Pat Day 2017

I think I fucked up last year, and didn’t write.  But every year on dear old Pat’s anniversary, the anniversary of when she was born, the legendary Ides of March, I think of the old gal.  In this episode of remembrance of things past I mostly am thinking about the conversations I would have had if she were to still wander around planet earth. (I think I just subjunctived the shit out of that sentence.)

The first conversation is all about crafts.  I ridiculously bought myself a button maker to make little pins like thes
I suspect the desire for this little gadget was straight up recapture of the 1970s I never had.  I always wanted whatever the toy version was back in the olden days.  I think it might have been this Button Factory. Although, circa 1978 seems past my peaked pique interest.

Getting back to Pat and crafts more generally, though. Kindred spirits to crafty Pat stroll the hallways of my work. The knitters among my colleagues have of late left the shadows. We gather during the workday and create knitting circles during lunches.

(Completely tangentially, I should disclose that Pat’s own crafty daughter, the person typing this sentence, may have held a little sway in bringing the crafters into the sunshine. )

One knitter spouted a surprising reflection of Pat to me.  She said that there is value in using your hands, having a hobby, an outlet that wasn’t the thought-heavy essence of our daily work. Not everything can be reading and thinking and computers and communication and using your brainiest bits of brain.

Instead, things were solvable by not dwelling on them.  The best of a good hobby is that it takes you out of whatever the thing that you might be doing or might supposed to be doing and puts you somewhere else.  If your hands are busy for a little while that’s all that matters.  Then, while making something homey and crafty, your brain gets to rest and fight another day.

Pat would have nodded in agreement.  One of my favorite Pat quotes in reference to someone going through a bad patch of depression and struggle and maybe a soupçon of intoxicating substance — “She thinks too much.  She needs a hobby.”  It was that simple.

Given half a chance, Pat would have tried to bring a junkie to Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michael’s and had them pick out something to do with their hands.

Which brings me to thing number two that I’d be talking with Pat about if she were here — The scourge that is Donald J. Trump.  The knitting circle at my work and the pussy hat phenomenon, doubtless come from the same place — Scores of woman with hands and a need to do something, anything to make something, create something, build something in the face of the nihilist president.

My aunt and my sister and I have each and all wondered: What the hell would Pat say about Trump?

She’d probably throw herself deeply into doll house making, maybe making the Capitol dome, the real one already miniaturized in moral authority, wee little unethical congress.  Maybe a miniature Capitol dome would be too redundant.  Or, maybe a  White House, tiny and to scale of what real grown up governing looks like, something in line with Trump’s tiny vision, one-inch scale.

And as she built, she’d be ranting.  Each shingle on the miniature roof would be another grumble. Kellyanne Conway would be angrily painted furniture and wrapping paper cum wallpaper.  Betsy DeVos might warrant her own wing or maybe a wall.  She’d build a wall, little bricks glued together to ease the pain of a woman ignorant of how education works being in charge of the whole enchilada.  Schoolteacher Pat would be, in her word, livid.

Maybe this year’s Pat day is about Pat the ultimate maker.  And, now, in the dark days of the most fucked up presidency, the maker spirit is living.  When protests arise out of nowhere.  When knit stocking caps, and really the homespun warmth of DIY, are the cultural fashion gracing the New Yorker magazine.  When everyone is not sure what to do, but they just start doing, because to do nothing is worse.  When strangers speak up, band together, share, write postcards together, share congressional phone numbers on Facebook, march, walk, make signs, rally, write words in the sand on the beach, that’s DIY, that’s maker, that’s crafts.

The best of making shit with your hands is knowing that you can. We can all build a movement.  My next pussy hat will be made for my mother.

I’m pretty sure Donald J. Trump has never built anything with his own tiny digits.  And maybe for just that alone, Pat would never have trusted him.

