Fighting for Baby

Today, I attended family court by Zoom, as the temporary guardian of my nephew. Today I submitted a motion to dismiss my previously submitted petition for permanent custody of him. My heart is so heavy.

I recently talked with a friend, who asked “So what happened? Why did you stop fighting for him?” And while I attempted to answer her, I haven’t been able to shake that question or the feeling it left in me.

For anyone out there that has followed this journey with us, I think it’s important for you to know, I never stopped fighting for him. Even today, when I told Judge Meagher via Zoom that I was dismissing the motion for custody, I never stopped fighting.

Since the day he was born, when his father was in jail, when delivery was prematurely induced because he stopped growing, substance exposed, 11 months before he came to live with me full time, I fought for him. I stayed at the hospital for 5 days after he was born. I fought for the Massachusetts Department & Families (DCF) to not let him leave the hospital with his mother. The mother who has two other children she’s failed to nurture, provide for, raise or parent because of her addiction and mental health issues, but they failed him. They allowed that tiny fragile 4lb human to leave with her, only to live in a drug treatment home where he’d eventually get so sick he’d require hospitalization and intubation. I, a strong breastfeeding supporter, fought for Tufts Floating Hospital for Children to stop encouraging the mother to bring breast milk to the baby, when she left her drug program to visit him, because she was still taking opioids that passed through milk and interfered with his therapeutic medications. I offered to buy milk from a bank, to help him grow, but they declined. I fought for DCF to step in an not allow the baby to go back to live with her at his discharge, but they let him go. I fought for his father to live with me for six months, for him to get mental health treatment, get a paternity test, take parenting classes at the hospital, and pay child support to the horrible mother who gave birth to this baby.

I fought for the baby to come visit me every weekend, so that I could see if he was growing or thriving.

The mother eventually left the Angel House on The Cape, in a hurry, telling everyone falsely that she “graduated” the program, only to take him to live in a homeless shelter in Marshfield, where they relapsed. I still stayed connected and took the baby on weekends.

The father was arrested again, naked in front of a family homeless shelter, injuring police officers in a drug induced episode, likely meth or crack. I fought for DCF to take him then, but they didn’t.

You see, you can be a drug addict, and a parent. You can be a criminal, and a parent. You can be unstable, unable to provide for your children, and not capable of the work necessary to raise children, and still be allowed the right to parent. You can traumatize your baby, and still be allowed to be a parent. They can have multiple warrants out for their arrest, multiple open cases for criminal activity. They can be unable to to get the baby medical care. They still have the right to be parents.

The measure or threshold for DCF to take a baby, or any action against a parent’s rights, is “eminent harm”…and they don’t mean emotionally, nutritionally or socially. Their measure is physical eminent harm, but they won’t even put that in writing. The measure is not whether or not the child has a good life or a healthy life, is loved and nurtured or happy and healthy. It’s about whether or not the parents have done anything egregious enough to put the baby in physical “eminent harm”. Yet.

When they were kicked out of that shelter, they went to live in another one run by High Point in Taunton. High Point is a well known drug treatment organization in this area. Again, they relapsed. This time they were both arrested, leaving the 11 month old baby sitting in a second hand car seat, in a disgustingly dirty shared bedroom strewn with trash, old food, and piles and piles of dirty clothes.

I arrived at the shelter in the middle of the night, to be met and questioned by police officers, before taking him home to live with me. DCF later showed up at my home at 4am to question me and see the baby. Only then, when the baby was left amid strangers, in his pajamas and a dirty diaper, at a drug rehab house, did they say they would take action, by taking emergency custody…unless I did.

I went to court the following Monday morning, and asked for temporary guardianship. I found a daycare, called on my amazing network of friends to get everything we needed for him, and our lives got even more complicated by stay-at-home orders from March to July during the pandemic.

His parents were in and out of jail regularly during that. They didn’t take care of him, ask about him, call, or ask to see him. Homelessness, addiction and mental health issues don’t just disappear when responsibilities do.

So, we taught him to walk, come down the stairs on his bum, jump, swim and talk. We taught him to sing songs, say “thank you” and dance. We taught him how to give hugs and kisses, wear a mask, and sit in time-out when we hit.

I went through several court appearances that resulted in repeated extensions of the temporary guardianship, until I finally asked for permanent custody after 11 months. Each parent was gifted a lawyer. I, on the other hand, was asked for $10k for a trial retainer, and declined hiring my own for that reason. I asked the court 5 times for a court appointed lawyer to be assigned to represent the baby. I was denied because of my income all times, except the last, when I was helped by the lawyer I couldn’t afford to pay, who gave me advice on what to ask for. So, I fought for a lawyer for the baby.

Only then did the dad take action by finding a new girlfriend online during the pandemic. One with a house and car he could use. He got sober and started going to a monthly vivitrol clinic. The irony was, vivitrol is for heroin treatment, not meth or crack, which are his drugs of choice. But, no one listed when I explained all of this. No one checked when I told them he wasn’t going to AA or NA meetings. All they saw were letters that said he showed up for his shot and therapy. We all know those places are simply revolving doors, and “therapy” probably consists of having a pulse and a shot, and a checked box.

When I voiced concern about the fathers “secured housing” being dependent on the new relationship, no one else was worried. When I questioned the judgement of a woman who would move an addict with rotten teeth, no driver’s license, no sobriety, open court cases and an active restraining order for violence into her house, give him a car and turn one of her rooms into a nursery, no one else got creepy lifetime movie vibes, because she works for a school system, and owns her own home.

So, I started letting the parents visit. And, eventually, let dad take him overnights on Saturdays. I gave him most of his projects from daycare, I send him with his favorite meals and snacks. I told him about whatever skill we were working on (like “sorry”, cleaning up toys, or not throwing food). I stressed the importance of hydration and naps and knowing how to take his temperature. And we’ve been doing that for several months.

Ideally, Shawn gets to grow up knowing his dad. I’d prefer that he never know his mother for all the obvious (and several non-obvious ones.) I think she’ll do more damage coming in and out kid his life than she could ever do good. But, it’s not my place to decide. In a best world, Shawn is raised by his dad surrounded y people who love him.

So, I was left with a choice. I could go to trial and take a big risk, or I could withdraw my petition, and ask the parents and their court-appointed free lawyers to come to an agreement that took into considerations all the known risks of mental health and substance use disorders. I drafted up terms that included requirements to keep the baby in an EEC approved home based daycare, continued work with DCF, that he keeps his same pediatrician for continuity of care, that he only allow supervised visits with the mother (no sleepovers or driving with him), the same drug testing and MH & SA treatment that he does now, and most importantly a safety plan that includes a phone call to me if the father relapses, becomes institutionalized or incarcerated. Fighting by advocacy, I guess. They agreed and the order can not be changed unless by a judge.

Today, at 9:50am, I entered the dismissal. And, just like all cases in probate court, my nephew’s life was reduced to a docket number to everyone, it feels, except me.

His parents will have to check in with the judge in 120 days. Custody is returned to the dad, just like that and then the message that popped up in my Zoom screen… “the zoom meeting has ended.”

No transition plan. No plan of action. Does it end today?

I feel like I’m the only one wondering whether I’ll see him again. Whether or not he’ll get to eat almonds and spinach in his oatmeal, snack on black olives, Craisins and cheese, help himself to the marshmallows in the giant-sized canister of Lucky Charms, or yell out “Auntie, I’m coming” when he wakes up in the morning. Will he get to take his toys to his new house? Will he get to watch Stinky & Dirty or Barney on Amazon Prime when he’s tired? Will they diffuse Lemongrass, Rosemary or Eucalyptus when he’s sick? Will they remember that milk gives him a belly ache, and that he needs eczema lotion under his diaper cream? Will they make sure the seams of his socks aren’t crooked, and be sure the sleeves is his onesie aren’t gathered inside his shirt? Will they let him look out the window every night to see the “twinkle-twinkle” and remember to play white noise? Will they nurture his love for taking little things apart and putting them back together or his collection of amazing hats?

