Social Distancing for Dummies & Selfish People….

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
~Dr. Martin Luther King

Every couple of days, I have been reaching out to family and friends just to check-in, say hello, send something funny, make sure they haven’t resorted to eating a family member,  the usual.

Yesterday, I called a friend.

Side note:  I avoid talking on the phone like it’s COVID-19.  My introverted self could probably spend the rest of my life never talking to another living soul beyond those I live with.  So calling, means that I am trying, REALLY, REALLY, hard to show up for those I love.

Anyway, I called, because this particular friend doesn’t love to text.  She is the social butterfly to my hermit.  While I naturally flock to the darkest corner of the room, where I might blend in with the furnishings, carpet, wallpaper….she heads straight to the center and holds court.  People fill her up.  She possesses every social grace, says all the right things and never once has she held someone hostage talking about dry wall  (Me: 2003 at a company function while chatting with the Chief Operations Officer at my then company).

Side note:  I don’t even know that much about dry wall, but I apparently knew enough to fill sixty-minutes of conversation….only, I don’t think you can call it “conversation” if you are the only one doing the talking.  I think you’d call that, maybe, word assault.

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When my friend answered, I could tell right away that she was fuming about something, or maybe chewing on a femur.

“Hey, what’s going on?”  I asked.  “You know that cannibalism is still frowned upon, right?” 

She ignored me, like the true conversation artist that she is, and redirected our chat to saner waters.

“I’m watching my idiot neighbors have a block party,” she said.

“Wait, what?”  I responded.  “Are you serious?”

“Yep, they’ve got music going, red solo cups in hand, their kids are all wrestling and running around together….pretty sure someone is sparking up a grill.”

“Wow,” I said.  “I didn’t realize you moved to a place without televisions, or computers, or newspapers, or Facebook, or….humans….did you relocate to a new planet?” 

“Nope, I’m still here, in the burbs, wishing I had the materials to board up my house, because if Zombies are next, these people are for sure going to be among the first and I’m surrounded.”

“Well, I hope they’re the slow zombies, at least.”  I said.  “Like the one’s from Walking Dead.  Not like the one’s in Zombieland.  Those bastards are fast.”

“Hang on a second,” she said.  Then I could hear her yell, presumably out of a window, “You should Google social distancing!  You are all doing it wrong!”

“They are totally going to eat you first.”  I said.

Apparently, social distancing is a hard concept for people to grasp.  Nearly every day someone posts a photo to my community Facebook page of a packed local basketball court, playground playdates in progress (despite the fact that our town has made it clear, with public notices and signage that these spaces are closed) and a few days ago, a photo of dozens of people congregating and socializing in the parking lot and at the picnic tables of an ice cream stand that just recently reopened for the season.

I don’t blame the ice cream stand though.  They are a local, small business and I’m sure, like many, they are trying to stay afloat.  But with no ability to manage crowd control and customers who apparently refuse to police themselves, they have now been forced to close since our Governor, and rightfully so, has issued a shelter in place order, effectively closing all businesses that aren’t providing an essential service.

Way to go people!  You just tanked a beloved, local, small business.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

And it’s not just my town, or my friends neighborhood.   I’ve read that beaches are still packed with people.  Spring breakers are partying hard, people are forging ahead with vacation travel plans to popular tourist destinations and in Kentucky, several people apparently attended a Coronavirus themed party.

People.  PEOPLE, people.  

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I don’t know if the issue here is that some just aren’t taking this seriously enough….and/or they assume it’s not enough of a concern to bother with altering daily routines….or they just don’t care….or they truly don’t understand what it means to distance yourself socially and/or to shelter in place.

I would like to assume it’s a simple knowledge gap and not a sign that too many people could give a shit about their fellow humans.

Today, on our community page, an irate townsperson pissed about the expanding closures throughout the state said “So, what….I can’t go for a walk now?”

Yes!  You can go for a walk.  You can hike and ride your bike, go for a run, take a scenic car ride, but your only choice in company at the moment is yourself, or those you currently live with.   And I get it, those people are starting to get on your nerves.  But for now, you can’t escape them to be with your “Quads of Fury” walking club.

Socially distancing, means you don’t stop to shoot the shit with your neighbor about the tragedy that is the closing of Dunks and the loss of Touchdown Tommy to the Buccaneers.  (Life is wicked hard here in New England right now).

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You can go to the grocery store, but you should only go if you really need to.  Ideally, you should take advantage of online ordering with curbside pick-up, or home delivery.  But if you must go into a store, forego man-handling all the produce.  You’ll survive if you don’t get the perfect avocado, or you end up with an apple with a soft spot.

And I know that you might really, really, really want to escape your children, your spouse, your parents, your roommate…and go wander the aisles of a Target, or if you’re like me, a Target and then a Home Depot, or whatever remains open in your area just to catch a break and enjoy a change of scenery.  Trust me, I get it.  My kid has said, “Mommy” no less than eleventy-billion times today and it’s not even noon 1:00 2:00 3:00…. I have been trying to write this post for two days now, because I can only get about two-minutes of “free time” at a time.

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We are all bored and anxious and annoyed and going a bit stir-crazy.  We’re trying to manage jobs, or the loss of a job, while also home schooling and stressing over finances and whether or not we have enough stuff and if it’s time to start rationing TP one square at a time and who the hell we are supposed to be listening to at the moment….world renowned doctors, or the guy who keeps saying, “Fuck it, we’ll be back up and running by Easter.”  

I think many are just desperate to find something normal to cling to.  But folks, we exited normal a few weeks ago.  Life, as we knew it, is a thing of the past, at least for now.  We can still see and even have a little bit of the good old days, but we can’t have it all.  The longer we fight what we’re being asked to do, the longer it will take to “flatten” the curve and the more we stand to lose.

Come on, people….we can do hard things.

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We Can Be Hero’s….

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”
~Maya Angelou

I, like I imagine most of the rest of the world, have been watching closely as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our world.  Over the last several weeks, I’ve been skeptical and scared and confused and frustrated and amused and hopeful and curious….all of the feelings.

My stomach has been in knots and my anxiety has been on full alert and I’ve imagined men in black and conspiracies and government “doctors” and secret quarantines and people disappearing without a trace and Putin as Voldemort….I don’t know, I feel like it’s totally plausible.

I’ve found myself diving down rabbit holes created by various media reports, social media posts (shamefully) and our current administration and the governments of other countries.

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And no, I don’t really believe in all the places my brain has taken me.  I think it’s just my minds way of trying to understand and explain this series of events for which we have no prior experience.

At times, I’ve felt as though this really can’t possibly be happening.  It seems so surreal; like a movie.  Only, it’s not exactly the way I imagined an apocalypse of sorts would go down.  Am I really being told to just, like, Netflix and chill for the foreseeable future?  I had always imagined there would be a lot less electricity and a lot more Spam.  Toilet paper and hand sanitizer weren’t the commodities I thought we’d all be hoarding….but alas, here we are.  To be clear, however, this is apocalypse enough for me.  I’m not complaining.

And while I may be losing my shit a bit, I am trying really hard not to be an asshole about it.  I am not among those with a six-year supply of toilet paper and a lifetime, plus twenty years worth, of hand sanitizer.

A few weeks ago, when things started to get weird, I took inventory of our supplies like dry goods, the food in our freezer and yes, of course, our TP situation, and then made my way to the store to purchase what I thought would be necessary to carry my family through the early days of a quarantine, assuming that, along the way, I would be able to continue to have some degree of access to these items; through online ordering, or perhaps, authority controlled trips to the grocery store.  I did not, however, bargain for the Matt and Noah Colvin’s of the world.

A few days ago, I was scrolling through the news and I came across an article published by the New York Times about a guy with 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and “nowhere to sell them.” 

The image accompanying the article was of Matt Colvin, an Amazon merchant, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Family Man, Family Business,” looking downtrodden as he stood among his hoard of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes.

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The New York Times

 

According to the article, the day after the first U.S. death connected with the COVID-19 virus was announced, Family Man, Matt and his brother, Noah, set off in an SUV and commenced clearing the shelves of hand sanitizer from Walmart, Dollar Tree, Home Depot and Staples in Chattanooga, TN.

