Monday, December 30, 2013

YMMV? No, Your Mileage Will Vary

I giggled when I saw that one of my writer friends had updated her FaceBook cover photo to show a desk with the keyboard all but buried in papers and clutter.  Because although in theory I prefer my desk looking like this:

In real life, it more often looks like this:

Maybe, like me and my friend, you go on writing jags so fast and furious you don't have time or energy to clean your desk. Maybe you cannot write unless your desk is clean and perfectly arranged and you have two sharpened #2 pencils handy (although you don't actually use pencils for anything).

As writers, we often read books and blogs and talk to other writers and seek frantically for That Thing that will allow us to write smoothly, beautifully, and effortlessly, churning out one brilliant bestseller after another. What could make the difference for me? Is it getting up at 4:00 am to write uninterrupted in total quiet for an hour or two? Learning to write in ten minute snippets throughout the day, while the world howls around me? Yoga? Going to conferences and networking with other authors? Going to a remote cabin for a writers' retreat? Could the right software program make the difference? Plotting? Pantsing? NaNoWriMo-ing?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

USC vs. UCLA - the ICU version

If my family saga was in a novel, people would prolly dismiss it as unbelievable. (I intend to try sometime, nonetheless.)

So, a few weeks ago, I blogged about my sister's adventures at Keck Medical Center of USC, where she underwent a fairly harrowing surgery for gall bladder cancer. Still looming ahead for her, chemotherapy, because gall bladder cancer is highly, if not always, terminal.

Let me backtrack just a moment. Once upon a time, in the middle of the Vietnam War, two nineteen-year-olds fell in love. The Princess and Prince were both serious, somewhat geeky honor students, and they bonded in a restaurant over pecan pie.

Scary times were ahead of them. The Prince enlisted in the Air Force (just ahead of being drafted into the Army) and was sent to Vietnam, where, among other things, his unit was bombed and he was sent out to "beautify" the base by spraying Agent Orange around the perimeter fences (without any protective gear). The Princess planned their wedding for the month after he was due to return, though the evil fairy her always supportive maternal grandmother frequently declared she was foolish to do so, as her betrothed was unlikely to survive the war.

The Prince did return, married the Princess; they had two handsome young Princes and moved to a ramshackle bungalow hippie-style castle in the foothills of sunny Los Angeles, far away from the evil fairy. From their castle, they offered a warm and loving welcome to royal family, friends, and friends of friends alike. If this was a fairy tale, I could write "...and they lived happily ever after," and that would be the end of the story.

In real life though, there are many joys and tragedies. This Prince and Princess have had their challenges over the years - everyone does.  But among other things, the Prince's health, physical and emotional, was deeply impacted by his time in Vietnam. He suffered from PTSD, he suffered from eczema and psoriasis on his arms and legs, which got into his joints (psoriatic arthritis) and caused extreme pain and difficulty in walking. He turned (not wisely, it must be admitted) to alcohol to cope with the pain.  Fast forward a few decades: the Princess and Prince have retired to a new, more remote castle, near the shores of a favorite California lake (Isabella). The Prince has stopped consuming alcohol entirely and is actively addressing his medical conditions; the Princess takes long walks with her dogs at dawn on the lakeshore almost every day.

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition - or Gall Bladder Cancer

While my sister (the Princess) has not lived off fruits, nuts, nor Whole Paycheck Foods triple-blessed organic produce, for the most part she has lived a fairly healthy life, been physically active, etc. Her diagnosis of gall bladder cancer shocked the whole family.

But we have a very supportive family (now that the evil fairy and a few others have passed beyond the veil). So our middle sister, Princess B, made plans to come to support the Princess during her chemo; Princess B's daughters, Duchess A and Duchess B, both with nursing/health experience, planned to tag-team and travel to California to support the Princess following her surgery, since the Prince was in somewhat fragile health, and I would pitch in where necessary.

What we didn't expect was that the Prince would suffer a severe intestinal ?virus? ?bacteria?, just days after the Princess's extensive surgery, on his return to their castle, which would require hospitalization. Thus, when the Princess was released from Keck-USC (her hospital), yours truly would be driving her and Duchess A post-haste to the hospital on the shores of Lake Isabella, where the Prince was recuperating. Only then to the castle, where an extra carriage was available for Duchess A to chauffeur the Princess, and soon, we expected, the Prince, around the castle environs, while I returned to LA and the day job. Duchess A had not expected to care for two recuperating patients, but she was game.

