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Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Age In Which We Live

Excerpt of an email from the kids' school district:

Our staff and administrators have proactive trainings, drills, and emergency routines that are practiced regularly and taken very seriously. We do drills to ensure that if a crisis occurs, our students and staff have the resources and knowledge to act safely.

We are also working to create a culture of kindness, support, and inclusivity in each of our buildings. Our students are supported by counselors, who are also making themselves available for students to discuss this recent event. If you have questions on how to have these dicussions with your children, please contact your child's school, or read more here, and here. We have an anonymous tip line available to students at http://safeoregon.com/report-a-tip/ that is monitored daily. Please take this opportunity to talk with your children about the importance of speaking up if they become aware of a possible threat that could impact students. Telling a trusted adult could save lives.

I'm so tired of all the winning...


February 15, 2018 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (1)

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Canine Chorus Yet Sings

We miss Kayla and Neppy terribly, lo these five years gone.


December 5, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why Is The Carpet Wet, Todd?!

I don't know, Ericka!  Yes, this is a routine we break out every holiday season, which makes the whole family laugh with great jocularity.  I am not joking.


PS--analysis of the deep pathos Todd and Margo represent.

November 15, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Medical Community Is Doogie Howser Before He Finished High School

We rode MAX downtown yesterday to enjoy Saturday Market and show the kids around Portland a bit.  Unfortunately, as part of the New Normal, even just a short walking jaunt and a few seconds exposure to the heat of Powell's did Ericka in.  After a month of "recovery" from meningitis related to her condition, she's at an even greater deficit than ever.

As we rode the train back to Clackamas Town Center, Sam kept saying, "this is our stop!" because he saw 'Clackamas' on the signs pointing to which track you needed to board.  He didn't look for other clues like the station info, or the ginormous parking garage that is right next to our destination.

That's pretty much how doctors have treated Ericka up to this point.  See one sign, assume you've got the answer, hurrah, let's move on.  It's menopause!  It's sinusitis!  It's a headache!  Take two aspirin and call me never.

They've been as observant as our son.  Sam's excuse is, you know, that he's only 8.  What's theirs?


November 12, 2017 in Family Life, First Do No Harm | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017


[I]t is life that is a calamity to men, and not death; for this last affords our souls their liberty, and sends them by a removal into their own place of purity, where they are to be insensible of all sorts of misery; for while souls are tied down to a mortal body, they are partakers of its miseries; and really, to speak the truth, they are themselves dead.

 - Eleazar at Masada, 73CE, as reported by Josephus

Rmj highlights an awesomely compassionate Lutheran pastor who said this about the cleansing fire of American gun rights:

“It may seem, on the surface, that God was refusing to give such protection to his Texan children,” he writes. “But we are also praying that God would deliver us from evil eternally. Through these same words, we are asking God to deliver us out of this evil world and into his heavenly glory, where no violence, persecution, cruelty, or hatred will ever afflict us again.”

Rmj then links that casual shrugging with the administration's best and brightest at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, summarizing thus:

[S]crew people, we've got to save money!  Medicare and Medicaid aren't about helping human beings, they're about pinching dollars 'til George Washington screams!

Rmj then causes me to link that casual shrugging with the casual shrugging we keep running into as part of the Best Healthcare System In The World [sic].  As Ericka describes her 2-year saga of suffering:

I'm dealing with a medical community that can not--or will not--distinguish between menopause and systemic disease.

Her PCP casually shrugged at premature ovarian failure.  ER doctors have casually shrugged at her myriad symptoms with a body under siege.  Most recently, a neurologist casually shrugged at the month she has spent in agony with viral meningitis, trapped in her home unable to tolerate light or sound.

In a suprising twist to the usual medical horror story, our insurance company has casually shrugged as well.  Not at Ericka's pain and desperate search for diagnosis and treatment, but rather at the increasing, immense costs they have incurred during this ordeal.

As my brilliant wife has asked, why is it that no bean counter has looked at how her interactions with healthcare providers have changed?  From a regular, predictable pattern of annual checkups, flu shots, and the like, to an ever more frequent series of contacts with her doctor, specialists, emergency departments, labs and other diagnostic services...

