Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year

     The fondue pot is washed, and the leftovers are put away.  Now comes the ritual of seeing who'll still be awake to watch the ball drop in an hour.  In years past, all the babies and my husband would be fast asleep around me, but I think they'll all make it this year.
     New Year's Eve was always a big deal when I was a young girl.  My mother looked at it as a chance for a fresh start, almost a new beginning.  Maybe she'd get a better job or win the lottery or meet a wonderful man.  Although she always struggled to pay the bills, she'd make sure we had snacks to celebrate.  My great grandmother used to say that whatever you did on New Year's Eve was what you were destined to do in the coming year.  Mom made sure we didn't argue with each other, that we sang, that we had snacks ... all to try and seal the deal for us.  As I got older, I used to let this weigh heavy on me.  I'd try to shove everything I possibly needed to do onto the 30th in order to keep myself free to make a big meal on the 31st.  I reasoned to myself that I was ensuring an easy upcoming year.  All I was really doing was stressing myself out.
     A couple years ago I decided to change my thinking.  Now I look at it as getting lots of cuddle time with the babies, trying to write something or be creative and have a yummy meal made in a communal way.  That's why we fondue.  It is a lot of work to prep it all, but we graze for hours.  I just love feeding them, and I know how lucky I am to be able to afford to feed them well.  When I think back on how my mother struggled, how hungry we often were, there is a profound joy in watching my children eat.
  I hope that the new year brings you joy and good health.  I hope that there is adventure and happiness on your horizon.  I hope you learn something new about yourself and that you spend time helping others however you can.  I hope that love surrounds you.  And if you need it, I hope it brings you a new beginning.  

Monday, December 29, 2014


     The last week and a half has been fairly uneventful, thus no posts.  I got to take a week of vacation which was lovely - to have time with the children, go to the MFA, make a ton of cookies, wrap their presents long in advance, send poetry out ... the list goes on.  It's only the second time in my working life that I've been able to do it, as time off in December when in retail is, of course, not possible.  I know the kids have appreciated the time.
     Tonight marked one of my few remaining PT visits.  Not because I'm all better, but because that's what is covered by insurance ... and to be honest, they might not all be covered anyway.  I'll find out soon enough.  When I go, I wear yoga pants or sweatpants so I can move around more easily.  Thankfully, I double checked the crotch in the pair I almost put on before I left the house.  I caught the huge hole which would have put the therapist and I on a whole new level of intimacy.  I've also been a bit gassy all day which I mention not to gross you out, but to paint a picture of my time in therapy.  Imagine my wonderful physical therapist stretching me this way and that, admonishing me to relax in order to work out a particular muscle kink ... and I couldn't because I was holding in a massive fart.  I really like this woman.  I did not want to fart on her.  Just outside the office door in the empty hallway was an entirely different story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


     I have the loveliest physical therapist.  She is sweet and kind and incredibly reassuring.  She has also pushed me hard to discover some muscles I haven't used in a while ... mostly as I've been overcompensating to deal with the pain.  It turns out that I have two slightly bulging discs in my lower back that have been pressing on nerves and causing a variety of crappy side effects.  I thought it was due to a lifetime of fairly hard work, sports in high school and college and some extra pounds.  To be fair, a couple some extra pounds.
     But I have learned that the emergency C-section I had with my last child also had a large part to play.  She explained to me that in order to get to the uterus, they have to slice through the front tummy muscle that wraps around and strengthens the lower back.  I'm an educated woman, but I just blamed my extra pouchy tummy look and increased pain on age and weight gain - even though I put no extra weight on after the last two pregnancies.  Why it never dawned on me that it could be related to the C-section itself, I'll never know.  I think I was too quick to blame my own insecurities.
     I've worried about my weight my entire life, even though pictures from high school would lead you to believe there wasn't a lot of food in the house - which there wasn't.  When I went to college, I gained weight but actually felt pleased with it.  I was less angular, and honestly, not hungry all the time.  When we started our life together, we were quite poor and ate like it.  There was a lot of pasta, very little fresh fruits & veggies and far too much cheap processed food.  So, I put a little more weight on, but then I held solid for a long time until I had kids.  Honestly though, after all three it was about 5 pounds.  It's only been due to the back pain that's diminished my get-up-and-go, that I've seen it rise.
     Like most women though, I think about each bite that goes into my mouth.  It's because I try to eat as little as possible each day, that my weight hasn't ballooned up with these back issues.  But that's not a very healthy or interesting way to live.  I also made a vow that I wouldn't talk about my weight in front of my children.  The peer pressure of society would be hard enough without their mom chiming in.  I can vividly recall my own mother telling her co-leader of our girl scout troop one night that she never had to worry about left-overs with me around.  Even at eight, that stung and stuck with me.  I think we often forget how much gravity a tossed off sentence can carry.
     I'm grateful that I've been partnered with this lovely physical therapist who has helped me find some immediate improvement.  I may have to use ice to reduce the swelling and Tylenol for the rest of my life, but at least I'll hopefully be able to walk.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Face

     I have "the face."  That's what my mom called it when random strangers would tell you their life story.  She had "the face," too.  She told me she realized it one night when she and my father had gone out to a local bar in Norfolk, VA to play pool.  This was before any of us were born.  She went  into the ladies room, exchanged pleasantries with a woman at the sink, and was then trapped in the bathroom while said woman proceeded to tell my mother her life story.  She told me that after 10 minutes she was finally able to break away. 
     In a life spent working in customer service, I can't even begin to tell you the number of people who've told me things that I was surprised they would share with me ... personal facts, private thoughts, intimate details, etc.  Almost all of the time, the sharing of these facts hasn't been necessary to complete whatever we were doing together.  I've been told about all manor of diseases and ailments - from the terminal to the inconvenient.  People have shared their birth stories, abuse stories, mental health struggles, fears and dreams.  Most of the time though, they tell me the dark stories, things I shouldn't know.  It's like something in my eyes tells them I'm the customer service mother confessor.
     Yesterday, I sat with a lovely woman with a fantastic sense of humor and unfortunately, a silver/grey hairstyle that was quite similar to the way my mother wore her hair.  While she was talking, I was trying to think about baseball or social injustice - anything to not focus on her hair.  The longer she spoke to me, the more she talked about her marriage and her husband ... how he spends their money on whatever he pleases, but tells her to restrain herself ... how he retired 20 years ago, deciding to stay home and take care of the house while she continued to work, yet still expected her to do all the housework ... that after 50 years she couldn't divorce him, what would be the point ... that she used to imagine he would die first and she would be free, but now that she was on an oxygen tank, she was afraid it would be the other way around. 
     She told me that in her generation the sentiment was "you made your bed, now lie in it."  I despise that phrase.  When my mother decided to marry my father, she told me that some of her family expressed displeasure in the union.  Only my great grandmother told her to do what she wanted to do.  Before the first year was done, he had already started to show himself for the horror he would become.  Seeking support, some of the original dissenters told her, "you made your bed, now lie in it."  From that breach, she suffered, and then we suffered, for another 15 years before she finally got enough help to leave him.
     My customer shared other thoughts that bordered on incriminating.  I think I should leave those inside my office.

