All posts by Nava Brahe

Too Fat to Sell Fudge

When I started writing again, I promised myself I would put it all out there, consequences be damned. I did that while I was undergoing cancer treatment, but my writing was reactive to what I was going through. I literally had no idea what it would be like since everyone experiences it differently. I wrote spontaneously, and I think, effectively, about my experiences.

Now, my writing carries historical significance, at least to me, because I’ve decided I want to recount certain events in my life “B.C.” – before cancer – that have contributed to who I am on the other side of that experience. 

Buckle up, grab a beverage and a snack, and settle in. This is going to be a long one. 

I started my life as a working girl in 1987, with two years of community college and a broadcasting degree under my belt. I put on my skirt suits, my patterned pantyhose, socks and sneakers, got on the 2 train out of the Junction in Brooklyn, and rode into Manhattan to do my nondescript job as a billing and accounts receivable clerk. After four years, I swapped my subway tokens for a monthly Long Island Railroad ticket, and I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the commute or my job. After a short-lived stint at a local Long Island radio station, I landed a job at a small, family owned confectionery company that produced the ingredients to make one product: fudge. A dream job for someone with a sweet tooth, right? Not really. 

I was once again tasked with handling accounts receivable, and also with making collection calls to customers who were late with payments. I’ve never been a numbers person, nor did I get any satisfaction out of calling people to ask for money. I was 27 years-old at that point, and I was somewhat resigned to making a living this way. I had a boyfriend, friends, and best of all, a 25-minute commute that didn’t involve a train schedule. Things could have been worse. 

As the years passed and the pressure increased, I started loathing what I had to do to make a living. The company was small, with less than 50 employees, and the owner’s son was, shall we say, challenging to work for. The guy was Ivy League-educated, and intellectually constipated. Granted, I didn’t realize that at the time, but looking back, I’m being somewhat kind with that description. He was assisted by his younger brother, whom I eventually started referring to as “Fredo”. If you don’t understand that reference, you must watch “The Godfather” immediately if not sooner. 

Mr. Intellectually Constipated (Mr. I.C.) was afraid of his own shadow. He constantly needed reassurance from others for just about everything. When the money wasn’t coming in as timely as he liked, he stood in the middle of a large common area in the office ranting about how he was going to have to write off hundreds of thousands of dollars in bad debt at the end of the fiscal year. He subsequently hired a credit and collections consultant to school me and my supervisor on the finer points of asking for money. It was an exercise in wasting money in an attempt to get money. At the end of every fiscal year I was in that job, the amount of bad debt written off was a mere few thousand dollars, rather than the hundreds of thousands he feared. 

Mr. I.C. didn’t stop there. The focal point of his business was sales (natch), and he required a bevy of consultants to hold his hand, and impart their spurious “wisdom”. I shall refer to the king of all those consultants as “Mr. Jackass”, a moniker that comes perilously close to his actual name, but I don’t give a damn. 

Mr. Jackass was such an expert at shoveling shit, I would privately refer to him as the human earth mover. Every time I heard him speak, words like “quantify”, “codify”, and “proactive” tumbled out of his mouth with such practiced ease, I felt the need to take a shower each time I got within a few feet of him. Granted, he wasn’t at all interested in who I was or what I did, because I was not a salesperson. Again, in such a small office, there wasn’t much that could be kept private because of the close quarters we worked in. 

After paying Mr. Jackass a $15,000 monthly consulting fee for a prolonged period of time, Mr. I.C. decided to bring him into the company as a full-time employee. He was made an executive vice president, given an office and an administrative assistant, and free reign to reshape the sales department in his image. And now comes the fun part. 

During Mr. Jackass’s ascent to “greatness”, I was going though some significant events in my own life. My father passed away in January, 1996. We sat shiva for him at my parents’ house in Brooklyn, to which a group of my co-workers came to pay their respects. Mr. I.C. came too, proceeded to sit in my mother’s kitchen and tell off-color jokes, mere feet from my mother, who sat in the living room giving an Oscar-worthy performance as the grieving widow. A co-worker of mine, who was so completely obsessive-compulsive, asked me when I would be returning to work because I had to run customer statements, and she didn’t have the time to do them herself. My father had the audacity to die around the 15th of the month, which was when the statements were usually printed and mailed. 

