for Easter.

Between Easter pastels and the red, white and blue lights of Independence Day, we need summer colors, and in these parts, the colors of summer are azure blue like the sky and gold like our beautiful hills that are transforming into fuel for fire season, which hits its peak in August. After the Fourth of July, the lights turn gray and red — gray for the smoke that fills the air and red for lights on all the fire trucks and emergency vehicles endlessly screaming by.

In October, the lights then transform to orange, black and purple for Halloween, then orange, brown and yellow for Thanksgiving, and then there we are — back to multi-colored Christmas lights again, and not a single plastic clip was harmed in the process.

Awesome sauce, right?

But wait… the brilliance doesn’t stop there!

Second brilliant idea: Let’s get innovative and environmentally friendly, and keep the seasonally appropriate color-changing lights, but ditch the light strings themselves. We need roof gutters that have built-in color-controlled lights. Maybe we can initiate that concept by adding holiday lights to those rain gutter guards that keep out autumn leaves, with the lights built right into the edges!

Some smartypants tech company should hire me just to sit and come up with this stuff.

Until that happens, we’re stuck with brilliant idea number three: light string maintenance businesses. The first service tier is to put your own lights up and take them down. The second tier of service includes rolling up and storing those lights for you. The third tier, the gold standard, is that each year, Light Strings R Us arrives at your home and puts up brand spanking new light strings that they own and maintain themselves.

There’s money to be made here, people! I’d do it myself, but there’s that pesky ladder issue.

OR: We can just leave the damn lights up there and deal with a little ribbing.

Well, until April, anyway.

If we can’t believe in Ellen, we can’t believe in anything

Everything I know about all that is good and true in the universe has been shattered. I stared in wide-eyed dismay at the television screen and shriveled back in horror. No, not the State of the Union address, because seriously… you didn’t think I’d exchange an hour of my life to watch garbage spew from the weird, round little mouth of the Toddler in Chief, did you? Come on. You know me better than that.

It happened on my recent trip to Los Angeles, while staying with my sister. After five straight days of celebrating my daughter’s 30th birthday a little too boisterously, by the fifth night, we were all spent, and while one last round of karaoke and Jello shots at the corner karaoke bar sounded enticing, a “chill & TV” night sounded even better.

But which show to watch? My sister and her boyfriend like sports. I’d rather stab knitting needles through my eyeballs. My husband, probably only one eyeball, but still. My daughter would probably rather stab knitting needles through everyone else’s eyeballs than watch sports.

She has a dark side.

But she loves comedy. What a conundrum, that daughter of mine.

My husband would pick anything to do with science, which would make my sister whither and die of boredom. Me, I’d go for MSNBC political porn or maybe my guilty pleasure, my secret little “happy place,” The Voice.

Yes, I love The Voice.

Don’t judge me.

In summary, there is no television show in existence that would please everyone. So, I decided to just take charge and grabbed the remote. The first show listed on the channel guide was Ellen’s Game of Games. Bingo. It has lots of action, like sports. It’s a reality competition like The Voice. It’s comedy, because, come on — Ellen DeGeneres is one of the funniest human beings alive.

Sadly, no science for Joe, but that’s what more wine is for.

Now, I’ve seen “Hollywood Game Night” a couple times, not intentionally but because it just happened to be playing when I turned on the TV and I was feeling too lazy to change the channel. That show was amusing enough, and also hosted by a tall, blond, wickedly talented and super cool lesbian — Jane Lynch — so I’m figuring Ellen’s show is something along those lines.

It’s so not.

So so SO not.

By the time the first competition was over, I wanted to grab a couch cushion, clutch it in front of me and peer out over the top with one eye in sheer dread. This was no happy, cutesy, feel-good game show. It was also not a mere public humiliation for a prize of $100,000, for which some people will apparently do anything — not only to themselves but also their spouses, partners, relatives and friends. Beyond all that zany nonsense, Ellen’s Game of Games was alarmingly dangerous!

And that’s where the cognitive dissonance twisted my brain like a saltwater taffy machine. There was Ellen Degeneres… sweet, adorable Ellen DeGeneres… with her big bright sparkling blue eyes and cuddly voice and dazzling smile… serving as glib ringmaster to a cheering three-ring circus of public sadomasochism.

(Note to Ellen, as well as the contestants… you realize there are private clubs for that, right?)

