Thursday, December 24, 2015


     There have been so many profound stories to share from the last several weeks at work.  It has been very tiring as the holidays have approached, as well.  There is so much beauty in this world - wonderful children, good poetry, dear friends, rock music and the sweet anger release of a well strung together litany of curse words.  Even with all this though, it's a tough time of the year.  From my birthday in October through New Year's day, the progression of special days that trumpet ever more loudly my mother's absence in my ears.  We all have something, right.
     There's Edith, who at 83 lost her youngest son, husband and home in the last year.  Her son died unexpectedly, meanwhile her husband who she was the primary caretaker for, took a turn for the worse and died six months later.  Edith and her husband had the first floor in her two family, and her son and daughter-in-law had the second floor.  With both men gone, the decision was made by the remaining children that it would be for the best to sell the house - after all, it was too much house for two older women.  Edith lives in a three room apartment now in a nice part of town, but she doesn't know any of her neighbors.  They're all so busy.  We sat for a while and talked about her husband, her son, her grandchildren, how hard it is to cook for one person, what life was like when she was a nurse and in charge of the medical unit at the airport.  She talked about how hard it is at the grocery store, and I suggested that they could deliver for her - or maybe one of those children or grandchildren could go with her, walk arm in arm and listen to her wonderful stories while they carried her milk.  She patted my hair when she left.
     There's Russell, not my Russell, but I told him he had the same name as my husband, and he got a kick out of that.  Three months ago he came into my office and was unsteady on his pins.  He almost fell over, but somehow I kept him off the floor and we've been friends since then.  He came in recently to find out how fast I could make a very large check clear.  It turns out he doesn't have much time left here on this planet, and he wants to make sure he can give it to his girlfriend.  I was like, Russell, you didn't tell me you were that sick? How well do you know this woman?  He laughed me off and said they'd been together for 25 years.  This check was the least he could do for her considering all the shit he puts her through.  He said goodbye and shook my hand like it was the last time we would see each other.
     There's Gary who stopped by to go over some recent transactions.  Then he asked me if I had my holiday shopping done, and when I said not quite yet, produced six watch and pen sets from a bag he had at his feet.  They were $45 a piece, but I could have two for $80 or three for $90 and how many sets would I like.  That was fun to delicately extricate myself from.  There's Georgia that wants to adopt me, and/or introduce me to nice young man she knows.  I'm happily married Georgia, I always say.  He's got a really good job, she says with a smile.  Oh Georgia, I say - you are too much.  Then we laugh, and I smile until I can get her the fuck out of my office.  There's so many stories and so little time to give them all the justice they deserve.
     Tonight, we'll sit in our living room and read the story of Jesus' birth to the children, just as my mother did every single Christmas Eve when we were children.  My sister is with us for the first time in a very long time.  She's making block towers with the baby while I write this.  We'll keep trying to get the 18 year old cat to stop eating the artificial tree.  We'll hang our stockings later after everyone showers and puts on beddy-bye clothes.  And after I kiss them goodnight, after my sister goes to bed and my husband goes to sleep, I will touch my mother's tiny urn on my dresser and wish her a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fake Prophet

     I realize that anyone who is reading my thoughts is, in all likelihood, probably in agreement with some of my arguments - otherwise you would have bid me and my little rants adieu some time ago.  I am unabashedly a liberal in my ideology and belief systems.  I support and defend a woman's right to her body and to be equal with men.  I believe that we have an obligation to come to the aid of those less fortunate.  As Uncle Ben teaches us, with great power comes great responsibility.
     I also believe that the system, "the man" shall we say, succeeds when we are kept like sheep - fat and sassy, debating the television/media flavor of the month, the hyped hoopla that allows us to think we're having real debate.  Let's get indignant over a red cup at Starbucks.  Let's pretend there's a war on Christmas and Christians because somebody suggested we say Happy Holidays and you think godless liberals don't want you to say Merry Christmas anymore - it's not like there aren't ten or eleven religious holidays from roughly Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, and maybe wishing everyone you meet a Happy Holiday might be a nice thing to do.  Let's get angry about Caitlyn Jenner being a real woman or not and deserving of fake awards or not.  Let's talk about who's fucking who on The Voice, The Real Housewives of X town and The Fake Ass Duggar Prophets.    
     They want us to focus on this pablum and allow the real issues to pass from our memory.  Suck all the crap in and stare into Kaa's eyes ... Forget the refugees ... Turn from an honest dialogue on gun control ... Pay no attention to the squeezing of equal healthcare access for poor women and men ... Ignore the economic caste system that is becoming written in stone.
     And then into the mix, toss Donald Trump and his ever increasingly divisive rhetoric.  Months ago, I mentioned I was concerned about him and what he might foment.  Don't worry, friends and family told me.  He's a joke; no one really believes what he has to say.  Each day he struts and preens in front of the cameras, spouting off unimaginable soundbites:

- Today's campaign press release, "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
- If he's elected President he would deport Syrian refugees who are here, including children. “They’re going to be gone. They will go back. … I’ve said it before, in fact, and everyone hears what I say, including them, believe it or not,” Trump said of the refugees.
- When he was asked about all Muslims here being issued ID cards: He said, “we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely.”
- On the families of terrorists: "The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families," Trump said.
- A protester at his rally who was punched and kicked by Trump supporters, "maybe he should have been roughed up."  

     He is still ahead in the polls.  Clients I know think he's great - "he's just saying what most of us think already."  They were having a lively discussion in the lobby about how Trump would turn this country around.  It reminded me of Hitler's Willing Executioners, by Daniel Goldhagen.  I hope I don't give Goldhagen's thesis a disservice by summing it up thus; the German people were not only aware of what was going on under the Nazi regime, but were willing participants and in multiple instances, participated in a culture of cruelty and murder.  The prevailing thought prior to this had been that the majority of the German public was indifferent to what the regime was doing and more disliked the Jews than hated them.
     Are Trump and his supporters Nazis - certainly not, but he is riling up his supporters with comments that make a lot of people very uncomfortable.  Apparently, not uncomfortable enough for the Republican party or the other candidates on the stage with him to disavow him and all he stands.  It's as though they've become indifferent.  We must not go down that path.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


     Ever since my sister was a teenager, she knew she wanted to help people.  She didn't know how, and she didn't know where, but that's what she'd talk about when you asked her what she wanted to do with her life - which is a loaded question, to be sure.  Her path took a little bit longer than some, but she worked her ass off in school, working full time and being the third parent in our household.  I'm incredibly proud of her.  She's thoughtful, caring and very generous.  My children are so lucky that she is theirs.
     It only makes sense that she would channel that need to help and care for others into a career as a social worker.  She secured an internship working for the VA her last semester of graduate school.  They were so impressed they offered her a job, and almost a decade later, she's still there - working tirelessly to support her veterans.  That's what she calls them, her veterans, my guys.  Whenever we talk about work, the stresses of our day, she talks about her guys.
     She's extremely professional and never breaks confidentiality, never lets a name slip out.  There's a ton of paperwork, just as you would imagine there would be for such a ginormous bureaucracy/corporation.  It often surprises me how all encompassing her job is.  Obviously, she has to go to where the guys are, so she does group home visits, takes them to their doctor appointments, talks to their caregivers.  If they move to a new group home, she's the one that moves them.  I thought she meant that she arranged their transportation and the dates, but I was wrong.  She loads the boxes with their belongings into her car or a van and literally moves them into their new place.  She's got to have all those difficult conversations, as well.  From their emotional and mental stability, to hygiene and physical issues, she has to cover the gamut of questions to make sure she catches any potential problems - so she can protect her guys and do the best job possible.
     At the beginning of this week, she was driving two of her veterans in her car to their doctor appointments, one in the front seat and the other in the back.  They were all chatting about Thanksgiving and their plans.  She had stopped at Dunkin Donuts for them and had just gotten back on the freeway.  After a few minutes, the veteran sitting next to her suddenly became silent, head dropping to his chest. She tried to get a response, find a pulse in his wrist, but she couldn't.  The veteran in the back checked the man's throat and thought he felt something faint.  She called for help, but she feared she was too far from the next hospital, so she quickly turned and headed back to the emergency care unit at her building.  A dozen people met her car when she pulled up, and they tried to revive him but to no avail.  Her veteran had died next to her, in the front seat of her car.
     She's been around death before, but never like this.  We were all together, sisters and brother, when we watched Mom die in her hospital room seven years ago.  She's had other veterans die, some due to health conditions and some by their own hand, the demons brought back from serving their country having finally been silenced.  But she's never had another human die inches from her while she was desperately trying to get them help.  I told her that it must have been a comfort to his family that his last moments were spent with her, safe and relaxed.  He hadn't expressed any discomfort or pain to her.  He was there one moment and then gone.  His family was grateful that she was able to give them that assurance.
     On Thursday, I fed her and talked when we could, as the children ran in and out of the room.  She didn't want to upset them, to make them feel like they had to comfort her on the holiday.  She's been offered therapy and a great deal of support at work, but for now she wants to deal with it herself.  These unexpected traumas, they bloom out like ink on paper, making the sadness harder to escape.  If you have a moment, I humbly ask if you would offer a prayer, a candle, a loving thought to whatever you hold dear, whatever brings you succor, for my sister.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