After that, I turned 30, bought a house, and got married. In between, I decided I didn’t want to do accounts receivable and credit and collections anymore. I was emotionally exhausted by the job, and honestly, sick of feeling like a necessary evil. I had racked up years of experience speaking to people, I was intimately acquainted with the product the company sold, and I thought I would make a good…wait for it… salesperson. 

Coincidentally, around the time I decided I wanted to try my hand at sales, Mr. Jackass decided to go on the all fat, no carb Atkins diet, as it was known back then. Now, it’s the trendy “keto” diet, but the basic premise is the same: You deplete your body of all its glucose, eating nothing but protein and fat, forcing your body to burn that fat for fuel.

Ever the narcissist, Mr. Jackass decided to recruit all the “pudgy” employees to join him on his quest for health. He came for me, of course, because I’ve carried around extra pudge for most of my life. Back then it wasn’t too bad, but when you’re dealing with someone for whom appearance is everything, a few extra pounds is a deal-breaker. His recruitment attempts were relentless, and I said, what the hell – I’ll try it. I was trying to get him to notice me anyway, so to me, it was worth the effort. 

A little while after I agreed to join the bacon and hard boiled egg brigade, Mr. Jackass and I had a private meeting in his office about my future in the sales department. We sat there, just the two of us, having a discussion about my role as a potential salesperson. Oddly,  he seemed not so interested in giving me a shot. Instead, he kept focusing on my weight, asking me to go into the company’s warehouse to weigh myself on the industrial scale. I knew damn well what the number was courtesy of my bathroom scale, but I wasn’t going to share it with him. I was five feet, eight inches tall back then (still am), so the number was likely larger than he was anticipating. After finally accepting that I wasn’t going to weigh myself at his request, he told me, “When you finally lose weight, that’s when I’ll really teach you how to sell.” 

 For months I thought nothing about that remark. Now, my head wants to explode from the effrontery Mr. Jackass exhibited by uttering that sentence. I ended up losing 30 pounds eating bacon, hard boiled eggs, steak, sugar-free jello and coffee with full-fat heavy cream. It was glorious, until I caved and devoured an entire loaf of bread in one sitting. During that period, I attended sales conferences, went on short trips to train customers how to make fudge with the ingredients and equipment the company sold, and worked a few trade shows. I even got to go train a customer in the Cayman Islands, and was able to take my then-husband along on the trip. Little did I know until later on that no one else wanted to go, which was why I was chosen. 

The funny part about my role in the sales department was that I was never busy. After I admitted to falling off the Atkins wagon, Mr. Jackass didn’t have much use for me. His plans were to stick me in a windowless room selling custom-labeled boxes for stores to sell their fudge in. All he wanted from me was to sit on the phone all day, pushing customers to buy these boxes. Again, I was so oblivious because I finally didn’t have to worry about numbers, and calling people for money, and running statements, and doing all that accounting crap. I was getting paid, and I didn’t care. 

In January, 1999, I was asked to go work the Chicago Gift Show with a co-worker. My co-worker and I had a great relationship, so I was looking forward to going. Working a trade show was a pretty exhausting experience given that the fudge had to be made on site to hand out as samples to people who stopped by our booth. They were looking for items to sell at gift shops, tourist locations, restaurants, etc. The sales pitch was very specific because the fudge had to be sold a certain way in order for the retailer to be successful.

The Chicago Gift show is one of the busiest trade shows in the country, and it was non-stop for about five days. The best part was staying in a nice hotel and getting to go to all the top restaurants for dinner. I had a friend back then who regularly traveled to Chicago on business, and he gave me a list as long as my arm of places that “couldn’t be missed”. 

When I got home, I went to the office the next day, wrote up my sales leads, filled out my expense report and went about my day. It was a Friday; no different than a typical Friday I’d experienced, until I got called into a meeting with Mr. Jackass, and the sales manager, whom I shall refer to as “Donald”. 

Mr. Jackass and Donald sat me down and proceeded to tell me they were given a report that my performance at the Chicago Gift Show was sub-par. When I asked for specific details, they could not provide any. There was much rambling on the part of Mr. Jackass, and I cannot recall what he was saying. I remember asking him, “Are you firing me?” His answer was yes. Donald sat there mute. I was stunned. 

After Mr. Jackass admitted he was firing me, I was given a document to sign. It was a non-disclosure agreement in which I had to promise not to work for any of the company’s competitors for a period of several years. They were also giving me three months severance pay, my expenses from the trade show, and whatever funds were in my 401k account if I didn’t want to keep it in the company’s retirement plan. I had the wherewithal to tell them I would not sign a thing. Then I got up and walked out. 

