Author Archives: gretchenlasalle@hotmail.com

Dear Family and Friends

Dear Family and Friends who voted for Trump,

Much has already been written along the lines of what I am about to say, and often more eloquently than I may say it, but I am trying to deal with the aftermath of this election and writing is my outlet.  I have something that I need to say and I hope that you will hear it.  I have never been one to get very involved in politics but I don’t feel like I can sit around and be an observer in these events any longer.  I love and respect you all and I know that you voted for Trump, not in support of his bigotry and malice, but as a vote for change.

The thing is, in voting this man into office, Trump supporters seem, inadvertently, to have given license to all of those who have been hiding their racism and sexism and homophobia. With Trump elected to office, the message has been given that it is okay to spew hatred.  The Internet is rife with stories: men groping women on the street, people tearing the hijab from the heads of our Muslim sisters, spray-painting the “n” word all over business walls and school bathroom stalls.  Our children are afraid.  Our people are afraid. With this election, we have set the country back, not taken it forward.

Now is your opportunity.  You have the chance, the RESPONSIBILITY, to not sit back and let your party be defined by bigotry and hate (for that is how it is currently being viewed by many).  You have the opportunity to re-define what it means to be a Republican.  But it has to come from you.  People within your own party must be the ones to speak up.  What’s happening in our country right now is NOT OKAY. 

Many of us have been privileged in some way, whether we are white or male or heterosexual or educated or wealthy.  It has been easier for us than for many.  As humans, as people with generous hearts and kind souls, we have to act on behalf of others.  Day to day, we can stick up for someone on the bus who is being harassed, we can give to organizations that help the disenfranchised, we can write or call our congressmen and congresswomen to let them know that we will not support them if they endorse the bullying and denigration of others, be it by everyday citizens or by the President himself.

Keep your eyes and your ears open.  I understand wanting to stay off of Facebook and turn off the news so that you don’t have to deal with all of the negativity and divisiveness.  But don’t allow yourself to turn a blind eye to the events that are taking place.  Don’t assume that someone else will speak up.  We must all accept responsibility for what is happening and work to make things better.  I challenge you to do what is right and to go forth and put some love and hope back into our world.

Please.  If you love and respect me, if you love your children and want them to live in a nation that is peaceful and safe for all, if you love your country then STEP UP AND SPEAK OUT. 

Thanks for hearing me out!

Wishing you all peace and love.

Gretchen

On the Wrong Side of History

I had expected tears today. I had hoped for tears of joy… tears of love and gratitude for a woman who has given her life’s work to making the world a better place for others. A place where, no matter what color or religion or sexual preference or disability or socioeconomic background you come from, you are given the same rights and privileges and opportunities and responsibilities as everyone else. I had wanted to cry tears of joy for all of the little girls out there who would know that they could grow up to be anything they wanted to be, if they were just willing to work hard enough. I am so grateful to Hillary Clinton for giving us such a wonderful example of what intelligence, hard work, dedication, openness and acceptance, caring, and a life in service to others can mean to so many.

What I cry today, though, are tears of sadness, of shame, of anger, and of frustration. How can this country, people that I love and believe to be intelligent, big-hearted individuals, vote for a man who represents such vitriol and hatred? He has publicly ridiculed people with disabilities, espoused hateful and xenophobic rhetoric, shown blatant disrespect for women, those in our military, and those that are different. How can those people that I love, who have children of their own, whom I presume want to teach values of tolerance, love, and respect of others, how could they vote for this man? What do you tell your children about why you would put such a person in the Whitehouse? I so dearly hope that this man’s talk was just that, talk. That he used the media and talking points to his advantage to gain access to this highest of offices but that his true intentions and actions will not be as divisive and hateful as he presents in his public face to the world.

This election has wreaked havoc on all of us. We have been so polarized. For years I have not wanted to participate in political discussions. I want to love people because of what’s in their hearts and how they treat others, not because of their political leanings. I respect others rights to feel the way they feel and to vote their conscience. But, today, I admit myself disappointed in so many, whose vote for Donald Trump was like a slap in the face. My parents (a heterosexual couple and a lesbian couple) taught me to love everyone, to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, to care for all people and to devote my life to service.   They taught me that I was smart and good and could do anything I set my mind to and I have taken that message to heart, spending my life as a physician, caring for others. I grew up knowing, deep down in my soul, that love and caring for others is THE most important thing. Love is love no matter what color or gender or religion. We are born knowing only love. We are taught hatred. I fear, America, that we have voted on the wrong side of history today – that we have voted for hate.

