A few things that made my stomach hurt this week
Dec 9th, 2017 by Dr Karma

  • The Republican tax plan, especially the effect it will have on insurance, teachers, the poor, the middle class, blue states, etc. My taxes would go way up, and Alexander would soon find himself without insurance and without a path to grad school.
  • Al Franken’s resignation.
  • Republican support of a man who says that women shouldn’t have the vote, that Muslims can’t serve as lawmakers, that homosexuals should be jailed. . . and wasn’t there something about him being a sexual assaulter and harasser too?
  • The violence in the middle east, created by Trump’s nonsensical, unilateral decision to provoke it.
  • The Republican plan to go after social security, medicare, and medicaid next.
  • The California wildfires.
  • The fact that Republicans are going after wildfire disaster relief.
  • Trump pretending he gives a shit about civil rights, when he characterizes those who fight for civil rights now as traitors and praises Nazis as good people.
  • That Trump is still President.
Finland’s Independence . . . and ours
Dec 6th, 2017 by Dr Karma

It’s Finnish Independence Day! In fact, it’s the 100th anniversary.

Happy Anniversary, Finland!

On this day in 1917, Finland broke free from Russia. Historically, Finland had to break free a lot–its neighbors didn’t respect it, but the Finn’s sisu (a uniquely Finnish characteristic involving perseverance and stubbornness and quiet resolve) has freed it time and again and kept its culture and language unique.

(Independence did not, by the way, stop Russia from re-invading during WWII. And for some reason, the Finns had to pay a war debt for defending their own country. Apparently, since the allies won, and since Russia was an ally, the Finns were supposed to just say, “sure, c’mon in, the sauna is all warmed up for you.”)

When I was in Finland several years ago, I spotted this painting in the national museum:

I was drawn to it immediately.

“Yeah, girl! Protect that book!”

Of course, I discovered it wasn’t just celebrating bibliophilia.

The woman is the maiden of Finland, defending the rule of law against the Russian eagle.

As we celebrate Finnish independence today, let’s all take a moment to consider the sad fact that we need a picture just like this, with the Statue of Liberty instead. Or Mueller. Or a donkey.

The Continuing Adventure’s of Karma’s Dating: Entry 76
Nov 26th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I know that I’ve complained a lot about all of the guys out there who have wanted to change me, from the strangers on the internet who want me to be the kind of person who will give them a chance, even though they’re smokers or dumb or married or dumb married smokers, to the men who have supposedly loved me but wanted me to change into someone who wants more children or who believes in female submissiveness or into a very unhappy submissive woman with lots of kids.

My boyfriend does hope that I’ll get more comfortable with the “m” word one day, but on the whole, he accepts me for who I am.

I should therefore feel a lot more guilty about not accepting some of his particular shortcomings.

But I do want to change him.

He’s a brilliant, talented, sexy, successful man, but he had never seen Outlander. He’d never watched Sherlock or Doctor Who. He’d never even heard of One Mississippi or Maria Bamford or Stranger Things.

At the risk of being a cliche, I am now a woman on a mission to change a man, to improve him for the better, for both our sakes.


Before I Moved to California
Nov 18th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Before I moved to California, I had never

had Indian food

had decent wine (you know, the kind from a bottle instead of a jug or box)

met an out kinky or poly person

had gin

met a Hmong person

had goat cheese (or any good cheese, really)

had lamb

had been able to send my son to a school where they had enough money for classroom supplies like toilet paper and thus didn’t make each family buy a big list of stuff

tasted Thai food

met a Jewish person

had Vietnamese food

experienced a drought

known there were “asian” pears–and that they’re awesome!

had a good tomato that hadn’t been refrigerated prior to serving

seen heavy snow

seen an apple in the grocery store that wasn’t a Granny Smith or the ironically named Red Delicious

met an out transgender person

understood how black and white my upbringing had been

tried Afghani food

had to think about writing less American-centric prompts, since I only had American students

met a Sikh person

felt an earthquake (although it was so minor that I thought it was the neighbors waking me up with exceptionally brief sex that shook the wall)

had the opportunity to join a union

gone wine tasting

had access to healthcare as an adult


Some of this is because I was in Florbama . . . there are more cosmopolitan areas of Florida.

