Friday, November 20, 2015

Why The Refugee Situation Is A Defining Moment and The Chance to Prove We’ve Grown As a Nation

A few years back, I had the privilege of employing some Bhutanese refugees from Nepal. These women had literally grown up in refugee camps after fleeing the violence and persecution of the supposedly peaceful buddhist regime of Bhutan.  The regime and their supporters did not accept the cultural and religious differences of the Hindus who lived in the southern regions. Their prejudice led to intolerance, which then led to discrimination, then violence and finally resulted in them being driven from their homes and farms, many beaten and even killed. They fled to neighboring Nepal, where they were allowed set up refugee camps.

Now, when I say camps, you should know that these were not lovely tents with running water and air conditioning or heat. They literally lived in mud huts of their own making and went into the forest to hunt and forage for food. They and their parents were in the camps so long because the Nepalese government refused to offer them citizenship and the international community debated and argued for years before Canada and the US stepped up to take them. Even then, the process was extremely slow and arduous and in the end, those who were able to work here had to come first and then pave the way to bring their elderly parents, all the while, hoping that they would be able to jump through all the right hoops and earn enough money before time ran out and one or both of their parents died in the camps.

What many people don't know about refugees who come to the United States, aside from the arduous screening process, and I certainly didn't realize until I came to know these women, is that in many cases, even the charities (in their specific case a Christian charity) require REPAYMENT of most or all of the relocation fees such as airfare (which is not discounted and in most cases as much as a first class ticket). This meant that each of them, husbands, wives, and children, began their new life in the U.S. with a substantial debt over their heads of thousands of dollars and in many cases, tens of thousands of dollars. In this case, the husbands were employed by Goodwill for minimum wage and I'm sorry to say, sometimes taken advantage of from a labor perspective because of their poor understanding of labor laws and their genuine and deep fear of making any waves and being sent back. (As a side note, they initially attempted to buy some things at Goodwill, until the supervisors there arbitrarily decided to make a new "rule" that employees AND THEIR FAMILIES were not allowed, EVEN IN THEIR OFF HOURS, to shop at the store. This resulted in me going in "undercover" to purchase things for their homes based on their descriptions.)

My friends were placed in the same housing complex as five other refugee families, 30 miles northwest of where a much larger group of I believe about 6,000 were living in Decatur, Georgia.  They lived in an impoverished and crime ridden area of town--the police were called to their apartment complex on a daily basis for guns, knife fights, drug busts, etc., but they were grateful for having an actual roof and running water and they never complained. Again, I can not stress enough the very real fear they had of making "trouble" and being sent back. They were always aware that their being here was conditional and despite my attempting to explain to them that they too had rights, they were guided by this fear.

The families worked diligently to make their tiny apartments homey and as nice as possible with the small amount of money they had. They laid inexpensive bamboo mats all over the carpets, which they were not used to and did not like. They gathered together nightly, on weekends and cultural holidays for tea and meals, and shared any and all resources to help one another survive, watching each other's children, buying groceries in bulk together, sharing one car amongst five families, the list goes on. Through it all they were always thankful--so thankful--constantly bringing me and others who helped them little gifts of food or apologizing for any perceived burden they imagined they had caused.

I could tell you many things about these people and how knowing them, becoming close to them, was one of the most powerful human experiences I have had the honor to have had, but my purpose in writing this is simply to beg you, literally in the name of humanity, do not buy into the hateful idea that the process of coming here as a refugee is an easy one or a haphazard one or taken lightly by any entity involved. My purpose is to implore you that we who have so much--no matter how many bills we are stressing over--can always make room for more, that that is what we are supposed to be ABOUT as a country. I'm not even a nationalist and Zeus knows I have my share of criticisms of our country, but if I have a shred of nationalism in me, it is because I really BELIEVE in the idea that we SHOULD be a nation of people who care, who love, who are attempting to write the BOOK on second chances.