Today, I am grieving. I am grieving for my relationships, some of which have suffered because of this election. I am grieving for our children who have to see this superficial, bigoted, misogynistic man as our country’s leader. I am grieving for the immigrant families of this country who are working so hard to make a life for themselves and who will live in fear from this day on. I am grieving for my patients who only recently have been able to get health care, either because of inability to afford it or because of pre-existing conditions. I am grieving for those of color and for those in the LGBT and transgender community, who have fought so hard for equality and acceptance.

My only consolation is that, now that the office of President and the House and Senate are Republican controlled, there will be no one else to blame if change for good doesn’t happen in this country. No more obstructionist tactics. Now they must get to work, proving that their ideas will move us in a better direction. I sincerely hope that they, that we, can be successful together.

Today I will grieve. I will allow myself that. But tomorrow, I will continue to teach my children a message of love for diversity and respect for all. I will go on in service to others and fighting to get my patients the care that they deserve. I will try, every day, to make the world a better place for myself, for my children, and for you and your children. Today I grieve, but tomorrow begins the work of repair and healing and there is a lot of work to be done.

 

The Struggle is Real

You’ve heard of the Urban Dictionary?  Well, I’m coming up with a Nine Year Old Boy Dictionary. I’ve lived with this strange being long enough that I am starting to learn his lingo and thought others of you might be able to benefit from my experience.  It is a work in progress and I would love your feedback.  Perhaps you can share some of your own definitions so that we may all understand and communicate with these creatures better.  Please use this list of words and phrases for your English to Nine Year Old Boy translation needs.

English:  Nine Year Old Boy

  1. Now:  In 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, or maybe never.
  2. Hustle:  Move at exactly the same speed as you are currently moving.
  3. Weird:  Anything having to do with kissing, or romance in general.
  4. Use your fork:  Eat your salad with your hands.
  5. Get ready for school:  Listen to music and play with your Legos, being entirely not ready for school when it is time to leave.
  6. Brush your teeth:  Stare at yourself in the mirror for 5 minutes, making silly faces and checking out your muscles, then swish with an infinitesimally small amount of toothpaste so as to make is it smell like you have brushed your teeth.
  7. Wash your hands:  Turn on the water and wave your hands in its general direction.
  8. No:  Yes. As in, the reply given to the question, “Did you wash your hands?”
  9. Read a book:  Find something resembling a book but with no words and look at it for 20 minutes.
  10. Take a shower:  Run the water for 10 minutes to let it “warm up” while you play with your Legos. Then, stand under the water for 20 minutes and sing, perhaps using the soap as a microphone, getting no actual soap on your body.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!  I need as much help as I can get!

We Need to Talk

Dear Scale,

I really don’t appreciate what you said to me this morning.  It’s as if you have no concern for my feelings whatsoever.  I come to you, completely exposed, insecurities laid bare, and you don’t even have the decency to offer a small complement.  You just flash those horrible numbers at me. “Sure, you’ve put on about 10 pounds since last year,” you might say, “but those curves are kickin’!”  And, I have to say, you are all over the place.  I don’t know that I can trust you anymore.  One day you say one thing and the next it’s something completely different.  Why are you so up and down all the time?  I need some consistency in this relationship.  I really hope things can be different between us.  I appreciate the honesty but, if you can’t be kinder to me, we may have to stop seeing each other.

Sincerely,

Gretchen

True Love

I don’t say it often enough but I love you.

Wherever you are is where I want to be.

When I am with you, I feel warm and secure.

When we are parted, I long to return to you, to linger in your embrace.

When I am tired or sad, I fall into you and you comfort me.

Your touch is healing.  You rejuvenate me.

Our hours together make me feel as if I can conquer the world.

You take me as I am – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There is never any judgement.

Our time together is precious.

I can’t imagine life without you.

I love you, Bed.