I’ve still not received a phone call or a text message from the dad. I had to message his lawyer and tell her to have him call me. I told her I’ll pick him up from daycare, the one he’s been at for a year and three months that the dad has never been to. And, while she replied that she’d have him call me, it’s wildly peculiar that He didn’t reach out immediately after court to make a plan to pick up his baby. The one he says he wants to come live with him, so he can parent. Doesn’t parenting include a transition plan and making a plan to pick him up?

So, yeah, the “fight” for him took the form of advocacy today. And, if the chance to be raised by a parent fails, I’ll be here for him again, in the future. Fighting for a safety plan, and a nurturing daycare, and doctors who know him was the best thing I could do for him at this time. I didn’t stop fighting for him, or wanting him, or wanting what’s best for him. Because, as I had to say to Savannah this morning “today, the right thing isn’t the best thing”.

For those who walked this journey with us, thank you for your love and support and gifts for him while we had him. And, while we hope we still get to see him and visit with him in the future, if we don’t, we still know that all the moments we had together helped him grow immensely, and gave his dad some time to be sober. Now, all we can do is see what happens. It was the longest and shortest, hardest, most challenging 15 months of our lives! But, wow, we got to practice so much love on this tiny little human!


I Fucking Love The Way He Loves Me: Told From My Pedestal in Late Summer

We’ve met again. This boy and I who never seem to put the sealing wax on the envelope. We’ve spent our whole lives having missed encounters with one another. Chasing a dry leaf in an October breeze, for me. Writing sexy lyrics to a perfect song, for him.

We couldn’t be more different, or in tune. Worlds apart in all ways except heart and humor. We remain on the periphery of each other lives though. Sometimes close, sometimes absent. It’s both difficult and precious to know this is the most loved I’ll ever be. It’s the kind of love, passion, and connection I’ve always expected. His love is both a tax and reward.
I may cheat myself by comparing all love to his. It seems unfair to compare the man who knows where I’ve been to the one who wants to know where I’m going. And, as he and all my former lovers put it, I may end up alone because I don’t trust a single one of them.
He’s not a provider in a tangible sense, or like I’ve always wanted, yet he offers something others can’t. I don’t know if the latter compensates for the former. But, I fucking love the way he loves me. This is my attempt to describe it. Or, justify it. Or, prove something to myself. Or, give myself permission.

I admit that regardless of how I feel, I have trouble making that meet what I think. Thinking is where I get into trouble. I wonder often whether or not it’s possible for someone else to come along and make me feel as adored as he can. There is a man I know who is the mate for my soul. Truly my soul mate, without question. (Quite possibly the only one who thinks I have a soul.)

The standard for cellular attraction and spiritual connection is so high because of him. Us. We tried, or played with one another, throughout the years. We tested each other out, he always more honestly than I. For years he looked after me and was always around, and I was a phone call away when he got into trouble. He worshiped me, and was uncharacteristically gentle with me. I was out of reach and he was too accessible. He was risky. I was a commitment girl with high standards, he was…sort of the opposite of that. Actually, not sort of.
He shared details with me, over and over, as easily as he shared everything else. Details and honesty, and not just sometimes. He tells a story in a way that puts you in a room with him, whether you want to be there or not. Many times, over several-a-story I wanted to scream “No! Stop talking!”, but simultaneously found comfort in the closeness we had that allowed that kind of openess. He told me things he didn’t tell anyone, and I’ve been both hurt and honored by his honesty. He’s told me things I wanted to hear. And some I needed to. We lost that one day.

So, for more reasons than that, I love him from a distance and am there when he needs me. Or something.
Him arriving at my window as kids, at some ridiculous hour was not uncommon. He often ended his nights there. We’d sit in the yard, the floor of my living room, or in the woods for hours. And, we walked together. So many times he walked me home. So many footsteps and stories that ended with a surprisingly quiet and gentle hug. The smell of his signature leather jacket lingered after he left, and I always wondered what was on his 16- year-old mind on his walk home…besides my ass.
There were many nights when we just held him together. His adventures were hilarious, exciting, dark and wild…and destructive. To say he was a bad-boy would be an understatement. I’d attempt to talk him down, or up, depending on what he needed. Sometimes, I was coaxing a bottle out of his hand, other times, it was something more dangerous.

There were quite literally years of 3 a.m. phone calls, and he’d ask me to stay on the line while he fell asleep. (And I’m still here.) He needed the kind of company, or voice, that could help him get right. I like to think he reached out when he needed something soft and forgiving. But the truth is I’m not forgiving, and he reached out because he knew I would always be there. He’s quite possibly the only person I didn’t give birth to that gets my soft side, while simultaneously accepting my I’ll-fucking-cut-you side. He calls me “home” and I suspect he has reused that one a few times…just like “my queen”, “goddess” and “my wife.” He’s dramatic. But, I was a safe place to go when things were ugly, always available to listen to good news, or a place to write when he made the news. I offer him a place to send his feelings and reflections. A way to empty his heavy mind and even heavier heart. A person to share his vulnerability, ridiculous humor, and not-so-secret mean with. I am the human equivalent of confession, affair, and therapy. I’m crazy. I’d have to be. A sane thinking person would run.

Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

He offers me a pedestal, though. Oh, and don’t I just graciously let him set me on it. I stand up here…doing twirls and smiling the whole damn time. Worshipped. A completely untouchable goddess up here doing naked curtseys and soaking in the affection like warm sun rays. I fucking love the way he loves on me.
We’ve had a friendship for 24 years. A pretty sensual relationship once, and a move-in that ended abruptly. We nurtured a paper and ink romance, at times. Actual stamped envelopes & lined paper filled with more love than any journal could hold. Pen & pencil. Handwritten. We’re probably solely responsible for deforestation and USPS mail carrier job security. We’ve been hanging out, laughing, writing, and loving each other since I was 12.
I’m always here. I’m, admittedly, the fallback girl and I’ve always been okay with him sauntering in and out of my life while he finds himself. I’m a terrible partner anyway. I had space in my heart for him, but not in my life. My super-power is loyalty. My weakness is the spiritual connection to childhood that we share.
I’ve always been easy to love briefly, mail. When he tires, comes to the end of a road, or can’t get what he needs, he calls…or writes. When he misses home and is lost, he reaches out. He’d say “That’s not why.”, or “I’ve always loved you.” And, in fact, we’d both be right.

Sure, I’ve felt used, occasionally. But it has in no way been a one-way relationship. We’ve both received something sweet.
A written romance. A beautiful and ugly one. Both of us in love with words of the other. The excitement of an addressed and stamped envelope in the mailbox every day never tires. He comes home to me that way, and I love it. Seven intimate pages of a handwritten story, some dreams, or plans replace an embrace at the end of a day. His with pen, mine always in pencil. Mine folded properly, his never. The opposite, according to him.

Sometimes I save them to read over tea before bed. Other times I rip them open as I close the door with my back. Some, I have never read. Even though there is a letter in my mailbox almost every day, it is still a gift and a surprise to receive each and every one, 27 years later.

The greeting is never the same, the script varies based on his mood, and his closings either make me laugh out loud or ache below my belly. Each make me smile. An old fashioned postal romance woven together by time, friendship, trust, familiarity, attraction and love. There’s a string that runs from my heart to my pencil and only he plays a chord on it. I’ve always been easy to love by mail…because the idea of me is like a love song and the actual me is…not.