My memory is pretty hazy about all this, but I remember grabbing my coat and bag, getting into my car, and driving over to my husband’s office. I walked in, sat down in a chair next to his desk, and said something to the effect of, “Those fuckers just fired me.” He was as stunned as I was. I told him about the document I was asked to sign, and he agreed that I shouldn’t sign it. 

I went back to the office to gather up my things. Mr. Jackass actually helped me pack up the items and carried them out to my car for me. I don’t think I uttered a word to him, and I don’t recall him saying much either. My co-workers were stunned. 

As I exited the office, Mr. I.C. was standing at the fax machine with his back to me, and never bothered to turn around to bid me farewell. Twenty years later, that still bothers me. There is nothing worse than someone who cannot, or will not look you in the eye when things get unpleasant. Not only is he intellectually constipated, he’s a gutless piece of shit. 

I remember being numb for most of that weekend. Then, finally, it dawned on me why I got fired. I said to my husband, “That asshole fired me because he thinks I’m too fat.” We did a few rounds of, “No… really? Ya think?” I responded, “I don’t think; I know.” 

On Monday, I did two things: I filed for unemployment benefits, and started the process of finding a lawyer. Keep in mind that this was 1999, and sexual harassment, misogyny and discrimination in the workplace have not yet reached the level of outrage there is today. I spoke to several local attorneys who did not have the expertise to help me, nor did they think it would be worth it to try and sue. I refused to give up. 

A few weeks later, someone my husband used to work with heard about what happened, and asked me to meet her for lunch. Over lunch, she told me that a friend of hers recently received a sizable financial settlement from a prominent Wall Street banker whom she worked for as a nanny. The guy was sexually harassing her, and she sued. She gave me the name and phone number of this supposedly well-known Manhattan attorney – a woman – who specialized in employment law. 

About a week later, I met with the lawyer. I told her what Mr, Jackass said to me many months earlier about losing weight and teaching me how to sell. She was not thrilled by the fact that no one else but me heard him say it. I regaled her with anecdotes about his behavior when he was trying to get other people to diet with him, and how he could not give me a cogent reason other than, “We were told…” for why he fired me. 

The lawyer was extremely sympathetic, and told me that I had to be willing to deal with a fair bit of humiliation if I wanted to sue for wrongful termination. She said that Mr. Jackass would most likely deny saying the things he said, and it was my word against his because no one else was in the room. I would also have to write a detailed statement admitting that I was “morbidly obese” and was fired because I was overweight. I agreed, and went home and wrote the statement. I also had to pay a $3.500 retainer, which amounted to ten hours of her time that would be used to serve-and-volley with the company’s legal representative. 

Months passed as the wheels of justice slowly turned. As anticipated, Mr. Jackass denied saying what he said, and because of that, the attorney felt she had grounds to ask only for one year’s salary, plus reimbursement for my legal expenses, as compensation. I wasn’t looking to get rich, but I wanted to teach them a lesson – particularly Mr. I.C. – who put so much stock in the opinions of others. My life was upended by one of those people, and I wanted him to know how much it had hurt me. At that point, the realization about people like Mr. I.C. hadn’t dawned on me: People like him, brought up wealthy and privileged, don’t really care when someone in their orbit is hurt by their actions. 

A few weeks after my termination (before the lawsuit was filed), a group of my former co-workers invited me to meet them at a local diner for lunch. Afterwards, I made the mistake of stopping by the office to say hello to the ones that didn’t go to lunch. Mr. I.C. and Mr. Jackass were not there. 

Unfortunately, word got back to Mr. I.C. that I darkened his doorway, and a major freak-out ensued. Since I hadn’t signed the non-disclosure agreement, he was convinced I came back to steal his secret fudge recipe to sell to his competitors. Years before, Brother Fredo made the mistake of becoming too chummy with someone at a rival company, and lo and behold, that company came out with its own fudge. Never take sides against the family, Fredo.

As far as I know, Fredo is still alive and well. Mr. I.C. didn’t have him executed while fishing. 

Showing up at the office after being fired was a serious misstep. I later found out that everyone was ordered to sign the same non-disclosure agreement, usually reserved for when employees left or were fired. I also found out that the co-worker I went to Chicago with was almost fired because she had contact with me after I was terminated. 