     My friends, I am broken anew tonight, awash in grief.  There are so many cities swimming in grief from the dead and wounded. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away the lines are being sharply drawn on whether the support is fake or real, heartfelt or hypocritical.  Add to that swift pronouncements from governors in 31 states in the US saying they won't "accept" Syrian refugees.  I found this CNN article helpful:  

     To summarize, refugee admittance to the country rests not with the individual states but with the federal government.  By refusing to cooperate though, they can make it much more difficult.  1,500 Syrian refugees have come here since 2011. 250,000 have died since the war broke out and more than 22 million people have fled their homes.
     The same social media that quickly told us to #PrayforParis is now giddily swimming with commentators reveling in keeping Syrian refugees out.  This country was built on people escaping persecution, war, famine and death.  I have no doubt my father's ancestors came here to escape the potato famine, and I'm equally sure they weren't all completely law abiding citizens.  My maternal grandfather was Scotch-Canadian, fell in love with my grandmother, an American, and renounced his citizenship to stay with her and fight for the US Army during WWII.  We are a nation of immigrants, remember ... "Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me"
     My grief comes not from this hypocrisy but from this article: 

     Most war photography is gripping, but these children, these poor babies are not only an unfortunate fact of war but an undeniable example of the depravity of humanity.  If you can look at these faces and still tell me that we can't find some way to help, to save them, then I fear that there may be no hope for us.  Look in Tamam's eyes, as she lies there with her too aged 5 year old eyes, fearing that as her head touches the pillow the bombs will now come.  Look at the Pietà that is Sham and his mother.  The tiny bruised toes of Gulistan.
     Do we turn our backs on these people, on these children?  If you cluck your tongue at me or chide me at my sentimentality, tell me that we can't be too careful ... then we have lost our humanity.  Do not tell me that you are a religious person, a spiritual person, if you feel this way.  No God I know, or have read about, would agree with you.  There is more and more darkness coming, and we must be on the side of light, of hope, before a generation is lost.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris & the World

     Yesterday morning at work, one of our clients was sending funds to family in France.  My co-worker was having difficulty and asked for a second set of eyes to look the work over.  At one point, the client called his family member to double check the information she had given him.  Back and forth in french over the phone line he explained what he needed.  I couldn't stop smiling and my co-worker noticed.  She asked if I could understood what was going on and if I could reply.  I told her that I understood and could reply a little, but unfortunately I was out of practice.  When he got off the phone, we had our answer and everything came out as expected.
     A year or so ago, I wrote about how much I love to hear languages in action.  It springs from my love of the french language.  I was very fortunate that I was able to start taking a foreign language in the 6th grade; they gave us three choices - spanish, french or german.  We probably should have all been strongly encouraged to choose spanish, because I could use that on a daily basis, but I picked what I hoped would be a romantic dream come true, seeing Paris one day.
     I loved french class, my french teacher and the way the words sounded in my mouth.  Mlle. Chalmbers gave us new names for class, but there was no appropriate translation for Heather, so she called me Gigi.  I loved her.  She praised my pronunciation.  I loved her more.  She told us a motto that she held dear, "If it is to be, it is up to me."  I embraced those words completely, eventually posting them over my desk throughout college.  By the time we got to senior year, there were only 5 of us left that had stuck with her and with the language.  The high school didn't want to offer it to us, but we agreed to sit in the back of the junior year class.  We read novels, talked to each other, studied (all in french, of course) - it was lovely.  By that point a Madame, Mme. Chalmbers, organized a trip to France that year, and from what I can recall, I think almost all of the juniors were able to raise the funds, as well as my compatriots, but it wasn't to be for me.  I held onto the dream instead, that one day I would go to Paris.
     This last year, I decided that our children were long overdue to start learning a language, and selfishly since we home school, I chose french.  I thought it would be good for me to be refreshed, and I could help them.  They enjoy it, but I get a bigger kick out of hearing them speak to each other when they're practicing.
     With yesterday's horrific terrorist attacks and the vitriol on the internet today blaming refugees, it's like the dream is dying.  129 dead, so far, in Paris and 41 dead with 200 wounded in suicide bombings in Beirut, Lebanon on Thursday night from ISIS attacks.  We aren't quick to talk about Beirut though, both because the mainstream media didn't feed it to us and honestly, most Americans don't give a fuck.  I'm sorry if it's too harsh, but it's reality.  Let them, the others who live in that part of the world, blow each other up all they want, but spill blood at an American rock band's show and death to all those brownish skinned fuckers.
     That's what the terrorists want.  They want to scare us into staying home, giving up the legitimate fight.  They want to work on our base nature to alienate and persecute the other - all muslims are extremists and should be mistrusted, therefore we won't help refugees, won't look for common ground, won't care how many Palestinians die.  Syrian refugees fleeing death with their families with nothing more than the clothes on their back, housed temporarily in tents or makeshift what-evers, didn't drive black cars in front of multiple cafes with Kalashnikov rifles in clearly orchestrated attacks.  
     The terrorists don't want us to work on the root causes that keep them in business - poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunity.  That's what causes religious extremism to take root and flourish.  If you have a good job, access to food and clean water, you or your children can read and write and participate in your community without impunity, when the bad guys come around to spew their propaganda, who's going to drop everything and take up with them.  On that beautiful bell curve of life that illustrates so much, there will always still be a couple at the far end of the spectrum who can be swayed, but the vast majority will ignore them.      
     I will continue to educate and care for all those who will listen to me.  But as I think of Paris today, for now, I feel like Morpheus's (aka King Nebuchadnezzar) words ring in my ear, "I have dreamed a dream but now that dream is gone from me."

Thursday, October 29, 2015


     I learned from an early age to be respectful of the police, not just because it was their job to help you, but also because things could go sour quickly with some officers if you didn't.  Now most cops are just trying to do their jobs and go home to their families, and in a lot of places, they're short on resources and training.  I think by now, though that it has become painfully obvious, unless you live under a rock, that depending on where you live, what color you are and your socio-economic status, we're not all getting the same level of service in this country.
     My father was a reserve police officer for a couple years when we lived in California.  I remember him being very proud of his uniform and his gun.  When I look back on that time, he was a prime example of someone who should never have been allowed on the police force in any capacity, but maybe the fact that he was a respected member of the military helped.  Although I was too little to know the truth, I'm guessing that the weekend his drinking led him to beat my mother for hours, holding us hostage in Navy housing until she was able to escape to the neighbors and call the police, was what led to him being excused from the police force.  He was out within 48 hours, after military command spoke to mom about the anger management training he would be encouraged to take and the AA meetings he would attend.  He took the training but didn't continue with the AA meetings, neither helped him anyway.
     Mom used to say that a lot of cops, and many men in positions of power, had "little man syndrome."  They needed to make up for some aspect of their lives where they were deficient by exploiting or seeking greater power over others in their professional lives.  I had a soccer coach who was a great example of this, maybe 5'5'' and a complete dick during practice.  And not in a "this tough talk will help you in your sporting life and you will grow as a human" way, but in a "I will make you suffer, because I am a sadistic fuck with all the power who never got to play soccer professionally due to an injury" way.
     We've seen lots of video taped examples recently of police behavior that was certainly not helpful; students being tossed across schoolrooms, knees in the backs of bikini clad teens, unsanctioned choke holds, etc.  I'm not going to debate these.  I don't need to.  I've already said the rules aren't the same for all of us for some cops.  It's wrong, and it should make you angry.  Today, I read this article and became even more furious:

     Seeing that it was from January, I started looking for updated information and found this from September: 

     Protect and serve.  Protect and serve.  11,341 abandoned rape kits is a systemic decision to place the solving of rape cases in Detroit not on hold, but as unnecessary to solve.

