Tuesday, December 27, 2016


     It feels like someone well-known dies every other day lately, and although I'm sad for the losses in general and for the families that they've left behind, most of the time I move on quickly. We've had a lot of sadness in our house this year, so it's hard to muster up more than a moment of silence or two.  I have a friend who mentioned the other day that we all die one day, and we shouldn't spend too much time berating 2016 or bemoaning each death.  He said this year isn't any more cursed than the next, and we should save our energy for the loss of our friends and family who personally affect us.
     I was riding that thought train until Carrie Fisher died today.
     Actor, author, screenwriter, public speaker, mental health advocate, mother, daughter.  You can go to her website http://carriefisher.com/ or to wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrie_Fisher or to any number of other sites to see a more thorough understanding of her achievements and life than I can do justice.  She was brilliant and funny and original and brash and honest, traits to be admired and cultivated. She was so much more than one iconic role, but that's how I was introduced to her.  I was five years old when my parents took me and my siblings to the drive-in movie theater to see Star Wars. Here was this Princess who was so much more than that. She could fire a blaster and defend herself, was tortured and wouldn't give up the secrets, saw her planet destroyed and didn't drop to the ground, drove the rebellion forward and planned the battle. She was feisty and determined, resilient. I loved her.
     In the next two movies, my love grew for Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher.  The actor showed us her character's vulnerability and her tenacity.  I think that when you're a younger sci-fi geek woman, you probably imagine whether or not you could pull off her Return of the Jedi metal bikini look. When you get a little older, you realize that the real power was not in her looking good in that bikini, but in her being able to jump behind Jabba the Hut and strangle him to death with the chain at her own throat.  Sure she looked fantastic, but it was meant to demean. She had become a slave and toy. Being neither, when the moment was right, Leia corrected the situation.  In The Force Awakens, now General Leia Organa continues to lead the cause. 14 years younger than Harrison Ford, I think they had to make Carrie look older not only so he wouldn't look as old, but so you could feel how exhausting this life was for her.
     I respected Carrie Fisher's work, her writing, her sense of humor, her struggles with addiction and her mental health issues, and her determination to share and advocate for others around those topics.  She made me want to be an actor, to be a better writer and to be funnier. I will miss her a great deal.  I can't help feeling like everyone's trying to get off the boat that is 2016.    

Monday, December 12, 2016


     In my last two shifts at work, I have:

  • plunged the employee men's room toilet. We have one man and one men's toilet. He wanted me to call in maintenance, but I knew that could take 24 hours.  And since the last time this happened, he used the women's toilet and promptly plugged that one, I figured I was really helping myself.
  • knelt beside a 75 year old woman and offered my condolences on the loss of her 50 year old son. I told her she had done a wonderful job as a mother, that he was a good man, a joy to help. We cried together.
  • had to explain to several theoretical grown-ups that they shouldn't give their debit card numbers out over the phone to people they didn't know and why that was a problem.
  • had to explain to another theoretical grown-up that just because they had a lot of money that didn't mean they would get to be seen in front of people who were already waiting.
  • had an extremely challenging client lose her shit with me over the phone about a mistake that only she could have made in her online banking, but she swears somebody "there" did this to me.  And what will make it all better, pray tell? A letter of apology.  And what did I write? A letter of apology.
  • had multiple clients of various ages, orientations, races and of both sexes tell me they were concerned for our country and worried for their future/children/grandchildren.
  • been asked if I wanted to be adopted, by an older woman.
  • been asked if I was married, by an older woman.
  • had a man scoff when one of my associates assured him in front of me that I was really the manager.
  • received several nice compliments that I will not elaborate on lest I lose my humility.
  • and all the other mundane stuff that I'm supposed to do at work, coupled with the stresses of short staffing, aggressive goals and little to no time off.

     My mother used to get migraines well into her 40's.  Horrible, evil migraines where her vision would go black on the edges to a pinprick of sight. She would go into her room, turn off the lights, lay there and beg us to be quiet.  Due to her heart condition, she had long before eliminated caffeine as that exacerbated her atrial fibrillation, so there was no respite there.  She figured out over time that certain foods triggered the migraines and made them much worse.  She never could afford to see a doctor about it, so she just lived with them until they thankfully started to diminish in her 50's, probably aided by hormonal changes, as well.
     I feel like I've had a low level headache for the past decade, and over the last 2 years they've gotten more profound.  I think it's in part due to the bouncing back and forth emotionally between the extremes.  Sadness one minute, angst the next, outrage, worry, joy all jumbling together and fraying the edges of the enclosure in my brain that keep the headaches in check, until boom ... I'm driving to Dunkin Donuts at 8pm to get a large coffee and a little fresh air.  I'm sure there are other better ways to deal - more Tylenol, even more water, sex, meditation, massage - but I went for the quick fix again.  I think the preponderance of headaches are a modern day dilemma, made worse by a couple centuries of industrialized society, pollution and associated life stresses.  I'm sure that the Vikings got headaches. They either drank them away, basked in the slaughter of their enemies to reduce stress or died.  That was it.  Do you know what one of the most popular headache relief choices was 2500 years ago - coming back into fashion in the 1600's - trepanning.  Don't know what that is?  Look it up.  I guarantee you've thought about it without even knowing the word for it the last time you had a really bad headache.  Next time, I'm going to spend more time considering the whole bathing in the blood of my enemies thing.          

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Greener Grass

     I was raised with the concept that whenever you thought you had received a bad lot in life, you were supposed to remember that there was always someone else who had it much worse then you. Upset that you have a stomach ache ... there are kids who are way sicker than you.  Bothered that you got one present for your birthday ... some kids get none.  This can play out a million other ways.  The problem with this thinking is that if you're a particular kind of child, like say me, you think you don't have a right to complain about anything. After all how bad can your situation be if there's a starving child in a far off land?  You're not dying, after all.  (Interesting side note: And yet every mysterious bump was checked to see if it had a symmetrical bump on the other side of your body, the lay person's way of checking for cancer. Every extended headache was a potential brain tumor.  It was this agony of the potential major unknown illness that you shouldn't complain about. But I digress.)
     I still struggle with discussing my issues, even with those who love me, because there's always somebody who has it worse than me.  I'd much rather you know about the fantastic parts in my life, like something the babies have done, than prattle on about back pain or how much this election has depressed me.  This is not healthy, I know, but sometimes when you're trying to be the light you don't want to dampen it.
     I was given a gift today when I met a woman with such an indomitable spirit, that I still can't grasp how she was upright and functioning. She came in to see if she could cash a small check in order to buy a Christmas present for each of her two grandchildren. While we chatted, she told me that she needed a month's worth of transaction history to see if she could get her subsidized rent reduced for the month.  She has custody of her grandchildren, and her ex son-in-law is over a month behind in his child support payments.  She needs all the help she can get since her husband died two months ago.  The hospital she works at was recently bought out by another hospital, and they were laying off all the employees with more than 25 years. They hadn't gotten to her yet, but at 34 years of service, she knows the layoff is due any minute. And it doesn't matter that it's one month before Christmas. She smiled throughout the whole story, and when we were able to cash that check she fairly giggled, hopping from one foot to the other. She was ecstatic that she could buy each grandchild the one present they wanted. The oldest is headed off to college next year, and she still trying to figure out how she's going to put him through school.  She told me that she's hoping his other grandparents will help, but if not, she'll find a way.
     I'm pretty sure my mouth was agape throughout the whole story.  I told her she had an amazing spirit. She shrugged me off and told me I should meet the kids.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


     Andrea came to see me at work today. She's a much older woman, well into her 80's, but you'd never know it from looking at her.  Aside from moving more slowly, she handles her affairs, drives herself wherever she needs to go and makes sure her makeup, hair and nails are fantastic.  She has that perpetual New Englander scowl thing going on, so at first I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to please her.  But after you've lived here for a couple decades, you come to realize that the scowl gets imprinted on a lot of our faces due to the weather and/or the sports teams.  She's an absolute jewel, so I love helping her.
     We've had several lovely conversations over the years. She's told me about her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She told me about the catering business that she started and then ran with one of her sons, who now runs it by himself. She's shown me pictures of herself as a young woman and dressed to the nines attending parties with her husband. She brought a sweater to show me that she knitted years ago with beads woven into the knitting.  We had discussed crafting, and she had wanted to show me what her hands were once capable of doing.  Andrea likes to bring me food as her way of thanking me for helping her.  She's silly that way. We've talked about her husband. They grew up together and were married for over 40 years before he died.  Many years after he died, Andrea met another man through some friends.  She called him her sweetie.  His grown children and grandchildren love her, and still do, even though he died a couple years ago. He made her happy again when she thought that part of her life was over.
     When Andrea got ready to leave my office, she noticed an older gentleman that was sitting in my waiting area. She inhaled sharply and put her hand to her chest. I immediately asked what was wrong and she told me that when she looked at the man sitting there, for a moment she thought it was her sweetie. Quickly realizing that wasn't possible, we both smiled weakly at each other. I hugged her. She started to tear up, and then asked me if I needed a grandmother in her life. I told her to be careful out there.
     After my mother's divorce was finalized when I was a teenager, she tried her hand at dating again.  She even got engaged on two separate occasions over the many years afterward but gave the rings back each time when she realized the men weren't right for her. One really didn't want to commit, and the other failed to visit her in the hospital when she was very ill.  He was busy.  That whole week.  I remember telling her that I thought she was brave to do that, even though he was an ass for not visiting her when she so desperately needed to see him.  She told me that all she really wanted was someone to go to the movies with every so often, maybe go out to dinner, sit on the couch and hold hands. She didn't need to get married again to do that. She just needed a sweetie.  