If you plotted a chart in Excel, you'd see data points hovering around a few office visits a year for her whole life, then a practically logarithmic upward trend in the number of visits and associated costs over the last couple years.  Just in October, insurance has casually shrugged at $12,000, with no end in sight.

Yet nobody appears to have considered why so much money has been tossed around in 3 states with 0 positive outcomes.  Yet another charge for over-priced ER drug administration?  Casual shrug.  Yet another MRI?  Casual shrug.  Still in pain?  Casual shrug.

With America's refusal to address gun violence and our broken healthcare system, we are all reduced to partakers of miseries, something less than human.  That is something Ericka and I refuse to accept.

Eleazar et al are wrong, and Rmj is right: Things don't matter. Ideas don't matter. People matter.

We try remind to people that every time they confront us with casual shrugs, because the alternative is quite literally death.



November 7, 2017 in Family Life, First Do No Harm | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, October 23, 2017

"What happens when you know something is terribly wrong but nobody believes you?"

It’s time for women to be taken seriously when it comes to our health, our bodies and our ability to speak out.

 - Salon (10/23/2017)

A couple weeks ago, Samuel and I went to the local clinic to establish a PCP so we could get refills on our meds (our VT medicos were kind enough to give us plenty to stretch until we'd settled in).  Records had not been transferred yet, so it was pretty much a cold call.  After getting our vitals and our basic exams, I told the doctor what we each were taking, and also asked if I could get something to help me sleep. 

Boom, boom, boom, he sent orders electronically to the local pharmacy without my having to bring up info on our old clinic's portal showing we had, in fact, been prescribed anything previously.  Even my new Rx wasn't an issue.

Compare and contrast:

As Jennifer sought treatment for her symptoms, “they would run a wide range of tests and do investigations. And then when they couldn't find anything, it always turned back to, ‘Well, maybe you're just really stressed. Maybe you are depressed. Maybe there's nothing wrong at all. Maybe this is all in your head.’”

It took Jennifer over a year of seeing doctors and getting second, third and fourth opinions to even land on her diagnosis. Was this reluctance to diagnose Jennifer due to the lack of knowledge about this fairly prevalent disease? Or was there another unstated prejudice standing in the way of Jennifer getting treatment?

“I started to suspect as I was trying to get a diagnosis that I was being taken less seriously because I was young and female there was a strong expectation that because of my youth I was supposed to be well and nothing could be wrong,” Jennifer told me in our interview for "Inflection Point." “But that also because of my youth and my gender that I was just more prone to be kind of anxious and worry about my body and what I was feeling. . . . And I think there's just this sort of unspoken expectation that women are more fragile and more achy, more whatever.”

This has been precisely Ericka's experience with the United States' medical community (please see the previous Factoid of the Day). 

Glibly diagnosed with menopause at 42 by her PCP. when her ovaries completely failed all of a sudden.  Told by ER doctors that she was making herself hyperventilate to explain why she was tachycardic, hypertensive, and doubled over on the floor in pain and nausea.  Scolded for not getting enough exercise when my active, vivacious wife was brought down by absolute fatigue.

At various times during this saga, Ericka questioned herself, and would ask me if I thought she was crazy.  No, the strongest person I know, who always played through the pain, who made amazing shit happen, who could extemperaneously convince funding agencies to give her millions of dollars for affordable housing whilst dressed in gardening clothes, would not all of a sudden...just stop.

She stopped being able to have light in her life.  She stopped being able to listen to music.  She stopped being able to read, be active, do any of the things she loved.

We went to the same clinic last week to jump through bureaucratic hurdles and get an extension of meds an astute ER doc had prescribed her a few days prior to mitigate debilitating pain--neurology couldn't get her in for a couple more days, and it would be the height of cruelty to make Ericka suffer for any length of time.  Yet a 30-minute appointment turned into a torturous, 2-hour ordeal of cajoling, presenting old records, proving the need for relief, even taking a drug test, before the physician deigned to do no harm, and prescribed a mere 2 days' refill to help my wife.