I know many of us don't like to think about or be reminded of the fact that our ancestors stole this land to begin with and then enslaved or massacred millions upon it. Of course, we can never go back and make that right again and we know it, so some of us want to say it's in the past, it's not our fault, let it go. But is it really in the past? Are our hearts clean from the selfishness and greed that caused our ancestors to act in such a despicable way? We have the chance now in this crisis, in every crisis of discrimination--at home and abroad--to show that we are willing to shed that selfish, ugly part of ourselves that would have us turn our back on suffering and say "somebody else's problem." We have the chance to prove that we CAN BE that beacon of refuge, that we DO stand beside those words on the statue of liberty, that we ARE truly courageous--not just with bluster and military superiority that for most of us is far removed from our own personal situation--but with our hearts. So, I challenge you, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and my fellow atheists, be courageous with your hearts and dare to prove your love. If you are concerned about evil and hatred reaching us here, Ive got news for you, it's ALREADY here. It's in our own hearts, in every little selfish decision, every tiny or giant step away from the idea of unity and love and compassion, every broken promise, every turned back, every furtive glance away. We are not perfect but we have the chance to be MORE perfect every day and like Michelangelo, chip away at WASN'T David, until the beautiful form slowly emerges. If you want to fight evil, if you really want to fight it, then by all means have the courage to do so within yourselves because THAT is the ONLY way it will actually be defeated. Open your hearts and keep them open, in the face of fear and threats and intimidation, in the face of violence and lies and ignorance, be truly courageous and keep them open still.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Five Reasons Your Siblings Are Your Best Friends

HEADS UP:  If you are a single parent, you might not want to read this because it will probably only make you feel guiltier about not providing a brother or sister for your child.  This is not to say there are not still benefits to being an only child—they’re just not listed in this article.  So, maybe now would be a good time to just scroll on by or reheat that cup of coffee.  Come back later and check Facebook--love ya!.

Are they gone?  OK, good news parents of multiples--although you may be consumed by exhaustion from the endless juggling of schedules and/or depressed about the constant drain on your bank account, put down that razor blade and take heed! You can now feel good about your decision to willingly engage in the insanity of attempting to raise multiple humans have two or more kids because there is actual research to back you up.  So, despite the bickering and occasional slammed doors, here are five plausible reasons why siblings are your best friends:

1.  They make the long haul easier.

We tend to think of our parents as the people we've known the longest but in actual length of years spent together, our siblings are the ones we wind up knowing for the greatest duration of time.  As Alena Hall puts it in The Huffington Post, siblings "mark our most enduring relationship.” Think about it--if you started having kids in your mid-20s, as many do, and you can expect to live to about 80, then your children will have known each other all the 55 years you were around with them, plus, if they live to about 80 themselves, they will have known each other an additional 25 years beyond you. Even if you started later, the odds are your kids will still know each other longer than anyone else. 

And in their old age, your kids may be happier because they have each other.  Research has shown that elderly people who still have a living brother or sister, report greater degrees of happiness and contentment, even if they don't see each other often.  Just knowing that there is someone alive on this planet that you share a true lifelong bond with is comforting in a way that is difficult to describe but incredibly powerful.

2.  They can make you healthier.

There is some encouraging research out of Europe that suggests having a brother or sister can actually benefit you mentally and physically.  For example, children with older siblings tend to struggle less with obesity.  One reason may be the increased exercise experienced because they have someone to run around and play with  (we're not going to get into whether controlling for video game obsession was done--we'll just let common sense answer that one.)

3.  They can teach you how to be a better partner in adult relationships.

Again, this one just seems like common sense but the experts back up this claim.  As Jeffrey Kluger writes in TIME, "[s]isters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys."  (I would like to add to this by stating that in my own purely anecdotal evidence, during my dating years I observed that guys who had sisters were markedly more in tune with a woman's needs and demonstrated more empathy overall.)

4.  They teach you how to share resources without being a total jerk.

OK, here is where I admit that I am the parent of an only child and would have left the room myself, if I weren't actually writing this piece.  I will also now admit to you what I cringe to even say—yes, my son struggles with sharing.  This was never more evident to me than when I married my second husband and we moved in with him and my youngest step-daughter (my son is 14 and she is 15).  There is no getting around it.  Despite what you SAY to a child about sharing and being flexible, kids with brothers and sisters are much better at it.  Now hold up, you say--my kids fight about clothes and TV programs and mysteriously disappearing leftovers all the time!  Yes, that is true--my stepdaughters often fight over clothes and who "borrowed" what from whom and it can even get pretty ugly, but the bottom line is that they still complain a hell of a lot less than my son when they can't have that extra $20 or there are no more Oreos, or they have to give up some space for visiting relatives.  And that’s all I want to say about that because it depresses me for my son. Let's move on.