What we also did not expect, on the very day that the Prince was being released from that small rural hospital on the shores of Lake Isabella, was that he would suffer a major stroke in the presence of Duchess A and the Princess. Which, because of his existing medical conditions, was unable to be treated with "normal" stroke protocol medications, but which indicated an airlift... to UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

The Prince being airlifted to UCLA

Scrambling to Cope, Physically and Emotionally

While Duchess A and the Princess raced to the castle to pack for the return journey to Los Angeles, the Prince's sons and I raced to UCLA. When allowed to see him, the Prince was alert and awake, but clearly deeply impacted by the stroke - and not physically stable.

Eventually, he did stabilize, but as it was touch and go, Princess B and Duchess B arrived (early) to assist. Even in two of the best hospitals in the United States, the reality is that the care is better if a family member is present in the room during exams, the administering of tests and medications, etc. Sometimes it is helpful to keep calling and saying, "Hey, he asked for a bedpan ten minutes ago, can we get that moving, before he does?"

After the Prince was at UCLA for about three days, Duchess A received news of another family health crisis involving her son. She and Duchess B had to arrange emergency transportation to her home state to help him. Yes, it does feel like my family is being punked.

Or, like firefighters in a bad fire season, that we are being called upon to fire fires on too many fronts with too few resources, but we are also aware, like fire season, that this too shall pass.

Current Status

As of Christmas Day, everyone seems to be on the mend, though the Princess still has chemo looming ahead, and the Prince has not yet been released to acute stroke rehabilitation, something we hope happens very soon. Princess B remains for a few more days, then must return home, though her plan is still to return for at least some of the Princess's chemo.

I feel really blessed to have such a fabulous, supportive family, and while the Christmas season has lacked in some of my usual traditions - tree, presents, watching movies, etc., it has been abundant in wonderful shared hugs, kisses, smiles and tears.

USC vs. UCLA - the ICU and Regular Hospital Room Comparison

  • USC has open potties in the ICU rooms; UCLA has potties tucked into clever cupboards. Win: UCLA
  • USC ICU uses standard IV's on stands; UCLA's ICU IV's are suspended from the ceiling, so the floors are probably more sanitary. Win: UCLA.
  • USC ICU rooms felt roomier, because of how they were arranged; UCLA's were set up in such a way that the bed and IV's & equipment made about a third of the room, including the phone, very difficult to access. Win: USC
  • USC had extremely attractive male and female attendants; UCLA - could've been, also, but even I have been too fried and tired to notice. Draw.
  • USC parking structure - $7.00 per day; UCLA - valet parking only at $12 plus tip. Win: USC.
  • USC remote controls and entertainment included movies on demand, movies in Spanish, relaxation and meditation videos, music and more; UCLA - horrible remote in ICU, marginally better in regular room. No extras, and channels don't match up; CBS 2 = 1, Fox 11 = 15, etc. Win: USC.
  • USC cafeteria - not bad, many healthy choices, daily specials. UCLA - likewise, but bigger and better laid out, as well as access to picnic tables outside. Win: UCLA.

English: The new UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Ce...
English: The new UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, from the south-west looking across Westwood Bl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tips for When (It's Really Not an If) a Medical Emergency Happens to Your People.

  • Talk to any neighbors you trust, now and exchange phone numbers, and, possibly, keys. I have several neighbors happy to feed my cat in a pinch, who I trust not to steal my not-particularly valuable belongings, but I just might not be able to knock on their doors and ask them to.
  • Sit down with your phone manual and make sure you have tagged or otherwise sorted your contacts, and that the important ones all include current information.
  • Complete, sign, and have witnessed (if required by your state) your Advanced Medical Directive, because your loved ones really don't need to be guessing in time of crisis what kind of care you want, from extreme to hands off, if you aren't able to express your own wishes.
  • Buy an extra phone charger and keep it with you at all times; they're usually not that expensive.
  • When you know you are going to the hospital, bring not only your phone charger, but an extra power bar if you have one. There may only be one available plug in the room and several people who all need to charge their phones.
  • Wear layers whenever possible. Temperatures in the rooms can fluctuate from arctic breeze to am-I-having-a-goddamned-hot-flash? (which even the guys experience).
  • Water bottles, cash in small denominations, and small snacks are all good things to bring with you.
  • Work out, as much as possible, a visitation schedule, so it's not a ghost town from 4-6 and the hordes of Genghis Khan from 6-8.
  • If you can, like being the parent of a newborn baby, nap when the sick/injured person naps.
  • Depending on the condition of the person you're visiting, you may want to bring a laptop to check your email, update FaceBook (the Princess's favorite), or play games. Don't count on getting any Real Work done while your loved one sleeps; not likely you will be able to focus enough to do so.
  • Pay attention to your own needs; drink plenty of water, and don't be afraid to draw the line and say you need a break to get some sleep/wash some underwear/grocery shop, etc. I even kept my long-scheduled massage appointment, and it made me feel SOOO much better.