His neediness has reached exhausting at times. His energy can be too great. His ego is a storm. But he’s worth it. In fact, I’m thankful to him for the opportunities I’ve had to touch pencil to paper, with frequency and at length. Right here even. His words saved me, by beckoning a written reply. But, we’d still miss each other, out here in real life.

If I was open to dating him, he’d relapse into a life I couldn’t be part of. When he was on top of his world and wanted to try, I was in a relationship. More often than not, I was available while he was…passing time. Once, after a really great year together, and only weeks after moving in, he quietly left while I slept. He left a note on the table. Yes…a note, in the night, left on the table. The irony is not lost on me. He used the same method to break my heart as he did to fill it. Left on my table.
My life was too much. Boring, rigid, sober and stale accompanied by responsibility and accountability. Not exciting. He’d say “That’s not true.” But it was suffocating him and lacked the energy and vibe he thrived on. He wasn’t going to survive in my space. I wasn’t going to survive his relapse. To this day, I can’t remember all that note said. I do remember “I’m sorry.” “Please forgive me.” and “All my love, always.” He relapsed that week and was writing to me shortly thereafter. I knew he was sorry. I forgave him and thanked him in my head.

I knew he loved me. Always would. It wasn’t even about me, or love, but it didn’t feel that way. Because he loved me, he shouldn’t have come. Because he loved me, he had to go. When it was far too late, I still ached for a better answer. I struggled to deal with the sudden death of my boyfriend before us and then the loss of us. I don’t recall a time when I felt more alone in a bad way. I spent a spell trying to undo the young picture I had of life together. Again, a truth that honored. Then I was alone in a good way.

We’ve been friends, and have grown up together. Well, I’ve grown up. He’s still the 16 year old boy that wraps me in his jacket, and tells me how beautiful I am. The boy who is wildly inappropriate, incredibly loud, and often both at the same time. He’s the boy who makes me laugh at any cost, walks me home at night and keeps me safe through many an adventure. There were things he couldn’t keep me safe from, but he would have done anything for me. Still would. He’s the kind of friend I share dark things with, and he doesn’t scare. I’m not always proud of those thoughts, but it’s good to know there’s one man who…can always make them worse. Partly, because he’s crazier than I am. Mostly because he understands me.
I watch him grow older making music, he watches me dance. I watch him build, and he watches me mother. I listen to him sing, he holds me when I cry. We drift in and out of each other’s lives in an easy way. Sometimes the out part isn’t as easy as the in. Usually it’s necessary for one of us.
He’s like Winter. When he’s not here, I know he will be. During warm months I know he’s not far off. When he comes back into my life, he’ll be intense, and harsh, and offer a brisk wake-up in emotional places I’d carelessly neglected or fail to control. He’s a warm blanket for me when I need to be nurtured, and he’s a nor’easter when I don’t. He tests my strength and I test his commitment. Our relationship is complex, yet so simple. We’re friends. Friends first, and always.
Time together and apart is like moving through seasons. Each distinctly different, each encounter beautiful in its own way, and always comes to an end. It never lasts long, but when I’m in it, it seems endless. A storm or a season, this man is a presence as large as both. You could easily get lulled into listening to the wind howl if you’re not paying attention to the temperature drop or the drifts building up. There is always more than one thing happening in a storm and he’s no exception.
He’s melodic and as enchanting as snow fall when he’s loving. He’s as explosive as thunder when he’s challenged. Dealing with and loving him requires resilience and the ability to shift course if the tide changes. The tide he rides always changes. I’m as resilient to his manipulative tendencies as as a sail is to wind. Longevity with him is not for pussies. Knowing that what he wants and what he needs is constantly at odds. Knowing what he likes can’t replace what’s good. Understanding that his ego is strong but fragile, and knowing how to nurture the boy while respecting the man is balance. He is the dark to my light. He’s the tide that changes the shore in my life.
Trusting someone so unpredictable is contrary. Him expecting trust when he knows me is contrary.
He’s not been a good friend, but he’s my best friend. He’s not been there every time I needed him, but he’s been there the few times I’ve asked him to be. He’s broken my heart several times, but he still makes me feel more loved and understood than anyone in my life. I can’t imagine a deeper connection can be made, and I wonder at whether or not it’s possible to find this in someone else.
When we connect, no time has passed. And we connect on levels that can’t be described on paper or with imagery. It helps a bit that he’s strong and unpolished. We know each other in frighteningly honest ways. There are moments when the only words that can be spoken are “I know” because he really does know, exactly, what I’m thinking or feeling, or because I really do know exactly what his eyes said. Other words or empty sentences are needless. We just know. Sometimes it’s a relief to be known so well, and other times the honesty stings. Sometimes I just tell him to shut the fuck up, which he really can’t do. Sometimes he tells me I’m completely irrational, and then surprises me with an accurate explanation of why I’m wired to react that way. He knows where I come from, why I do what I do, and has an idea of what it sounds like in my head. I appreciate that, because my crazy is wicked. Not as tough as his. Nobody has crazy like him.
I know what he’s made of. I know what he’s capable of, and it would frighten most well-adjusted people. Frankly, he’s the most explosive, selfish, abrasive and impulsive man alive, even by my measure. Yet, he’s capable of restraint-more so as he ages. He’s overwhelmingly tender, and present with me. He thinks in romantic gestures and stories, and he acts like a spoiled man child at the hint of no. He’s gentle when he wants to be, and capable of drawing and drinking the blood of anything that crosses him. And, not in a sexy Twilight way either. Given the opportunity, he’d make a torture session look like recess if I asked it if him. He’s the alpha of alphas.
He conforms to nothing, refuses to be anything less than the center of attention, and is a warrior for his family and friends. He is a spoiled, spoiled man who needs to be reminded of it…gently. He speaks in lyrics, and sings like a caged bird. He whispers with his annoying blue eyes and smiles with them, too. He makes me laugh until my cheeks and belly hurt. He moves me to tears. He enrages me. He makes music for me. In me.
He’s completely selfish. Selfish in a way that makes me marvel at his ability to be so in tune with what he loves and wants. It’s a mix of awe and disbelief. I can’t believe someone would do so much for only himself, yet I envy his ability to define so precisely what makes him happy…and then just do it. Sometimes his selfishness enrages me, and other times I truly wonder at what that must be like, even just a little.  Is there a word stronger than “selfish”?
We are so incredibly different.
He thinks I’m amazing, and so, I love him.

I love the way he loves me.

I love the pedestal he’s spent 27 years molding for me. And I take my place on it both bashful and grateful. He thinks I’m soulful, and remarkable when in fact I’m just crazy. But being made to feel that way by someone you love is amazing, and something he does. He tells me regularly that he’s proud of me. He knows that I’m jealous of his ability to live in, and appreciate, each moment-instead of working and preparing for moments that may never come. He thinks I’m a good mother, and he thinks my children are special and good because they’re an extension of me. He listens to stories about my girls, despite not being a parent, and understands how much they mean to me. He knows love, and he appreciates it.

He challenges me to let go and makes me feel better. He doesn’t meet me halfway. He comes right to me and takes my hand, because he knows that’s where I meet. On my side of the street. And he’s okay with that. He doesn’t quit on me. He pushes obstinately as if picking away paint, to make me believe in his love. When even the most persistent of men would stop, he’s warming up. He’s completely in tune with my crazy. He knows why it’s there, how it works, and when it’s likely to rise up. He knows what hurts and he’s just selfish enough to use it. He’s occasionally belligerent, believes he’s right all the time, and is incredibly smart. He knows shit I’ve never said, and remembers things I’ve long forgotten. He’s impossible to negotiate with, is an asshole when he’s tired, and could manipulate like no other when he wants something.

