Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I support Brittany Maynard and Death with Dignity

Photo by Ryan McGuire, used with permission
It's not uncommon for Mr. T to look over and see tears running down my face when I'm watching TV or videos. Usually, I'm sniffling over silly fictional storylines, but last night I got close to a full on cry fest while watching Brittany Maynard talk about her brain cancer. Maynard is currently famous (or infamous, depending on your side of this issue) for planning her death on the first of November.

At 29, Maynard was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive of brain cancers, and given a prognosis of six months. Instead of painfully succumbing to the disease (emphasis on painful, here's a cancer forum on what she's likely to expect), Maynard and her family decided to relocate to Oregon, one of only five states in the U.S. with right-to-die laws. She filled a prescription that will allow her to die peacefully at home, if she wants.

And you know what? I applaud her. And I applaud anyone who chooses to die with dignity. I think it's a right that all people should have.

Some of you may be thinking: Okay Shawna, that's just legalizing suicide. Technically, sure. (How is that still a crime, by the way?) And others might wonder: Are you advocating euthanasia? Well, no, of course not. I am a big fan of people being in charge of their lives and able to make choices about their medical care. If someone would like to avoid pain and suffering, I'm all for that.

A few years ago I read "Cancer and death: A love story in two voices," written by Leah Vande Berg and Nick Trujillo, communication professors in my department at Sacramento State University. Leah was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and together, she and Nick documented her treatment and ultimately, death. I tell you what, if you want to sit alone on a Southwest flight, read that piece. I blubbered my way through and kept the middle seat clear.

The account burst with intimate and humiliating details of Leah's physical deterioration, with vivid descriptions of the various bodily fluids associated with her kind of cancer. I read about the ongoing emotional torture of Leah, her husband and her colleagues, friends, and family. And I tell you: I do not want that. I don't want that for me or my loved ones. Not even a little bit.

I think people should have access to a humane way to leave the earth, if they so choose. And before you ask me What's wrong with hospice? I think hospice--end of life care for the terminally ill--is a critically important option, too.

And that's the key really, I think there should be more options for a good death--death on your own terms, if possible.

What do you think?


Talking about death and dying: Whether you're 22 or 82, make your end-of-life care decisions now
If I should die tomorrow
Contemplating suicide? Please think about your family and friends first. You'll be sorely missed.
A life cut short. Remembering my first love.
Grief accumulated: Thoughts on secondary trauma, writing and resilience

Monday, October 27, 2014

Is tone deafness mind over matter? My Halloween costume is on the line.

Any ideas on how to make a giant slug costume?
"I'm watching you WazOWski," I said while piling broccoli onto our plates.

"No! It's 'I'm watching you Wazowski," Mr. T said, cracking pepper over the greenery and dropping a note on the last syllable.

"WazOWSKI?" I mimicked.

"No! Wa-zow-ski. You need to change pitch not volume. Practice," he said, effortlessly intoning the character.

After several more attempts, we ate dinner.

And then I asked for more help which resulted in further failed pitch changing, the inability to match notes, and a number of crimes against harmony. T concluded, "You're just tone deaf."

He's not being mean, really. (Well, not meaner than the time I wrote "It's not like I want to be on American Idol or anything" after our last round of lessons.) It's probably best that you can't hear typed words because wowza, yours truly is not gifted musically. But what if I could fix that?

I started searching terms like "Can tone deaf people learn to sing?" and "Cures for tone deafness," and it turns out, that most people who consider themselves tone deaf just lack confidence and practice, and were likely criticized as children. Ahem.

Thus inspired, I demanded more impromptu lessons which again resulted in T citing my absence of a musical ear.

"If we have a kid, I need to be able to sing it lullabies!" I lamented.

T replied, "You're just going to make noises at it and it will love you."

"YOU'RE JUST GOING TO MAKE NOISES AT IT AND IT WILL LOVE YOU?!!" I screeched, hustling to the computer to start this blog entry.

He's probably right, but that didn't stop me from following him into the garage and continuing the lessons. I sang "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Happy Birthday" successfully several times, I'll have you know.

Of course, you may be wondering about the impetus for Monday night vocal lessons. Well, yours truly is attempting to make a "Roz" costume for the department Halloween costume contest. And the curmudgeony slug from Monsters, Inc. wouldn't be complete without her trademark growl.

I've got a few more days to get it right. Wish me luck!

P.S. What are you going to be for Halloween? Any vocal coaches with hot tips for me?


Related-ish links:
- "You're kissing me on purpose." Laughter, the key to a happy marriage and life
- Help, I'm married to a humbug
- The Great Strawberry Popsicle Struggle of 2011
- "I love you more!" and other good communication habits
- Love in the little moments
- Chicken flavored patriarchy

Monday, October 6, 2014

iPhone 6 turns lapdog into ferocious beast

Or something like that...

Taking inspiration from Goliath, hope you take a big bite out of Monday.

Or, take a nap. He's very good at naps.