Mother’s Day, Pat and life is so damned tough


I completely fucked up and didn’t write my annual tribute you on Pat’s Day, March 15, her erstwhile birthday. So, on the hallmark-iest of days, I’ll write about Pat and how much I particularly wish she were here today, right now, this week of all weeks. And, I will provide a tribute in a pic of her favorite meal.

In the way, way, way back days, Pat taught “special needs” kids. In those days of the 60s, 70s and 80s, that euphemism was used for students who had things like dyslexia or couldn’t sit still. They were normal kids with learning disabilities and rode the regular long bus not the short variety. Instead, the short bus riders were called mentally deficient or most often retarded.

Now it’s a slur, and then it was an adjective.

So, back in those dark days, my town, the same one in which Pat taught, was actually not bad in handling kids who were developmentally delayed or had an intellectual disability. I’m not sure of the best words to use. Anyway, according to what my mother and her friends told me, and my own experience, there were students from nearby towns joining our schools,nand for a few hours a day or week, the handicapped kids were “mainstreamed” into our classes. Pat was besties with Debbie, who taught, or in some cases just managed, the classroom in their school where these kids were the rest of the time, and Pat would help that class, too.

She affectionately and without a shred of malice–seriously it was a different fucking decade–called them her “retreads.”

Because I was me–a dorky, lumpen, possibly doughy little girl, who far, far preferred reading and writing to actually talking with people, and because I was for better or worse Pat’s baby and shadow in so much of her teaching life, which chronologically coincided with my schooling life, my mom had a plan. She put the word out to her teacher friends to use me in classrooms, as peer and friend to the kids getting their mainstream swerve on when I was in class.

Doubtlessly if asked, my mother would have said wryly that I actually belonged with the intellectually disabled.

It would have been a crime of capital proportions if I was anything but friendly and respectful to these other kids. I think one disparagement would have pushed Pat over the line from threatening a physical beating to actually doing it. So I was on a first name basis with kids with all sorts of issues — cerebral palsy, what was probably autism, Tourette’s Syndrome, Down’s, Fragile X–all of the things that could get them beaten up by the bullies.

I also learned from Pat and her friend Debbie some pretty horrible tales of mistreatment for these kids. Teacher Debbie, for example, reported physical abuse, then fostered, then adopted a friendly little boy whose dad (or step dad) would daily try to beat some sense into him. When we became adults, my mother long retired, he would great my mother by name in the local grocery store where he worked with a big smile and wave.

I was taught to just not be an asshole, and (mostly) I kept my mortification of being in with these kids in check and genuinely tried to tutor and be a friend.
Pat championed these kids. She really championed any kid who had it rough. Broken-heartedly, she also helped abused kids, including testifying in court for a poor little dude who came to her for help, which led to the revelation that he was being sexually abused.

As a side visual — there was a lot about Pat that was more grandmotherly than motherly in appearance. With her cap of sometimes untamed curly hair, big glasses and panty hose, standing all of 5-foot-2, she was not a MILF. She was kindly and comfortable to the kids, and undoubtedly they cried in her soft arms more than I ever did. I never really talked with her about sex, since that seemed so out of her area of expertise, so I can only imagine how desperate the little boy was who came to her with a health issue involving the most private of his parts.

Why am I thinking of all of this on Mother’s Day? Because this week, more than many a week, maybe ever a week, I would love to hear what Pat would say. 
In my daily life, because I am still the little girl who Pat made befriend developmentally disadvantaged folks, I chatted with a guy around my age who could only handle minimal tasks and mostly talked about baseball. He has been a fixture of my morning routine for years, greeting me with a smile and “Good Morning, Sunshine,” and I talked to him like I was taught normally to people with intellectual disabilities in a place where some people ignored him.

He was arrested this week, accused of child molestation, and then his home was searched, and they say they found child porn. After the news broke, I found out through people who knew him better than me, that at least on paper, he was not actually one of Debbie’s “retreads.” Because of the labeling and terrible situations years ago (and probably still), his mom never wanted him to be one of those short-bus kids.