Our love is non-traditional, messy, beautiful, chaotic, powerful and stronger than time. If you asked him, he’d confidently tell you “She’s mine, and she knows it.” (I can actually hear his voice, his cadence, and his confidence.) He’d say I’ve always been his, like he owns my heart. He’d say he always hoped we’d end up together, and that our other relationships were just intermissions. “That shit was on loan” as we say to each other. We’ve met again.

I sincerely love the man behind this man, and he loves the woman only he thinks I am. I love what he wants to accomplish in his life. I wonder at his experiences and talent and fearlessness. I love what he dreams he can do, and I appreciate the promises he wishes he could keep. I love his charisma, shamelessness, and ability to make connections anywhere. The man, who has no dependency, accepts all risk, assumes all responsibility, and knows no boundaries. He is unapologetically raw.

When we talk I feel like me. The real one. Not the one I’ve been fighting to be my whole life. Not the one who has something to prove or to compensate for. The free, young, offensive, mean, smart, sweet and strong one that he loves.

He wants one thing from me, and it’s the one thing I can’t give him. Trust. I learned a lot from the bad alone time, and now I am just a tiny bit too excellent at being alone. There is no one I depend on for anything, because I simply don’t completely trust anyone. It sounds sad, but in my life it was an absolute asset, not a flaw. I envy people who trust, don’t project, and can resist worse case scenario planning. I’m just not one of them. I don’t want to ruin us with that, but I could.

He’s also an addict in recovery and he hails from a world I’ve spent a lifetime hating. It consumed people I once trusted, him included, it depleted me mentally, emotionally, financially and physically. People in that world let me down, brought me down and held me down. He spends most of his time with people, and in places, that trigger actual negative physical reactions for me. It’s obvious to him that I hate that world. It hurts me that I hurt him by not being more empathetic and supportive, or even less disgusted. He can’t leave there and I can’t go there and I wonder if it’s fair to either of us. He deserves a love he can invite into his world. One who’ll accept the invite and marvel at him. I’ll cut the bitch who tries, but I believe he deserves it.

I trust him only with the pieces of me that are for no one else. I trust him with knowing. I trust he’ll be dishonest. I trust we will hurt each other. I trust he’ll underestimate me. I trust his razor sharp tongue will say words I won’t be able to forget.

But, today I fucking love the way he loves me. And, when there is only an expectation of passion, we make it.

Welcome to The Club of Moms

Landon Shawn, born January 18, 2017

Dear Jos…the New Mom,

Congratulations and welcome to the Club of Moms. I feel an obligation to share a small bit of what will be expected of you going forward. This is not the ful agreement. You’ll actually never receive instructions. You’ll hear a lot of bullshit advise and suddenly everyone is an expert in everything. But, The Club of Moms is pretty serious. So here’s some insight…

Membership fees consist of every cent you’ll ever earn from this day forward. Forever. In order to remain an active member in the Club of Moms you must agree to be peed on, grow dark circles under your eyes, and never sleep more than 4 hours for at least the next year. You must wear clothes with stains that could be boogers but might also be milk from your own boobs or bananas. You’ll be expected to walk around with big wet breast milk circles on your shirt in public…because you didn’t know they were there, and the sound of other babies crying will have you holding your own hot breasts in no time.

Im the Club of Moms you must comply with all meal requirements, meaning you must personally create or pump the milk, grow and mash the produce, and taste test everything. If you purchase something processed, salted or sugared, to save yourself time or sanity, you’re required to feel guilty about it and cry into an organic cotton burp cloth. You must become comfortable smelling, sniffing and wiping butts…even when covered in poop. You must welcome the smell of regurgitated breast milk, especially if you’re at work and smelling it because it is on your clothes…somewhere…you think.

You must now become acutely aware of every fast driver, public smoker, potential creep, bad parent, and lurking flu germs on people’s hands. You now have permission, and an obligation, to cry at commercials, world events you never knew of, care about air pollution , dolphins and global warming, and watch recall lists…which you didn’t know of either. 

It’s time for you to make life plans for your new son. He won’t do any of them. But, you have to dream up all the things you hope and want for him, so that in middle school, high school and his twenties he can break your heart, scare you into thinking you did something wrong, and make his own life. It’s obnoxious, but it’s your job to act like you run his life only for him to come sweep it away as his own someday.

You must agive up your bed, clean sheets, and everything else you thought was yours when you join the Club of Moms. Co-sleeping is back, it’s safe, and totally fucking normal. All your things are now toys, in the way, or just memories of who you used to be. You don’t actually have things anymore, so you’ll have a yard sale.

Your phone storage will need to be increased for the first child, because that’s the only one you’ll take 7,000 pictures of. Each day. And your Facebook friends will eventually be annoyed by your insane urge to post. 

You have to get a baby book, and write in it. Not too often though. In Club of Moms you must agree to eventually stop updating it, telling youreself you’ll remember that thing later, and make yourself feel bad about it because you didn’t…until he’s 23… when you stop giving a shit and put all his “first” stuff in a box.

You have to give up your car. That’s not really yours anymore either. You just pay for it. Your car is actually a kid transportation vehicle. Friends can’t ride in the back, and it will eventually become something you do neighborhood laps in, if he falls asleep and you don’t want to wake him. Or it’s raining and you have him and other things to carry but don’t want to get out. The seats will now be stained, filled with just-in-case supplies you’ll never need, or a place you have to dig through when you need money…because you used it all on the kid and hope there is some spare change under the seat.

The Club of Moms’ Membership Benefits are rich, though. They include:

Love. So much love you never knew you had it, and you question how you can hold it all…Which is why you’ll now cry. A lot. You will wonder how you ever lived without him, how your mother did it all, and will begin to question whether or not you can do it and if you are enough. You can. And you are. You are always enough.

Memories. You’ll make so many that you won’t even realize they’re happening. You’ll start to think about things you wished you knew about Grammie or Dad and you’ll cry then too. Life has a lot of “what ifs” and you’ll start seeing them.

Strength. Shit that would put you on your ass or kill you 5 years ago will become warm-ups, practice, or what you can do in your sleep. You’ll realize just how strong a mom is, exactly how much you’re capable of…and yup…you’ll cry then, too.

Perspective. You suddenly have perspective and realize you don’t give a shit about anything, except this new little life. Things that once seemed important are trivial, and your new life perspective will probably change who you are.

That’s the thing about the Club of Moms. Love, memories, strength and perspective are all we’re really here for. There are a lot of us. We are here for you. We are happy for you. We pull together if you need us, and we’re an invisible little army when we need to be.

Welcome to the world Landon Shawn. Welcome to the Club of Moms Joslyn Rose.


Men Are Like Dresses

Dating at 40 is like having 7 dresses out for the same dinner.
#1.) Looks amazing on, but the zipper is itchy, or maybe it’s the tag. I’m not quite sure, but something is off. It looks fucking good though.  The dress that can’t make sentences.

#2.) Is totally comfortable but not nearly as pretty as the others, and I’m not sure which I want to wear right now.

#3.) Is pretty inexpensive, but allows for you to get a pair of shoes, too. This one has long term benefits, but I question the fabric. I’m not sure about the quality.

#4.) Probably should be returned. This one is ridiculously priced, or might be an outrageous style that I don’t wear…but is quite flattering. Even though I really like it, I never pick this one for any dinner, so this one kind of takes up space.

#5.) Is way too big. I don’t even want this one, but I kept it in my closet. What is wrong with me?

#6.) Is way too small. The one that doesn’t fit, but I wish it did. It’s gorgeous, but not my size at all.