Then, over the next three days, brother Noah Colvin embarked on a 1300 mile road trip throughout Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling up a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and antibacterial cleansing wipes he purchased from any retailer he could find with stock to sell.

Meanwhile, Family Man Matt stayed home, preparing for the arrival of pallets of even more sanitizer and wipes he’d ordered online, while also getting to work listing the bounty on Amazon.  According to Family Man, Matt, he listed 300 bottles of sanitizer that quickly sold for between $8 and $70 each; “crazy money.”    

But then, the next day, Amazon pulled his items, along with thousands of other listings from other Amazon merchants who were also selling sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and face masks at huge mark-ups’s leaving poor Family Man, Matt with a boat-load of much needed resources and seemingly no solution to be thunk up.

He was quoted as saying, “It’s been a huge amount of whiplash.  From being in a situation where what I’ve got coming and going could potentially put my family in a really good place financially to ‘What the heck am I going to do with all of this?’”

I read that and thought, Um, how about you and your douche-bag brother start returning it all to the stores you wiped out so that your neighbors, the parents of your children’s friends, their teachers, nursing home staff, your local medical providers and the emergency medical personnel within that 1300 mile radius you two morally bankrupt scumbags pillaged, can access those much needed supplies?

To be fair, Amazon and other retailers also increased their own prices on supplies in the wake of the pandemic….(REALLY Jeff Bezos….REALLY?)….though not to the same extent.

Still, according to the article, it wasn’t until consumers and regulators applied pressure that any of these companies chose to crack down on the way their merchants were capitalizing on the fear and desperation of people DURING A FUCKING INTERNATIONAL PANDEMIC.  In fact, until then, businesses like Amazon and Ebay profited from their merchants behavior via the percentages they took from those sales.

Moving forward, I will wipe my ass with my own hand before I order a thing from Amazon.

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Shortly after the article was published, Matt Colvin “donated” his stockpile of supplies as the attorney general’s office in Tennessee began investigating him for price gouging.  The  national backlash the Colvin’s apparently received from the public was swift and incredibly harsh.  While I don’t believe the death threats were appropriate, he’s otherwise getting what he deserves.

Sadly, Family Man, Matt isn’t the only one out there hoarding supplies and trying to profit off the suffering of others, he was just the only one dumb enough to be the spokesperson for the Scrooge McJerk-Off Union.

But, casting aside the trash, I believe that in the midst of all of this, there is an opportunity for greatness.  In gestures both large and small, we all have the chance to be a beacon of light in all this dark.

Lean into your communities.  Support your local small businesses as best you can.  These are often the businesses that sponsor your kids little league teams and donate to a wide variety of fundraisers benefiting your schools and the community as a whole.  If you can’t afford to spend any money at the moment, you can still show some love by promoting them across your social media.

Stay engaged in productive conversations with your neighbors on your community social media pages.  I know these groups often come with a few curmudgeons, trolls and self-righteous know-it-alls, BUT, if you can weed through the BS there is a lot of good to be found, including a wide range of opportunities to be of service to people and groups in need.

Start a donation pile.  That closet, garage, play room, etc., you keep saying you want to purge and organize, here’s your chance.  Toys and games that you no longer need, could be a welcomed gift for another family in your community right now.


If you have too much, give it back.  Take it back to the stores directly, or make care packages for your neighbors, in particular, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.  Or, donate extra supplies to the agencies in your area that are in desperate need.  Especially medical supplies like masks and latex gloves.  We can’t afford to lose our health care professionals to this illness, but we will if they can’t do their jobs safely.

I recently read that many health care professionals are reusing personal protective equipment they would have discarded between patients, but at this point, it’s reuse it, or go in with nothing.  WTF, America, that can’t be the solution.

Unless you have a legitimate reason for needing a stockpile of masks and those 4,000 pairs of latex gloves in all the sizes (and BTW fear is not a legitimate reason) you have no business hoarding them….doing so is, quite literally, killing the team.


Be the good.  There are so many ways to do good things in this world that won’t cost you anything but a little bit of your time.  And right now, time is pretty much all we’ve got.

Do something that makes another human smile, or laugh, or leaves the earth a little bit better than you found it.

Write a letter to a grandparent, a friend….not an email, an actual letter.

Leave a book review for an author you love, or a local small business.

Go to a local park, or a hiking trail and pick up the trash.

Pray….to whoever, or whatever you believe in.  I happen to think it helps, but regardless,    it certainly can’t hurt.

Share your talents.  If you’re a writer, write.  If you’re a musician, play.  Sing, draw, paint.  You don’t have to be famous to create and share content.

Let your significant other breakdown.  Let your kids breakdown.  Let yourself breakdown.  Let it be and then let it pass.

Say thank you!  There are so many people working tirelessly to treat patients, gather supplies for those in need and keep our stores as stocked as possible.  They too have the well-being of themselves and their own loved ones to think about.

My dad works for a truck-stop chain as a shop manager.  His role is considered essential because of the fueling needs and tractor-trailer repairs that are necessary for truck drivers to keep goods moving throughout our county.  My dad’s in his 60’s now and he’s had a number of health complications over the years, including serious cardiac related issues.  He’s among those most at risk for developing serious/fatal complications should he contract COVID-19, but right now, he’s “healthy,” so off to work he goes.

Acknowledge these folks.  The work they are doing is very much holding our communities and country together at the moment.

And if nothing else, just simply do whatever is being asked of you by the authorities and experts who are desperately trying to get us back to some semblance of normalcy.


Find the Good.  Every day my 8yo sits down at the computer to doodle with Mo Willems.  If you’ve never heard of him, he is, among other things, an award winning and best-selling, children’s book author.

For 30 minutes each day, Mr. Willems talks and draws with the kids who are watching. He gently guides them through the days doodle, while sharing information about his characters and his career as a writer and illustrator.  At the end of each session, he reads and answers questions that kids send in via email.

For my son, this has been THE COOLEST.  For as long as he’s been able to articulate the desire, my son has talked of being a writer.  He has dozens of notebooks in which he’s written out short stories with illustrations.  He loves to read and for him, he is in awe of his favorite authors in the way other kids might be in awe of professional athletes, musicians, actors.

My son looks forward to his 30 minutes with Mo every day.  His face lights up and he carefully follows along and then proudly shows me his work and tells me all the things he learned during the session.  “Did you know that Mo worked on Sesame Street?”  “Did you know he made up stories when he was a little kid, just like I do?”

It’s an incredible gift Mo Willems is giving, really.  He certainly doesn’t have to, but he’s showing up.  He’s one of the lights.

And there are more!

Museums and Zoos are offering virtual tours of their exhibits.  Actors and teachers and writers and musicians are reading stories for kids online.  Chefs are hosting online cooking classes.  Trainers and gyms are offering online workouts.  Musicians are live streaming “concerts” from their homes.

And yes, I know, these things aren’t available to all.  They require the luxury of a computer, or a tablet or a cell phone.  You need internet, or a cellular connection and not everyone has the privilege of having those things.

So….


Share the Good.  If you are among those able to continue working from home, if you aren’t facing a disruption in your pay and if you have a little to give, then find an organization that is helping to ease the hardships others are facing and make a donation.    There is no such thing as too small a financial gift.

Show up in whatever way you can.

We belong to each other.

Let’s be hero’s.

Trick or Treat! Don’t be an A**Hole….

“Therefore, it stands to reason, does it not, sisters dear? That we must find the book, brew the potion, and suck the lives out of the children of Salem before sunrise.”
~Winifred Sanderson, Hocus Pocus

Last year, my step-daughter, who was 14 and an 8th grader at the time, told us that while she was out trick-or-treating with some of her friends, an adult had commented, “Aren’t you a bit too old for this?

For months before that Halloween night, my step-daughter had agonized over whether or not she would trick-or-treat that year.  It was as though she had one foot solidly planted in her childhood and another tentatively taking her first steps into young adulthood.

It was clear she was growing-up and embracing opportunities to enjoy and explore her independence.  And my husband and I were happy, albeit a bit wistful, to allow her the space to expand.