Exhibit A: the “You Bet Your Wife” competition. Husband is pitted against husband, while their wives dangle face down in harnesses on wires, blindfolded, high above huge vats of whipped cream. The husbands were asked to bet how many questions their wives could answer on a particular topic. If their wives fall short, they literally fall — right into the whipped cream.

Now, you’re thinking, “So what, they got sticky, big deal.” Oh no, my friend — the whipped cream was the least of my concerns. The women were suddenly dropped without warning, and the wires would yank them to a halt just above the whipped cream, like Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible,” then hoisted back up, poised to be dropped again.

Hmmm… Oprah used to give cars to her TV show guests. What does Ellen give them? A neck brace? Set of crutches? Free ride to the emergency room?

(Note to chiropractors and personal injury lawyers… start advertising on the Ellen’s Game of Games show, and pass out business cards at the door. A cornucopia of new clientele awaits you.)

So, the loser of “You Bet Your Wife” ultimately gets completely dropped — SPLAT! — into the whipped cream. No surprise. But the winner? She also gets a Coliseum-style thumbs down from Ellen and abruptly plummets into the whipped cream too.

In another competition (the name escapes me, because I was irreparably traumatized by that point), three people stood on platforms and were asked ridiculously easy rapid-fire questions (apparently there’s an inexhaustible supply of idiots willing to risk great bodily injury and public humiliation if the price is right), and the bottoms of the platforms of those who answered incorrectly suddenly drop out and they fall screaming to who knows where. And the winner? You guessed it. Down she goes.

And there’s Ellen, chipper and charming as a glitter-pooping unicorn, orchestrating the whole thing, clearly entirely unbothered by flaunting her sadistic side, and that’s the most distressing part of this entire freak show. If we can’t believe in Ellen anymore, what can we believe in? Down is up, up is down — what sort of bizarro alternate universe have we landed in? Evil Ellen is as unimaginable as Altruistic Trump. But there it was. Evil. Pure, adorable evil.

You can’t detect it on the surface, but just like my darling daughter, Ellen has a dark side. However, unlike my daughter, based upon the pre-carnage I witnessed, I’m certain Ellen would actually use the knitting needles. And, there’d be plenty of enthusiastically hyperventilating idiots perfectly willing to loan their eyeballs as targets for a chance to win some cash.

Hey, Joe… pass the wine.


My Top Ten Things I Miss About Christmas

Because things seem just too stressful to think about for longer than 15 seconds these days, let’s look back instead. Just in time for the holidays, I give you: The Top Ten Things I Miss about Christmas

10) Mandarins in my Christmas stocking. Those just say “lumps of coal” to today’s kids. Back then, mandarins were rather rare, and getting one was a real treat. No, we didn’t have Christmas-colored Snickers mini-bars back then, kids. Or even M&M’s.

“Wow, Gramma, you are soooo old.”

Here, have a mandarin.

9) Ray Conniff Christmas albums. We called them “albums,” and they weren’t for photos. They were vinyl records that hissed and scratched and skipped, and at Christmas time, they played that unmistakable “Conniff sound”: pure cheese. If you don’t know what musical cheese sounds like, you can find Conniff on You Tube. There’s one thing that’s still just as I remember. Truly, wonderfully awful!

8) Candy canes. Show of hands: Who else sucked them down into a point to create a potentially lethal weapon? Yeah, sure, I could still use candy as a weapon if I wanted to, but that’s what keyboards are for.

7) Hand-knitted booties. Every Christmas, my Great Aunt Lily would hand-knit booties for my sister and I. Red with white tops, always the same size, even if we grew. I always thought those booties were so lame and I thought Aunt Lily was kind of lame too because she rarely spoke, and when she did, it was in Italian. In retrospect, I now realize that hand-knitted booties are another way of saying “I love you” in Italian. One positive thing about aging: it shows you what a dick you used to be.

6) Stella D’oro cookies — squares, rounds, flowers, crescent moons. They disappeared several years ago, and were recently reintroduced. They look similar, and taste sorta kinda okay, but they’re not the Stella D’oros of my youth — probably because the originals were loaded with yummy trans fats.

5) Annual Christmas TV specials. Remember when there were no video players, no DVRs? You had to plan to watch a TV special or wait another year for it to roll back around. Time management and patience were survival skills in the ’60s. Waiting and waiting for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to come back around was part of the ritual of the approaching holiday season.