          "Worthy said Detroit's kit-testing initiative has identified 2,616 suspects — including 477 serial rapists — and that 21 convictions have been secured. She said 106 cases are actively being   investigated and 1,350 cases are awaiting investigation ... Worthy said DNA in the rape kits            has been linked to suspects in 35 states, plus the District of Columbia."

     Think about the level of trauma for individuals, families, children that spreads out from this kind of decision, spreads out over our entire nation.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


     I read an article several years ago that referenced a study describing what kills men versus women.  It wasn't so much about diseases as life events, specific to heart attacks, suicide and dropping dead. The evidence suggests that it's big dramatic events - job loss, eviction, family tragedy, etc. - that kill men, and it's the steady accumulation of dozens of smaller shitty events - insert your million examples here - that kill women.
     As I am a woman, I have always been quite amused by this because, I don't want to brag here, but I can point to a bajillion smaller shitty events in my life that should have kicked the stool out from under my feet by now.  So I'm thinking that every time something marvelous has happened, the scale resets.
     Case in point, after a rough couple of weeks with my personal cup of crap filling up, one of my co-workers spent hours last night texting me back and forth about how late she was going to be this morning due to a family emergency.  We brainstormed solutions for three hours, until I had to tell her we'd just have to let it go and deal with it in the morning.  There would be emails, a delay, potential repercussions, extra paperwork ... the list goes on.  When I got to work, miracle of miracles, a very occasional teammate unexpectedly showed up to use an office, and we were saved.  No emails to write, no extra paperwork needed - we were still shorthanded and stressed, but what could have been terrible, wasn't.
     During a ten minute break, I figured out how to eat my yogurt with a lollipop since the spoon in my lunchbox went AWOL, another out of the box blessing (literally, since I found the lollipop in the bottom of a box in the break room).  Then finally home to the greatest babies on the planet, and my final blessing of the night:  

     And with this gesture, the scales are much closer to even.  Remember that best friend from high school that I mentioned a while back, the one person (aside from my mother) who was always on my side - these are from her.  I don't have enough time here to tell you how awesome she was and is to this day.  She taught me how to french braid my own hair, crocheted me afghans, wrote endless notes/letters/stories with me, told bawdy jokes with me, bemoaned all the boys that wouldn't look at me twice, drove hours to see me act in college.  She loved me and cared for me, and I hope with all my heart that I was able to give her even a tenth of the joy she brought me.  We lost contact with each other 20 years ago due to distance, life and my issues.  It's not something to be proud of, but thankfully, Scarlet was right and tomorrow is another day and another chance - and another blessing.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


     I have a temper.  Oh, I hide it almost all of the time, and unless you've seen me let my guard down, you'd never know it.  I'd like to believe I got it from my father, but truth be told, after their divorce was finalized and he was thankfully gone from our lives, my mother's ire was quick.  She tended to express herself in biting commentary, which wasn't fun to be involved in, but did teach you how to think fast.  My father's temper can really best be described as explosive rage.  You learned how to hide and make yourself small, so as not to get the brunt of it.
     Throughout my life, I've often been worried that if I let my anger out, I might turn out to be like him.  There have been glimpses to what I could be.  I remember being in the back seat of the car when I was eight or nine when he was driving us somewhere. He was going on and on about how horrible Mom was, how ugly, how stupid, how this, how that.  And we had to sit there and take it, like she did.  His boots were in the back seat at my feet - big, heavy cowboy boots.  I remember looking at those boots and thinking about bashing his skull in.  I realized that a rock would do a better job.  Then I thought that we would drive off the road, and it might hurt Mom since she was in the front, and the moment passed.
     Later in life, when my brother would drive me out of my mind, as little brothers sometimes do, I worried about how I might hurt him if we started smacking each other.  We were entirely too rough with each other when we argued, which I know was related to the violence we were frequently witness to.  I would take my rage and shove it down inside me, because the thought of potentially hurting him made me sick to my stomach.  I've done that for decades, smush it down tighter and tighter.  You know that part in the Avengers movie where they're in a bind and Captain America suggests to Bruce Banner that it might be a good time for him to get angry (thereby turning into the Hulk for the 10 people reading this who don't know the connection).  And Dr. Banner says, "That's my secret, Captain. I'm always angry."  It might be dampened as so much in my life is by my mother's death seven years ago, but that may be my secret, too.
     I share this insight with you, to tell you this.  Someone I love with all my heart has recently been betrayed.  I'm so sad and worried about what the next few months will hold for them, the tremendous changes to their life and their routines.  We will help and love and comfort, because that's all we can do.
     Mixed in with my sadness is tremendous anger.  I can feel the heat rising up the sides of my neck and resting in my cheeks.  There's only so much intense cleaning that a person can do to work this rage out to an even keel.  I tell the children that I'm trying to find my creamy nougat zen center, but it's difficult.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


     When I kick around Facebook, I really enjoy reading people's thoughts and articles, clicking/liking on the babies - all the babies, and generally reveling in learning about my peeps.  I liked a picture tonight and was inadvertently entered into a fun little status game for Breast Cancer Awareness month.  My initial thought was "oh boy," I don't usually participate in these things, and if one of my friends "likes" what I say then the cycle will continue and I'll feel skeevy about it.  Then my brain said, well if the whole point is to further awareness, then why don't you keep the spirit of the intent.
     I don't have a history of breast cancer on my side of the family, other kinds of cancers, yes.  The disease is also very raw in my mind, as several family members on my husbands side are struggling currently.  I spoke about one of them recently three posts ago.  On my side of the family, breast cysts are common though, so I was raised with an awareness of the necessity of self exams so cysts could be caught early before something else developed.  You have to be taught to become familiar and comfortable with your body, to not ignore the clues you receive.
     Please share any or all of these sites with the people you love:
(they'll even send you a monthly email reminder, so you won't forget)
(for all the men in your life - The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 2350 new cases of diagnosed breast cancer in men in the US this year, with 440 men dying from it.)

Monday, September 21, 2015


     Today at work, while fighting a rather icky cold and trying to appear completely normal, I got to help a gentleman we'll call Johnny.  In his mid 70's, you'd never know it from looking at him.  During our conversation, he told me he regularly went to the gym and "worked it hard."  He was fit, funny and in full use of his faculties.  He was trying to solve a dilemma and was a bit disappointed in himself that he had had to come in for help.
     He told me that his wife used to take care of all this stuff, that he never wrote a check until he was 63.  In fact, if he tried to pay something, arrange a doctor appointment, she thought he was saying she couldn't do her job well.  One day, when he was 60, he and his children had stumbled across a shopping bag filled with bills and creditor letters, and that was when they figured out her secret - she had early onset dementia.  He'd had to take it all on and was glad to do so.  He told me that he'd met her in school when he was 17.  He knew right away she was his girl, and there was no going back. He said his friends had told him he was a sucker, but he didn't care.  They got married, had three children and a good life.  He did special things for her, not for her, but for himself, because to make her happy brought him joy.  She died 12 years ago, he told me.
     He told me that five years ago, he met another woman.  She's married though.  He said he follows her around like a puppy, drives her on errands, helps her weed her yard.  They've never done anything inappropriate, he told me.  He's not that kind of guy.  It's enough to be in her presence.  I said, forgive my question, but where's her husband during all these errands and weed pulling sessions.  He said that he stays inside or goes out with his friends or tells them to have a good time at church.  He's spent more time at church thanks to her, again just to be around her is enough, not because he's gotten religion.
     He told me that he'd never push the idea of divorce with her, because he didn't want to be the reason they broke up.  He also knows she'll never leave, because she has too much to lose.  He said that she talks about how they're going to move to Florida in a couple years, says it matter-of-fact to him.  He figures that he'll be sad when she leaves, but then it'll be done.  She tells him to find someone else, that she wants him to be happy, but he tells her he's happy the way things are.  He's a simple man.
     I kept openly weeping throughout his story, wiping my eyes and sniffling.  He'd say, oh did that part get you.  And then he'd chuckle a little.  Eventually I asked him what he wanted to do about his original problem, and he told me to let it go.  He said he'd never told anyone, even his children, what he'd just spent all this time telling me. Then he told me that he'd come back in a month and we could talk some more.