5.  They save money on therapy to get over the damage you did to them.

Face it, no matter how good of a job you do, you are bound to screw up somehow and there will always be at least one thing that your kids look back and vow to do differently with their own children.  And yes, of course there will be treasured memories and little idiosyncrisies or goofy traditions that they will want to repeat as well.  Having a brother or sister to share in these memories and validate their experiences can be extremely valuable on an emotional level.  And this validation can help give you the confidence to face life’s challenges.  It’s the feeling that you’re OK, you’re not alone in your experience of the world and there is always somewhere where you truly fit in—more importantly, your “home base” still exists as long as one of your siblings is around to bear witness.

Overall, if you can put up with them throughout childhood, brothers and sisters may really be the best friend you will ever have.  And with that, I think I’ll go give my sister a call. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Back in the Day--My Personal Anita Hill Sexual Harassment Story

I’ve heard a few journalists make reference to Anita Hill lately, drawing a parallel between the Clarence Thomas hearings and what’s going on now with Herman Caine. This brings up some very personal feelings for me-- because I was actually being sexually harassed during the Anita Hill trial.

I was in my early 20s, living in Los Angeles, and working as a traveling executive assistant to the senior vice president of a small, privately-owned, health-related, consulting firm. The company was founded and run by my boss Vernon, and his friend Mitchell (not their real names), a couple of good ol’ boys from a small town in west Texas and their mutual ex-girlfriend, Jane (another fake name). Ironically, the remaining majority of employees which comprised the administrative and management staff, were a group of Mormon friends, totally unrelated to the owners by blood or background. I was one of only two sort of token outsiders, if you will, without ties to either group. I discovered later that it was Mitchell’s idea to hire the Mormons because he felt they would be easily manipulated but still honest. I won’t even begin to dissect that.

I had originally been hired as an administrative assistant to one of the Mormon managers—a very nice, honest, respectful, bright and funny guy. I made a good salary and was relatively happy being part of an upbeat, hardworking team that all pitched together when it was crunch time to deliver our “product” to the customer.

Vernon and Mitchell (his BFF and the company’s owner) were only in our south bay office about two-three times per month, so they were known but not terribly familiar and I’d met both of them briefly. Vernon had made it a point to introduce himself one day and spend some time at my desk to chat, ask a few questions about my background and tell me about himself, like the fact that he was married with no less than five children. I, not incidentally, was recently engaged to my ex-husband.

Not long after that meeting, I was called into Amy, the office administrator’s office (team Mormon) to say that Vernon’s assistant had been let go and he had personally requested that I fill her position. My first reaction was to be extremely flattered and taken aback. I hadn’t been with the company very long at all and to already be receiving a promotion was great but a little weird. I knew there were at least two other assistants who might be in line for that job before me. But I let my ego take the boost and considered that maybe my work and positive, can-do attitude somehow was that impressive.

The job came with a significant increase in pay, and meant I’d be traveling, literally Monday through Friday, around the country with Vernon, flying first class everywhere and staying at the best hotels in every city. It also meant I would be spending a lot of time away from my then fiancĂ©. I asked to have some time to talk it over with him, went home, had the discussion and we both agreed it was a great opportunity and would bring in much needed income—worst case scenario, I’d give it a year and we’d re-evaluate. I went to work the next day and accepted the position. I would pack my bags and be ready to leave on my first trip Monday morning.