Other posts you might like:
A stinky start to 2010, aka Goliath's worst day ever
Apparently I'm a bad dog mommy
Pug overload
If I had a billion dollars

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It's FIXING the little things in life that matters

For weeks, I stared at the seed packets on my kitchen counter and thought: Yeah, I should plant those before any hope of a Fall garden is gone. But did I? No, not for awhile longer yet. The seeds languished on the counter, occasionally getting splattered with dinner ingredients and at least once, falling off onto the tile floor. (Luckily, that packet was not open.) I don't know why I was surprised that when I finally planted the damn things (also freeing up counter space), I felt so stinkin' happy. What little things do you want to fix right now?
Want to be happier? Fix the little things that bug you.

I thought about this last week when I finally wiped down the mud spattered, oil fingerprint laden, spider web coated door that leads from the garage into the laundry room. It had been bugging me for awhile (awhile being the last 10 months or so). In and out of the door half a dozen times a day or more, I'd look at the mess and think "Hey, I should clean that" but when carrying groceries, work stuff, whatever, I just never made time.

And then I remembered a tidbit from a grad class I audited at ASU a few years ago. The class was all about happiness and well being (yes, I know, a graduate course about happiness--delightfully novel). Among other things, we discussed how to increase personal happiness levels. While working on my dissertation at the time, I expected (and experienced) dismally low levels of overall life satisfaction (dissertating is no spring picnic, people), but one thing really stood out: An easy way to increase happiness is to take care of life's little annoyances.

The dirty garage door? It bugged me every. single. day. For TEN months. And when I finally did something about it? Relief. I no longer see the door and it no longer annoys me. Magic!

Lately, life has felt crazed again with job hunting, teaching, work, book proposal writing, studying for my private pilot's license, etc. So today, I walked around the house and fixed three more annoying things. (Let's see if Mr. T notices that there are no books on the kitchen counter anymore, or that the crumbs in the kitchen drawers are missing, or that the Japanese Maple branch that stuck out into the walkway and hit people is gone.)

These little tweaks took just a few minutes and I'm SO excited to have them out of my consciousness (for awhile anyway, crumbs and tree branches will come back, of course).

What little annoyances do you want to take care of today?


Other things you might like:
Stop bright-siding me
For the love of pumpkins
Soul restoration
"Heartless, heartless Christmas witch"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday 13: Confessions, volume VIII, the Fall edition

For the first time in months and months, I woke up to the sound of rain in Sacramento. Aside from a smidge bit of drought relief, the rain put me into a Fall state of mind. So, for Thursday 13, a few Fall-themed confessions...

1. I hate Fuji apples. They are the woefully overused variety of the apple kingdom and I refuse to eat them. All hail Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Jonagold!

2. I maintain a pumpkin fetish. And so I put them everywhere. Decorative stakes in the yard. Wooden carvings on the front door. In groups and piles around the house. Fresh, paper, plastic, wood... Love them all.

Related: For the Love of Pumpkins
3. Fall decorations are almost as much fun as Christmas. Almost.

4. I suffer from oak tree induced rage. And it becomes more pronounced this time of year. Yes, they're beautiful, majestic trees, blah blah. And they make beautiful, majestic piles of leaves and oak balls and acorns. For MONTHS. And that's not all. They also drop acid (literal drops of paint and plant killing acid) and caterpillars to eat my garden plants. And those acorns? The ones squirrels half-eat and then bury? They sprout baby oaks everywhere. Argh.

I've collected two bucketfuls this month. Anyone need acorns??
5. I cook soup to conjure Fall weather. It doesn't really work, but I try!

6. Planting seeds, does however. It never fails, the minute I put out seeds in my garden, a rain storm will kick up (like today's blessedly beautiful rain in Sacramento). Therefore, I must plant seeds every day, right?

7. I love a good Halloween party. And it occurs to me, I haven't been to one in years!
Ah, grad school nerds in costume. Yours truly was Katy Perry-as-Elmo (see more here).
8. I miss Trick or Treating. Dressing up. Walking the streets with other goofy costumed kids. The secret thrill of finding the holy grail house with full size candy bars. Those were the days.

9. Kids need at least two pieces of candy. Trick or Treat calorie economics says Shawna needs no Halloween candy in the house. Therefore, kids must take at least two. And by the end of the night, two whole handfuls. And one lucky kid will get the rest of the bucket before we shut out the lights. (Did I ever tell you about the time I bought Halloween candy at the end of September and then had to rebuy it at the end of October? No wonder my pants never fit.)
Second from left, my scarecrow shame.
10. I still haven't forgiven my mother for the Scarecrow costume. While my little sister got to be Dorothy, with her red sparkly shoes, yours truly trotted dolefully around with straw exploding from every crevice. My mom and the gang at Hoshall Salon and Spa in Carmichael had chosen Wizard of Oz for their Halloween theme, and while even my mom got the cool Tin Man costume, tween Shawna suffered in the least cute costume EVER.