Monday, December 1, 2014


     I had one of those moments tonight that might have been a brush with something terrible ... or might have been nothing at all.  I keep thinking it over, and I can't decide. 
     After work, I went to physical therapy.  I've mentioned in a previous post that I've been dealing with back pain.  My doctor is unwilling to prescribe pain medication at this point, preferring instead for me to go to physical therapy and then talk about it again in February.  The therapist is in a fairly large office building with a T-station on the back side.  There's a parking lot behind the station for the building.  It's not particularly well lit.  You walk from the parking lot, through a chain-link fence opening, then a 30 foot walk to the T-station.  It's about 75 feet or so through the station and then on to the building entrance.
     When my session was over, I was walking quite gingerly but trying not to look like a little old lady.  I had my purse tucked underneath my left arm. I exited the building, walking through a small pass through into the subway station.  There were just a few people ahead of me, and I noticed a young man, probably in his mid-twenties looking at his phone and walking towards the turnstiles.  As I walked past him, my eyes were straight ahead on the door in front of me.  In an instant, I saw his reflection turn around and head in my direction.  I remember thinking it was an odd move.  I also remember thinking that this may not be good.
     I knew I couldn't move faster, so I thought confront it head on.  I pushed opened the door, turned and held it open for him to walk through.  I looked him in the face and said, "After you, sir."  With the door still propped open, I slid my hand into my purse and grabbed my keys.  Meanwhile, he walked two or three steps further then stopped and turned back towards me.  At that moment, a woman with three kids walked past us towards the parking lot.  I stepped right in behind her kids, walking far too close to them.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him turn again and head off in the opposite direction.  When we got to the chain-link opening, she continued walking and I veered off into the lot.  Glancing back, I couldn't see him anymore.  I hustled to the car, got in and left quickly.
    It could have been nothing at all, or it could have been something rather unpleasant.

Monday, November 24, 2014


     My idea to write a small piece about my physical therapy was thrown out the window tonight by the grand jury decision to not indict officer Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.  I've been noting the number of businesses who have been boarding up their shops and closing early in anticipation ... almost as if they already knew what the decision would be.  I would love to say to you that I thought something different was going to happen, but I was afraid that it would turn out this way.
     Of course, I didn't sit on the grand jury.  I didn't get to hear the evidence presented on both sides, the witnesses, the instructions.  I read the news stories, saw the grieving parents, watched the videos of police harassment of journalists and protestors ... and the reports of people coming into town to stir the anger pot.  So, I probably wouldn't have been chosen to sit, as I have some clearly defined ideas and beliefs.  My father's side of the family was from Kentucky, and I actually have a great deal of pride in those roots.  But I am also a bleeding heart liberal who has lived in the south and witnessed racism firsthand.  I have seen black people harassed and goaded by the police.  I have had friends of color who had to teach their children how to respond to those police, because they were afraid that without that knowledge their kids wouldn't come home.
     When they announced the decision, I did a terrible thing that I have begged my children not to do.  I peeked at several comments posted online under the news articles so I could get a sense of some of the immediate reactions.  Nothing makes you more likely to question humanity than public comments posted under a contentious topic.  Here's a couple choice ones:

  • "There never was a case in the first place and now the TRUTH comes out, This is media driven garbage.  But it wont stop the idiots from burning and looting their own community. Its just a bunch of uneducated, poorly raised, what can I get out of this for me people. 99.9% could care less about Brown, its just a reason to act up like the animals that they are."
  • "How to honor a punk? one will burn down a town? I agree with the decision, He was a PUNK A COCKROACH, JUST THINK HE WILL NO BE MAKING LITTLE COCKROACHES. Now that a good thing."
  • "You know what is sad...we listen to Obama spew rhetoric from his moronic volcano mouth about being with the family of the man who first stole, than beat up a small store owner trying to protect his store, and finally beat the living s$#t out of the POLICE OFFICER DOING HIS JOB. What about the officer and his family. What about their lives that have been ruined by this. It's amazing how people act like animals when they don't get their way....but to be perfectly honest, it would have happened regardless of the verdict. Just a way to destroy honest citizens stores, steal, and act like savages.
  • "So im tired of being politically correct. If you as a black person are not happy then go back to Your origins. By the way all the racist comments that Emporer Obama is making isn't helping and by the way again Emporer Obama is trying to do more for Latino's than the black man. African American's are a very small minority and after all the Latino's are legitimized African American's will be even a smaller minority. Tired of all of them and their crying about how bad they got it. Elect a black American and they still aren't happy. They never will be."  
      The rioting has already begun, and I'm sure it's not going to be pretty.  For some people, they will feel validated in their opinions by it.  Many other people will beg for peace and calm, for the constructive channeling of anger and frustration into action.  A million miles away from the fray, I have this sense of hopelessness ... that no matter how far we think we've come, we've barely moved an inch.  What world have I brought my children into?      

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


       I've had a lot of weird things happen to me in almost twenty years of working in customer service.  When I come home, I retell the funnier ones for the children's amusement.  Sometimes, they sound a lot funnier to me than to them, and the looks of horror that come across their faces when I'm acting the stories out makes me realize that my sense of humor might be a tad bit skewed.
     Today, I tried to help an interesting gentleman.  I don't like using the term "crazy," as most of the time it's not really nice/not appropriate/too generic a word to use.  I'll just stick with interesting.  He was probably in his late 40's and looked like it was a really rough couple of decades.  He had one crutch, and the left side of his glasses were entirely being held together with duct tape - like it went from being attached to the actual glass all the way to his ear with a quarter sized knob where the hinge should be.  I point this out due to his ingenuity.  During high school, the only way I could keep my glasses together was to use hot glue, because my mom couldn't afford to buy me new glasses.  I never thought to us duct tape.
     He started to become a bit animated in the lobby, so I moved him to my office.  The number one rule with loud/difficult/unruly customers is to move them away from the main thoroughfare.  Patrick Swayze teaches us in "Road House" to be nice and take it outside - this gets it away from the paying customers, protects the breakables and gives you more room to operate.  I can't take them outside, so my office has to do.  "Road House" is an underutilized teaching tool.  I challenge you to watch it again for other applicable life lessons. 
     Back to our story ... The interesting gentleman brought his mother with him.  She kept admonishing him to keep his temper under control and not yell me.  He got more and more animated and agitated anyway.  He had difficulty answering my questions and instead told me why he'd been kicked out of other places and hung up on by customer service reps.  We wouldn't help him ... we'd taken his money ... we'd made him homeless.  He told me that he had threatened to burn buildings down, blow things up, rip people's throats out.  I'm not joking.  He repeated the throat ripping out part several times, adding in the word "your" as he stared at me.  Meanwhile, I kept trying to get the story that led up to all this so I could figure out who to call to help him.  It wasn't working - he was getting louder and his mother was of no use to me.  So, I started to whisper his first name over and over slowly.  He instantly quieted.  I whispered my question, and he answered.  Then I made a call, found his answer, which suddenly caused him to remember that he knew the answer all along, and they got up and left my office.  His mother shook my hand and told me how proud she was of him that he had behaved himself.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


     Last week while I was sick, we went to see front-man for the Old 97's, Rhett Miller, perform at a great restaurant/bar in Somerville, MA called Johnny D's.  A dear friend of mine had been suggesting I check the music scene out there for several years, and this was our first trip.  It was my birthday present, and I was ecstatic to go.  I also brought along a pocket full of cough drops.
     This is the third time I've seen him play live, and he gets better each time.  I have this long running fantasy that I'll go to see him, and he'll pull me out of the audience to sing a song with him.  He'll be so impressed that we'll exchange numbers.  In a month or so, the phone will ring.  It'll be Rhett.  He'll tell me that he'd love it if we could collaborate on a song or two.  I take some vacation time, make sure the freezer is full and fly off to sing with him and the band.  We all hit it off.  This leads to hooking up at nearby gigs when I can get time off from work.  Then other bands want to work with me, and eventually, the work is coming so often that I leave my full time job and get to sing for a living.  The fantasy is even more involved, like I plan out the dinners that the family will have while I'm gone.  As you can see, I'm fully invested.
     There's another fantasy that involves Rhett, but my daughter sometimes reads this blog, so I'll leave that one unspoken.  Suffice to say, here's a picture of Mr. Miller:

     Here's a picture of him working:

     And one more:

     One might say he's dreamy.  My husband is very understanding, and obviously, not worried.  I didn't have enough guts to get a picture with him after the show, because I know me too well.  I was afraid I'd say something ridiculous to him like ... we named two of our cats after you and Murry (another member of the Old 97's) - but you're the pretty, long haired one.
     There's no coming back from a comment like that.   

Friday, November 14, 2014

Nobody's Home

     I needed to call one of my older customers the other day, just to introduce myself and make sure she knew I was there to help, but I was a bit leery since she's 93.  I don't like calling the ones over 90, because it feels like I confuse them or worse, worry them.  Knowing though that I should suck it up and do it anyway, I called.  The woman that answered the phone sounded like she was 114.