Down the Rabbit Hole I Go

Oddly enough, before I began to work for Vernon, Mitchell’s assistant got sick and I was sent with him for a two-day trip instead. This meant flying on the corporate Learjet and meeting our company’s pilots on my first trip. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement. After all, I was still just a girl from an upper middle class Jersey suburb. The closest I’d come to wealth by that point in my life was visiting my uncle who had a three-car garage and a summer house at the shore. Of course, Mitchell hadn’t come from money either—in fact, he’d had a much more humble beginning than I had. But what he lacked in upbringing, he more than made up for with extravagance, eccentricity, and sheer boastfulness about his nouveau riche status. With all the subtlety of a baboon (and I apologize profusely to the baboon community), Mitchell spent the entire flight telling me his rags to riches story-- how he mercilessly squashed anyone in his path to the top and the joy he took in now periodically returning to his home town to rub all their faces in his extreme and awesome wealth. As he explained, there wasn’t much he couldn’t buy—most anything, or anyone could be his if he really wanted it because, after all, he had A LOT of money. He told me all this while drinking a bottle of Dom Perignon at 40,000 feet. I politely declined his multiple offers of champagne, wine, beer, and later to join him in his room. He flat out propositioned me and when I turned him down, laughed and said that I might be a young idealist in love but I too could eventually be “cracked” in time. I literally had to push him away from my hotel room door later that evening.

To say that I was freaked out was an understatement. What the hell had I gotten myself into? I wanted to call my boyfriend but knew, of course, that he would flip out and demand I come home on the next flight—something I wasn’t even sure I could accomplish without spending a couple thousand dollars out of pocket. But money wasn't the only reason why I stayed. I stayed because I was just young enough and just stupid enough to reason away this red flag by saying to myself that this was Mitchell, not Vernon, and that I might never actually BE in this position again anyway, so why throw away the chance at this exciting job with a huge paycheck over one crazy stupid flight on a Learjet with a nut job--even if the nut job was the president? The next evening we were due to meet up with Vernon and I would be whisked away from this creepy scene anyway. So I went to bed and told no one.

When we finally did meet up with Vernon and the three of us had dinner together, he was surprisingly and noticeably protective of me and seemed to settle Mitchell back into his place with a simple “whoa now, Mitchell, go easy on Susan, she’s a good girl” style. And so I began to think that this first incident was just a blip on the radar and I'd been right to keep it all to myself.

At first, Vernon was nothing but polite, opening doors and looking out for me in that sweet, polite, Texas/southern-raised boy sort of way. But very early on he did begin complimenting me a bit too much, in a way that made me uneasy. Of course my Jersey girl way of handling uneasy, was to sort of push back and use humor—for example, Vernon would say something about me being beautiful and I would roll my eyes and say something like “OK Vernon, now would you please made a decision about what we should tell Client X about the heart center opening next month?”

It went on like this for a while and truthfully, if being told I was beautiful a bit too often was all there was to it, despite the fact that it was entirely inappropriate, I could have probably handled it. But it got worse. Vernon began to tell me that he had feelings for me, then that he was in love with me, and THEN that if only I would realize that this young boy I was engaged to could never give me what I deserved and let HIM make my dreams come true, buy me a house, give me everything, etc., I would see how happy we would be. And then he started trying to touch me. And my sassy little Jersey girl attitude didn’t dissuade him any more. He also became insanely jealous and possessive of me in the most embarrassing ways—even clients were noticing. We’d be out to dinner with a local heart surgeon and instead of discussing business, Vernon would be devoting his attention to me, clearly behaving as if I was his girlfriend.

Enter Anita Hill. As all this was coming to a head and I was trying to reason with Vernon, reminding him of his wife and kids, the fact that I loved my boyfriend, the age difference, and the fact that I did not love him back, hoping that he would sort of wake up and get over it, and I would be able to keep my job and this would all go away, Anita Hill was testifying about the harassment she’d suffered at the hands of Clarence Thomas. No matter where we went those few months, you couldn’t escape the hearings and neither Vernon nor I could escape the comparison. In every VIP lounge, in every newspaper, over every client dinner discussion, the topic of sexual harassment was suddenly there, in a way it had never been before. And Vernon’s reaction to Anita Hill's testimony was what finally began to change my perspective on everything.

We began to argue about the hearings in a way that was only thinly disguising that we were really arguing about OUR situation. Vernon was of the opinion that Anita Hill was making a big deal out of literally nothing and should shut her mouth. He simply could not see how Thomas’ position of power over her was what made his behavior wrong. As far as Vernon was concerned, Anita Hill was just a whiny, feminist bitch and he as much as said so.

