It's the Time of the Crazies

Smirk
I talked about a technical support complaint at G+ today, but let me tell you guys about a real doozy of a user issue we had this week! Boss and I are still ROLLING!

So, we get a new user. Said new user claims to have 30 years of experience as an investigator and a paralegal. Great, we thought. Then he started answering questions. And providing completely WRONG answers! Things came to a head when someone asked for help with finding a lawyer to handle a Wage and Hour complaint.

New user directed him to the EEOC! *BZZZZT* NO! Wage and Hour complaints are handled at the state level by the state DoL. Two of my HR professionals explain this, and tell the querant to leave the EEOC out of it. New user throws a fit and argues and then pops off with:

This is a discussion forum subject to personal views and assessments.


Well, no. And dude, who are you? You've been in the forum less than a week, and you're going to tell people who've been contributing CORRECT answers for YEARS what the purpose of the forum is? I correct him:

This is a legal information forum meant to provide accurate information to people in need of help.

I would suggest you lurk a bit more and get a feel for who knows what around here, before getting indignant at being mildly corrected. ESteele and eerelations are both quite knowledgeable in matters of employment.

HTH.


More fits. Then he decides that he's going to keep posting nonsense, and append "This may not apply in your situation. If that's the case, I'm sure someone here will correct me." Which, of course, pisses off my long-time contributors, because they're literally having to follow him around and clean up after him. Boss and I have been similarly cleaning up where he has piddled. Boss mentions that the guy seems to mean well, but he really doesn't seem to have any idea of the limits of what he actually knows (which so far seems to be "not fucking much".) And this is where it gets HILARIOUS! I send him a PM titled "Mod Note". I don't even bother logging into my Moderator persona any more, as everyone there knows I'm the Mod. I provide Boss with a copy of the note before I send it, as is our custom. We are very transparent in our interactions with other users.

Riply, when I told you the other day that the purpose of this forum is to provide CORRECT information and that you really needed to lurk more and learn your way around, it really wasn't a mere suggestion.

If you are going to continue to participate here, you're going to need to make sure that you're providing accurate information. Merely stating "I'm not an expert, but I'm sure someone around here will correct me if I'm wrong" is NOT acceptable, and it is creating a lot of cleanup work for the people who have been regular contributors for years.

Google is your friend. Please research before you post. Thanks.


I get back three PMs in a row, spaced a minute apart. And die laughing.

As soon as you show me how well you walk on water and make no errors, I'll succumb to your superiority.

You're not in charge here.


ORLY? That's going to come as a surprise to Boss, who explicitly put me in charge some years ago.

Your subject line said "Mod Note". Are you implying that you are an authorized Moderator of this forum ?

I haven't violated any of the terms of use of the forum, unlike several of you long-time members who think it''s alright to insult, demean, and belittle others you happen to disagree with. Especially those who are new to the forum.

Everybody makes mistakes. The difference between me and many others is I make the effort to correct my mistakes. I'm more inclined to correct myself (quite openly, I might add) if the error is pointed out with some level of respect, rather than a public tongue-lashing. Perfection is absent in the law, as anybody with any REAL exposure to the legal system, outside of "Sheppardizing" would understand. I've spent countless hours inside the courtrooms, and learned a long time ago that even written law isn't necessarily how things will turn out. There's a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

Correct isn't defined by what is written, but rather how it MIGHT be applied. This is how "precedent" comes about in the courtroom. This is why we have attorneys, because there are always at least TWO interpretations of the law. This is why we have Judges, to sort out how the law should apply to the specific set of circumstances that each case presents individually. This is why we have Appellate Courts and Supreme Courts at every level of the judicial system; to redefine what the legislative body intended in drafting the statutes.

I respect your knowledge and skill in researching information, just as I respect that of Mr. Knowitall. What I don't respect is that you both seem to think this is your private "law library" or playground, and unless my toys are the same as yours, I'm not allowed to enter.

Have a little self-respect and you'll learn to respect others. You clearly have never had to deal with actual clients, where you have to mix contempt with patience and understanding.


Ok, you got me.

I see the two worst offenders of the forum rules are you and Mr.Knowitall - and you're both Moderators !! Imagine that. Explains everything. Power hungry !!! No wonder you get away with being insulting and demeaning.

I've emailed Aaron Larson. I doubt he'll respond, but at least I said what I needed to.

You won't see me around anymore. You're both authoritative bullies.


Now, I'm pretty sure most of you know that Mr. Knowitall is Boss' "sockpuppet". He posts with that persona when he can no longer contain the snark. So here we have crybaby n00b tattling to the owner of the forum...about the owner of the forum. Priceless! He didn't send it to Boss' email, either. He sent it to the tech support mailbox, monitored and responded to by yours truly!

Mr. Larson -

I'm generally not one to complain much, but feeling welcome at your website forums is lacking a great deal. I have always enjoyed helping others who simply feel lost when it comes to sorting out problems that may or may not be legal issues. Obviously, I'm not perfect, which is something I already know. However, when I find myself in error, or when somebody else points out that I've erred, I am the first to correct myself.

Two long-time members of the forum (LegalResearcherMissy and MrKnowitall) seem to think that this is THEIR personal forum. They have been quick to JUMP on me publicly, when they think or see that I've made an error, and they exercise absolutely NO respect in doing so. This most likely doesn't sit well with some visitors to the forum, and it especially doesn't sit well with me. I expected to join this forum to be helpful in whatever ways I could. Opinions will vary, and I respect that, but when two long-time members become authoritative and pompous toward new forum members because they feel their superiority glowing, it is counter-productive to the purpose of the forum.

