Your Wings ARE Real!

These are my comments on life in general, and often, specifically: fairies,artwork in progress,politics,and food.

October 5, 2013

In it

Tonight is one of those perfect starry nights when it's just chill enough to keep the bugs away, but pleasant enough to sit out on the deck comfortably. I was stretched out on the lounge staring up listening to all the music in the trees, smelling the yard's unique freshness and I just felt like such a part of it! Melded with the stars....

August 11, 2013

What's a little meth when your nose is stuffy?

There can be no doubt that methamphetamine production is a menace on many levels. From the devastating effects of addiction on the individual, to the communities and agencies who must support the broken families, to the agencies that must clean up contamination left behind abandoned labs, to the criminal justice system that must try to stop the manufacture and dealing of the meth, to the health system that must try to repair an addicted body, it's truly a picture of falling dominoes to the tune of $23,384.4 million annually, according to a Rand study.

A recent study by the General Accounting Office compared the methods that states are using to reduce methamphetamine production. Regulations were implemented by various states beginning in 2004 in attempts to stem the production of methamphetamine. In 2006, the CMEA (the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act) placed federal limits  on how much pseudephedrine-containing (PSE) drugs can be bought and require PSE products to be kept behind a counter. Purchasers are required to show a photo ID. Pharmacies are required to keep a log of those who buy the drugs. As well, many states implemented the NPLex system, a database that tracks PSE purchases by individuals. Initially these regulations and systems enjoyed success. For example, in Alabama, in just the first quarter of 2010, 26,354 purchases were blocked, amounting to a total of 64,000 grams of PSE (Subcommittee Report of the Alabama Drug Abuse Task Force).   Following these efforts, methamphetamine incidents declined sharply after peaking at 24,000 total incidents in 2004 to a low of 7,000 incidents in 2007. 

However, they soon began to increase again. In 2010, 15,000 total incidents were reported.  Meth lab incidents in Kentucky have increased from 297 in 2007 to 696 in 2009 despite implementation of the NPLex system. It didn't take long for meth producers to get around the various obstacles presented by the CMEA by hiring gangs of "smurfers" who buy the small quantities allowed (sometimes using false IDs), and then combining the purchases until they have enough to make their next batch of meth. In addition, new methods of meth production have made it easier and cheaper to produce meth.

It's clear that something else needs to be done. Two states have gone one step further, and now require any PSE product to be prescribed by a medical provider (PSE products had required prescriptions until 1976). The GAO study reports that Oregon and Mississippi's adoption of this policy appears to have helped to reduce meth lab incidents. For example, in Mississippi, the number of reported meth lab incidents declined from their peak by 66 percent to approximately 321 labs in 2011.

The West Virginia legislature is considering a bill to require prescriptions for PSE products. They are right to be so concerned. A few months ago, the Clandestine Drug Lab Remediation Program in West Virginia said 271 labs were uncovered in 2012, an increase of 50 from 2008. Just since the start of this year, authorities report 40 labs have been busted. Granted, NPLEx was just implemented in January of this year, but if the meth producers are any bit as savvy as the producers in other states, we can assume that many labs are going undetected.

The OTC (over the counter) drug industry is fighting hard to kill this bill. Their objection is that it will be harder for patients to acquire PSE products. One of the "officials" arguing against this bill is Carlos Gutierrez, director of governmental affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association The Consumer Healthcare Products Association represents the country's leading makers of consumer healthcare products. Their job is to make sure their clients' products are as easy to buy as possible and that no legislation passes that will hurt any stockholders of their clients (amount spent on "lobbying activities" in 2012: $768,162)  He argues that a doctor might write a prescription for someone to get a PSE product for an entire year and that the product would go into a meth lab. This is ridiculous for a number of reasons. First of all, most doctors won't write a prescription for an entire year. Second of all, PSE products aren't supposed to be taken long term (just read the warnings on the package: -- 7 days is the recommended limit).  

