Thursday, November 20, 2014

For Kim, On What Would've Been Her 46th Birthday

I thumbed through books filled with the words of others,
hoping to find that perfect couplet
the resonant stanza that could
or would
convey what it is to lose
a teacher, a sister, a mother, a daughter,
a friend.

But nothing and no one
described the way I fell to my knees when I learned you were gone
or how we cried in a restaurant while toasting you,
not caring what anyone thought,
or how reading of the way you had made so many others
laugh, learn and grow
during your short, brilliant ride on this beautiful terrible planet
made all of us even more grateful for you.

Instead I went back to a lesson learned as a child
while standing around a pond at summer camp.
On the count of three, dozens of us threw green pinecones
into the mirror-still water.
In silence, we watched as the ripples from each spread out
and touched the others over and over again
until every one was connected
and the pond was alive with movement.

Each child you've taught, each friend you've made, each tear you've dried, each laugh you've shared
THAT is what connects us to you now

You have gone, but the pond is not still.
Your waves run through us all and across this place.
We catch the shimmer of you in the autumn light
and commune in the stillness of your beauty,
offering thanks for your overwhelming love and strength.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

One Week Later

Birth control pills were approved for contraceptive use in America when my mother was 14 years old. And Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in America in 1973. That same year, I turned 4 years old and  became part of the first generation of American girls raised having safe and accessible choices when it came to our reproductive destiny.

Flash forward 40 years.

It is 11:50pm on a hot Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. I am crowded into the rotunda of the state capitol building with thousands of other people who are all wearing orange shirts, scarves and hair ribbons and screaming at the top of their lungs. Around me are half a dozen friends my age, and we are screaming too while we sweat and check news feeds on our phones as the clock nears midnight. My ears are vibrating in pain at the sheer volume of the voices—so guttural and primal and sustained—raised in a deafening unison roar. Then the clock strikes twelve, and impossibly, the volume of the screaming grows even louder. I have no idea if we’ve been successful in killing #SB5, but it damn sure feels like we’ve done something important by coming together and raising our voices in this way. I go home exhausted but too energized to sleep. I am wide awake.


Flash forward one week.

I’m still hoarse. My hair continues to stand up when I see photos or videos or read well-written accounts of what happened on Tuesday,June 25th in the Texas state capitol building. They are calling it “The People’s Filibuster.” And having been part of it, is still very much with me and many, many others.

The whole thing—and all of the action that has followed—has made me do a lot of reflecting, and I found myself wondering: Why am I so damn passionate about the abortion issue? Why did I wear my headphones listening to Texas state senator Wendy Davis filibuster against anti-abortion legislation on the senate floor almost all day while I was at work?  Why did I rush down to the capitol that night when I saw the 3rd point of order raised against Senator Davis—and the intense reaction to what was going on in the rotunda—live on the 10 o’clock news? Why did I stand there for hours and hours with thousands of orange-clad strangers who, like me, desperately wanted to be heard that night? Why did I go back to the capitol this week to stand with 6,000 others there to protest the blatantly anti-woman legislation that is back in front of the Texas legislature?

The answer to all these questions is simple: Because this issue—women’s accessibility to safe, affordable LEGAL gynecological services including pregnancy termination—is not only important to women, it says a great deal about how women are viewed in our society. 

A bit of background: When I became sexually active in my late teens, I had access to inexpensive birth control via the Planned Parenthood clinic in the town where I was attending college. I also got regular “well woman” check-ups at that same clinic (required in order to maintain my birth control prescription), and I was able to do all this without my parents’ or my partner’s permission or intervention. To me, taking care of my lady business was simply a part of becoming an independent young woman. It never occurred to me that what I was doing with regard to my reproductive health would (our could) ever be anyone else’s business. Because I had no memory of what life had been life prior to the pill or legalized abortion, I never considered what I was doing a fragile freedom that might be threatened or even disappear. In essence, I’d received all the spoils of a war that I knew little about. And, like many women my age, I became complacent and assumed my reproductive rights were protected. But clearly, I was wrong.

It didn’t happen overnight—the most insidious change rarely does. Over the past two decades, the lines between the church and the statehouse have become so blurred that the foundational principle of the separation of church and state has become little more than a hollow footnote in America. Simultaneously, politicians who run on platforms of “limited government” and “personal freedom” while also advocating for the increased government intrusion into women’s reproductive organs have continued to win local, statewide and national elections. The result of this perfect theocratic storm has been that, little by little, the rights that my grandmother’s and mother’s generation fought so hard to secure are being stripped away. Like many other women in America, I now live in a state where a very vocal, organized, fundamentalist religious minority has managed to bring us to the brink of passing some of the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation in the entire country. Meanwhile, our state leaders and GOP legislators have the gall to smile their lipless smiles and tell us that it’s all for own good. And this condescending “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it… we know what’s best for you” stance is insulting, infuriating bullshit.