I have been chastised, lectured, insulted, ridiculed, and belittled by these two members. I do not mind being corrected, if that correction is done with respect. I also don't appreciate being singled out about an error, especially when the two participants I'm referring to aren't perfect in their responses, either.

I have not violated any TOS, and I hope to continue participating on the forum.

LegalResearcherMissy even sent me a PM just recently titled "Mod Note", apparently trying to imply that she was a forum Moderator. I don't see anything that denotes her as being in charge of monitoring or controlling the forum. I'd appreciate if you could ask these two to bring it down a notch.

This is your forum, and I will respect whatever your position is.

Thank you,

Riply


*snerk* Asshat didn't even get my name right.

Riply,

This is the technical support mailbox. And you're complaining to Missy!

It's my responsibility to set members to rights when they're not fitting in well. The instruction to lurk more and learn your way around is standard in any decently run forum meant to educate, not simply opine. Aaron is well aware of the PM that I sent to you, because I gave him a copy of it first. You had the opportunity to straighten up and fly right, to get a feel for the forum's well established culture and norms, and have chosen to kick and scream instead that it's not conforming to what you want. That's not how this works.

Frankly, our long time contributors - who make a deliberate effort to provide accurate legal information and push for others to do the same - are far more important than your fee-fees. No need to worry about coming back. You're no longer welcome. No need to complain to Aaron, either. He got a copy of this before you did.


Boss has promised to stop treating the forum as if he owns it, and has asked me to stay on top of both of us, as we are clearly upsetting people who are more in tune with the stated and obvious purpose of the forum.

Many days, this job is pure comedy.

AND!

Smirk
Ernie was harassed today by a teacher AND the principal for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

So there was e-mail, with the superintendent copied in.

Mr. Verocco,

It has been brought to my attention that you are unhappy with my son's decision not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, that you told him to "see a counselor" about it, and that you threatened to call me about it. Further, it has been brought to my attention that his teacher, Mr. Nicholas Hartman, told him "I hope you have to go to war." as a result of his refusal to stand.

Really, I wish that you AND Mr. Hartman had called me, because neither of you appear to be versed in the constitutionally protected rights that students enjoy. It is one thing to be ignorant of student rights as a common citizen. As educators, however, such ignorance is inexcusable, particularly in light of the rich and ready access to information that you have within a few clicks of your fingertips.

Ernest has objected to standing for the Pledge since the fourth grade, when he determined that the words spoken rang hollow to him. He observes the grave injustices perpetrated against his fellow citizens because of their race, religion, familial status, and even sexual orientation, and finds that he cannot in good conscience claim "liberty and justice for all", when the reality is actually "liberty and justice for some, and only if we approve". He sees injustice and bigotry perpetrated against his father and brother because of their clear Middle Eastern heritage, against our family because we are not Christian, against his brother because he is not straight, and refuses to speak what he perceives to be a blatant falsehood.

Although the United States Congress officially recognized the current (altered) form of the Pledge of Allegiance in 1942 as the "official" loyalty pledge, there is no law compelling any citizen to recite the Pledge, ever.

Further, under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, no student may be compelled to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. This was settled by the United States Supreme Court in 1943, when the Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, that no public school student may be compelled to repeat the Pledge, as such coerced "unification of opinion" violated the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. The court concluded that educators, as actors of the State, did not have the power to compel patriotic speech.

The Court further ruled in 2004 (Holloman ex rel. Holloman v. Harland, 370 F. 3d 1252 - Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit 2004) that educators may not compel students to stand for the Pledge, either.

Neither of you have the authority to compel my son to repeat the Pledge, nor do you have the authority to compel him to rise for the Pledge. Furthermore, as long as he remains quiet and does not create a disturbance while others choose to rise, you do not have the authority to discipline him for his refusal to participate in school-coerced political speech. This is settled Federal law.

Your attempts to coerce him into rising and repeating the Pledge through your shameful and ignorant remarks are a clear violation of his rights as a US citizen, which are protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Your behavior was absolutely unprofessional, and both your remarks and those of Mr. Hartman were completely out of line. You might not feel that the rights of students need to be protected and observed, but I believe that they should be, and that your behavior breached your responsibility to ensure that students are not harassed for refusing to participate in religious or political speech.

It is my expectation that both you and Mr. Hartman will tender full apologies to Ernest, and that you will in the future refrain from attempting to coerce him into political speech by any means.

If you have questions, feel free to respond to this email, or to call me at 419-509-6628. I trust, however, that I will have no further difficulties with your violation of my son's rights, and that there will be no further incidents.



So the principal called me and told me that he had a right to ask students why they refused to stand, and to "encourage" them to stand, and that he felt it was "sad" and "disrespectful to our great country" to sit while the rest of the class showed their respect for the country, and how can we not appreciate the sacrifices that our brave men in uniform have made for our country.

Did that light my fuse? You bet your ass it did.

"Mr. Verocco, I am not in the slightest bit interested in your More Patriotic Than Thou posturing. My grandfather marched into Buchenwald as a 19 year-old PFC with the US Army, and what he fought for was the RIGHT to not be FORCED to spout nonsense. It's bad enough that the students are permitted to get away with bullying, I WILL NOT stand by and let teachers and administrators bully my child into playing along with your stupid patriotism game. We are NOT bad Americans for calling Bullshit where Bullshit should be called."

He told me he was offended by my language, and I told him that I did not care, and that if I found that Ernie did not receive apologies and if Ernie were further harassed, my next step would be the Board, where I would point out that levies are coming in November, and the district already has its hands full with the LATEST incident of a teacher being asked to resign because of an inappropriate relationship with a student, they really didn't want to play this game with harassing a student over political speech as well.

