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.