As well, pharmacy associations such as the National Community Pharmacies Association and the National  Association of Chain Drug Stores are opposed to the bill. 

Granted, the arguments against this bill are many: a doctor's visit will most likely be required in order to get the prescription, tax revenues will be lost because prescriptions are not taxed, the argument that prescription drugs are already abused, healthcare costs would rise, etc.

However, evidence from the two states who have implemented the new requirement have defied most of those arguments. Added costs to the Medicaid program in Oregon, for example, were only $8,000. The co-pay, when insurance was used for the prescription drug, usually made it even cheaper to the patient, and for those who didn't have insurance, it only cost $6. 

We require prescriptions for other dangerous drugs, such as Oxycontin and Percoset, and yes, a certain amount of those drugs sadly end up in the wrong hands. However, what kind of toll would we be looking at if those drugs didn't require prescriptions? Also, meth labs are dangerous. They require the the precision and care of a scientist. Meth labs can explode, cause years of contamination, endanger health care and law enforcement personnel. Methamphetamine, whether in an area where a cook, or use, has occurred, can readily become airborne both as a particulate and a vapor. It can thereafter settle on any flat surface and be picked up by passersby or re-aerosolized and inhaled. This is most important where toddlers and young children are present. Practically anyone associated with a meth cook area: family, friends, law enforcement, custodial personnel, will have positive urine tests for methamphetamines (Atlantic Environmental Incorporated). In other words, it is a HAZARDOUS MATERIAL that should be under the strictest possible regulation.

July 10, 2013

The Wall is High

Someday I want to write a novel, or perhaps a play, that includes a character with a quirk that causes them to respond to things with a Patti Smith quote. Maybe they'll have Alzheimer's, or just be a Patti Smith savant of some kind. This character will be a reflection of myself, because I often respond to things in my head with a line from a Patti Smith song. How often have I looked up at the sky at night through blurry eyes, and thought, "It was as if someone had spread butter on all the fine points of the stars Cause when he looked up they started to slip." 

Emotional events evoke emotional memories. As the year started off with the unexpected death of my ex-husband Jay, it also brought back all the conflicting, deeply rooted feelings I still had for him. Love, hate, anger, compassion, all rattled around in my heart like a train out of control, and then there was dealing with my own grief while worrying about our daughter's grief.... I often found my thoughts returning to my 25 year old self, when I was starting to realize although there would be many joys with this man, the depths to which I would plunge were starting to outweigh them.

Should I pursue a path so twisted ? 
Should I crawl defeated and gifted ? 
Should I go the length of a river 
[The royal, the throne, the cry me a river] 
Everything I've done, I've done for you 
Oh I give my life for you. 
Every move I made I move to you, 
And I came like a magnet for you now. 

We put him to rest in a sweet memorial by the ocean, giving his ashes to the gray waves that lapped the Connecticut beach. Sitting on a wooden pier, we all shared our thoughts quietly, feeling peacefully sad. What else could I summon for that day than by "Beneath the Southern Cross"?

To be
Not anyone
This maze of being
To cry
Not any cry
So mournful that
The dove just laughs
The steadfast gasps

To owe
Not anyone
To be
Not here
But here
Equatorial bliss
Who walked through
The callow mist
Dressed in scraps
Who walked
The curve of the world
Whose bone scraped
Whose flesh unfurled
Who grieves not
Anyone gone
To greet lame
The inspired sky
Amazed to stumble
Where gods get lost
The southern cross


Swan DayDream by flowerdrop on FanPop
Remember when you were a kid and you'd lose yourself deep in a daydream... maybe to be rudely awakened by a teacher abruptly asking you a question in class? What did you day dream about?

When I was in third grade, I used to daydream about having a future as a writer. I would be a travel writer, and I would ride all over the country on my trusty horse. My horse - my only companion - and I would ride from town to town, discovering great travel secrets and I would support us by writing about them. Everyone would think it was so cool that I was traveling on horseback, that not only would newspapers and magazines buy my articles, but a publisher would demand that I write a book about my adventures.