     "Hello," in the tiniest, shakiest little old lady voice.
     "Hello, this is Heather Sullivan calling from XYZ.  May I please speak to Mrs. Customer."
     "Oh ... she's not here right now."

     And then I stumbled a moment before I continued, because I wanted to say "really? Aren't you Mrs. Customer, the 93 year old living at this number."  But I went along with the charade and left a message ... maybe that was her way to screen her calls.  Two days later, a woman came in and asked to speak to me.  She said I had called and spoken to her mother which reminded her to come in anyway.  When she mentioned her mother's name (a very distinctive little old lady name), I remembered my call and asked if I could tell her my amusing story.  She laughed and told me that she was sitting right there when I called, but her mom tells everyone other than family and friends she's not home.


     Remember the woman from a couple posts ago who told me about slapping her child over losing her mittens?  She came in again with a daughter to get some additional help.  When she introduced her to me, I asked if this was the daughter she had spoken about to me.  She said yes and paused, so I lightly touched her arm, turned towards her daughter and said that her mother had spoken lovingly of her to me - trying to save her the pain of having to discuss it again.  My customer smiled and said that although she did indeed love her daughter very much, she had actually recounted her greatest regret to me - slapping her child over something so insignificant.  Then her daughter said that it had all happened a long time ago, and it was best to focus on positive things.  It was lovely to see her try and soothe her mother that way, but as a parent, I know she's never going to stop thinking about that moment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Big Secret

     It's been a little bit since I last posted, and I would love to say it was because I had a vacation spent full of fun.  I would love to say that, but no, it was full of the flu, tissues and coughing stars into my field of vision.  Thankfully, only my middle child became ill as well, sparing number one and number three from hacking up phlegm balls around the house. 
     Having a little bit of time to lay around without the ability to do anything worthwhile allowed me to wonder about how much being a grown-up sucks sometimes and all the secrets that no one mentions to you while you're young.  If you're lucky, maybe your mother breaks down one night over a glass of wine/shot of whiskey/cold beer, tells you to pull up a chair and take notes:

  • you know that random stray hair that you tweeze from your eyebrow - get ready for when you have to pluck them from your upper lip
  • or from your chin
  • or your knuckles
  • no matter how sick you get, the children still need to eat
  • and laundry still has to get done, along with grocery shopping and other mundane joys
     And the big secret ...
  • with each beautiful child that you bring into this world, the chances will increase that when you cough/sneeze/laugh too hard, you better squeeze your legs together fast or you're going to pee.
     Now somebody out there is going to say, but if you do Kegel exercises that won't happen.  This is where I cry out bullshit to that notion.  Oh it'll help, but it's not the cure all.  The fancy name is stress incontinence, and it effects millions of women.  Millions ... but nobody talks about it.  I can only imagine that the Duggar matriarch either has stock in Depends or catheters.  Whoopi Goldberg was the face of a number of slightly amusing Poise pad commercials 4 years ago, aimed mostly at baby boomers.  Some argued it belittled important historical women or medicalized a common situation to make it sound like a disease.  I thought it forced us to talk about our bodies and not be ashamed - even if it made our spouses uncomfortable.  

     Here's the obligatory link -


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Two Stories

     Today's rainy New England day brought two stories to share running the gamut of emotions.  The first one is the happy one:

     A gentleman came in who needed to take care of few things.  As he was waiting, he asked me if he could bring his dog into the branch.  I was a little leery of potential customer complaints.  Hearing my hesitation, he assured me that his dog was a trained service dog and very well behaved.  He left and came back with the biggest, shaggy golden retriever I've ever seen.  The dog seemed massive to me, like a small tawny cow.  Looking in his eyes, you could see that he was old and wise.  I had to return to my office for a few minutes to help someone else and answer a few phone calls.  When I looked up, I saw my customer in a lengthy talk with an older woman who seemed to be shaking her head.  Deciding to intervene just in case, I approached only to see her drop to her knees and throw her arms around the dog, burying her face in his neck/mane.  I backed away, so she could have her moment.

     And now the sad one ... I did warn you:

     A little old lady cashed in a sizable amount of savings bonds, and she asked to count the money in my office.  It became clear that she wanted me there to observe her do so.  She counted it several times, stacking and re-stacking the bundles.  Afterwards, we started chatting about life, and she told me that she cashed them not because she needed the money, but because she was afraid that if she died suddenly they would be no good to her kids.  This lead to her telling me about her husband's sudden and completely unexpected death at the beginning of the year.  As she kept moving the little bundles around, she said to me, "Look at all this money.  You know there was a time that I sent my daughter to the store to get some groceries.  When she came home, she told me she'd lost the $5 change.  Do you know what $5 meant to us 50 years ago.  I screamed at her ... how could she be so careless?  We walked back and forth for hours until we found it.  That same year, I bought her a pair of mittens for $1.  She lost them, and when she told me, I smacked her across the face.  Can you believe that?  I hit my daughter over $1.  And now, look at this money."  We sat there and stared at each other for a minute before we said our goodbyes.  Thankfully, I did not cry in front of her.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jury Duty

     I'm headed home from jury duty and thankful I wasn't picked this time.  I say that not because it is my civic duty which I take seriously, and not because it would be a hardship on work for me to not be there for 7-9 days as this trial was forecast to take (both of which are very true), but because I finally have a doctors appt. this week for my leg/back issues.  If I had to reschedule again, they'd probably book me in the new year.  I say this not to engender pity in any way, but today hasn't been a good day pain wise.
     When they excused me I was also thankful as there was no way I could have been impartial, which would have been unfair to the respondent and contrary to the whole point of serving correctly.  I told the judge I would try, but he could see in my answers that I would have a hard time, so he let me go.  Today's judge was so much better than the last time I was called to serve about 6 1/2 years ago.  When I explained to that judge that my mother was going to be having surgery and I needed to be available for her, he asked me "if she survived the procedure would I go back to work."  I said I would, as it happened to be the holiday season in retail and I was the boss there and the breadwinner at home.  He told me that in that case I could serve on the jury.  I believe that there's a special place in hell for that fellow.
     After I left the courthouse I was feeling peckish, so I grabbed a sandwich at a marvelous food truck near city hall.  Never pass up a decent looking food truck - yummy goodness will ensue.  It was a scallion pancake folded in half and stuffed with two lightly cooked eggs, cheddar cheese and two thick slices of bacon.  The yolks were so runny and delicious that I was a mess at the end.  Then I walked to the next T-stop in the hope that the forward momentum would ease the pain shooting down my leg.  It was a joy to walk through the city that I love, to watch all the people out in their fall gear and to see the progress on the outside of the Government Center T-stop.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tent Sale

     I was fortunate this weekend to be able to buy a couple suits to replace some worn out work clothes.  Like many women, I'm one size on top (bigger) and another on the bottom (smaller), but it's not because I've been blessed with a prodigious rack ... oh no, after many years of working in receiving rooms throwing boxes of books around long after I was a receiving manager, and even more years of toting children around, I've got some biceps.  Trust me, I've also got a soupcon of flabby triceps, but I'm focusing on the bicep dilemma.
     So other than being able to carry a couple gallons of milk in one hand and a six year old under the other arm, what else have these beauties caused me to consider? A. I don't usually wear sleeveless shirts/dresses in public, and B. I have to try all jackets/blouses/etc. on before I leave a store because there's a pretty good chance that if it's tight I'm going to look like my upper arms are sausages.  Aside from being visually appealing, it makes one incapable of effectively using ones arms, which can be a detriment at work.
     Which leads me back to my shopping trip.  I found a couple things, and I tried the jackets on.  They fit, allowed me to move my arms and didn't make me look like a matron.  [On a side note, I don't care what the number on the tag says, as every company is different.  It's not that I've attained some level of inner acceptance, it's simply a realization that it's a number and not a measure of my worth as a human being.  Like many of us out there, I weigh more than I did when I got out of college.  Add a couple children, and I prefer to say that I'm bit for lovin' not for speed.]  Back to the suit at hand.  This morning as I got ready for work, I was excited to get dressed.  Exited that is until I put the pants on.  Remember how I mentioned I always try the top on.  Well, I rarely try the bottom part on.  If it turns out to be a smidge too big, I'll take it in or use a safety pin.  I'm resourceful like that.  But these pants were like a tent. 
     Do you remember palazzo pants?  Do you remember how so many of us thought it'd be cute to wear pants that when we put our legs together looked like a long skirt?  Is it coming back to you now.  You swished when you walked.  The long flowing skirt-looking idea was great in concept, but nobody stands still that long.  You got stuck in car doors.  You had to be extra careful on escalators.  That's what came flooding back to me in the bathroom mirror this morning.  Suffice to say, the pants got changed out as I didn't wish to hear congratulations from customers on my impending due date.       