Monday, November 21, 2016


     I've was able to take a couple days off from work (sort of), and when I got in today I was besieged with a ton of catch-up work.  Such is the lot of the manager.  About half-way through the day, I was sent a deceased client alert which I needed to attend to immediately.  I've mentioned in the past that my clientele is an older demographic, so although it's sad, it's not uncommon to have people I know pass away.  When I opened this alert, it was for a man in his early fifties named Nathan.
     Nathan was always quick with a smile and so easy to work for and with.  He usually never made an appointment, so when he needed something and I was with someone, he'd patiently wait in one of the chairs outside my office.  I'd pass by to check in and he'd say, "No worries, I've got all the time in the world." He never walked into the office, always waited for me to let him know I'd finished up and was now ready for him.  We had been working on a couple things to address his needs, so for a while there he would stop by each week.  He'd tell me about his life, his collections (stamps and coins), how he was caring for his elderly mother.  He had told me that he was out on disability from work due to an illness, but I didn't put two and two together. He was a little plump, and I thought it was just from a life well enjoyed and not from liver failure.
     I learned today that he died 3 weeks ago.  Too late for me to attend his funeral and offer condolences to a family that wouldn't know me from Adam.  Instead, I sat in my office and stared out at the wind vigorously blowing the bushes and fall leaves around just outside my window.  I thought about how very few of us have all the time in the world.  I wondered if I had thanked him enough for his patience and for his stories.
     The world is so unsure and unsteady right now, but this I know to be true.  There are only so many days and so many minutes for each of us.  Thank the people who do right by you, praise the light and the good, stand up for what you know is right, and don't be stingy with your love.  Don't ever be stingy with that gift.  It may not always be appreciated or reciprocated, but don't chance leaving this world without letting the humans you care about know your truth.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


     My heart remains heavy, my loves. Heavy for my country and the direction that we will head for the next four years, and honestly for years to come, as very few decisions made have only short term outcomes.  News outlets online and half-assed internet sites are reporting so many conflicting stories about the President-elects transition team and first 100 day plans, that it is difficult to know what to believe.  We do know that the backlash against intellectualism continues to grow, as names like Ben Carson are bantered about for Education Secretary or Sarah Palin for Interior Secretary.  Is Trump toning down his rhetoric, suggesting that he said whatever he needed to say to rile up his base? Heaven forfend!  Or is it all a ruse to make people believe that it won't be as bad as he promised, create a false sense of security before the all important holiday shopping season is upon us?    
     We know that more than half the eligible voters in the country didn't vote.  Whatever their reasons or excuses, that's inexcusable.  We know that there are still millions of votes left to count.  We also know that Hillary Clinton is leading in the popular vote in counted ballots, and it only continues to grow.  We also know that she has the 4th highest popular vote total in American history and could move into third place.  He won the electoral college. He played the numbers the right way. She neglected the white vote in poorer parts of the country, assuming that they would naturally be in her camp.  She and the DNC made a couple other mistakes, but that's better left to the pundits to debate.  There is little comfort in knowing that really about a quarter of the registered voters in the country voted for him.
     I don't want to argue with anyone about whether or not he was a better a choice. When you vote for someone, it's supposed to be based on the whole package.  If you're a one issue kind of person, forsaking all other aspects of a personality or platform, that's like buying a house based on one room.  You might dig your time in that room, but I guarantee you're going to have to move throughout that abode, and if you can't at least be mildly at ease in those other rooms, that's going to make for some uncomfortable living arrangements.  To put my analogy into play, if you voted for Trump based on his stance on abortion - because that's your line in the sand - then you're at least mildly comfortable with the idea of registering Muslims, mass deportations of immigrants and discriminating against others based on religious preferences.  If you disagree with me and say, Oh no Heather, I'm most certainly not for those things at all, but I am totally against abortion. Like I said, that's one room in the house.
     That's why there are tens of thousands of Americans protesting in the streets throughout the country.  They're not upset about an election. The're upset at the hate and vitriol that so many people just condoned and tacitly approved of.  They're afraid and scared.  They're not being petulant.  Our country was built on the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble, to protest.  Donald Trump made his views on women, minorities, the LGBTQIA community, Muslims and veterans well known. His rallies showcased hate speech and violence against protesters. He is endorsed by the KKK.  David Duke is beyond giddy on his twitter feed.  Make no mistake, you ally yourself with evil by not outright rejecting it and all its trappings.  If vendors outside your rallies are selling white power merchandise, if supporters inside your rallies are screaming epithets and racial slurs, if you re-tweet white supremacist memes and follow those people on twitter, if Anti-Semitism is thinly veiled in your messaging, you have made your true character well known. That's why people are protesting, and why we must not be silent.
     An older well known male client was discussing the protests with me on Friday.  We were being painfully polite with each other while in my office, as it was clear that our political choices were different.  But at one point, he told me that the protesters really needed to be quiet, hunker down and "take the next 4 years."  Do you know what that sounded like to me?  It sounded an awful lot like something someone quite evil told me a very long time ago in a moment that I will never forget.  Just be quiet and take it.  Why are you crying?  It's not that bad.
     I will not be quiet.
     I will not take it.
     I will rage.
     And I will never forget.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tumbling Tower

     My loves, as you know  I’ve spent a great deal time over the last year questioning the decline of discourse between the sexes.  I have no illusions that there was more civility before this year -- online comments prove that time and time again -- but there was at least the appearance of propriety in public discourse. All bets are off now with Donald Trump having riled up the far-right members of his base.  The chants of “tramp”, “whore”, “trump that bitch” rang in the air at his rallies, while he offered up thinly veiled invitations for those who might exercise their 2nd Amendment rights if only her Secret Service detail would give up their arms. 
     I have discussed the daily maneuvers in my work life between uncivil comments, innuendos and outright proposition.  I don’t believe that if Hillary Clinton is elected President the situation will improve.  In fact, I think that sexism will get worse.  Too many people have become too comfortable with expressing the baser aspects of their personalities.  This backlash is portrayed as a response to political correctness, as though our skin as women has grown too thin to take a joke.  In actuality, these rejoinders are due to the crumbling of one of the pillars on which this country was built on. 
     We were founded on the premise that all men, specifically white men, were created equal.  Our Declaration of Independence isn’t talking about women, nor people of color.  We were chattel.  Women couldn’t own property, enter into a contract or even earn a salary until the slow introduction of the Married Women’s Property Acts.  These started state by state in 1839 and weren’t passed unilaterally until 1900.  Our right to vote wasn’t guaranteed until 1920, although Mississippi didn’t ratify it until 1984. We weren’t deemed equally qualified to serve on juries until 1947. In 1971, the Supreme Court outlawed private employers from refusing to hire women with pre-school aged children.  1972 brought Title IX and the prohibition of sex discrimination in all aspects of education programs that receive federal support.  Roe v. Wade in 1973 presented the novel idea that we should have control over our reproductive rights.  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act came along in 1978 and prohibited discrimination based on pregnancy.  Marital rape became a crime in all 50 states in 1993.
     Steadily, but too slowly we have attained the rights and privileges that have long been available to men.  Some are still consistently threatened, such as reproductive rights and access, and other pieces of legislation aren’t fully enforced.  When the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, women made 59 cents on the dollar. By 2004 the figure had risen to 77 cents but has increased by less than half a penny every year since.  The Institute for Women’s Policy Research does not believe that the wage gap will close until 2058.  Some men probably feel disenfranchised by these gains, as though they’re sitting atop something akin to a Jenga tower.  As each piece of wood is slowly pulled out from the bottom and sides, they feel like their foundation is crumbling round them.  If you weren’t raised to believe that women were men’s equal, these changes must feel like quite the bitter pill instead of the changes that are necessary to advance our country and our society.

