January reflections on #365feministselfie

I’ve been an on-again, off-again blogger for several years now but have never been consistent about blogging. I’ve also never been the type of person to succeed at “post every day for a month” challenges which is why I’m kind of excited to have posted a new #365feministselfie to Instagram every day in January (and February, too!)

We all need positive reinforcement in order to keep up with good habits. In my case, I need awards. Without further ado, I present to myself:

Best Selfie of January:

Image of me standing in front of bathroom mirror photographing myself with pink iphone. Wearing a blue t-shirt that says ‘Poehler Fey 2016′

It was the day of Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globes so I wore my “Poehler Fey 2016″ shirt. I felt strong and confident. I couldn’t wait to show the internetz my awesome t-shirt.

Best Selfie with a Dog

Image of Danine (selfie) with her dog

There were days when I just didn’t know what to do for an interesting picture so I dragged my dog Simon into the frame. I like this one because he is looking at me semi-adoringly. Actually, he’s probably just smelling my breath from lunch.

Best Selfie with a Prop

Image of Danine (selfie) smiling and holding a can of Diet Coke

“Hi, my name is Danine and I’m a Diet Coke addict.” I fully admit I’m addicted to Diet Coke. I recently forced myself to cut back to drinking it only on Sundays and special occasions (how I wish writing a blog post on a Saturday afternoon was a “special occasion”!) I was really happy to be drinking this Diet Coke last Sunday.

Best Selfie in Black and White

Black and white image of Danine (me) smiling

With only two pics in grayscale, there really wasn’t much competition for this award. Still, the January 14 image wins. I’m smiling and I look like I feel pretty good.

Best Comparison Composite Selfie

Photo collage of Danine:

The main reason I chose to do this project was because I have had a staph infection in my face for several years and always felt I had to hide it. The infection landed me in the hospital just before Christmas and I no longer felt I had to hide. I could tell my friends and family that I had this horrible thing on my face and admit how awful it was. Now, finally, I was (and am) on the road to recovery. I was alway intrigued by the idea of documenting my recovery. I looked and felt absolutely horrific on January 1, 2014, the photo on the left above. I have steadily been getting better, as evidence by today’s photo, on the right above.

Check out the rest of my January photos on Instagram.

January, I’m done with you. February, let’s get started!!

The Backstory on the Bandages

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice I’ve been posting a lot of pictures of myself wrapped up in bandages. I know I look goofy, but there’s a good reason for the blindingly-white head-wrap: I am recovering from a massive staph infection in my face.

It’s a long story but I got a staph infection a few years ago. I’m not exactly sure how or where but I started getting really deep, itchy acne at least as far aback as 2010.

Danine Spencer - small wound on chin

See that spot on my chin? I covered it with makeup pretty well but that was a deep hole at one point.

By 2011, the infection was on my right cheek, where it settled in, dug seemingly-bottomless roots and hasn’t left.


In the summer of 2012, the staph had burrowed into my right breast, creating a nearly two-inch deep crater that had to be bopped for breast cancer. No, I’m not going to show you a photo of that. I do have a nice scar to remind me of the experience.

The biopsy was negative for cancer but did test positive for staph. The surgeon and I discussed whether I wanted to go on antibiotics at that time. She didn’t seem overly concerned that something was wrong with my body, even though I had a gaping hole in my chest. We talked about the idea that we (humans) normally do have staph present in our bodies without it being harmful. I decided to be brave and see if the wound got better without antibiotics.

I was referred to wound care and the wound on my breast did indeed close and heal. My cheek wound, not so much. They tried different dressing (DuoDerm, PolyMem, mesh, AquaCel, etc) and it got smaller. By September 2012, the cheek wound was about the size of a nickel. For some reason that I will never understand, the wound care clinic decided to discharge me.

I left the clinic fighting back angry tears. I knew the wound was not healed and I had no idea how it would it would get better now without medical attention. At the time, I lived in a small town. My primary care provider had referred me to the wound care clinic. I assumed the surgeon who worked with wound care agreed with the discharge. I didn’t feel like I had any other options except to go home and treat the wound myself.

