Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Hate at home

Artwork Credit: Chris Preksta

On Saturday morning a deranged man walked into a synagogue and shot 11 souls to death.  He also shot and wounded two other members of the congregation.  They were targeted because of their religion and murdered in their house of worship.  Four police officers were also shot and wounded in the response.  Make no mistake, this horrific massacre was a hate crime.

This time it happened in my city.  At a synagogue I've driven by hundreds of times, each time admiring the stained glass windows.  In a neighborhood where many friends and colleagues and students live.  In a community where I work with several different schools, including the one right across the street.  Squirrel Hil is my favorite neighborhood in the city.

I don't know any of the victims.  I wasn't anywhere near Squirrel Hill when it happened.  While I intend to pay my respects at the memorial, I don't want to cause more traffic or congestion in a dense neighborhood as the funerals for the victims take place.  This is about them, not about me.  Sometime next week, maybe.

To say it's rocked the Jewish community in Pittsburgh is an understatement.  I'd even go as far as to say it's rocked the Jewish community in the entire US.  It's rocked Pittsburgh to its core.  It's rocked me too.  But Pittsburgh is strong, and this city will prevail in the face of hate, all while surrounding the Jewish community with love.

I don't know what to say.  If a place for worship is not safe, then where is safe?  I can never wrap my head around mass shootings and the senseless loss of life that comes with them.  But this time it's more personal because it happened in the city I call home.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

I believe her

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a goddamn American hero.

She put herself out there.  She knew when she agreed to testify that she'd be raked over the coals and that her character would be assassinated.  She (and her family) received death threats and had to move out of their home in the days leading up to her testimony.  I think she knew that in the end, her words wouldn't matter.  But she did it anyway because the cost of not testifying was far greater than any personal cost she suffered.

She was a rock star on the stand.  She answered every single question with accuracy and poise.  She handled the backlash with grace.  She did her civic duty, despite the fact that most of those questioning her had made up their minds before she ever even swore the oath to tell the truth.

I believe her.  I believe every single word she said.  I believe her when she says there are things she doesn't remember.  And I believe that the things she doesn't remember don't take anything away from her account.

There are things I don't remember.  And there are things I can recall in vivid detail.

This is one of the few times I'll write a trigger warning on my blog.  If you are triggered by first-hand accounts of rape, sexual assault, and the like, please don't read any further, and take care of you.

I don't remember the location of the house where the party was.  I'm pretty sure the host's name was Megan.  Or maybe it was Morgan.  I don't remember what I was wearing, and frankly, it doesn't matter what I was wearing.  I don't remember most of the people who were there, and honestly, I don't think I knew most of them.  I don't remember the date, but I think it might have been in June.  It was the summer I turned 19, but I don't remember if it was before or after my birthday. 

I remember being there and not having much fun.  I remember walking towards the door to leave and the guy following me, insisting that I stay for a while and have a drink.  It was his birthday, after all.  I worked with him.  We were acquaintances.  I had no reason to not trust him.  Yes, I know his name, and yes, I'll remember it for the rest of my life.  He handed me a drink (a beer, I think, though it could have also been a hard lemonade or something of that nature).  I remember thinking that I'd let him see me take a sip or two, excuse myself to the bathroom, and then sneak out when he got distracted.  And then I took a few sips of whatever the drink was and started feeling woozy.  I remember him picking me up and carrying me to a room.  The bed had a floral duvet and there was a dog, an Irish Setter, laying on the floor.  You can figure out the rest.

In the aftermath, I knew I had to get out of there.  I found my clothes and got dressed.  I knew I was in no state to drive and I didn't even know where I was to call someone and ask them to pick me up.  I locked myself in my car.  Maybe I was there for an hour, or maybe it was six.  I don't know.  I stayed there until I felt ok to drive.  It was on the way home where I made the decision that I wouldn't call the police and that I'd never say anything about what happened.  You see, in order to file a police report, I would have had to admit to drinking, and small-town cops, at least where I used to live, were far more concerned about busting young people for underage consumption then they were about busting a young man for drugging and raping a woman.

It happened the summer I turned 19.  I turned 37 this past summer.  I didn't speak a word about it until the last year or so.  Still, only a small handful of people, maybe five, know about it.  Or at least did before I put it all out there on the internet.  I don't know why I'm telling this story now.  I think because can do so semi-anonymously in this space.  Because even after all these years, I'm still ashamed to talk about it.  But also because it's consumed me since Dr. Ford's testimony.