     That’s why we must be prepared to combat the increased sexism and misogyny that will inevitably arise from a potential Hillary Clinton presidency.  Donald Trump didn’t create it; he boldly encouraged it to come out into the light.  More and more, women are speaking out and refusing to swallow the commonplace.  We can’t gloss over sexism and let business as usual continue.  Equality for women advances not only the individual woman, but the family unit, as well.  Our work for change and reform doesn’t end with the election, but starts at home with the children and men we interact with daily.  It must happen in the workplace for ourselves and for the women who have yet to be hired.  We can’t be silent.  Our founding mothers demand to be heard. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Lost & Found

     Today at work I had a small lovely moment and then a grand love story.  We'll start small.  My last name is Sullivan and my middle initial is A, for Ann.  For years, whenever I've signed my full name I include the A, but it bleeds into the Sullivan,  My husband finds that amusing and calls me O'Sullivan. I then frequently make a joke about us dropping the O when we got off the boat.  I didn't take my husband's last name when we started on this journey, because my last name is the only good thing my father ever gave me.  My husband and I discussed it in advance, and he was totally cool with it, by the way.
     Yesterday I got to help a wonderful older Irishman set up an account.  His last name was O'Sullivan.  This amused me greatly.  I sent a follow-up email last night, and when I got in this morning, he answered me.  He said he hadn't noticed that my last name was Sullivan and wasn't that brilliant that I was a member of the clan.  That communication was a delight to receive.  Later in the day, I got to hear a wonderful love story.
     A couple in their early sixties came in for assistance, John and Sarah. They had just moved back to the area from the west coast and needed to get established.  While I was setting them up, they told me that they would only be here for a few months, as John was receiving radiation for esophageal cancer at a hospital in downtown Boston.  They were clearly in love with each other, but there were little signs that they hadn't been married for a long time.  When we got near the end, I asked Sarah how long they had been together. Four years, was her reply. I said, if you don't mind me asking, how did you meet.  She told me it was a great story, and I begged her to continue.
     Sarah told me that they'd known each other since they were 14. John was the best friend to a boy that she married when she graduated from high school.  They lost touch and life continued.  John married, had children and unfortunately, his wife died many years later. John didn't know that her marriage had gone sour a long time ago.  That boy Sarah married had become an abusive husband. They had no children.  He was diagnosed with cancer, and Sarah stayed, even through the abuse, to care for him until he died.  Shortly thereafter, Sarah began to wonder what had happened to John. While on Facebook, she mentioned that she was interested in speaking to him again. One of her friends knew John's grandson and gave him  the message.  John reached out to Sarah. One conversation led to another and another until they agreed to meet, and it was love at second sight.  Within an appropriate amount of time, they decided to marry and agreed to move out west for the nicer weather.  Unfortunately, he was recently diagnosed with cancer which led to them returning here for treatment.
     While she told me the story, I could tell that although they were worried about the diagnosis, she was determined.  She kept talking about the future and what they'd be doing next year and thereafter, as though she knew they already had this beat, because they had each other.  They'd found each other again after 40 years.  It wasn't so much that there was lost ground to make up for, but moments yet to be explored and she was determined to experience each one with him.   

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Update on Jacob & Marie

     Today in the mail at work, I received a lovely card from Jacob. He thanked me again for helping him and listening.  Inside the envelope he included a laminated funeral card from Marie's service.  On one side was this poem:

You can only have one mother,
patient, kind and true;
no other friend in all the world,
will be the same to you.
When other friends forsake you,
to mother you will return,
for all her loving kindness,
she asks nothing in return.
As we look upon her picture,
sweet memories we recall,
of a face so full of sunshine,
and a smile for one and all.
Sweet Jesus, take this message,
to our dear mother up above;
tell her how we miss her,
and give her all our love.

     Super sentimental, I know, but designed to give comfort.  The other side had a fantastic photo of Marie and a very short obituary, more like a tiny celebration.  I have to tell you, her picture made me cry. She was just as beautiful as he described, and even more than that, she looked like a woman who was loved completely, who knew that she was adored.  It made me happy for her.  Two weeks ago, Jacob and I had never met, but he loved Marie so much, that after one long talk with me he needed to make sure I understood how special she was and is to him.  That's a love story.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Locker Room

     Looking back through my blog posts as far as last December, I was talking about the danger of Donald Trump's rhetoric.  Friends and family told me not to worry; he'd never go the distance, they said.  Here we sit, less than one month before the election with a second "debate" in the bag, and he's still here.  He can continue to say heinous things - often without any facts to back them up - more and more of his supporters are turning away, and now we get further proof of his character with the 2005 audio/video released on Friday.
     I had hoped that at the beginning of the debate when he was asked outright about his words by Anderson Cooper that he would be contrite:

"You described kissing women without their consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?"
"No, I didn't say that at all," Trump said. "I don't think you understand what was said. This was locker room talk. I'm not proud of it. I apologized to my family. I apologized to the American people."  

The exchange went back and forth for several minutes with Trump trying to change the topic to the Islamic State before Cooper was finally able to ask for the record if Trump had done these things, had sexually assaulted women. Trump said no.
     What we learned from the 2005 audio/video that was released is the true content of Donald Trump's character. He is a man with great power who feels that he can and should take what he wants from women. These sentiments come from a rape culture that has grown fat on misogyny.  Sexual assault and rape are acts perpetuated out of power and dominance.  We know this to be fact. This isn't locker room talk - which is insulting on so many levels.  That comes from the old "boys will be boys" mythos, which insults every decent, honorable man on this planet.  Normal humans do not talk about doing things against the wills of other humans.  That is sexual assault.  Misogyny is not going to go away if we get a female president, just as racism didn't magically disappear when President Obama came into office.
     All women have a story to tell about the misogyny they've experienced in their lives, you just need to listen.  I can't go into all of my stories, even though you've heard a fair number through this blog, because my children read this, and I'm not at a point where I can tell them everything.  But in the interest of honesty and trying to advance the cause of women, and thereby humanity, I will share some it.
     As you may remember, my father was a terrible man.  He was an alcoholic who routinely battered, belittled and assaulted my mother. He consistently told her that she was ugly, stupid and that no one else would have her.  And he told me that I, the eldest, was just like her.  Marital rape didn't become a crime in all 50 states until 1993 - think about that for a minute - and my mother was often subjected to this and other crimes.  I know this to be a fact, because all three of us children were present for one of the instances in 1984.
     In junior high and high school, I played soccer. My school only had a boys team, and I didn't care anyway, so I played with them.  I originally went to the football meeting, thinking I could be a kicker, but the coach laughed me out of the room, telling me no little girls were allowed.  On the soccer team, I was one of three girls and was constantly taunted and picked on by the boys.  Their favorite nickname for me was scrotum.  The coaches knew, but never stopped it, hoping I think that I would just quit. I used to think that it was because I wasn't good enough, so I tried harder.  It didn't change though.  I had to play without my glasses, something the boys would take advantage of in practice.  My glasses were held together by hot glue, and I couldn't risk breaking them. My brother played for the team for a short time, and they never did it in front of him. (Side note - I did get a scholarship to play soccer for Bridgewater College in Virginia, but it was a partial and I couldn't afford the full tuition so I had to decline. So, I clearly didn't suck.)
     When I got my first job at 14, the restaurant I bused tables at had a waiter who was known to sexually harass the female staff. The management knew but did nothing. He liked to back me into an alcove where the supplies were stored and try to rub up against me. I had to learn to avoid him at all costs. I also learned that if you tried to complain, your pay got docked for dinners that you were supposed to take but were never given the time to take. I didn't work there long, as I didn't think I could tell my mother what was bothering me so much. By this point, my father was gone, and she was under enough stress.
     The first time I was sexually assaulted I was 15. I will not go into it except to say, it was a boyfriend who tried to guilt me into a variety of things. I refused. He insisted. I refused. He forced me. Then he told me that it wasn't that big of a deal, and a number of other things that even as I try to write them make me feel gross, so I'll leave it at that.
     Throughout my work life, I've walked through so much misogyny it's almost laughable. I've had vendors tell me I was taking a job from a man who needed it when I was a receiving manager, had delivery drivers give me unending shit, been called all manner of names and epithets, had male customers ask where the real manager was when I showed up and have had a male boss tell me he'd never promote me until my kids weren't little anymore since my loyalties would be divided. There's so much more, but honestly, after a while it's exhausting.  Ask the women in your life.  It's an everyday thing.
     What's not everyday though is when the misogyny escalates to the attitude that Donald Trump has displayed.  It's not locker room talk.  Men don't gather together and discuss the women that they'll take by force without consent.  There are bad men out there, men with treacherous character and horrible morals.  We would not tolerate them in our lives or with our children. We should not tolerate them to lead our country.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Jacob and Marie