And with that, I'm taking my own advice, and getting some food and sleep. It's going to be a long haul, still, so while I have some posts already in the can, writing new ones ain't my biggest priority. Expect me to be sporadic in posting and visiting back

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Mistletoe, #Menday, & Medical Centers #USC

I think if you asked people where they wanted to spend the holiday season (whatever holiday you celebrate), a hospital would not be anyone's location of choice.

But when cancer (that rude bitch!) comes a-knockin, she don't care what time of the year it is. Luckily, there are many wonderful men and women who choose the medical profession, and they have been taking VERY good care of my oldest sister, who's had to go under the knife last week for gall bladder cancer.

And... even though I was all concerned for my sister and everything, I couldn't help but notice that damn! the place was crawling with McDreamy's.  Of course, as someone who writes smut erotic fiction, I reflexively notice such things. It's my gift.

Cropped version of Image:Nadal photographié.jpg
Since I didn't have the wit to get a picture of Needles, this will have to suffice to stoke your imagination.

Cropped version of Image:Nadal photographié.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He Knows How To Stick It In

But I couldn't figure out why, as my brother-in-law and I took the pager (they give you a pager, like waiting for a restaurant table, and buzz you when there is an update) and grabbed a bite in the cafeteria, my brother-in-law was intently staring at this guy in scrubs. Granted, *I* followed his gaze and began checking the man out, too, because he was tall, gorgeous bronze complexion, with shoulder length dark hair and a dazzling smile, and almost a dead-ringer for tennis star Rafa Nadal. Although it looked like he had a back pocket full of those needle-thingies syringes in his scrubs, which I found scary and not in a good way.

Anyway, why was my BIL also fiercely checking him out, one hour into my sis's surgery? Last time I noticed, my BIL was interested in neither men nor tennis.

BIL gestures Needles Nadal over. Is he going to try to hook me up with the guy? Nice thought, but until my sis was out of surgery, even *I* was in no mood for flirting.

"Didn't I meet you a few hours ago? Aren't you my wife's anesthesiologist? And she's still in surgery?"

Okay, this is kind of unnerving.

Needles flashes a charming smile, "Yes, I set the epidural a little while ago, but don't worry, she has another team with her now."

BIL thanks him, and Needles returns to a table full of co-workers. BIL shakes his head, "There's at least 2-3 more people over there I think I recognize, that I met during the pre-op conference."

Apparently surgery is like major league baseball: you have your openers, your middle-relievers, and your closers. Who knew?

Also, the epidural? Not (quite) the same thing they give to mommies in labor; this thing stays in, taped to your back for days, and provides a continual drip of pain relief to the midsection where they performed the surgery. Judging by the questions the medical personnel asked, and the questions we asked, if an epidural is well placed, you have pain relief only where you need it, and not numbness of the chest, shoulders, legs, toes, or facial tingling, etc.

Needles stuck it in just right.

On the Second Day, USC Sent More Eyecandy

There were many incredible staff who took great care of my sis before, during, and after her surgery, but I failed to take pictures of any of them, because I wasn't yet thinking that way. (Sorry, Bill, you were amazing!) But on day two, when she was so much more coherent, and this ridiculously good-looking young resident came in to go over her treatment, I was struck by the idea that I needed to take some pictures of these hotties. Ran the idea by my sis, and she was up for it, then I went and asked Ryan if he'd be willing to pose and let us post pics on my sis's FaceBook page.

Yes, even though she's got more wires attached to her than Neo in The Matrix, my sis was smiling.
Let's hope Ryan's wife doesn't get too jealous.

As the day wore on, and my sister was watching people comment favorably on her/my #hottiedoctors FaceBook post, we decided to make it a series, if "her" men were willing to risk getting famous. Although there were many wonderful (and quite lovely) female nurses: Lesley, Emma, Stacey, Judy, and more, we decided to limit the pics to the Queen's (male) courtiers.