I'm inspired by many of the responses to Dr. Ford.  And I'm sickened at many others.  It doesn't matter if it's been 25 minutes or 25 years, it doesn't take away from the trauma of the experience, and it doesn't make it any less valid.

I believe you, Christine Blasey Ford.  And I believe every single other person who has gone through this hell.

Tomorrow the man she testified against will likely receive enough votes for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court where he will shape policy for the next 30+ years.  While it remains to be seen, what we know about this man and his track record of treating women poorly, it's not "out there" to think that women's rights are going to take a huge hit.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Shame, my old friend

I've missed this space.  I've missed the reading and the writing, and mostly the engaging.  My summer hiatus wasn't planned, it just sort of happened.  Because life.

I'm almost positive I missed my blogaversary too.  Four years, I think.

The summer has been good.  It's been busy.  We've had fun.  We hosted friends for a week.  We gutted our bathroom and are in the process of refinishing it (we'd hoped to have it done by now, but there is inherent danger in what you might find when you start tearing things up in an old house, lol) and if you guessed that it has been a time and money suck, you would be correct.  We ran out of time to plan a trip to see hubs' family and mine, but truth be told, none of them planned a trip to see us either, so I refuse to be that guilty.

My garden sucked this year.  Which brings me to the title of this post.

Planting my garden was tricky this year.  We had an unusually wet and cool spring followed by an immediate transition into temperatures resembling hell, as opposed to a gentle buildup to the heat.  The plants didn't get a good start, and then when they finally did get going, they got scorched.  I also expanded my garden to about 3x the size that it was the previous year.  The new spot, I knew from the beginning, might not be the greatest because it had more shade than is ideal, but I decided to give it a go anyway and plant plants that did better with less sun.  Anyway, long story short, my garden this year was a pretty epic failure.  Between lack of time to devote to it and a less than ideal spot, it just didn't do well.

Over the weekend, I was talking to my neighbor.  He shares an affinity for gardening so we often talk about plants and such.  I commented that I'd probably not use the spot in the back of the yard again and then offhandedly mentioned that it was shaping up to be a really busy spring (of next year) and I wasn't even sure if I'd have time to do a garden at all.

His face lit up and he asked if we were finally having a baby.

I fumbled some words out of my mouth and came up with "no, I have a bunch of work travel between April and May including one that is going to take me out of the country for a couple of weeks."

Awkwardness followed.  I was seconds away from losing my shit.  He excused himself and went about his business.  I continued the task of weeding my shitty garden as I ugly cried and beat myself up over my broken reproductive parts all while asking myself why I couldn't just be normal.  Pure and simple, it was shame.

It's a few days later and this interaction, or rather, my reaction to it, still has a grip on me.

I don't write about this for sympathy, rather I write it to show that grief is not linear.  This happened after a long period of doing really well, being confident, and fully embracing the life I've been given. And yet words, simple, innocent words, cut right through me. 

So I'll do what I always do.  Pick myself up, dust myself off, and carry on.  The lesson learned here is not to get too comfortable, that when I least expect it, grief can still jump right up and bite me in the ass.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Take care of you

There I stood.  Trapped.  In a group of women.  The day before mother's day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the conversation turned to the next day.

Breakfasts and lunches and dinners in their honor.


What spouses were doing for them.

What kids were doing for them.

Then bitching.  Mainly of the mother in law variety.

All of the pain and grief were at the forefront of my mind. 

I was holding back tears.

There was no way to get out of it. 


Don't run.

These were people I work with, after all.

No escape.

Then it happened.

I felt her take a step closer to me and interlocked her arm in mine.

I don't know what made her do that.  Maybe she saw the pain in my eyes?

She took over the conversation. 

She skillfully put an end to the mother's day conversation with no one realizing what she did and moved on to the next topic.

Except I noticed.

She brought me back down to earth.

She made me feel like I wasn't alone.

Without drawing a single bit of attention to me.

I will be forever grateful.

A little bit later we both happened to be leaving the function.  As we departed ways to head to our respective cars, she gave me a big hug.  She whispered in my ear "take care of you."

This woman is a mother.  But I think she also knows the pain that mother's day can bring.  She left an abusive relationship when her daughter was a toddler and raised her on her own.  She never had a partner to make a big deal out of the day. 

She knows that I don't have any children.  She knows I can't have children because I matter of factly stated as much at a business dinner a few weeks ago.  But she doesn't know the whole story.  She didn't know me during the infertility years.

But she understands.  At least little bit. 

And on that day she saved me.