Ericka has a systemic disease.  We know because she has terrible symptoms, and we have a lot of lab data to explain why.  But nobody listens to her because our health "care" system, and society at large, has a systemic disease that quite literally hurts and kills women.

Despite that fact, despite the crippling agony, despite the anguish caused by lacking a diagnosis, despite all the obstacles--from insidious microaggressions to traumatic misogyny--my wife is still here.  She is relentless, and she is smart, and she has put all the clues together and gotten all the pieces in place.

Ericka is going to make the medical establishment listen to her.  Every doctor she meets--not to mention American society--will be all the better for it.


October 23, 2017 in Family Life, First Do No Harm, Soaking In Patriarchy | Permalink | Comments (5)

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Prater, A Star-gazer, A Good-for-nothing

Factoid of the Day: 26 doctors, 6 specialties, 3 states, 2 years, 0 confirmed diagnosis of the systemic failure ravaging Ericka's entire body.

Over the coming days and weeks, we'll be sharing more about the systemic failure of the American health "care" system, including the entrenched misogyny that makes it nigh impossible for a relentless, incredibly smart woman to be heard, helped, or healed by the medical community despite having platinum insurance coverage.


October 21, 2017 in Family Life, First Do No Harm, Soaking In Patriarchy, Suffering Fools | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, October 20, 2017


We used to walk quietly to school through a magical wood, now I scream from a concrete driveway, "RUN...RUN, YOU FOOLS, OR YOU'LL MISS THE BUS AGAIN!"


October 20, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

I Believe The Constitution Is Our Future

Today is notable, and not just because Ericka and I were supposed to get publicly married on a beach before a rainstorm postponed things for 24 hours:

On the question to agree to the Constitution enrolled in order to be signed. It was agreed to all the States answering ay.
The members then proceeded to sign the instrument.

Whilst the last members were signing it Doctr. FRANKLIN looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicisitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.

The Constitution being signed by all the members except Mr. Randolph, Mr. Mason, and Mr. Gerry who declined giving it the sanction of their names, the Convention dissolved itself by an Adjournment sine die-

But of course, we still operated under the Articles of Confederation (America, not me and Ericka).  So to extend the metaphor, would ratification be when the Republic began to show (or in today's parlance, the sonogram was posted on Facebook)?  And the actual birthday be when Congress first met under the new framework?

Regardless, Happy Constitution Day.  May it be whatever it it aspired to be someday...


September 17, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Life Changes

I've missed quite a few #TBTs of late, so here's a pic germane to this momentous week of memories.


September 17, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, July 14, 2017


She's the only rescue whose birfday we know: July 14, 2012.


July 14, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, July 03, 2017

States My Dogs Have Pooped In And Other Fascinating Facts

  • License plate game results
    • Total: 51 (not counting variants)
    • Non-states: DC, Quebec, and Ontario
    • Missing: Hawaii and Rhode Island

  • States lucky enough to have extra canine fertilizer
    • Vermont
    • New York
    • New Jersey
    • Pennsylvania
    • Ohio
    • Indiana
    • Illinois
    • Missouri
    • Kansas
    • Nebraska
    • Colorado
    • Wyoming
    • Idaho
    • Oregon

  • Parks and other points of interest
    • Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge
    • Adirondack Forest Preserve
    • Gettysburg National Military Park
    • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
    • Cracker Barrel
    • Fort Riley
    • Sand Creek Massacre Trail
    • Wind River Reservation
    • Wyoming Dinosaur Center
    • Shoshone National Forest
    • Continental Divide
    • Bridger-Teton National Forest
    • Grand Teton National Park
    • National Elk Refuge
    • The Most Expensive Motel 6 In America
    • Caribou-Targhee National Forest
    • Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
    • Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area
    • Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
    • Ochoco National Forest
    • Crooked River National Grassland
    • Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation
    • Mount Hood National Forest

2 cars, 2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 dogs traveled 3500 miles, not counting our various backtracks and detours (deliberate or accidental).  Compare with the Great Eastward Childless Trek of '08, and remind me to never do this again.