So who knows what has happened, and whether anything is true. Innocent until proven otherwise. In the newspaper, he’s a grown man. But assuredly he wasn’t on the same page intellectually with most men his age. He’s sitting in jail, where certainly he will be broken if only because of his own stubborn adherence to his own daily routine.

But, he may have done one of the worst crimes you can commit.

So I wish I could hear from Pat. I wish I could hear her heart, the ferocious defender of the less fortunate. I wish I could hear her professionally, the teacher for decades of so many kids with so many problems. Where would her feelings fall? What would she say? I need her help to understand a fucked up, monstrous, horrible, bad thing. I want my mommy.

Wee tim’rous beastie, go fuck yourself

 

 I am a wreck.

I am not Bobby Burns, writing an ode despairing man’s cruel dominion over nature.  Nope, I want the mouses dead.  Dead. Dead.  Stiff, widowed, toes up.  I want patricide, matricide, infanticide, generations of you wriggling, poohing, dirty things off the mortal cool.  Anything short of moribund or better post mortem is not enough.

Somewhere in the universe if there is energy or spirit left lingering from the living soul that was my mother Pat, she is laughing loud and long at my misery.  It’s a cosmic joke begun decades ago as she cursed my very soul for her four-legged mini tormentors.

In New England, mouse are a different beast, methinks.  In the deep cold of winter, a field mouse might poke its nose into your home and sojourn there in the warmth and light with food at hand.  It’s Club Med for sure for mice in February.  

Quickly after discovery, you can box up your food, set a few traps, and the mouse Biarritz the murine spa is shut down for good.  All guests leave through the same exit, a broken neck from one late snack at the mousetrap buffet.   The episode ends and after a little cleaning, it’s a forgotten nuisance.

Periodically, not every winter but some, Pat’s house was host to a field mouse or to coming in from the cold.  They scared the ever-;pvomg shit out of her.

There were only two scenarios in my life where I can remember my mother channeling olympic speed.  The first was actually kind of wonderfully heroic.  She had at one time in her life passed the Red Cross rescue swimming certifications, and summers at the beach she’d sit in the sandchair circle with the other mothers.  But as soon as a kid seemed to have drifted out deep toward actual danger, she’d sprint to the water’s edge ready for action.

The second scenario is the point of these words.  Faced with a small rodent in her home, she could leap to a chair or countertop with an NBA-worthy vertical or run from the room in a burst of speed.  Arguably, it was the most helpless and weak that she had ever seemed to me.  Cowed by a three-inch flash of gray fur, squeezing under the counter.

When she lived alone, Pat could steel herself to buy, bait and set traps.  But there was no way in hell she’d go near the trap again, lest it had successfully fallen a victim.  Even a dead mouse was too much to bear.

She’d call me insistently to come and empty the traps.  

One day, I did my daughterly duty and came by to empty her mouse traps.  I was given a bag, a shovel and no furhter instructions.  When the very dead mouse was in the bag, which was then closed and rolled down on the top, thoroughly sealed, I went to ask my dear mother what was next.

The bag dangled in my hand, and she Usain Bolted from the room.  She ran to the bathroom and in one move, she jumped on the toilet and slammed the door. Through the closed door she screamed.  Then she screamed at me, Hysterically, she accused me of tormenting her and exercising acts of extreme cruelty.  In her version of the story, I was throwing multiple dead mice at her as she defenselessly cried for help.

It was then that she cursed me.  She accused me of bringing the mouse with me solely to hurt her.  

So here I am today.  The California mice have me beat.  They aren’t Bobby Burns’ mouse shivering I the track of his plough.  They aren’t New England field mice looking for respite from cruel winter weather.  They  are bad roommates who move in without lease or notice and shit on the floor.

I’m doing everything to clean up.  I have spent three days in a homemade hazmat suit of long sleeves coupled with rubber gloves and a bandana pulling out every corner and nook vacuuming up mountains of pellets of pooh. I’ve loaded the washing machine with loads of pillows, blankets, clothes, napkins, towels, everything that may have been touched by their creepy, dirty paws.  