Let me clarify that I am NOT “pro-abortion” as I’m sure some would be quick to label me. Come ON!! Who in their right minds would wish that they or someone they love would ever EVER have to undergo an abortion? No one, that’s who. That’s why the bogus-yet-frequently-repeated claim that those of us who are pro-choice are actually “pro-abortion” makes my blood boil. It’s just fucking stupid, and if you say it, I have no choice but to think that you’re an ill-informed, myopic idiot.

I have a young daughter, and the thought of her ever facing the agonizing choices that come with an unplanned or unsustainable pregnancy is enough to make my stomach turn and bring me to tears. As a parent, my ultimate goals are to protect her, guide her toward good choices in her life, and to do everything within my power to ensure she is safe, happy and healthy. And I hope beyond description that she will never undergo an abortion procedure. But as a realist who resides on planet Earth, I also understand and accept that no matter how much praying anyone does, unplanned and unsustainable pregnancies can–and do--happen to females of child-bearing age regardless of their race, address, financial situation, sexual history, religion, marital status, or political affiliation. And yes, that potentially includes my daughter. What I hope for her is to never have to consider having an abortion, but if she does, I want her to have options and access and not be shamed or criminalized for her choice. Period.

The people of my grandmothers’ and mothers’ generations fought hard to ensure that first, women were granted access to birth control and later, that the cloak of danger and criminality that surrounded abortion was lifted. And after years of admitedly taking these freedoms for granted, I now have all of their fight inside me.
Also inside me is the fight of that indignant 19 year old casually picking up her birth control pills at the women’s clinic who cannot fathom why my—or any other woman’s--reproductive choices should be anyone else’s damn business.
Now I have a daughter who is nearly 9 years old. She deserves the same reproductive freedoms that I and all of the other American women of my generation have been guaranteed as a legal right. And Hell yes, I’ve got her fight inside of me too.

So even if the Texas legislature wins this battle, they now have a full-fledged war on their hands. I'm ready for the fight, and I'm bringing lots of people with me.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hoarder Update!!

The shitty Chrysler is GONE!! I'm not sure if they took care of it, or if it got taken care of FOR them, but it's gone. But all its absence has really done has moved focus from it to the front yard, which is still utterly horrible. I'm trying to be patient, but every time I turn the corner on to our street, their junky looking lot and house are all I see.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Neighbors Are Hoarders

There. I said it. After being in a state of semi-denial while we were preparing to move in to our new home and hoping that maybe the mess I saw was due to the fact that they were also getting ready to move, I am now 100% convinced that the people in the house that is 2-down from us are hoarders.

The evidence:

1. The front yard. It's filled with half dead plants in dozens of pots, rusted wagons and other things that I think are supposed to pass for folksy yard art, and--currently (this was just added this week) two godawful looking vinyl recliner type chairs and a couple of rolled up Oriental rugs.
2. The driveway. First there was one trailer parked there from Just sitting there. Never saw anyone adding to or removing anything from it. Just sitting there. And then, last week, a second trailer was added to the driveway (this time, plain white, nondescript). So now, the entire driveway is filled with these storage container/trailer things, and NEXT to the driveway, couches and other furniture and shit that is covered in some sort of plastic tarp.
3. The foosball table. Next to the house near where the trashcans should go.
4. The car. There's an old convertible (Chrylser, I think) parked in front of the house that clearly hasn't moved in ages. It's been unregistered for years and is covered in dirt and sap and other environmental shit.
5. The front windows/front porch. Also filled with loads of junk.
6. The weird people who live there. As far as we can tell, there's an older woman and her two adult sons. The sons appear to be twins--they both have beards, but one of them also sports a long, scraggly ponytail as well. They have one operational vehicle--a red VW bug--between the 3 of them. Whenever it is there, it parks sort of 1/2 way in the street and 1/2 way in the driveway (or what's left of the fucking driveway that isn't covered by trailers presumably filled with crap). We've started calling these dudes The Wonder Twins and occasionally hear them bickering with each other or see them awkwardly riding bikes down the street. One of them came over the other day and rang the doorbell and asked BH if we had any Raid because there was a muffin in their kitchen "covered in bugs." BARF!! I can only imagine.