Friday, October 3, 2014


     I beg your pardon if this sounds like I'm rambling, but I've been surprised by the number of crotchety old women I've interacted with today.  Where is that tipping point that causes some women to cross the line from holding a snotty comment in and letting it go?  Is it at a particular age or maybe a traumatic life point in the sand?  Maybe you just get fed up living with some sense of propriety in public, and one day, the switch flips and you just decide to tell it like it is.   
     At home, my mother rarely held her true feelings inside her head.  While in public or in front of friends and family, she held it all in check.  She used to tell the three of us, I don't care what you do to each other when we're at home, but I swear to God you better never do anything to embarrass me when we're in public.  Then one day, her switch flipped and everyone was privy to everything.  My sister and I used to think that some of it was related to her first mini-stroke and the rest of it was reaching an age at which she stopped giving a fuck.  It was like her crotchety could no longer be contained. 
     Today, it was like a containment field broke, because one little old lady after another was throwing shade, muttering, sighing, making sarcastic comments ... the list goes on.  During the early morning rush, as I asked how I could help several customers, two in a row suggested I stop talking to them and get behind a register.  Later in the day, another one had to wait 15 minutes to sit with my co-worker to resolve her issue, not bad considering there was someone waiting before her.  Halfway through, her grandson appeared out of nowhere to check on her progress.  She loudly proclaimed that she wasn't ready yet and had been waiting 45 minutes.  You have to laugh.
     On a side note, after a long day of dealing with said crotchety old ladies, I found comfort in driving to Boston Market to get dinner for the family.  I flipped through various mix-CD's in the car, and I was performing - just belting it out with my alter-ego diva.  The music was loud, and I was driving as though I was driving something other than a 10 year old, rusted mini-van.  I'm working on keeping my switch in the upright position.      

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


     On Saturday, as my in-laws neared the end of their visit, I thought it would be nice to introduce them to a fabulous doughnut shop near our house where they make fresh, delicious, large bites of heaven.  I don't go often as they're so filling we don't finish them all before they harden (I mentioned they were fresh), and you have to go early to get certain flavors before they run out.  The line goes out the door.  I had to pop into work for a little bit and afterwards I was on my way.
     When I got there, I jumped in line and inched closer to the counter, trying to see what was available.  I'm always on the lookout for the holy grail - the chocolate marshmallow, a marvelous confection of chocolate frosted raised doughnut filled with marshmallow crème.  I've had three in as many years.  As I got about six people away from my turn, I saw on the bottom rack one lonely marshmallow jewel.  I almost yelled out, "I claim that one."  Instead, I tried to play it cool and will the people in front of me to make other choices.  When the woman behind the counter called on me, I jumbled together I'lltakeadozendoughnuts,canIpleasehavethechocolatemarshamallow?  I picked eleven others, but honestly I was focused on five minutes in the future when it would be me alone in the car with that doughnut and a bottle of milk.
     I won't go into more detail, as the next few minutes are very private, but here is an aftershot:

If you're in the neighborhood -

Thursday, September 25, 2014

No Lie

     I have always had a weakness for older male customers.  They'll tell me their life story.  I pay attention.  I humor them.  It sometimes gets me in trouble for endulging them.  I enjoy helping little old ladies, as well, but that's a mixed bag of emotions for me.  One, I think of my mom (who wouldn't be pleased with me calling her an old lady) and two, the first con artist who stole a pair of shoes from underneath my nose was a little old lady.  That's a story for another time.
     This afternoon, I picked the wrong little old man.  I walked up and asked if he needed any help.  As God is my witness, he said (slightly paraphrased), "do I need help?  From a pretty young thing like you, with long brown hair and beautiful eyes?  You need to step back before I attack you.  Then they'd have to call the cops to get me off you, and then I'd get in trouble with my wife over there."  I nervously laughed and moved away quickly.
     He seriously told me out loud that he was thinking about attacking me and having to be forcibly pulled off by the police.  There were other people in the lobby.  I'm sure he thought he was paying me a compliment in some way, and that due to his age he should be excused.  I was floored, truth be told.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hello Again

     The last few weeks have been hectic. I've been moved to another location for work, and this time, it's so close to the house that I could walk if there was an emergency.  It's not a "walk for the fun of it" mind you, as I prefer to not be a hot mess just before I'm supposed to help people. Surprisingly, some people don't trust you when you look a tad disheveled.
     Speaking of which, one of the few interesting things that happened in the past couple weeks was another personal example of the strength that God has given me to not reach across a table and throttle a customer.  Just last week, I think it was day 3 on this new adventure, a gentleman became quite animated while in my office - he even raised his voice at his wife several times.  As I tried to explain again that the document in front of me didn't contain the information he said it did, he got up, moved beside my chair, looked me in the eye and said, "I don't understand why this is so difficult for you to figure out."
     For one small moment the words "back the fuck away from me" danced on my tongue.  Also, "how dare you try to intimidate me like you do your wife" or "step back before i make you step back."  But then the good Lord stepped in and all sense flooded back to me.  I used my step-away-from-the-ledge voice and normalcy ensued.
     I used to work with a man who felt that for every 100 awesome customer service jobs we did, we should get a free pass token for that jerk customer.  So when they started being a complete jerk-face, you could hand them the token and walk away.  No sir, I don't have to help you.  In fact, none of us do.  There's plenty of poor customer service out there, but a good chunk of the time, it's due to having to deal with too many cretins who demand to be respected and feared.  Add to that low wages, reduced hours and demeaning expectations, and you can see the tiring service world we've created.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


     This past weekend, we got to go on an uncharacteristic mini field trip to the new house of a dear friend.  She's taken on a dream home fixer-upper of massive proportions.  It's the Victorian mansion of my little girl dreams ... complete with the potential for multiple sitting rooms, a humongous kitchen, a garret, nooks & crannies and a fabulous staircase.  There's even a servant's staircase.  I asked a ton of questions about her remodeling plans as she restores the house to it's former glory.  She has so much to do, but the happiness on her face while she described each detail was infectious.  When I was little, I had a wooden Victorian dollhouse that my mother and I built together.  We painted, decorated and detailed it.  She would ingeniously come up with miniature decorating ideas that we could craft ... like tiny hand towels and teeny rolls of toilet paper for the bathroom.  We would plan how to wallpaper the little rooms, what paint would make sense, how to pencil in hard wood flooring.  It was one of the many craft projects we would work on together when I lived in her home.
     The other cool thing about my dear friend's new house is that it's haunted.  She, her friends and family have seen and heard things.  I was initially very excited to hear something, but as night descended, I will admit that I was freaking myself out.  By the time we went to bed, the kids were so tired that in minutes they were asleep - not the case for me.  In fact, my husband agreed to stay awake and keep watch, in an effort to assuage my nerves.  Some of the sounds woke me anyway.  Before you correct me, I know old houses make noises as they flex and shift.  They don't make sounds like knocking on your closed room door, rhythmic footsteps on the floor below you or repeated gunshots and voices outside (in an almost rural setting).  Our dear friend heard none of these things, as the spirits in the house adore her and her restoration efforts.  It was very cool to discuss it in the morning over orange juice and the sumptuous breakfast she made ... easier as well in daylight.
     I've always believed in the unseen, and I foster that in the children.  I think it leads to a better imagination, better writing and hopefully, a more interesting life.  How dull must it be to think that there are no mysteries to life, that what you see is as good as it gets.  Like Mulder said, I want to believe, but I'm a bit of a chicken at 2am.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pirate Day