He wanted to "agree to disagree". I told him that when it came to my kids, there was no "agree to disagree" with a BULLY.

Next letter was just to the superintendent.

Mr. Hickey,

I trust that by now you have read the e-mail that I sent to Mr. Verocco regarding his questioning of my son today.

Mr. Verocco just called me a few minutes ago in an attempt to defend his actions. I do not feel that he quite understands the gravity of the situation, and I have grave doubts about the sincerity of his intent to make this right.

When I told him that my son told me that he felt harassed and unsafe, he told me to "be careful about using the word harassed". I am afraid that Mr. Verocco does not get to define whether or not my son was harassed. If my son tells me he feels harassed and unsafe, then as far as I'm concerned, he has been harassed and is not safe.

Much as a student being coerced into a sexual relationship with a teacher would be defined as harassment, so too is the questioning of a student's refusal to participate in forced political speech. It is not the aggressor who gets to define the meaning of harassment.

I am not particularly sympathetic to Mr. Verocco's opinion that Ernest's refusal to stand for the Pledge makes him "sad", nor am I sympathetic to his opinion that he has the right to ask my son to "think about standing". The US Supreme Court has already determined that he does not have the right to try to coerce a student to stand for the Pledge.

He may think he's "just asking", but the simple fact of the matter is that he is in a position of authority over my son, and "just asking" in that context can be viewed as coercion. I am not at all happy with "just asking", neither am I happy with Mr. Verocco's opinion that "2000 other kids will tell you that they feel safe here."

Given that my eldest son has been physically assaulted at school several times, I ASSURE you that NEITHER of my children feel safe at Whitmer High School.

I would like to know what you, as Superintendent, intend to do to ensure that my son is 1) given the apologies he is owed and 2) is not harassed by his teachers and principal in the future.



Next stop is the Board.

He doesn't quite understand that I really am willing to back my kid up on this, up to and including dragging the district to court if need be. I have had ENOUGH of this nonsense. My Opa VOLUNTEERED to go fight the Nazis, and he didn't say the Pledge. I don't say the Pledge, and I fully support EVERYONE'S right not to say the Pledge.

Boss has informed me that if my bond is reasonable - because I will doubtless go to jail on Wednesday when he has not yet apologized to Ernie and I flay him with my bare and dainty little hands - he will fish me out of the clink.

Boss is very good to me.

18

Smirk
He was nearly two weeks late.

The summer of 1992 started much earlier than we had expected - hot, swampy and miserable, beginning in May. My misery was compounded by the fact that I was enormously pregnant, due to pop Any Minute Now, and my stubborn-assed firstborn couldn't be bothered to actually BE born. Alexander's due date of May 25th came and went, and he couldn't even muster the give-a-flying-fuck to wave at it as it passed. He, like Douglas Adams before him, enjoyed the sound of deadlines as they whizzed by.

By June 1st, I had had more than enough, and so had Dr. Shah. "He's late, he's getting too big, and you're not tolerating this very well any more. We'll induce on Friday." Well, he was right, I wasn't tolerating it well any more. The edema was awful, the heartburn was increasingly horrid, and I was beyond sick of not being able to see my feet, tie my own shoes, or get out of a chair without help. And I was just So. Fucking. Tired. I wasn't sleeping but in fits and starts, and I was exhausted. I know, some women thrive on being pregnant. I was not one of those women. I was whiny and impatient and weary.

Did you hear that, Alexander? You just got an eviction notice.

Dr. Shah warned me that induction would be unpleasant, and counseled me to stay as active as possible, to see if maybe we could convince him to show up for his damned birthday without needing the sheriff to come put him out. We set the induction appointment for Friday at 3PM, and I waddled out the door, crabby as hell. It was a long, long week, and I consoled myself with meanders up to Thackeray's and Barry Bagels for magazines and rare roast beef on onion bagels, extra swiss and extra horseradish. Even Barry himself was giving me a little frowny face. "Isn't that kid done yet?"

On Thursday night, I double checked my bag, ticking off everything I would need. Some books to keep me occupied, a little candy (contraband!), the cute coming home clothes I had picked out for Alex, my favorite purple satin nightshirt, because I would be damned if I not only had to eat hospital food, but also had to wear hideous and uncomfortable hospital clothes. We buckled the car seat into the back seat of the Escort, and moved Bill the Cat to the middle, where his goofy orange face could be where Alex could watch him. Also into the bag went the small Opus that had traveled around Germany with me - a going away present from my friend Charlene when I moved to Germany. It just seemed right that Opus would start a new adventure with the new little person I had been toting around for nine long months.

At about 4AM, I shot bolt-upright in bed, a screamingly hard cramp radiating across my gargantuan belly. Three minutes later, another. Three minutes later, another. Those weren't cramps, those were contractions, and I was already on the way to transition. Where the hell was the build up? Shit.

Mark. Mark. MARK! Wake up. We've gotta go. Alex is coming, and he's coming now.

He muttered muzzily. "No, no, go back to sleep. They told us at Lamaze that it would take a long time."

We have to GO! The contractions are three minutes apart and - there was another one - THEY HURT LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER OH MY GOD THIS HURTS!

I have never seen him wake up so fast. It must have been a comical sight, him pale and panicked, me waddling my pregnant ass down two flights of stairs and across the parking lot as fast as I could.

Labor and delivery were fast, just four and a half hours. Then I found myself holding this tiny little person, hoping and hoping that I wouldn't fuck him up too badly. Don't let anyone tell you any different - it's not ~*magickal*~ when your doc lays your firstborn in your arms for the very first time. It's scary as fuck. It's like someone dumping a truckload of bricks on your head. "Here. You made this. Now take care of it, don't let it die, and try to keep from damaging it too much." You know the old Road Runner cartoon where Wile E. Coyote somehow manages to get clocked with a giant bell and his head just sort of vibrates with this colossal *BOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG*?