11. Goliath gets a costume. For a minute, anyway. Last year, he was a bat for about 35 seconds before shaking off his ears. Mr. T threatens to report me for animal cruelty, but I can't help it that I find dogs in costume hilarious.

12. I haven't been to Apple Hill in eons. About an hour up the road live lovely apple and berry orchards where thousands flock every Fall for crafts, apple fritters, cider and the like. Although the idea greatly appeals to me--apple donuts, man!--I can never bring myself to actually make the drive and battle the tourist trap traffic.

13. I'm more than a little excited for Fall TV to be back. T-9 hours until Scandal! That is all.

Any Fall-ish confessions you'd like to share!?



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

For the love of pumpkins

"I love you!" I shout to Mr. T, jumping into his lap and planting a noisy kiss (or seven).

"Why?" he asks, barely containing the impulse to wipe his face.

"Because you tolerate pumpkins!"

"I hate pumpkins," he replies.

"No, you LOVE pumpkins," I counter.

"Okay, I love pumpkins," he mumbles, trying to get back to Grand Prix.

And that is why I love this man. For humoring me as I pull down bins of plastic and paper pumpkins from the attic and plaster them all over the house. And for only giving me a mild amount of grief about it. (He's saving the real grief for my 17 boxes of Christmas!)

All this is to say: HAPPY FALL, PEOPLE!


Somewhat related posts:
Chicken-flavored patriarchy
Love in the little moments
"You're kissing me on purpose": Laughter, the key to a happy marriage and life
Early Fall Snapshot 2012
A grateful heart: A marriage full of playfulness and joy

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thursday 13: On my mind

Played grease monkey with my father-in-law last month as he taught me
how to conduct the annual inspection of the Cessna 182. Surprisingly fun!
With summer wrapping up in just a day or two, I've been taking stock, a brain inventory if you will. Aside from the usual concerns--money, drought, what on earth to cook for dinner--a lot has been weighing on me. So in what feels like a "Throwback Thursday," activity, I made a nice Thursday 13 list to share the top things bouncing around in my brain.

What's on your mind lately?

1. Flying. After getting the annual inspection complete in August (a post about my month as a grease monkey is almost done!), Mr. T test flew our Cessna 182 last week. Now I've got to get back into my flight training, take my written exam (ahem), and practice, practice, practice for my checkride. Hoping to get my private pilot's license done this Fall.

2. Grub murder. While digging up my dead summer garden in preparation for fall, I noticed something strange. A lot of strange somethings in fact. Oddly translucent and shiny curled up worm things with blueish noses kept coming up with every handful of dirt. Luckily they didn't squirm much which cut down the ick factor. But I wasn't sure... friend or foe? Turns out, I have a giant grubby will-turn-into-root-eating-Japanese-beetles foe. So I've been on the hunt for organic weapons (it's my veggie garden, after all) and recently ordered some Milky Spore powder. I'll let you know how it works.

3. My blogging empire. Last month I launched my revamped professional website www.drmalviniredden.com (check it out!) and I'm in the process of building a new all-things-aviation spot and a revamp of The Blue Muse. But man is it slow going!

4. Mike Brown. Yesterday students at Sac State held a demonstration outside of the library where I teach, protesting police brutality. I couldn't stay long since my back-to-back schedule leaves little time for delay, but I was struck by the group's passion and commitment to speaking the names of the recently dead. I couldn't help but think again how much America needs more empathy.

5. Job hunting. My third round on the academic job market is starting to commence, and I hope and pray this third time is the charm. I welcome any good juju, prayers and positive vibes.

6. Election season. Is it November 4 yet? I'm already tired of hearing political campaign ads, phrases like "power grab," and other unkindness. And we've still got seven weeks until the election.

Look at that cuteness!!
7. Lady A. Okay, can someone tell my niece to slow down?! She's seven months old and already pulling herself up, crawling, and pushing up teeth. Nothing makes time fly faster than watching a baby develop.

8. Nerd work. The fabulous news? One of my favorite academic articles will be published in a few months, and my friend and I just resubmitted a cool paper. Have things "out" and "done" feels so good but those accomplishments are dwarfed by the looming to-do list. As always.

9. Flagstones. In a few weeks, we'll be completing another part of the Back-40 Revamp! Flagstones, flagstones, everywhere.

10. Scandal. Cannot lie, I am counting minutes until Scandal comes back on air. Ever since seeing Kerry Washington at BlogHer this summer, I've been jonesing to find out what happens next!

11. Pants season. Super excited for Fall weather to finally arrive (please, come on already!) which will mean jeans and sweaters and cozy things. Fingers crossed that the pants I haven't tried on in six months still fit!

12. Acorns. Approximately 10,000 await in my backyard. Along with a bazillion oak leaves.

13. Christmas. Don't hate me. Just 98 days between us and Christmas. CANNOT WAIT!


Other Thursday 13s: