Less low key breasts

Breasts.  I’ve always had a complicated relationship with mine.  Usually it’s a casual indifference that keeps me from paying much thought to them.  I don’t generally feel “womanly”.

My life as a steamfitter?  Maybe.  Climbing in ceilings, reaching under freezers, carrying toolbags, and the boobage gets short shrift.

I switched healthcare providers this past January.  So, in doing that, I scheduled appointments to get established with my new doctors.

“When was your last mammogram?”


“Do you do self-breast exams?”

“Um, I never think about doing it?”  She gave me a stern look.  I blushed.

So a month later there I was, standing in front of a weird looking machine while a woman I didn’t know, (she didn’t even buy me dinner first), unceremoniously arranged my breasts on top of a glass plate.

“Hold your breath.”

“Oops, we didn’t get enough that time, we need to get up more by your armpit.   Hold your breath.”

The next day, a phone call.  “We want you to come back for another mammogram, we just need to look more closely at a couple things.”

“How soon?”

” Tuesday.”  (It was Friday.)

So, I began to worry.  Why did they call back so soon?  It must be something bad, right?  They sure got me back in quickly.

Tuesday comes.   “Hold your breath.”  This time many more pictures, way up high.

Wednesday morning:  “We want you to come in for a biopsy, we saw some suspicious calcifications.”


Now I was getting apprehensive.  I was acutely aware of my breasts.  I am not a terribly feminine person,in general.  I started imagining what my life would be like without them.  Would it be easier at work?

The day of the biopsy arrives.  Ex-girlfriend insists on going.  “How are you feeling about all this?”  

“Um, I dunno.  I’m not really thinking about it yet, there’s no point in worrying before I know if something is actually wrong.”

But I was a little worried, also weirdly detached.

“You’re going to be numbed up.  There will be a woman at your side the whole time, it’ll take about 45 minutes.  You’ll feel the first needle with the painkillers, and then after that you shouldn’t feel anything.”

I didn’t feel anything.  I felt outside myself.  It felt surreal.

Home.  Bleeding.  Bleeding a lot.  Soaking through bandages.  I entertain the thought of taping a maxi-pad to my chest.  I don’t.  Bleeding stops eventually.

Then the phone call five days later.  “Are you someplace where you can talk for a few minutes?”  

A long conversation.  The words “lobular carcinoma in situ” became part of my vocabulary.  LCIS for short.  Scary diagnosis.  Not actually “cancer” per se, but makes me very high risk.  “what you decide to do will depend somewhat on your family history, we’ll schedule you an appointment with a surgeon.”  

A surgeon.

Now panic mode sets in.  A surgeon.  I’m having visions of the women I’ve seen at music festivals, rocking mastectomy scars, I think of the courageous women who get beautiful tattoos all over their chests.  My mind is reeling with thoughts.

“Is there any family history?”  I think back as far as I can remember, none of my mother’s relatives had breast cancer.

“How about on your father’s side?”

Oh, crap.  My father’s side counts?   I call my aunt Carol.  “Yes, two of your father’s aunts had breast cancer”.  


I decide to start taking pictures of my breasts, just in case they were going to cease to exist.  I took many, many low-key photos.  Suddenly I was hit with the realization that I kind of liked my breasts, and the life-long ambivalence went away.   I remembered all the angst as a teenager, wishing they were larger, that they had developed earlier.  And then sort of a neutrality towards them as my feminism bloomed.  Then when I started working construction, they almost seemed a hinderance.

You know what?  They’re pretty darned okay, they’re part of me, and life is what it is.

Meeting with the surgeon comes.  “So, my colleagues and I believe that there’s a lot of fear and overkill when it comes to breast cancer.  Years ago, with your diagnosis of LCIS, a bilateral mastectomy would have been recommended.  With your family history, since your grandmother didn’t have it, nor your father’s sister, I believe you’re at the low-end of the high-risk spectrum.  I recommend very close monitoring, mammograms every six months, and I will write you a referral to our high-risk breast clinic.”