#7.) Is someone else’s. Borrowed. The already married dress that I could wear for a night. Or for a few. But it’s not really mine. I mean, eventually I have to give it back so I don’t even want it.

I’m looking for a sexy, inexpensive, available, comfortable dress in my size that can be worn to different dinners without getting worn out. If you see one pick it up for me, but keep the receipt, just in case.

Dear Lorelei…

In 1999-2000, I was working at a local restaurant. It was my second job. I worked the dreaded 9-5 rushed home to grab an apron that reeked of Romano cheese, and went off to wait tables Thursday through Saturday. Life could have been worse, but it also could have been so much better. I was stretched pretty thin.

I was in my early 20’s, had lost my boyfriend to a heart attack in 1998, and was taping life up to keep it from falling apart. My 80-year-old blind Nana often slept over while I worked nights, so that my daughter could sleep in her own bed. Other times she would sleep at Nana’s and I didn’t know who to worry about more.

I worked with a woman whose name is Lorelei. I actually couldn’t remember her name. But I remember that she was calm. We could be in the middle of an hour wait being screamed at by the chef and the back-of-the house manager Johnny, while Girls Gone Wild was being played on the kitchen television, and she was a cool as they come. There was just a gentleness about her that I enjoyed being around. She wasn’t much older than me (at least I don’t remember her that way), but after meeting her only once it was clear she was a “motherly” type. I was far from calm. Always on, always ready, always on guard, and ready to react. I’d tell the chef or line cook to go fuck himself, and didn’t hesistate to hand my tables over to Johnny who thought he’d be a better waitress than me one night.

Lorelei seemed to have a more “peaceful” kind of life. Husband, small children, a car that didn’t appear to brake-down, have a cancelled registration, and it was probably insured more than mine was.

We weren’t close. It was a busy place to work and not a lot of time to talk. But she was kind. I remember that. Here’s why I remember her most. At Christmastime, my then 6 or 7 year old daughter wanted a Baby Alive. (I think that’s what she was called.) I didn’t have a lot of free time, was a single mom, and was never going to beat the psycho stay-at-home moms to the store for the damn thing.

I came in for a shift one night and she said, “oh” (nonchalant) “I picked up that doll you wanted.” 

She bought the doll and brought it in. For me. She saw it, knew I was looking for it, and picked it up for me.

I was moved. I didn’t have a lot of people in my life. At all. All I did was work. I paid her for it, and I went home and cried. I didn’t have a babysitter except Nana. I didn’t have any days that I didn’t feel like falling asleep and not waking up. Christmas shopping was terrible because it was something I couldn’t do with my daughter and we went everywhere and did everything together.

I don’t remember if I ever showed my appreciation. I don’t remember if my gratitude was obvious, or if I looked uncomfortable and awkward because I wasn’t used to people being kind. But, this year, I was walking into Target, and there was a sign taped on the door that said “We are all out of Hatchimals right now”, or something like that. And, my first thought was “I’m so glad I’m not one of parents looking for whatever THAT is.” I thought back on how stressful that was. Alexis never asked for much. Ever. In fact, for her first 5 years, I made, painted or got on clearance and spruced up every single gift. (Dear Alexis, I don’t care what you say, that hand painted fanny pack in 1997 was awesome!)

Then, this…I realized that this wasn’t the same sentiment Lorelei had when she saw Baby Alive in 1999. Not even close. She knew my daughter wanted it. Only that. And she grabbed it for us-people she hardly knew.

I have a lot of Loreleis that have come and gone from my life. I’m lucky. I am grateful and appreciative of every single one of them. Every act of kindness is remembered. I don’t know if I showed it properly. But if you are reading this and you are someone’s Lorelei, know you made a difference. Don’t stop.

I called the restaurant this week to ask about her. I couldn’t remember her name. It turns out, she’s working there. I’m going to be “the Lorelei” this time.

If you are reading this and you are MY Lorelei, I thank you. So much. You spared me that year. You spared me the guilt of not being able to find it. She only wanted one thing. You spared me the stress of finding a sitter, paying for one I couldn’t afford, driving my unregistered or uninsured and sometime both car around, and the stress of all of those things combined on a rare day off. You gave me a smile. You gave Alexis a smile. She’s 23 now and she  doesn’t remember the stupid doll. But I remember you.

If you are anyone else, go be someone’s Lorelei. Please.



When Loving Feels Like Leaving

Walking away from a relationship is easy. You call it disassociation, I call it goodbye. Just fucking do it. 
I’m not heartless or thoughtless, and I don’t make decisions without thinking about them. I also never throw people away. I give a lot, and I’m understanding. But when it comes to my heart, I can walk to protect it. It’s not a toy and it doesn’t have room for negativity.

I don’t dick around indecisively, wondering whether or not he’ll say something to undo the hurt, apologize, or come to his senses. I don’t think about settling for less than I deserve, and I certainly don’t wonder whether or not he’s capable of change, or if I could be happy with the hurtful version of him.  I lick the wound and move on.

I recently found myself in a relationship with my absolute soul mate. Without any doubt, I love this man enough to take a life for him, or to give a life to him. But love isn’t always enough. Sometimes loving is leaving.

I realized very quickly and far too late that he didn’t love me as unconditionally, and I knew he stopped loving only me. I also knew that staying with him would be giving up on what I know I deserve, even though I’d invested so much. While it sounds dreamy and magical to find your soul mate, if he makes you compromise who you are, it’s not worth the Stardust.

I knew in my heart he didn’t want what he promised with me, and I knew that ending our relationship meant ending a 27 year friendship. I gave him the fight he wanted and the out he was looking for. I wasn’t what he wanted. He stopped being what I needed, and frankly what I fucking deserve. He stopped bringing love into my life, and his demons were replacing his affection and attention.

I’m not the kind of woman to sit around ethereally wondering how I can make someone love me, like me, appreciate me, or be what I need.  I love love, and I love to show it and say it. I know what love feels like. I know what love doesn’t feel like too. Intimately. So, when a relationship becomes unhealthy it is time to go.

Is it painful?

Of course!

Does it hurt?


But you know what hurts more? Losing myself in someone else’s dreams that don’t include me. Forgetting what I need in an effort to give someone else what he wants . Not being true or loving myself. I’m not willing to be hurt that way.

In is in. Out is out. There’s no halfway with me. Loyalty and honor among thieves, and I’m looking for someone to steal my heart.

I shut off emotionally long before I ever leave. Leaving can be loving. I leave mentally long before I leave physically. Like an athlete who visualizes successful execution, I’ve already imagined every exit. There’s no fretting or whining and until recently, no crying. There is very little untangling to do. I never go to a place where I depend on anyone. There are no big complications except maybe replacing some things that were blended and lost, and less expensive trips to the grocery store. No combined finances, loans or debt. Most men are happy to poke fun at how controlling I am but not one has ever once said “Please, let me take care of that for you” and done it. I’m not a man-hater, I love men. I want one. Sometimes I want three. (But really just one mind reader with three very different personalities that I can choose from like chocolates.)

If receiving love comes with conditions, it’s not enough. If trust is rewarded with disappointment, it’s a painful lesson, but quite enough. If he leaves hurt more than he brings love, he is not worth the Stardust.

It doesn’t take a cold heart to leave, it takes a full heart. It’s as simple as pulling up the covers when you need to feel warm, and not getting up just because it’s time.

I left him because I love him. Loving him meant leaving him. Loving ME meant leaving him.

These People Are Mine


  I made them. They are of me and they are mine. But, more accurately stated, I am thiers. I am thier mother and nothing else defines me more.