Friday, September 18, 2015


     I'm struggling with the intensity of sadness around me right now.  I feel like it's thigh deep and murky, almost like I'm met with resistance with each footstep.  At work, there have been multiple stories of women in their late 50's to 60's coming in for help as they face divorce after 30-40 years of marriage.  One by one, they have no idea how to unravel a lifetime of joined finances, lawyer requests and lost certainty.  They've all been professionals, so it's not uncertainty at how they'll survive, but rather that their lives are undergoing such a massive change after being married for so long.  Three different times I heard, "Heather, I wouldn't wish this on anyone."
     Add to this the news today that the body of the little girl found on Deer Island, MA has been identified, and it's as horrible as we all feared.  Earlier this summer, when the not quite three year old unidentified girl, now we know her to be Bella Bond, was found in a trash bag on the beach, there was so much shock and surprise that no one knew who she was or where she came from.  There was speculation that maybe she was the child of an illegal immigrant, and that was why no one came forward. Or maybe she was from another part of the country, taken by a predator and dumped here. How could no one miss her ... a parent, a relative, a nosy neighbor.  When I was younger and the news would broadcast the mysterious death of a child or a parent holding a press conference to find a missing toddler, at some point during the broadcast my mother would say out loud that one or both of the parents were the culprits.  We'd look at her in horror at the matter-of-fact statement, shocked that it could be true.  She'd tell us, mark my words, it was either one of the parents or a relative or a neighbor.  It's almost always someone close to the situation.  Sometimes the bogeyman jumps out of the bushes, but most of the time they're down the hallway.
     Now we know that Bella's mother's boyfriend is being charged with murder and her mother with accessory after the fact.  She was killed, and her mother stuffed her tiny body in a trash bag and left her on the beach.  In my heart, I feared the mother was involved, as the baby's blanket was with her body.  We're going to find out that her family was fucked up in multiple ways, that the neighbors knew how bad it was but didn't want to get involved, that the state intervened as best they could but with lack of evidence and under staffing they did the best they could.  Meanwhile, there's still a dead child that I can only pray suffered as little as possible on the day she left this earth.  I can't even bear to spend time thinking otherwise.  As this plays out in the news, a thousand humans in the surrounding counties are praying to be parents for the first time or again, as they struggle with infertility or life circumstances that make it impossible for them to have a baby.
     Maybe that's why the sadness seems extra thick.  Our eldest child will be 18 soon.  I have wanted another child for so long, and each month that passes makes it achingly obvious that it's not going to happen.  Every story like Bella's rips at me, these unwanted little ones casually tossed to the side either in a moment of passion or in lengthy neglect.  I can't help but think about the dichotomy of refugee parents fleeing from Syria shrieking as their children are torn from them by the waves, while Bella lay crumpled in a trash bag while the waters off Massachusetts Bay washed over her.

Monday, September 7, 2015

For Him

     I want to tell you a story about someone I love very much.  Someone who is quite sick now.  I don't want to talk about the illness or eventuality, because my powers tend towards being a muse and not omniscience.  To tell you about him, I have to give you a little bit more about me.
     Like many, my childhood left a lot to be desired.  My father's alcoholism, constant beating, belittling and tormenting of our mother kept us all on eggshells and hiding the truth from those around us.  When I was 11, I reached a point where I decided it was all too much to take and I was done.  I went to the upstairs bathroom and decided to mix together several things from the medicine cabinet.  Looking back, I don't think ear wax remover, children's Tylenol and toothpaste would have killed me, but that was my intent.  I sat there thinking about my mother and how upset she would be, how I would be leaving her behind with him, what my little brother and sister would do.  Something told me to stop.  I knew that something was God.  That was my epiphany ... not on the road to Damascus, but on the edge of the tub in Cincinnati, Ohio.
     From that moment on, I knew I was here for a reason.  My mother had always told me that anyway; she wasn't supposed to survive childbirth, and yet, three of us showed up.  We had a purpose.  There was some more moving around after this, and then thankfully, my parent's divorce was finalized when I was 15.  Life was more free but still challenging, as we were quite poor.  Mom struggled all the time to provide, and we went without a lot.  Hunger was a constant.  But I had my faith, which I wore on my sleeve.  In fact, I was probably a little too vocal which made high school a challenge at times.  I had my best friend, who I could always count on, and a handful of dear friends who I was sure thought I was a gigantic dork.  The church we went to was filled with lovely people, but it was extremely conservative.  I did speak up, because I was a member, but I never really felt my opinions were actively considered since I was a woman.  Once during a serious talk with my pastor about going into the ministry, he told me I'd be able to help set a church up in a distant land, minister and lead ... until the church was established.  Then I'd have to make way for a man to truly lead the flock.  And when the day might come that I would have children of my own, if I had a son, by the time he was 11 or 12, I'd have to turn his religious instruction over to my husband.  I could continue to work with my daughters but not my sons.
     Needless to say, I was a spiritual mess. When I went off to college, it didn't get any better at first. The church I was given an entree to attend turned out to be even more conservative then the one back home. At dinner in the home of the pastor and his wife, I was reminded to wear a skirt to church and not the pants I had chosen that morning.  During the questioning about my major, which was initially journalism, he decided that it would be best after graduation for me to go work for a christian newspaper until I got married.  While he pontificated, his poor wife hustled the meal and her children.  She looked a lot older than she was.  After I left their house, I never went back to that church.
     A short while later, I met another guy, someone who listened to my ideas and liked my reasoning about life.  I knew within a short time that he was the one for me, and then he introduced me to his father.  And this is where the story gets good.
     I met a strong, hard working man with a quick smile and an even quicker laugh.  We joked, we teased, we laughed, we clicked.  This man got me.  And more than that we talked about everything under the sun.  He asked me my opinion and why.  He didn't let me get ever away without explaining my rationale thoroughly.  Every time I went to visit, we'd end up sitting around the kitchen table until all hours of the night ... husband, wife, son and me.  We talked about philosophy.  We talked about religion.  We talked about feminism and women's rights which really meant family's rights.  He never laughed at my ideas.  We didn't always agree, but we never stopped talking.  Then he started involving the family pastor, and that made it even more fun.  I had to stay sharp, stay focused.  I didn't want to let him down.  I learned so much during these talks; it honed my thought process, helped me see the error of some of my previous ideas and strengthened my resolve on others.  He treated me like my thoughts on God and life mattered.  Even now, almost 25 years later, he still treats me that way.  And I am blessed for it.  He called me daughter when he introduced me to people, long before it was settled, because in his mind it was already a done deal.
     I love you.  And a thousand years from now, I will still love you.  Long after we are both dust, forgotten afterthoughts on the genealogy chart, I will still love you.  And we will forever be able to talk long into the night.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rant N' Roll

     It's one of those nights ... the kind of night where I'm reading the news and Facebook declarations and becoming more and more disillusioned with the bulk of humanity.  Now maybe the fact that my back pain is pretty intense is making it worse, or as I tell my husband, maybe it's just making it harder for me to hold it in.  Remember a couple of posts ago when I mentioned the backlash against intelligence, and dare I say, commonsense that was running rampant.  I feel like I'm wading through it tonight.
     Let's start with that county clerk in Kentucky who is continuing to refuse to issue marriage certificates to anyone in her county so she doesn't have to give them to gay couples, even though the Supreme Court has ruled to allow gay marriage and every other appeal she's made has either been over ruled or denied.  I don't care that she has bad hair (you're welcome to question my own choices).  I don't care that she's been married four times.  I don't even care that she took over the position from her mother who had it for 37 years and that she also has her son working for her. She's an elected official who swore an oath to uphold the duties of her post.  She doesn't get to use her religious convictions to determine how to do her job.  I'm 100% sure that's not in the job description.  She can use her moral compass when interacting with those around her.  She can be a beacon of her faith, so that others might be helped by it.  But she can't fucking use it to decide the operational principles and practices of her position.  If her job has changed, and she no longer feels comfortable doing it, either due to her faith or the requirements, then leave.  It happens all the time in every other job on the fucking planet.  If your job was breaking the law, you have avenues you can pursue, but if your job is telling you the rules have changed, you change or you leave.  All those people standing outside the courthouse supporting her and egging her on would be singing a different tune if she said her religious convictions told her she shouldn't issue licenses to Gentiles ... or to renters ... or to poor people.  If she was a business owner in Kentucky, there are no laws on the books against discriminating against sexual orientation.  She could decide to not serve them and face no recrimination, but as an elected official she's not covered by the same rules.  She has to do her job.  Can we all recall the concept of separation of church and state alluded to in the first fucking Amendment of the Constitution which Article VI specifies that "no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
     Secondly, if I see one more human state that all people on welfare need to be drug tested, I'm going to lose my fucking mind.  This is a useless and expensive proposition that is undertaken to make poor people who need help feel like criminals, and it lines the pockets of the companies that supply the drug tests  Here's some info on how it worked out in Arizona:

And Maine:

And a bunch of other states:  

Yes, we all work hard.  Yes, we want to make sure that the monies we hand over in taxes are spent correctly.  But why are you more pissed off about whether or not the poor person who uses their slim SNAP benefits might possibly have used an illegal substance (which we've just learned that for the most part they aren't), but you're less concerned that the military industrial complex is rolling around naked in the bulk of your money.  This is all done to tear us apart, to argue about petty crap instead of work towards honest change in our country.  The Republicans use it to froth the part of their base they want riled up into a frenzy, and the Democrats point to the frothing as a way to rile their base, too.  This way both sides get us slashing at each other's throats instead of asking our elected officials to do their jobs (see above).