But there were still glimpses of the little girl she’d once been.  The one who had delighted in the elaborate Halloween parties her dad and I had thrown for her and her brother when they were younger.  The one who could still be cajoled into participating with our son, seven years her junior, in the Easter basket scavenger hunts we created every year.  Even the occasional game of make-believe wasn’t entirely out of the question.

So when she talked about trick-or-treating that year, it was with a nostalgic sort of sadness.  A part of her was saying that maybe it was time to hang it up, but her heart and her spirit were still drawn to the simple joy of walking the neighborhood on a crisp fall evening, shouting “Trick-or-Treat!” and then returning home to count and sort her haul.

Her friend group was split about 50/50 between those wanting to go and those wanting to do something a bit more grown-up, like a costume party at someone’s house.  And as the date got closer, it was beginning to seem as though most of the girls in the trick-or-treat camp, were gradually beginning to veer more toward the party.

When my step-daughter talked about it, tears welled in her eyes.  We told her, “You can always come trick-or-treating with us!”  Meaning her baby brother, her dad and I.  But we understood that wasn’t the point.  She wanted to cling to that experience with her friends.  She didn’t want to be left behind.  She wanted them to stay with her in that piece of childhood, just a little longer.  I could understand.

When I was a kid, Halloween was my absolute favorite time of the year.  I loved all the movies and neighborhood lawn decorations, the costumes and of course trick-or-treating.

As my brother and I got older, we were allowed to trick-or-treat with a group of other neighborhood children by ourselves.  We would tear through the streets, hitting as many houses as possible on foot, before returning home to dump out the pillowcases we carried, for maximum capacity candy collecting, and then we would hop on our bikes and branch out into other neighborhoods until the last porch light went out.

I loved the freedom of that night.  Cruising the streets, long after dark, with a gaggle of other kids.  And we were all quietly well aware of the responsibilities that came with that freedom.  We were always respectful of other trick-or-treaters, adults and the homeowners property.  So tenuous did we feel that privilege was, that we made sure to never even walk on someone’s lawn if it could be helped.

In those few hours on Halloween night, we were learning what it was like to be responsible for ourselves and to make good, safe choices, without a grown-up standing by.

And it was fun!  Even as we too began to find ourselves in that space between childhood and adolescence, we still reveled in the joy of dressing up and losing our angst for a while, consumed in the spirit of Halloween.

I don’t recall anyone ever saying that I was too old to trick-or-treat.  I made the decision to stop going when I started high school.  But that first year I stayed home and passed out candy, instead of collecting it, plenty of my classmates still came to my door.  I envied them a bit, but I didn’t feel sorry for myself.  The time had simply passed into a cherished memory for me and it had been allowed to happen in my own time.

Fortunately, my step-daughter has some great friends and a few were willing to indulge her desire to trick-or-treat that last year.  So they struck a compromise.  They agreed they would meet at a friends house, who was hosting a costume party for all the girls, trick-or-treat for a bit and then return to the party.  It seemed she would get the best of both worlds.

And by all accounts, the girls were having a great time.  They weren’t heckling the little one’s, or taking handfuls of candy from unattended candy bowls left to the honor system.  They were giggling their way from house to house, in full costume, saying trick-or-treat and thank you along the way.

When my step-daughter told us later about the woman who had chastised the girls for being too old to participate, it was clear she’d been hurt by it.  The woman had made them feel embarrassed, ashamed and self-conscious.  Feelings that, quite frankly, are all too common for teenagers, like, 99.9% of the time as it is, without some snotty middle-aged woman adding fuel to the fire because she thinks she’s the designated trick-or-treat police.

I can barely look at social media these days without seeing some meme, or editorial, bitching about “kids these days.”  How they can’t seem to be able to handle life’s ups and downs.  Well, maybe we should stop evicting them from childhood before they’re ready.

So, “old people these days” calm the fuck down.  Let them be kids.  Let them linger in innocence for as long as they can, because once it’s gone, it’s gone.  And I think for far too many, it’s gone long before they are even close to being ready for it.

And if you can’t do that, you should do what the generations of crabby old people who came before you have done.  Turn off your porch light and hide in the dark.

Happy Halloween!  Don’t be a jerk.

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Chicks Before….Well, You Know….

“Somebody asked me if I knew you….A million memories flashed through my mind, but I just smiled and said I used to.”
~Unknown

About a year ago, my best friend and I broke up.

It’s not the first time we’ve been angry with each other and it’s not the first time we’ve gone a long stretch without speaking; each of us too angry, stubborn and self-righteous to extend the olive branch that would bring us back to one another.

But in the past, it had never been a question of if we would reconcile.  It was just a matter of when.  We were drawn to each other in a way that made the idea of going through life without the other, inconceivable.

Ours was a friendship that was forged in our childhood.  We’re cousins, but our biology wasn’t what bonded us.  In our family, familial bonds are tenuous at best.  Not even a wedding, or a funeral are guaranteed reunions.

We chose our friendship and we worked to maintain it.  Even when the adults in our lives were falling apart and fighting and cared little for their collateral damage.

So in many ways, we were each others refuge.  Not just from the storms in our family, but through the storms of adolescence and all the ups and downs that come with being teenagers and then young adults.

We had our own language that consisted of facial expressions and single words that just between us, could convey an entire story.  And we had so many stories that made up a crazy, beautiful tapestry of life and love and loss and friendship and growth and adventures.

We were each others witness; keepers.

This break-up though, is different.  At least for me.  This time, it’s for good.

The title above would suggest it was a guy who came between us, but in truth, he was just a catalyst.  We are deeper and more complicated than that.

For a long time, we had been walking roads that seemed to run parallel to one another.  Our roads weren’t exactly the same, we each had our own goals and obstacles to overcome.  But we remained close enough to hold hands as we helped each other over and around and through.

But eventually, our roads began to diverge.  As we headed in fundamentally different directions, I tried to pull her onto my path.   Not because hers was no good, or because mine was so much better, but because I could clearly see that we were headed toward very different horizons.

We had grown up with one another and then we had grown out and away into very different people.  Our relationship lived solidly in the past.  It required that we constantly double back to the place where our roads still ran side by side in order for us to find one another again; back to the people we had been before we’d become wives and mother’s and had to make difficult decisions about careers and family and finances and all the other grown-up hard stuff of life.

But you can’t stay in the past.  You can visit it and reminisce and then you have to return to the present and keep pressing forward.  And I had to admit that the people we’d become, had stopped being the others keeper and witness a long time ago.

In these last several years, our friendship had begun to feel like something I was holding tight to so that it wouldn’t escape.  I was exhausted by it and as this last year has passed, I’ve wondered what to do next.

The idea that if you love something you should let it go, seemed too simple and easy, but then again, if it felt that way, I thought there was a reason for that.

And then, the other day, while driving, I heard a remix of the song 99 Red Balloons and I thought, “Yes, this makes sense,” as I sang along….

It’s all over and I’m standin’ pretty
In the dust that was a city, 
If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here it is, a red balloon
I think of you and let it go….

Happy Mother’s Day….

“God could not be everywhere.  Therefore, he created mothers.
~Rudyard Kipling.

Until I actually became a mother, my relationship with Mother’s Day was a complicated one.  My parents divorced when I was very young and in the years that followed, my dad felt no obligation to ensure my brother and I had something to give to our mother for the holiday.

My parents had a terrible marriage and an even worse divorce, so its possible this was an intended malicious act on his part, or it may have been something he didn’t realize he was supposed to do.  Regardless, the slight wasn’t lost on my mother.

It wasn’t that my brother and I had nothing to present to her.  There was always a school created craft.  Also, as we got a little older, my brother and I used to pay special attention to the neighborhood curbside trash and yard sales for treasures we thought she might like.

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This is pretty much what my brother looked like in the 80’s

We brought home things like second-hand wallets, old bottles of perfume and umbrella’s.  Sometimes, we’d scrape-up enough loose change and walk to the Hallmark store in town to pick out a small magnet or a mini-figurine.

Sometimes, we would pick flowers from garden beds throughout town and attempt to fashion a bouquet.  We also made her breakfast in bed, which usually consisted of a loaf of soggy french toast, cereal, pop-tarts and whatever beverage was on-hand.