A professional wildlife eradicator guy has set traps and plugged some holes.  He’s taped up a duct that was likely a mouse highway to our inside from the outside.  He’s toured our garage, our yard and crawled the full length and breadth of our crawlspace under the house leaving bait and traps.

We are having our carpets cleaned and getting help overturning every remaining place where they might have been.

The haD been An unfortunate moment in which we uncovered a nest that had me screaming horror film shrieks.  But mostly I’ve been maintaining.  Head down, I’ve been doing what needs to get done.

Until tonight.  I found my favorite measuring cup and glass bowls sprinkled with feces.  As I rinsed and threw them into the dishwasher I gagged and began to cry, completely undone.

I just want them gone.  I want this over.  I want everything to be clean again.  I want the anxiety as I peek around the corners of the room as I type this entry to subside.

And I wish my mother was here, because I am sure she wouldn’t stop gleefully laughing at my rodent driven madness.

Pat 2015

I’ve been thinking about my mom, but I can’t figure out the angle here.  Well, there’s the anniversary of her day of birth.  But, maybe it’s this:  After getting my perfomance reviewed at work — corporate America’s annual dance or bloodletting depending on how you are doing–I keep wondering if she’d be happy or pissed at me.

First week of the month, I was going full-on existential postal.  I can’t think much about where I am in life before I start thinking of all the places that I am not.  I am not rich, famous and beautiful, and I’d be good at all three, goddamnit, so I should be.  The crisis du month, though, was the triple-decker pileup of my birthday, my performance review and this thing at my place of toil that I can’t describe but involves sharing stuff about yourself.  

Amid the self-loathing caused by age and excess self reflection, I had a fleeting thought about my mother. A point I will get to after I set it up with too much detail.

Some days, I think I confound some of my coworkers.  The environment of my paycheck generation is well-educated and high performing. It definitely charts about the curve by most definitions, or it’s proof positive that with the right motivation and circumstances, and money to pay for it, anyone can get a graduate degree.  There’s a metric ton of letters after people’s names.

I was too desirous of money and the associated purchases — groceries and rent mainly — to stick around ivied halls any longer than I had to do to get my bachelor’s.  I wasn’t burning for any more learning of the formal sort circa 1985.

From 1985 almost to the day she died, Pat, my mother, reminded me I could still go to grad school.  I let her down on that decision for decades.

Today, I am docorate-less and masters-less in a sea of masters and doctors.  I have more years of relevant experience than many, though, so I hold my own with common sense and moxie.  Hence the confounding, I just don’t defer to not knowing shit, because there’s a lot of shit I know even without the sheepskin to prove it.  

it’s a bit like the end of the Wizard of Oz; I grant myself a doctorate of thinkology.

Now here’s where Pat comes in… That woman worked hard, year after year, helping to educate other people’s kids.  That hard work full on cramped the woman’s style.  Some of the other teachers and the school administrators crushed a bit of her creative sparkle. She was a little pounded down.  By retirement, she was caved in by it all.

She indoctrinated me into a fear about work.  A fear that you could lose your job for many types of infractions.  She had near perfect attendance over years and years.  She carried out all of the side jobs and extra tasks asked of teachers with nary a complaint — bus duty, after hours tutoring, grading papers on her own time, mentoring young teachers and helping with banquets and school events in the evenings.

I learned and listened and I have almost perfect attendance and do a lot of good citizeny extras at work.  But try as I might I can’t bury my non-conformist tendencies.  I am a good worker bee in a happy hive, but I’m a square peg in a round-holed world.

Problem is, I like it.

So, I work in a job that is easy for me.  I sacrifice some pay and will likely never have a good title, but I know everyone in the building.  My days are laid out with honkingly wide swathes of leeway and not a lot of  having my clocked punched by somebody else.

It’s a trade off.  It’s a choice.  And, it’s a little bit of anxiety.  If I got the gig where I got the pay that meant I have to manage stuff, I might fail.  I might have to leave my sneakers at home.  I might have to be at my desk for geometrically larger periods of time than I am now.