I still love those shows, and I’ll still watch them if they pop up on TV, and do the “Purple Dress Girl dance” to “Linus and Lucy” and reach for a tissue when Claireese sings “There’s Always Tomorrow.” (Side note: WHY was the dolly banished to the Island of Misfit Toys? What was wrong with her? Just one of my childhood unsolved mysteries.) And I can sing right along to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” but this year, I’ll replace “Grinch” with “Trump.”

“You’re a mean one, Mr. Trump

“You really are a heel

“You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Trump

“You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!”

Ok, the rhyming sucks, but the exquisite, synchronistic perfection of the lyrics mitigates it. If you’re in an “Oh my GOD, I can’t take three more years of this” slump, go sing the Grinch song to Mr. Trump!

You’re welcome.

4) Lethal Christmas decorations. Remember that good old heavy tinsel we used to throw over our Christmas trees? Full of lead. Just like our toys! And angel hair, that spider-webby film we threw over the tinsel? Spun fiberglass. Wonderful for rubbing right into the eyes. Top that off with a little toxic spray snow, complete with ozone-melting aerosol, and fa la la la la, consider those halls decked!

Almost. The job wasn’t done until Mom handed us a can of

3) Pink glass wax to make stencils on the windows. Nothin’ says Christmas lovin’ like handing the kiddos a can of carcinogens! I still remember what it smells like, and what it felt like to get high before I even knew what high meant. Also, where can I get that stuff? I need to stencil a Trump Grinch on my window.

2) Big, hot, energy-sucking Christmas lights. Just like cookies and decorations, the new energy efficient LED light strings are nice, but not as nice as the originals that would blister your fingers and turn your Christmas tree into a torch if you weren’t careful.

Where’s the sport in a safe Christmas tree?

The old-fashioned ones created a warm Christmas glow, as compared to the new ones, which make a harsh Christmas glare. Then there were bigger versions for stringing on rooftops, and they made halos of colored light in our lovely thick tule fog… so charming compared to all this gaudy stuff on front lawns, from obnoxious, noisy towering blow-up snowmen to those stupid little reindeer with built-in Christmas lights. If you wake up and find your lighted reindeer doing the naughty, well, it’s just my way of saying “Happy Holidays!”

But of all the stuff I remember about Christmas of days gone by, the Number One spot goes to:

1) Lethal toys. The best stuff on Christmas morning was also the stuff most likely to cause great bodily harm: Slinkies — wound coils of sharp metal for slicing the skin… Easy Bake Ovens with a hot lightbulb for quick and easy third-degree burns… Creepy Crawlers — let’s give the kids a scalding hot cooker and tubes of chemicals. Will they get burned or poisoned first? Let’s find out! And everyone’s playground favorite, Klik Klaks — a pair of huge, heavy resin boulders on strings that you flung up and down until they clacked together or broke both bones in your forearms, whichever came first.

No wonder kids today are so soft — there aren’t any deadly toys nowadays to cull the herd.

Anyways, Happy Holidays, everyone.

And keep an eye on those reindeer.

Fire the lawyers — we’re under hashtag law now

Notice to all lawyers and judges: Clear out your desks, gather up your stuff. You’re all fired. Your services are no longer needed. Take your place in history next to trebuchet builders and town criers — your skills are obsolete.

There’s a new legal system in town and it’s called “viral hashtag.” Yes, #MeToo is the new justice system, and was even declared “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine. Personhood. Wow. That’s a pretty lofty accomplishment for a… thing? Idea? This really muddies the waters for those of us who are still grumbling over corporations being deemed “persons.”

And poor laws. They’ve been the foundations of American government for 241 years, and they get no respect, no personhood at all. The Rule of Law… still just Pinocchio.

Before we proceed, let me make it absolutely clear: Sexual harassment is real. Inequality is real. Sexism is real. That’s why the #MeToo movement was so powerful — women have had it with being treated like “less than” objects and sexual toys. I am one thousand percent on board with this. I’ve been a feminist since hashtags just indicated numbers, and not a hair-trigger to re-tweet. But lately, the feminism wagon has veered off the trail and is crashing through the weeds, pulled by a runaway hashtag horse.

The evidence is the unfortunate announcement from Senator Al Franken that he will resign over allegations of sexual misconduct, for which he never had the opportunity to stand in a courtroom in front of a jury and receive either a conviction or an acquittal.

