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 -