If my mother ever appreciated our efforts, it was lost in her anger at my father for his failure to help us purchase more suitable gifts.  She would rant and rave, call him and leave screeching messages on his answering machine and grill my brother and I about what he’d purchased for our step-mother.

She would cry and tell us how badly her feelings had been hurt, how sad she felt at not having anything to open, how hard she worked and how she deserved more.  The day would be lost to her disappointment.

The weight of it all was not something we should have been expected to help carry.  We were just little kids.  But, carry it we did.  Every approaching holiday would leave me feeling crippled with dread and anxiety.  I worried endlessly about how we were going to be able to provide my mother with enough to make her happy.

As I got older and eventually began earning money of my own, it became easier to get through these events, but I would still spend weeks worrying that I hadn’t gotten enough, or the exact right thing.  I also knew that no matter what, my mother would want to compare it to whatever had been purchased for my step-mother.

When I reached adulthood, Mother’s Day began to take on a feeling of dreaded obligation, rather than a feeling of joy at celebrating the woman who had given birth to me.  When my relationship with my mother came to a final end, I was relieved not to have to deal with the pressures and unrealistic expectations.  It became just another day.

When I became a step-mother, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel about Mother’s Day.  In the beginning, it continued to feel like just another day.  I felt no maternal stirrings for my step-children, so I had no emotional connection to Mother’s Day.  I was not their mother.  I’m still not their mother, but I am something.

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Being a step-parent is the most complex and complicated relationship I’ve ever been a part of.  I know that not everyone’s circumstances are the same, but in my case, the biological mother of my step-children pretty much hates me.

Even though we’ve not once had a single conversation in the more than 10 years I’ve been around, and though I had nothing to do with the demise of her marriage, I seem to be symbolic of something she can’t handle.  As for what that might be, I can only speculate.

When I embarked on the journey of step-parenting, I was without great expectations.  I knew we wouldn’t love each other right away.  I expected there would be feelings of jealousy and resentment on their part and mine.  I knew there would be loyalty conflicts and lines drawn and hurt feelings.  I didn’t push.

I let them get to know me and I got to know them.  When their mother’s negative commentary seeped into our household, I refused to become what I knew she wanted me to be.

Overtime, I think the kids slowly began to see the motives behind what they were hearing versus what they were seeing.  Not that this caused them to love their mother any less and like me any more, but I think they began to form their own opinions and to open themselves up to a growing relationship with me.

I like to think I’ve been a positive influence.  When I first met the kids, they were often paralyzed by any new experience, whether it be trying a new food, visiting a new place, or trying a new activity.  It seemed they believed the world was fraught with danger.

Little by little, I worked to crack that shell.  I took them rock climbing and hiking and camping while patiently and continually reassuring them that they would, in fact, not plummet to the earth and die, get lost and starve, be kidnapped and eaten by hillbillies and/or obtain some type of biological disease carried by random woodland creatures.

I introduced new foods, my dad taught them to fish, I sought out fun and interesting places to visit, coaxed them onto their first plane ride, taught them to golf and tried to teach them to ski.  My step-son is now obsessed, but my step-daughter is still afraid that she will crash, head first into a tree….on the treeless bunny slopes.  We’re working on it.

But still, I’ve often said that if my step-children grow-up and do amazing things, some will say it happened despite my presence in their lives.  If they grow-up and become serial killers, it will be all my fault.

As the years have passed and our relationships with one another have continued to evolve and seek definition, I’ve continued to have no expectations of recognition on Mother’s Day.

In part, I’m sure it’s to save myself from hurt feelings, but at the same time, I know I am not their mother and if the day holds an exclusive meaning for them, I would never seek to intrude.

With that being said, I’ve not gone without it.  At some point, they began getting me a card and a small gift.  The card typically has the word “Step” written by one of them in front of the word “Mom” anywhere it’s printed on the card.  I’ve never viewed it as a negative, only as a boundary.  I am their step-mom.  It’s not the same as being their mom.  I like the distinction.

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My husband has always insisted he has not influenced the kids to acknowledge me on Mother’s Day, but I’ve always suspected he may have planted the seed.

However, one year, when my step-son was ten, he presented me with a school craft he’d made.  It was a long piece of construction paper that included a picture of himself holding a giant sunflower.  Underneath the photo, it said, “Happy Mother’s Day” and printed below was a list of things he loved about me.

I’m not a particularly emotional person, but when he gave it to me, I’ll admit that I thought my heart might burst.  I thanked him and told him it was the best gift I’d ever been given and I meant it.  Later, I took it to my room and cried.  Then I framed it and hung it.

Then, I became a mom in the traditional sense of the word and I still don’t want or expect grandiose gestures for Mother’s Day.  I just want to enjoy a quiet, simple day with my little family.

My own son always presents me with a handmade craft and I always cherish it.  More importantly though, he knows that I cherish it.  He know’s it enough and that he is enough.

All this week, I’ve been reading the various editorials written about the all the different kinds of mom’s out there.  The harried and frazzled, the mother’s who have lost children, the women who have lost their mother’s, the foster and adoptive mom’s and the all the other women who stepped in and took on the role of a mother when they were needed most.

I’ve laughed, sympathized, felt sad.  Mostly though, I’ve felt grateful.  And that is truly the best gift of all.

I hope all you moms out there get what you need this Mother’s Day too.

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Some People Have Family Home Video’s. I Have 500+ Pages of Police Reports and Body-Cam Video….

“Does anyone else hear banjo’s?” ~Me

Life has been weird.

A year and a half ago, my brother and I, along with our respective significant others, entered into a legal battle with our mother, who I haven’t spoken to in more than ten years.  Our fight was over my niece, Lele; the child of my middle brother.

The case has now mostly concluded, if you’d like to read about that hillbilly drama, click here:  The Legal System Sucks or, just scroll down to my prior post.

But if you’d like the Reader’s Digest version, the long and the short of it is this, my brother and I are now the proud parents of a seven year old.

Over the course of the last year and a half, my time has largely revolved around the case.  Every day, there was new evidence to review, conversations to be had with our attorneys and a near daily deluge of new issues created by mother, all of which had to be addressed and managed.

Essentially, my mother didn’t have a respectable case to put on, so her strategy was to attempt to drain me financially; to rob my family of our financial future….and let’s just say the court allowed her to do it.

Meanwhile, we did our best to stay on the high road.  We accumulated our evidence and prepared to present our case.

In an effort to help minimize some of the mounting legal fees, I did a lot of the administrative work for our attorney’s.  I indexed transcripts from various hearings and depositions.  I created detailed timelines and summarized dozens of records, from police reports, to more than 40 hours of jail/prison calls.

It was mentally exhausting.  But it’s done now and so it’s time to box this mess up and carry on.  Which, is sort of a metaphor for the first 30-odd years of my life.

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy dissecting my childhood and adolescence and early adulthood.  I’ve tried 1:1 therapy and group therapy.  I’ve had both male and female therapists and I’ve tried a few psychiatrists/psychologists as well.  But I’ve never been able to connect to counseling.

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I couldn’t understand the incessant need to draw parallels between my “trauma past” and my present.  I already knew about those parallels.

I had crappy communication skills and when I fought, I fought to win.  I spewed mean things, like really mean things that were intended to cut to the emotional quick.  I brought bombs to verbal debates.  

And yeah….I did it, because it’s all I knew.  I never learned the art of resolving conflict without drawing blood and/or causing permanent emotional trauma.

I knew that the way I responded to life wasn’t healthy or productive.  I knew right from wrong.  I never felt good about myself in the aftermath of a blow-out with someone I cared about.

So, self-reflection, got it.


As I got older, I stopped trying to hide my past and I became pretty open about my experiences, regardless of the audience.

You might talk about your idyllic upbringing on a maple syrup farm in Vermont and gush about how much you’ve come to cherish your relationship with your mother while we’re out to brunch for the first time….I might (most definitely will) talk about how my family got kicked out of church when I was a kid and that time my mom hit me so hard in the face, I saw actual stars.

So, ability to talk about it….check!


I could acknowledge that crappy things happened to me, but that in the grand scheme of things, I was still a person of privilege.

Perspective?  Yup.