After that, I spoke to only one person I used to work with, a sweet woman who worked part-time maintaining the fudge kitchen and preparing samples for prospective customers. For a while, she called me every day after she came home from work to see how I was doing, and kept me updated on the office gossip. Those phone calls turned out to be a godsend, since during all this drama, my mother was in free-fall, physically and emotionally, and it was difficult to deal with on top of everything else. 

My mother passed away in July, 1999. This time, we sat shiva for her at my brother’s house in New Jersey. My mother sold the Brooklyn house five months before she died and moved to a condo overlooking the Hudson River not far from where my brother lived. During those months, she was oblivious to what I was going through, and that was fine with me. I didn’t actively look for another job during this time period since my mother’s situation was so precarious. I never knew when I would have to drop everything and run to New Jersey to bear witness to her collapsing on her fainting couch. 

During my mother’s shiva, I received a phone call from the lawyer. She told me that the case was settling. I would get half a year’s salary plus legal expenses. She was sorry she couldn’t do more, but it was difficult without solid proof that Mr. Jackass said what he did. I was totally fine with it. The message had been sent. I did, however, have to sign that damn non-disclosure agreement.

I did not work again for a long time after that experience. In August, 1999, I enrolled at Hofstra University and stayed until 2007, earning a bachelors and masters degree.

I like to think that I grew the fuck up during those years, learning about life and people in ways I had not prior to going back to school. Being a full-time student from age 32 to 40 taught me lessons I’d missed when I was younger. I gained an appreciation for the value of education, not as a vehicle to make money, but as a way to navigate through life without falling victim to the circumstances I experienced earlier. 

I gave a lot of thought to putting this story out into the void during the height of the Me Too movement, but it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t sexually harassed in the way that women were by Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly or Les Moonves (have I missed anyone?). I was, however, judged harshly by someone who had many of the same qualities as those men. I understand the mental anguish these women experienced, but thankfully, Mr. Jackass never made any sexual advances. Truthfully, given his obsession with looks and appearances, he was probably too repulsed by me to pursue it. 

Mr. Jackass and Mr. I.C. eventually parted ways. I don’t know why, and I don’t care. The company is still alive and well, operating with many more employees, and hopefully more responsible management than it had when I was there.

The world is very different now, and so am I. My experiences over the past 20 years have shaped me into who I am today. In some ways I am grateful for them, even though I wouldn’t want to relive them ever again. I’ve shared this one because I hope it will provide something positive for anyone who experienced something similar. I am not bitter anymore, but in the unlikely event I ever cross paths with Mr. I.C. or Mr. Jackass again, I will not be kind. 

I haven’t had fudge of any kind since I was fired from the company. I have seen it in many places in my travels; it is easily recognizable to me.

When I do stumble upon it, I like to utter in a voice neither loud nor soft: “Don’t eat the fudge. That stuff will kill you.” 

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Twenty Years Of The Sopranos

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about “The Sopranos”. Prior to the show coming into my life in Jnauary, 1999, there wasn’t a particular television show that impacted me as greatly as it has. Well, maybe “All In the Family”, since my parents didn’t prevent me from watching it. To be honest, I think I learned a great deal about life from Archie Bunker; it certainly saved my mother from having to sit me down for more than a few awkward conversations.

January, 1999 was a somewhat difficult year for me. When I look back at it now, those difficulties pale in comparison to what followed about a decade later. That was the year I was unceremoniously fired from my job because the misogynistic idiot running the show felt I was too fat to sell fudge (more on that some other time). January 1999 marked three years since my father’s death, and my mother was doing her best impression of Livia Soprano – although I didn’t know it at the time.

I’ll never forget the first time I became aware of “The Sopranos”. My brother, my ex-husband and I were in my parents’ house in Brooklyn, attempting to clean out some of the accumulated relics in preparation for our mother’s move to a condo in New Jersey. As we were stuffing items into garbage bags, my brother inquired as to whether or not my ex and I had watched “the new Sunday night show on HBO”.  We said we hadn’t, and my brother responded, “Watch it, and let me know who the mother reminds you of.” The answer was obvious. From there, I never missed an episode.

It turns out “The Sopranos” was much more than the sum of its parts. It was, and in many ways still is, a cultural phenomenon. It was a revelation for those of us who were raised on insipid American television that was limited by draconian sexual and language taboos, but would serve up a hefty portion of violence at every opportunity. The fact that HBO isn’t beholden to advertisers and censors gave David Chase, the creator of “The Sopranos”, the freedom to explore subject matter major networks either wouldn’t touch, or could only scratch the surface because of traditional limitations.