I think Pat might see the genius of my choice.  For good benefits and a not awful paycheck, the man isn’t keepnmg me down and the thoughts inside my head are free to breathe.

Outwardly, she’d tell me to do more.  She’d ask about promotions and growth opportunities.  She’d worry. 

Or maybe she’d smile.

And so it goes into a new year, living a lie

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The year 2014 was one for the record books: Turned 50, got married and helped channel my new mother-in-law into the afterlife, or the abyss, or the whatever comes next, all in the span of seven days. What a week that was, I thought not much was going to top it.

Then, I got the word that my only hope for mobility would be spare metal and plastic parts. I lived through the first, and, if I can dream, only, major surgery of my life. I’m now limping around, albeit a healthier limp, on a full, manmade hip replacement. Let’s hope this version of the Depuy implant comes without complications, recalls and lawsuits.

So, into another year I go. Decades wiser (in theory), a bit more worn out, with the X-ray to prove it, and an old married lady.

But the real reason to write is to give up the grift. I’m living a scam life and need to come clean. (Perhaps apropos my faux life, I’m typing this post fueled by a whole crab lying in my belly with ginger snaps and a California Madera at my elbow. Like me, the Madera is like a Madeira, but since I’m not in Portugal, it ain’t the real deal.)

I’m coming clean. I’m less disabled now, when I’m California state-certified disabled, then I was before.

For a couple, maybe few years, I’ve been limping and in pain. A year ago July, I fell in a hotel tub and thought as I lay on the tile floor, “I hope my death is swift, as I don’t want my coworkers to watch an ambulance pull my bruised and naked self through the lobby.” I caught my breath, grabbed the counter and limped my way to bed.

Once an X-ray proved I was fucked up worse than just being out of shape, I occasionally used a walking stick. Mostly, I just pressed on, loping from side to side pretending I was Ratso Rizzo.

Incidentally, while limping and calling myself Ratso, only one friend got the joke. Of course, I muttered it through a tubercular, husking breath, like Dustin Hoffman.

I got used to my lope and my pain.

Now, I’m walking with a cane, because the surgeon and the physical therapist say “why not?” I can park in blue spaces and as long as I want at meters.

And, it’s all a fucking scam.

I’m supposed to exercise. My hip is superior to the arthritic, worn version it replaced. Quite arguably, this manufactured hip is better than the one that I’ve been sporting since birth. Stronger and better formed.

So me and my new hip are getting more sympathy and concern than I’ve ever experienced.

Juggling a glass of wine and a walking stick at the company holiday party gave me the glow of Tiny Tim on Christmas Day. I basked in care and well wishes. The sincere statements of concern and offers of chairs and assistance and encouragement came fast and furiously.

At the restaurant that fed me crab, an observant colleague stopped the hostess who had said she would seat us on the second floor to ensure I could navigate the stairs. At our local bar and grill the servers and the bartender cleared a space at a low table adjacent to the bar so I didn’t have to hop a bar stool.

Walking stick in hand, I cry out for kindness.

(Except for at malls. Apparently shopping puts people in a mood to pull dick moves to swerve around me and check me out of the way. I wanted to punch the guy who didn’t pull his toddler away from my cane, which the tike had just tried to rip out of my hands. By way of non-apology he explained his rugrat liked to grab things.)

But I’m fine, I’m finer than I was when the medical community had yet to label me as not fine.

I’m cheerily congratulated for standing upright on a titanium stick that is doubtless stronger than my old bones. I appreciate the gestures, and parking right in front of where I need to go is fucking sweet.

As you see me walking, know that my doctor wants me to bend, stretch and exercise more. But I won’t mind if you save me a comfy seat.

Arts or crafts

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I think there is one core part of my being that potentially makes me a truly shitty “writer.” I like to do too many things, most of which are not writing.

My fatal flaw is a wide streak of dilettante.

