My second apartment in Los Angeles was on the border of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. In case you are picturing a luxury situation, let me clear that up. It was a stone’s throw from a “happy ending” massage parlor, the 10 freeway, a rehab and a liqueur store.
Jen and I had a typical LA living arrangement: our neighbors were mostly beautiful people in their mid 20’s: many actors (baristas) 2 comedians, a massage therapist, and a cop.
We were each other’s family, in a way that only people who have lived thousands of miles from their actual family understand. It was a commune of sorts. Jen and I cooked, while others bought the beer or gave massages.
I remember originally thinking, it’s going to be great to have a member of LAPD living amongst us. Oh, all of the parking tickets I will not have to pay. Oh, the blanket of safety it will provide.
Very soon into living in our own little Melsose Place, we realized “John” the cop, was not going to provide safety.
One night, Jen, Camilla and I, sat in the dark while John threw plastic chairs at our glass door. He was angry we wouldn’t let him in, or go out to bars. He called us horrible names as we tried to forget he had a gun, in his apartment, 50 ft away. Eventually, his drunken anger turned into a drunken stupor and he went back to his apartment.
After this incident, the women got together and called LAPD internal affairs. We were concerned for our safety, but we feared most for the people, on the streets, he was hired to protect. Each of us, had heard him say, how much he was looking forward to shooting his first person. He used racial slurs and degrading language toward minorities and women.
We gave as much detail to the IA representative as possible, and asked to stay anonymous. Then, we waited.
And, nothing happened. We moved out, as soon as our lease allowed. I wish I could say, I followed up weekly, until someone promised me he would never work in law enforcement again. But, I didn’t. Because, it stopped affecting my life. And I regret that. I regret that I didn’t speak up for the people for which this would surely become a problem.
I love the police. I do. These are the people that block traffic, so my children can skateboard safely. They risk their lives for us. They keep us safe.
I believe most police are good. But, like Drs, teachers, mechanics and every other profession, there are some that aren’t very good at their job or are unable to process the stress that this job creates. And unfortunately, this is a life or death situation that we need to get right. People are unjustly losing their freedom and they are losing their lives.
I grew up in a small town outside of Philly. One of my brother’s best friends, Desroy, moved to our town from Jamaica in first grade. One night in high school, a very large group of 10th-12th graders was walking near my parents house.
A police car pulled up, “where you goin Des? Go home.”
I was incensed.
“Excuse me. You can not single Des out of a group of 20. He hasn’t done anything wrong. I am reporting you. This is fascism and racism.” (I used the word fascism as often as possible in high school)
We stormed into my parents home, woke my mom up and sat in a frenzy as she called the police to demand to know why Des was singled out. I can’t remember the outcome but I do recall the confidence I felt demanding an answer, at 18 years old, from a police officer. I walked up to that car, never thinking for a moment that I could be arrested or shot. That is my basic freedom, that I have always taken for granted. I am able to speak my mind and to walk freely on the streets of small towns and big cities. I can go about my day knowing that as my children walk home from school, the police will block traffic for them and wave them along, and smile at them.
I was just told the story of Kitty Genovese, a young woman murdered in 1964, while 38 people were within earshot, some watching out their windows. Her murder took over a half hour and people stood by. This event has been studied to try to comprehend why people don’t act, when they know something horrible is happening. The term, bystander effect, originated from this case. The more people present, the less likely anyone is to help a victim.
With the internet and constant information, we are living a larger scale version of Kitty Genovese’s murder. We watch and hope someone will do something about it.
This is a complex issue. There is a lot of gray. We are fed stories constantly and as I have learned from refereeing my kids’ fights, there are three sides to every story and every side is right and every side is wrong. If you are one of those people saying, “all police are angry thugs” then you are as much at fault as those who think that every unarmed black teenager “lunged” and “went for a gun”.
We are all bystanders to a situation that needs to be fixed. No more cover ups (an autopsy confirms that a man shot himself in the chest with hands cuffed behind his back). No more intimidation of minorities for doing things that you and I take for granted: walking the streets, waiting for our child outside their school, playing music in a parked car. We, need to stop creating a mythology around black young males and we need to stop expecting the police to be more than human.
I don’t want to be a bystander any longer.
My dad watches The Today Show every morning. We like to poke a little fun and call Hoda and Kathie Lee, “his girls”. I listen to Howard Stern whenever my kids aren’t in the car, so I get the idea of feeling connected to the daily routine of a show. (Hey now)
Last week, at the Cape, we were in hour 15 of the never ending Today Show, and a segment about the ALS ice bucket challenge came up.
Seth and I both noticed the word scrawl at the bottom of the screen. “Ice Bucket Challenge Raises over 10 Million”.
Yikes. One of the most watched shows, did not put the most important part of the story on the screen. They forgot to write ALS, ANYWHERE. The words on the screen are the most important part, Kathie Lee. No one can actually listen to every crazy word you say.