     This afternoon at work, an older man came in needing some help, but I was with another client at the time. He was clearly frustrated that my associate suggested an appointment an hour away and that no one was available right that moment to help him.  Nevertheless, he left, stooped over his footed metal cane with a white package clutched to his side.  When he returned, the appointment I was with ran over 10 minutes, so that by the time I came to the lobby to collect him, he was extremely frustrated.  He gave me little old man side eye, refusing to speak to me when I told him my name and how I would be happy to help him. He slowly rose to his feet, package under his arm, and asked me where he was supposed to go. I directed him to my office, gingerly walked in front and then held the door open for him.
     When he sat down, he opened the package, pulled out a rather large magnifying glass and a huge manila folder filled with multiple binder clipped paperwork bunches.  All the while, he didn't speak to me. When he finished, he finally looked at me, seated across from him and asked, "so, is this how it's going to be now?"  Not understanding what he meant, I asked for clarification.  He asked whether he needed an appointment to get any help and then ultimately that it wouldn't matter since he was now being helped 15 minutes later than was promised. I apologized for the overlap from the previous client and said that an appointment was to respect his convenience but not mandatory.  But now that he was here, how could I help.
     Jacob went on to explain that his wife Marie had died recently, and we had sent him a lot of paperwork. He needed to know what to do with it. Then he opened the folder and started pulling it all out. I looked through it, found the pertinent pieces and quickly realized that the bulk of the rest of it was his statements. As we slowly started to speak to each other, he told me that he was legally blind and was having difficulty figuring out what out to do with the papers - thus the magnifying glass. I discovered that all the statements, three years worth in fact, were dramatically out of date order. I asked if he would be ok if I put them all in the right order. He was taken aback and thanked me. When I finished, I labeled each with a post-it. I found some superfluous things but explained them, found something he should have signed and returned a year ago but promised to mail it for him and made a copy of the paperwork that brought him in in the first place.
  When all was said and done, Jacob thanked me for all the help and apologized for his behavior when he arrived. I told him that he was going through a great deal having just lost Marie, and it was understandable. I asked how long they had been together.  He said that from courting until her death last month, it was 66 years.  He told me that when she took ill six years ago, he had cared for her at home until his children convinced him that she needed to be moved to an assisted living facility 2 years ago. Then a few months ago she was moved to hospice.  He said up until then, Marie knew who he was and could talk to him about her day, ask about their children. He visited her every single day while her sons took turns visiting every night.  Four children, nine grandchildren, two great grandchildren, he told me about all of them. The hospice grounds were lovely he said, although she never got to see them. Once she was moved there, she was on so much morphine to manage her pain, that they were no longer able to speak to each other.
     When Marie died and was taken to the funeral home, Jacob told the funeral director that she didn't look anything like herself.  He asked for a picture and promised Jacob that when he was done, Marie would look just as he remembered.  He also promised that before her casket was opened at the viewing, Jacob would decide if he had done a good job or not.  Jacob said that when the time came, Marie looked absolutely beautiful, just like when they had first met. At this point in his story, Jacob and I were both crying.  I passed the tissues back and forth between the two of us.  When he told me how beautiful she looked, I wish you could have seen his eyes, the smile on his face, like he wasn't with me at that moment. There are people on this planet who will never have another person look at them the way I imagine Jacob looked at Marie - the adoration, the complete look of contentment,and then the dawning realization of utter loss.
     When we finished crying, he told me about their last anniversary together, the party that his children put together for them, before she went to hospice.  Then he told me how sad he was for his children and grandchildren, and that the great grandchildren would never really remember her.  We stood slowly together, and he thanked me for listening.  I thanked him for telling me about Marie and their love story. Then he asked to kiss me goodbye, a gentle peck on the check, and I saw him out.
     I hope that every single person reading this will have this kind of love in their life, that you will know this level of happiness.  And I hope that the person you share your life with, this short time we have here together, looks at you the same way Jacob looked at Marie.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Baby Pouch

     Today at work, I was helping an older woman who can sometimes be a challenge.  While I was walking her from my office and to the lobby, she continued to make small talk while I worried after her and her cane.  Then she turned to me and asked if I was pregnant, her gaze resting for a moment on my mid-section.  I laughed and told her "no, I wish!"  Then I mentioned that after 4 pregnancies I still had a little baby pouch.  That's what we call it in my house - that leftover baby bump - my baby pouch.
     Apparently, what this old lady said upset my two co-workers much more than it did me.  In fact, my assistant hugged me sweetly and told me not to forget that this woman is often quite icky to us. She said the customer she was helping was appalled for me. I reiterated that I was cool; it wasn't a big deal to me.  Honestly my loves, as I've mentioned to you in the past, I would love to have another baby.  But I have another birthday looming on the horizon, and reality is rising in my throat.  Also, not to brag, but I'm only 14 pounds away from my college weight at this point in my life.  I've got suit pants I need to take in so I can stop using safety pins.  I look pretty good.
     But guess what, I looked pretty good 16 pounds ago, too.  Aside from being mindful of kidney stones and my back, this body can still get things done. Work, chores, errands, walks, extra curricular activities (bow chicka bow bow), more work, more chores ... I just keep moving.  Yes, I have a baby pouch ... ok.  It doesn't stop me from getting done what I need to do.  It doesn't bother the male I made the babies with who created the pouch.  And not for nothing, but I've had other offers, so it's clearly not bothering anybody else either.
     So why were my assistant and the other people within earshot bothered for me?  Probably because we've been taught at a very young age that our worth as women is 100% tied to our appearance and, in correlation, our age.  The older we get we learn that we better keep ourselves as attractive as possible to the opposite sex, lest we incur irrelevance in direct proportion to our lack of desirability.  That's why in 2016 a woman running for President has her pantsuits critiqued and her appearance mocked.  Whether you like her, and by extension, her experience and policies or not isn't the point I'm trying to make.  Have you heard people make fun of her appearance, her clothes, her age or her weight?  Of course you have.  And that is born from misogyny, first and foremost, and second from her refusing to conform.
     I own my baby pouch.  I will work that baby pouch.  Far from allowing myself to be embarrassed or chastised by someone else's words or perceptions of what I should be, I will know what and who I am and how that is so much more than the sum of my parts.    

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


     At the grocery store this weekend, I saw one of my secret fears. This little older lady was putting single frozen  entrees into her cart.  Now, it could be she and her significant other don't eat very much, or her oven is broken and this is a short term solution, or she's buying for a friend, or she hates to cook, or maybe even a dozen other possible paradigms.  But I think the reason she was eating single serving frozen entrees is that she's alone ... all alone.
     I'm going to let you in on one of my deepest, darkest fears, my loves -  being alone when I'm older.  The kids are grown, the grandchildren (if there are any when that time comes) aren't interested in me, the husband is dead, the cabana boy has moved on (that's what we call humor) and friends are few and far between.  I'm still working, because a. why not if I can, b. have you seen my 401K and c. cat food does not taste good.  I'll still be cooking for myself, because I really enjoy that, but it'll be single servings. So, I can see myself resorting to the simplest things like eating cold cereal for dinner.
     I love quiet moments for contemplation, to work through my personal philosophies, to write, to read, to craft, but most of the time, it's not really that quiet.  Even now, the tv is on for background white noise, my son is practicing electric guitar six feet from me, the youngest is laying down a funky beat on her drum next to him and the eldest is typing on her laptop.  I can function amidst the wall of sound.  If there was silence, I'd be left alone with this brain of mine, and that might not be a completely pleasant experience.  Now before someone chimes in and tells me that time alone with myself will help me grow as a human and have a greater appreciation for any number of things, from the creator on down to staying in the lines when I paint my toes ... no, no it won't.  I have lived inside this head for 43 years, and in all actuality, I quite like it in there.  It can be a fun time, but I need to share my thoughts, to speak them out loud in order to not get stuck in the flowchart in my noggin.
     Someone I love told me recently that I was one of the strongest people they know.  Seeing that little older lady in the grocery store with her tiny collection of boxes made me question the veracity of that statement.  Because when I looked into her cart, it was like looking into a chasm of loneliness and despair.  It was me in 35 years, trying to navigate through the crowded store, picking out the smallest package of chicken and two onions, the small bottle of mayo and individual potatoes.  How do you even do that?  I buy the biggest bag I can put in the cart now, because I make five pounds at a time.  How do you cook one damn potato?  Some of you know full well that I will be having this conversation in the grocery store with myself in front of those potatoes.  I'm going to have to learn how to hide that part of me better.  An old lady having a talk with a potato is going to attract unnecessary attention.
     Maybe it's an unfounded fear.  Maybe the children will always be near, if there are grandchildren, they will come and help me clean, the cabana boy and I will vacation together while the husband writes his 57th novel, and I will have dark purple hair.  My sister and I, along with multiple friends will routinely get together to tell raucous jokes and curse like sailors.  Maybe they will improve the taste of cat food, too.    