Perhaps the most compelling feature of the series is its authenticity. Having grown up in Brooklyn and experienced the “goombah” Italian culture firsthand, it was glorious. Chase mined all the brilliant New York actors who played bit parts in “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas” and made them household names. Dominic Chianese, Uncle Junior in “The Sopranos”, played the role of Johnny Ola in “The Godfather, Part II”. Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) and Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy) each had bit parts with no dialogue in “Goodfellas”. They were so small, in fact, that if you blinked, you missed them.

There are dozens more examples, but the ultimate casting gem was giving the role of Christopher (Chris-ta-fuh!) Moltisanti to Michael Imperioli, who played Spider in “Goodfellas”.  Who didn’t feel cinematic vindication when Christopher shot the bakery kid in the foot during the first season, when he felt slighted because he had to “wait in line for buns”? In the end, Christopher’s arc was just as tragic as Spider’s, but the six seasons we spent with him made the ride worth it.

There is so much more to explore that I could be here for weeks. Books have been written by scholars in the attempt to unpack everything from the major theme of the psychic damage inflicted by an unfit parent, to the Shakespearean influences, and so on.

Personally, the one thing that blows me away is the impact a New York life has had on me, and how it influences everything I do and say. I’ve lived in several different places since “The Sopranos” debuted, and if the show ever comes up in conversation, I’ve had to strenuously explain it to people who have no idea what it’s like to know individuals who are exactly like those characters. Some have been amused; others can’t fathom those characters having any basis in reality.

I will go to my grave with “The Sopranos”. I literally want to be buried with my DVD copies of the series because I have no idea how much time I’ll have to do in purgatory before I get to heaven. I haven’t had the chance to add up all my venial and mortal sins. I sure as hell don’t want to end up playing cards with Roman soldiers every day, and get whacked every night like I did in real life. If you’ve watched the series more than once, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

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The Metaphorical Wall

Five days into 2019, we are in the midst of a government shutdown, and incessant talk about a border wall. The “wall” talk has been with us ever since Donald Trump decided to run for president, and like every other aspect of his presidency, it is a giant Potemkin village that is all show and no substance.

It is ironic that people like Trump are experts when it comes to construction. They don’t actually build anything tangible, but they excel at throwing up metaphorical walls that frustrate, infuriate, and have the capability of hurting many. While I have to keep in mind that Trump hasn’t ever been officially diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) he exhibits the characteristics of it. Mind you, I am not an expert at diagnosing emotional disorders, but I, and many others have first-hand experience dealing with people who behave similarly to him. That’s why we are triggered by this mendacious, King Lear-ish despot who thinks he has absolute power over the entire world.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone with a narcissistic person, or persons in their lives that Trump is fixated on building a wall. People like him throw up invisible walls that can make life unnecessarily challenging for the rest of us. While these metaphorical walls don’t require any financial commitment, they can be both physically and emotionally devastating. Just look at the havoc the current government shutdown is causing: there are currently 800,000 government employees who are either working without pay, or furloughed until Trump decides to cave on his ridiculous request of $5 billion to build his imaginary wall. And the longer this goes on, the worse it will get. Entire agencies will have to shutter completely in order to satisfy the whims of someone who is categorically unfit to be in the position he holds. If that doesn’t scare you, you are ass-up and completely clueless.

Think for a moment about all those difficult people we must deal with who unhesitatingly throw up barriers that we are tasked with dismantling. It could be a family member, a friend, or colleague who habitually gets in our face with manufactured obstacles we must tear down. And we expend Herculean effort trying to deal with these, to the point where we are the ones who have to seek support to deal with the crises they cause. Meanwhile the “builder” of the wall stands back and gleefully relishes the frenzy before them. People get hurt, and the builder exhibits little to no empathy for the fabrication of anguish being wrought.

Those of you reading this who have had the incredible luck to be spared from a Trump in your life should pay close attention to what is happening. Either you are in denial, or you have some serious emotional issues. Many mental health experts will tell you that narcissists are beyond help and are not capable of changing. My personal solution to dealing with a narcissistic person is to cut them off completely. It is the only way to save yourself; the hell with what the narcissist is thinking or feeling – you must put yourself first in the equation and do whatever is necessary to get yourself as far away from this person, or persons, as possible.

