Stupid Girls

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I want my daughter back

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SHe would have been seven this Christmas. That's a good age for lots of fun.

Cookie baking, snowflake making, tree trimming, story telling....

Look, you took my health. You took my employability. You took my dignity. You took my independence. You took my mobility. Did you have to take her, too?

How do I continue to survive, year after year, with no family, no future?

Why did you take her, too?

Monday, December 01, 2003

Count to 14

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Fourteen seconds. Count.

There. Another person is infected with AIDS.

Count another fourteen seconds. There. Another person is infected with AIDS.

Did you have a hard day?

I did. I'm emotionally exhausted, from telling a new friend, Stu, a little of my experience with homelessness and with losing my daughter, all the while being socially ostricized.

I'm physically exhausted from trying to do too much work outside, too fast, while the weather holds out.

I'm in a lot of pain.

But I am not an infant child, dying of AIDS, orphaned because BOTH my parents, and most of my siblings, died of AIDS, too.

I am not a raped woman in India, whose husband gave her the virus and then threw her out when she showed symptoms.

I am not dying of AIDS, alone, socially ostricised, hungry, homeless and helpless.

Count to fourteen. There. Another person is infected with AIDS. Every fourteen seconds.

Now, go here and donate one little dollar: 46664. That's Nelson Mandela's prisoner number.

You think you had a hard day?


Thank you,

Rogi A. Riverstone

Saturday, November 29, 2003

No Promises

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I'm listening to The Children's Hour on KUNM fm radio.

John Lennon, singing, "Beautiful Boy."

The monster's gone and Daddy's here....I can hardly wait to see you come of age, but I guess we'll both have to be's what happens to you while you're busy making other plans....

We can't make promises. As much as a parent's heart swells with love for a child, as deeply as we commit to making something happen, as hard as we wish for it, we can't make promises.

We can, but we can't make them happen, simply by sheer force of will.

He recorded that song right before he was shot down on the sidewalk in front of his home. Wanting things to be so doesn't mean they'll be that way.

I promised Viri Diana that I'd try everything I could think of, not to impose my agenda onto her, but, instead, to provide her with enough options, resources, security and support to find her own way.

I promised her I wouldn't hit her, call her names, play mind games on her, manipulate her or in any way make her my victim, as my mother had done to me.

I promised her I'd always care for her.

I almost didn't go through with the surgery because of that last promise. If she were going to die, I felt, it wasn't my place to kill her. Let nature take its course and kill both of us.

Besides, what would be the point of living, if she were dead?

I never know when something will remind me of my pain, as this song did this morning. I never know when eight years' time will be washed away in an instant, and I'll be transported back to the horror, the self-loathing, the shame, the fury and the grief of her death.

I'm never safe from it. I always forget it's still there, dormant, and that it will resurface whenever the thin veneer of forgetfulness is brushed open. The slightest breeze of association, the most offhanded comment, the tiniest reminder can send me back there, helpless and frantic, blind and howling.

So, I sit in my bed on a sunny morning. And I'm back in the emergency room. I'm alone on that dark sofa, late at night, alone after the surgery, guts ripped open, aching in my shoulders and neck from the carbon dioxide gas they used to inflate my belly. I'm bleeding from my belly and vagina. I'm mute in the overwhelm. I'm frantic to keep a roof over my head, now that the father has abandoned me, when I can barely pick a dropped fork off the floor.

To this day, I don't know if I made the right decision when I had the surgery. I escaped death, true. But I didn't escape life. And life IS what happens while I'm busy making other plans. I feel I've cheated death, done something completely unnatural and forbidden, and I'm to be punished for it from now on.

Nothing changes that. Therapy, meditation, commitment to goals and projects...nothing changes it.

Deep down, it's as though my body, my psyche and the visceral, primative, protective mother animal in me can not forgive me for living after my child died.

It's torture.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


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After a three month break, I have my menses again. Darn! I was hoping that was over with.

A neighbor had to move suddenly, over in the war zone. She had a bunch of merchandise at her house, to sell at the flea market.

As she was leaving, she hollered out to me that the house was unlocked and that I could take everything they'd left, except the television and the microwave, which went to another neighbor.

I brought home at least two pick up trucks' worth of stuff, including a case of sanitary napkins. I thought at the time they might last me through menopause.

Well, that was about a year and a half ago. I've still got about a hundred pads left.

I literally moaned as I pulled another package out of storage, eyed the few packages remaining, and thought, "I don't ever want to have to buy these damn things again!"

So, maybe the assault to my body from that has weakened me.