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Margaret & Bobby

     Margaret came into my work today looking for help.  It wasn't going to be difficult to do what she needed, but I had to make a phone call to get it done.  She apologized for the inconvenience, and as I put the phone to my ear, I told her I was sure she had more than enough going on in her life ... let me try to make something easier.  That's when she told me I didn't know the half of it, so I decided to hang up the phone and ask for the story.
     She said that her significant other had died two years ago, and she just couldn't move forward.  In fact, she had just come from her beloved's grave -  that's what she called him throughout our talk, her beloved Bobby.  As she started to cry, she looked up at the ceiling saying, "not now, Margaret, not now."  She said she was trying to sell their condo, but couldn't find anyone who would come close to the asking price.  Her health isn't good and she needs to sell it to take care of a variety of issues.  In fact, she told me that she was currently dealing with a urinary tract infection and had a hard time being able to afford the medicine.
     But every other thought she uttered kept bringing her back to her beloved.  She told me that they had had 22 years together, a true love affair.  One where he showed her daily how much he loved her and needed her.  She said he was quite romantic, with a smile that stopped her tears instantly.  She had been married before him for 25 years to a good man, but she said that was a marriage.  Not what she had with Bobby.  She said that her friends would ask her, how could he die and leave you ... you two were so in love.  Bobby was 89 when he died, she 10 years his junior.
     Eventually, there was a point in the conversation where it felt ok to make the call and get her situation resolved.  She thanked me immensely and rising to leave, took my hand in hers to say goodbye.  Her hands were so soft.  I thanked her for telling me her story, for telling me about Bobby and their love.  I told her that some people never get to experience such joy in their lives with someone who loves them completely, let alone have that for 22 years.  She smiled and left.  Then I went to the bathroom and wept.  I cried for Margaret, for my mother-in-law, for all the Margarets and their male analogs I've met in the last year, for love and loss and the unknown.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Car Time

     Driving to work today, I started to think about seven years from now when I turn fifty.  I actually have a hard time grasping that concept, because in my head, I'm still half that age .  I'm in a good place physically, thanks to my urologist suggesting I triple my water intake to keep my kidneys happy and my amazing massage therapist who has eliminated the radiating pain from my back, making movement possible again.  Due to the water and the movement, I've lost a bit of weight, which is always a good thing.
     Yet, in the car, I couldn't get past that mile marker. It's not as though I feel some sense of lost possibilities when I hit that age.  As long as I have energy and breath, I will do whatever I want to do.  A new craft that intrigue me ... I'm trying it.  Is that something on the car that I can replace ... let me give it a whirl.  When we moved into this house, a small embankment wall beside the driveway was giving way.  I pulled the railroad ties out and built a concrete block wall (it's pretty, trust me) to replace it.  My point is not to brag, but to say as long as this brain works and the body cooperates, I'll figure out how to do it.
     But what I can't wrap my head around is what this life will look like without my babies around me.  In seven years, #1 will be 25, #2 will be 22 and #3 will be 15.  #1 will probably have figured out what her path in life will be by then.  She'll have finished school and might be on her own.  #2 will probably have finished school, exploring the world in front of him.  #3 will have finished her first draft on the constitution for her banana republic and what the military uniforms will look like.  As I've said before, the less I know, the better.  Although I do know that undoubtedly, there won't be three little people greeting me at the door.  That's the thought I couldn't get out of my head this morning.
     I know that if we've done our job, they will reach a point where they can function on their own in this big world.  I know that they have to have grown up lives and loves; they can't stay with me forever.  I'm not in any hurry for them to prove this ability.  My philosophy is you have plenty of time to do it all on your own, enjoy this time now - read and write as much as you want, teach yourself hobbies and crafts, learn who you are.  I'll feed you for as long as you want to eat my cooking.
     My mother used to say that she never understood the moms that used to be ecstatic at the start of school.  She always cried on our first day.  She would say, if you don't like having your kids around, why did you have them at all.  My kids are some of the best people I know on this planet.  Sure, sometimes I take extra time when I run errands or 10 minutes more in the bathroom with the door locked - mama needs a break, too - but otherwise I'd rather spend time with them.  I'm partial since they're half me, but they are incredible humans, simply marvelous.  Theoretically, when they've moved out, I'm supposed to live for me, but that feels foreign, unnatural.  Certainly, I'll be told that I'll adjust, but I haven't adjusted to mom's death after eight years, so I'm not thinking it's in the cards.
     Today is my youngest niece's birthday; my brother's youngest.  She is a glorious 1 year of age.  Her middle name is mom's name, Laurel.  I can write it, but I can't utter it without crying.  Looking at pictures of her today online was happy making.  It made me glad for my brother that he has a long time before their house will be empty.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Video Games

     I wholeheartedly believe in playing video games, both for myself and for the children.  Yes, it leads to the development of strategy, improves memory and fosters creativity, but for me at least, they also bring relaxation.  I laugh at that thought too, because mom used to complain about Frogger.  She'd say, "I can never get that fucking frog across the highway."  Game play certainly wasn't relaxing for her.
     When I was a preteen and teenager, we'd save quarters to play at the arcade - and I use that term loosely - at the front of the local grocery store.  There was a Ms. Pac Man that called to me, and a pinball machine that I bruised my right palm on once I learned you could slap the release for a faster shot instead of pulling it.  How can you pass up a pinball machine? The lights, the marvelous sounds, the adrenaline from keeping the ball in play ... it's heaven.
     When I went off to college, one of our friends off campus had a Nintendo.  During parties when everyone else was pairing off or climbing the fire escapes and generally having a drunk and debaucherous time, I was the moody girl with the bottle of Boone's Farm in front of the Nintendo willing Mario to finish each level.  As I look back on that time, another reason why those people were such good friends, and many brothers in the fraternity I later joined, was that they never gave me any grief about it.  The party just went on around me.  Also, I'll never drink Boone's Farm Sangria ever again.
     During the summers between school, my husband stayed at my mother's house with me.  We'd play shareware computer games that we picked up for a dollar a piece on the computer we set up in my brother's room.  When my husband and I moved to Texas, we were quite poor and living off very little, waiting for my student loan refund check to come.  We didn't have any furniture until a friend gave us a couch that came in pieces.  You put it together like a puzzle. We slept on a pile of blankets, ate at a low metal table that he liberated from a condemned building on campus, watched a tiny black and white TV that sat on his foot locker.  After the check came through, I bought a futon, a rocking chair, a color TV and stand, and a Nintendo 64.  Mario and I were together again.
     Long before we could afford a Playstation, I fell in love with Tomb Raider and Lara Croft on the computer.  I tried Myst, but it never really stuck.  I wanted adventure.  Years later, when we had finally saved up for a Playstation, he could play NBA Live promising the baby that he'd win the next game for her, and I could play ... whatever, as long as I got to 100% completion.  Our eldest likes certain games, but not as much as #2 and #3.  The boy has been playing religiously since he was 3 years old.  I used to hand him a disconnected controller so he could play beside me and not effect my outcome.  Eventually we would play together or separately, but always pushing each to be the first to finish a level.  We're always behind the most recent console by a couple generations, because I'm cheap, and I almost never trade my games in because you never know when you might want to play something again.
     #2 has to collect everything too, obsessive like his mother.  Now he likes the games where every time you finish the entire storyline, the difficulty ratchets up a notch ... so you finish it again.  That's my boy.  When he was six and broke his arm, we asked the doctor to put the cast on in such a way so he could still hold his controller.  I think we both would have been disconsolate if he couldn't play.  The youngest holds her own well on a console game or her tablet.  I like to believe it's improving her reading and planning skills, so when she's running her banana republic one day, she'll thank me.  We devour all the Lego games as a family.  Although Mario will always be dear to my heart, I've become quite fond of the Assassin's Creed games.  Nothing makes a long day at work more bearable than plugging in, pulling the cowl down to the edge of your eyes and dispatching some enemies in quick fashion.  For some reason, I find the efficiency of sharpened steel more comforting than bashing my head against bricks - which may be a weird metaphor for adulthood.  Or something I should embroider on a pillow.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Speeding up