Some of this is because I was raised fairly white trash. It’s probably possible to get decent wine and cheese in Florida–I just didn’t see it.


But still–I had never had INDIAN FOOD!

If I had consistent access to grouper out here, y’all, I might never go back home.

A “me too” story
Oct 21st, 2017 by Dr Karma

When my best friend of many years came to visit me and, by default, the guy I was living with when I was 19, he kept making “jokes” about threesomes.

During one of the “jokes,” he grabbed her breasts.

If he’s on social media right now, he’s shaking his head at all of his female friends saying, “me, too.”

He’s astounded at what men do to women.

I know him.

Unfortunately, I was briefly married to him.

So I know he’s not thinking about having assaulted and harassed my friend.

He thinks he has never done that. That he never would do something we would label that way.

He thinks he’s a good person. In many ways, he is. He is generally kind, generally generous, etc.

And he’s religious–very religious.

And that’s part of the problem–he thinks that because he goes to church, he’s a good person.

He doesn’t see the way in which evangelical Christianity is at odds with treating women with actual respect.

Once, we had an argument about “chivalry.” He’s Southern (like me), and he thought it was the right way to be.

Me: But answer me honestly.

Him: Okay.

Me: Do you go out of your way to open doors and stuff for fat middle-aged women?

Him: No.

Me: Then it’s not about respecting women. You “chivalrous” guys treat young women like me differently–and part of it is so you can have a chance to be physically close to us, to talk to us, to have us smile at you.

Marrying him was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, and I won’t go into all the ways and reasons here, but he had pretended (lied) about believing in equality before we got married.

And then when we did, he said words like “submit.” He said he had “hoped God would change [my] heart” after a marriage based on that lie–that I wouldn’t believe in what I believed in anymore.

In his mind, he was a good man.

In believing myself equal, I was a bad woman.

Even though, “in the image of God created he them, male and female.”

Until he got with his current wife, he came to me with his dating problems, even though I all could do was laugh at him sometimes. Like most people his age, he slept around. Then, he’d say things like this: “I really like this one, so I talked to her and we’re going to try not to have sex anymore. It’s what God would want.”

I never could get him to see the strangeness of that logic or any of his logic about how he interacts with women.

Once, he came to me worried that a woman was going to call the police. He had run into a girl he knew in high school at a club. He had always wanted to fuck her. When she left, drunk, he followed her home, to make sure she was safe. He said she invited him in.

The next morning, she asked how he got there, how he got in, and if they had had sex.

I don’t know what happened, really.

But I know that he thinks he’s never assaulted anyone.

I know he thinks he’s one of the few good Christian men who treat women right.

But I also know that one day, after dropping my son off, long after our divorce, he made a move on me. His desire for “ex sex” was something he’d commented on before–I had made my lack of interest clear.

I asked him to leave.

He moved closer.

I asked him to leave again.

He moved closer.

I told him that if he came any closer, I would punch him in the face.

He left, after I punched him in the face.

I’m lucky that he didn’t punch back–that he didn’t force himself on me.

He probably thinks that’s where the line is–that he’s not guilty of anything because he’s never used force.

I tell this story not because he’s the worst or most dangerous or most threatening man who’s ever done something to me.

Far from it.

I tell this story because my grandmother died thinking the worst thing I ever did was to leave him, because he was such a good Christian man–and because he knows that’s what she thought.

And because he thinks it too.




The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 75
Oct 14th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Now that I have a boyfriend (he prefers “paramour,” by the way), it’s time to do some reflecting on the search.
As my readers know, there have been a few guys who let it slip that they weren’t looking for anything serious, which led me to break things off.
The guys were always surprised, even though the only box checked on what I was interested in was “long-term relationship.”
So did I want to date a guy who says that he’s never been in love (even though he’s divorced), who says I’m obviously lying to myself about wanting long-term when I don’t like living with people, who says the twenty minute drive to me was too much for something real.
Did I want to date the guy who confesses that he is still very much in love with someone else, but he’d like to keep things casual with me, since it will help him have sex with this other woman less?
C’mon, guys.
After I realized that our interests were not aligned, I called things off.
In these cases, the guys would make the same request:
Why don’t we just date casually and see what happens?
In other words, why don’t I (the guy) get what I want and you not get what you want, which will lead to a frustrating end in which I reiterate that I was never looking for something long term?
And in these cases, the guys came back, sometimes weeks after, sometimes years after, saying they’d made mistakes.
That they didn’t appreciate what I had to offer or the ways in which I’m different from most women.
Maybe they should have been different from most men.