Yes, she was building an entourage.

Now that she's down in a regular room, with at least marginally fewer wires, she gets to charm the #sexymens all over again.

This is George, the latest victim conquest.

Things I Am (Re)Learning About Hospitals

Drier than the Sahara. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a trifle, but even though I bought and drank a couple bottled waters each, the first couple of days, I was still dry with chapped lips when I got home. I'm considering a Camelbackpack for my next stint.

It's really helpful to have a family member or friend present to advocate for the patient. Because nurses get busy and patients doze off and meanwhile, that blanket they requested 15 minutes ago? Simply being present to remind the staff to bring the blanket/ice/leg pressure machine pump thingie means that the patient gets better service. Squeaky wheels and all that.

Teaching hospitals are full of young, healthy, attractive and horny men and women. Waiting for (and in) various elevators and in the cafeteria, the past several days, I've been playing fly-on-the-wall and observing the mating dances. Grey's Anatomy got nothin on these peeps; the sexual undertones are almost palpable. (Btw, if you want to read hot medical romances, nobody does it better than Lynne Marshall.)

Distractions are happy-making for the person in the bed. Maybe that's collecting photos of a hot guy entourage, or talking about the holiday decorations, watching a movie (yes, they have movies on demand) or playing 'puter games. Also, bring something of your own to read/do for when the patient falls asleep, which s/he needs to do, in order to recover.

Interesting, educational and inspiring as it's been, I hope to be done with hospitals for a few eons, after this week ends. My sis has a long journey ahead of her; provided no complications arise from the surgery, she will begin chemotherapy once she is done with the post-surgery recovery period. And despite his ability to spot a hot anesthesiologist across a crowded room, my BIL has his own health challenges, which means that the rest of the family has to (and is) stepping it up to support my sister. So for me, even on my sloppy once-a-week posting I may skip around here and there, and not be as religious at blog-visiting-back as I might like.

Got hospital tips?
Happy stories?
Your thoughts?
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Slut of the Month: Catherine the Great

Ask most people what they know about Catherine the Great of Russia, and somebody is gonna trot out the horse story.

Yes, Catherine loved to ride horses. Yes, she liked riding horses enough to contrive split skirts and a trick sidesaddle, so that she could ride out "like a lady," and once away from the palace grounds, swing her leg over and ride like a regular human being instead of a circus rider with a death wish. She even used to "ride" for sexual stimulation at 13-14, according to her Memoirs, by mounting a hard pillow between her legs, whereupon she "galloped until I was quite worn out."

Yes, she actually wrote about masturbation in her memoirs.

But she didn't die trying to have sex with a horse.

She did, however, like to maintain a favorite stallion in the form of a usually young, hot, attentive Guardsman, even as an old woman. RHIP (Rank Hath Its Privileges.)

Geek Girl Makes Good

Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alexeyevna
about age 16
via Wikimedia Commons
Daddy (Prince Christian Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst) was an obscure, pious, older German nobleman and soldier. Mama (Princess Johanna Elizabeth of Hostein-Gottorp) was a slightly-higher ranking, fun-loving, young German noblewoman. It was not a happy marriage, and although Daddy was happy enough to welcome Sophia Augusta Fredericka on May 2, 1729, Mama was less thrilled, and doted on the boy born eighteen months later. "I was merely tolerated and often I was scolded with a violence and anger I did not deserve."

Sophia was, however, of the right age, a high enough bloodline, and possessed genitals of the correct shape, to make her a prime match for any number of royal men.

One of these was her second cousin once removed, Karl Peter Ulrich, Duke of Holstein. A year older than Sophia, they met briefly when she was ten and he was eleven. In her Memoirs, she says he was "agreeable and well-bred, although his liking for drink was already noticeable."

Others would describe him as:
small, delicate, and sickly, with protuberant eyes, no jaw, and thin, blond hair falling to his shoulders... he read nothing and was greedy at meals.

What Peter had in his favor was that he was the only living grandson of Peter the Great. And to Elizabeth, Empress of Russia, he was the son of her beloved dead sister.

Elizabeth decided to name Peter as her heir, and marry him to Sophia, who with her mother had been brought to Russia with this express purpose in mind. Sophia became Ekaterina, or Catherine, upon her official conversion to the Orthodox Church.  Once married to Peter in August 1745, she became a Grand Duchess.