Meanwhile, back around the time things had gone from Vernon complimenting me to him propositioning me, I DID start confiding in our office administrator Amy (remember, team Mormon), whom I’d become friends with and trusted very much. I would call Amy from my five-star hotel room, which oddly came to feel like a series of high-priced prison cells, every night and give her the day’s litany of offenses.

Early on in these discussions, Amy confessed that Vernon’s request for me to be his executive assistant had consisted of a phone call to her stating “I want that cute little new girl.”

Of course, this put Amy in a horrible position and she felt terrible for not warning me at the outset. As administrator she was, I suppose, legally bound to do something about this—remove me from this situation at least. But, as I said, we were friends by then, we were both young, both in positions somewhat beyond what we’d been trained or prepared for, and we both knew that this could very well be the end of HER job as well as mine. Still, we knew that at some point, one of us was going to have to do something and it wasn’t going to be pretty or fun. It was me who kept stalling for time to think of a way out. Meanwhile, I was feeling worse and worse about the fact that I hadn’t shared any of this with my boyfriend.

And then, one day in Mel’s diner, not far from the entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge, as Vernon was trying to feel me up under the table with his foot, I realized that despite my attempts at “humorously” shutting him down, I’d actually been implicitly agreeing with Vernon’s point of view about Anita Hill. My trying to hide the situation, reason away the situation, use humor to deflect the situation and piling the stress of it all upon myself to come up with a solution that still left everyone’s feelings and jobs in tact was my way of saying that to do otherwise would make me one of those whiny feminist bitches who had to go run and tell instead of just handling it herself. And then, finally, I began to be angry with Vernon for putting me in this ridiculous position to begin with.

Of course, anger is often the motivating force behind courage and that is what I found from watching Anita Hill. As I sat in my last airport VIP lounge, watching that brave, intelligent, and courageous woman speak out I knew what I had to do.

Coming Forward

That Monday, instead of getting on a plane, I showed up at the office with a written statement. I took the company’s accountant (team Mormon) in with me to the company CFO (the ex-girlfriend you may recall of both Vernon and Mitchell) and gave her the letter, outlining the harassment I’d been undergoing and requesting a transfer back to the main office with no change in salary. Intuitively, I felt the need to have a witness to the discussion in case things didn't go down in my favor. I had her sign the letter and kept a copy for myself. Then I took the rest of the day off and returned the following morning to hear their decision.

I arrived to find that a new position of "Manager of Executive Offices" had been created especially for me and I would now be reporting directly to Mitchell. That did not exactly inspire confidence but I had already come this far. I just needed to be brave a while longer and hopefully the weirdness would all blow over. [insert laughter here]

Immediately however, it was clear that Mitchell wasn’t interested in having anything “blow over.” In the few phone calls I had with him the next week, the formerly flirty Mitchell was decidedly cold and downright rude. In fact, you could feel the tension in the air all around the firm. Team Mormon was noticeably on my “side” if you will—offering whispered “hang in there’s” and knowing, sympathetic smiles. Team Vernon, of which only Linda was actually present, avoided me like the plague. Of course Vernon and I did not speak at all.

On Friday, I was informed that my salary would be cut by $1,300 month, since, they argued, that portion was really considered a per diem for traveling assistants (no such documentation of that existed). When I informed Mitchell via phone that this was a violation of the agreement Linda had signed, whereby I would not be financially penalized for bringing forward the complaint, I was fired and told to leave the building immediately. One of the other assistants was ordered to see me out and make sure I didn’t talk to anyone else on the way. Of course she was team Mormon too and made it plain that she would do no such thing, so she was fired on the spot, as well.

Before I left, I found an employment lawyer in the yellow pages (remember those?), and drove directly to his office, where we filed a wrongful termination suit based on sexual harassment.

If I thought the nightmare was over, it was only just beginning. Anita, hang in there!

Try to Avoid Court if You Are Not Wealthy

My attorney, who took my case on contingency, was a very sweet guy who I think actually went into law for noble reasons, rather than a quest for easy money. He wasn’t much older than me really and I don’t think either one of us knew what we were getting in to, but I’ll only speak for myself on that. I DEFINITELY did not know what I was getting in to. Mitchell and Vernon hired the priciest downtown Los Angeles firm they could find, who then assigned their most aggressive, cut-throat female attorney to the case. Think L.A. Law vs. first year lawyer from the public defender's office. To make matters worse, I suppose because my guy's office was so shabby, despite being much closer, all meetings and depositions were done at their attorney's shiny office in a downtown high-rise with paid parking.