     I think I've figured out why time seems to be flying by, why it feels like the kids are growing up too quickly, and I think it all comes down to having a crappy job.
     When you're a child, you spend your time getting excited for the next birthday or cool event in your life.  I can't wait to be kissed.  I can't wait to be a teenager.  I can't wait to drive. I can't ... and so forth and so on.  It used to seem like it was taking forever to get to the next event.  Even if your childhood and home life wasn't ideal, you had these life goals to get enthusiastic for, to plan for, to daydream about.
     As you moved into adulthood, maybe you were in love, starting a life together, even after you started a family, you were still anticipating.  Maybe it was his turn to make dinner or the baby just learned how to roll over.  You had things to look forward to, but they were just around the bend in time.  As time passed though, all of it started to change and speed up.  All of a sudden, your kids were teenagers and you had no idea how you got this old.
     It finally dawned on me today.  I was at work thinking, just 2 more hours and I get to go home to the babies.  I've probably thought something like this a million times.  Just this much longer until I get to go home to them, just this many days until the weekend when I can have a day and a half with them, just this many weeks until I can have a whole week off with them.  I think it all comes back to the level of crappiness in your job.  If you're unhappy, unfulfilled, you're probably looking forward to your "weekend" - whatever that translates to for you - and usually that's a couple days away.  So then the weekend comes, and you're already thinking about the next one.  And so on, and so on, and so on.  Then you look at the baby, and they're 15.
     We give our youth and energy to these jobs that barely appreciate us, and in return we thank them for letting us have 2-4 weeks a year with the humans we created, who we theoretically really dig being around.  There's got to be a way to slow down the merry-go-round, because I need to jump off.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

For Him and for Her

     Yesterday, we buried my father-in-law's ashes.  As you can imagine, it was an incredibly difficult and sad occasion for all present - but most of all, for my mother-in-law.  Married for 58 years, she's alone now.  She's not really alone, obviously, as she has friends and a tremendous amount of family all around her, but that's not the same.  They married when she was 18, and she is in relatively good health.  Now she has to figure out how to live without the man she has done everything with for an eternity.
     After he retired, they did everything together ... church together, men's/women's bible studies together, errands together, the death of each of her parents together, vacations together, everything together.  How do you live a separate life when you've never been apart?  How do you go on when the one person you could tell everything to isn't there to talk to anymore?  I know people do it, all day, every day, but how?
     My mother-in-law is a good woman, a great cook, a crafter, an excellent grandmother and great grandmother.  She has a fantastic memory.  She is wonderfully sentimental and kind.  We cry at the same dorky things.  She remembered to bring a box of kleenex to the funeral.  At his memorial in April, she received mourners for 2 1/2 hours.  Just as today with the small amount of close family that came, she had to meet and greet each person.  If the roles were reversed, and I had lost my greatest love, I would have been in sack cloth in the corner, unable to recall my name, let alone remind my son to invite everyone back to his house for lunch. She is an incredibly strong  and resilient human, given what she is going through.
     When I was in college and my husband was in graduate school, I spent many, if not most weekends at their house.  I would drive over on Friday night and stay through church & Sunday dinner before returning to school.  At least once a month, we'd have dinner at Howard Johnson's.  He always had the fish fry with extra tartar sauce and black coffee.  She would have something different or exactly what I had, which was always the cheapest thing on the menu, because he never let me pay.  On the way there, we would pass an exit on the highway that pointed to a far off part of the state.  She would sigh and say someday we'll go.  He'd pat her hand and keep on driving.  Now, they can't go together, and she has to decide if someday will ever come to pass.
     At night, if my husband was in town or if another family member stopped by, we would put four of us at the kitchen table and play euchre into the wee hours of the morning.  We always had to split them up; her and my husband, me and Dad.  If we didn't do it, they'd run the table together time after time.  Communicating with their eyes, they never had to say a word.  Now, half the team is forever quiet.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Little Things

     I'm hot, and I'm tired.  I've been waiting to tell you a happy story, my loves.  Hoping that someone would come to me with a funny tale or a remarkable coincidence, something that I could give to you as a treasure during what seems like dark times.  Unfortunately, there's been more death, more loss, more fraud and more sadness.  It's like the whole world is weeping from every corner of the room lately.  When I'm worn out, it's harder to see the light, but that's when I force myself to be quiet and look for the joy.
     Jennifer is a driven business woman who always finds a solution.  Harley has made a beautiful new space for herself.  Nadine has the most beautiful and happy children.  Steve has a beautiful brain.  Haze has found love again.  Lisa's birthday is tomorrow.  Amy has a strong and loving family.  Joyce's grandchildren are healthy.  Wendy has raised two marvelous young women.  C.c. is recording an album.  Crystal is taking charge of her well-being.  Myfanwy is blossoming.  Pete makes beautiful quilts.  Hal's music is comforting.  Charlie will come, if you call.  Justin is thoughtful.  Tara's pathology came back negative.  Helen has an eye for lovely vintage pieces.  Juliet writes empowering poetry.
     Kathleen is putting one foot in front of the other.  Bronwyn is knitting for others.  Michael makes great art.  Pris can say so much with so few words.  Yaj will not let you be complacent.  Sheryl is resilient.  Becky has a great smile.  Misty is a great mom.  Jamey is brave.  Sue is a powerhouse of energy.  Kim is loving and kind in all ways.  Jill has a great eye for color.  Lauren can cook you under the table.  Ian is faithful and true.  George had an anniversary of surviving a terrible accident. Jeanmarie is taking care of everyone, as usual.  Jenn always looks for the positive.  Jennifer's baby just turned two.  Chad is in love and making great art. Allison just celebrated her anniversary in Iceland.
     Donna's son is hysterical.  Tiff just had a successful move 1/3 of the way around the world.  Frank saved an old man from abuse.  Tim keeps writing every day.  Sarah just graduated.  Anna's kids are so talented.  Jessica makes amazing papercrafts.  Jenn keeps pushing herself every day, even though she's in immense pain.  Cenestine reminds you to take care of yourself.  Eric takes crystal clear photos.  Karen is a devoted mom.  Jay adores his wife, evident every time he mentions her name.  Court is committed to his children experiencing life first hand.  Doug is devoted to his family and his faith.  Liz will change the world.  Amy makes amazing jewelry, her way.  Matt's poetry is inspiring.  Marianne is a devoted daughter, mother and wife.
     Gerdine is happy.  Erika's sons just had a successful competition.  Stacey's pottery is true art.  Louise stands up for what's right.  Neil is full of compassion.  Heather adores her niece like she is her own.  Alicia is breathing every day through her new grief.  Rachel found a place to live.  Matt and his wife have survived car accidents this year.  Justin's sense of humor is quirky and much needed.  Gina's daughter doesn't yet know how amazing her mother is.  Joe and his wife just had a son.  Nate took a leap into a new career.  Robert is a voice of reason.  Kong is thoughtful and kind.  Julie dyed her hair pink.  Camil's art is invigorating.  Shayne is a woman of action.
     I could go on and on, especially when it comes to the poets and writers, and beloved family I know.  And when I look through all these good people and good deeds, I am reminded of the light and of the hope.  Thank you, my loves.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Three Ladies

     Today was such a mix of emotions at work.  I helped an older lady, we'll call her Marie, who was having a hard time balancing her checkbook.  I don't have any problem helping and trying to find the solution; my thought being, I would want someone to help my mother, to treat her with respect and dignity.  Maybe in another 20 years I'll put myself in that equation, but right now it's all still defined by her.  As I was helping Marie, she talked about the problems in her life - she's killing herself working two jobs, her grown children are taking money from her and never repay her, her mother died two years ago and she just wants to die and be with her, the ill husband.  She was very lonely, and I didn't have the heart to stop her, as it was clear that she needed this time.  She cried a lot.  I talked about taking care of herself, making hard choices about her children, knowing that her mother would never want her to die.  It is physically draining sometimes to do this though, to really listen, ask questions and take on their sadness.
     After she left, flip the dial 180 degrees to the next challenge, we'll call her Celine.  Celine is married to a very wealthy man probably 15 years her senior.  She is always immaculate, impeccably dressed, quite beautiful and incredibly mean.  She's the sort of woman who expects you to understand immediately how important she is and bend the rules to her needs.  Celine can be quite pleasant if you complement her fashion sense, but if like today, as she was unable to be assisted right away, hell hath no fury.  You will apologize profusely and promise that she will be taken next, while she slams her paperwork down on the bench in the waiting area and painstakingly removes her sunglasses in a pointed fashion.  A pointing at you fashion.  Then when your associate is helping her, she will demand that you leave the clients you are working with and come to his desk post haste in order to hear her complaints again.  But then her husband will arrive, the husband who threw off his first wife, for Celine, and instantly her demeanor will change.  Oh how helpful you are, oh yes you're protecting our assets, oh yes, of course, of course ... the phoniness dripping from her.
     Later in the day, Gabriela came in.  85 years young, she brought her granddaughter, because she no longer drives.  A month ago, I told her that she needed valid ID in order for me to make the changes she wanted.  She had returned with a new passport, but the same sense of humor.  Gabriela said that she was afraid she might have to kill me if I wouldn't help her this time.  She laughed, I laughed,  the granddaughter put her head in her hands.  I said, let's avoid the killing and make your life better.  I helped her and then she started to tell me about her life.  She came from Guatemala 50 years ago with her husband.  They left their seven children behind and worked tirelessly to send money to them, eventually being able to bring them all to the US.  She would get up at 6am for the 7am bus to take her to the shoe factory.  There she would work on various machines until 8pm at night.  She would come home, soak her hands in hot water to bring the swelling down and make the joints work again.  Then she would start processing baby shoes on an embroidery machine that the second job gave her to work from home.  She did that until 1am, and she had to finish, because the truck would come to pick up her piecework at 630am.  She said she did this for 40 years.
     Unfortunately, sometimes her employers would pay her by check and sometimes by cash.  What she didn't know was that they weren't reporting all the hours she was working, so now she gets $530 a month from Social Security.  And they're telling her that she may be getting too much, as she didn't work enough to earn that much money.  I will tell you that her fingers were gnarled together and she would frequently put them in her lap.  She apologized for their appearance, but I told her they were beautiful.  To work so tirelessly, to do what she could to bring her children here one by one, and now to be alone, as her husband died 5 years ago - I thought she was radiant.  She said she was glad she didn't want to kill me anymore, but maybe she'd think about killing the Social Security lady.  We both laughed.  Then I turned to her granddaughter and told her it was her job to rally her mother, her aunts and uncles to come to her grandmother's aid.  I said that she needed to carry the torch for her, time to let Gabriela's hands rest.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Brock Turner