* 14th Blegiversary: wanna help feed our oxen? *

July 3, 2017 in Family Life, These United States | Permalink | Comments (1)

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Sunday, July 02, 2017


Just a few highlights of our 3500+ mile road trip:

  • Gettysburg, PA - at the KOA we met Bob, a Vietnam Vet and re-enactor who plays General John Reynolds.  He got interested in the Civil War when he learned about a relative interred at the National Cemetery.

  • Somewhere in flyover country - "Kids, I need you to be quiet for a few minutes while I navigate this construction and traffic."  "Okay!"  "Shh.  Please just be quiet."  "OKAY!"  "Stop saying, 'okay'!"  "ALRIGHT!"

  • The canyon in Wind River Reservation: listening to Pipestone and other NDN musicians on KWRR 89.5FM.  Samuel and Sadie liked the drum lines.

Maybe some other blogging sometime.  Maybe not.


Update: forgot this one from a vet in Idaho Falls: "We're not Tom Brady, but we will deflate your balls."

* 14th Blegiversary: wanna help feed our oxen? *

July 2, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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It's Been A Long Way

But we're here.


* 14th Blegiversary: wanna help feed our oxen? *

July 2, 2017 in Family Life, Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (6)

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Close The Door Behind Me

See everybody when we see you.  Remember, there's rain enough for everyone...

* 14th Blegiversary: wanna help feed our oxen? *

June 22, 2017 in Family Life, These United States | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Worse Than Whitewatergate

I've told you people before, my first political memory is Nixon's waving just before boarding Marine One for the last time.  Sam's won't be Lord Dampnut's doing the same, but one hopes it'll be a close second.  His first will be that dark morning after election day, a play in one act:

Sam to Principal Dodge: Donald Trump won the election last night.  We're all gonna die.

Principal Dodge to Sam: Let's go sit down and talk a bit, Sam.



* 14th Blegiversary: wanna help feed our oxen? *

June 11, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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"You Have Died Of Dysentery."

Go West and grow up with the country.

 - Horace Greeley, 1854

Before rumor festers into fake news: the Garstka-Pritsky clan is hitching oxen to our wagons and heading West for an extended period of time.

The prime driver is significant health issues our family has been struggling with for a year--blogging about such will commence at some point--combined with a need to get to Oregon to be near to the support offered by a pair of grandparents, three sets of aunts & uncles, and numerous other relations.  Also, too, closer proximity to responsive medical care, in contrast to the lackluster level of service we've received here in Vermont which has driven us, literally (literally) to Boston for more adequate attention from specialists.

So, we begin a road trip in a couple weeks, almost 9 years exactly after Ericka, Neppy, and I piled into a car in PDX to make the Eastward Crossing.  This time, it's 2 dogs and 2 kids in tow, heading the opposite direction.

We're not reversing the trip, but rather finding some new adventures along a new route.  First major stop will be Gettysburg, where we'll be forcing the kids to run up the same hill Ericka did when she was pregnant with Sam (no more free rides for him).

We are keeping the house in Fletcher for now, as we are truly not sure what the future holds beyond the next few months, let alone years.  There will be a caretaker family living here, feeding the cats until we know more.

Dunno how much blogging of this adventure will occur.  2017 is a different world than 2008, and I might rely more on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook than the longer-form stuff, but we'll see.  That certainly won't stop me from noting that this here blog--which has devolved mostly into reposts, poetry, and YouTubes--is celebrating its 14th Blegiversary on June 14th.  Yup, I still kick it old school, my beloved 3.25 readers...


* 14th Blegiversary: wanna help feed our oxen? *

June 11, 2017 in Family Life, These United States | Permalink | Comments (2)

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Thursday, May 18, 2017


Can we have him--or his primary opponent--back, please?


May 18, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, May 04, 2017


Been bad about TBT, so here's some meta.


May 4, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, April 20, 2017


Apropos of Sam's writing assignment the other day: "I want to be a 'pantologist' like Dr Scott."


April 20, 2017 in Family Life | Permalink | Comments (0)