I called my pharmacy and ordered DuoDerm, the dressing I had been using on my cheek. I kept putting the heavy rubber-like film on my cheek for the next several month. Unfortunately, the wound got worse instead of better. By February, it turned into an abscess that burst open, breaking through my earlobe.

Danine, sitting at my kitchen table, with head wrapped in white bandages - February 2013 class=

Yes, at that point, I did go back to the doctor. They tested the abscess and found it was infected. Actually, I tested positive for MRSA, but no one told me that. I took antibiotics for seven days and was considered cured. I was sent back to wound care.

The wound care clinic made me come in every two to three days to have my bandages changed. They did not trust me to change them myself. I don’t know why. For seven weeks, from the time the abscess broke open until I moved back to my hometown, I had to trek to the clinic at least twice a week to get the dressing changed.

In April 2013, I moved back to my hometown, a medium-sized city with multiple large clinics. Within the first week of being back, I found a great specialty wound clinic near my house. At my first appointment, they diagnosed with MRSA. You know, MRSA, the big scary hospital superbug that no one wants to get? Yeah, that. Ten days of doxicycline and I was supposedly good to go.

I had to keep going to the new wound clinic, weekly at first, and then every two weeks. We put Aquacel covered by various foam dressings on my cheek and my recovery was slow. Very, very slow.

This fall, the wound care clinic switched me to monthly check-ups. In December, I was frustrated with my progress and decided to try putting a hot compress on the wound after having success with a boil on my leg. Unfortunately, within days of starting the hot compresses, the wound spread down my cheek and into the jaw area. I ended up having two separate wounds: one, just below the jaw that had the depth of a ping-pong ball, and the original one of my cheek.

I ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed with a hard-to-treat staph infection. I was on IV antibiotics for three days in the hospital just before Christmas and have been on oral antibiotics for the last three weeks. I have less than a week of medication to go and both wounds are very close to healed.

This has been a long hard journey. Hopefully, I’m near the end.

“Celebutard” lipstick… What the heck, Sephora?!

I was going about my business this morning, browsing my Facebook timeline when I happened upon this mind-boggling blog post: “Celebutard” lipstick-Hey Sephora..

I like the makeup, which is why I’m sad to say that I will not be shopping at your stores anymore. You got Kat Von D. to create an edgy line of products for you. I get it. She’s a beautiful celebrity that doesn’t look like all the rest. It’s appealing. However, the name (KAT VON D Painted Love Lipstick in Celebutard) of one of your lipsticks goes beyond edgy- it’s distasteful and hurtful.

Who were you aiming this at? From what I understand, the name pokes fun at “unintelligent celebrities” by mashing up “celebrity” and “retard.” It’s offensive, and not just to celebrities whose intelligence you are putting into question by using a term that once was used to describe people with intellectual disabilities.

I had never heard the term “celebutard” before so I googled it. Of course, there’s an Urban Dictionary entry:

A famous stupid person. Typically refers to the current crop of vapid celebrities.

My first thought is, seriously? And second, why am I surprised? Sigh. This is where we are at as a society. The current obsession with celebrities that seemingly have no talent except as celebrities (looking at you, Kim Kardashian) is obviously leaving a lot of people fatigued and desperate for quality entertainment. (For more on this topic, check out my pal Jennifer Pozner’s “Cringe or Binge” column at Salon or read her book Reality Bites Back.)

KAT VON D Painted Love Lipstick in Celebutard

This celebrity-saturated cultured brings us the Kat Von D collection of lipsticks at Sephora. I’ll be honest. I let my People magazine subscription run out several years ago and I don’t have a clue who she is. According to the esteemed Wikipedia, she is a tattoo artist, musician, and you guessed it, reality show star who Sephora brought on board to create an “inspiring makeup collection exemplifies the fusion of glamorous, old Hollywood and edgy rock ‘n’ roll.”

How does using a variation of a slur wood against people with disabilities blend old Hollywood with edgy rock ‘n roll? When I hear those two phrases, I think a juxtaposition of Jean Harlow, Audrey Hepburn, Gwen Stefani and Courtney Love. (I know I’m probably aging myself there, but oh well.) I imagine glamour, beauty, excitement, and a little danger.