     I spent a good chunk of today wondering if I could add anything of value to the discourse around the Brock Turner rape case.  If you haven't read the victim's speech at the hearing, I understand it's a condensed version of her 12 page impact statement, here is a link (be warned, this is a difficult read with graphic details not suitable for any of my younger readers):


     By now, you've read that in his father's statement to the judge on requesting no jail time and probation only, that his son's "life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life."  You've probably also read that the judge decided to give Brock Turner, convicted on multiple charges of sexual assault by a jury, to six months in county jail.  It's expected that he'll probably serve three months.  Prosecutors had asked for six years in a state prison.  The maximum for the three felony charges would have been 14 years.
     As a woman, I've heard my entire life that I had to be careful of my surroundings, careful to not put myself in a bad situation, careful to not drink too much, careful to dress appropriately, careful to wear shoes I could run in (that was one of my mother's favorites), and the list goes on and on.  Many of these suggestions imply that it's my responsibility to keep myself safe, secure and not raped.  And to some extent, it is absolutely necessary to be mindful of my safety and my surroundings, but that does not mean that it's up to me to not get raped.  It's on rapists to not rape.
     From what I have read, his father didn't use the word rape, in his statement of remorse he doesn't refer to the events of that night as rape, a friend who wrote a statement to the judge of support for Brock doesn't think it was rape and in fact says Brock isn't a rapist, but one of "these idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement." She in fact goes on to say the whole thing is a problem with political correctness - there was no way he could be a rapist, because "he was always the sweetest to everyone," and "the whole thing (is) a huge misunderstanding."  If Brock didn't come from money, this would have been a very different outcome.  If Brock was a man of color, this would have been a very different outcome.  In all of this though, the victim's outcome remains the same.
     There is no such thing as consensual sex.  To use that term implies that there is non-consensual sex, which isn't the case.  If you aren't consenting, then you are being raped.  It's fairly simple; woman, man, married, single, gay, straight - if you didn't consent, if you couldn't consent, then you were raped.  Depending on your age, you've probably heard "she/he shouldn't have had that much to drink" ... nope, that doesn't give you permission; "she/he shouldn't have been dressed that way" ... nope, still no permission; "she/he shouldn't have gone back to that person's place" ... nope, no such thing as implied consent.
     In what I've read from Brock's friends and family, they want to focus your thinking around campus drinking and sexual promiscuity.  He's going to go on speaking tours after his jail time to help others understand the dangers of drinking too much.  (Meanwhile, his lawyers are appealing his convictions.)  This isn't about drinking too much, it's about rape.  It's not about sexual promiscuity ... whatever the hell that means.  She wasn't being promiscuous (that's another label to imply she deserved whatever she got); she was unconscious.  Rape is about power and control; it's not about sex.
     In all I've read, I don't see anything about Brock having a sister.  He has a mother, probably some aunts, maybe a couple grandmothers.  He clearly has at least one female friend.  I wonder how he or his father would feel if his mother or grandmother were found half naked, unconscious and raped in the dirt behind a dumpster - their rapist discovered mid act and tackled by two passing by college guys.  Would his father be quick to worry that the rapist's life had been "deeply and forever altered?"  Would they agree that his mother's drinking before the rape had led to her sexual promiscuity?
     Brock Turner is the stuff of nightmares.  He is that man waiting to pick off the weakest member at the party, hiding behind his all American smile and swim meet times.  A jury convicted him on three felony charges - assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.  He is a convicted rapist who will now have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.  I don't care if he isn't "his happy go lucky self" anymore.  Neither is his victim.  She will spend the rest of her life with wounds far deeper than the bruises she got that night.  She'll probably forever be scared of the dark and the unknown around the next corner,  Her statement describes much more eloquently what she's been dealing with over the last year emotionally, financially and mentally. She is forever changed, forever altered by his evil.

     "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones" - Shakespeare

Thursday, May 26, 2016


    I've been thinking a lot about the multiple personas we display depending upon the people we are with and the situation.  More than knowing the right time and place to tell that bawdy joke, I'm talking about the different people we become to match a locale - sometimes referred to as wearing different hats or masks.  For example, I have my mama persona, followed closely by the wife one (sometimes they intermingle), the manager one, the sister/friend, the performer/writer and maybe a couple others.  At the core is me, or my perception of me, and the rest is layered on from there.
     My kids have never seen me act or sing professionally, mostly as that part of me has been on hold since they were born.  They've seen me at work, but they were so young and I wasn't really being a leader at that moment in time, so they don't know that part of me.  They absolutely know the mama who walks through the door and hasn't quite transitioned from work to home.  My husband has had many a conversation with me about the people I live with not being my employees.  (I am clearly still a work in progress.)
      What has been keeping me thinking is that so many of these personas are necessary, sometimes due to the nature of life (i.e. work vs. home) and sometimes due to necessity (i.e. Heather's true desires vs. what Heather can get away with the world knowing). If my need for organized paperwork spills over into my home life, no harm no foul.  But if I was the sort of person who fell in love with inanimate objects (objectophilia), I should probably keep that between myself and said object (and my support group).
     So, I've been wondering whether this separation of church and state can lead to a fracturing of the subconscious. Is this compartmentalization a way to deal with the necessities of life? Or ultimately does this lead to a less then fulfilled human, a broken soul (more emotional than spiritual)?  Is this the sort of thing that shocks your kids when they clean your personal effects out after you've shuffled off your mortal coil and gone to join the choir invisible?  Do we leave anything in writing, or burn it all before we die?  How much do we want our loved ones to know about our true selves, the part we listen to crappy love songs to satisfy.
     Mom and I had a discussion about her notebooks and personal records long before she died.  She said that if anything happened to her, I wasn't allowed to read any of it.  I was to destroy it all.  I told her, tough luck - I'm not destroying anything.  Needless to say, that pissed her off.  It caused her to start winnowing out her personal effects long before she died, airbrushing her image and my understanding of her.  As her death was so unexpected, she didn't get much headway on clearing the farm out. After she died, I was left with a couple of boxes of papers and notebooks to look through. I won't share the intimate details, because she didn't want me to know them after all.  It did make me wish that she had wanted to talk about some of this with me before she died, because I wanted to understand the whys behind some of her choices in life.  
     Oracle reminds us that we've already made our choices, we're just here to understand why.  Perhaps there's no more reason for my mother to explain herself, as there is for me.  As long as we're all consenting adults here, and comfortable with our conscience, then shifting in and out of whatever applicable persona is necessary for the task at hand might not fracture you or obligate your exposition.  But it begs the question, which is the authentic self and which are the clones.