Transvestite Balls, Anyone?

Elizabeth, the possibly illegitimate daughter of Peter the Great and a peasant woman, was a fascinating woman in her own right. She deposed the infant Ivan VI, a cousin, got rid of the pro-German advisors, and rebuilt the Russian senate as it had been under her father's rule. She did not marry, but openly took lovers as it pleased her, and regularly held balls where attendees were ordered to cross-dress, the better to wear pants and show off her shapely legs.

As was custom, Elizabeth placed the Imperial crown on her own head in April 1742.

As Empress, she alternately petted and scolded Catherine and Peter. Although Peter was named her heir, he was... disappointing. Add to his already unimpressive appearance, massive scarring from smallpox. While Catherine contracted pneumonia from staying up late, working to become fluent in the language of her adopted country, Peter was barely able to learn Russian at all, and carried a huge man-crush on Frederick II of Prussia, Russian's enemy in the Seven Years War. Peter loved to wear Prussian military uniforms, had little interest in consummating his marriage, instead (according to Catherine) he would play with his toy soldiers in the marital bed.

Peter, for whatever reason, took a dislike to his pretty, personable wife. When he eventually took a mistress, by all accounts Elizaveta Vorontsova was a hunchbacked slob who "swore like a soldier, squinted her eyes, smelled bad, and spit while talking."

With Empress Elizabeth's knowledge and possibly even encouragement, Catherine allowed Serge Saltykov, a handsome young nobleman with a reputation as a lover of women, to become hers. He may have been the father of Paul, born in 1754, although in later years Paul showed a strong resemblance in appearance and personality to Grand Duke Peter. Elizabeth all but kidnapped the baby, having him taken directly from Catherine's bed after childbirth. She was allowed to see her baby once when he was a month old, and again briefly when he was two months old, while Elizabeth raised Paul almost as if she was his mother.

Later Catherine took another lover, Count Stanislaus Poniatowski, the Polish secretary to the English Ambassador. Their daughter, Anna, would also be taken away by the Empress, and would not live to  her second birthday.

Русский: В. Эриксен.
Русский: В. Эриксен. "Поход на Петергоф" (Конный портрет Екатерины Великой). 1762 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ménage à Quartre

Strange as it would seem for the next in line to the throne to openly take lovers, it gets weirder. According to Poniatowski's memoirs, he was confronted by Grand Duke Peter. After denying that he had slept with the Grand Duke's wife (awkward!), he was invited to the Grand Duke's villa by Vorontsova, the mistress. Upon his arrival, the Grand Duke left to fetch Catherine, and the four of them "sat down, laughing and chattering and frolicking..." From Robert K. Massie's Catherine the Great:
"The grand duke made me repeat my visit to Oranienbaum four times," Poniatowksi said. "I arrived in the evening, walked up an unused staircase to the grand duchess's room, where I found the grand duchess, the grand duke and his mistress. We had supper together, after which he took his mistress away, saying to us, 'Well, children, you do not need me any more, I think.' And I was able to stay as long as I liked."

Not long after, Poniatowski returned to Poland. Catherine secretly took a new lover, a handsome young officer of the Guard named Gregory Orlov. During this time, Elizabeth's health began failing. Peter spoke openly of wanting to divorce or put aside Catherine and marry his mistress, Vorontsova. The Grand Duchess was isolated in her apartments, though a handful of important nobles still supported her in secret, other openly. Oddly enough, one of Catherine's strongest partisans was also named Catherine. The wife of Prince Dashkov, she was the sister of Peter's mistress, and as the divide between Peter and Catherine grew, Princess Dashkova chose the side of her friend and idol, rather than her own sister.

Grand Duchess Catherine was hiding a six months' pregnancy (Orlov's child) when Empress Elizabeth died in December 1761.

Peter III - Don't Blink, or You'll Miss His Reign

Peter took charge as Emperor, following his aunt Elizabeth's death, and if he had deliberately set out to alienate every powerful person he hadn't already ticked off, he couldn't have done a better job. He refused to follow the customs of the Russian Orthodox Church and stand vigil beside Elizabeth's coffin. He played childish pranks when her body was moved from the Cathedral to the mausoleum. He made a decree secularizing all church property, and announced that the veneration of idols, except for those of Jesus Christ, were to be removed from churches.