I have sat with it.  I’ve acknowledged it.  I’ve mourned it.  I’ve felt all of the feelings for it.  I’ve analyzed it, accepted it, honored it….all the stuff.

I didn’t need to keep talking about it.  I needed to know what I was supposed to do with it.  I had been carrying around this load of emotional garbage for so long, I honestly didn’t know how to function without it.  And it was fucking shit up.

It was making me ugly and mean and jaded and really, just an asshole, but not the kind of asshole people like.

What I needed to know and what NOBODY told me in all the talking and talking and talking….was that I could just let it go.  That I could cut the shit, and stop being such a jerk, and just choose to be happy.

The revelation came after a rough session in couples counseling with my husband.  So, maybe therapy was helpful after all.  But, I don’t know, I think the Aha! was born more out of annoyance than therapeutic progress.

Anyway, I was talking to our therapist about something specific that was triggering me in our marriage.  A slight I felt was real.  And it was.

I wanted, desperately, for her to understand that this was a feeling I was having that was relevant to the present and not deeply rooted in my past.  But she wasn’t having it.  As I was word vomiting she said to me, “He’s not your mother.”  

And all hell broke loose.  Out of me.  It’s possible I levitated.  I got up and left, declaring I was done.

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From there, I did exactly what I always did.  I ran and took my garbage with me.  I disappeared from my life and my husband and into myself and my garbage.  I waged a war in my head with everyone until I was exhausted.

And then, something clicked.  My feelings and thoughts mattered.  I knew this.  But no one could hear me through the filter of my garbage.

And that wasn’t going to change until I made peace with it and let it go.

So I did.

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Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done.  It requires taking a giant leap of faith into life; over and over again.  And sometimes, it’s scary and it’s hard.  Especially when you know you’re showing up without any of the tools you’re supposed to have.  It’s kind of like bursting into a crowded room, naked.  But the alternative, is not showing up at all.

And I wanted to show up.  I was married to a really great guy, like truly THE BEST, who was trying so damn hard to understand me and show up for me, even when I made it nearly impossible.

We had started a family of our own.  I was a mother and I worried every single minute that I would mess it up.

I believed I would ruin everything.  I knew I would self-sabotage and drive my life into the ground and there would be no coming back from it.  I didn’t want that, of course I didn’t, but I couldn’t figure out how to exist among the mess.

Forever, I had been trying to figure out how to live and behave and communicate through and/or around the garbage.  I had been waiting and listening and even asking for instructions on how to do that.  I thought that’s what therapy was for.  To teach me how to live like a normal person, but within the confines of my dysfunction.  I don’t even know if that makes sense.

It never occurred to me that I could just pack it up and put it away.  Yes, it’s still a part of my story, but I don’t have to lug it around.  And there is so much power in that.

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I have managed to break the cycles of abuse and dysfunction and addiction that I grew-up with.  I decided it wasn’t the way I wanted to live, and then I set about figuring out how to live the life I wanted.

Simply put, I decided to be happy.  And I think it’s the best way to honor the part of me that spent way too many years being afraid.

I read once, that “happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed.  Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”

I don’t know about all that.  I certainly don’t love every minute and I’m not always willing to extend grace, but I am grateful AF.  Because, I have a lot to be grateful for.

So while I’d like to sit in self-righteous indignation for a little while longer (I never said I was perfect), I’m going to pack this stuff up too and let it go.  The question is though, where do I put it?  Not metaphorically.  I mean literally.

Should I tuck away the body cam videos with our collection of home movies?  You know, so that we can all gather together someday and reminisce while we watch my son blow out his first birthday candles….and then watch my mom stand on the front lawn, barefoot on a cold December day, the remnants of Halloween decorations and that one, cracked, plastic Santa that’s been there since 2001, visible in the background, while she tells a police officer she suspects one of my brothers of throwing a brick through the back window of her car….only, the brick isn’t anywhere to be found, until she magically discovers it lying at an angle that makes it obvious it was either planted, or it’s just part of the neighbors landscaping.

Would the police and court records related to the all those calls about dogs running at large and a missing ferret, go with the old mementos I saved from my first fur baby?

FYI on the ferret, I hope he made it out of there.  Or, I hope he was at least a meal for one of the pets starving to death in that house.  I’m not sure which I hope for more.

Do the various cards and letters I’ve saved over the years, go with the stacks of JPay communications I subpoenaed from two different correctional facilities?  (JPay is prison email, if you don’t know….and really, if you are going to follow me here, you’re going to have to learn my language).

You know, I think I’ll just leave it all in a nondescript box to collect dust in the deepest recesses of our basement and hope it’s one of those things the kids just arbitrarily dump off at Goodwill or something, after I’m dead.

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I Blame Ohio Child Protective Services & The Court of Common Pleas….among others

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
~The Joker, Batman

It’s been a minute since I’ve last been here.

Some of you might be thinking….huh, I hadn’t noticed.  

But to those of you who did,….I BLAME OHIO CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES AND THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS (And yes, I blame them all in shouty capitals), for my lack of output.

Here’s why:

Thanksgiving weekend, 2017,  I got a call from my brother Allan in Ohio.

“I just found out that Lele has missed over twenty days of school.  I’m so fucking pissed.  We have to do something.”

Lele is our niece.  She is the daughter of another brother, Tyler, who has a long history of substance abuse, gang affiliation and other criminal activities.

Lele’s mom, Dee, has had her own struggles and a complicated backstory.  She gave birth to Lele when she was sixteen and a month later, her own mother was evicted from their home and Dee was abandoned with a newborn and nowhere to go.

I imagine that being a teen parent is hard.  Hell, being a grown-up parent is hard.  But for Dee and Tyler, it was about a million times more difficult.  Not just because they were rootless with a newborn baby, but because within weeks of her birth, Lele was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.

CF is a hereditary, incurable, life-threatening disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. The disease requires strict adherence to a treatment plan that includes a lifetime of fistfuls of medications, multiple daily breathing treatments and chest PT.

After the eviction, Tyler, Dee and Lele lived briefly with my mother, which is the literal equivalent, of living in hell.

From there, they stayed with my brother Allan for a few months before finally settling into an apartment of their own when Lele was about six months old.

They had been in the apartment for less than a month, when Tyler was arrested for violating a restraining order our mother had against him….a restraining order she helped him violate, by picking him up at his apartment, so that he could come to her house and do drugs and get drunk in her garage with our youngest brother.  Because….family bonding time is important, obviously.

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Tyler got caught, because he and my mother got into a booze/drug fueled fight and the police were called.  Naturally, the two of them fled the scene.

But my mother is a narc.  After first lying to the police, who weren’t buying it….and I assume under a threat to her own freedom….she sold Tyler down the river and he was arrested.

In the midst of all this, Lele developed a rare, CF related infection and had to be hospitalized.   It was serious and scary.

So of course, my mother took the opportunity to make matters worse, by calling Child Protective services for about the eleventy-billionth time, and reporting Dee for a host of fabricated neglect claims.

The eventual outcome was that Dee was required to move out of her apartment and in with her aunt, where Lele would also be required to go and live after she was released from the hospital.

Lele and Dee lived with her aunt for the next three years and Lele thrived there.  Then, in early winter, 2015, Dee decided she was ready to move into her own place.  She didn’t make it a year before my mother drove her to a literal nervous breakdown.

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She inundated Dee with abusive and vile text messages and phone calls and threats….there were hundreds of them, (and that’s no exaggeration) a day, to the point that Dee’s body and mind began to break down under the siege.

Recognizing that she was losing her grip, Dee left Lele with her aunt and checked herself into the hospital.

When my mother figured this out, she took Tyler, Lele’s dad….who was fresh out jail and rehab….to court where he filed for emergency custody of his daughter and got it.

At the time, Tyler had an apartment in a neighborhood where the odds of being the victim of a drive-by shooting, were greater than the odds of not.

During her stays on the corner of Crack and Bone Thugs in Harmony, Lele witnessed multiple fist fights between her dad and his various on-again, off-again roommates.

One of her regular babysitters, was a registered sex-offender.

She witnessed one of her dad’s girlfriends slit her own throat in front of her.

And she got struck in the chest by a firework, lit by one of her dad’s best buddies, which caused third degree burns across her chest.