Phew.  I can handle that.

Now, I just have to start remembering to feel myself up.

On Bended Knee

He proposed to me in September 1987, I believe.  I said yes.  We had been dating for a year, and felt pretty good about each other.

I had a past.  One that filled me with a lot of self-doubt and low esteem.  I had just graduated high school in 1986.  Escaping that era, that past, and moving on to college where I could start over was a wonderful opportunity.

I was so desperate to be liked in high school that I allowed myself to be abused, taken advantage of.  I had been dating a guy who was fond of telling me, “Most guys would turn cold with your hearing issues, and you don’t even have boobs, but I still love you”.

“Most guys would turn cold, but me, I’m so wonderful I look past your defects”

I lost my virginity to him when I was sixteen.  I cried.  It was not a joyous occasion.  It was desperation to find acceptance, to maybe be loved.

So, years of being in that relationship, of basically having love-less sex, because that’s all I thought I was good for, had done a number on my self esteem.  I knew I had to get away.  My only escape was college.  I deliberately chose a major that would require that I move a long ways away from home.

And college was great.  I was finding myself.  I found love.  I was badly hurt and I had learned to steel myself against pain, against abuse, against emotion.  I could harden myself, make myself go numb.  Sometimes I wish I still had that ability.

Brian married me.  Something awoke inside me.  I began to let myself feel again.  But with it came anger, truth, honesty….and lesbianism.  Feminism.  I went to a sexual assault survivors support group at the Women’s Resource Center.  Processing through the pain of my high school years.

I realized I didn’t like men all that much.

I realized I could trust women.

I realized I could LOVE women.

Brian did nothing wrong, I have to emphasize that.  He was caught up in my self-discovery.  Wrong time, wrong place.  And he loved me, and maybe allowed me to lower my barriers.

I sank into a deep depression.  I realized I shouldn’t have married Brian.  I was dragging him along on a really convoluted self-discovery session that he didn’t deserve.

I asked for a divorce, two years after we married.  On bended knee.

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup

I might be dating myself, but I remember when Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup had to be opened with a can opener, the kind that punched a triangle shaped hole in the top of a can.

You poured most of a can of that stuff into a glass of milk, to impress me.  We were eleven years old.  You were my first kiss.

I had always been an outcast, in elementary school.  Funny thing about being a deaf kid integrated but the school district wasn’t all that great about educating the peers….people thought I was an ass.  They’d talk to me and I wouldn’t reply, so I’m sure they thought I was stuck up.  Elementary school was hell for me.

Junior high was my chance to start over.  I went to Junior High orientation with lots of makeup on, trying to make myself look Asian.  Anything to be an exotic stranger, anything except what I really was, the deaf scared kid.

My mother was mortified when we got home from that orientation, by the way, and was convinced from that day forward that I was artificially darkening my eyebrows.

“no, Mom, they really DO look like caterpillars”

Anyways, Brent.  You were in my seventh grade science class.  You seemed to look past my hearing aids. Past my awkwardness.  You asked me out on a “date”.  It was a movie, a movie about a Volkswagen bug car that was popular at the time.  Was the car’s name “Herbie”?  We went for pizza first, and the movie later.  We couldn’t drive.  Not old enough.  I think my father drove us.

You were the first boy to make me feel the “adult” kinds of feelings.

You invited me to your house one day after school. I knew your parents would not be there.  At work.  I was scared, but also so happy that you wanted to spend time with me.

You took me into the kitchen to make a chocolate milk.  You poured a glass of milk, then emptied most of an entire can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup into it.  And then drank it.  Without gagging.

I was properly impressed.

You kissed me.  My first kiss.  I had a metallic taste in my mouth, now in retrospect, I think it was fear, excitement, but I mentioned it to you and you said you probably had bad breath.  You touched my chest (flat as it was) and I touched you.

We never did have sex.  I loved you, though.  I can’t even really remember what happened, why we faded out, but I think of you fondly.  I would love to go back and talk to you one last time.