Of course, I had imagined Vernon and Mitchell would lie, but only in the sense that they would simply deny the allegations really. It didn’t occur to me that they would actually fabricate stories or take actual incidents that we were planning to present as evidence and completely turn them around to where I looked like a salivating, man-hungry whore. Oh, how I laugh at my naivete. For example, there had been an incident at a client’s office in Alabama where a young man who worked at the building we were having our meeting at, offered to help carry my things to the car, which I thankfully let him do. Of course as soon as we were out of earshot, Vernon became ridiculously jealous and angry, saying, amongst other bizarro things, that when I was on the road with him, I was “his girl.” It was really insane and I clearly told him as much at the time. Yet, he went on about it for at least two hours, how much it bothered him to see me walking beside “that boy.” It was a good example of just how obsessed he'd become and how powerful he imagined he was over me.

Well, during the deposition process, his lawyer (Miss Friendly) brought the incident up before we ever got to—only in their version of events, instead of Vernon being jealous, I was gushing about the young guy and saying I wanted a “piece of his fine ass!” (A phrase I’ve never used in my life, thank you very much.)

And when they didn’t have real stories to twist, they just made stuff up—like saying that I’d been twice warned by Mitchell to dress more conservatively. As if!! Mitchell would have preferred I wore fishnets and a g-string in his presence!

Long story short, it was horrible. I remember glaring down the long conference table at Vernon during one of the deposition days but he wouldn’t look at me. I felt like maybe if I could just get him to make eye contact, he’d feel so guilty about what he was doing that he’d confess and tell the truth. I wondered if his wife knew or if they’d managed to keep it all from her.

I went home crying every day and finally called my lawyer and told him to go ahead and settle for whatever, I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted to make it stop. We took a five- figure settlement, the lawyer took his fee and it was done. But everywhere I went after that, I was afraid people would find out what had happened and suspect I was really to blame after all. In that way, I carried the shame for a long time. I didn't feel courageous then, just embarrassed and stupid. In other words, I missed the point entirely at the time.

It was a humiliating experience that I have often said I would never subject myself to again. Of course, years of distance and the wisdom of age has a way of putting things into perspective. There are definitely ways in which I could have handled things differently, knowing what I know now, but which I simply wasn't capable of at the time. For example, rather than merely using humor to try and deflect Vernon's advances, when he persisted, I might have been much firmer, if not downright mean. But knowing what I know now, includes being older, wiser, more secure, and living in a culture that now recognizes the validity of sexual harassment and punishes those who abuse their power over others in this way. Still, even if I were in that position today, knowing all I do, with a son to care for in a bad economy, might I be even more likely to avoid the confrontation and try to deal with it myself? Thankfully, I’m not and thankfully for so many women, Anita Hill opened up a dialogue in this country about an issue that almost every woman who works with men has had to deal with on some level. Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that not long after our settlement I was contacted by Vernon’s former assistant--turned out I wasn't the first--total shocker.

The fact is Anita Hill stood up there in front of all those men and bravely, calmly, and intelligently spoke the truth. She stood up to a very powerful and popular man who just happened to be a misogynistic asshole and a disgrace to his position and she might not have had him unseated, but she paved the way for the rest of us to speak out and stand up for ourselves and our right to be safe from sexual harassment in the workplace. And thanks to Anita Hill, sexual harassment policies are now standard at even small companies and many women no longer have to feel trapped in a Mad Men world. We still have a way to go, but we are light years from where we were before on this issue, thanks to her. Because it’s not a joke when your boss is putting you in a position where you feel you have to basically choose between unemployment and self respect.