After a few months of a sick kid cramping his style, Tyler packed up his vaping supplies, bottles of Old English, dime bags and roach clips and moved back in with our mother.

Then, things went from bad, to worse.  If you can believe that’s even possible.

Tyler set up a pharmaceuticals business in the garage where he cooked up K2 in the dirty pots and pans he pilfered from our mother’s kitchen.  While Lele was a witness and also a victim, of my mother’s rage.

She saw my mother banging down doors, screaming obscenities (including at her), hitting people (including her) and breaking things.

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She took baths and brushed her teeth in a bathroom where a sick cat often vomited in the sink and no one bothered to clean it up.  NOT IT!

And she played around the dog shit and piss that littered the carpeting throughout the house.

She ate her meals at a table where the leftovers from previous meals were left to grow fur for weeks.

Her medications and the various components for her nebulizer, that are supposed to be kept sterilized, were strewn about the kitchen that was riddled with old food and garbage and filth.

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When tensions between my mother and Tyler came to a head, my mother evicted him.  But Tyler still had custody of his daughter.  So, he and Dee made the decision to again leave Lele with Dee’s aunt.

This time, it was my mother who filed for emergency custody of Lele and she got it, despite being denied at least two other times.

At the first emergency custody hearing, my mother lied about everything from Lele’s background to her medical history.

Of course, Magistrate Massengill (it’s fitting, trust me) who heard the case wouldn’t have necessarily known she was lying.  Neither Dee nor Tyler were present.  None of us knew about the hearing, so no one was there to refute anything she said.

But Massengill did know that when Tyler obtained custody of Lele a year or so prior….following Dee’s nervous breakdown….that it was agreed upon between Tyler and Dee, that my mother would be less of a presence in Lele’s life.

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This should have been a red flag.  But my mother was granted emergency custody anyway….without anyone even bothering to verify that the story she was telling was the truth.

From there, my mother drove to the aunts house to claim her stolen prize; taking Lele from a home my mother knew was clean and safe, back to her hovel that often served as a flop house for a revolving door of drug addicts and derelicts.

A home where the police had been called literally HUNDREDS of times.  For things like….my mother chopping up her lawn furniture with an ax in the midst of a domestic dispute with my step-dad.

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After a few additional hearings, during which my mother continued to lie….she was granted permanent custody.

And throughout the entire process, there were no checks and balances in place, that I have been able to identify, designed to ensure that Lele was going to a home where she would be safe.

There were no requirements that my mother call witnesses, or provide documents that supported the story she was telling.

There were no third party social workers assigned to investigate her claims.  No one did a home visit.  No one talked to other family members.  No one bothered to talk to Lele.

No one bothered to check police records, or consult with Child Protective services to see if there were any on-going, or past investigations related to Lele’s care.

OR, more importantly, whether my mother had any history of child abuse allegations….which she does.

Nope.  My mother just waltzed in there, spewed a bunch of bull-shit and walked out of there with a kid and an order for child support payments.  Cha-Ching!

And that’s how easy it is to “legally” steal a kid in the state of Ohio.

Had anyone bothered to do any amount of background checking, or even just a quick Google search, they would have found, that among MANY other things, my mother is a big, fat liar.

A woman who, just a few months prior, had been banned by a municipal court judge, from ever owning a dog again.

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That’s right folks!  She isn’t allowed to own a dog.  EVER.  But a kid with a terminal illness?  Eh, no problem.

Allan and I talked regularly about calling the Ohio Department of Child Endangerment Services, I mean Protective Services (honest mistake) for Lele, but we knew, thanks to our own wretched childhoods, that they wouldn’t actually do anything….because they don’t like to get involved until it’s time to exhume the body.

Seriously, it’s always the same story.  “There just wasn’t enough evidence.”  

Or, “Our case loads were too full.”  

We send people to death row based purely on circumstantial evidence, but when it comes to child abuse it’s like, “Yeah, it’s true the mom said those two broken legs and that black eye and those cigarette burns happened when little Destiny fell off the bike she didn’t have, but what could we do?

So, when Allan called to tell me that Lele had missed more than twenty days of school, barely three months into the school year, I thought, “tale as old as time.”

And then, I reminded him that if we called the authorities and told them what we knew, that our mother would find out who called….and then, not only would she never allow us to see Lele again, but she would have us permanently silenced by someone willing to accept a WIC voucher as payment.

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But, I guess we were feeling a bit ballsy at the end of the chat, because we decided Allan should at least try and speak to the principal at Lele’s school.

He knew her well enough, because he and his partner often did school pick-up and drop-off.  They were also the stand-ins at father-daughter events at Lele’s school, because Tyler usually had warrants and so wasn’t allowed on school property.

Of course, the principal couldn’t tell him anything, but she did listen.  And then she shared the information with the school’s social worker, who made a call to Child Protective Services.

When the social worker showed up to my mother’s house, she wasn’t home.  She’d checked herself into the hospital….which is where she likes to go when the authorities are closing in.

And while she was away trying to swindle some good prescription drugs out of the hospital staff, she left Lele in the care of Tyler….who had recently moved back in and was busy making dabs in the garage….and her husband, my step-dad; a non-compliant and blind diabetic, who, after serving twenty-years of time with my mother, has lost the will to live.

The social worker left her card with whoever answered the door, truly, it could have been anyone….and Allan and I were ultimately able to get the information and give her a call.

Fast forward to today….my brother and I are now the proud parents of a daughter.

Which means that someone out there from my adolescence, probably one of my elementary school teachers, just won a bet on how my life would turn out.

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But it didn’t happen overnight.  It took a year and a half and nearly $200k to pry my niece from the clutches of Satan’s chief lieutenant.  And no, I did not just happen to have that money lying around for a rainy day custody dispute.

When we started the process, I had no idea what we were truly in for.  I figured that if you tell the truth and you do all the right things, you have nothing to worry about.  But that’s a load of crap.

Once my mother knew we were behind the coup to free our niece, she did the following:

  1.  Got my brother Allan fired from his job.

  2. Accused him of sexually molesting Lele….and then going so far as to subject her (at six years old) to an internal forensic examination.  And just in case in you are wondering, my niece was clear, repeatedly, that no such abuse had ever occurred.  Even the medical professionals and a detective who interviewed my niece extensively, were like, “yeah, this didn’t happen.” And my mother was like, “peek in there anyway.”

  3. Got Allan kicked off the Board of Directors for the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where he had volunteered his time since Lele was an infant and helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for CF research.

  4. Made multiple phone calls, often as an anonymous tipster, to accuse Allan of molesting and endagering, not just Lele, but our other two nieces as well….one of whom was a newborn at the time.

  5. Accused him of verbally assaulting her and threatening her in the parking lot at Lele’s school during a court ordered visitation exchange.  Good thing there are security camera’s covering that parking lot.

  6. Accused me of attempting to bride witnesses, including Lele’s dad, by offering money and housing if they would agree to lie on my behalf.

  7. Lied at every single hearing and throughout her deposition, all under oath.

And you know what the consequences were for all the harassment and lying and deflecting and squandering of resources?  Nothing.  At least not for the liar.

But for us, it cost THOUSANDS in additional legal fees in order to protect and defend ourselves.

My brother had to obtain a protection order against our mother, which didn’t matter, because she repeatedly violated it.

I guess the way it works, is that unless the violator is clutching your still beating heart in their hands, while making snow angels in your blood, the protection order is really just a piece of paper that means nothing.

Early on in the case, Child Protective Services bailed out, leaving us to duke this out in the Court of Common Pleas on our own.  Thanks for nothing, assholes!

And as the case progressed, and the legal fees mounted, and my mother continued to create barriers toward progress and lie without consequence, I came to understand why no one ever stepped up for me when I was a kid.  Ah…I’m healed.

We had six days of trial scheduled.  Our attorneys spent hours preparing.

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We subpoenaed something like 30 witnesses, all of whom had to be served and then organized and scheduled to appear on specific days and times.

We had over 500 copies of police reports and body cam video’s.

We had more than 10,000 pages of medical records.

We had transcripts from prior hearings, the deposition transcripts and hundreds of text messages and photographs.