It's a lot like that.

So I took him home and made sure he was fed and warm and dry and mentally stimulated and comforted and clean. We were alone a lot, what with me doing the Family Values Thing and staying home to care for him myself, so it usually fell to me to pace the floor with him for hours upon hours while he screamed out his colic. I got the full force of his will thrown at me on the regular as he progressed into the toddler years, and spent many an hour wondering just what the HELL I had gotten myself into. The days blended into the nights blended into the weeks blended into the months. One moment, he was a ravenous nursling. The next, a busy toddler. The next...

He was my little buddy, my shadow, my constant and cheery and inquisitive companion, and watching him learn and grow and change was utterly fascinating.

We spent a lot of time out in the neighborhood, attending story hour at Thackeray's, having lunch at Barry's or Sufficient Grounds, or just strolling about and enjoying our neighbors and friends. Sometimes, he'd accompany me on my paper route rounds, delighting him and my customers alike. He thought it was grand to ride in the wagon, and the eleventy-zillion Jewish grandmas I delivered to thought he was just the bees knees, and would rush out to scoop him up, snuggle him, and stuff him full of cookies.

He started pestering me to go to school almost as soon as he had learned to speak in full sentences, and was gleeful when we moved across the street from a Montessori school when he was 3. He wanted to go to school so badly! So I took on a large paper route to afford the tuition, and sent him off to pre-school. The old saw goes that you cry when your baby goes off to school for the first time. But I didn't. He was too excited about it for me to feel sad. And every day, he came home with a new little bit of knowledge, and couldn't wait to tell me all about the world he was inhabiting.

He asked endlessly for a baby sister, and was over the moon when I caught pregnant with Ernie. "A baby brother is fine, too!" He went to all of the interesting doctor visits and to all of the ultrasounds. He talked to my belly. He told my doc that he couldn't wait for his little brother to arrive, and when he finally did, nothing could persuade him to put the child down. He had a lot to share with his little brother, you see. The world was so cool and interesting and busy and exciting, and he wanted to be the one to show Ernie everything.

There were long trips to the library, the park, COSI. There were hermit crabs and fish and hamsters and long afternoons at the zoo, talking about all of the animals.

Elementary school seems a blur now, all school plays and activities and awards assemblies and field trips and Harry Potter. Oh my gods, the Harry Potter! He had a reputation for compassion, taking the school's participation in the Make A Child Smile charity to heart, and working hard, hard, hard on fundraising projects, getting everyone involved and working his heart out for kids in need. He also had a reputation for scatterbrainedness, and I spent a lot of time working with his teachers to try to get around that.

I remember him coming to me in 5th grade, begging for cello lessons.

And making 2nd chair in 7th grade. And 1st chair in 8th grade. And solo after solo after solo. And getting his tux his freshman year, so handsome and grown up looking in his formal duds.

I remember the dumb girlfriend. And the awful breakup. And then came Torrie, who makes the boy smile so brightly.

I remember the day he came home with an evil grin on and his cloak wrapped tightly around him. "Mother! Come here, I have to show you something!" He gleefully whipped off his cloak to reveal his chef's whites. He still wears them with a great deal of pride and passion. He has found his calling, and he is answering it with gusto.

In between...I remember a lot of blurs. Time runs wild. So wild.

Too wild.

He is 18 today.

He is tall and handsome and smart and funny and creative and silly...and independent minded. Tomorrow, he takes his talents and puts them to work at Cedar Point for the whole summer.

They say the whole point of parenting is - if you do it right - to eventually work yourself out of a job. I guess that's what I'm doing now, getting ready to hang it up on the Elder Monster. Hang it up on the hard work, anyway. For now, though, I'm just a little conflicted. On the one hand, I've successfully gotten one to the age of majority, and he aten't ded. On the other, my little buddy isn't so little any more, and he's about to take off into the wide world. I can't say I'm not a little worried about that.

Still, I think he's turned out pretty well. I'm proud of the kid, and excited to hear about his adventures at work and beyond. Commence Phase 2, I guess.

Happy Birthday, Bubbazander. You'll always be my chatty little buddy, even if you are a foot taller than I am now.



Tags:

I did this to myself.

Smirk
Ernie and I share office space. He's playing Runescape, and farting like there's no tomorrow.

ERNEST EDWARD! Your ass needs to SHUT UP!

"It has things to say!"

I find it objectionable.

"Since when are you opposed to blistering social commentary?"

I'm more opposed to its bad breath.

"You're discriminating against halitosis?"

I might have to kill him.

Tags:

Smirk
The Monsters and I decided to go out for breakfast this morning - something we've not been able to do for a while, what with crazy scheduling and such. It's nice to spend time with them, just the three of us, to chat and catch up.

Ernie is having an issue with school.

"Mom, the new principal sucks. He's a Nazi."

Whoa...dude...that's a pretty serious accusation.

"Well, he is. He wrote a 'loyalty pledge' for Greenwood. We have to say that, AND the Pledge of Allegiance AND we have to say 'I'm proud to be an American' every day. If we don't, we get detention."

That's illegal, Ern. You don't have to say ANY of it.

"He says I do."

The Supreme Court said you don't, and they said that back in the forties.

"Ryan got in trouble for not saying 'under god'. Mr. Colon was next to him and heard him drop it."

Patrice needs to put a call in to the board.

"If I get in trouble for not saying it, will I get grounded?"

No, and I'm surprised that you're asking. Do you object to the Pledge?