I have been uneasy about this campaign from the start. I knew I would be nominated, I have the friends and family who like to participate. I knew I would accept. But, I knew in accepting I would be a bit of a hypocrite,
With October right around the corner, I brace myself for the pink boas. Year one of my diagnosis, I was angry, my nerve endings were wrapped around my body. I didn’t like seeing so much celebration around a topic that I knew to be so freaking heartbreaking. I was suffering, why was there a party? “Why don’t they just donate their money and shut the f’in party down. I think everyone is Aware by now”
But, each year I have gotten a little more comfortable with the “Save the Tatas” brigade. I began to realize, this shit ain’t about me. And it’s ok. The world has awful stuff happening every moment of every day and sometimes you need to lighten the mood: wear a pink boa or dump some ice.
Why I think the ALS challenge works, is not only about the money raised, but the community it created. Maybe it’s only for a week or a month, but I think it will last longer than that. The awareness is paramount, and that is where The Todsy Show missed the boat.
Having a disease or a family member with a disease that people know very little about is very lonely. I would imagine. I have the Kevin Bacon of diseases. Everyone knows someone who has/had it, and they love to play 6 degrees of how it’s similar.
I never bought the wasting water, selfie obsessed argument of why this challenge isn’t a good idea.
I worried that it was to much of a celebration around a disease that brings so much pain. But, what I think has been most painful for people living with ALS is the lack of understanding. If 100 people put ALS in Google and learned something, this week, then this campaign did something important.
What this campaign did for me? It got me to lighten up. I don’t have to be the John Lithgow, father from Footloose, telling everyone not to dance. (Again with the Kevin Bacon). I am having my moment at the end of the movie, when Lithgow realizes the dancing isn’t about the dancing, it’s about the celebration of life.
So dump on, my friends. I love seeing the videos and I love seeing the raised $. I promise to try and smile my way through October, lighten up and cut loose…footloose.
Peace and love. Peace and Love.
I cheated. I am seeing a new cancer center. Well, I wouldn’t call it seeing. It’s more of a one day stand.
I’m away from Miami for well over a month and as many of you know, I need a monthly shot to keep my ovaries asleep.
So, at 9am, the boys and I drove to the Penn affiliated, Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May.
Every chair in their infusion room was taken, by men and women whose age seemed to be averaging around 150. The chairs were set up in a tight circle with some old magazines in the middle. (On a positive note, they let Isaac bring home November 2013 issue of PC World.)
So, I handed my boys a fiver and they hit the vending machines. (Fruit snacks and graham crackers for breakfast, don’t judge me)
I got back to the room just as a man was getting up.
After I took my seat, I heard one nurse ask another, “What is she here for? I’ve never heard of this medicine.”
Let’s back up for a second. I get a shot named Zoladex. It is a slow release pellet that is implanted into my lower belly. It looks less like a shot, more like a torture device.
After I had my vitals taken, a fire alarm went off. So, just in case any of my nerves had been left intact, they were now fried.
One of the nurses lead me back to a chair behind the nurses’ station, due to complete lack of privacy in the infusion room.
“Have you had this shot before?”
“Many, many times.” I assured her.
“I wonder what the instructions mean, when they say insert at an angle. It looks like it’s really going to hurt.”
I am sure there are less confidence inducing situations: your pilot getting on the loud speaker to ask which direction is West or your tandem skydiving instructor asking which cord to pull.
“Child birth hurts more,” I volunteered. “Mostly, because this is over quicker”
Now, I hate to compare centers. But, I will. My Center is special. It is housed in a house. Literally a building that was once a home. Each infusion chair can be made private if you don’t feel like sharing your shitty 4 hour experience with 20 other people. There is a kitchen with delicious snacks and beverages. (They had me at the first bagel) Everyone not only knows my name, they know everything about me. My center is a breast center, so it speaks my language. They see women of all ages, so my ovary lulling meds are very common.
So, I asked the nurse at Cape Regional. “Do you get many young people?”
“No, just about everyone is over 60”
Aha. No wonder everyone seemed to have sad eyes for me.
They aren’t used to my kind.
“OK, here we go”
“Don’t worry. It’s going to hurt me way more than it will hurt you”I said.
She smiled and jammed the needle into my belly.
And, it didn’t hurt.
Well, no more than usual.
Happy 4th! Xo
Sent from my iPhone
“Joanna, where do you keep the butter?”
This is the last thing you expect or hear as you walk in your kitchen, in the middle of your 10 year old’s
play date hang time with his friend.
“Are you making some food?” I asked, as I rounded the corner.
That’s when Luca showed me his hand. On his finger was a disc. He was wearing it like a ring and it looked pretty tight.
So, we got to work. I tried lotion, dish soap, ice cubes. The disc wouldn’t budge.
His finger was turning purple. I reviewed my options. The humiliation of walking over to the police station and having the nice cops, ask if I’m the same woman who brought in a child in handcuffs, a few months back, would be too much.