At the time of Elizabeth's death, Russia, in conjunction with her allies Austria and France, had Prussia backed into a corner. Russian troops occupied Berlin. But, remember, man-crush on Frederick II. Peter unilaterally called off the Seven Years War (without consulting his allies), and called the Russian army home - so they could prepare for a campaign against Denmark, which had everything to do with his interests as Duke of Holstein, and zero to do with Russia's interest.

Meanwhile, Catherine kept a low profile. Why work to turn people against Peter, when he was doing such a smashing job of it on his own? She secretly gave birth to Alexis Gregorovich in April, and when she began taking a more public profile, people began coming to her. The Church, the Army, Russian nobles, diplomatic allies...

After only six months as ruler - and never taking the time to bother with a Coronation - Peter was forced to abdicate. By July, he had been strangled by several soldiers, including Alexis Orlov, one of the brothers of Gregory Orlov, Catherine's lover. By some accounts, it was as a result of a quarrel, rather than a coldly planned assassination, but however it happened, was quite convenient for Catherine.

Catherine ordered an autopsy - but only to look for poison. The doctors duly reported that, surprise! there was no evidence of poison and that Peter must therefore have died of natural causes, a "colic."

On September 22, 1762, Empress Catherine placed the crown on her own head - as was Russian custom - in the Assumption Cathedral in Moscow. She was 33 years old.

Idealism, Meet Political Reality

Russia was a vast, landlocked country with over twenty million subjects, and the last European country with a feudal system that included serfs. Catherine was highly intelligent, extremely well-read, a good judge of character, and despite the probably unintended murder of her husband, a rather generous and forgiving person. She sent Peter's ugly mistress to Moscow and bought the woman a house, and when Vorontsova married and had a child, became its godmother. She kept in place around her many of Peter's high-standing officials.

Catherine was a big fan of the European Enlightenment. During her time as Grand Duchess, she had studied many of their works. She adored Voltaire, especially, and began a correspondence with him after becoming Empress that would last 15 years. When philosopher Denis Diderot fell upon hard times and decided to sell his only remaining asset, his library, Catherine offered a thousand pounds more than his asking price, with one condition - the books should remain in Diderot's possession for his lifetime.

She embarked on an ambitious project - to completely rewrite the Russian legal code, which was a sorry mess. There was no complete sets of statutes; new laws often appeared with no reference to previous laws, imperial decrees made a hash out of previous imperial decrees. Catherine wanted to clean up the statutes, and institute new laws based on Enlightenment principles. From Massie's Catherine the Great:
Her plan was to summon a national assembly elected from all of the free social classes and ethnic groups of the empire. She would listen to their complaints and invite them to propose new laws to correct these flaws.
She spent two years creating a set of guiding principles, upon which the new laws were to be founded, called the Nakaz. Catherine was against capital punishment, except in cases involving politcal murder, sedition, treason, or civil war. She condemned torture. She tried to put into place the idea that serfdom should be gradually abolished, but was met with such strong opposition from her own nobles, that those passages in the Nakaz allowing serfs to accumulate property and buy their own freedom were omitted from the final version.

The Legislative Commission, when finally assembled, had 564 delegates. Noblemen, towns, peasants, tribes (Cossacks, Volga), even religions (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist) sent representatives.

These varied peoples, some of whom were illiterate, got along almost as well as the current United States Congress. Each of them had his own agenda, which he felt should be the priority of the Commission. After more than 200 sittings and subcommittees meetings, the Commission dissolved, without creating a single new law or cleaning up and old one.

Multi-Tasking, You Say?

In the absence of a reliable Russian legislative body, Catherine herself worked to gradually reform the laws. She also began collecting works of art (The Hermitage Museum, one of the finest in the world, began as her private collection). She built palaces and villages. She bore another child, a daughter, with Orlov. She placed her former lover, Poniatowski, as King of Poland. When smallpox raged across Europe and Asia, and the controversial idea of vaccination was in its infancy, she read up on the research, and had herself vaccinated, though the consensus in all Europe except Britain was that it was much too dangerous. Three weeks later, after very mild smallpox symptoms and minor discomfort, she had Paul inoculated. Inoculation clinics were established across Russia and thousands followed in her footsteps; later, millions, within and outside of Russia.

She quashed rebellions (like a zombie, her husband Peter was periodically declared to be alive).  To the distress of the new King of Poland, Russia, along with Prussia and Austria, each helped themselves to a third of what had once belonged to Poland. Russia would end up taking two more large slices, like a binge eater going back for chocolate cake. Then there were the wars with Turkey, which would result in yet more Russian territory gained, this time in the Crimea along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

After breaking off with an unfaithful Orlov, Catherine had a brief fling with a young man who bored her to tears. Then came Gregory Potemkin. He would be her adviser, military commander in chief, her lover, and possibly her secret husband, for seventeen years.