     As the college students are starting or returning for the new school year, I get to help several stores this week at local orientations setting up new accounts. I really miss being at school. But even more than that, I'd love to work at a college or university. I think I would really enjoy teaching public speaking or philosophy, my two passions.  It's going to be fun to be on several different campuses this week. 
     On a sidenote, I excused myself from the table I was working out this afternoon to use the ladies room. I walked in at the same time with a young co-ed..  As I was attending to the matter at hand, she cleared her throat in the next stall. When she finished, she said Arghh. Which I thought was weird, until she did it four more times ... Arghh, Arghh, Arghh, Arghh.  Best part of the day so far.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Graham cracker

     The last few weeks have been particularly challenging for me emotionally.  The anniversary of mom's death, countless news reports of children being abducted and molested, children dying in hot cars, dying in Gaza, dying in Israel, dying in the streets of my own country.  So much death.
     I know some of my limitations.  I can't read books where bad things happen to children.  I can't go to movies or watch television where bad things happen to children, where even the hint of something bad will happen.  All these things turn me inside out emotionally.  So normally, when I'm flipping through the interwebs or listening to the radio, and I can sense what's about to come, I turn it off, walk away... refuse to subject myself to it.  I do this because I know what will happen in my head.  There will be horrible visions of my own children or the children of friends and family suffering.  It's unbearable.  It seems as though the suffering is everywhere in the last few weeks.  It's been too difficult to write or be creative when you can feel the collective sadness of the world around you, like the earth is crying out. 
     When I became a parent, my mother told me that she used to have horrible dreams of my brother, sister and I dying in unimaginable ways.  I was horrified, both for her and of the visions.  She told me that she felt it was her cross to bear to keep us safe, that each image of me dying in her head acted as some sort of talisman against the real thing.  I remember telling her that I didn't think it worked that way, but she told me I would understand one day.  I still don't agree with her interpretation of the nightmares, but I do completely understand the claustrophobic fear of anything happening to these three brilliant beings I helped create.  It doesn't ease as they get older, nor does it ease as news reports creep in with the faces of anguished parents.    
     On my way home from work tonight, struggling to get through the traffic, late as usual, I was fishing around in my purse.  Eyes forward on the road, my hand touched on a cellophane wrapper.  I pulled it out -- a chocolate covered graham cracker package that I had completely forgotten I'd put there a week ago. My happiness at that moment was almost indescribable.  So much death in the last few weeks, so much sadness, so much disappointment, and here in my hand there was one stupid moment of discovered joy in a chocolate covered graham cracker.  I opened it slowly, nibbling away at each corner, savoring every moment.  It was almost an ecstatic experience.  All over one chocolate covered graham cracker ... and for a brief moment, a very brief moment, everything wasn't so sad. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Black Dog

     As I noted previously, it has been a bit of a tough weekend, so when I heard about Robin Williams' death, I was unsure whether or not I wanted to mention anything about it.  I've read a number of good articles and early tributes, and I didn't think I would have anything to add to the discussion.  I certainly enjoyed much of his oeuvre. In fact, I found him to be a very good character actor who strove to make his characters breathe, didn't simply rehash versions of himself over and over again.  Of course you could see his comedic side come through in many of his choices, but his characters were unique, and some even exceptional - I can still vividly recall the movie Insomnia with Al Pacino (2002).  His performance stuck with me for a long time, disturbing me.  And everyone of a certain age with a creative bent has a Dead Poet's Society (1989) line or two memorized. 
     When I heard of his death on the way home last night, I was sad for his children and the grandchildren that will never get to know him.  Apparently, his good friends and family knew that he suffered with depression and mental health issues, and although he talked about a lot of his demons in his comedy, it's probably a testament to his acting skills that the majority of the world had no idea how much pain he was in.  I'm sad that he wasn't able to ask for help yesterday, so that someone could take his hand ... and if he did ask for help, that person will have to live with the knowledge that they should have taken it seriously.  I think many more of us have contemplated suicide then would care to admit to out loud.  Couple that with the stigma associated with mental illness in this country, and it makes it that much harder to get the help you might need without fear of reprisal.     
     Personally, we have dealt with depression, mental health issues and struggles with suicide amongst our friends and family.  These topics are nothing to be embarrassed about, and in fact, when hidden within families make it that much harder for you to understand your past, understand why you may wrestle more with your demons then others do.  If you are suffering in a dark place, if the black dog seems to be just at the corner of your eye, please know that you are precious and important ... know that there is a reason why you are here on this planet, even if it feels like that can't possibly be true.  Talk to a friend, religious advisor, employer, teacher, coach.  Please.
     And if a friend or someone you love and value trusts you enough to tell you how much they hurt, how they can see no other option ... please take it seriously.  They're asking you to give them a reason to stay here.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255


Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 9th

     A lot of monumental things have happened on August 9th.  Here's a couple highlights:
  • 1483 - Opening of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
  • 1655 - Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell divides England into 11 districts
  • 1757 - English Fort William Henry, NY, surrenders to French & Indians troops
  • 1803 - 1st horses arrive in Hawaii
  • 1831 - 1st US steam engine train run (Albany to Schenectady, NY)
  • 1854 - Henry David Thoreau publishes "Walden"
  • 1859 - Elevator patented
  • 1902 - Edward VII of Great Britain crowned having succeeded his mother Victoria
  • 1910 - Alva Fisher patents electric washing machine
  • 1930 - Betty Boop debuts in Max Fleischer's animated cartoon Dizzy Dishes
  • 1942 - Mahatma Gandhi & 50 others arrested in Bombay after passing of a "quit India" campaign by the All-India Congress
  • 1944 - Smokey Bear debuts as spokesman for fire prevention
  • 1945 - US drops 2nd atomic bomb "Fat Man" on Japan destroys part of Nagasaki
  • 1969 - Manson family commits Tate-LaBianca murders
  • 1974 - Richard Nixon resigns presidency, VP Gerald Ford becomes 38th US president
  • 2008 - Laurel Sullivan, our beloved mom, dies in Boston
     There are days like today where you just want to wallow in misery, staying in bed or on the couch, watching pointless crap on TV, while children sit on or around you.  But then you get up and go to work, run errands afterwards, try to act as normal as possible around the babies, put the groceries away and carry on.  It's the "keep a stiff upper lip," "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," "learn to move on" approach.
     You know what ... it's disingenuous to your real self and your real emotions.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stay Young

     The town I'm working in currently has a couple retirement communities, and it seems like I've been helping a lot of their members recently.  I mentioned the Sullivan sisters that came in the other day.  Yesterday, it was a married couple in their seventies who brought in the wife's 102 year old mother.  Today, it was an older couple in their eighties.  They were absolutely wonderful to work with.  The wife handled herself much more easily then her husband who used a cane and her right arm to steady himself coming in and leaving.  Hunched over and tired from the effort, he was still a perfect gentleman.  When everything was completed, we said our goodbyes and I thanked them.  I watched her steady him as he rose from his chair, and she and I made eye contact.  Then she took my hand in hers and said, "Don't get old, Heather.  Stay young and beautiful for as long as you can."  Blushing, I thanked her for her kind words.
     It's the second time in a week that I've been told to not get old.  Watching them this afternoon gave me much food for thought.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Culture

     Yesterday at work, I was helping this mature male who was bemoaning fees.  As we talked, I reminded him that the last time he stopped by he was discussing much the same thing.  I told him that when he had a little more time, we would love to go over all his business needs, really help him have the products that would be the best for him, etc.  Then near the end of the conversation he said, "I'm just tired of getting raped over these fees."
     I said, "I'm sorry, what did you say? (with a little smile)"  The patented Heather Sullivan way of pretending I didn't hear the crappy thing you just said, thereby trying to give you a momentary pause that allows you to pretend you really didn't say that crappy thing and pick a replacement phrase.  Yet even after this possible do-over he still said, "I'm tired of getting raped over these fees."  To which I said, "well, I don't think I'd use that exact phrase to describe fees."  He sort of put two and two together after he blinked through the thought process.  Then he apologized for saying it that way and left the building.
     I wish I could say that this was the first time in my grown-up life, in the last 5 years, in the last six months even where a man has used rape as an analogy for some unpleasant experience that they are going through that can in no way shape or form be compared to actually being raped ... vendors,  customers, former co-workers.  I've heard all manner of mundane inconveniences compared to an act that is perpetrated on women and men in order to exert control and destroy the individual.  I can't remember any of these comments being said in jest, but more just as matter of fact comparisons. 