Dilettante has a shitty ring to it, of course, what with it’s negative connotations of shallowness and lack of ability. On a high self esteem day, I might argue that I can write the shit out of a sentence. Even on a weak day though I can claim knowledge of basic sentence structure and grammar.

Evidence? I just consciously re-wrote the sentence above to be TWO sentences. I know that kind of shit.

I consider writing an art. I aspire to be an artist.

My soul, however, values craft. I went to journalism school rather than a creative writing program for that one word. Craft. I may not have the soul of an artist.

I could blame my mother, Pat. Not in a Freudian way, although like all modern day people I can cite a whole lot of ways the woman from whom I emerged left her indelible marks. Turnabout is fair play, I left my mark when she had her fourth Cesarian.

My mother believed, truly believed, like a religion, like a creed, Pat believed in hobbies. She believed in crafts. My mother raised my sister and me to bake, to sew, to knit, to decoratively paint, to buy kits from stores like Michael’s and Joann’s Fabric, to try to make something. We were makers way before making was a thing, a phenomenon.

I made this website.

The first bathroom I ever saw with a sponged walls was not in a plush restaurant with warm terra cotta tones. It was our home bathroom the day Pat stripped the wall paper and tried something new.

Way, way, way back in the wayback machine of time, I didn’t know that people bought mittens at stores. I thought they had pointy tops and thumbs and came from four pointy knitting needles whose double-sides became stealth weapons of surprise when discovered between couch cushions. I thought that mittens were always made from variegated yarn. In hindsight, variegated yarn is the best defense (short of double-pointed needles) against children and a winter of multiple lost mittens.

Making things is so damn satisfying. After reading instructions and following a pattern or free-styling a new recipe, you have something. You have in your hand a tangible product of your toil.

The photo at the top is a knitted pig made in pieces from a hemp and cotton blend yarn and then stuffed and sewn together. I made it.

Satisfyingly, over a few episodes of binge watching the BBC’s Cumberbatch-tastic version of Sherlock, I had a cuddly toy.

(I kind of like Martin Freeman, as John Watson, a bit more than the admittedly heart- and other-throbbing Benedict Cumberbatch. Maybe it’s the frequent assumptions of his own gay attraction to the Cumberbatch. Or maybe it’s that his name is easier to pronounce.)

Writing is not as satisfying. I re-read stuff I have sweated, and I don’t see adorable stuffed pig. I see words that fail to say what I mean. I see editing and mistakes and just nothing.

I will re-read this post and thing “meh.”

I will pour blood from my fingertips in confession or joy, or maybe I will create some thought that hasn’t yet been created in the universe. It will sit never better than just OK in my heart.

In crafts, I can critique and think of small changes to make the next attempt better. In writing, in art, I am I own worst critic. I will allow a vague smile at the occasional turn of phrase.

At this point in my life, I have at least learned to take praise with a simple “thank you” rather than a full on assault suggesting that the utterer of said praise is an utter moron for liking what I produced. I’ve had times on stages or in front of crowds where I have thought to myself, fleetingly, “Yeah, I got this…”

Writing is lonely. I prefer to be physically alone in the house or at least in another room from people, including the one who agreed to marry me. I cannot watch TV and write. I cannot listen to the news, podcasts and some types of music. I cannot do it as easily as I can do so many other things, and I can’t do it with distractions and pop ups of computer notifications calling.

I distrust myself to ever do what I want in my heart to do well. With crafts, I can find forgiveness in small defects and see the larger whole.

In short, I need to get working on the teddy bear I’ve started with fuzzy baby blanket yarn. It’s variegated in various shades of brown. Let’s consider it an homage to Pat and the dozens of mittens made a long, long time ago.

Pat was a maker.

Happy birth control day

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There’s this thing that I know about from work. I’m breaking my almost a decade’s long avoidance of writing anything related to work. Although, the connection is, I hope, tangential enough with the good will outweighing my fear of big brother.