They lived and grew inside me listening to my heart before they ever took thier first breath. I felt them move, as they moved me, before I ever held them. I nursed them, inhaled them, monitored thier breathing and counted thier eyelashes. I memorized thier smell, thier toes, the inbetweens of thier fingers and thier favorite everything.
I made sure they were full every night, warm every morning, and had a lunch every day. I checked for ticks, fevers, rashes, the smell of soap on their hands, clean teeth…and even lice. Fucking lice. I helped them walk, talk, read and showed them how to hug. I wiped thier noses with my clothes, rubbed thier chests with Vick’s and snuggled them until they fell asleep. I survived dance classes, recitals, twirling competitions, guitar lessons, karate, Girl Scouts and singing. I have been from Sega to Wii, VHS to Netflix, and Nextel to IPhone with these girls. I have never been an alcoholic, drug addict or on Prozac. I don’t know how.

Each of these girls was a complete surprise to me. Ten years apart, at two different times in my life. Being a surprise would be the first thing they’d share, after me as thier mom.

They were both discovered with shock, disbelief, fear and panic. I questioned my abilities, my dreams, my goals and my place in the world. I questioned whether or not I was good enough, had enough and what enough even was. But, I never for even a moment, questioned that I would be thier mom. I never questioned they would be mine.

I was 15 when the universe surprised me first. I was scared and I was alone and I suddenly felt smaller than the smallest, in a world that became much bigger overnight. I know that the world and everyone in mine doubted me. And I didn’t care. But, I cried. I cried more when pre-term labor threatened I might have a 2lb baby. Her lungs weren’t fully developed and she wouldn’t be able to breath on her own. To keep her inside me they made me sick and I stayed in bed for 3 more months to keep her there. She still came early, breathing on her own, in a delivery that I was sure would take my life. I Thought I might die delivering her and I cried when she was born. I was happy to not leave her alone in this world.

When I am told to curl the corners of my mouth and find a moment in which I am completely happy and content, holding that brand new human that I made with my own body is it. Every single time. 

At 25, I was technically an adult and slightly less scared by surprise number two. I was unknowingly pregnant and really sick. They found her tiny heartbeat inside me while looking for an infected appendix or liver or kidney. I was sent home with a virus. At my first obstetrician appointment, I was told her heartbeat stopped and they called it a “blighted pregnancy”. I was sent home to wait for the pregnancy to resolve itself in the form of a natural miscarriage. I waited. I cried. And I waited. And as I did, I got more and more sick. The doctor sent me for a DNC, but decided to do an ultrasound first. She was still there though, heart still beating. I was still pregnant after all. Sick as hell, but pregnant. This baby would not come early. In fact, she was 2 weeks late. I labored naked in the tub like a viking, as if the less I wore, the stronger I was. I walked naked and calmly to the bed and delivered her while everyone around me rushed to catch up.

When I am asked to go to a place where I felt the most powerful, strong and fierce, I bring myself the moment where I said “I’m going to get up, walk to the bed, and push. You should go find a nurse.” For a short time, it was only us, and I held the crown of her head between my legs as others came in the room. I have never been more strong. 

With both girls, I almost immidiately wanted them back inside me. A lot of women can’t wait to give birth and have pregnancy be over. I felt the opposite. I loved it. After they were born, I didn’t want to share them with other people, I didn’t like other people holding them, and I felt like the world just wasn’t good enough, pure enough or kind enough. I felt vulnerable. Sometimes I felt sorry for the state of the world, or scared about how things might be when they’re older. But I was never sorry for having them. I was made for them. They were made of me. I was their Mom.

Since each of those very different moments, these girls have literally been my life’s work. I didn’t do anything spectacular, and I haven’t been a story worthy kind of Mom, I just did what I was capable of one day at a time. They have been my whole world. Good or bad, right or wrong, fun or not, being thier Mom is who I am. I have few memories of life without someone calling me “Mumma”. Almost every single decision I’ve made has something to do with them.

Every action I take, choice I make, or reaction of mine is an example to them and I take it seriously. It doesn’t mean I’m always a good example, positive, or perfect in the moment. It just means I’m aware of my responsibility to them to be a good person, to be authentic and to be someone they never have to be ashamed of. I try to live a life that is an example of making good choices, or learning from the bad ones when I could’ve done better. I don’t always get it right, but every single time I thought whatever I did was right at that moment.  

Raising girls is difficult, fun, rewarding and most certainly awful. Having a daughter is similar to holding up a mirror that exaggerates my most dominant characteristics and habits…good and bad. Raising a daughter is raising my biggest critic. It’s as though pointing out everything I do, say, like or try is immidiately critiqued. Teenage girls have no problem telling you when you’re wrong. In fact, it’s a bit like their job is to find every single flaw, and play it back for you in painful detail.

I made it through a hellish-girl-teenagerhood with my first one, and I questioned my ability to survive it. She literally scared me, broke my heart and caused me to worry, fight and cry so much. I mothered every version and definition of “tough love”, and refused to lower my expectations or standards. I was sure she’d hate me for life. But, somehow, we came out on the other side with a deeper understanding of each other, and a really great relationship.

If I have to do it again, I’m going to have to dig real deep. Really, really deep. Like with heavy equipment.

We recently went to have our pictures taken. When I received them all I could do was stare. These two young women are mine. I am theirs. I am so proud of who they are. Do they have a touch too much sass, and a smidge too much sarcasm? Maybe. Yeah. It’s my fault. But they are generally kind. They are loyal. They think critically and have high expectations for how people behave and treat them. (Remember that mirror I mentioned?) They expect respect, and they give it…more than most of the time. They are certainly not without flaws, but each is uniquely perfectly herself. I could not be more proud, or more grateful for every little surprise I ever received.

I fucking love these girls and I have loved mothering them. It’s one of the few things I have ever been certain of. I am their Mom. 

Now, 23 and 13, I know if I died today they are both made of really good stuff. I know they know love and I know they expect love. They expect respect. They respect themselves. I don’t know who I am without these girls. They are not going to need me so much, soon. At some point my everyday is going to change, and I’ll be wondering who I am and what I’m supposed to do with myself. I’ll wonder what to buy at the grocery store, and why the sink isn’t full of toothpaste. I’ll have hours of the day to fill. The thought frightens me.

These are my people and they are my life’s work. They are my gift to all of you. They are my gift to the world and they are my greatest contribution to our universe. I don’t know what they’ll do or what they’ll become. I don’t know how the universe will decide to surprise them someday and I don’t know how they will define themselves. But I know that regardless of who they become, I am their Mom. They are mine. Please be gentle with my girls. These are my people.
Photo Credit: Danette Carter

Momming: One Day At A Time

I had a conversation several months ago with an old friend. He was talking about how fantastic his mom is and how she has always been at his side through everything. Good or bad, his mom has loved and supported him through everything. I’m lucky enough to know her. She is as amazing as he says.

She is compassionate and empathetic and loving and supportive, no matter what he did or didn’t do. She is and continues to be his biggest cheerleader, and is always there for him whenever he needs her. And, he needs her a lot. He calls on her a lot. More than other men his age. But, he is never alone in this world, or standing by himself anywhere, because he always has her.

She is always a call away. She shows up, picks him up, and talks him up no matter the circumstances.

So, as he spoke of her, because I know her, I agreed as he professed gratitude.  He made promises to take care of her and make her life easier, and I nodded. She deserves to be taken care of, she’s been a wonderful mother. She’s hard working, generous with her heart, and fiercely independent. It’s time for her load to be lightened by a greatful son.

“I’m so lucky. So fortunate to have her. She’s my rock.” He said

She is so good to him. She has never turned her back on him. Even in times where if she had, no one would have judged her.

I wasn’t ready for the what came next.

“I feel so bad for you.” He said.

“You don’t have that at all.”