Nearly Perfect

Right now, in this place, I feel nearly perfectly happy.  This warm July day, I sit in the welcome shade of a maple tree, shadows of leaves dancing on the ground in front of me, flitting around like so many monochromatic butterflies.  A light breeze raises goose bumps on my skin.  I lean back and close my eyes, hearing the rustle of leaves in the trees; the chatter of swallows as they dive and dip through the grasses at the creek edge;  the burbling of the water as it tumbles over stones and winds its way around fallen branches.  A verdant lawn stretches out in front of me where, not long ago, I sat watching an intense match of Bocce ball played out between my son and his grandfather.  In the distance, a mountain rises up, dotted with rocks and layered with Ponderosa pines.  Here, there is peace and tranquility and quiet, even among all the noises of Nature.  This, as my mother-in-law would say, is a magical moment.  When life’s frustrations take their toll and I am feeling pulled in too many directions, I will try to remember moments such as these.  I will allow them to fill me up, to pull me back together again, and to remind me that I am a part of something bigger than myself and the demands of my every day.  I am a part of Nature, she is a part of me, and we need not be so often separated.

Yvonne

We got the money back!  The drama is over and the lesson is learned.  And after this last couple of weeks of heartache and doubt, I think we need a feel good story.  I wrote this after a recent trip back home and re-reading it has reminded me that there are still good and loving people in the world.  I won’t lose my faith in humanity just yet.

 

She hugged me as if she’d known me my whole life; as if she’d watched me toddle around the yard making mud pies and trying to catch fireflies in the fading light of a late summer afternoon; as if I’d gone and come home again. And I had. I had been gone from the South for many years. I moved away after college and hopped around the country – D.C., Portland – finally settling in Spokane, Washington with my husband and children. But I had returned again for a reunion weekend with my sister and my high school girlfriends.

The streets and buildings of Atlanta were foreign to me now. Driving around town, I had trouble recognizing where I was. There is a bank billboard on Peachtree Road that tallies the city’s population and just before I went away to college, there were around 2 million people in this city that I loved. But after the Olympic games came to Atlanta in 1996, the city exploded. Now there are close to 6 million people, with the accompanying increase in high rise buildings, businesses, restaurants, housing and traffic. I almost felt like a stranger back in my hometown.

But a stroll around the neighborhoods of Buckhead helped me recall the city in which I grew up. The majestic homes with their expansive, well-manicured lawns, the trees – oh so many trees, their canopy offering dappled shade on a hot day, the smell of Tea Olives and Honeysuckle, and the ease with which strangers greeted each other on the street welcomed me home again.

And then there was Yvonne.

My sister and I had run across the street from our hotel to grab some breakfast. We went to a little place called the Corner Café, situated right off of Peachtree in the heart of Buckhead. It had a lovely outdoor patio area and we rushed to place our order so we could find a table outside to catch the morning breeze and rays of sunshine. That is when we met Yvonne. She was our server that morning. “Ooh, are y’all twins?” she crooned as she brought us our food. She proceeded to dote on us like a mother hen on her chicks. We reminded her of her nieces, she said. She hugged us around our necks, as if we were family.

As we sat and ate our breakfast and watched Yvonne work the patio, we remarked how she did this with every single person who sat down. Some she obviously knew but most she did not. These were strangers whom she welcomed as if she were welcoming them into her home. She fussed over babies and children. She stood at each table a while and visited with folks. Even now I get a lump in my throat and a warm, fuzzy feeling just thinking about it.

As I said, I’ve been away from the South for a long time. I always knew I’d move away and sometimes I’ve felt like a false Southerner. When people find out that I grew up in Atlanta, they always say “But you don’t have a Southern accent!” And, I don’t. The little bit of one that I had went away a long time ago. My sister says I have more of a Midwest accent now, and that is probably true. My in-laws are from North Dakota and Minnesota and I sometimes find myself talking about hot dishes and saying things like, “Oh, fer sure” and “Yeah, you betcha!” But when I get around people from the South, particularly those with a graceful drawl and a welcoming way, my “y’all” comes back. I speak more slowly. I put a “miss” or a “mister” in front of people’s first names. I say, “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” when speaking to my elders.

That day, Miss Yvonne reminded me of what it felt like to be a Southerner and she reminded me of the positive impact that one person can have upon another, just with a smile, a hug, and a genuine interest in how that person is doing. As we left the restaurant, I gave Miss Yvonne a note to say thank you – for being a bright spot in my day and for reminding me of what I missed about the South. She hugged us and kissed us on the cheeks and said she’d look forward to seeing us next time.