People! This is amongst our most sacred Constitutional rights! The Sixth Amendment separates us from those who would separate us from our heads simply because of, yes — an accusation!

In Franken’s case, the accusations occurred when he was still a comedian (and, of course, comedians never do or say anything raunchy or wacky or marginally socially acceptable). Nevermind that Franken acknowledged that the photo of him “grabbing” a woman’s breasts was inappropriate, apologized profusely and agreed to cooperate completely with an ethics investigation, nevermind that at least one of the accusers was anonymous… Franken was guilty as (un)charged.

Amongst Franken’s incidences of “sexual misconduct” was an attempt to kiss someone.





Since the beginning of human existence, an attempted kiss has been an acceptable way to show romantic attraction. Now it’s “sexual misconduct”? Franken wasn’t this woman’s boss. He had no power over her. At very worst, he was horny. But, horniness isn’t illegal.


Some clarity — and sanity — please! An attempted kiss from your boss is definitely sexual harassment. Some poor cluck with the hots for you, and clumsily attempting to show it, even if you think he’s gross, isn’t. It isn’t even “sexual misconduct,” let alone assault.

Isn’t, isn’t, ISN’T!!!

You know when it is? If you attempt to kiss someone, s/he says no and maybe gags a little in disgust, and you try again. “No” is the clue, guys. “No” means “Stop.” Dogs easily learn what “No” means, guys, and you can too.

That said, we’ve tumbled into Puritanical hell. We’ve become completely sex-phobic. Any expression of sexual attraction is now a condemnable offense, deserving of one’s career and reputation being immediately destroyed. What’s next in these murky “sexual misconduct” waters? There’s no definition — actual, legal, or otherwise — of “sexual misconduct” to distinguish it from “sexual harassment.”

“Sexual harassment” has specific parameters: it occurs in the workplace, particularly when the instigator holds power over the victim’s career or advancement; it is chronic and ongoing (yes, the law clearly separates a single incident of crude behavior from that which occurs repeatedly); and it continues after the victim has made it clear that this attention is unwanted.

However, our current working definition of “sexual misconduct” is “anything a man says or does that makes a woman uncomfortable.” What’s next? Winking? Smiling? Tipping a chin? Looking at a women for longer than three seconds? How are men supposed to express attraction to women these days? By formal legal contract? Pity we fired all the lawyers. Until we draw some lines, we’re stuck with the current “sexual misconduct” definition, which is anything a woman says it is, and the penalty is immediate social and professional excoriation.

Could we give men a tiny break? Unlike women, who hormonally fizzle out mid-life or so, men are hard-wired to be sexually active creatures from puberty to the grave. It’s how the species survives. Even when they aren’t consciously thinking about sex, their biology is quietly monitoring the scene for potential places to plant their seed.

Thankfully, the vast majority of men learn to control those urges, and those who indulge them even when the attraction isn’t mutual end up in the unemployment line or jail, and rightly so. Most men, when their attempt to get close to a woman is met with a firm “Not interested, pal,” will retreat in humiliation and look elsewhere. Don’t feel too sorry for them, however — that’s only about a 15-second time lapse, because they’re hard-wired to keep trying. Their biological clocks tick too, and much faster, for their entire lives.

So, given the curse of male biology, combined with our current society where all women are potential victims and all men potential harassers, abusers or rapists, and every glance, comment or touch sounds the alarm of sexual misconduct or worse, I’ve landed upon a solution: The Reverse Burqa.

Henceforth, when in the presence of women to whom they’re not married, all men shall be required to be covered from head to toe, beginning at puberty. Unlike the traditional female burqa, the male burqa will not have arms, thereby protecting women from any potential groping. In other words, a full-body condom. And, because they’re men, and they’re enclosed in a sheet any time they’re near women, we already know what they’ll be doing under there. Because… they’re men.

This will suffice until we develop “Minority Report” level prescient technology that identifies any sexual thought a man might have before he can act upon it, seizes him and transports him forthwith to the nearest government castration center.

Or, we could just go back to following laws rather than hashtag hysteria.


Sexual harassment or just crassitude?

Apparently men can no longer be allowed in the workplace.

Going forward, men will only be allowed as house pets.