I just didn’t think we were going there.
I remember saying “Yeah, nope. But a lot of people don’t have parents.” A lot of people don’t have Moms for all kinds of reasons. “You’re very fortunate.” I reminded him.

That conversation has stayed with me. Perhaps because I’ve found myself in an emotionally crippled puddle, and I’d love nothing more than a home to run away to. I’d love the option of a lap to lay my head in. I’d like the chance to pick up the phone and put it against my wet cheeks to ask her through tears if she could come over to take the little one to soccer so I could go to bed. I would love someone to help me put one foot in front of the other, brush my hair, tell me he didn’t deserve me, that I’m better off without him, and assure me that everything will be okay after it’s done sucking. And, maybe this is going way too far, but I wonder what it would be like to be tucked into clean sheets in the room I grew up in. Not the actual one. But an imaginary pretty one that I imagine I loved.

Children of addicts don’t get that.


Well, instead, we do one of two things. We self sooth. Or, we disconnect and we don’t sooth at all. We know how to take care of other people and we know what they need, because it’s what we needed or what we gave. We struggle to care of ourselves. We never struggle to survive.

My mom was a really great mom for a little while. She was affectionate, a really great hugger, and probably the world’s best snuggler. If I was scared or cold, I could climb into bed with her and she’d hold me like a little spoon all night. She was the kind of mom that wouldn’t move even if her arms fell asleep or her legs cramped, because she never wanted us to wake up to her leaving. She was like that until she either stopped coming home or when she did, the door was locked.

Children of addicts learn not to knock on the door. We begin to wait until they need us.

We know what to say and we know what to do for someone when life feels like it’s falling apart, because we were there soothing the addict every time. We wiped tears, and slept in thier beds with them to make sure they didn’t leave and do something stupid. We held their hair when they drank too much and came home sick and we made sure they didn’t drown in vomit. We put them in pajamas when we could and laid on the floor with them when they were too heavy to get into bed. We fended off fists that flew when they came home angry from too many or not enough pills, and we loved them through it because we knew they were hurting.

These kinds of moms don’t have open door policies at home. They don’t come over to cook for our children, or pick them up from school. They don’t call to see if we need anything, if we’re okay or if we want to watch a movie.

In many cases what they do do is so far from supportive, that they have to be let go from our lives. I don’t sulk or complain about not having a mom because I made the decision to not have her anymore.

Most of the time, I don’t even think of her as a mom.

On occasion, I miss the one I didn’t get to have.

Sometimes, I wonder if she’s cold or hurt.

Frequently, I remind people to be grateful for the support they do have.

Always, I try to be a mom my girls can come home to.

So, when he said “I feel so bad for you” and “You don’t have that at all.” What I should have said was…

“You’re right I don’t. But, because I don’t, I know what it’s like to need that. I know what it’s like to miss that. And so, my girls…my girls will always have me.” I will always have my door open for midnight snuggles. I will always wipe thier tears and tell them how amazing they are. I will hate the jerk who hurt her, or I will rock her while she cries it out. I will always have tea, and clean bedsheets they can climb into if ever they need to run back home. I will be a super cool grandmother, or I will spring into action to pick up thier life pieces if they need to relearn one foot in front of the other. So maybe I don’t have a mom, but I definitely am trying to be better than the one I had.


I See You, Now

Maya Angelou said “When someone shows you who they are believe them, the first time.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe he’s cruel. It wasn’t that I didn’t know he’s vindictive and spiteful when he’s hurt. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe his angry could lash like a whip off his tongue. I know him.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe he could hurt me, because I handed that ability over after he wore me down with charm. I just didn’t think he would. I knew he was a narcissist, and I loved even his dark side. But I naively believed I was more than an ego salve. 

What I believed was the character in the story of us. I believed the part about me being different and special. I believed the lines of the script where I was cherished and loved. I believed he’d be gentle and loyal and noble with me. I believed he’d be strong for me. I fell in love with the scene where he’d be consistent and determined and committed and wouldn’t leave. I illustrated the page where we lived happily ever after.

In between the charm and professing of love, there were favors and manipulation and tantrums that showed me everything I needed to see.

I just closed my eyes because the vulnerable girl in me desperately wanted the story to be true.


You showed me who you are and

I tried to love the reasons

You showed me who you are and

I related like two souls meeting

You showed me who you are and

I showed up to hold the mirror

You showed me who you are and

I dismissed my aches and tremor

You showed me who you are and

I never excused or dismissed it

You showed me who you are and

I showed up to purchase a ticket

You showed me who you are and

I helped you set the stage

You showed me who you are and

I turned every single page

You showed me who you are and

I watched you leave, retreat

You showed me who you are and

I just watched the rerun, repeat

You showed me who you are and

I reread the story’s script

You showed me who you are and

I only then noticed the pages were ripped

You showed me who you are and

I believed your heart is true

You showed me who you are and

I know now I was only a Muse

You showed me who you are and

I missed the truth before us

You showed me who you are and

I always loved a good chorus

You showed me who you are and

I’m sorry it took me so long

You showed me who you are and

The tune you played…wasn’t my song

Maya Angelou was so incredibly poignant. When people show us who they are and we don’t believe them the first, the second or the third time, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we keep showing up.

I didn’t dodge a bullet.

I shot one. At myself.

Last night, the only part of me not scarred was cut open. And, today the last part of him left me.

As I say goodbye to the script of that beautiful story, this is my song for the day.



Dear Mr. Jacobs

Today, 18 years ago, I lost my boyfriend of 5 years. He was 32 with diabetes and had a massive heart attack. I was 21 and wild with a massively broken heart. 

our last day togethether Christopher Lee Jacobs 3/30/1966-9/23/1998

On Sunday, he was the best man in his friend Shawn’s wedding. On Wednesday Morning he was dead.

I drank too much champagne at the reception and was drunk. I started to feel sloppy and he wouldn’t take me home. In his defense, neither of us had a car, we took a limo and it was gone by then. But in true Heidi fashion, I left him there. I took my strappy heels off, pulled up my dress and walked barefoot out to Long Pond Road. I put my thumb out for a ride wearing a $400 dress. I took a ride from a stranger, didn’t care, and fell onto my bed to pass out when I got home. I wasn’t a drinker and couldn’t hold my liquor. I also didn’t have a lot of champagne experience.

When I woke, he was breaking basically everything in the place, angry because I’d left him. I snuck out in the same dress I’d passed out in, and didn’t come home that night. As I left he was smashing his guitar into an oil canvas he bought me for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t say a word. I was scared. I just took my keys and left.

I would see him on The Cape the following morning when I was picking up my daughter. She climbed into a cardboard appliance box in the yard, and he carried her around and played, while she talked to him from inside of it. Man, he loved that girl like crazy. He was the only daddy she knew. We met when she was 11 months old. When he came to me for forgiveness, I wouldn’t speak to him except to say it was over. It would be the last time I’d explain holes in the doors or the walls or pick up and throw things away before the baby came home.

He went outside and sat in my car with the passenger side door open for a while. I watched him through a window. He hugged our girl goodbye, and kissed her face a whole bunch before he picked up a duffel bag and handle of vodka and left for The Patriot to ferry him to Martha’s Vineyard where he worked.

It would be the last time either of us saw him alive. Later, when I went to my car, I saw that he’d written a note. In his super neat all caps printed handwriting, he wrote:

 “I’m sorry. I will wait for you, forever. Tell me when you’re ready. I love you guys.”

We didn’t have cell phones, we couldn’t have text message arguments. This was a time of landlines and pagers. He paged me 143…a lot. I never replied because there wasn’t a number to call. He was staying in a room on the island.