Still don't believe me? Here are a couple of photos that, I swear, do not do this shitheap justice:

BH works at home, and tells me he's seen contracter type people over there--like workers who repair flood damage, etc.--during the day. Okay, so maybe, maybe some of this crapola is due to some interior flooding that happened. But, like he said, "I still think they're hoarders."


Our new neighborhood has an HOA, which in addition to providing us with access to community parks and pools and keeping the common areas all landscaped and pretty, are supposed to handle shit like this. So I was kind of shocked that this situation has been allowed to continue for at least a month (if not longer). Then, on Tuesday, I turned on our street and saw a big, neon orange "remove this vehicle or get towed" sticker slapped on the windshield of the Chrysler. HOORAY!! And then, yesterday when I got the mail, there was a letter from the HOA gently nudging us about some crap we'd temporarily had in OUR driveway last week (a lawn mower, the trash/recycle bins, a metal washtub), saying that it wasn't in compliance with the HOA rules, etc. Whatever. Our stuff was out for a day or two (We just moved in! Give us a fracking break!), but it was put away before that letter even came off their printer. So if we got that letter, I can only imagine the 20-page manifesto our hoarder neighbors must've received...assuming they actually get their mail on any kind of regular basis. And yesterday, he said he saw some City of Austin code enforcement people in front of Hoarder Manor, taking pictures. Our tax dollars at work, people.

Hopefully this ugly-ass neighborhood eyesore situation will fix itself, and soon. At any rate, it should be interesting seeing how The Wonder Twins and their mama respond to their warnings and citations. It could get, uglier.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


In the spring of 1990, my dad and I drove from Longview to Shreveport to shop for a car. We'd looked at Subarus and Nissans, but what I REALLY wanted was a Mitsubishi Galant. The car I'd been driving since I'd gotten my driver's license had been purchased, barely used. It was a 1984 Buick Skyhawk, and I loved it to death. But I'd put a ton of miles on it driving around endlessly in high school for lack of anything better to do and then, when I'd started college, making the frequent 500+ mile round trip to and from Austin. It was time to trade her in.

My dad, not known for his soft-and-fuzzy qualities nor his love of salesmen, made me cringe throughout the negotiation process with the dealer. I'd never been a part of anything quite like the car buying process, and the whole thing just made me want to crawl under the floor. We got practically nothing for my road-weary coupe with more than 100-thousand miles on it, but when it was all said and done, we drove off the lot in a brand new, badassed 1990 Mitsubishi Galant LS, with cruise control, a sunroof, and--most important to me at the time--a bitchin' stereo system. I was in heaven.

But as we pulled away from the dealership, I saw my little Skyhawk, sitting there looking kind of...I don't know...saddish, and it made me feel like I was leaving an old, fun and reliable friend behind for the exciting new friend who'd just moved to town and had nicer clothes and better hair. I was flooded with memories of all the fun that my friends and me had in that little white coupe, despite its complete absence of any bells and/or whistles. And yes, I started to cry a bit until we got on the highway and my dad urged me to, "Punch it" so we could see what kind of pick up the new car really had.

Tonight will be the last night I spend in this house. My starter home. The place where I've lived while so many things--good, great, and lousy--have happened along the way. The place that I bought all by myself as a single mother, even though the concept of being a homeowner and understanding terms like "escrow" and "homestead exemption" were terrifying to me. The place where I have watch The Geej graduate from a crib to a toddler bed to her current big-girl bed. The place where I threw a surprise 60th birthday party for my mom and hosted Thanksgiving dinners for friends and family. The place where I first got to play Santa and the Tooth Fairy. The place I was living when BH and I reconnected, fell in love and got married. The place where we blended our families and our lives but that always felt more like "my" house than "our" house.

We are moving to a nicer, more family-friendly neighborhood with better schools and neighborhood "amenities." A place where we'll watch our kids grow in to teenagers and eventually leave the nest. A place that is finally and truly ours together. It's something we're all psyched about and have been focused on making happen for some time now. But there's still that weird feeling of leaving behind something that you've loved for years for this newer, sexier opportunity. Although I completely understand that buying our current house when I did and for what I paid for it, and then caring for it like BH and I have for the past (nearly) seven years is what has put us in a position to make this move, it still feels vaguely disloyal to leave this place behind. The (single) guy who is buying this house seemed really nice and genuinely excited about this place when we met him at the closing. He's currently living in a nearby apartment, and so this will be his starter home too. I'm happy for him and hope he takes good care of it and creates a thousand happy memories here.