(Side note:  As for comedians telling jokes, to which you may argue social commentary about rape masked in humor may or may not be appropriate, black humor is a high art form in my opinion.  We may not want to laugh at jokes about rape, 9/11, Bernie Madoff, race or sex - and if written poorly who wants to laugh - but sometimes you need to laugh, to let off the anger or the hurt.)   

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mom Jeans

     Two equally interesting and odd things happened today.

1.  I helped an older woman who came in with her sister in tow.  She seemed a little confused, which I think is why she brought her sister with her.  She was wearing jeans, which on face doesn't seem that odd, but I challenge you to keep your eyes out for older women (late 60's-70's) in jeans.  It's not the norm for some reason.  They wear just about everything else under the sun but them.  It caught my eye, because my mom wore jeans all the time.  She was the exception to the old lady rule in that regard.  To be honest, seeing this woman in jeans took me off guard a little.  I made sure we solved her problem and made her feel happier.  The other interesting part to the story, their last name ... Sullivan.  They kept calling me their cousin.  (I got a smidge weepy.)

2.  After work, I attended a work-related networking function.  Part of the purpose was to learn about other avenues within the company that might interest you.  It was very well put together and very well attended.  I met lots of lovely people who enjoyed their work ... except one.  After I asked her if she could explain her job, she proceeded to tell me how hard it was, how tedious and monotonous each day was, filled with paperwork and reports that never seemed to end.  Either no one took the time to explain to her the protocol of at least pretending to like her job, or she was trying to make sure that no one showed any interest and potentially applied for her position.  I kept trying to walk away gracefully ... it just wouldn't end.  One of my co-workers had to come over and literally grab my elbow to steer me away from the tractor beam of displeasure I was caught in.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


     I had to grow up kind of quickly, so I've always felt older emotionally than my real age.  For much of my life though, I thought I was fun to be around and maybe a bit outrageous from time to time.  I like mimicking accents, I sing out loud anywhere, and some of you out there know I have a habit of talking to myself.  (Maybe some some of these traits might be classified as insanity, now that I think about it a little bit more.) 
     Today, I got a potential perception vs. reality check.  This afternoon I had a chance to interact with one of my new peers during an interview night.  She was laughing and making some funny remarks, letting me know behind the scenes info, etc.  After we had finished the task at hand, we had a chance to touch base before I left.  She said, "I know you're the serious one, but you can lighten up a little bit."  I left and got in my car.  The serious one?  This title feels so weird.  To be taken seriously, yes ... to have my ideas valued as serious contributions, yes ... but to be known as the serious one? 
     In my last profession, I was encouraged to hold myself in check, because I was told it wasn't professional. I needed to be aware of the perceptions of my corporate onlookers.  They would think less of me and my abilities, and I certainly didn't want that did I?  I dropped dear, honey and sweetie from my vocabulary.  I toned myself down and tried to keep my random singing in check, all in an effort to present myself in the way that was deemed worthy of a professional.  Someone who could be in charge of a hundred people, make her numbers and be respected by her peers.  Year after year, I was still presented with a thing or two that I could tweak, and out of respect and a desire to advance, I would.  It often felt like I was presented as the gregarious one who made jokes (which I did do) and sometimes, it didn't come across pleasantly.  In the past, but facts nonetheless.
     Today's perception check may be nothing after all, we've had a limited number of interactions, often in very large group settings.  I'm new, trying hard to learn could be nothing.  But I'll admit that as I drove home, that's not where my thoughts went.  I questioned whether I was fun anymore, whether it had been so nitpicked out of me that I couldn't remember what I used to be like.  How do my children perceive all this? 
     I'm an actor. All these arenas are just different parts to play.  If you're forced to be someone else for too long, maybe you forget how to be the real you.  My mother's death has a part to play - there was more to be joyful about, to look forward to.  The world is gray now.  I don't know which frightens me more, being stuck in the lock-step or not remembering how to get out.   
     Being a grown up sucks.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Get Them

     When I was little and someone would do something to the family that couldn't be immediately rectified, my mom would say, "I may not be able to see it when it happens, but God will get them for that."  The landlord that didn't raise the rent but refused to fix anything that broke ... check.  The shade tree mechanic that "fixed" the car for all the money we had left only to have it break again a day later ... check.  The big truck on the road that changed lanes without looking and caused us to go into a ditch (without checking on us) ... double check.
     You may say that for two of the above examples, she should have pushed for the house repairs or taken the car back until he got it right.  That wasn't her way of handling things.  My father was an abusive husband.  She was so beaten down for so long, that she was too afraid to push back until she was much older.  To potentially anger the landlord might mean having the rent raised or being kicked out.  To push too hard with the mechanic might mean the car would never be fixed, leaving her without a way to get to work.
     I've shared her little phrase with people over the years, as a way to lighten the mood after an icky customer and to subtly remind my coworkers, without pushing my moral code on anyone, that these people will face repercussions for their behaviors.  It's so much more depressing to imagine that those who treat service industry workers poorly will get away with it for the rest of their lives, have wonderful relationships and die happy & rich.  I'm not wishing death and destruction on anyone, just an equalizing reaction.
     Today, I dealt with a man that was very uncomfortable to help.  It was clear from the moment he arrived that it was going to be a challenge to keep my composure. He was condescending, accusatory, argumentative and prepared to fight.  His wife had visited a few days earlier, and I had suggested that we needed to make some corrections for her.  The story she told me that day was completely different from the one she told this morning.  It was clear that she had had to find a scapegoat in order to deflect his anger away from her.  I could recognize her discomfort, her need to keep apologizing ... it was fairly clear that he kept her in line.  I've lived that life, I know the signs.
     In the end, I was thankfully able to accomplish what they wanted done, and adept enough to hide that I needed to partner with someone on how to fix the part I didn't understand.  The main rule with the really bad customer is to get them out as quickly as you can.  They spread dissension, make the other customers uncomfortable or nervous and wreck your sales.  Move them off to the side, lower your voice so they follow suit, fix it fast if you can or promise to follow-up ... and then do it, so they don't come back. 
     This guy was so bad though, walking so close to the line, that I would have loved to refuse to help him - but you don't get to do that in customer service (except in rare circumstances).  You just have to take it and then not take it personally.  When it was all done, and the moment was right, I got to share mom's phrase with a new set of people, and spend a couple hours fantasizing about this guy's equalizing reaction.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do That Now

     Louis CK has this hysterical joke about reaching 40 and having reoccurring ankle pain.  He goes to the doctor, and the prescription is stretching.  When he asks if that'll "cure" him, the doctor says, "No, you just do that now."