I do not think about making fun of other people. Putting on lipstick is supposed to make you feel more beautiful. It is supposed to enhance your beauty. I can’t imagine applying “Celebutard” lipstick before I leave the house in the morning. I would be ashamed I purchased the product in the first place and mortified to wear it in public.

Sephora, stop selling “Celebutard” lipstick. Now.

Update: Sephora pulled “Celebutard”!:

As soon as I hit “publish”, I did another search for “sephora” and “celebutard” and found this fantastic link from Crunch Conservative Mommy. Sephora has apologized and stopped selling the product online and in stores. Yay!!


I Hate Blogging…. and Other News

I can’t believe how long it has been since I’ve posted. I usually don’t write because I think I don’t have anything to say, but as bell hooks said,

“No woman has ever written enough.”
Part of the problem with this blog is that it doesn’t have a focus. I’m thking of tentatively giving it the name of (Disabled) Grrl. The parenthesis would be for my invisible disabilities, “Disabled” would focus on disability rights, and “Grrl” would represent my feminist and political side

beach at Hutchinson Island, Florida

So what’s going on with me lately? My father died in March and it hit me like a brick. I moved back to my hometown and love being back by family and friends. And I’m counting the days until summer returns. Who has a beach hideaway I can escape to?

#PutOnPurple for Lupus Awareness


Yesterday was #PutOnPurple for Lupus Awareness Month, a day intended to help increase awareness of lupus and show support for those living with this disease.

What is lupus?

  • Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that ravages different parts of the body.?
  • An estimated 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide have lupus.?
  • No two cases of lupus are alike. Common symptoms include joint pain, skin rashes, overwhelming fatigue and fevers that last for days or weeks. Most people with lupus don’t look sick.
  • Lupus can impact any organ or tissue, from the skin or joints to the heart or kidneys. Two leading causes of serious illness and death from lupus are kidney disease and heart disease.
  • Lupus usually develops between ages 15 and 44 and it lasts a lifetime.?
  • Lupus can strike anyone, but 90 percent of the people living with lupus are females. Men, children and teenagers develop lupus too.?
  • While people? of all races and ethnicities can develop lupus, lupus occurs two to three times more frequently among African Americans, Asians, Hispanics/Latinos, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans than among Caucasians.
  • While the causes of lupus are unknown, scientists believe hormones, genetics (heredity) and environmental factors are involved—more research is needed to better understand the role of these factors in people with lupus.?
  • Lupus can be expensive to live with and treat. The average annual direct and indirect costs incurred by a person with lupus can exceed $21,000 annually, a higher cost per patient than those living with heart disease, bipolar disorder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension and asthma.?
  • Lupus can be difficult to diagnose. There is NO single blood test to diagnose lupus, and its symptoms mimic those of other diseases, vary in intensity and can come and go over time. More than half of those afflicted with lupus suffered at least four years, and saw three or more doctors before obtaining a correct diagnosis of lupus.
  • Early diagnosis is crucial to preventing long-term consequences of the disease. If you notice signs or symptoms of lupus, be sure to engage your doctor and ask questions.?

If you are like me and love someone who is living with lupus, please take the time to sign a petition urging Congress for funds for lupus research. Learn more at lupus.org/petition.

No More Newtowns, No More Auroras

Like every other American, I am horrified by the massacre in Newton, Connecticut. I am searching for answers. I am so unbelievably tired of these horrific mass shootings. I hate that I am starting to become somewhat familiar with the police protocols for securing the scene and holding press conferences. Most of all, I hate that twenty-seven people died today, including twenty children, who should have been safe in their school.

I hate that I will never forget this picture.

As we mourn the dead, how can we stop this from happening again? Is there the political will to make it harder to buy guns? If not, why not? At the very least, we need to make violence prevention a national priority. We need to teach better anger management and conflict resolution. We should start this in preschool along with ABC’s and keep going with it as kids go through school and into the workplace. Maybe this sounds kumbaya but if we can’t make it harder for people to kill people with guns, we have to teach them not to want to kill them at all.