I never had any trouble with my menses, not since puberty, anyway. Not until my baby died. Since then, it's been very VERY painful, especially on the left side of my abdomen, where my fallopian tube is missing now.

Every menses since has been torture and a hideous, physical reminder of the loss of my daughter. It's not nearly as painful as the first time was, but it's bad. Close enough.

So, maybe that knocked the wind out of me.

Friday, October 31, 2003

"The Alternative Fix"

Look, "mainstream" medicine scares me to death. I watched "ER" last night and burst into tears. I never do that; I see most of the characters on the show as enemies. But when Lukah decided to triage the waiting room to prevent deaths, I burst into tears. A patient, it seems, left after waiting, unexamined, for eleven hours. She died. Lukah spent time in Africa, in a civil war. He returns to find this inefficient, smug, beurocratic system that's killing people in the most affluent country on earth.

I walked out of an ER after four hours unattended. I was having SERIOUS abdominal pain, in the approxemate location of my right ovarie.

How do I know this? Because I had suffered an ectopic pregnancy on the left side which required removal of the fallopian tube. This pain was a mirror of the other.

I still don't know what was wrong. I still get pain there at times.

But I had to leave, as my ride could only come at a certain time. He had to go to work. I couldn't possibly have negotiated the bus.

It took me four more days to recover enough to walk without pain.

So, alternative medicine scares me to death. There are so many fakes out there, exploiting the suffering of the desperate.

"The Alternative Fix"
Thursday, November 6, 2003
9 - 10:00 pm

Through interviews with staunch supporters, skeptical scientists and observers on both sides of the debate, this documentary examines how complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments are facing increased scrutiny as the first real studies of their effectiveness are published, and questions whether hospitals that offer alternative therapies are conferring a sense of legitimacy on these largely untested and scientifically unproven treatments. (CC, Stereo)

At the companion site, access a compendium of fact sheets and resources to learn more about alternative therapies, get tips and safety precautions for those considering alternative treatments, watch the program online, trace the history of alternative medicine's conflicts with conventional medicine and much more.
(Available Thursday, November 6)

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Dear House of "Representatives,"

First, let me say you don't represent me. Most of you are pure Caucasian. Most of you are men. Most of you are wealthy.

Most of you have never had a life-threatening pregnancy.

Now, you've passed legislation which states some late-term abortion procedures are "never" necessary to save the life of the mother.

Only one of you has a medical degree, and his neck is redder than a penis in a stew pot.

How would you know what is medically necessary?

How DARE you impose yourself on such an intimate, heartbreaking decision? This is between the mother, her physician and her family. It is NONE of your business!

You'll never have to endure the agony of submitting to killing your baby to spare your own life.

You'll never know the vicious guilt and self-blame the mother must endure, in addiion to grieving for her dead child.

You'll never know.

Yet you think you have some right to impose your smug arrogance on the reproductive organs of every woman in this country?

You are not divine. You're not even decent representatives of humanity.

You are caving in to a tiny minority of FUNDAMENTALISTS. Like the Taliban.

You have put my womb in a burkah. You are beating me for making a sound. You are stoning me to death for knowing I have civil rights.

SHAME on you!


Go to hell!

Soap Opera Therapy

I'm in bed, with the soaps on.

Soaps are relatively mindless and funny. And cathartic, really; only on the soaps are there frank discussions about dead children, hearts broken by betrayal, etc. In real life, one is expected to pretend the dark side of life doesn't happen, lest one upset the complacent. So, soaps are good for a cleansing weep now and then.

For instance, Carley on General Hospital miscarried a baby a few years back and she's about due with another baby now..six more weeks, I'd think. Sonny's other pregnant wife died in a car bombing, meant for him (he's a gangster, sort of). So he's convinced Carley's gonna lose this baby, if he sticks around. Guilt Guilt.

In real life, idiots say things like, "it's not your fault; it was an accident; you couldn't help it..." and the dreaded, "you can always have another baby." Well, it doesn't work like that. One may understand, intellectually, that one is not responsible. But if one is truly a Parent, something visceral and primal blames one for the death of the child. It's not rational; it's instinctive. Logic has nothing to do with it.

ONLY on the soap operas is this phenomenon addressed directly.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

She Would Have Been Eight This Year

I'm watching "Toy Story II."

An eight-year-old is about a fun as it gets. Full of questions, excited about life, discovering amazing things in normal life, every day, silly, conversational, creative.

I can imagine us, curled in this bed with the cat and dog, a big bowl of home-made peanut brittle, cuddling and LAUGHING at this silly movie.