We had copies of jail/prison communications between Tyler and my mother (because yeah, he was incarcerated shortly after the case got underway) and all the audio of their phone calls….including a call in which my mother could be heard both screaming, and then hitting Lele while she cried in the background.

We showed up on the first day ready to present our case.

My mother’s free lawyer, Melanoma McChiclet-Teeth, an ambulance chaser with no family law experience she suckered into representing her pro-bono, showed up with a yellow legal pad and a bag of shit, aka, his client.

We never got a trial though.  Instead, we arrived to find out, as is apparently typical, that the court was double booked and we were in second place.

While we waited, we were encouraged to try and figure it out on our own.  As if we hadn’t already been trying to do that.  For a year and a half.  With no resolution.

But, we did ultimately settle under pressure from the court.  My mother caved and we agreed to a resolution we were happy with, but not until the end of court on the second day.

We never got the opportunity to present any of our evidence.  Our mother never had to answer for the things that she did.

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And we never got to bring to light all the ways in which the system failed Lele.  It took my mother only three trips to court and virtually no real evidence, to obtain custody of her.   But it took a year and a half and nearly everything we had, to free her.  That is shameful.

At one point, I commented to someone that I was disappointed in Child Protective Services and their lack of action.  She said, “What Lele has been through is bad.  There’s no doubt about it.  But it’s not as bad as a lot of the other cases we have to deal with.”

And that makes me so sad.

But I am glad that Lele won’t be one of those kids who falls between the cracks in the system because she just wasn’t being abused enough.  

Now that it’s mostly over, I’ve got to deal with some pretty heavy feelings of resentment and anger, because what’s been taken from my family and me, can’t ever be repaid.

I’m angry for all the once in a lifetime moments I missed out on in my own son’s life, while traveling back and forth for court while my mother found shady new ways to drag it all out.

I’m angry about the ways the court system and law enforcement allowed my mother to abuse us throughout this process.

I’m angry about the occasional snide comments made by Magistrate Massengill about the size of my house….OBJECTION!  Relevance, your honorable asshole?

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And, I’m angry about the significantly disproportionate way in which fees were allocated among the parties (I paid the bulk of everything), which was based on nothing other than   a household income number.  A number that did not take into account cost of living differences, or a detailed accounting of household expenses.

My husband and I are frugal savers.  The only debt we carry is mortgage related.

And the “big house” the magistrate was so found of commenting on, is a fixer upper that was built in 1731 and purchased for about half the market value for homes in our community, due to the extensive renovations it required and still does.  

My mother on the other hand likes to accumulate massive amounts of credit card and other debt and then file for bankruptcy.

She refuses to work a job that doesn’t pay under the table, or isn’t tip based….and not because she lacks the education or ability, but because it’s the only way she can make sure she qualifies for as much government assistance as possible.

So it was a particularly bitter pill to swallow when the court allowed her to steal from me too….especially given that I did nothing to cause any of what was happening to be necessary.

No good deed goes unpunished.

As for Lele, despite everything she’s been through, she remains an incredilby upbeat and positive and sweet and compassionate kid.

She’s insightful and smart and funny and silly and FULL of energy and life.  And she isn’t afraid to give her love her away, despite all the many ways her love has been rejected by those who should have cherished it most.

She’s got a small army of people now who are committed to helping her heal, adjust and grow and thrive and she will.  Because….“though she but little, she is fierce.”

The Birds & The Bees….

Do you pee out of your butt? ~ My Son

A few years ago, my son, Snugs McNugget (yes, that’s his real name), walked in on me while I was using the bathroom.  He was about four at the time and immediately upon seeing me on the toilet, he inquired, “Are you dropping a deuce?”

When I informed him that I was peeing, he began laughing as though I was a complete imbecile.

Snugs:  You pee standing up.  You poop sitting down!  

Me:  Honey, Mommy is a girl.  Girls pee sitting down.

Snugs:  Where is your penis?

Me:  Mommy, doesn’t have a penis.  I have a vagina.

Snugs, laughing hysterically:  A bagina!  What’s a bagina?

Thankfully, he lost interest shortly thereafter and I was spared the need to provide any additional detail.

Now my son is six and a Kindergartner and he’s become interested in understanding where babies come from and the anatomical differences between males and females.

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Earlier in the school year, he came home from school and informed me that one of his classmates, Jacob, had seen his sisters “wagenda.”

Me:  Her what?

Snugs:  Her wagenda.  You know, her wagenda (points to his crotch).

Me:  Oh…her wagenda.  I see.

Snugs:  Can I see yours?

Me:  No.  That would be inappropriate.  You should never ask a woman if you can see her wagenda.  It’s a private part and remember, it’s important to respect a person’s privacy.

Snugs:  I just really want to see one.  Jacob said it looks like a butt.  Does it look like a butt?  Do girls have two butts?  Wait, do you pee out of your butt?

Me:  Um….

HELP!

I haven’t the slightest idea how to have these conversations.

For the most part, nobody talked to me about this stuff when I was a kid.  When I asked my great-grandpa where babies came from, he told me he found me in the yard one afternoon, sitting in a buttercup.  And I believed it….for years.

Later, I picked up the general basics from movies and from walking in on my mother having sex with a guy named Ron she met in rehab.

The only other bit of education I got was when my mother said, “Do you want your cooter to smell like a fish stick?  No?  Then keep your pants on.”

I’m fairly certain the fear of smelling like a Gordon’s fisherman was the reason I preserved my virginity far longer than most of my peers.

So, what amount of information is too much information?

What if my son goes to school and shares his knowledge with other kids, who tell their parents, who then call me and are all like, WTF!?

Honestly, it’s moments like these I feel woefully ill-equipped as a parent and a little bitter about the lack of accurate information I was given as a child.

In most situations, when I don’t know the exact right answer, I say, “We’ll find a book on the subject.”  

A quick internet search proved that there are apparently a million choices.  Does anyone out there have a recommendation?

Something by Dr. Seuss perhaps….There’s a Wagenda on the Agenda!

Actually, that sounds more like something Mike Pence would write and so no.  Just no.

I don’t want my son to grow-up misinformed (except for the whole wagenda thing, I’m going to let that one go for a while), or embarrassed to ask questions he might have about sex.  I’d prefer he ask his dad, but whatever.

I’ve convinced him that I know everything and so heavy is the head that wears the crown.  I need to deliver.  But first, I need book suggestions….

 

Valentine’s Day Isn’t For Everyone….

“All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~Charles M. Shulz  

So, my son is now a first grade and I’ve learned that a lot has changed since I made my way through the public school system.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when people didn’t care all that much about your feelings, so this whole, everybody get’s a Valentine thing is new to me.

When I was in elementary school, I loved Valentine’s Day.  I spent days preparing my tacky Valentine’s box with construction paper hearts, feathers, stickers and paper doilies.

On Valentine’s Day, we placed our boxes on our desks and walked around our classroom depositing Valentines and treats into the boxes of our friends and our enemies?  Well, they could go right on ahead and choke on a box of those chalky conversation hearts for all we cared.

Personally,  I never gave a Valentine to a kid named Olin who had a harelip.  Not because of the harelip, but because he cut a chunk out of my hair in Kindergarten and I never let go of a grudge.

I also refused to deposit a Valentine into the box of a kid named Bobby, who used to pick his nose and wipe it on all the girls.  To this day, anyone with the name Bobby makes me want to vomit.

I spent years campaigning to blacklist a girl named Roberta, who beat me up, EVERY DAY, on the playground in second grade.  That is, until I told my gramma, who arrived at the school one afternoon during dismissal and confronted Roberta using a variety of clever obscenities none of us really understood, but delighted in repeating whenever possible.

Example:  “If you ever lay a finger on my granddaughter again you hussy, I will kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

Not only could we exclude our classmates, but because nobody actually looked at the Valentine’s we were passing out, we were free to send hate mail too.

I got a few and I gave a few.

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In middle school, we gave up the Valentine boxes and instead we got to purchase candy heart lollipops for fifty-cents in the cafeteria, to be delivered, with a note, to anyone we chose.

Throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, our classes would be disrupted by a knock at the door and the candy courier would walk in and announce who the lucky recipient was. Which of course made the rest of us feel like ugly, unlovable ducklings.