"Yes."

Why?

"Because we're NOT 'one nation under god', we're very divided, and we only have 'liberty and justice' for some."

That's a perfectly respectable position. So don't say it. Stand up, but remain silent. That's your right.

"What if I get in trouble?"

Mr. Colon will wish that he had studied his history just a little bit more diligently.

Mr. Colon has also banned games of tag and groups of more than three children together on the playground, and lectures the children daily about how much he "loves order" and "hates chaos". The kids are no longer permitted to simply enter the building when they get to school, but rather, must now line up on the front sidewalk - boys in one line, girls in the other - and wait for permission to enter. Because "it's important to be orderly in all we do".

Oh, no. I don't think my kid will be waiting outside in snow or rain because the n00b principal is power tripping.

It's our last year at Greenwood. If this guy thinks he's gonna make it suck, he's got another think coming.

Tags:

Blogging for Choice

Smirk

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007


Today is the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, a huge step forward in the quest for the right of women to be treated as fully functional human beings instead of merely uteruses with feet. It's a polarizing anniversary, to be sure. I don't think it's any secret to my readers which side I come down on (and if it does surprise you, I can only ask Where the hell have you been??)

The topic this year seems simple enough: Tell us, and your readers, why you're pro-choice. The thing is, when some people hear the words "Pro-choice", they immediately think it means "pro-abortion", and they react in horror. "HOW," they cry, "can you be pro-choice?! That's terrible! You're a mother! Don't you want your children?!"

I can only react in puzzlement. Of course I want them. They're here, are they not, in this age of (mostly) freely available contraceptive options? In this age of legal (for a little while longer yet) abortion? Unlike my mother, who did not have access to such options, I was not forced to bear my children. I consciously chose them, and I would again.

I was newly twenty-one, married for eight months and broke as hell and working hard when I caught pregnant in the autumn of 1991. We were struggling to get by and struggling with all the things newlyweds struggle with that first year - meddling families, getting used to living with someone else full time, feeling our way around building a life together, we two very different souls.

We didn't think too much about my fatigue in October of that year. I was putting in a ton of hours at work and keeping up on my volunteer work and generally just running about like mad. We didn't even think too much about my period being late - it often was, largely because of issues related to my RA, so it wasn't a big deal. At least, it wasn't until I started getting out of bed and immediately running to toss my cookies. That trip to the doctor changed my life, quite literally forever.

I was terrified.

Mark came home from work that night - I took the day off because I was too shocked and frightened to be of any use at work - and found me curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and what must have been a very puzzling expression on my face.

"Baby, are you OK? You didn't go in tonight?"

I didn't speak, I just handed him the test stick the doc sent home with me. Two pink lines.

"Oh. OH! Oh shit. Um. Wow. Shit."

He got a little dizzy and sort of melted to the floor. When he got his wits about him, he looked at me, still silently clutching my tea, and asked "What do you want to do?"

We stayed up all night talking. We were both scared half out of our minds. We were young and barely getting by ourselves. Were we even remotely capable of raising a child when we were still only barely adults ourselves? Abortion didn't seem like the right answer for us, though. I was already serving as a patient escort, and it broke my heart to feel the anxiety and grief pouring off some of the women I escorted. They were just as terrified as I was - terrified that they were doing the wrong thing, terrified that something would go wrong and they would die, terrified that friends or family would find out and shun them. Most of them emerged feeling a sense of relief...but the Christian girls (as I was back then) sobbed heartily and fearfully, positive that Jesus now thought ill of them.

My concern wasn't that I was worried about how Jesus would feel. I was much more worried that we'd bring a tiny little person into the world, then fuck it up with our inexperience and ineptitude.

But...I WANTED children. And I knew it was a young person's game. And I knew that with my illness, the longer I waited, the higher the risks were. Would I rather have a child young and be perpetually broke or would I rather run the risk of not ever being able to have a child of my own? Would I rather stress my new marriage with pregnancy and childbirth and parenting so early on, or would I rather stress it with the aftermath of an abortion or the frustration of fertility treatments or the massive invasion of privacy of adoption proceedings? Scylla and Charybdis were hanging out in my tiny little living room that night.

So I chose.

I think we can do this.

And so we have. It's been hard, but we've managed, and I don't think that we've done too badly.

The thing is...choice is more than choosing to have a baby or to abort it. There is so much more to it than that. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call myself "pro-rights".

I am pro-rights because I am a survivor of vicious abuse brought on in part by my own mother's resentment at her lack of rights. She did not have access to effective contraception. In 1970, abortions were illegal. She was raised in a "you poke it, you own it" culture, where women were property - first of their parents, then of who whoever fucked them. Her choices were "keep it or give it up", and her parents forbade her to give me up. (And damn them forevermore for that.) She had no rights, no choice, and not enough education to turn that lack of choice to her own advantage. As much as I hate her, I still feel sorry for her sometimes, too. She might have been a different person if her rights had been acknowledged and protected.

I am pro-rights because I am a survivor of rape. In the aftermath of my rape, I was able to find help to heal my wounded soul. I had options, places to go, people to talk to. I had a choice to go it alone or try to find solace in the company of people who understood what I was going through. Later, I had the choice to repay the debt I owed those women, and served as a rape crisis counselor.

I have served as both a sex ed. counselor at Planned Parenthood and a patient escort at the Center for Choice. I have spent time explaining sex and contraception to young women and young men. I have spent time walking frightened women through the picketers into the clinic, holding their hands, holding them while they cry because they're being called "baby-killer" by people who think they just woke up on the morning of their procedure and pranced out the door without a care in the world. I have rights and choices and I had the right to choose to help other people exercise their rights.