I can imagine the smell of body oil on her scalp, the rubber of her sneakers erasing my leg hairs, her bony elbows in my ribs and breasts, the heat of her pressed against me.

I can imagine us.

It's the hardest feeling in the world.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Wanting To Die

I tried to get someone's attention. I was having trouble making any sound. All the lab coats ignored me. I was getting very dizzy. The room was going dark and out of focus. I was crying. I couldn't lift my arms. I felt paralyzed. It was hard to breathe.

The woman lying in the chair noticed my distress and called out loudly for help.

Finally, a short-tempered child came up to me, checked my pulse and said, "Oh, stop being a baby! It's just blood!"

Then the cramping started. I felt an overwhelming need to defecate. It was so painful, like a punch in the gut combined with food poisoning. The cramping continued in strong waves, through my abdomen, around to my back, through my genitals. It was agony.

I whispered, "I need to use the restroom. Will you help me?"

"You'll be done in just a second! Damn! Just wait, will you?" the girl huffed.

She took her time unhooking me. I couldn't sit up. I floundered and grabbed for the arm rests, trying.

At this point, the child got the hint that, perhaps, I was in real, physical distress.

I couldn't see more than a few inches in front of me; everything was dark and out of focus. The pain in my belly was real torture.

My mind was panicking. I had the sensation that I was dying. My body was begging me to please, give up, lie back and go to sleep! Get me out of this pain! The terror in my mind kept me from being seduced by my body and I scrambled to move, though, from an observer's point of view, it wouldn't have looked like I was moving much.

The child called for an assistant. They got me out of the chair and walked me. The child was angry. I don't remember much, but I got to go to the employee's restroom, as they needed the client restroom for urine drug testing. The child was angry about that, too.

I sat slouched on the commode, trying so hard to pass whatever was causing so much pain. I was so dizzy, I just slumped against the wall and tried to maintain my balance. I tried not to close my eyes; I didn't want to die on a damn toilet -- not in THIS hell hole.

I was in there a long time. They'd keep knocking, angry that they had to use the clients' bathroom.

Finally, the cramping began to ease. I was spooning water from the sink into my hand, washing my face, neck and chest, sipping it.

I was starting to be able to see.

After awhile, I could stand and leave the bathroom.

The angry child led me to the doctor's office. He said I'd had an allergic reaction to the chemicals, that I'd only get $25 that day, as I'd caused them so much work and the procedure hadn't finished (they got most, but not all, of the usual pint). He told me never to come back.

I was handed $25 in cash and admonished to leave out a side door. Seems I'd alarmed the other donors!

I was ushered out into the bright sun. I was alone.

I had to find my truck and drive quickly; I was late for my appointment with the rental agent!

I was still dizzy and partially blind. I was wobbly and weak, but I had to drive. Fast.

I just went to Google, to try to find out what had happened to me. I think I went into anaphylactic shock. It would explain why I had the sensation I was bleeding to death, getting weaker and colder by the minute. I could have died. The MERK Manual: Transfusion Medicine


I walked in to a dreary place that smelled stale and medicinal. Young, indifferent employees in tattered lab coats ran the place. I was examined by a doctor after a blood draw. I was asked about my sexual and drug habits. I lied and said I was heterosexual. I didn't, of course, have to lie about drugs.

I read the disclaimers and waivers. Something about the chemicals used to separate platelets from plasma: some people have allergic reactions. I'm never allergic to anything.

I sat in a "Captain Kirk" chair: heavily upholstered in the plastic barbers and beauty shops had, fully reclining, with, of course, large arm rests. I was daubed with betadine and an IV was inserted.

I seem to remember them telling me the whole procedure would take about 2 hours. I pulled out my book to read.

The blood is drawn from the body. It is then chemically "washed." The plasma is stored in an IV bag; the platelets (red blood cells) are returned to the "donor."

One can "donate" every three days, rather than the 30 days required to replenish blood cells for blood donation.

Each visit pays $25. New donors get a $10 bonus the first time. Donors who recommend other donors get $10 bonuses per person. If one donates consistently, one also receives bonuses.

My fellow donors were Mexican immigrants, homeless guys of all races, white students.

Near the end of the procedure, I heard the sound of the machine change.

I had the oddest sensation. I felt my head sinking into the chair back. I felt that, if the sensation continued much longer, my entire head would be swallowed by the chair, which enter my nose and mouth, and I would drown in the chair.

Money Hustle

I was running out of time. I was supposed to meet with the rental agent in less than a week. I was $25 short on the deposit.