I keed, I keed…

Because, come on — men make crummy house pets. They’re big, noisy and messy, and exceedingly difficult to leash-train. They’d do better as livestock — kept outside in a corral until haltered and led by an experienced handler.

Man Saddles!

I totally just copyrighted that, and this column is evidence. It’s in print and dated. Don’t mess with me, because I’ll have at least one lawyer in my nifty little man stable.

Before your righteous indignation gets all in a bunch — exhale: I keed, I keed.

If you’re offended by inappropriate or shocking banter, pal, you’re reading the wrong column. I make no apologies. I am what I am. The chili pepper does not apologize for not tasting like strawberry ice cream.

Chili peppers gotta pepp.

You want sweetness and light, go watch kitten videos on YouTube.


The point here isn’t whether I harbor sexist views about men (OK, I do, but that’s still not the point) — the point is: Can we joke about anything anymore? If everything is so blasted serious, how will we know when something is actually harmful? Have we become haunted by our humorless Puritan ancestors?

When did we become so uptight? So thin-skinned and fragile, so hypersensitive and hypervigilant, that any whiff of sexuality propels us into sexual harassment hysteria, fleeing to the nearest authority to point the finger of damnation? Moreover, when did accusations become convictions? Back in the 1600s, women were convicted and sentenced to death for witchcraft simply because someone else claimed she was a witch. No proof, just accusations. Is it 1692 all over again?

I feel like I’ve tumbled into Bizarro World — down is up, up is down, and nothing makes sense, because be clear: I’m a feminist! I grew up in the shadow of Gloria Steinem and bra-burning and the (still infuriatingly unratified) Equal Rights Amendment. I have my Pink Pussy Hat and I ain’t afraid to use it!

But amid this high-speed montage of sexual harassment, I had a tipping point: Kevin Spacey. I adore him. I’ll watch a movie, even a shitty one, just because he’s in it. So when an allegation emerged from a then-underage person that Spacey hit on him while both were intoxicated at a Hollywood party three decades ago, and just like that, Spacey was bounced off his successful “House of Cards” series on Netflix, I had to pump the brakes.

Wait a minute… what was a minor doing at a drunken Hollywood celebrity party? Where were his parents? Did Spacey even know he was a minor? Hollywood isn’t famed for propriety, let alone with cocktails. Maybe Spacey was behaving like a jerk, but contextually speaking, is this alleged assault really so shocking?


What a precious little yester-year word.

Between the social media feeding frenzy and the regular media tossing bucket after bucket of tasty “gotcha” chum into the waters, there’s no such thing as “allegation” anymore. Guilty! Send him to the stocks and tattoo a scarlet SH (Sexual Harasser) on his forehead!

Am I the only one clinging to the winsome notion of due process? Constitutional rights? A fair and speedy trial? Better question: Am I the only one worried about abandoning them?

This is where it gets all Bizarro World-y.

Women have irrefutably been discounted and blamed for their abuse at the hands of men, beginning with Eve herself. When Adam — who bit the apple of his own free will — was confronted by God, Adam declared “she made me do it” without missing a beat. That was good enough for God — The Man said it, so it must be true. Sadly, it’s been this way for women ever since.

Women must be taken seriously when they’re abused, harassed and raped. But there’s a process: allegation, charges, evidence, trial, verdict. That’s the very foundation of our society, and if we abandon it, our country is in danger of utter disintegration.

Take the allegations against Garrison Keillor. An accusation emerged and he was canned on the spot. Garrison Keillor! The icon! Mr. Prairie Home Companion! An oasis of feel-good in an otherwise insane world!

In a follow-up Washington Post story, a befuddled Keillor said he didn’t even know what the allegations were — his employer never even laid them all out — but suspected an incident when he touched a woman’s bare back while trying to console her. She recoiled. He said he was sorry. That wasn’t good enough. Sound the alarms! It’s sexual assault! Especially if I’ll get my moment on E!

Wow. “Touch” equals “assault”? I better stop hugging people before I’m accused of pre-rape. That will be next. “Pre-crimes.” Maybe “Minority Report” was actually pre-reality.

Then there was another gal who came forward, claiming Al Franken groped her. While hugging her for a photo, she claims he grabbed her breast. Stephanie Kemplin, an Army veteran, recounted this story, misty-eyed and through tears of her trauma.

Give me a break.