She Did Suck at Being A Mother

Portrait Of Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich Romanov
Portrait Of Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich Romanov
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Motherhood doesn't come natural to everyone, especially those who grew up, like Catherine, with a mother who was first unloving, then basically pimped her out. Catherine was never given a chance to mother her two oldest children, and as for the two younger, illegitimate children, they were raised by their father. There were those who felt she should serve only as Regent for her son, Paul, so besides being virtual strangers, Catherine's son was also her political rival.

Following in Empress Elizabeth's footsteps, Catherine found a bride for Paul when he was quite young. Unfortunately, Natalia was in love with Paul's best friend, and worse, she died after five excruciating days of labor with her unborn son, who died with her. Another German princess, Sophia of Wutettemburg, was selected to become Maria and marry Paul. Their first two (out of nine) children were sons, Alexander and Constantine. As Elizabeth had done, Empress Catherine selected the names and at least partially took over raising them. It is thought she intended to name Alexander her heir, completely bypassing Paul, but died before she could change her will. (Or was it stolen and destroyed?)

About Those Young Guardsmen

Catherine the Great - the most famous Russian ...
Catherine the Great - the most famous Russian Empress of German descent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Catherine said of herself, "I couldn't live for a day without love." Besides Sergei Saltykov, who first seduced her, she had a few longtime loves, like Poniatowski, Orlov, and Potemkin. Then there were those "favorites" who each did about a two year stint and were retired with jewels, money. palaces, and country estates. From Robert K. Massie's Catherine the Great:

She never apologized for her favorites or indicated that she considered these arrangements unseemly. All of her favorites were openly acknowledged; indeed, nothing seemed more normal than the matter-of-fact attitude with which these men were regarded by the court and society. Their presence at court was a constant. She was the heavily burdened ruler of a great empire as well as a proud and passionate woman, and she had neither time nor inclination to explain or quibble. She was lonely and she needed a partner, someone with whom to share not power but conversation, laughter, and human warmth. Therein lay one of the problems confronting her: the love of power and the power to attract love were not easy to reconcile.

What Would Catherine Say of Herself?

We don't have to guess, because after the death of her lover/partner Potemkin, Catherine wrote her own epitaph:
Here Lies Catherine the Second
  • Born in Stettin on April 21, 1729
  • In the year 1744, she went to Russia to marry Peter III. At the age of fourteen, she made the threefold resolution to please her husband, Elizabeth, and the nation. She neglected nothing in trying to achieve this. Eighteen years of boredom and loneliness gave her the opportunity to read many books.
  • When she came to the throne of Russia she wished to do what was good for her country and tried to bring happiness, liberty, and prosperity to her subjects.
  • She forgave easily and hated no one. She was good-natured, easy-going, tolerant, understanding, and of a happy disposition. She had a republican spirit and a kind heart.
  • She made many friends.
  • She took pleasure in her work.
  • She loved the arts.
She died on November 6, 1796, at age 67, after being Empress for 34 years. She was buried at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Past Sluts:

Upcoming Sluts of the Month:
  • Mae West
  • Joan of Kent
  • Sandra Fluke 
  • Morgan le Fey
  • Aspasia
  • Madonna
  • Liz Taylor
  • Dorothy Parker 
  • Kassandra of Troy
  • Tullia d'Aragona
  • Josephine Baker
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Lillie Langtry
  • Eleanor Roosevelt 
  • Rhiannon
  • Shelley Winters
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • "Klondike Kate" Rockwell
  • Catherine de Medici
  • Lucrezia Borgia
  • Umrao Jaan
  • Sarah Bernhardt
  • Matilda of Tuscany
  • Cher
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine 
  • Theodora (wife of Emperor Justinian) 
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Jeanne d'Arc
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Coco Chanel 
  • Isadora Duncan
  • Sappho
  • Joan of Kent 
  • Dorothy Dandridge
  • Eva Perón
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Natalie Wood
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Mata Hari
  • Lady Gaga
  • Malala Yousafzai

Did you know anything about Catherine the Great - beside the horse myth?
 Was she a "good slut," or a "bad slut"?
Your thoughts?
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