I am pro-rights because I believe in thorough, unvarnished sex education. I believe in telling kids the truth about sexuality, about its fluidity, about healthy sex, about all of their contraceptive options. I don't believe in the fairy-tale of abstinence education - teenagers fuck, and to try to pretend that they don't is shortsighted and dangerous. I believe treating sex as a taboo is morally reprehensible and responsible for the fucked up culture we suffer through today, the culture in which rape victims "were asking for it" and women who enjoy their sexuality are labeled as sluts.

I am an educated woman. I believe that women are fully-formed, functioning, thinking human beings entitled to the same rights as men. I believe women are capable of making their own health decisions, their own parenting decisions, their own career decisions, without the permission or even the input of any man. If you want a pet that will blindly obey, buy a dog.

I whole-heartedly oppose the idea that women are owned by whoever fucks them. I do not believe that fucking a woman grants you exclusive access in perpetuity, or even any access at all in the future. Sorry, fellas, but cocks don't impress me much. Sure, they're great fun to play with - I've stroked them, fucked them and sucked them, and have had myself a right grand time of it. Some are even really nice to look at and I've admired them right out loud. But at the end of the day, The Almighty Cock is not the Wand of Power that will turn off my sense of independence and self-determination and make me your property, subject to your will, my own needs and desires be damned. Ain't none of y'all been THAT good in bed.

I believe in bodily integrity, in a person's right to say NO. To ANYONE. Calling yourself my boyfriend does not entitle you to free use of my body whenever you want it. Giving me a wedding ring does not mean that you get sex whenever and wherever you want it, simply by virtue of us sharing a life and a home and a bed and it sure as hell doesn't grant you dominion over any other part of my life, either. NO means NO, even in a long term relationship.

I am pro-rights for me, for you, for everyone. I believe you have the right to conduct your life as you see fit - so long as you understand that your right to swing your fist ends about an inch in front of my nose. I believe we all have the right to choose to be religious or not, to be parents or not, to give birth or adopt or abort, to choose the form of contraception that suits us or choose to go without so we can bring children in to our lives. I believe women have the right to educate themselves, regardless of what any man or religion or "society" would say to that. I believe that every consenting adult has the right to say yes or no to sex, as they please, that everyone has the right to love who they will, that sex is not dirty, that the gender of the person you love shouldn't matter to anyone but you, that the number of people you invite into your bed is your own damned business and that religion and government have no business in the bedrooms of consenting adults.

I am pro-choice BECAUSE I am a mother, not in spite of it. I KNOW what a hardship it can be, I KNOW that it can be maddening and sanity fraying. I KNOW how badly you can damage your own health by carrying a pregnancy to term. I am pro-choice because I believe that EVERY child should be wanted and passionately loved, not dumped into foster care because a woman was forced to bear a child she did not want and was ill equipped to care for in any case. I am pro-choice because I DO NOT believe that "someone will adopt it" is sufficient reason to push a woman into endangering her health and well-being by carrying a child she does not want. What about the children already here, wasting away while they wait for someone to adopt them?

I am pro-choice. I am pro-rights. And I long for the day when events like Blog for Choice Day are no longer necessary because it will be just plain old common sense that women are real humans and thinking citizens and possessed of the same rights as everyone else.

To Absent Friends

Schiller
I guess you could say he was a bastard.

In the "born on the wrong side of the sheets" sense - his Mama was a purebred Chocolate Sealpoint Siamese showcat who somehow managed to slip out of the house one night and get herself knocked up by the neighborhood Tom. He must have been one handsome sonofabitch, that Tom, because all four babies in that litter were unbelievably beautiful.

Candy's call came in the middle of the night. Dark, but not stormy - just a beautiful autumn night where the air was crisp and clean and still smelled of the neighbors' earlier leaf burning efforts.

"Maggie, I need help. Jezebel abandoned the litter. I can't do this anymore."

Wait, whoa, what? Do what? Wait. Shit! Are you taking care of them yourself? For how long?

"A week now. Jez just...stopped. I don't know what to do. They're hungry all the time! Their eyes just opened yesterday."

Maybe the vet can help you find fosters?

"I tried. They're all full! Can you take one?"

Take a kitten? Here?

"The black one is so little...and he has the most amazing eyes..."

And so it was, late of a September night, that a pitifully teeny, mewling, squirming bundle of silken black fur, pointy face, big ears and astonishing blue-green eyes was thrust into my arms. Well, hell. Now what?

"What" turned out to be feeding the little thing every two hours for a while, keeping it warm...and falling ass over teakettle in love with it.

Him.

Schiller.

I had a full slate of classes that quarter, most of them which overlapped his feeding times, so he went to a lot of classes with me. He'd nestle in my sweatshirt, warm and content, never peeping until it was time to be fed - and I managed to get the bottle into him before he started fussing, so few people ever noticed that I was feeding a kitten at the back of the class.

Until the day in Survey of German Literature when Schiller decided to offer biting commentary on his namesake's
Wallenstein
trilogy.

*MEW*MEW*MEW*


"FRÄULEIN! WHAT is that creature doing in my lecture?"

Participating in the discussion, Frau Professorin?

"That's ridiculous!"

His mother abandoned him. He has to eat frequently.

"In my lecture?"

If I am meant to be here as well, ma'am, yes. He's on topic!! His name is Schiller!

And so it came to be that our section of the Survey acquired a mascot who was eventually permitted to prowl about our small class, so long as he wasn't too loud in his criticisms. He quickly endeared himself to the Professorin and my classmates, and was immediately spoiled by all. This led to him approaching everyone he met with an attitude of ownership. He never asked permission to sit upon your lap. He'd just hop up, make himself at home, and stare with a look of "Go ahead, punk. Move me."