Monday, August 24, 2015

25 Years

     I went to my 25th High School reunion this weekend.  When I was invited a couple months ago, it didn't really seem possible.  I mean, I'm still like 29 right ... so how could that math work.  I was a bit nervous for a variety of reasons, but chief among them was that I didn't grow up to become an entertainer, as was the goal at the time.  I was worried that they might be disappointed.  Isn't that silly.  To potentially deny yourself communion with some wonderful people because they might possibly be surprised in the path my life took.  After a bit of thought, I decided that there were probably a lot of us not doing what we wanted to do when we were 18, so I should get over myself.  And I'm so glad I did.
     There were so many beautiful and wonderful people there.  I graduated from a large high school, so I knew there would be people I didn't really know or couldn't remember, but there were a bunch whose faces came back to me quickly.  I've worked with thousands of people over the years and helped probably 10X that many more after 20 years in customer service, so names sometimes escape me.  Thankfully, I got help with some names and others just told me theirs outright, so it made it easier.  There were a lot of people that I wished would have come, so I could hug them and listen to their stories, but distance played a factor for many people I think.  My biggest wish was to see my best friend again, a woman who I have thankfully been recently reunited with.  I knew she'd never be able to come the great distance with her very hectic work schedule, but a girl can still wish.
     While I watched them chatting and catching up, it was like the years melted away.  I could close my eyes and remember them just as they were, really the way I still see them all.  There was the group of beautiful women in the corner - fashionable and chic, with easy laughter and warm smiles.  The strong, resilient ones who went from group to group, mingling and coaxing out updates on children and spouses.  The gregarious and persistent ones, gathering us for photos and jokes.  There were people who I respected immensely 25 years ago for their spirit and reminded me in only a moment why it was still true.  And there were boys, now men, I adored ... for their smile, their talent, their charm, their convictions.  It was good to see them happy, with wives, with children, with joy.
     There were so many kind words said to me, so many hugs and smiles.  It was a wonderful experience which I highly recommend.  As my father-in-law says, why wouldn't you go out on a limb, after all that's where the fruit is.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


     The customer is not always right.  In fact, they're probably not even right half the time.  I'd like to find the moron that invented that phrase and punch them in the throat.  The customer deserves to be treated courteously and fairly.  They should get all the goods and services that they paid for in the time frame that was stated at some point during the transaction.  If they ask for help, they should get it efficiently and without any lip.  Save that for the break room.
     The problem is that a huge chunk of them think that they're right all the time to the detriment of common sense, and sometimes, common decency.  Don't worry my loves, this isn't where I draw some line in the sand to defend Comcast.  Au contraire, it's actually those idiots that keep this myth alive.  You hear a recording of one of them give the textbook example of how to do everything wrong, and the backlash result is that every customer from Poughkeepsie to Albuquerque decides to get their dander up before they walk in the front door.  There's also plenty of poorly trained customer service reps out there that make it worse for the rest of us, too.
     Recently, I've had customers open my office door and walk in while I was on the phone (my office sits near the lobby and has windows - so they can see me).  Yesterday, an old crotchety woman not only opened my door but yelled at me to "get out and take care of the line" ... while I was working with another client in that very same office. When I grabbed one of my tellers for help a little early off her lunch break (don't worry, I made it right by her), the first person she helped said, "oh, were you on your break?"  When she said yes, and that she had come back early, the customer said, "good!  I'm glad you missed your break.  Maybe that'll make them hire more people."  Today, I told a guy he wasn't welcome back after he swore at me and a co-worker.  The swearing came after he said he'd come back next week to "break my balls" and when I said "pardon me?"  He said,"oh, I meant break your rug." Hilarity ensued from that point.
     I'll be honest with you.  I'm tired of this shit.  The wonderful and appreciative customers are few and far between anymore.  I enjoy helping other people to my core, but the focus has shifted from asking for help to demanding servitude which is a far cry from service.  I can't help but wonder if the disconnection between words and deeds that social media helps to perpetuate has increased this decline in civility, as well.  If you call some "faceless" person on the internet a bitch (or much worse) in a comments section ... maybe that makes it easier to do it to her face when she tells you there's a fee to cash your check.      

Thursday, July 30, 2015

F- the Heat

     Back in January and February, when every week brought another snowstorm not of inches but feet, many New Englanders daydreamed of warm summer days minus the back breaking labor of shoveling.  We threatened to punch the first person who complained about the heat in the throat.  The delirium of opening heating bills where the numbers rivaled our student loan payments had driven us a wee bit crazy.  But the truth of the matter is that we were thinking about a specific kind of warm - maybe upper 70's, low 80's, no humidity ... nice enough to not need a jacket.  None of us were thinking about what late July and August are really like here, days of upper 80's, low 90's heat combined with 70% humidity.  Nobody was thinking about sweating while they were on the toilet.
     I know that many of my dear friends in other parts of the country/world who are reading this right now are laughing their asses off.  Heat and humidity they are saying, you don't know heat until you've been in Atlanta in August.  True, and having lived in Texas for a time, I know that it's much worse almost everywhere else.  But we are not a heat & humidity people here, sure there's always a couple among the bunch that revel in it, are almost giddy in fact, but the vast majority of us are really, really cranky right now.  We can't sleep well, everything's pissing us off, and to top it off, if you start bitching about it one of your friends is going to remind you about 25 feet of snow and your throat punching comments.  It's a no win situation, because complaining is something New Englanders do very well.  It's a skill passed down through sporting team bumper stickers and extra large cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee.  If we can't complain, we are incomplete as a people.
     I like to tell people the snow may have been horrible, but I can always put more clothes on.  Meanwhile, I can only get just so naked in polite company.  As it is, I have to announce my nakedness in my own home so I don't frighten the teenagers.  "NAKED MAMA COMING THROUGH," I yell, so no one comes out of their room to be greeted by nightmare fodder.  Not because I'm scary naked, (trust me, I'm not ... no seriously), but seeing your mother sans clothes stays with you for a long time.  Of course, it would give them something to complain about.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

True Story

     A quick true story:

     This older couple, we'll say late 60's, came in today to discuss a few things, and as they were leaving, we stood in the lobby passing the time while they regaled me with stories of what the town used to be like.  We were going back and forth with the questions and answers when this happened -

Male: I've always liked this branch.  It's so close to our home.  The last manager was a nice gal.  Now what was her name again?
Heather: Do you mean Becky? (There have been a couple, so I was checking.)
M: Yes! And her last name was ... I forget.
H: It was Ocas ... Ocass - Ocasio.  I think I may be mispronouncing it.
Wife: Was she colored?

I turned fully towards her and said, "no, ma'am," and then turned my back to her.