I'm pretty sure she doesn't know how much it meant to me. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


When in the throes of infertility and in the immediate aftermath I used the "unfollow" and "unfriend" functions of social media quite generously.  I don't think I need to explain my rationale to this community.

I've moved around in my adult life and have a lot of friends from different places and periods of my life.  The unfortunate reality is that I may never see some of these people again in my life, so I very much enjoy keeping up with them and their lives via social media.

Several years ago, I unfollowed a woman who was my roommate during my freshman year of college and lived across the hallway during my sophomore year.  We were pretty good friends during that part of our lives, but our paths diverged after college.  I unfollowed her during her pregnancy for her first child.  While she wasn't one of the bad offenders (like, for example, I don't recall her posting ultrasound pictures), but at that point, I couldn't handle one more pregnancy, so I unapologetically and unceremoniously unfollowed her.

I thought about her from time to time in the following years, but never "checked in" on her.  Over the weekend another friend from college posted a picture of the unfollowed friend and herself, which led me to check out the unfollowed friend's profile.  I wasn't surprised to see that she'd had a second child and then adopted a child through the foster care system.  I wasn't surprised to see happy pictures of her life.  But what I was surprised to see was a post commemorating one-year cancer free.  A little more profile stalking revealed that after experiencing some stomach issues, and a very proactive doctor, a small, but cancerous tumor was found in her stomach.  The tumor was removed and there were clean margins.  They got all of the cancer out.  They also did a course of chemotherapy just to be sure. 

A wave of guilt washed over me as I found out this news.  I felt guilty that I wasn't there to support a friend through a difficult period of her life, or even to let her know that I was thinking about her.

But then I stopped myself.  I unfollowed her for a reason during a very painful period of my life.  It was unfortunate, but it is what I needed to take care of myself.  I do not need to apologize for taking care of myself.  Plus, she is fortunate to have a supportive husband, family, and community that rallied around her during her time of need.

I still feel a little bad that I didn't know until a year after the fact, but the reality is that without social media, it may have been many more years, if at all, for me to find out.  But the guilt is softened somewhat, because I would have needed to endure 3-4 years of really hard posts (about her child and subsequent pregnancy) to find out this news earlier.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes there can be unanticipated consequences related to self-care, and sometimes those unanticipated consequences may make you feel like crap.  But in this case, being selfish and taking care of myself first was necessary for healing.

Friday, April 27, 2018

How much?

I've often heard (and even believed) that the universe never gives us more than we can handle. 

But sometimes I'd really like to ask the universe "what the actual fuck?".

The last two weeks of my life have been crazy, more last week then this week.  I work on an academic calendar, so my work life has a few insanely busy weeks a year, with late April being among them.  With work alone, sometimes I don't know if I'm coming or going.

It all started the Monday of the dreaded photo shoot.  The photo shoot actually went pretty well, and despite being as un-photogenic as I am, the photographer got some decent headshots.  But then the shit hit the fan at 4 pm.  It all started with a phone call from my dad.  Now, I know that none of you know my dad, but suffice to say, he is a man of few words, and generally despises his cell phone.  So to get a call from him, during his workday, from his cell phone was immediately a cause for concern.  As it turned out, he was in the emergency room with my mom, who had a heart attack.  Within 15 minutes, my husband called to let me know that our dog was vomiting uncontrollably and needed to go to the vet.  My mom was admitted to the hospital and we were in the emergency vet clinic with the dog until 2 am.

On Tuesday, Hubs' mom called to let him know that one of their family members passed away.  My mom was in the hospital undergoing further testing.  And the dog was home with us, and while he'd stopped vomiting, he wasn't doing well.

On Wednesday, my mom was still in the hospital for testing (some of the Tuesday tests were unable to be completed because her vein collapsed part way through a test involving dye and so had to be aborted).  Hubs' dad called to let him know that he had tumors in his throat (discovered during a routine endoscopy), and while the biopsies didn't reveal anything cancerous, the tumors would likely require surgical intervention.  The dog wasn't showing any signs of improvement but also wasn't declining.  At this point, he hadn't eaten anything since Monday morning, and we were on the outer edge of the limits that we'd been told he could go without food.

On Thursday, my mom had a heart catheterization, since a few of her tests revealed some abnormalities.  Fortunately, they didn't find any blockages or other issues.  As such they are calling this a "cardiac event".  They know something happened that wasn't supposed to, but they don't know what it was.  For a minute I savored the good news, only to get a call from hubs letting me know that the dog had started to decline, quite rapidly.  Off to the emergency vet, we went again, where he underwent another battery of tests and it was decided that he would need to spend the night for observation, fluids, medication, and more tests in the morning.  His blood work was normal, but his x-rays revealed a bunch of gas in the entirety of his intestine and a possible bowel obstruction.  When we left him, there was a 50/50 chance that he'd end up in surgery in the next 24 hours.