You died in, I think it was 1987?  In a motorcycle crash, with my other ex, Bill.  It’s strange how life works out.

I want to talk to you both, but you more so.  You left an impression in my life.

Here’s to you, Brent.  You and the rolling stones.

Playing Hooky

A couple weeks ago I decided to take advantage of one of the last beautiful fall days before the cold weather descended.

(Plus, I wanted to spend some time with my squeeze, but we won’t go there)

Anyway, we went out on an excursion and played with our cameras.  First, we stopped at Dr. Evermor’s Art Park.  He is an eccentric artist who creates whimsical sculptures from scrap metal.  He has built a “forevertron” that will launch him into outer space on a magnetic beam.

google eyes


It takes quite the eye to see potential in trash.  We humans could take a lesson from this man.

We then traveled to Parfrey’s Glen.  It was a wonderful day.  Everybody should be required to take “hooky” days every so often.  Oh, and here’s a green thing:

me so zen

I remember seeing plants such as this when I was a child in Minnesota.  A simpler time.  When I was a child, I immersed myself into everything *not human* because it was too difficult to interact with people.  I am still an introvert today.

velvet water

Filling up, spilling over, it’s an endless waterfall…


I saw you across the way, on the other side of the tent, on Labor Day, and I was overwhelmed…

Ten years ago, it was, you contacted me, although I think it was a ruse. “Kathy, I saw that hemp necklace you had on, you said you make them, I wonder if you’d make me one?”

I met you at the Memorial Union with your necklace, that I had made a couple inches too long, just because I wanted to be sure. And as we were sitting there, watching the waves and the people, and feeling the warmth, I raveled two inches off your necklace. But at least I was sure. I remember tying it around your neck.  Your neck felt hot, a little sweaty, slippery….

I had met you five years earlier, and I had instantly felt a connection, although I kind of ignored it, because back then I was a lesbian.

Note that I didn’t say, “thought I was a lesbian”, or “was involved in a relationship”, but at the time I really, truly, identified as gay. I felt a chemistry between the two of us, but I blew it off as just, “he’s a nice guy”….but later on, five years later, after my relationship blew up, I found myself in the parking lot outside Memorial Union, fighting with all my will to not leap into your arms. I kissed you, and you kissed me back, and the energy and the heat swelled, and it was overwhelming….and…

“Are you involved with anybody?”

And then my heart broke when you said, “I am going to get married next week”.

“I don’t want to lead you astray. I’d better leave now.”

But it took all I could do to wrench myself away.

So, years passed by. We’d see each other every year or two, mostly at the Labor Day festival. Then the protests happened.

“I love your tattoo.”

“I’ve spent most of the past six months protesting.”

“I was there, I took hundreds of pictures, looking for you. I heard you were playing your drum in the drum circle in the middle. Right in the middle, the thick of it all.”

I blushed. You took my picture.

“I don’t usually photograph well.”

Another protestor walked by and gave me a high five…

“Hey Mark!” (he was a mutual friend, even though I didn’t realize it at the time) “how do you know Kathy?”

“From the protests, we were in the rotunda together”…

And there was another spark, I looked into your eyes, and you looked into mine.

“I’d better get going.”

But, I tossed and turned that night. I kept remembering what Jim said, that “he is the male version of you….he IS you”…and realizing that was the most clear description I’ve ever had about how you and I relate. You ARE me.

But you were married and I was involved.

The next year at the Labor Day festival, I ran into you again.  We sat at a picnic table and talked.

“so, did that picture you took last year turn out?”

“no, you didn’t photograph well.”

“Not surprising.”  Much conversation ensued.   And again, it was all I could do…that same old spark was there.  That spark that I had first felt over ten years before.  More like fifteen, if you include the spark I had ignored.

And again, a month ago, I ran into you again at the Labor Day festival.  It’s easy to find you there.  Smaller gathering.

“Every year, I go to every festival, I look for you, I ask people if you are here, and they tell me, “she was just here…she just left”, he said.   “I look forward to seeing you here at Labor Fest, all year, and I look for you for the rest of the year.”