Monday, May 9, 2016


     Our cat Bagheera died yesterday.  He fell off the couch and broke his leg; his nineteen year old bones, too brittle to handle the landing.  As you would imagine, it was a horrible experience for the entire family, and we were thankful that my sister was there every step of the way.  She had come to celebrate Mother's Day with the children, as she is their other mama, and yet again, she was there to comfort and love all of us.
     Bagheera was my mother's cat, though originally my sister's.  When my sister came to live with us and help raise #1, she had to leave him with mom.  Many years later when my mom came to live with us, she had three cats and a dog named Bear.  Having long since moved to a bigger place as we were anticipating mom coming at some point, our new landlord was ok with the cats but not the dog.  Mom tried to re-home him, posted notes at the vet, reached out to the very few friends she had - but no one could help.  She had two choices, take him to the pound where he would watch her leave and never come back, and no doubt be killed after the allotted time, as he was an older dog and very jumpy, or put him to sleep.  She felt she had no other choice, that I had given her no other choice.  She never forgave me for making her kill Bear.  Honestly, I've never forgiven myself either.
     When she arrived with her cats, Cree, Turtle and Bagheera, she kept them in her room and to herself.  This was the norm for several years.  Six months before mom died, Cree developed diabetes and quickly died from kidney failure.  Mom was devastated and kept his urn on her desk.  She told me that when she died, she wanted the cats to be buried with her.  When mom died later that year, my sister and I mixed Cree in with her ashes and buried them together.  I opened her door and let Turtle and Bagheera out the same day she died.  It took them many days before they joined us, but eventually they did, and then they became mine, ours.
     Turtle died 1/20/2013.  She laid down in the hallway upstairs one day and decided not to get back up. The vet said her body was shutting down.  It would only be a matter of time.  So we made the hard decision to let her go and be with mom.  Because she died in January, my sister and I had to wait until May, the time we go each year to celebrate mom's birthday, her three children once again around her.  That year we did just as we had promised mom, and put Turtle with her.
     And now Bagheera is gone.  His death is a horrible loss for the family, as we loved him so very much. He had formed special bonds with each of the children and with my husband and myself. He had been ours for so long that he was really our cat.  He sat with my husband during his writing time.  He sat in my son's lap while he played video games or sat on his butt when my son would stretch out on the couch.  If you got up off the couch, Bagheera would immediately move and take your spot, leaving a circle of cat hair and dandruff.  I didn't care about the mess; life is clearly too short to worry about these things.  My eldest would tolerate him slowly walking over top of her on his pass to the open seat - high praise from someone who isn't an animal person.  And the little one was in love with him, absolutely smitten with the old cat who let her carry him around from room to room, who never got upset when she kissed him and hugged him.  He would burp old cat breath, and she would tell him how fabulous he smelled.  He would slow blink back at her, letting her know that he had claimed her as his own.  For me, Bagheera was the last link to mom,  Holding him while the vet administered the euthanasia was necessary as my duty owed to him, but so painful, as though I was cutting myself off from her - this nineteen year old cat, my life preserver.
     Bagheera will be physically reunited with mom, Cree and Turtle this weekend, when we three join again to celebrate what would be her 72nd birthday.  I know that she was waiting for him yesterday, Bear and the other two beside her.  I've always believed that our animals go on to the afterlife, because as mom used to say, heaven would be less than perfect without your pets.  Eternity is a long time to be without your best friend.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Two Vignettes

     A couple short vignettes from today:

     Two older customers got into a heated discussion first thing this morning while in line waiting for a teller.  Back and forth they went about Donald Trump and what he would do for the country if elected.  "He'll make America great again ... (no, he won't) ... stop all these immigrants from taking our jobs ... (my parents were immigrants) ... but I bet your parents worked ... (yes, they certainly did) ... these immigrants don't even have to learn English ... (you're right there) ... our grandchildren won't even have Social Security thanks to this President ... (that's not true) ... etc."  They didn't agree on anything except the immigrants/illegals were ruining this country and getting all the benefits.  The pro-Trump person was a woman and the person, a male.  "Sir, you are wrong," she said several times.


     Later, I was helping a client in my office.  He was telling me that he called customer service last night, but he got "an Indian, and you know how you can never understand them."  I stared back at him.  Then he said, "not an Indian Indian, (then he patted his mouth and said oo-oo-oo-oo-oo), you know, an Indian."
     Honest to God.
     I'm not kidding.  A grown man repeatedly smacked his mouth with his hand in my office, reenacting his spot-on racist stereotype of Native Americans.


     As Dave Chappelle says, this racism is killing me.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Phone Calls

     After my Nana died, my mom told me that one of the worst parts was not being able to call her mother on the phone and share the day's events.  Even years after, mom would reach for the phone, hold it for a moment and then hang it up with a sigh.  She would say that it would hit her ... oh right, she's dead.  It made me so sad for her, and for myself, because I knew I'd be in the same boat one day.
     When my personal ship to Valhalla sailed, it was much the same.  Mom and I have the same dark sense of humor.  I'd encounter something that amused me during the day, and she would be the one to share it with.  Or we'd make fun of it together.  With her gone, I'd keep it to myself.  It's like trying to explain a joke after the fact, it loses its luster.  In private, Mom could also curse like a sailor, probably because my father was a sailor.  I didn't swear in front of her, because ... d'uh, she was my mother, but all bets have been off for some time now.  On a side note, I remind the children that these are just words, some in use for thousands of years, and that there will be people who will think less of them for using these words, so be mindful of the right time and place.  But in a hypocritical fashion, I tell them not to swear in front of me.  Fuck should come out of my mouth and not theirs, if I'm in the room.
     But I digress from my original thought.
     My husband is now encountering the same void of communication that I have, something I tried to prepare him for.  He had a thought about something yesterday and was going to call dad to pick his brain, but dad's gone.  No call.  The sadness grows.  It didn't upset me that he didn't think to pick my brain; he wanted to ask his father.  I completely understand.  We don't fill the holes in our life created by the loss of those we love or have loved.  We just learn to walk carefully around the edges.  We do a disservice to ourselves and those we've lost, whether through death or distance, when we expect others in our lives to fill those empty spaces.  I've learned that grief is not a one size fits all shroud.  Some people learn how to change outfits, some learn how to accessorize and some convert it to an undershirt.
     Mom used to send me cards for every special occasion, little care packages for the kids - hand painted Halloween shirts, a handmade bracelet for a birthday with an explanation for each chosen bead, envelopes with clippings from magazines that I should be aware of, a painted wall hanging with the words from my childhood bedtime prayer that still hangs over my daughter's bed, the list goes on.  After she moved in, she'd continue to make them things - intricate wands for them to use to pretend to be wizards like Harry Potter, a decorated worry book for child #1 to write her worries down in, more hand painted shirts, and always the cards. When she died, all this ended.  I still make things for the kids, and we all enjoy a rollicking art project, but it's not the same.  And I know that it will never be the same again.  Whenever we paint, I always make sure to wear a smock over my undershirt.  I don't want to get it dirty.      

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

For Him Again

     He's gone. my beloved father-in-law.

     My brain said that I should sit and eulogize, try to express my grief.  I don't have the words to adequately voice what this loss, his loss, means to my family and to me.  Obviously, my husband has lost his father, a man that he has spent his life trying to make proud - something that many children find to be a moving target.  His role model, his most earliest mentor, the person who taught him how to shoot, how to appreciate the woods, how to chart your family history, and how to hunger for a relationship with God - to question, to observe.  My children have lost their grandfather, a man very different than the one who raised my husband, but that is the nature of age and time.  The first two children are very sad, as they had formed a strong relationship with him and an appreciation for him.  The third child is sad at the concept of the loss of him.  With less time spent with him, her understanding will grow with the stuff of created memory and mythos.
     I've lost a friend, a debate partner, co-philosopher and theologian, a father.  Estranged from my own father when I was 15, I've already told the story of what the introduction and acceptance of my father-in-law meant to me.  I didn't need him to be proud of me.  The only person I have ever needed to be proud of me, died seven years ago.  She showed me early on how she believed in me and how wonderful I was.  Her fierce love challenged me to be as good at everything as she already knew I was.  I needed him to love me, to accept me.  We didn't always agree.  We didn't have to, and in fact, we didn't discuss the topics that we each knew we were on opposite sides of the fence on.  He knew he wasn't going to change my mind, and I knew I didn't want to piss him off.
     Aside from my sister-in-law, Kim, who is more sister than in-law, he was my biggest supporter in a very large and beautiful family.  His loss is palpable to many, not just me.  And I will not even begin to imagine understanding that of my dear mother-in-law's loss.  To have been his, and he yours, for a lifetime ... that's a love that most people will never be fortunate enough to know.  If I think about it too long, I can't catch my breath.  Truly, her loss is the greatest.
     I don't normally like to mix my poetry with this blog, but I will share the poem I wrote for him the day he died, if only that it would bring comfort to anyone in this family that I love.

For You

There are no words today.
You’re gone from us, from me.
No more beloved nicknames,
deep conversations prefaced
with “now, let me ask you this,”
no more salted peanuts in your Pepsi,
the skins floating to the top of the
long necked bottle, no throat clearing
cough followed by that deep sigh
through your front teeth, the way
you rested your left arm over your
right when seated at the kitchen table,
thumb absently rubbing the skin, the  
smile that made your eyes disappear.
No more growled “take that” when you
would play the low card, hoping that
I would toss down the higher trump. 
Get up on both cheeks, Heddo.

Your heart can break again and again.