First off, yes, people’s hands sometimes land on a breast, unintentionally and to everyone’s embarrassment. I’ve had it happen to me. I’ve even done it myself. What can you do but roll your eyes, particularly when the “offender” is horrified.

Second, if someone grabbed my breast, and I knew it was an intentional feel, whatever happened to ramming an elbow into his ribs? Kemplin was in the ARMY. She knew how to defend herself against this and far worse. And this “groping” was enough to traumatize her for 20 years?

Give me two breaks.

Seriously, people, where does it end? This lifelong feminist says enough’s enough. Every juvenile, lunk-headed male comment, every whistle, every pat on the shoulder isn’t sexual harassment. All men aren’t bad. They’re just not. Bad house pets, yes. But not intrinsically bad.

Vilifying half of the population isn’t the answer to equality. Worse yet, this endless torrent of sexual harassment allegations, both egregious and microscopic but given equal weight, makes it harder for truly harassed and abused women to get justice. Their voices are lost in the roar.

We need a litmus test. If your boss says your promotion requires kneepads, that’s harassment. If some random idiot says he’d like to see you on kneepads, that’s not harassment. That’s crassitude.

Yes, that’s a word, and perfect for our current sexual harassment confusion. And oh, what serendipitous joy that “ass” is the core of both “harassment” and “crassitude,” because that’s the best label for men who demean women and treat them like boobs on legs.

Is it harassment or crassitude? Simple: If you give him a middle finger and a well-deserved verbal vivisection, will you get fired? No? It’s crassitude. Did it happen at work? Yes? It’s harassment.

Ladies, the world isn’t our babysitter. It’s not the world’s job to take care not to rattle our tender sensitivities. If you go through life as a victim, all the world’s an assailant. That said, whether crassitude or harassment, we need to confront it, fearlessly. But we need to know the difference. And also… we need to lighten up a little. Puritanism makes your butt look fat.


Boob Blog: Are our bras killing us?

Four years ago, I wrote about the horrific breast rash I’d finally pinned to two of my Victoria’s Secret bras. They were the same style and color I’d worn for years, except these two were made in China, whereas the older ones were made in India.

Since then, I’ve written several blog posts on this topic, so many that I’ve nicknamed my blog site the “Boob Blog.” Over the years, women kept coming to me about the same excruciating symptoms I’d had while wearing VS bras. More recently, a couple other brands caused the rash too, which isn’t surprising because the issue isn’t Victoria’s Secret bras, per se, it’s the fabric/materials used in the bra, which aren’t manufactured by Victoria’s Secret — only purchased.

The fabric, as is the case with anything made in China, could contain anything and everything. Harmful? Poisonous? The Chinese don’t care if they’re harmful, and neither do the corporations that sell these cheap products at huge markups. The ka-ching ka-ching ka-ching of corporate profit drowns out the objections of a few itchy, unhappy customers.

The tidal wave of toxic products coming out of China is too huge for our government to track. Only a small percentage of Chinese imports are inspected, unless of course, someone dies. Then the U.S. government is interested. Until someone dies from a breast rash, neither the government nor the company that makes Victoria’s Secret bras — Limited Brands — gives a shit.

While our government may not be aware of the breast rash issue, VS/Limited Brands certainly has been aware since at least 2008, when they were sued for allegedly having formaldehyde in their bras. However, Limited Brands squashed that lawsuit by blaming the plaintiff for her condition. She was defective, not the bras.

I had a chat with VS reps a couple years ago, and they essentially told me the same thing, by offering to guide me “toward a product that will work for you.” That implies that VS knows which bras have chemicals in them if they’re able to guide me away from them.

The reps also suggested that I get an allergy test for formaldehyde, which I did, and lo and behold, I’m not allergic to formaldehyde. But I could still be sensitive to it. Example: Although I’m technically not allergic to perfumes, I’m hypersensitive to them. Too much perfume makse me wheeze and cough, and if you’re one of those gals whose perfume cloud announces your entry 20 feet before you walk through the door… I kind of hate you. Here’s the deal: If I can smell your perfume farther away than I could kiss you, it’s too much. You’re a walking biohazard to someone like me.

So. Maybe it’s not formaldehyde in the bras. But if not… what? It’s something, because women are still getting breast rashes. VS knows it’s something too (for sure since that 2008 lawsuit) — they’re aware of my “Boob Blog” because they contacted me, not vice-versa. They also follow me on Twitter, and it’s not because they think I’m super cool and funny.