It’s too bad getting rid of Trump won’t be so easy. Years from now, he will likely be a case study in psychology programs at schools all over the world. He will join the ranks of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and other malignant figures in history who caused the death and destruction of millions. That is, if we’re still around to contemplate the damage he has done.

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Getting Banned From Twitter

I never thought I’d say this, but I have something in common with batshit crazy conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Both of us are banned from Twitter.  It seems I am guilty of violating Twitter’s policy of “abusive behavior” because I tweeted something unsavory to the social media platform’s founder, Jack Dorsey.

I may have spent almost two years absent from blogging, but I have been very active on Twitter. After Donald Trump was elected president (I hate saying/writing that), Twitter became a screaming-into-the void outlet for me, because, when has it ever been possible to directly communicate with a United States president? I mean, besides writing a letter addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? I became so active on Twitter, I believe the number of times I told Donald Trump to go fuck himself is probably upwards of several hundred. I’ve said other things as well, but I believe my use of the word “fuck” would be considered prolific.

Truth be told, my account was limited by Twitter a couple of times before my permanent suspension was handed out. I can’t remember what the first time was for (thanks, chemo brain), and it was for only 12 hours. The second time, I had the audacity to call odious Fox News pundit, Tomi Lahren, a “bimbo”, and for that I could not tweet for seven days.

Earlier this month, after reading a Washington Post article about Jack Dorsey’s visit to Myanmar to meditate, I channeled my vitriol for his cluelessness into a tweet to that castigated him for visiting a country guilty of ethnic cleansing.

As a Jew whose father survived the Holocaust, you can bet that if there is genocide occurring in the world, I will be aware of it, as will other people who pay attention to such things. Jack Dorsey, however, like so many other Silicon Valley tech billionaires, lives in a tone-deaf bubble of privilege that precludes him from having to worry about things like the suffering of others. So, he takes a 12-day trip to a highly conflicted part of the world, raves about the food and his personal spiritual enlightenment, and totally ignores the fact that thousands of people are dead or displaced because of their race and religious beliefs. I bet before people reacted to his navel-gazing tweets about his trip, he didn’t have the foggiest idea who Rohingya Muslims were, and how much they are suffering at the hands of Myanmar’s Buddhist-controlled government.

With the social ineptitude so common in the tech sector, Dorsey sort of apologized for his navel gazing. Somewhere in the middle of his rhapsodic recounting of self-discovery, getting called out for it, and his quasi-apology, my Twitter account was permanently suspended.

Now let me tell you why my suspension blows my mind: There are several medium-to-high profile tweets quoted in the article I linked above, chastising Dorsey for his actions. NONE of those accounts were suspended. My account, I believe, bit the dust because it was of no consequence to anyone. Per my recollection, I believe I had 73 followers at the time of my suspension, and I had tweeted about 1,200 times since I joined the platform in 2009. The majority of those tweets were made over the past two years. Moreover, I contacted the people who were quoted in the article, along with a few other shit-disturbing people I follow, to let them know what happened. I have not received a response from any of them.

Here is why what happened is so horribly wrong: Twitter, and other popular social media platforms, hide behind their established Terms Of Service (TOS), which allows them to treat people as they see fit, rather than obeying the laws protecting freedom of speech. If you read those lengthy documents, you will see that you are expected to play by their rules. If you don’t, they can shut you down with little to no consequences. A TOS gives any social media platform the right to refuse service to anyone, outside of your First Amendment rights as an American citizen.

Because I am a piss-ant tweeter of little consequence, my account was suspended. The people who did not get suspended create revenue and exposure for Twitter, because millions of people access the platform daily to check out what these people are saying. These people feel the need to respect the TOS, so they don’t wind up in the same situation as me and Alex Jones. They might go to jail to protect a high-profile government source who funnels information to them about what’s really happening in the White House, but some anonymous schmuck like me means nothing to them.

I believe that if Donald Trump never became president, Twitter would have likely folded. It has been on a roller-coaster ride since going public, and if not for the moron in the Oval Office, and his constant, stream-of-consciousness tweets, it would have bitten the dust. Moreover, it has become a verbose cesspool of misinformation, depending on who you follow, which does not bode well for the future of democracy. Apparently, attempting to clean it up will further imperil Twitter’s future in the world of tech and social media. I say let it die. There has to be a better way to communicate.