As I said, this was out in the open in the lobby and in front of customers, and as it just so happens, in front of my Haitian-American employee.  He chuckled and shook his head.  It reminded me of an apropos Dave Chappelle skit.  This is the last scene.  If you're a fan, you'll know what I mean.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


     The last couple of weeks have been busy, filled with our youngest turning seven and the flu descending upon the household.  We took her to the Legoland Discovery center in Boston which was a blast, but unbeknownst to us, we brought home contagion.  The kids are almost better, still occasionally hacking up a lung, but my husband and I are still feeling like crap.  Obviously I'm still going to work, because someone has to make the cheese, but I'm dragging.
     We've been slow at work, as the local neighborhood flows with vacation time and celebrating the holiday.  Today I worked with a woman we'll call Miriam, and it brings me back to a theme I've discussed previously - working with the elderly in your life, to discuss their finances and how they need help.  Miriam shuffled into the store clutching two three ring binders to her chest.  She needed help right away, as her pension hadn't been deposited to her account in another bank and it was our responsibility to fix it.  I sat down with her and tried to gather enough information to understand what was going on.  Within just a few minutes, it was clear that she was very confused.  As I asked questions, she couldn't remember why we had helped her a month ago.  She kept mixing up her numbers, couldn't find things in her purse ... only to ask me again what she was looking for.  She started to cry, to beg me to help her.
     Miriam is in her mid-eighties, which certainly doesn't mean she's incapable of handling her money, but it is a factor in a stressful situation.  Her husband had died in the last couple of years, and it is clearly still a fresh wound - as she mentioned him throughout our time together.  As many of you know, I have difficulty in separating my emotions concerning my mother whenever I'm working with an older woman, and it made it harder to bear, as Miriam grew more despondent.  She told me she had been a bookkeeper, but it was getting to hard to keep track of the paperwork.  She told me maybe it would be better if she would just die.  She said this again and again.
     I asked if I could call one of her children to come sit with us; she couldn't remember any of their numbers, didn't have her phone with her.  I practically begged her to trust me that everything would be ok, that her money was safe, that the daughter who had come with her a month ago should call me right away.  Miriam left ... and came back ... and left ... and came back and finally returned with her son.  As is often the case, he was initially concerned that we had perhaps not done everything to help her. After I cleared that up, he was all set to go. I asked Miriam if I could speak to her son privately for a moment, and she agreed.  Behind closed doors, I gave him a quick synopsis of the afternoon.  He told me that he and his siblings were working on consolidating her finances.  I told him that was great, and asking for his forgiveness if I was overstepping my bounds, I told him that needed to pick up the pace. I told him about the tears, the frustration, that she pulled at her hair with both hands, that she said she should just die.  I told him that I was really worried, that this is a difficult situation for everyone, but Miriam really needed help.  He thanked me, and we returned to his mother.  We said our goodbyes, and then I went into the bathroom and cried.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Family Roots

     My father was a selective racist.  He was in the Navy, worked alongside men of all races and creeds, traveled the world experiencing a multitude of cultures, but he was also raised in the South, Kentucky specifically, by a radically religious and conservative mother who did not like blacks.  She taught her son well, and although he could abide in the work place, he refused to at home.  There was no way my mother could stand up to him, in large part due to the way he worked his anger out on her face, so she bit her tongue.
     My siblings and I, thankfully followed her lead and didn't pick up his teachings, probably out of a desire to be nothing like him.  Once when I was eight and we were living in Ohio, he told me that if I ever brought a black boy home, he'd shoot the boy in the face at the door, and then he'd shoot me.  He was completely sober when he told me this, so I immediately grasped how serious he was.  
     My husband brought Tim Parrish's article in the New York Daily News to my attention tonight, and it struck a chord.  It's worth your time to understand how deeply racism can be sown in some families.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Damage Control

     It seems that the news is filled week after week with one atrocity after another.  The tragedy that took place in Charleston, SC yesterday was a slaughter, pure and simple, born out of resentment, paranoia and fear.  
     There will be some who will chalk it up to guns and their access across our country.  The war drum will be sounded as we choose sides.  Millions of law abiding gun owners being made to feel like anachronistic barbarians vs. the more highly evolved American.  All of it made more and more warped while the names of the victims are lost and trampled by politicians for the next year and a half.  They'll rile their teams up into a frenzy for every well positioned camera crew.
     There will be some who will point to racism stirring the pot, which it certainly seems to have from initial reports.  I would like to imagine by now that we don't have to pretend we live in a post racial world simply because we've had a black president.  Racism is alive and well in our great country.  I don't need to provide examples to prove my point.  It's born out by the need for the slogan "Black lives matter."  Why should we have to state the obvious unless it wasn't so obvious?  
     The larger underlying issue is one that makes me very uncomfortable to discuss, as it is close to my heart.  It is clear that this young man was dealing with mental health issues.  There have only been a couple pictures posted, but in every one he looks deeply disturbed.  Over the next few weeks and months, I'm sure we'll learn that friends and family were aware of his problems but either didn't know how to help him or were unable to get him proper help.  Educators and doctors will do damage control for months, trying to explain the reality of underfunded programs, lack of staff and stigma.  I have to believe that you've got to be mentally unstable to decide to kill someone, and that level of instability doesn't manifest itself overnight.  Why was it allowed to get to this point?  Why did his father decide to give him a gun?  There are so many questions.
     I hope that this will cause a larger debate, that we won't be distracted by the latest scandal on reality tv or cowed into debating some sports brouhaha.  I beg apologies from my Jewish friends, but all I have been able to think about today was saying Kaddish for those who were lost yesterday.

Exalted and hallowed be God's great name
in the world which God created, according to plan.
May God's majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime
and the life of all Israel -- speedily, imminently, to which we say Amen.
Blessed be God's great name to all eternity.
Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded
be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing,
praise, and comfort. To which we say Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel,
to which we say Amen.
May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us and to all Israel.
To which we say Amen.

Yitgadal v'yitkadash sh'mei raba.
B'alma di v'ra chirutei,
v'yamlich malchutei,
b'chayeichon uv'yomeichon
uv'chayei d'chol beit Yisrael,
baagala uviz'man kariv. V'im'ru: Amen.
Y'hei sh'mei raba m'varach
l'alam ul'almei almaya.
Yitbarach v'yishtabach v'yitpaar
v'yitromam v'yitnasei,
v'yit'hadar v'yitaleh v'yit'halal
sh'mei d'kud'sha b'rich hu,
l'eila min kol birchata v'shirata,
tushb'chata v'nechemata,
daamiran b'alma. V'imru: Amen.
Y'hei sh'lama raba min sh'maya,
v'chayim aleinu v'al kol Yisrael.
V'imru: Amen.
Oseh shalom bimromav,
Hu yaaseh shalom aleinu,
v'al kol Yisrael. V'imru: Amen.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Jenner rant

     I wasn't going to write anything about Bruce Jenner's transition, because as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, it's not really any of my business.  With today's announcement and photos of Caitlyn Jenner, I thought this is really like her cotillion party - and who doesn't love a party, maybe I should put my thoughts down.  Yet still I stopped myself.  Looking at the cover online I said, "Self, still nothing to write about here really, just another human being finally being able to come into their own."  But then I saw some comments by acquaintances on Facebook both pro and con, that silly/stupid Fox News segment where they mocked her (as though we should expect anything less), and then finally someone mentioning that this news was the foretelling of the second coming of Christ and the downfall of society.
     Camel's back broken.
     I want to live in a world where nobody gives a crap about all of this.  A world where the only people who she would have had to worry about telling was her family, because everyone else would be busy living their lives and not giving a fuck.  I want a world where my children and their friends don't have to worry about this level of unbridled animosity.  I want a world where this is no big deal, because it isn't.  My husband differs with me in that he feels this example is a big deal because of Jenner's notoriety and sports fame, therefore it should get this level of attention.  I get that part, but I don't want it to be a big deal.  I'm sad for her that she had to wait until 65 to be true to herself, that it was all a big necessary facade.  The fact that she felt it mandatory to live this lie is born out in the reactions by people that I've seen in the last few hours.
     I actually read comments questioning what her plans were for her penis and only then would they believe her actual intent and not a push for attention ... seriously.  What the fuck is wrong with people?  Honest ... to ... God.  If you are in this camp, if you're making jokes and snide comments, I would like you to think about something for one minute more.  What if your child came to you and told you that they weren't comfortable in their skin, that nothing made sense.  What if they told you they had been struggling for years, that they were suffering.  What if they talked about wanting to die. What if they actually tried.  This is your child, someone you created and loved and read stories to at bedtime.  You taught them to walk and then run. You prayed to whatever you hold dear when they were sick for the first time.  You cried with them, danced with them, hoped for them.  And now they stand before you suffering.  Would you mock them?  Would you make shitty jokes, talk about how this was the end of society?
     Would you?
     If your answer is yes, I'm sorry for you.  I'm sorry for your friends and family that will never be able to turn to you for help.  I'm sorry for your children, on so many levels.  I'm sorry for the people in this world that you will never get to talk to, have a meal with, laugh with, learn to be a better person on this planet with, because you have a lot to learn.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