They also know about the 2012 Greenpeace International report, “Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-up,” which includes Victoria’s Secret amongst the garment manufacturers discovered to have toxic chemicals in their products. reported in 2015 that “Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, agreed to give in to mounting pressure by Greenpeace over two years ago and halt the use of the deadly chemicals, but since then, little is known about the mammoth lingerie retailer’s progress to ensure that dangerous toxins are no longer a part of their fashions,” and adds, “At that time, Limited Brands made a commitment to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from its supply chain and products by 2020. But unlike the media sought by Greenpeace in releasing its investigative report in late 2012, there has been little public acknowledgement from Victoria’s Secret or Limited Brands regarding its decision to do away with the deadly chemicals.”

Word, that. Victoria’s Secret isn’t about to announce a solution to a problem that they deny exists. And, women have contacted me as recently as last week about breast rashes from new VS bras, so there’s apparently no quiet solution in place either. But the problem’s definitely still there.

One gal, who posts on my blog as “MyBoobsArePissedOff,” theorized that formaldehyde isn’t the problem — it’s spray polyurethane, used to glue layers of fabric together in the bras. Is it that? Formaldehyde? Something else? I don’t know what causes the rash, I only know that it’s still happening, based upon reports from women currently suffering. They often ask me what they can do. I tell them all: Stop wearing the bra. If the rash goes away after a couple weeks and comes roaring back when you put the bra back on… mystery solved. The really sad part is that so many of them have been living in terror of having some horrific disease and have been tested for everything under the sun, and all along, it was their bra.

Some ask about suing, but Limited Brands has very deep pockets (thanks to all those bras we’ve purchased over the years) and the cost of fighting them is prohibitive. And, ultimately, I don’t think lawyers are the answer. I think medical research is the answer. I predict that scientific scrutiny will discover more to this fabric chemical issue than mere itchy breasts, and that may finally get the government’s attention.

True, the government isn’t interested in hazardous products until someone dies. But what if women have already died from chemicals in their bras? The bras contain chemicals. Some of us react to those chemicals and take the bras off. Vastly more, however, don’t react to the chemicals, and continue wearing the bras, thereby having daily direct skin contact with known carcinogens over many years. Chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and, obviously, our breasts are covered with skin.

One in eight American women gets breast cancer. Could chemicals in our bras be a factor? Shouldn’t we find out?

Don’t think about the cow… or Trump

It has been more than 20 years since I had a full-on panic attack — airline travel notwithstanding. Of course, flying is a phobia and the anxiety has an obvious immediate reason — HOLY SHIT I’M ABOUT TO GET ON AN AIRPLANE — but a panic attack is a different animal. It comes on for no exact, obvious reason. You can feel it building, and building, and building…. and then there’s a tipping point. And then — it’s on: heart pounding, shortness of breath, a dizzy, whirling feeling in your brain, and difficulty speaking because your mind is absorbed with escape.

I need to FLEE and I need to flee right NOW.

Yesterday evening, I wasn’t in an airport, or thinking about airplanes. It had been a fairly typical day, however, with the country poised to fall into the hands of a sociopathic, narcissistic megalomaniac with the maturity and self-control of an overtired toddler, the definition of “typical” has been thrown out the window. This is the new typical, the new “normal”: Every single day… possibly every single hour… we are going to be bombarded with Donald Trump’s latest outrageous word or action. Every time we think he can’t possibly do something more alarming and terrifying, he does. And it appears that with a Republican Congressional majority, he will have free rein to do whatever his greedy heart desires, because historically, Republicans have never, ever disagreed with a Republican president and have worked vigorously to oppose anything a Democratic president attempts to do. That’s how they roll. Will they roll differently with Trump? Well, that depends. Will their agreement or disagreement have an effect on their chances of re-election? Because that’s all they really care about, the self-serving fucks.

So, this is our set point. Our lives are about to fall into a tiny-minded tyrant’s hands, and I don’t believe the Congressional Republicans will do anything to stop him. Say hello to our next Supreme Court Justice, David Duke.

My worries about the exponential horrors that may transpire under the Trump Administration have my anxiety level at an all-time high set point. I have actually had nightmares about it, and here’s the thing — so have so very many others, because when I raised the topic, responses came flooding in that others are having nightmares too. Something is simmering in our collective unconscious, and it’s not good.