I blushed.

“I go to most every festival, at least those on the east side”, I said…(the east side being the hippie side of town)

“I’ll look for you”

Last week, at the Willy Street Fair…I saw a glimpse, well, actually, Jim saw you and said, “is that???” and I looked over, and my heart sped up, and I felt warm and cold at the same time, and I said, “yes, that is!”  So I yelled your name.  And you came.  And talked.  And won my heart all over again.

“See that woman with the hula hoop? She looks familiar….maybe she was at festival”…and you said, “would you recognize her if she were naked?”  I said, “she may have been naked”.

“you’ve alluded to that in the past…are you a lesbian?”

“no, I swing both ways.  Let’s just say I don’t discriminate based on gender.”  And he laughed, a deep belly laugh.  He looked deep into my eyes.  I looked deep into his.  I felt the spark again, that deep connected feeling.

“Before everybody comes, back, I want to tell you, I have the hots for you.  I have had the hots for you ever since that night at the Memorial Union parking lot.”

And again, now, a week later, I find myself unable to sleep.  When I close my eyes I see your face, and I remember that night in the parking lot at Memorial Union, ten years ago now.  And I wonder how things might be different had you not been about to get married at the time.

And I toss and turn in my bed at night.

I’ve got your back, bro.

I went to court for singing at the state capitol yesterday. There were many of us singers there. We all requested jury trials. Afterwards, (it was noon, of course), I went to the Capitol to join the singalong. It is always outside on Fridays; however, lately other groups have been pulling permits for the timeframe the singers are normally inside. (The singers always go sing outside if another group has a permit to use the Capitol…they’re respectful that way)

So this Friday, even though it was normally an “outside” day, they had been singing outside all week, and there had been no permit pulled by an outside group, so a splinter group of about 30 people went inside to sing.

10 minutes later, the police got out the LRAD and broadcasted their “this is an unlawful event” warning.

I was still outside at this point…I had gone to court, and didn’t realize there was a splinter group inside.

As I was standing outside singing, I saw a man running from inside out to our group, he told us all that there were 30 people inside, and they declared an illegal gathering, and if anybody wanted to go in and support the group so they wouldn’t be able to arrest everybody before the hour was up….well, he sort of left it at that.

I sang another couple songs outside, I didn’t really want to get arrested again…but then I started thinking about those who put it on the line every day…and I went inside.

I was prepared to get arrested again.

It was amazing. There were at least a hundred people inside. People responded to the rally cry and were THERE. We sang at the top of our lungs, and we lasted through another day, another hour, chanting, “we’re still here!”

And, I was not arrested.

So, I got arrested the other day…


Long story. There has been a long-standing protest against our governor, Scott Walker. He doesn’t like dissent. It used to be that the Solidarity Singers were kind of tolerated, cooperated with…until they pushed Chief Tubbs out, and brought Chief Erwin in.

Now, Chief Erwin is pretty militaristic, while Chief Tubbs believed in cooperation and communication.

They have started arresting people for singing.

They wanted the singing to stop. So they laid down the law and started handcuffing people and hauling them to the basement of the Capitol, for the offense of singing (in some cases, out of tune, I will admit).

It had the opposite result…people are swarming to sing now. The crowd HAD dwindled to a few die-hards, but now? It’s got new life. About a hundred or more per day.

I was one of those people who arrived once I heard of the crack-down. I came to show my solidarity, to show the capitol police that they weren’t going to win so easily.

I’m proud of going. I’m proud to say I will be going to court tomorrow. And I am proud to say, I will not give in. My life is based on stubbornness. I’m a fighter…have always been…that’s not going to change now.

Life is full of choices…a person can choose to live a life of ease, or a life of challenge.  I am proud to say that I have absolutely no regrets, even though I may have a criminal conviction….I choose to consider that I am fighting for first amendment rights.

If a person has to get a permit from the government to protest, or to assemble, then you do not truly have that right.  The simple fact of having to get a permit means it CAN BE DENIED.

This will NOT happen on my watch.