There were daydreams that I shared with my friends. My friend Bev Bencic and I would spend entire sleepovers planning our adventures. So many nights we'd spend in her family's travel trailer in her driveway, watching Chiller Theater on the TV, eating chips and dip and drinking soda, and poring over an old beat up atlas, drawing different routes to Mexico. Instead of riding horses, though, we planned on riding our bikes. After spending the night planning the trip, we'd prepare physically by going on epic day-long bicycle trips. Back in those days, a kid could take off on their bike all day and grownups wouldn't worry about where they'd gone. We'd literally be gone all day, riding our  bikes from Indiana to Homer City and back again.

As I got older, my daydreams matured somewhat, but they also became a bit more nebulous. I daydreamed about a life of freedom from my parents but I could never quite envision how I was actually supporting myself. I dreamed of parties with fascinating people, in fascinating cities, having an altogether fascinating life. Maybe I'd become the muse of some artist like Andy Warhol's Edie Sedgwick, I don't know. I wasn't ever exactly rich in my daydreams, but my life surely would be extremely interesting.

Now what do I daydream about? I don't really, and I miss it. Sometimes, when I walk through the woods, I'll imagine things. I'll imagine, for example, that I'm walking along and all of a sudden, realize the path is gone and there's no way to find my way home. Or, perhaps, around the next curve of the path, there will be Queen Mab bathing herself in the mountain stream that runs alongside. Or, I'll imagine I've ended my walk and for some reason, realize that hundreds of years have actually gone by in the hour that I was gone. These are mostly just exercises that I do with my head, though, or ruminations of movie plots that I've seen. When I was young and daydreaming, I thought my daydreams could really happen. Now when I find myself lost in thought, I'm trying to figure out how to afford the next remodeling project; or I'm wondering what the hell is in my refrigerator to make for dinner so I don't have to go to the god-forsaken Food Lion. Much more pleasant are the times I find myself wondering exactly what Phoebe is doing at this moment in time, or recalling with melancholy a moment shared with my father long ago. Even those meanderings, however, aren't as creative, the possibilities aren't as unlimited as they were in my past daydreams. My brain now has a filter, and it instantly filters out thoughts that aren't plausible or useful. It's become so damn efficient. Some days I'd just like to rattle it loose. 

Here We Go!

We've been building up to this week since January when Willa decided she wanted to compete in the Miss West Virginia pageants. Despite my kicking and screaming, she prevailed, and shopping, hair obsession, coaching in everything, and crazy physical training commenced. It all started when she was watching Miss America and decided she could do any and all of it, and do it better in some cases.  We bought her a beautiful gown, she practiced her song for her vocal talent, and got her hair done. She came in as runner-up, and won for talent.

I breathed a small sigh of relief. Coming in runner up wasn't so bad, especially since she had never been in a pageant before, right? I thought it was over. But no. It seemed that there were some pageants state-wide that hadn't had enough competitors, and these would be decided at a "sweeps" competition, where several Misses would be crowned. Another gown. A different outfit for "interview." A new bathing suit. She was crowned Miss Potomac Highlands and we were going to Morgantown for Miss West Virginia!

That was in mid-April. Since then we have all been sucked in hard. She's been training for 2 hours a day, working on defining her muscles so she doesn't look "skinny." That's her dad's job. My job has been mostly driving her around to voice lessons, apppearances, and endless shopping expeditions. Her dad went on the epic shopping trip to Johnstown to the crown--jewel of pageant salons to buy a state-worthy bathing suit, on-stage interview dress, and a new gown for the "gown" portion of the pageant. There's been spray-tanning, hair coloring, modeling coaching, interview coaching, talent coaching. Oh, and she graduated somewhere in there too.