     When I used to work in downtown Boston at my beloved bookstore, I would come home with amazing stories to tell the kids.  Sometimes it was famous writers or actors or sports figures, but more often than that, it was tales about the homeless people who would come into the store.  We had a lot of regulars, because most of the time they kept to themselves and were quiet and orderly.  Often they were looking to get out of the heat or the cold and read in a corner, very rarely did it affect any of the paying customers - and honestly, if we can all be civil and act accordingly, stay as long as you'd like. The stories came from the unusual situations.
     There was one guy who was short and skinny, and he would walk around muttering to himself.  I talk to myself all the time, so no big whoop to me.  This guy would walk into the newsstand area and have low toned conversations with the people on the front of the magazines.  One day, the conversation got heated, and I guess the guy on the cover of Time said something untoward, and the skinny guy punched him in the face.  I was worried about his hand, but the corporate person I was walking the store with was more concerned about appearances, so I walked over and started to steer skinny guy toward the door.  He left, and then I got a gentle lecture about standing too close to the crazy people, the need to be more careful.  She was right, I did get too close to the guy, but I wasn't going to say anything close to what the Time magazine guy said to him, so I wasn't as worried.  
     One of the many things that my time in that store taught me was that the interactions with the "crazy" homeless people were often a lot easier to maneuver through than the supposedly sane people in the suburbs.  You learned to expect the unpredictable and to roll with it.  When I told a woman she needed to leave who kept falling asleep and rolling off the step stool she was sitting on and onto the floor, I wasn't surprised when on her way out she took her bag and swept all the books off a display table.  But when a "normal" woman in the suburbs argued with me over the wording in a coupon, telling me that "20% off a CD in the music department" meant 20% off a computer disk package containing CD's in a store with no music department, I almost lost my shit.  It was the closest I've ever come to putting my hands on someone.  She got inches from my face and told me that I better give her what she wanted or she'd keep complaining all the way up the chain of command until she got that 20% off and more.  And my brain told me she was right, she'd get her more, while I'd get the short end of the stick for letting it get to that point.
     These "normal" people have let their kids crap in a corner of the store and allow you to literally stumble upon it.  They think it's acceptable to hit on the staff, men and women alike ... bring them presents, liquor,etc.  (This happens in my new line of work, too.  All the time.)  They think it's ok to be rude, racist, sexist and condescending, sometimes all at once.  And they surprise me every single time.  I never see it coming.  It makes a woman want to punch The Economist.      

Thursday, May 21, 2015


     I try to avoid articles, I use that word loosely, about "famous" families, like the Kardashians and the Duggars - personalities, who for better or worse, have taken their "talents" and used them to further themselves for financial gain.  I'm sure that there are many people who would argue that the Duggars are doing so to promote the word of God, but we can agree to disagree on that point.  I don't read these stories for a variety of reasons - why waste my energy on them and why feed into the frenzy that gives them any power.  It's none of my business.  But I did catch a glimpse of the news announcement today that the eldest Duggar son allegedly molested 5 minor girls when he was 15 ... some/most of them his sisters.  I know that stories like these upset me to my core, but I read them anyway - sometimes out of fear and sometimes because if I know about the horror in the world, maybe nothing will happen to my own children.  This evening the son has released a response statement in which he apologized for his actions in the past, so the molestation is obviously not alleged anymore.
     When I was a little kid, my mother used to tell me that she would love me no matter what.  She even used to say that if I was an ax murderer, she'd still love me, and she said she'd never turn me in. I can understand that intense love now, that desire to shield and protect my baby even if they did something wrong.  But in the case of the Duggar son, we're not talking about stealing a pack of gum from the store and taking him back to have that hard conversation.  He molested his sisters, and his parents covered up for him.  His parents had him apologize to his sisters, and they prayed over it together.  They didn't tell the police until they were forced to.  They sent him off to a family friend for a couple months, and then they pretended like everything was a-ok.  His sisters forgave him they said; everybody got counseling.  Here's the Yahoo article, if you're interested:

     I can only imagine how scared and nervous the parents were when one of the girls finally found the confidence to tell them ... and then I can't even imagine how those girls felt when their parents turned to the son and said, "You apologize now, Josh and promise never to do that again."  I watched 10 minutes of that program many years ago, as my curiosity got the better of me.  The girls are very clearly second class citizens in their cultural construct of Christianity.  In that conservative belief system, woman is put on a pedestal and revered for her place in the family.  In that regard, her strength and commitment to Christ is best played out in a subservient position to her husband. I am very familiar with that philosophy, as my early religious background was quite conservative.  I failed to see then how that thought process would help my relationship with God or my family, and I continue to fail to see.  Before today's news I thought, live and let live - their family, their life, their choices, not mine.  But now, I'm just angry.
     I'm angry that their daughters were betrayed by the very people who were supposed to protect them.  I'm angry at the parents for so many reasons.  I'm angry that the son got away with it.  Whether he was sorry then or not, I can't help but feel that he's probably more sorry that it's all come to light.  I'm sorry for his wife and children.  Can a child molester be redeemed and changed - even if he was a teenager?  Can he pray the urges away?  You will rarely hear me draw so emphatic a line in the sand, but my sincerest belief is no.  You might look changed on the outside.  You might walk the good walk and go to church every week, but on the inside, you are broken.  It's only a matter of time.  Would it matter to you if he was 15 when he committed the crime ... 25 ... how about 35?  Is it easier for you to believe that he could "get better" since he was 15.  Molestation is a crime of power over someone weaker than you.  This wasn't curiosity.  It was a crime.  And his parents are as complicit, as him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2 bits

     Two bits of interesting happiness today:

- A client I have been helping for some time, stopped by to share pictures of her grandchildren and a very large and delicious loaf of blueberry bread she made for me.  It was still warm.  We unwrapped it together, and I broke my cardinal rule of not eating homemade things customers give me ... it smelled so good that I thought if it was designed to kill me, so be it.  She told me that I had to leave it open to cool. When she left, I stuck it in one of my cabinets and the whole office smelled fabulous for the rest of the day.  I could have put it in the breakroom, but then I might have run the risk of killing my team.  Nobody is going down on my watch.

- In the afternoon, a client came in with a challenge which required me to make a number of phone calls to get him a resolution.  As is often the case while you're on hold and another human is staring you in the face, you make small talk.  He was 80 and in wonderful shape for his age.  Then he brought up a minor surgery he had planned in the morning, and how he was freaking out about it. He explained that he had fluid building up in his right lung for no apparent reason.  Trying to explain that they had put a tube through his breast to siphon the fluid out, he was struggling to grasp the way to phrase it.  So he blurted out that they had stuck it "through his tit."  He was immediately mortified, but I played it off for his sake.  Then we told jokes about doctors.  I was on hold for a very long time.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


     Yesterday was my mother's birthday, and like each of the last 5 out of 6 birthdays since she died, my sister, brother and I have swooped into town to be with her. The first one after her death, my sister went without us, life and work being uncooperative. I vowed she'd never have to do that again.  I had already let her down once when she agreed to be present to see mom just before she was cremated. I couldn't do it, couldn't see mom in that place - but she had made us swear that someone would see her one last time to ensure she was really dead before the crematorium door descended.  We're a slightly odd family, I'll give you that.  When the time came, my sister went, confirmed that mom was truly gone.  After those two betrayals, I will not allow myself a third strike.
     My father was in the Navy, and we moved around a bit.  When we finally landed back in PA, my mother's childhood home where our grandfather still lived, our mom would regularly take us to the cemetery to pay our respects to the family there, to acknowledge our past.  It was completely normal to incorporate that into all our regular chores and errands. It's a comfortable place on a hill with a pond nearby, so when you're quiet you can hear the loons.  The bugs eat you alive, and we make jokes about it that many would consider morbid, but I already told you we're a smidge odd.
     We talk to mom, plant flowers, go over the year's events. It has unfortunately become the only time I get to see my brother as of late, but it is necessary and right to have our rituals.  I don't bring the kids, because this is our time, just the three of us, with her.  Our little square with the broken side since she's gone.  It was always the four of us against the world, and the world is closing in.  I sometimes imagine what I'll look like when I'm in my 60's and visiting her, whether the local flower stand will still be here, how our talk will go, this necessary connection to my existence.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