When I find myself back in Atlanta next, you can bet I’ll be stopping by the Corner Café to see Miss Yvonne. She represents everything that I miss about the South and it is people like her who make the South still feel like home to me, even after all these years.

 

 

Vacation Rentals – A Cautionary Tale

I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person. I generally have sound judgment and insight. But, I am also a trusting person with faith in the goodness of my fellow humans. Turns out, I am sometimes too trusting. A little bit of skepticism can be a good thing and I recently learned this the hard way.

Other than my duties as doctor and mom, over the past few years I have also taken on another role – that of Travel Agent. Somehow, I have become the organizer of trips, the renter of vacation homes, and the planner of activities for family and friends. It has generally been a task that I have enjoyed, until now.

Recently, I was charged with finding a vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard. My Dad, who is turning 70 this year, wanted more than anything to get all of his children and their families together for a weeklong reunion. I began my search as usual… VRBO, Flipkey, etc., and I was beginning to get a bit concerned that this trip was going to be out of our financial reach, at least for a property that could accommodate all 14 of us comfortably. Then we stumbled upon an amazing property, like finding a needle in a haystack. It was right on the water, had rooms for all, access to kayaks and paddle boards, a rooftop hot tub, and a pool. And it was not exorbitantly expensive!

The property was listed on a reputable site but when I went to try and reserve it, the site wanted a $15,000.00 security deposit, more than the cost of renting the home. So, I did as I normally would do. I contacted the manager. The manager explained that this was typical of this site (heretofore, I had never had dealings with this particular site) and that another site offered a more reasonable security deposit.   He offered me a link to the other site, which I happily followed because we were all so excited about the opportunity to get this amazing house. The other rental site offered beautiful photographs, excellent customer reviews, and listed a reassurance that this manager had achieved their verification ID.

I ran it by my family (though in hind sight, not thoroughly enough) and everyone was on board. I let the manager know of the dates we were interested in. He replied that a wire transfer needed to occur to secure the rental dates and that another party was interested in renting for the entire month. The pressure was on. I took time out of my workday to run to the bank and request a wire transfer for the entirety of the rental amount and emailed a copy of the wire transfer receipt to the manager to confirm that the transfer was going through. You can see where this is going.

Later that day, I received an email. This email was from the original rental site that I had contacted – the one that wanted the $15,000.00 security deposit. The email stated that the listing for the property I just rented looked suspicious and that it was removing the listing from their site.   My heart sank. I felt sick. All the red flags that I should have originally seen became suddenly clear.

I hopped on the Internet and searched the address for the property. It was indeed a real house but it was for sale. I contacted a couple of local real estate agents who confirmed that the owner was not using the house as a rental property. I contacted the site I thought I was renting through and they had no listing of the property in question, nor any of my information.

In the following days, I have spent countless hours on the phone with the bank, trying to request a wire recall. I reported the event to the Attorney General’s office. They referred me to the Internet Crimes division of the FBI where I submitted a report of events. I contacted my employer, my credit card company, and the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert and to put a freeze on my credit reports. I have done all that I can do and, with every day that passes, I grow less and less confident that we are going to get our money back.

While I feel embarrassed that I allowed this to happen, I share these events with you because I don’t want anyone else to go through the strain with family, the risk to personal security, and the self-doubt that this has caused me. These are some very important, and very expensive, lessons that I have learned and I hope that you’ll take note and remember them the next time you are looking into vacation rentals.

  1. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER wire money. Credit cards offer fraud protection but once you wire money, it is gone and there’s no getting it back if the funds have already been withdrawn.
  2. NEVER pay the full amount for a property upfront. Legitimate listings will have you put a certain amount down and the remainder will be due just prior to your trip.
  3. Just because the property is listed on a reputable site, don’t trust that the property is legitimate. Do your research. Look up the property outside of the site. Talk with other renters if possible.
  4. Don’t let yourself be rushed! In this case, the manager put the pressure on but I also pressured myself – pressure to keep costs down for my family, pressure to secure a site that seemed ideal and would make everyone happy. I allowed myself to be rushed and we definitely don’t think as clearly or objectively when we are rushed.
  5. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Listing rates should be in keeping with those of other similar properties. If it is much less expensive than everything else you’ve looked at, this should be a clue.