     I love him.  Isn't he fabulous?  You know what else ... it's 100% fucking true. 
     I've been dealing/living with varying degrees of pain in my back and knees for some time.  Many people have it much worse, and I don't like to draw attention.  This means I tend to keep quiet until it's bad, or I'm very difficult to live with.  I decided I couldn't take it anymore and asked to see my doctor.  After delays and rescheduled appointments, having my requests for pain management rebuffed and waiting a month to even have an MRI, I got to speak to my new doctor today with the results.
     She was lovely over the phone and insistent that she didn't want to prescribe a course of treatment without meeting me in person.  She went over the results and described how she was probably going to recommend physical therapy, again no pain meds (small aside, I'd like to thank the people in Massachusetts who can't control their opiate use). When I asked if this would fix me, she told me, "This is a functional thing."  In other words, no, you just do that now. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Take Two

     This morning while I was driving to work, NPR reminded me that the Supreme Court was going to be releasing their decision on the Hobby Lobby case today.  Although I was a tad bit nervous in light of last week's buffer zone ruling, I thought this one was a no-brainer.  I'm not a constitutional law scholar, but here's a for-profit business arguing that they shouldn't have to abide by a law of the land, because the owners of said company feel that parts of the law violate their religious freedoms.  Imagine my surprise on the very late drive home!
     To recap, in a 5-4 split, the majority ruled that some "closely held" companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in the Affordable Care Act.  This is the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.  The decision means that thousands of the company’s female employees will not have access through their insurance to intrauterine devices and other forms of contraception their bosses object to.  Justice Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, wrote that forcing companies to pay for methods of women's contraception to which they object, violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
     To pull a couple quotes from Justice Ginsburg, who wrote the 35 page dissent for the minority:

“The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage...In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs ... (the court had) ventured into a minefield ... It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage."

You can read the full dissent here:
     On face, it's obvious that women who work for Hobby Lobby, and no doubt the companies that will try to follow suit, have several options.  The can still buy whatever contraceptives that the company objects to out of pocket.  They can hope that the Obama administration can find a work-around that will get through the Republican house majority.  They can opt to find another job with a publicly traded company that will probably continue to cover contraceptives, rather then wade into the religion morass.
     Many people quicker on the draw then me have already done the research to discover that Hobby Lobby will continue to cover Viagra and vasectomies:
Or that their retirement plan invests in contraceptive companies:
     As I mentioned the other day, the purpose of these rulings is to ultimately widen the socio-economic gap separating underprivileged women and their families from those with means.  The women who work for Hobby Lobby, and the companies that will take advantage of this ruling ... and mark my words, there will be a lot of "closely held" companies that will suddenly get religion ... do not have a plethora of companies of which to chose.  There will be a slippery slope of rulings to follow.  Maybe it offends my religious views if you get a blood transfusion.  Maybe my God thinks you should just live with your bum knee.  Maybe my church thinks the product of your interfaith marriage, and it's subsequent health needs, are up to you to take care of.
     When the Affordable Care Act introduced the unique notion that your pre-existing health care issue shouldn't exclude you from coverage, that was because up until this novel idea, that pre-existing condition allowed every insurance company from here to Timbuktu to exclude you.  It's not that different from the other novel idea, that contraception should be covered and easily accessible to women.  If the contraception is unaffordable, and by extension inaccessible, those women and their families (this isn't just a women's rights issue - this is a family issue) will have limited options and limited opportunity.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Buffer Zone

     By now, many of you have heard of the interesting Supreme Court decisions from today.  The one I seem to be focused on is the unanimous decision to overturn the Massachusetts buffer zone around abortion clinics.  I was unsure about whether or not I should write about this topic - unlike so many other things we could discuss, most people seem to pick a side on this one and stick to it.  No matter what your opinion is, I respect and honor it.  I have friends and family on both sides of the debate.  I'm sure you reached your personal decision after thought and soul searching.  For my part, I have no problem telling you that I am pro-choice for a number of reasons, but first and foremost, this is my body.  I believe that no one has the right to tell me what choices to make concerning it, as I am the only one that has to deal with the consequences related to my decisions. 
     For those of you unaware of the Massachusetts buffer zone, it allowed a 35 foot zone around abortion clinics, and Planned Parenthood facilities that provide abortion services, which protestors, counselors and other forms of speech had to stay outside.  The law was enacted in 2007 in response to a history of harassment and violence at abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including a shooting rampage at two facilities in 1994 that left two people dead.  Let me repeat ... a shooting rampage in which two people were killed.  At that time, the buffer zone was 8 feet.
     With today's reversal, the buffer zone is now gone, allowing protestors to be right up at the door, as long as they don't impede a person's ability to enter.  If you haven't ever seen a protest outside of a clinic, there are graphic signs and posters, often people with pamphlets and varying levels of shouting.  The protestors often say they shout because of the distance.  Certainly, there are people who don't yell, who feel an intense desire to help or inform.  I respect that ... and emotions run high on both sides, but we can point to examples where others have become fanatical.
     As access to affordable healthcare and reproductive services for poor women diminish around the country, many clinics and Planned Parenthood facilities provide other essential resources ... from contraceptives, to physicals, to advice and counseling on your gynecological health concerns.  From personal experience, I was able to go to a Planned Parenthood and get a pregnancy test for free when I was pregnant with baby #1.  We didn't have a lot of money, and the expense of a boxed kit from the grocery store would have meant cutting into our food bill.  I will tell you that as I was walking towards the door, those glaring posters and people yelling out I'd be sorry (etc.) were quite disconcerting ... and I was happily hoping I was pregnant.  I have friends who go to Planned Parenthood to pick up their birth control and have to listen to protesters screaming at them.  What will it be like now that they can be inches away from you.  Again, for many, in their hearts, they want to offer other solutions or advice.  But I know that if you're approaching one of these facilities after having made a very difficult decision, after knowing in your heart that this is the choice you must make, to have someone standing inches from you, screaming in your face ... I can't imagine how frightening and soul crushing that would be.
     And they will be inches from your face.  In one of the radio commentaries I heard on the way home, one of more vocal Massachusetts protestors said, "The law clearly states now that my rights end where your nose begins." 
     Maybe that's the point.  Maybe if you can stand that close to someone ... an inch from their nose ... maybe you think that you can change their mind, and maybe you can.  But it's more likely that you'll have frightened them off for today or for a few weeks.  Until it's too late to do it safely and in a medical environment.  They will be shamed and chastised into no choice.  Or maybe another child will come into this world, into a situation where they may or may not be able to be cared for properly, or they'll enter the broken and ill-managed foster care system, or maybe not.  Maybe none of those things will happen.  Or maybe someone will say, well then you shouldn't have had sex in the first place, shouldn't have believed that your relationship was going to work out, shouldn't have ... fill in the blank.  Arguments we've heard before. 
     I worry about what the future will hold for myself, for my children and their children. These are not easy decisions to make and living with these decisions can be a challenge.  As reproductive choices stretch thinner across this country, women's choices become harder and harder - another way in which economic and financial controls are levied.  At the root, this isn't about babies.  This is about control over your future and being kept in line ... kept as a cog in the machine.
     I value my free speech, but I know that it's not as free as we believe it to be.  Just as our bodies aren't as free as we'd like to believe they are either.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


     In 20 years of customer service, I've very rarely encountered racism directed at me or towards someone in my presence.  I've got plenty of stories about sexism, ageism and harassment ... but not so much with the racism.  I've heard examples from people I've worked with over the years, and I'm sure it's pervasive in the service industry - since we are but a microcosm of society as a whole.  But as I'm white, I've personally experienced very little.
     Yesterday though, I got a full shot from a customer.  It was an elderly woman that I've helped a number of times over the phone.  During the conversation, she started talking about how she had asked for help from one of my teammates and was uncertain what had been done.  She praised my efforts to help her over the last few weeks.  Then it happened:

          H:  I appreciate your help so much.
          M:  Not a problem, ma'am.
          H:  I hope you'll be able to help me in the future.  I know that X tried, but oh ... I just appreciate that you speak English.
          M:  I'm sorry, ma'am ... what did you say?
          H:  You speak English.
          M:  I'm sorry, ma'am ... I don't think I understand what you're saying.  Let's focus on (her particular issue), and I'll call you back with an answer.
     Then she thanked me again, paused briefly and apologized for her manners.