Friday was a good day in the sense that my mom got to go home, but also a day filled with worry for the dog.  I will never say that pets are children, but our dog is our family member and we care deeply for him.  We are keenly aware that he's getting up there in years (he's 9.5 years old), with the average life expectancy for his breed being between 10-12 years.  Simply put, while he is relatively healthy for his age and we don't feel like he is in any immediate danger of crossing the rainbow bridge, he has shown a marked decline over the last year, and we know he is in the twilight of his life.  Anyway, with fluids and meds, he improved a lot overnight, and the morning x-ray revealed that things were slowly moving along.  We were relieved that surgery was now looking less likely, and opted to continue conservative management with fluids and meds, reintroduce food to see if he ate and was able to hold it down, and then do another x-ray in the late afternoon.  We were very surprised to get a call around 7pm saying that he was excitedly eating all of the food that he was offered, that his x-ray revealed a lot of progress, and that they were comfortable with him going home that night.  We rushed to pick him up.  We spent the weekend laying low and staying home with the dog.

In the midst of all of this, an email from my boss lands in my inbox late Friday afternoon, and boy did it cause some chaos.  I was involved in a meeting last fall on the topic of this email, at which time, the next steps involved letting this thing work it's way through the appropriate channels to see if it was feasible.  I didn't hear anything else, nor did my two immediate supervisors, so I figured that this thing was a no go.  Except the boss decided that it was a go without bothering to inform my department chair or program director.  I should add that there has been quite a bit of head-butting and conflict going on, which I have done my best to avoid to this point, but now I was right in the thick of it.  At a time where I was already overly emotional.  And also at a time when I had to fit unplanned things and rearrange planned things in an extremely busy schedule.

It all got worked out, well at least in the sense of the parties that were involved in a pissing contest still are, but all parties acknowledge that I was put in a situation beyond my control.  Also cool is that all of this will result in a neat travel opportunity (or potentially two trips to the same location).  Mali, I'm almost sure this place was a stop on your most recent travel adventure abroad, so we may have to touch base.  :)

All in all, the last two weeks have been incredibly stressful and left me wondering at more than one point how much a person can handle.  Thankfully, everything seems to have worked itself out at least for now, and things are starting to calm down quite a bit.  Suffice to say, I think I could deal with a few uneventful weeks to get my bearings back.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


I despise clothes shopping with the passion of 10,000 firey suns.  I have exactly zero fashion sense, am painfully cheap, and am a difficult fit (especially for pants).  Admitting that I need to go shopping takes a while,  psyching myself to actually go is a process, and a pants shopping trip usually ends (unsuccessfully) with tears and/or cursing.  Needless to say, my work wardrobe consists of almost exclusively black trousers and lightweight shirts (because I also have zero tolerance for being hot).

I went shopping on Saturday.  For pants.  It ended with no pants, a lot of cursing/self-depreciation, and a six-pack of pineapple ale.  Well, technically a six-pack plus one additional can because we have antiquated laws about alcohol in my state and we have to buy beer by the bottle or the case, and the bottle shop that I buy at gives you a seventh can for a penny.

Note to self: Banish the thought of "I haven't gone shopping at (store name) for a while now.  I should try there." out of my mind and go to where I know the clothes fit.

Why did I go shopping?  Because I'm participating in a marketing photo shoot for work tomorrow. "Participating" makes it sound like this is a voluntary activity, but really it's not.  And I am the least photogenic person on the face of the earth.  I am looking forward to it like I look forward to dental work.

I thought that a new outfit might make me feel good, or at least a little bit better about this stupid photo shoot.   But it was not meant to be.  Ugh.

But anyway, that's not what I want to write about.

I want to write about the fact that there were advisements all over the store about Mother's Day.  Holy Hell.  Mother's Day isn't for a full month.  It's nothing more than a profit scheme for the greeting card companies holiday.  The store I was at sells clothing for women, men, children, juniors, etc.

When I saw the first advertisement, my eye roll was so hard that I damn near had a seizure.   I was so annoyed. 

I suppose this is an improvement over previous years, however.

But yeah, it looks like we (at least those of us here in the US) have a full month of advertising for a holiday that doesn't apply to us ahead of us!  Pass the pineapple ale!