In Which I Declare Myself a “Real Geek”

In response to John Scalzi’s rebuttal of Joe Peacoock’s verbal diarrhea, I hereby declare my right to be a “real geek” because:

  • I like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, She-Ra and Jem.
  • I play fantasy football.
  • I heart my Converse sneakers

    photo of hightop purple Converse sneakers
  • I have experienced the horror of the endless for loop.
  • I know what a for loop is.
  • I can fix my own damn computer, thank you very much.
  • I have programmed in Java, C#, VB, XML and asssembler.
  • I think Scrubs, House, and Arrested Development are funny. So are the Golden Girls and Maude.
  • I play Bejeweled Blitz, Plants vs. Zombies, Skylanders: Cloud Patrol, Words with Friends, and Angry Birds on my iPad. I don’t care if these aren’t the “cool” games. I like them.
  • I like to read, anything from the Hunger Games to Catherine the Great to Showdown: Inside the Obama White House.
  • I know how to RTFM. So there.

I’m a geek grrl. Deal with it.

30 Day Blog Challenge

If you want to be a good writer, you’re supposed to write every day. As you can probably tell from the lack of updates on this blog, I fail miserably at this task. Thus, I have challenged myself to write 300 words for all 30 days of June. As an added measure of accountability, I have decided I must post what I write as a blog entry.

I’m a little nervous about this. What will I write about? Do I have enough to say for three hundred words, every day for thirty days? Yeah, I think I do. It’s a good opportunity to force myself to write about next week’s gubernatorial recall election here in Wisconsin, which I’ll do this weekend, or delve further into women’s disability history. I can’t wait to talk about some of the books I’ve been reading, like Catherine the Great and The Republican War Against Women (yes, that’s an actual book by Tanya Melich), and how they relate to women’s lives today.

So… this is Day 1 of my 30 Day Blog Challenge. I’ll see you back here tomorrow!

Talking About Chronic Pain Is a Feminist Act? You Betcha

What do you write about when your neck hurts so bad that all you want to do is lay your head down on a pillow and make love to a bottle of Darvocet?

What do you write about when you’re so tired after a weekend trip away for your cousin’s wedding, you don’t even have energy to read a book or watch TV?

What do you write about when you get a flu-like virus with the sore throat and cough thing and you’re scared to death you’ll get bronchitis, which’ll go into pneumonia and almost kill you like it has twice before?

What do you write about when the aforementioned flu turns into a stomach bug and you can’t get rid of it because your spinal cord injury has trashed your GI tract?

This has been my life for the past several months. Well, to be more accurate, it’s been my life for the past five and a half years but the last few months have been especially hard. My pain level has been really, really high whether it’s been migraines or neck pain. I have yet to figure out alternative methods for dealing with this chronic pain so I’m stuck with pain pills and muscle relaxants. My fatigue level is about the same as it always is – moderately high, and even though my immune system is pretty healthy, it took me about ten days to fight off that stupid virus.

But here’s the thing: when I’m in a lot of pain or really tired or really sick, I don’t know what to write about. Does the world want to hear about how miserable I am? Is there value in that? On the one hand, no, the world doesn’t need to hear me complain.

On the other hand, I believe it is an act of feminism for women who live with chronic illness and pain to share our stories. The world wants us to suffer in silence. It wants us to believe our pain and illness are our fault. It wants us to think that pain and illness are shameful and that we, in turn, should feel ashamed for having these conditions. Illness and weakness is associated with being feminine. Men in patriarchal societies have used our pain and illness against us for centuries.  If women talk about living with chronic conditions, if we bring the “shameful”, nasty details of our daily lives with sickness and pain out of the shadows and into the light, we can help each other. We become stronger with each story. We become less alone as we recognize ourselves in each other. We can tell each other, “Yes, I’ve experienced that” and “I know what that feels like” and help ourselves and others feel just a little bit less alone.

There is value in my story. I have to remember that.  I have to stop doubting myself and just keep writing. Writing about living with chronic pain and illness is a feminist act. I can do it.