Let’s face it; the last decade of my life has been rife with personal and financial struggles, and the last thing I should be bitching and moaning about is getting banned from Twitter. But, you know what? I’m pissed anyway. In a country where the middle class is all but extinct, and the educated have to dumb themselves down to make a living a  notch or two above the poverty line, this is some fucked up shit. You can pander to the TOSs of all the social media platforms you subscribe to, and make a shit-ton of money. Or, you can speak your mind and get fucked. It all depends on where you are in the pecking order. Clearly, I am a bottom dweller whose words are inconsequential.

I will keep fighting. Fuck you, Donald Trump, and fuck you, Jack Dorsey. History will ultimately not be kind to either of you. Hopefully, the little people like me will rise up and overcome the oppression of your algorithms, TOSs, and everything else you want to throw at us.

Oh, and I was able to create another account: Please follow me @TweetsNava.

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The Curse of What Iffing

As someone four-and-a-half years removed from a breast cancer diagnosis, I’ve reached the point in my recovery where I “what if” myself all the time. I’ve moved past the consistent routine of doctors appointments and testing that were de rigueur during treatment and the clinical trial I took part in. That leaves me with a lot of spare time, and plenty of room in my brain case to ponder what I did or didn’t do during my treatment.

For example, I keep going back to the four week period between chemotherapy and radiation where I seriously considered not doing radiation. At that point, I’d had a PET scan and 16 chemo treatments that, as far as I was concerned, killed enough evil in my body and psyche. I didn’t see the point in roasting myself, as I referred to it, on top of all that. The logic wasn’t there. But, I went ahead and did it. The problem I had was, what if I don’t do it and the cancer comes back? So, I went ahead and submitted myself to 34 trips to the giant rotisserie.

Then, after my oncologist and I determined that I was really and truly post-menopausal, I decided to switch from Tamoxifen, the gold-standard of estrogen-inhibiting drugs, to an aromatase inhibitor, which is meant to kill any remaining estrogen your pituitary gland might have the audacity to secrete. I spent eight months of misery on that drug, and boy was I sorry. I went back to Tamoxifen and promised to re-visit the situation once I’ve been on it a full five years.

In December, 2017, I discovered that I had atrial flutter, which is an irregular heartbeat. I was subjected to a battery of tests and had to take a beta blocker and blood thinner for a couple of months. Then, I scheduled myself for a procedure called a cardiac ablation, where a doctor specializing in cardiac electrophysiology, went up through my leg with electrodes to zap the area of my heart that was not beating regularly. A year later, my heart is fine, but I still cannot feel parts of my right leg.

Just before Thanksgiving, I came down with a cold and cough so epic, I thought I would never recover. Pre-cancer, I never had any issues with my lungs, save for one episode of bronchitis when I was in my 30s. Now, any cold I get settles immediately in my left lung, making me cough and wheeze like a three-pack-a-day smoker. I’ve never before felt a rattling sensation in my lung, and it is not pleasant. And for the record, I halfheartedly smoked Parliament cigarettes for about five minutes in high school.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about over-treatment of breast cancer. The consensus now seems to suggest that women are receiving too much chemo and too many sessions on the rotisserie. Given that my diagnosis included a spread to my lymph nodes, I was told that the treatment I received would be very aggressive. What I wasn’t told was how bad the fallout would be years after treatment ended. I don’t think there is any doctor who would tell you that residual side effects from cancer treatment don’t change you physically and psychologically, but I do think there is a pact among medical professionals to downplay the aftermath. For example, the cardiologist who performed the ablation procedure, along with the general cardiologist I saw prior, were both reluctant to admit that my heart problems might have been caused by radiation treatment. In my case, it’s easier to say, you’re an overweight, middle-aged woman, what do you expect? Of  course you’re going to have heart problems at some point. Not that it matters now; the damage is done and I have to deal with the consequences of my decisions.

It’s human nature to question yourself when you get to a certain point in life. So many questions start with the phrase, “What if…” that you want to delete it from your vocabulary. I have my share of regrets, but the most difficult ones to reconcile are the ones that have to do with the decisions I’ve made about my health. It sucks to feel like shit for as long as I have, and to have trained professionals de-emphasize what you’ve been through. I’ve been gone since the dawn of the “Me Too” movement, and many people think this is a problem experienced only by women. I’m not so sure. Maybe if the medical establishment treated its patients with more empathy, I wouldn’t feel this way.