     I write a lot about my mother and what her death has done to me and my siblings.  And this holiday is no different than all the others - managing the surreal of not having her here and the immediate of my own children.  I've found some comfort in writing poetry again, which helps both to express my loss and my memories.  Today, I thought I'd tell a quick recap of the entrance of hope, joy and happiness.
     I was 25 when #1 was born, my hope.  She was a week of contractions and 32 hours of active labor, and she was two weeks overdue.  We had picked the only birth center that we could get to from our house by train, since we had to walk there in the beginning.  We didn't get a car until halfway through the pregnancy (another story).  It was still 45 minutes away through Boston traffic.  I was adamant that I wanted a midwife and not a hospital birth, and so we drove.  Those 32 hours are very clear to me - walking around a local mall to make the contractions come sooner, driving back and forth every three hours to the birth center since I hadn't dilated enough and needed to get antibiotics which was related to my Rh factor (they don't do this anymore).  By the time we would finally get home, we'd rest an hour and turn around again.  Eventually, they let me stay.  When we hit the 30th hour of not moving forward, the midwife said I had two choices left, as she was afraid I'd be too exhausted to push; 1. go to the hospital and receive pitocin to move me forward, or 2. an hour of intense nipple stimulation in order to spur my own natural pitocin levels.  My husband had to tell me to stop laughing and make a decision.
     After we got to the hospital and received the pitocin, #1 joined us at around the 32nd hour.  I wasn't happy about that time in the hospital, for all the reasons why I wanted a birth center and control over my birth story in the first place.  But then I had my queen ... my hope for the world, and I had to figure out how to do this mother thing.
     I was 28 when #2 was born, my joy.  He was also two weeks overdue.  My midwife, now at a different birth center that was north of us and easier to get to, said I just took a couple extra weeks to make a baby.  I needed to go into labor before I officially hit 42 weeks though, otherwise no birth center experience.  I would be relegated to the hospital next door, and not wanting to do that, I was up for anything. They smeared some jelly on my cervix, which I think was a pitocin derivative. Unfortunately, the baby didn't enjoy this experience one bit.  His heart rate went crazy, and so I was bundled next door.  In a completely different turn of events, I went from 0 to baby in hand in an hour and twenty minutes.  I don't know which was harder - 32 hours or 1.20 hours.  I actually begged for drugs with him, but my midwife said, "Heather, by the time they take effect the baby will be here."  He cried so hard when he arrived that he blew out a lung.
     Then like many couples, we had a rough couple of years, lean and challenging, balancing jobs and our own evolution, having another baby was out of the question.  When we finally reached a point where we became pregnant with #3, our time with them was short lived.  We lost that baby a third of the way through.  We've always wanted to be surprised with each birth, as well as wait until the end to finalize the name choices.  Following suit with this one, I didn't pick a name, but I've always thought she was a girl.
     I was 35 when #4 was born, my happiness. She was a month early and born through an emergency C-section.  My midwife was there again.  We had discovered during this pregnancy that I had kidney stones, that I had probably had them my whole life.  This made everything a bit more challenging.  It was scary even though everyone involved tried to downplay how quickly my blood pressure was dropping.  When she came though, it was as if all was right with the world again.  My mother was in another hospital having her pacemaker replaced at almost the exact same time in what was supposed to be a routine procedure.  We didn't know at the time, that just as #4's birth was far from routine, so was my mother's surgery.  In just 42 days, I would be saying goodbye.      
     I sincerely hope that all of you out there who mother someone, be it ones you made, saved, adopted, loved, lost, be they human or furry, be they a joy or a pain, be they near or far, whether you think you're doing a good job or just trying to get through the day ... I hope that today is a present for you, filled with hope, joy and happiness.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


     Tonight, my husband, Rusty, mentioned the name of an old friend of his from college, but I couldn't place the name. He had come across a picture and was trying to jar my memory.  Then he reminded me of something this guy said over 20 years ago that I had forgotten about. Back in the day, when it was clear that Rusty and I were probably going to be a long-term partnership, this friend felt a need to take him aside and have a little conversation.  He told Rusty that although I was a nice girl, it would probably be better to break up with me because I was clearly Rusty's intellectual inferior. He hoped Rusty would learn from his own experiences at dating a girl who wasn't his equal.
     I started to remember when he had originally told me about this a million years ago.  Rusty had found the conversation amusing, tried to set the guy straight.  He told me only as an after thought.  I remember it stinging, as I've always been concerned that my niceness can be misinterpreted as being simpleminded.  I've have seen this from time to time over the years.  I also remember thinking I'd barely ever even had a conversation with this guy - on what could he have possibly built this opinion.  It did bother me for awhile, probably out of my own insecurities, but I eventually moved past it.  Tonight's reminder caused some further introspection, as I'm going through a minor existential crisis concerning my course in life.
     If I were to have a conversation with this guy now, I'd hope that he'd see just how misguided he was, or maybe he'd apologize to me before we even got started.  I'd love to ask how he even formed this idea, if only to gain insight on how at least one person perceived me so very long ago.
     Or I could just key his car.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Old Lady Shoes

     So I'm walking out of work tonight with the younger, very adorable woman that works with me. She's mid 20's, wears fitted clothes that accentuate her petite frame. As we're leaving, she says her shoes are killing her feet. They're flats, patent leather (so no give), peek-a-boo toe with the sides cut away. It looked like they have no arch support. This is the conversation that ensued:

Me: (noticing that the sides of her feet and the vamp are rubbed red) Oh, they do look like they hurt. Your poor feet.
Her: Yeah, but I can't wear shoes like you guys do.  (There are two other women that work with us, both in their mid 50's and I'm 42.)
M: Of, course you can. We aren't wearing heels.
H:  No, I can't wear those shoes.
M: I don't understand. What do you mean?
H: You know ...
M: What?
H: Older lady shoes. That wouldn't look good on me.
M: ... Shut the fuck up.  You know, I used to wear cute shoes before 20 years of standing on my feet all day.
H: (giggling) Goodnight

     I did wear cute shoes, and I still own a lot of them ... heels, slides, mules, kitten heels, sling backs, wedges. The list goes on and on.  I love shoes.  Shoes don't tell you you're fat. They only try to love you. And I wanted them to love me. Throughout college and into graduate school, I worked in shoes. I had a great discount on top of the markdowns. It was wonderful. I owned things I never could have afforded at retail, even if they were a season behind. I learned the fine art of rotating them for even wear, giving everything at least three days off in between to cut down on stinkiness, how to stretch them, basic repair, etc.
     Over the years, I've donated and dumped where necessary to winnow down the family - sometimes in order to better see what I have and sometimes to make room for replacements.  I'm not embarrassed to say that at one point I had over 250 pairs.  I stopped counting.  But one thing has become obvious over the last ten years, the over-arching theme is sensible. Thanks to torn menisci and slipped discs, I can try a pair on now and know in a moment whether or not they will spell doom and therefore don't come home with me.  I still wear some sexy things for special occasions, but I have to bring sneakers with me in the car. It's a smidgey-poo depressing.
     I've never relied on the shoes for my sex appeal, hoping that my charm might win hearts and minds, but wearing fabulous shoes builds you up.  It's the same way some women feel about matching underwear and bra sets.  I always figured I'd wear the shoes by themselves and forget the underwear, but how far will standing there in sensible Easy Spirits and nothing else get you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


     I've been thinking about control a lot lately, and our perception of how much we really have in this big beautiful world. I've always wanted to be in control, to make it appear to everyone around me that I was solid and on track. Don't misunderstand being in control with being controlling, as some of my family has believed over the years.  Yes, I have opinions, strong ones at that, and yes I am persuasive in getting my point across, but that's because I'm frequently right - and if you've known me for a long time, you know that to be true.  I've also wanted to approach this concept apart from my religious beliefs, look at my perception of control separately from divine plan.
     When I was a little girl, my siblings thought I was bossy, some of that was related to time and place, but the rest of it was due to my desire for structure and order.  Being in control has always been equal to being prepared for me.  Know the odds.  Bring that extra pair of underwear.  Calculate everything your children might need for that camping trip in advance.  Memorize where he drops his belt at the end of the night.
     This thinking served me well for years, made me appear to those around me that I was top of things.  But then you forget a birthday or lock your keys in the car, and suddenly my mind is reeling from the misstep ... this isn't just being out of control, it's early onset Alzheimer's.  I run a tight ship in this old brain of mine. Stay in lockstep or suffer the consequences.  It can be tiring.  Which brings me back to my current train of thought.  I've been spending more time wondering whether or not this control is an illusion.  I believe that Morpheus summed it up best when he said:

     "What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad ... It is all around us.  Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth ... Like everyone else you were born into bondage.  Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind."

     I love smart writing, makes me all weak in the knees.  But I digress. Maybe the desire for control, and the presumed ability to attain it, are a deception, an unachievable end game. That inopportune red light impacts your choices hours later whether you realize it or not.  Your doctor says you'll be able to control that lower back pain, until you realize that it's actually dominating your every action.  You craft the public persona for appearances sake to fit into the corporate mold, but it's really their restraints imposed on you to make your paper, booboo.  How often is it us willingly handing over the control?
     I need to think more on this. I welcome your input.