Besides all the beauty stuff, she's also been trying to work on her platform, Healthy West Virginia. This consists mostly of a Facebook page where she can communicate with those who have joined the page to make a committment to their health and fitness. She has some other great plans, if only there were time to do them!

A "Miss" should be up on all the current events, which she usually is anyway. She's at least aware of the Snowdon thing, and we talked about the debacle of the SCOTUS dismantling the Voting Rights Act today. I think she'll do pretty well with any questions she gets. She's been keeping up on her reading of the news and asking me questions about things she doesn't understand. She's been getting some pretty hard grilling from Russell and Matt to get her ready for the on-stage and private interviews she'll be doing.

I don't think we have to worry about her talent. She gave her recital this past Friday night to benefit the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, the charity of the Miss America organization. She pretty much blew everyone away with that voice of hers. But she went to one last voice lesson today just in case.

In between all of this, she's also been responsible for selling ads for the program, getting people to donate to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, trying to sell raffle tickets, getting a beautiful basket of Berkeley Springs items to raffle off at the pageant, and making sure all of her gear is organized. It's been a great lesson in project management for her. I have no doubt that college will be a piece of cake after all this is over. She's pretty good at it!

So tomorrow we drive off to Morgantown, where the pageant will begin with the preliminaries this Monday night. Another night of prelims on Tuesday, and then, hopefully if she makes it through those, the big night on Wednesday night!  I will post more information as we go. I'll be going to Morgantown on Monday until it's all over.

June 29, 2013

Hard Apple Cider

I remember those early days in George School, the smell in the air. It was wet leaves mostly. Lindsay Ryder Myers and I were best friends. We perceived ourselves as outlaws. We went for long long walks on the railroad tracks outside of school, smoking filterless Camels and braving the scary railroad bridges, talking to the strange boys we'd see there occasionally. We'd ride the train to Philly and get old drunk guys to buy us Boone's Farm Apple Wine. We stayed up all night listening to Leonard Cohen and Roberta Flack. She was in love with Phillip, Phillip barely knew she was alive. I was in love with anyone who would look at me twice: Tom Harris who gave me my kitten Dona, Mike Nelson who gave me my first joint. Lindsay and I tried brewing some hard apple cider once. We thought all we had to do was let the cider sit for a few weeks, and we'd have us some joy juice. So, we bought some cider at the bakery where we could get a whole bag of day old goods in a huge grocery bag. We put the cider by the radiator one day and sat there eating through that bag of goodies. Sometimes if you were lucky, there would be a whole pie in there. Well, we forgot about the cider. One day my roommate was looking for her shoes or something, and pulled out the glass jug of cider, now cloudy and slightly moldy. "What's this?" she asked. I pretended I didn't know where it came from, I was so embarrassed.

April 21, 2013

Not Blinking, Smiling Awesome

So I was at the Miss WV pageant orientation this weekend with my daughter, who will be competing as Miss Potomac Highlands in July.  Little old me, an aging flower child, in a room full of serious women  who have been chairing various pageant committees for  20+ years buzzing around about "their girls" and "Is anybody here a notary? I've got to get these forms notarized!" And then there are the girls, who range in age from 13 to 24 who are competing in the Miss West Virginia's Oustanding Teen and Miss West Virginia contests. Some wear their beauty self-consciously and others wear it as though it were their God-given entitlement. I recede into my iPad to think and reflect on my feelings.

What drives a pageant competitor? Do they seriously believe that they are more beautiful and talented than anybody else and they need to prove it? Is it because they have an issue that they are passionate about, and they see this as a way to get it out there? Does it give a girl a reason to go out and buy countless beauty products and treatments, a few expensive gowns and bathing suits? Or maybe it gives her a chance to avoid anything resembling school or work. I suppose it might be a little of all of these for Willa. She has always admired beauty, and spends hours online looking at clothes and makeup videos. While she is mostly keeping up with her schoolwork, she also sees it as a distraction from her important pageant preparation. She is engrossed in her platform (Get Fit, West Virginia), and she is gifted with an amazing voice, poise, beauty, and she's smart. But I think some of the motivation also stems from a need for redemption of a not-so-fun time up until now, starting with getting thrown under the bus by her friends in middle school. Is this a chance for her to say "Look at me, I could be Miss America"? If that's it, I say, "Right on, girl, you go show them what you've got!" Because haven't we all been there? How many of us have been motivated by what the naysayers said we couldn't do?