What if we could be kinder to each other and not look at each other like parts on an assembly line? What if we stopped and listened instead of trying to wrap things up quickly in order to move on to the next task? What if…

 

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Returning From Self-Imposed Exile

It’s been almost two years since I last blogged. It’s been almost two years since I’ve done any writing at all. It got to the point where I was exhausted by all the topics I blogged about, and I simply needed to get away from them all. Granted I am not a ridiculously successful, famous author who’s been hiding away in a secluded cabin in the woods (Annie Proulx is literally somewhere in my midst) contemplating my next roman à clef; I’ve been toiling at other things, and quite honestly, did not miss putting pen to paper.

So, what have I been doing? I’ve been working in an administrative capacity, earning a weekly paycheck and not subjecting myself to the humiliation of attempting to earn a living writing for less-than-a-penny-a-word content mills. The world of online line content has sunken to hideous lows, as we all know, and I no longer have the desire to attempt to earn a meager living writing crap I’m not proud of. Instead, I’ve regularly been telling Donald Trump to “go fuck himself” on Twitter, along with disturbing other shit that’s gotten me banned from the platform, twice. It’s been entertaining for the most part, but I lately find myself yearning to get back to writing more than 280 characters at a time.

I’ve got a lot to say, and I am once again ready to say it. Keep an eye on this space for the piss and vinegar of yore, new and improved after a long silence.

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We don’t need Margaret Atwood to tell us we live in a dystopian universe.

 

 

I have to begin by saying I am not a fan of Margaret Atwood’s books. I did, however, recently read her seminal novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, because it seemed apropos given the current events we are witnessing. Moreover, it’s been years since I attempted one of her works. Since my brain has been rewired by chemotherapy, my taste in literature has changed slightly, along with my sense of smell.

Continue reading We don’t need Margaret Atwood to tell us we live in a dystopian universe.

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I Wanna Be a Hot Size 4 Like Mama June Shannon

“There’s a Smokin’ Hot Mama Waiting to Bust Out”, and you can watch her on WE tv. Yes, Mama June, the notorious mother of Honey Boo Boo, the chubby little beauty pageant queen from Toddlers & Tiaras who captured the hearts of redneck America, has undergone a radical transformation to keep that reality television income flowing.

Mama June, otherwise known as June Shannon, 37, shocked American television viewers with her redneck lifestyle, her four children sired by three different men, and the leveraging of her youngest child, Alana, as a child beauty pageant queen. As if Toddlers & Tiaras wasn’t a horrifying enough look into a world where parents enter their children into creepy beauty pageants in order to earn a few bucks, and more importantly, live vicariously through their offspring, TLC, the network that hatched the original series, gave Mama June, Alana and their family their own reality series, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

Continue reading I Wanna Be a Hot Size 4 Like Mama June Shannon

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Donald Trump Has Us All Distraught

I knew it was going to take a significant something to light a fire under my ass to get me blogging again. I’ve spent the last three months marinating in the American people’s decision to award Donald Trump the presidency, and watching seemingly everyone who swears they didn’t cast a vote for him become completely unhinged (myself included). Friends, family members, colleagues, online acquaintances, and even complete strangers find themselves at odds with each other over how the most unlikely candidate for the big chair is actually managing to sit in it.

Continue reading Donald Trump Has Us All Distraught

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There’s A Lot I Can Say That I’m Not Gonna Say…

Image result for Images of Janice Soprano

One of my favorite characters in The Sopranos was unquestionably Aida Turturro‘s portrayal of Tony’s sister Janice. Their fictional relationship reminds me of my own relationship with my brother, but that’s a story for another time.

Someone recently asked me what was going on with my blog, and it struck me that I’ve been remiss in blogging for almost four full months. Let me tell you why: I started working full-time last May, and between freelancing for so long, and all the vile medical treatments I had to undergo post-cancer diagnosis, I was tired of pushing myself to write. Yes, some writers have to push themselves, and I count myself among those who do. I’ve also realized that for the time being, I don’t miss writing.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know that I’ve been very vocal lately. I’ve taken an active anti-Trump stance, and at present, I am content to leave the heavy lifting to others. I will disseminate writing that I feel needs to be read, but for now, I will not be doing any of it myself. I’ve shoveled a lot of shit against a very strong tide for a long time now, and I need a break. For now, I am putting some long-dormant skills of mine to good use – for people who appreciate it – and to maintain a level of sanity I’d denied myself for too long. I no longer have to chase my income; it comes to me once a week without fail.

“Toodle-fucking-oo” for now. But remember, I will be back. And I will have lots to say.

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