It should also be mentioned I now work at a place in which the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and even a group of women swapping stories about their abortions are all allies. I haven’t polished my resume to get those choice gigs at Hobby Lobby or the Catholic Diocese, despite my obvious qualifications.

So, far from my old job and the shadows of Boston, here I go.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has a thing going on to thank birth control. Like almost everyone with a uterus, it resonates, because I know the birds and the bees and that the stork doesn’t bring babies.

To be fair, I didn’t have real sex education in school as a kid, and my mother never really gave me the straight skinny, and my 50-year-old uterus the doctors assure me is probably not at risk of occupation. But, with my memory of things past, and a swell exhibit at Boston’s Science Museum that my aunt took me to somewhere during the 70s, I’m gonna try to hype the cause.

One of my head-scratchingest moments from my current place of employment was around a very committed and truly feminist leaning co-worker, who is also chockfull of Y chromosomes and gender privilege. He might be the most committed person I have ever met on the issue of choice among men, women, and all other currently recognized genders, bar none.

Still and all, he had never lived the life of a young woman and, I dare guess, probably didn’t go to the same types of parties I went to back in the day.

Statistics show the U.S. leads the developed world in teen pregnancies. So, our country is newsworthy across the Atlantic, including links to detailed explanations of our crazy foreign ways, like this one.

By the way, how fucking unfair is it that birth control is finally free right about when my pre-menopausal body is saying “whatever.” I could have used that extra cash flow some nights when beer money was low and CVS raised the price on contraceptive sponges.

Hell, when they went off the market, sponge-worthy was not just a Seinfeld episode.

Anyway, back to the point and the head scratching. My coworker couldn’t quite get over or understand that while teen pregnancy is definitely going in numbers, a good thing for our nation, unwanted pregnancies among 20-somethings remains at the top of the charts and rising.

For better or worse, I can understand it. I didn’t just see the movie, my friends and I, back a quarter of a century ago, were living it. Most of the time, everyone tried to do her level best to stay ahead of ovulation and use anything and everything they could. But, life, as John Lennon may not have been the first to say, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

Condoms break, people forget, passion and illicit substances trick your brain into magical thinking. Many of my friends and myself held each other and held each others’ hands on trips to clinics or the drug store to find out if a night of fun had resulted into cells dividing inside our young bodies.

Many of us were, as we would all sigh and say, “lucky.” Sometimes we weren’t. I know of both abortions and babies that were part of those years of our lives.

We fought about it, cried about it, and shared a lot of wine. I had a long, long feud over a friend’s crazy boyfriend and too many sleepless nights worrying over her drugs and reckless behavior within our small, shared apartment.

In one of life’s cosmic gifts, though, I ran into her literally one of my last days in Boston before moving across the country. We talked, laughed and left each other with a hug of reconciliation to each other and our former not always well-played youth.

Today, I feel fortunate. I was always ambivalent about my own suitability or ability for motherhood. It’s very complicated and would require a long-winded and long-winding explanation from my own childhood to now as to why I never had a child of my own.

Suffice it to say the man that I finally, truly felt like I could spend the rest of my life beside, the man I finally consented to marry, came into my life rather late in the game. Also suffice it to say, that I had the wherewithal to not imagine something better with a baby among the rogues gallery that had come before M.

Other friends have married, divorced, stayed single, had children, haven’t had children, recognized a non-heterosexual lean, earned advanced degrees, wrote books, acted in films, were celibate, became celibate, and survived. A great number, I think, are living their own sort of happily ever after.

I consider myself one such lucky woman. And, I am grateful I was born into a time in which I really could choose.

Handi-abled

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The man formerly known as M., who I now can legally call my husband, has found a silver lining in my post-surgery frailty. He’s positively giddy with the notion of my getting a handicapped parking placard for my car.

Turns out, per the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, the place that hacked out my bones and replaced them with man-made parts, I’m eligible for this little post-surgery perk until March of 2015. Wait, come to think of it, my bones were also manmade, assuming I am of the homo sapiens crew. Made by my human parents.