I'm from Los Angeles. I'm still accustomed to scarce, affordable housing. One does NOT make a bad impression on potential land lords by showing up without enough money.

I have no credit; I had no leases in this town over 1 year old. I had no local references. I had little income. To me, the task of finding a place to live was, at best, daunting -- if not completely impossible. The 2 places I'd already rented in Albuquerque had vicious, chemically-dependent neighbors. I wanted a house.

So, I felt duty-bound to hustle that $25. Now, of course, I know the agent would have let it slide. Then, it seemed essential.

I can't do day labor any more: show up at an agency, early in the morning, get packed onto a truck to demolish buildings, tar roofs, landscape, etc. for minimum wage, paid in cash at the end of the day.

The other temporary agencies would take too long: forms to fill, placements to make, 2- and 3-week waits for pay checks.

I never even considered panhandling: begging for change from passers by on the streets. I've since had to resort to that, but I really HATE it.

What was left? The plasma centers. So, I started making calls.

I had consumed one, lousy beer (something I rarely do any more)the night before I called, so I'd have to wait 2 days. Shoot! Oh, well.

The nearest center was near the University. I got directions and instructions on what would be required. I got in my truck (now long-gone) and drove there, so I'd know where it was and where to park.

The day I was going was the day I'd have to meet the rental agent. It would be tight, but the plasma center assured me that, if I could be there when the doors opened in the morning, I'd be done well before my noon appointment at the house. It's only a ten minute drive. It would work.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The Rent

I knew I couldn't afford the house on my own. But it had sat vacant for the six or so months I passed it every week for church. Nobody wanted it.

Now, I've lived in "The Projects" of Los Angeles County. Drive bys, police choppers with flood lights, car chases and undercover operations: noise, confusion and misery are everyday life and most people actually accommodate their lives around it. I had.

So, this sleepy, stupid, sloppy so-called "War Zone" didn't really impress me. To quote Jack Pallance to Billy Crystal, "I crap bigger'n that." This place was quiet: not so much as a pistol shot, most of the time; no nightly machine gun fire.

I called the rental agent and made an appointment to see the house.

Dark and gloomy inside, its living room had the personality of an auto mechanic's shop waiting room. It was paneled in plastic, woodgrain veneer pretending to be black walnut. The concrete slab floor was carpeted in a nappy, nondescript zigzag. It had a fireplace with recessed book shelves on either side. Aha! It had a large picture window, easy for burglars, facing east at the covered porch. Shade is at a premium in Albuquerque, so, despite the gloom, this arrangement was an advantage.

The bedrooms were equally nondescript. The "master" bedroom, however, was huge. It was obviously an added on afterthought. One, narrow window squinted out at the back wall f the apartment building next door. But one whole wall had floor to ceiling bookshelves. Aha!

But the kitchen! Again, it was ugly as a homeless shelter. But it was a gigantic space, big as two or three apartment sized kitchens.

And the back door lead out to a garage big enough for four cars. Aha!

Another door from the garage lead to a trash-blown, weed infested, dusty, bleak back yard as big as the kitchen and garage combined. Aha!

I explained to the agent that I would be running the house as a boarding house, renting rooms, cooking meals for tenants. I would want to put in a garden. The agent said he would convey my information on to the owner.

A week later, he called and asked me to meet him back at the house to exchange money, keys and signed leases.

I got on the phone. I had 7 days or so to come up with the rent and deposit. I was several hundred dollars short. I got commitments from friends who mailed me all but $25 of the total.

The day of the appointment was now only three days away. How would I get the other $25 so quickly?

The House

It was one of the ugliest houses I'd ever seen. Factory-like, its brick facade and sterile, concrete porch with functional overhang hunkered behind a hot yard of river pebbles and weeds. Two sagging junipers, full of wind blown trash and spiders' webs, stood ragged sentinel in the yard. It was literally repulsive.

And it was far too expensive: $550.00 per month, not including utilities.

The neighborhood is called The War Zone, and this is no exaggeration. Desperation, trauma, violence and hopelessness wound through the daily lives of Mexican immigrants, Cuban "political refugees," east Texas trailer trash and a ragged assortment of African Americans. Bud Light and crack were the sources of entertainment.

Prostitutes, crack dealers and homeless alcoholics vied for the "cherry" spots: trees near sidewalks by day for some escape from the blistering Albuquerque sun or light posts at night, so customers or fellow "bums" could spot them more easily.

It was a hideous, run-down, sad and frazzled house on a hideous, run-down, sad and frazzled street.

But it was two doors from my church. So I decided to move in.