I thought of walking him home, but his parents were not there.
So, I went for the garden shears.
“Is this going to hurt?” Luca asked.
“Not if I do it right. Hold still.”
So, with one eye closed, I snapped the CD down the side with the clippers. We then wiggled the CD off, with not even a scratch to his finger. His hand went back to it’s normal color and the boys went back to playing.
Being a mom of boys (and occasional mom to their friends), creates situations I never conjured up, before my parenting days. It’s always the unexpected (handcuffs and Stuck CDs) that throw me for a loop.
My boys are at a heartbreaking stage. I feel like bursting into tears sometimes when I look at them. I see the teenagers they are about to become.
Last night as they both sat on my lap, I made them promise they will never be too old to lap sit. I know this ploy has been the last ditch attempt of mom’s forever. Caveman moms, asked this question, just as their teenage boys were running off to fly on the back of a pterodactyl. (I was so far off on my spelling, autocorrect couldn’t help. Starts with a P?)
Last month, during Passover, a boy from our neighborhood, died in a freak pool accident. There was a loose wire and one of those horrific things that you can’t prepare for, happened. Our community is shaken and reminded that all of the vigilance, watchful parenting, doesn’t prevent the unpreventable.
I have always subscribed to the, who cares about the spilled lemonade, CD stuck on finger, ripped jeans, way of parenting. After my cancer mishigas, it has become even more pronounced.
So, here we are entering the tween years. I may get the occasional “you are ruining my life” But I still get to solve most of their problems (I’m hungry, I forgot my Spanish folder, I can’t get these handcuffs off). I know soon they won’t come to me with all of their problems and they will tell me that I am ruining their life, daily. So, I will savor today and grab all of the lap sitting, I can get.
A woman that I have known for a while, just found out about my whole cancer thing. Right away she said, “My friend died of breast cancer. She was misdiagnosed. It was very sad.”
She started the story. “My friend went in for a mammogram, they told her she was stage one. Two weeks later, they told her she was actually stage 4. How could the doctors have gotten it so wrong?”
I explained to this woman, diagnosis is often many steps. It is not a misdiagnosis, but a collection of information that is gathered through biopsies, scans and detective work. She seemed genuinely surprised that what she had believed this whole time, that her friend had died because of negligence, was misinformation
I know that the average person knows minimal about cancer, until they have a reason to know more. But, we create a good amount of angst and frustration by passing on information that is far off the mark. This woman’s doctors were looked at as “Bad”, which in return puts some judgement on her for choosing the wrong docs.
At a luncheon a few days ago (yep, I am becoming a lady who lunches), a women said to me, “our toxic thoughts become toxins in our bodies that become disease.”
Fabulous, now the food I eat is killing me, the sun is killing me, deodorant is killing me and even my own thoughts are like thought assassins fueling my cancer.
Can I be the first to say, I don’t know shit? I don’t know if my parenting is the right way to parent. I don’t know what you should eat. Breast feeding, who knows? I did it because I was too lazy to mix formula. They find jet fuel in breast milk. Is that so much healthier that we feel it’s ok to shame the women who don’t nurse?
I don’t live my life without judgement. I thought the parents that let their 8th grader drop out of school to pursue a career in professional guitar hero, were making a mistake. (Though this kid really could play) If you tell me you are going on The Bachelor to find your true soulmate, I may roll my eyes.
But, I promise not to give you a dirty look if you give your 6 year old a Sprite, or forget to pack sunscreen for the beach, or give your baby formula. Judging others is just more toxic thought which apparently could bring my cancer back. So, even you, parents who let your 8th grader drop out of school to dedicate his time to guitar hero, I am letting my toxic judgement go…Rock On.
When we pulled up to school today, I turned around and realized both of my children were in shorts and Jed was wearing short sleeves with no jacket. The temp outside: 56 degrees.
I watched the other kids walking into school: gloves, scarves, down jackets, boots, ski hats.
I took my sweatshirt off and told Jed he couldn’t get out of my car until he put my sweatshirt on. Not because I worried about his warmth (by midday, the temp will be 74 degrees), I was not looking forward to the call from school telling me my child was not dressed for winter. He argued with me for a minute. Not many 7 year old boys revel in the idea of wearing their mom’s sweatshirt to school. I reminded him that he can take it off the minute he gets into class and not put it on again, ever.
So, with sleeves hanging down to his knees he stomped into school.
My only resolution this New Year, is to write more. I know, it’s Jan 7th, so it took me a whole week to write. But, don’t judge me. Your resolution was most likely to exercise more and eat better. You are probably sitting at a desk or laying on the couch reading this, possibly eating a block of cheese.
So may 2014 bring you all of the wonderful things that life can bring. I hope that all of your goals are met, may they be: more writing, less cheese or the confidence that every day, you get to choose your own clothes. XO