No one ever did.

As he passed through kittenhood and his gawky, funny-looking adolescent phase, into adulthood, he developed quite a personality. He took to waiting for me at the door, springing to twine himself around my legs as soon as I came home from work, miaowing and wowing and mooing and mrring and demanding to investigate the contents of whatever bag I brought home. I learned that he had a passion for Mcdonald's french fries. He would swipe them at every opportunity, and completely ignore me when I scolded him for sneaking them out of the carton. Sleeping was not permitted unless he had himself mashed against the top of my head, a habit that persisted until very recently. Rolling over didn't faze him. He'd just shift, administer a chiding nip to my eyebrow or cheek, and resume mashing himself to the top of my head, usually purring like a freight train.

My head, if nothing else, was always very warm.

Of course, this didn't prevent him from showing a healthy interest in the sleeping habits of others. Overnight guests often reported late night visits from the King of All Creation, usually comprising gentle head-butts, nibbles and the occasional lick. And when we brought Alex home from the hospital? He spent so much time with that baby that the MIL freaked out and claimed the cat was "up to no good".

He was, in fact, up to plenty of good. Alex was *his* kitten, you see, and he was going to protect his kitten. If Schiller didn't like you, you did not hold the baby, and attempting to do so without his consent was likely to lead to you pulling back a bloody stump rather than an intact arm. He mellowed a little later, when Ernie arrived, but that peculiar bond he had with both of the Monsters persisted right to his very last breath. Until two weeks ago, he waited every day for them at the door, greeting them with miaows and wows and moos and mrrs, demanding to be picked up, snuggled and fed treats. They were only too happy to oblige, and he was only too happy to serve as their guardian, watching over them during waking and sleeping hours. Even today, he wobbled over to them to lean against them.

He loved to explore. Heather and I would frequently open up drawers or cupboards and find those astounding eyes staring inquisitively back at us. His desire to be the John Lewis of the cat world did occasionally present him with a few problems over the years, though. Throwing oneself against the screen to go after the birdies flying by usually resulted in riding the screen down into the shrubbery. Slipping into the fridge for a look while we were taking a fast inventory resulted in coming home after about half an hour of grocery shopping to an exceedingly pissed off kitty stalking out of the fridge with murder in his eyes. Years later, chewing through the screen door, he went on a 16 day walkabout and I thought he was gone forever. He led Mark, _constantine and me on a merry chase through a thunderstorm to fetch his skinny ass back into the house.

He pretty much gave up adventuring after that one.

Schiller didn't just demand respect. He'd slap it into you if you weren't properly obedient. Even big, dopey Murphy, who tipped the scales at 85 pounds to Schiller's 6, approached The Emperor meekly and with respect. He made it clear that he was Owner of the Universe. I was merely his Chief of Staff, and my job was but to Obey.

It was so very hard, but I did Obey when he told me this week that he was Done.

Dr. Christine Ravary helped my beloved friend of 20 years cross safely into his Mother's waiting arms just a little after 4:30PM today, surrounded and held by the family that held him dear. She treated him with respect and loving care, stroking him gently and whispering to him that it was OK to leave us and go Home. She helped him leave this world with grace and dignity, and gently wrapped him in the veil he had claimed from me so we could take him home.

It was Alexander who cradled his veiled body on the ride home, and Alexander who laid him to rest, a gesture of love to his very first and truest friend. We buried him in front of the herb garden, near the catnip planter, and in the Spring will buy a stone cat from Carruth Studios to mark his resting place. He'll be happy to have a better view of the birds, I think.

We went inside then, and toasted our departed companion - Tequila for Alex and me, Remy for Mark and Ernie. "Damned cat!", said Mark. "To snuggle kitty," Ernie sniffled. To stubborn old bastards. "No, Mom," Alex said solemnly. "To absent friends." We drank then, and cried.

"Absent"...doesn't seem like enough. There is a silent thread running through the usual household buzz, devoid of the miaows and wows and moos and mrrs of his chatty nature. The insistent head-butts are no more. The soft kitty paws kneading my lap have been stilled.

There will be another cat eventually, but for now we are trying to cope with the giant, gaping hole where his Presence used to be. He's going to be a tough act to follow.



Farewell, Old Friend. I will wait patiently for the day that we find each other again. Tell Murph and Sydney hello for me, OK? And try to help them out? They never were as smart as you.

Tags:

Pristine

Smirk
At 9:04AM, Richard's still hadn't unlocked their door. So we got out of the car to tap on it.

The sullen counter person came around and unlocked the door and asked if she could help us. I wanted to hit her.

I had already agreed to let Mark handle the talking, because my blood pressure had already spiked hard and I was on the verge of screaming. I didn't sleep at all last night, positive that these raging incompetents had somehow hurt Alex's yet-to-be-played cello.

I bit my lip and waited. Mark laid the work order on the counter and quietly - oh so very quietly in that deadly tone he takes on when he's well and truly pissed off - demanded that the cello be brought up immediately. She balked.

"It isn't finished yet."

I know, he said. I don't care. I want it put in my hands right now.

"We can have it finished today or tomorrow!"

No, he told her. You've had it three weeks, it's a ten minute job. Get it. Now.

"The work order only says you need it before Christmas! If it was urgent, you should have said something."

I couldn't hold my tongue anymore.

The work order says one to two weeks, and Shelley told me it would be done in a week. I have called you every other day to ask after the status, and you've been giving me the runaround. You KNEW it was urgent, or SHOULD have known by my calling you every other day and telling you I'm in a screaming panic over this not being done. Get it. Now.