Yesterday, I started the day by writing a #NotMyPresident column, and all these thoughts and fears were swirling in my mind. By the time I was done, I had a mild headache and my heart was beating harder than it should. I attempted to walk it off, because physical activity in the past has calmed my heart when it races. I walked my horse (who is also a very grounding energy) round and round the barn, chatting, breathing deeply, trying to bring my energy level down a notch. It worked. While I was walking the horse. Unfortunately, I can’t walk Pendragon to work and round and round my desk while typing on my keyboard. I’m good, but I’m not that good.

The time had come to put Penn away and get back to the office. As soon as I got in the car, I could feel my tension rising again. I got to the office and decided to distract myself and think about this story I’m working on — mountain lions leaving tracks and killing animals in rural Winters (right next to where my horse lives!). I call one of the ladies who had a run-in with a mountain lion. A calf was killed. Bummer. I suppose nature happens, and I know meat doesn’t come from little styrofoam trays at the market, but still, the efforts of carnivores to stay alive do give me the willies, particularly when as far as a predator is concerned, I am food.

So, the woman begins to tell the tale of what happened: She had a young cow, giving birth her first time, and she wandered too far from the herd. She began giving birth in the middle of the night. She didn’t make it until morning. When the woman found her, the newborn calf had been stripped of every morsel of flesh on its tiny body… nothing left but bones. But the cow… that poor, poor cow… she’d had her body cavity eaten, beginning from the udders.

Eaten alive.

While giving birth.

The gush of empathy for this poor creature enduring such horrendous torture WHILE giving birth was my tipping point. Don’t ask me to make sense of this, because panic attacks don’t make sense. The image of that cow being in the throes of labor while being torn apart by a mountain lion swirled in my head, and swirled and swirled and swirled. My heart started pounding harder and faster, and none of my breathing techniques were working. My thoughts were spinning out of control, but not to anyplace in particular, just spinning in circles with random images of that poor cow.

I went to see my massage therapist, and after a bit, I felt calm. While I was on the table. And maybe for about 30 minutes afterwards. But, while pushing an ordinary shopping cart through an ordinary market buying ordinary things like I do on every other ordinary Friday… the panic attack switch flipped. By the time I got to the checkout line, my mind was almost whirling with incoherence and all I really wanted to do was leave the full cart there and run for my life. To where? I don’t know. As long as it was anywhere but here. Run, run, run until my lungs and legs collapse.

But of course, I couldn’t. I was in a public place, I had to keep it together, function as best as I could, be courteous, get my stuff in the car and go home. I did breathing exercises the whole way. Nothing. I unloaded the groceries and by the time I was done, I was so wound up, it was difficult to carry on a conversation with my husband, and even more so when I tried to explain that I got really upset by what happened to a cow.

It might sound comical to you, a dead cow triggering a panic attack after not having one for about two decades. But if it does — you’ve never had a panic attack. They aren’t pretty or fun, and when nothing else has worked to get control, I finally, reluctantly decided to take a Xanax, which I save for when I have to fly. Xanax is a funny drug. If you take it when you aren’t having anxiety, it might make you a little drowsy, but it doesn’t really do much. But when you are in the midst of full-blown anxiety, you can actually feel your brain begin to calm down to a normal place where you can control your thoughts and speak coherently again, and exhale.

After I’d gotten through this flood of panic, I spent the rest of the evening sitting with my cats and husband, with massage-y ambient music, a vanilla-scented candle and a cup of chamomile/lavender tea. He finally went to bed, and I sat there even longer, and eventually picked up my iPad and played Candy Crush for about two hours. Funny thing about Candy Crush — your right brain takes over and your anxiety-ridden left brain, with all its swirling words and fears, shuts off. It’s like taking a vacation from your own head.

Even so, several times during the night, the image of the cow being eaten alive by the mountain lion popped into my head and woke me up, because Xanax wears off after about five hours. I didn’t want to take more, and so every time the image appeared, I’d command myself, “Don’t think about the cow! Don’t think about the cow!”

And, of course… I still thought about the cow.

I don’t know where this story goes, exactly, which is why it’s a blog and not a column. But what I do know is that my set-point for anxiety is very high right now and upon Inauguration Day, will likely get even higher, and I have to wonder what will trigger then next panic attack. I guess I’d better keep my Xanax prescription filled.