Anyway, I guess I’m not the woman I used to be.

Actually, October was quite the month in terms of my losing body parts. I also had my first tooth extraction — a wisdom tooth that had broken. Let the record show, up in until the year of 2014, I was in tact. Pristine. OK, not pristine but in possession of all of my components.

Ironically, the picture above was taken almost a year ago to the day — 11/13/2013. The subject matter was also largely painted by me. I took over from a coworker to obsessively ensure all of the space was filled in and the white wasn’t tinged blue or the blue white. We were volunteers painting the parking lot of a shelter.

And, one year later, I could park in that space. Almost. When I get my placard.

I’m not actually that interested in getting one. I am interested in parking however the hell I want. Of course. The best part is that meters become endless. The never-ending pasta bowl of staying however the hell long you want with the fist to the gods and meter maids who require quarters or checking your telephone app in time. I impetuously will tilt my head back and laugh at the freedom.

For the metered parking, I will rejoice. I may even do a surreptitious happy dance. It will be the dance internal, lest I don’t look needy enough, however.

The actual blue spaces, I may not ever touch those. I think karma dictates that I leave them alone for the people who cannot walk or are permanently up the handicap placard needing creek.

Plus, they scare me. For irrational feelings of superstitious dread, I fear them. The jinx potential is too high. You are inviting the universe for a good old smiting.

The rational fear is of do-gooding, well-meaning folk. Years ago I worked with an accountant with a bum heart named John. Since we were only in our 30s, if I remember right, he had received a heart transplant at a young age. His heart was now indeed many, many years his heart, so he had to have been young. (John’s prognosis, sadly, and it came true, was that he would not actually ever be old. But in the few years I knew him, he was using his borrowed time and even met the woman he would marry.)

He happily drove for any group getaway from the office. Not only did his meds keep him alive, they kept him from drinking, so he was the greatest of getaway drivers.

His meds also made him particularly hirsute. Thankfully, that’s not a side effect of a hip transplant.

The director of the office, John’s and my boss’s boss, not only enjoyed the occasional day drink (as well as the occasional day slap and tickle, but that’s another story), he also liked pizza from the source. The source to him was deep in the jungles of Boston’s North End.

If you are reading this from Massachusetts, no description of labyrinthian, narrow cobble-stoned streets are in order. For the rest, it’s roadwork straight out of the Revolutionary War without a lot of updates since the 1700s.

Parking is not to be had easily in the tiny and densely packed neighborhood. You could circle around Hanover and Prince and Union and other streets whose names I forget for days without a meter or legal space to be found. And woe be unto you, if you were to ever, ever, ever consider moving a lawn chair from a shoveled out spot in the dead of winter snow.

John’s service to pizza was incalculable, even by an accountant of his own caliber. We piled into his four-door, and he could smoothly go where no mere parking mortals could go.

But, it wasn’t all rainbow colored puppies living on liver-flavored lollipops.

John’s reason for the handicap plates was solidly internal. He had no outward sign of the transplant unless he walked around shirtless exposing railroad tracked scars all over his chest.

Without cane, crutches, chair, walker, a begging bowl or any of the acoutrement that signal “handicap,” he was a hairy dude stepping out of a well-parked sedan. More than once he was accosted on the street and assumed to be a well-bodied person illicitly borrowing their parents or grandparents or other unfortunate person’s car.

I think people have a clear mental picture of what handicapped is supposed to look like. They want their gimps gimpy, their limpers limpy, someone they can look at and create a sad narrative.

An accountant running errands before work, heart transplant or no, is too normal. He was shaken one morning by a presumably well-intentioned woman, and an accusation that escalated into a shouting match.

How much are you required to say, I wonder.

I think months from now, if I dangle the placard above my dashboard through March, I’ll find out. I can see myself in the streets of San Francisco, and it may not end well. I still have enough of Boston in me to imagine my future self telling someone to go fuck themselves, while debating whether or not to let them know my hip is not my own.