     My teammate in question does have a slight accent, and she also happens to speak at least 3 languages fluently - one of them being English, by the way. She also took care of the woman's request more than 2 months ago, doing exactly what was asked of her.  She's lived in this country for decades, raised children, run businesses and strives to provide outstanding customer service.  I was surprised by the customer's statements for several reasons ... the ease with which she mentioned it, the repetition and the almost off-handed tone in her voice.  But overall, I was disappointed.  Really, really disappointed.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


     I was at an all day meeting today for work. The room was filled with professional men and women sharply dressed and on point.  I like to people watch, and I noticed from my vantage point near the rear of the room not one woman with an ounce of gray hair on her head.  No one except me.
     When I was a little girl, my Nana used to say she was going to go the grave a blond.  I will tell you that blond hair does not run in my family.  I loved her sassiness (Mom used to say it skips a generation), and I thought I would do the same with my hair when the time came.  Mom dyed her hair for years, she would even enlist us in making sure she got every spot - using whatever boxed dye was on sale.  Then one year, she stopped, letting it go all gray.  She kept it in a cute bob with bangs.  I would look at my own reddish brown hair and think of Nana.  
     As they started to show up, I was able to hide them simply by flipping my hair this direction or that.  I would worry about finding a color that would match my natural color, something that wouldn't make me look less like me.  This indecision has left me at 41 with quite a bit of gray hair peppered throughout my still long hair.  Surprisingly though, it doesn't bother me, and in fact, I kind of think it's sexy.  I don't know if anyone else thinks it is, but I digress. 
     There was a brief period of time before my oldest child was born where I did attempt some semipermanent color just for the fun of it.  It was this super neat deep purple color, but it became clear to me that any foray into apparent individual creativity would probably not progress me and my career.  So I quickly changed back, struggling with that constant push and pull of how much one can be oneself versus what one has to give up in order to succeed in a corporate environment.  Like so many of us, if I was pursuing my true calling,  I'd be dark red (or purple) right now.
     At today's meeting, I saw so many beautiful women with all sorts of fabulous cuts and styles but not one gray hair.  I began to wonder about my choice.  Do I come across as much older than I actually am?  How does this affect the opinion of the people in the room who hold the power to promote me - am I considered more or less capable of handling my job?  When I was a member of the Forensics team in college, my mentor taught me early on that it didn't matter how great my speech was, how prepared I was or how on point I was with my transitions and segues if my outfit wasn't fantastic and my makeup wasn't perfect.  I refused to believe him.  Surely, I could stand on the merit of my arguments alone.  After a couple of tough losses to people who were clearly better dressed and coifed than me but with less than stellar speeches, that I had to swallow the bitter pill.  It wasn't fair, but it was true.
     I think I'll hold out a smidge longer. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Me Time

     The positive side of a long driving commute is some me time to turn the radio up loud.  The soundtrack for the next couple of weeks is the latest Old 97's album "Most Messed Up."  It's really good ... Filled with songs about drinking, hooking up and living.  There's plenty of "fucks" scattered liberally throughout, so it's not safe to play at work.  Our kids seem to enjoy it, as well.  We don't censor music (any art, really) in our house.  There are songs that I don't go out of my way to play, and songs that I have to explain the context of the times for them ... And if something makes them uncomfortable in any way, I'll change it, and then we can talk about their reaction, why I may like it, etc.
     Music is so essential to my existence. I can comfortably say that it's kept me alive during difficult stretches.  I would never want to deny them that communion with sound.  I'm sure someone reading this right now is questioning my decision to be so open with music or books, and I respect your opinion.  I really do.  My philosophy is rock and roll doesn't make ill behaved or disrespectful children, bad parenting by shitty parents does.  Obviously, every child experiences some level of rebellion, but if you teach them early on that you're not willing to listen to why they like a certain kind of music or book or art - to understand and discuss it with them, to respect their opinion even if you disagree - then why would they think you'd be willing to listen to something else they think is important.  
     Music was a near constant in my household when I was growing up.  Mom loved everything ... popular radio, her records, our tapes.  The local Pizza Hut had a jukebox that you'd put quarters in and pick 4 songs.  We'd each get a quarter, and we absolutely stayed until we heard every song each one of us picked out.  She sang along to every one, which sometimes embarrassed my brother.  She used to threaten him that she'd dance on the table if he kept complaining.  We'd play her records on my Fisher Price record player in the living room with a quarter taped to the top of the needle arm.
     There's only one song I can't listen to anymore, and it's the last song she asked me to sing to her while she was dying - Don McLean's "American Pie." We were in a darkened hospital room, just the two of us.  The radio was lightly playing in the background.  That song came on, and she asked me to sing it to her.  And so I did.  Up until that exact moment in time, every song I'd ever sung was really for her ... for her to be proud of me.  Every choir show, every musical, every solo in church, every wedding I was asked to perform in - everything was for her.  
     I sing for the children and for myself now, but that one song, I'll never sing that song again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Free time

     Like many mothers and professional women, I struggle with trying to find the time to do things for myself. As a creative person I especially find it difficult to balance creating with the needs of the house and of the children. When I carve out a tiny bit of time to do something for myself, it's lovely ... And my sister yells at me less.  I can find a little bit of pleasure in something rather simple, as I did two nights ago, when I painted my fingernails.  It's not a new poem or a new painting, but it's something.  I had found this really cool tutorial on the Internet involving sharpies and I thought ... Why not.
     So I went into work with this nifty design on my nails, and I was kind of proud of myself, because it had actually turned out close to the example.  One of my coworkers noticed, and the next thing you know I was happily showing it off.  Then something interesting happened after one of my customers noticed.  She said, "Looks like someone must have a lot of free time on her hands."
     I immediately responded with oh I wasn't able to go to sleep, I was up late blah blah blah making excuses for why I had carved out this little bit of time for myself. What I should've said was, "not really, but I made time for me."  Later, I forced myself to reflect on why I would've answered that way.  Why did I feel that I needed to rationalize away a little bit of personal time? Why was I quick to dismiss my own needs?  I am a creative person, I know I need this time why would I dismiss it.  Interestingly enough, I didn't question the rationale behind my customer's statement.  Unfortunately, we humans are often shitty to each other when we should be more supportive.
     I don't want to call women out in particular, but I think that many women reading right now can point to examples in their own lives where they've dealt with this.  Why do we as women do this to each other?  Is this a generational problem ... Some sort of expectation of martyrdom.  I may be going out on a limb here, but I believe that many creative people, both men and women, end up sacrificing the time that they need to create to the needs of the family and of survival.  For me, I willingly made those choices ... Life is not successfully lived in regret.  But I do struggle daily with balancing my needs and their needs and unfortunately, I frequently take the easy route and make the personal sacrifice.  This leads to a grumpy mama.
     How do you do it? How do you find the time? Do you just make it? I welcome your thoughts.

Friday, May 23, 2014


     I despise the word "naïve."  It has been leveled at me, from time to time, by individuals who thought they were helping me in some way.  In reality, when you toss that word around, you're really using your big girl words to insult someone, to put them in their place.  I think that my often enthusiastic nature, coupled with a genuine desire to help people, is often mistaken for a lack of experience, knowledge or general stupidity.  In some parts of my career, I think it's been interpreted as phoniness, but over time, everybody comes to realize my true intent.
     The only way I think I'm at all naïve is that I'm still periodically surprised when I encounter shitty attitudes or actions in humans around me.  I have this Pollyanna philosophy that if you're part of a team, each of the members will want to work together - if not for the greater good, than to at least save face to a superior.  I really want to believe that when you ask for help, when you're encouraged to do so, that someone will actually help you.  Whenever I'm proven wrong, I'm disappointed and sad, and a bit miffed, too. 
     More than for myself though, for my kids.  We've raised them to be kind, generous, loving, helpful ... and they're all that and more.  I worry that the world will take advantage of their kindness, will look down on it.  By providing them a guide to a moral victory, have we left them bereft of reality?
     These musings on a rough couple of days, led to a mama lecture on the true nature of the world during dinner at the Pizzeria Uno's tonight.  Nothing aids your digestion like your mother soberly trying to prepare you for the future.      

Friday, May 9, 2014

Day Trip

     In the city for some meetings:

All four of these beauties on the first train I stepped on.  Followed by the saga of Mr. Saggy Pants:

How low can you go?