My friends and I sent candy hearts to one another, but mostly I sent them to myself and claimed they were from a secret admirer. I wanted the candy and I wanted to make the other girls jealous.

I also sent one to my seventh grade science teacher, because he was smokin’ hot for a middle-aged science teacher and I hoped to woo him away from his wife and kids, apparently.

In high school, candy hearts were replaced with single stem roses. The concept played out the same way. The roses were purchased for a dollar and delivered throughout the school day. Tables were set up before school, in the hallways between classes and during lunch, allowing ample opportunity for rose purchases.

Girls with boyfriends ended the school day with a dozen roses by final bell. Girls without boyfriends told everyone it was because those girls put out….because it was really the only way to save face when walking through the dismissal crowd without a single rose.

Honestly, all of it sucked. There were years in elementary school when my friends and I got into huge fights over Barbies and who got to be the teacher when we played school. We teamed up against one another and if Valentine’s Day happened to fall during a rumble, things could get ugly.

“Nobody give a Valentine to Laura….she’s bossy and she’s got a knock off Cabbage Patch.”

In middle school and high school, the number of candy heart lollipops and roses you received were symbols of how popular and well liked you were compared to others. Clearly, there was something wrong with you if NOBODY thought you worthy of fifty-cents or a dollar.

So, I think it’s better that kids these days are expected to spread kindness equally on Valentine’s Day.

They’ll have plenty of time as adults to be biter and cynical when the day ends without a bouquet and takeout for one.

And by then, they can acquire alcohol.

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10 Things I Swore I Would Never Do When I Became A Parent….

“I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.” ~Gwyneth Paltrow

I admit it.

Before I had a kid, I was 100% one of those judgey, know-it-all jerks who made grand proclamations about all the things I’d never do when I became a parent.

Which was pretty bold considering that, for years, I’d known nothing about raising children.  Like, literally nothing. 

Was it acceptable to put Kool-Aid into a baby bottle?

Did you wait to change a child’s diaper until it had reached maximum capacity?  I mean, diapers are expensive and if you can make a 24 pack last 24 days, that’s practicing good economics….no?

And, it’s not that big a deal to leave a toddler in the car if you’re just running into K-Mart for ONE thing, right?  So long as the kid is strapped down somewhere and unable to reach the lit cigarette resting in the cars ashtray?

What can I say?  I didn’t have the best maternal example.

It wasn’t until books and television taught me that I was basically a degenerate, that I began to form loftier opinions about things.

The police never showed up at the Seaver residence because Maggie was in the backyard with an ax hacking up the lawn furniture after a fight with Dr. Seaver.

Mrs. Walsh, of Beverly Hills 90210 never hissed at Brenda, “I am going to kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

And not one of those chick’s from the Babysitter’s Club, had to take their earnings and immediately spend it all on candy at a sports bar/grocery store called Smokies before their mother could steal their wages.

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Smokies #ICan’tMakeThisShitUp

So, it’s really thanks to the likes of the Tanners, the Camden’s, The Huxtables, Mr. Belvedere and Beverly Clearly, that I became self-righteous AF.

10 Things I Swore I Would Never Do When I Became A Parent

1.   Let my kid eat a hot dog

Fast forward six years:

Me:  Hey Snugs, want to have a hot dog and mac & cheese for dinner?

Snugs:  I had that yesterday!

Me:  I know, but it’s your favorite!

2.  Leave the house in my pajama’s

Post Kids:  Ok, I’ll never leave the house in my PJ’s without a bra.

A few more years post kids:  Well, if I’m staying in the car and just going through the teacher assist drop-off line, it’s not like anyone will notice I’m not wearing a bra.

3.  Let my kid buy school lunch

Me….Every Day:  Oooh, buddy!  French toast sticks are on the menu at school today and tomorrow, it’s nachos!

4.  Allow screen time

A hot minute after giving birth:  Get ready!  To Wiggle!  

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5.  Forego my personal hygiene

Post Parenthood Google Search History:

  • How many days in a row can you use dry shampoo?
  • How many days in a row can a person go without showering before the smell is too great to mask.
  • Is Listerine an acceptable alternative to teeth brushing?

6.  Give-up my corporate career for family

My employer (a year ago):  You haven’t made a career move in five years and we’re going to eliminate your current position.  You’ll need to either move up, or move out.

Me:  Cool, should I go ahead and start packing now?

I know I’m supposed to be leaning-in and pulling up a seat the table and bursting through the glass ceiling and blah, blah, blah, but I was over my career.  OVER IT.

I didn’t want to spend my time traveling all the over the place, working insane hours, while someone else raised my kid, all for the privilege of helping to stuff the already bulky pockets of the executives and shareholders of corporate America.

I decided I didn’t want to pull up a seat their table.  I decided to build my own table.  I’m sorry if this isn’t the choice I was supposed to make.

Actually, no.  I’m not sorry.

7.  Participate in the Elf on the Shelf

Before my son was born, I considered the tradition to be an unnecessarily stressful addition to parenting and the holiday season.

Actually, I think I was just really jealous that I hadn’t thought of that bajillion-dollar idea myself.

After my son was born, I jumped right onto the Elf on the Shelf bandwagon and I’m not getting off anytime soon.

Quite frankly, I participate in the tradition for one person and one person only….and that person is me.

My childhood had all the magic of life at Spahn Ranch with the Manson family, so it makes me feel good to sprinkle my son’s youth with wonderment.

Also, that little Sprite gives me a whole month off from parenting….and I’m not going to lie, I can use the break….especially during the holiday season.

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8.  Formula Feed

To be clear, it never crossed my mind to judge another mother for the way she chose to feed her kid.  If it hadn’t been for Hamburger Helper, Chef-Boyardee and Tang, I might not have survived my own infancy.

So, fed is best, as far as I’m concerned.

But I had a lot of guilt about being diagnosed with cancer while I was pregnant and so I felt like if I couldn’t breastfeed, I would essentially be a worse mother than Susan Smith.

Mom guilt.  Am I right?

I wanted to breastfeed, but I couldn’t.

To make a long story short, my son was born premature, I had to finish chemotherapy and it wasn’t safe for my son to breastfeed while I was pumped full of R-CHOP.

I tried to “pump and dump,” but my body was all, “F-You.  I’m not cooperating.” 

Since starvation is, in fact, the worst of all options, I decided that what was best for my son, was formula.  And what was best for me, was to stop torturing myself.

PS….to that lady from the online La Leche support group I reached out to for advice on stimulating my milk supply, the lady who told me I should really consider stopping cancer treatment because, Breast is Best!

I still know who you are.  My social media stalking skills are on point and oh honey….time has not been good to you.

 

9.  Subscribe to a parenting philosophy

Me, today:  I’m the I Don’t Give a F*ck Mom.

The IDGAF mom is the one who can’t even commit to the long term implications of a bumper sticker, let alone a parenting philosophy.

She’s the one who sometimes feels like she’s got her shit together and other times, get’s stuck in her sports bra.

The mom who roots for other mom’s, (except that bitch from the La Leche support group….I never let go of a valid grudge), because she knows that parenting isn’t actually a competition.

We’re all just doing the best we can to roll with the punches of parenting and life and in the end, we all want the same thing.  Nice kids who are healthy and happy and who go on to be productive and kind members of society.  That’s the only trophy we’re going to get.

10.  Allow my kid to throw a tantrum in public

I really thought I would have this one down.  I assumed that I was the adult, the one in charge.  I thought my firm, but loving approach to child rearing would be thing that would separate me from the mom with the toddler sprawled out and screaming on the floor at Target.

I thought that right up until the time my son was about three and I told him it was time to leave Chuck E. Cheese and he looked at me and said, “Over my dead body.”

Ok, so he didn’t actually say that, but trust me, his wails and feet stamping and fist pounding on the Skee Ball machine made it clear that I could suck it.

So, now I just like to tell myself that he’s strong willed and that strong willed children become adults who change the world.  I high five myself and hope that he’s at least a good dictator someday.

Then, I take another helping of humble pie with a side of crow, pull up my yoga pants and tell myself that, at the very least, I’m still way better than that La Leche lady.