So yeah, I was sexually harassed during the Anita Hill trial and I’m not embarrassed to admit it any more. Thank you, Ms. Hill.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sticking it Out

My Aunt Helen is in the hospital right now with pneumonia, sedated, with a respirator tube down her throat. She is 85 years old. My Uncle Pat, goes back and forth to the hospital every day to visit her and sit by her bedside. He told my mom that today he touched her cheek and a single tear came out of her eye and slid down her face. They've been married well over 50 years, can't remember the exact number. The thing is they always sort of hated each other.

I'm sure their relationship seemed even worse to me b/c my own parents' marriage was so flipping perfect. Honestly, in comparison, anyone's marriage would appear to have problems compared to those two. My parents never fought. Ever. They barely even disagreed about anything. They were absolutely and totally in love until the day my father died suddenly, at the age of 55, from a brain aneurysm. They were the kind of couple who sat at the dinner table after my sister and I were gone and talked and laughed for another two to three hours. They also had matching leather jackets. Need I say more?

So, yea, they made pretty much anyone's marriage pale in comparison, but still, Aunt Helen and Uncle Pat kind of hated each other. It was terrible b/c I really loved them both and would never want to take sides, but if I were to speak honestly, I would have to say that he was kind of an asshole to her. I don't know why. I don't know if anyone knows why, probably not even him. He was the nicest guy to everyone else--coached little league for like 40 freaking years, knew everyone in their town, kind of guy who would go out of his way in a second to help you out if you were even the friend of a friend--but he was downright nasty to Aunt Helen. And she took it. Until she turned like 70 and then she just stopped putting up with it. She didn't leave him, but she just sort of turned on him and regularly started telling him to go to hell. Not that it made anything any better. He didn't start treating her like a queen or anything.

I always thought I'd never want to end up like Aunt Helen, putting up with a jerky guy just b/c I had a son with him, or just b/c divorce wasn't the catholic thing to do. I couldn't understand why she didn't just walk away. Until I grew up, had a son of my own and found myself married to a jerky guy. It's not that easy. It's not that simple. Maybe it should be, but it's just not.

My marriage eventually ended b/c I did walk away, but not until things got so bad that it was unsafe for me to stay. I tried to stick it out. But my jerky guy was even jerkier than Uncle Pat, and the abuse didn't stop with words. Still, I felt like a failure. And the guilt for what my son had lost was and still is difficult to reconcile--because I came from that last generation where people stuck it out no matter what. Divorce just wasn't an option.

I don't know if I'll get to talk to my Aunt Helen again but I want to ask her, was it worth it? Are you glad you stuck it out? If you had it to do over, would you have left him? Did you shed that tear b/c at least now, at the end, he showed up, he was sweet and you know he loved you? Or were you crying for what might have been?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thank You Garbage Disposal

In the spirit of appreciation, which is the hallmark of any successful society, can we all please take a moment to express our gratitude for the garbage disposal? Is it not a thing of exquisite beauty? Does it not bring joy and comfort to even the coldest of hearts? Thank you, garbage disposal, for all you do.


I like her.  Of course the right wing bullies in the senate don't, goes without saying.  But what really drives me nuts is why do we have to go through this ridiculous game of trying to get the nominees to hide their personal opinions?  Last time I checked, judges were human and I have never met a human being who didn't have personal opinions, especially those who have spent their lives in the pursuit of knowledge and a career in law.  In fact, last time I checked, having an opinion was still legal.  The issue is whether that opinion or "prejudice" is going to influence the judges decision and that is the only matter, in my opinion, that should be up for debate.

But when it comes to the Supreme Court, those opinions might translate into actual changes in the law you say.  Bottom line is yes, of course it could and of course it does.  There's no way it couldn't.  But a good judge bases their judgements on their very best interpretation of the Constitution, as it pertains to the matter(s) at hand.  Still, bottom line is there is no way to REMOVE someone's personal opinion.  Rather, we should only be concerned as to the fairness with which a nominee has ruled in the past, which is unfortunately open to a great deal of interpretation depending on which side of the fence you stand on.  And no matter how fair she has been in upholding the Constitution prior to this, she will now have the power to effect changes in the law.  Bottom line.  End of story.  Get over it.  The Republicans want to stack the deck with their guys and the Democrats theirs.  Democrats are in power now, so they get more people.  YES, she's pro-choice, probably pro-gay marriage.  Oh well.  Too bad, so sad.  Get over it.