"Our policy is not to return instruments we've started on until they're finished."

Mark leaned in closely. I don't care what you think your policy is, he said. You will return my instrument right now, or we'll ask the police to come in and get it for us.

She brought it up, finally, snarling and muttering "The work order only says before Christmas. Christmas isn't until Sunday!"

You've had this three weeks, Mark said.

"It's already been started, you'll have to pay for the work done."

You're not getting a dime.

I put the case up on the counter and opened it. Untouched. Pristine. Not even inspected - the velcro around the neck is still in the figure 8 I put it in after I inspected the instrument. It was too long for a single wrap. The bridge is still tied to the fingerboard with festive red ribbon - Mendini tied it to the widest part before shipping. The styrofoam insert separating the tailpiece from the face, meant to keep the tailpiece from collapsing, is intact. It was never so much as shifted.

Funny. I was always under the impression that working on an instrument required, at minimum, opening the case and taking the instrument out for inspection. Maybe even going so far as to untie the bridge and inspect it too.

Mark zipped it shut and pulled it down.

"We can have it done today or tomorrow!"

No, he said. We'll have it taken care of by people who won't lie to us.

"Well, FINE. MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

Fuck you, too.

Untouched. It has sat untouched in their back room, put off and put off and put off in spite of me calling every other day to inquire. They held my instrument, lied to me about the work being done on it (or NOT DONE, as the case may be), argued with me about giving it back, then had the nerve to get pissy about me taking it?

Nope. Not a dime. Not now, not ever, not even if every other music shop in a 50 mile radius burns to ash. I'll buy EVERYTHING on the 'net before I give those people anything but hell ever again.

The cello lies on my bed, waiting.




I got a phone call last night. Laura and Randy are in from Oklahoma!

I related the story of the cello to Laura, who said "If Richard's didn't hurt it, don't take it to Rettig. I can set the bridge and tune it. I did it at Coyle for years."

Laura and Randy, being musicians, spent lots of time in the music shops and both have learned basic strings and woodwinds repair and advanced brass repair.

They'll be here in about half an hour to hang out, have lunch, and Randy will take Alex out on "errands" while Laura does the set and tune.

Fuckers

Smirk
Richard's STILL isn't done with Alexander's cello. I called again today after calling another music shop.

When will it be finished? It's been nearly three weeks, you promised it in a week and a half to two.

"He assures me it will be done before Christmas."

Christmas Eve is Saturday. I'm coming in tomorrow to pick up my instrument.

"You can't do that. It isn't finished yet."

You watch me. Finished or not, you WILL be returning my instrument to me when I come in tomorrow morning.




See, I talked to Shane out at Rettig Music in Sylvania, and my first question was How long does it take to set a bridge and tune a cello?

"About ten minutes if the bridge doesn't need modifications. Did you break your bridge?"

No. I got a cello for my son from a dealer in California. They shipped the cello - brand new - with the bridge flat and instructions for setup. My son knows how to set the bridge, but it's a surprise for Christmas, so I thought it would be nice to have it professionally set and tuned for him so it's ready to go on Christmas morning. The people I took it to are giving me the runaround.

"That's a good idea, and we actually recommend that, because sometimes you sort of have to pet a cello into tune after shipping. They're temperamental. But typically, the bridge is already fit to the cello and only requires a quick set and tune with no additional work. Where did you take it?"

Richard's, over on Central. Three weeks ago.

"Oh."

That...doesn't sound good.

"We've had several new customers this week, with the same problem."

I see. So let's say I stomp in there today and take my cello back from them. If I bring it to you, what kind of turnaround am I looking at?

"If the bridge doesn't need modifications? Ten, possibly fifteen minutes if you want a full inspection, too."

And if it needs some filing?

"Seven days, but only because we would have to send it to our repair facility in Defiance. Two of our six technicians are trained with strings."

I'm fetching my cello back from these jackasses.

"Three weeks is unacceptable. Call them today and give them warning that you're coming to pick up your instrument. It's possible that they farmed the work out and are going to have to scramble to get the instrument back in house."

Wonderful.

"Be firm and do not leave the shop without your instrument. If you have anything that proves your ownership of the instrument, take it with you. One of the people who brought us an instrument yesterday had to get the police involved."

Oh. FABULOUS!

"If we can set it up right here in the store, I promise it won't take longer than fifteen minutes. If we have to send it out, we'll have you take it home, and bring it back after Christmas."

So I called Richard's. And as noted, they balked.

They really don't want to hassle me about this instrument. They've had ample time, now they get to deal with Pissed Off Orchestra Mom.

This is really pissing me off.

Smirk
It has been exactly two weeks since I took Alex's new cello in to have the bridge set up and the instrument properly tuned, and fifteen days since the instrument was delivered.

Today was the last day for me to send the cello back if anything was wrong with it. Today is also the day the work order said it would be finished.

I called Richard's to check the status.

Not only can they not tell me when it will be done (aside from "before Christmas"), they can't tell me if there's anything wrong with it.

They've had the instrument for two solid weeks and claim to have worked on it, but they can't tell me if there's a problem with it?

I need to find a new music shop. I don't trust this one any more.

Safe within these walls...

Smirk
Missy Sedai - Researcher, Writer, Dreamer.

Behind these weathered walls lives an often fragile heart.

I pour it out here...sometimes funny, sometimes sweet, sometimes mundane...sometimes so ugly and painful that it hurts to watch but you can't look away, either...but NEVER for the entertainment of the anonymous masses.

Most are welcome to follow along, but I like to know who reads...leave a comment here to be added to my safe list...just keep in mind that the answer might be "No". (All comments will be screened.)




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