The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 74
Oct 1st, 2017 by Dr Karma

Lately, I’ve been missing Jareth a lot, but the boy won’t let me get another kitten.

No one can see me–I’m in mommy’s fur!

Nor will he let me get a porcupine so I can talk with it while feeding it corn.

And he’s adamant that we not bring an owl named Weird Owl Yankovic into our home, even after Jenny Lawson came up with that name.

However, this month, my desire for a kitten has been decreasing. I’ve found myself a man.

A great one.

One who makes me feel sexy.

One who can keep up with me, intellectually.

One who plays the piano for me and recites poetry while we snuggle.

One who gets my job and my schedule since he’s a teacher too.

One who just brought me tea and is literally making and packing me a lunch while I write this now.


Don’t worry, readers–I haven’t told you every story from my dating adventures–there are more blogs yet to come.


Close Reading in Kindergarten
Sep 18th, 2017 by Dr Karma

My kindergarten teacher taught us an old rhyme:
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

A Conversation From My Youth:

Me: What does “dainty” mean?
My teacher: Small.
Me: A pie with 24 blackbirds would be really big. Are we saying this wrong? Should we say “undainty”?
[Long pause.]
My teacher: No one else has ever had a problem with this.

W3 Story 2: William Tell
Sep 13th, 2017 by Dr Karma

My (Grand)Daddy spent a lot of time on his grandparents’ dairy farm in Michigan. His grandmother only spoke Finnish, and he only spoke English, but he said they still understood each other.

John and Mary Waltonen, my great-great grandparents from Finland

Not surprisingly, he was an adventurous child. Once, after having been to the picture shows, he tried to jump off the barn, thinking that an umbrella would slow his fall, as it had for a cartoon character.

My grandfather as a young man, with his younger sisters and parents.

But my favorite story from his youth is this one.

He played William Tell with one of his sisters–putting an apple on her head–and getting the bow and arrow ready.

He shot her in the cheek.

And then, somehow, he managed to convince his other sister to let him try on her.

And he shot her in the cheek.

The moral of this story: Waltonen women cannot resist that man.

Today, he would have been 89. If there’s an afterlife, I hope he’s with his sisters today and that all arrows shoot straight and that cartoon physics rule the land.

A very bad boy and his trusting sisters

An Octoroon at CapStage
Sep 12th, 2017 by Dr Karma

An Octoroon won an Obie for Best New Play a couple of years back. It’s now playing in Sacramento, at CapStage.

I love this play and this production.

The Octoroon was an 1859 play/melodrama by Dion Boucicault–it was extremely popular, and was used in the North to further the abolitionist cause. Using the image of the octoroon was common–those who were 1/8ths black could usually pass. Thus, the audience would see a white person being treated like a black one, which hopefully lead them to question such treatment all together. Female educated octoroons were especially sympathetic–and bound for tragedy–no white man was supposed to love them (and laws in some places forbade it), and audiences believed that an almost white woman shouldn’t be with a fully black man.

It’s an old story, one that we don’t tell that much anymore.

That’s not at all to say this new version is dated–it’s completely relevant and terrifyingly familiar.

An Octoroon is a postmodern revision by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins–it’s clever and funny and satiric and heartbreaking. The melodrama–and the octoroon–are still there, but Jacobs-Jenkins gives a voice to the other slaves in peril, asks us to ask why we’re laughing, and thrusts us into contemplative, uncomfortable silence.

The current production (running through October 1st), directed by Judith Moreland, is powerful and has a strong cast (I couldn’t take my eyes off of Alexandra Barthel when she was on stage). The intimacy of this theatre space adds a great deal to the meta aspects of the play. When the actors turn to us, we are only a few feet away. There’s no where to hide–they can see us when we laugh, when we grimace, when we give them their well-deserved applause.

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