So, I’m out of the Travel Agent game for a while. I need some healing time and some time to reflect on how I let myself get into this situation. I have always lived my life trying to see the best in others and I hate that I have become more jaded and suspicious as a result of these events. On the other hand, I don’t want to be that person that gets easily taken advantage of. If the Universe was trying to teach me a lesson about healthy skepticism, it has certainly succeeded. Well done, Universe. Well done.

Gratitude on Mother’s Day

I am blessed with more than the usual number of mothers, the usual number being one. I count four. And that is not including the adopted mothers that I claim as my own… the mothers of friends who have given me guidance, support, and love over the years. I won’t go into the details of how I came to have four mothers but let’s just say that my family tree has many branches. Mother’s day around my house is a big deal. Just signing Mother’s Day cards requires an assembly line set-up that would make Henry Ford proud. Unfortunately, most of my mothers are far away. But, on Mother’s Day, I gather up the mothers closest by and we celebrate with food, drinks, presents and walks on a beautiful spring day, being thankful for each other’s company and honoring those who couldn’t be with us for the day. After all, being a mother is an amazing gift and it deserves special recognition.

Since becoming a mother, I make a special effort to take time on this day to think about the many mothers in my life and to reflect upon the ways in which they have helped me to be the woman, and mother, that I am today. I am so grateful for the lessons in courage, confidence, giving, humility, fearlessness, humor, determination, and dignity that they have taught me. We, like all mothers and daughters, have had our ups and downs. But we maintain an infinite capacity for patience, love, understanding, and forgiveness and this has made us grow only stronger over the years.

The other mothers in my life, my girlfriends (and I count my sister in this bunch because she is my best and forever friend) also receive a special place in my thoughts on this day. They are the women I’ve grown up with. In some cases, we have known each other years before ever becoming mothers. We have embarked upon life’s journeys together… love, marriage, careers, and then, children. We have supported each other through bad times and good. Though life has put distance between us, we remain close in each other’s hearts. Though years may separate us, our reunions feel as if were just together yesterday.   We have walked the path of motherhood together, feeling the joys and doubts and sorrows and triumphs that this wonderful calling has given us. I could not have survived motherhood without these women and I feel so lucky to have them in my life.

And, finally, my thoughts turn to the men in my life who have allowed me to have this most amazing of jobs. My husband shares this parenting journey with me and he is a wonderful father and husband. And then, there are my sons. Their smiles, the little freckles on their noses, their humor and cleverness, their will and determination…. Well. I am one lucky mom.

Thank you, all of you, for walking this road with me.  Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all the wonderful mothers in your lives!

Prince

Much will be said in the coming days about Prince Rogers Nelson and probably in words more eloquent than mine but I feel a need to express my sadness over Prince’s passing. My degree of grief over his death surprises me. After all, its’ not like I knew him personally or had some earth shattering young adult experience set to the backdrop of his music. Yet, I feel as if a bit of my youth has just passed away. Prince is gone. I still can’t believe it.

2016 has taken too many of our great musicians but Prince’s death has definitely hit me the hardest. Maybe it’s because his music was the soundtrack to my adolescence. To a reserved, uncertain, self-conscious teenager, his music was a celebration of life. It was electric. He was electric. He was unapologetically cool. To call him unique seems to underplay his individuality and style. He was duality embodied. He was masculine and feminine. He was sexual and in-your-face and unrestrained on stage. Yet he was soft spoken and reserved and humble in person. He was small in stature but titanic in presence. I never got to see him in concert and that is a regret that I will carry with me until it is my turn to leave this earth. Though his performances, even if seen only through the television screen, were transformative. His dancing must have been choreographed but his moves seemed only to emanate from some deep, intuitive, organic place. He appeared to engage each and every person in the audience as if he was having a conversation with them alone. His skills on the guitar were legend. I can think of no one better. His showmanship was genius. He was a giant among giants.

It is hard to fathom a world without Prince. Without him, some of the lightness seems to have gone from this Earth. I went to work yesterday dressed in purple and black, a tribute. I expected there to be others in mourning. I expected the world to take pause. I expected my patients to take time out of their exams to talk of his impact upon their lives. But the day went on as usual, as if nothing happened. It all seemed a bit of a dream. But life goes on, I suppose, though life less sweet for having lost one of the most beautiful artists the world has known.

So, in his own words… “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” Life without you, Prince, will be a lot less groovy.