 (I tried to get her to sing "Pissing in a River" by Patti Smith for her talent, but she won't.  You can't win 'em all.)

While I'm figuring out what turns a perfectly normal, albeit, hormonal young woman into a teased-out, tiara-topped, sequin-blasted Barbie wannabe, I have spent significant time pondering my own mostly ambivalent reactions to it. It partly stems from all those years watching Miss America with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. But it's also personal. Here I am at 57, and, over the past few years realizing that I'm not in my 40's anymore. My 40's I think were my very best, very most beautiful, years. I was totally confident in my appearance. I worked out all the time, and took good care of myself. Now my hair is thinning, my skin feels tight all the time, and there is wrinkling and sagging. It doesn't really bother me all that much normally. I'm still in pretty good shape, I work out: weightlifting, Zumba, and bellydance!  I guess it could be worse. (Really? There is a salon somewhere that still does perms?! And I will never ever ever wear "mom" jeans or pastel capris. Just shoot me!) Being around Willa as she gets deeper into this whole thing contrasts sharply with the changes  I'm noticing in myself. She's getting older and more beautiful; I'm getting older and less beautiful. It sounds like the fairytale of the jealous, evil stepmother, but it's not that at all. The physical of being leads me to musings about age, and time, in general. (and here is where my imaginary character that compulsively quotes Patti Smith chimes in: "This maze of being.... skin")

When I had Phoebe, I was 21. She's now 36. However, look at how old I'll be when Willa is 36.... I'll be 75! This fact just astounds me. How can this be? Especially when it seems like just yesterday that I was the 36 year old? Time passing by too quickly is no longer just a cliche. When I left the house yesterday morning, the cherry trees in my driveway were nowhere near blooming. When I drove back up the driveway later that day, there they were, in full bloom. Something is happening here, people! Be still about your global warming, Time is passing way too quickly!

Too many things have happened this year for me to fathom, making me even more aware of time passing quickly. My ex-husband, the father of my oldest daughter, died suddenly. One daughter is packing up to start a new life as a single girl after being in a relationship for 15 years, as my younger daughter is soon to be packing up to go to college. My husband, my young husband (!) is turning 50! Even my darling puppy Max, about to turn 10, is finally starting to look old. How can I stop this? I’m reminded of the line in “This is 40” where the classroom granny is telling the mom character not to blink, because if she does, she’ll all of a sudden be 90. I believe it! This is me, not blinking.

Footnote: Now that I've spent some time getting to know some of the players and the pageant experience itself, I have to say I'm feeling less ambivalent. The other moms that I met are all very nice, and Willa's director Shelly is caring and knowledgeable. The girls that Willa has gotten to know seem very supportive of one another, and they've been having a good time. It makes me so happy to see Willa surrounded by girls, some of whom have probably had the same issues with other girls that she's had.  Although I'm still a bit taken aback by what I perceive to be self-indulgence -- all this talk of which gown,  spray tans, how to walk -- I can see that this is a real challenge, and she's taking it seriously. I've been really impressed with how she's stayed on task and been so organized despite the paperwork and deadlines they've thrown at her; I know she's been responsible at school, but this is a huge project that she's managing. I'm also in awe of the role that Matt's taken as "pageant dad." This has been a great bonding experience for the two of them. He's really been a lot more involved that I have been, helping her choose gowns and music. I suppose like any foreign territory, the pageant world is just another one to get to know before judging it. I'm looking forward to the events as they unfold, regardless of the outcome. After all, isn't it the journey that's important?!