He died three days later, early on a Wednesday morning, on his way to work. Shawn called me at work to tell me. I thought it was a mean joke the two of them cooked up to get me on the phone.

It wasn’t a joke.

I was never quite the same after that call. I was 21.

I’m certain I left my body.

Those were some fucked up circumstances.

Man, we were fucking crazy. When we were good, we were pretty fucking sexy. We loved each other other like crazy. But when we were bad, we were bad. To say “We had some times” would be an understatement. Today, I wrote him a letter to remember him.


September 1998, Shawn’s Wedding at Brewster Garden, the last day we spent together
Hi Baby,

I’ve missed you and haven’t quite been the same since you left. I still remember you like you were here yesterday. I don’t need pictures to see your face. I think about you all the time, especially in September.  The cool air and the color of the leaves remind me of loss and of you and your champion sweatshirts over tee-shirts, paint covered jeans and high top Reeboks.

I own a house now, and I think you would hate it because the walls are uneven and made of horsehair plaster. I can remember whenever you finished a job, you’d shut the lights out, plug in a shadeless lamp, and sweep the wall with the light looking for drips or inconsistencies. My walls would make you crazy. Sometimes I stare at the lead paint trim peeling and the gap between the ceiling and moulding and wonder what it would look like if you put your hands on it.

I can remember going to work with you, and the sound it made when you tapped your brush on the inside of a paint can. I loved working with you. I can picture paint spray over baby oil and sweat on your body in the summer. I know how to perfectly care for my brushes and rollers after a project, but sometimes I just fucking throw them away. When I don’t, I imagine you’re proud of me.

I remember when you painted the Nantucket Inn and I spent a weekend there with you. We spent the nights partying with the Irish and Jamaican staff who worked there. I remember walking out to the bluffs with you, after you walked me through the Haas house that you painted in Chilmark. I still can see the entryway, the height of the ceilings, and the view from the edge of the bluff. We went to an Oak Bluff’s bar for beers, I wasn’t even old enough to drink, but you were basically an old man compared to me. I couldn’t get that house out of my head. I’d still love a home with a tiny guest house on the property some day. I remember the pickling you did on the cabinetry on Manomet Point Road in Plymouth, and the crappy little 150 sq ft studio cottage we lived in on Taylor Ave. right down the street. We kept champagne cold in a potty chair of ice and sat on crates one New Year’s Eve.

I miss staying home during the Summer with Alexis and Christopher. I miss planning his birthday parties and how excited you’d be to drive to Connecticut to pick him up. I don’t miss how sad you’d be when we left without Jess. I miss your proud daddy face, though, and how you loved to love those kids. I miss Christopher’s sweetness, his rounded nose and his dirty blonde cow lick.

I still have a brand new paintbrush of yours and an aluminum coffee mug that I took from your island VW work van. On 9/25/1998 I rode the Steamship Authority ferry over to clean out the van. I kept my round-trip ticket stub as a reminder that yours was one-way. I think I was punishing myself by making sure I felt a little bit of sad every day. It stayed inside my mouse pad at work for 17 years.When I left that job, I decided it was time to let the ticket go, too. I couldn’t give my round-trip to you. I took Alexis back once that fall to be near you and say goodbye with her. It rained and hid my tears.

I’m still pissed about you not paying the rent in our State Road condo, not telling me, and leaving me there to deal with the landlord with the kids. I still hate you for us having to stay with Mark and the wicked bitch witch Susan. I should be grateful she helped me get an apartment, but she was a hag and mean. You are so lucky we had Mark looking out for us. He was so good to you, to us. And Miss Alexandra was the sweetest girl. I didn’t keep in touch. I’m really sorry for that. I meant to. I should have tried to stay in touch with Carla and Christopher, but it hurt to see them, and I was afraid it hurt him to see me. I always hoped he’d look for me one day so I could tell him stories of you (maybe not these ones!)


Christopher and I, while you washed and vacuumed my car
If I’m being honest, your mom is a bitch. I know what a momma’s boy you were but she was awful. People really get ugly when they lose someone. Everyone in your family thought I was holding onto your “stuff”, whatever that was. Marlboro Miles, cassette tapes a leather jacket and some clothes. Baby, you didn’t have shit for “stuff”! I miss being that poor with you! Maybe if I were your mom, I would’ve needed to blame someone too, but she knows I took care of you. Maybe I should’ve given her slack for grieving, too. But I wasn’t capable of that. I had a hard time just existing in the world. Waking up, pretending to be normal and mothering was all I could do. And even that was marginal.

You were the only man to ever understand what a psycho I was when I was PMSing. When you and Mikey (was it Mikey?) were leaving for Woodstock ’94, you said “hey catch!” and threw a bottle of Pamprin to me.  I wanted to fucking kill you…but not as much as I did when you came back covered in mud with a blood sugar count over 400. You fucker.

I love remembering how young and untamed I was, and how angry you’d get at me. You loved that I was wild, but hated that I was disobedient! You’d be so angry when I walked outside in my underwear and a tee-shirt to check the mail., or laid in the sun topless in my yard. I never thought anything was wrong with either and always laughed at how mad you’d get, worried someone might look at me.


Card Night on State Road, Chris age 28, Me age 17
Remember the time I told the bartender I was 18, after a pitcher of beer and some pool at The Trading Post in Buzzard’s Bay? oops. How about the kid who threw a full beer can at you and hit my face with it? I love that you beat him up on the hood of the car before you asked me if I was okay. I was amazed it wasn’t a broken jaw. (You were always mouthing off to someone and getting us in trouble.) Getting pulled over with you in the car was always a joy, too. You were so bad!

You’ll be happy to know I’ve maintained your strict no littering rule, but you’d be disappointed at how messy my car is. Some days, I wish I had a guy that took it and vacuumed it out they way you always did when I drove the Saab. When I tought Alexis to drive, I quoted you…”Go, or don’t Go. Never hesitate. Hesitation will kill you.” which is what you always said to me when I was pulling out in a 5 speed to make a left through three lanes on Samoset St. 

Remember the year Santa brought Alexis a kitten? Yeah, that fucker lived for 16 years. I didn’t get to tell you, but that was an aweful decision. She grew up to be evil. You didn’t tell me cats live that long. I had that cat longer than I had you!

For the record, I have never smashed a plate off the head of another person since that one time I did it to you when you called me crazy. There’s some irony in that, isn’t there? And, maybe you know this, but after you died and I was cleaning out the apartment, there was still shards of glass on top of the cabinets. I laughed between tears when I packed up the few things I owned and left. Remember when I broke my hand breaking your cheek? I’m sorry about your plastic surgery, but really, you never should’ve cheated. We were such ass holes.

I miss making your lunch and tucking love notes inside it for you. I miss notes from you hidden in the house. I miss making sugar free desserts. I do not miss Jello-O! (By the way, Bill Cosby is a rapist, and there are tons of sugar free options today, besides Jell-O. And I think if you were around now, you would’ve lived a little longer and maybe been open to more good-for-you food.) I miss how happy you were to have dinner ready for you when you got home, and making you your disgusting half cream-half coffee-one equal coffee.

I miss sucking at rock & roll trivia, but I still remember that the name of The Who song is Baba O’Riley, not Teenage Wasteland, and that Jethro Tull had an electric flute. I do not miss your drinking, or your temper, or your mullet…thank you for letting me shave that off accidentally. I have never attempted to cut another man’s hair and they all have you to thank.

I miss how cocky you were at everything. I miss you teaching me to shoot pool. I miss teaching you to write in cursive. I miss your stupid air guitar to Van Halen, but I don’t miss your pegged jeans.

I miss how fearless you were and remember hopping the fence at the Melody Tent to see Robert Cray. The weekend at the Newport Folk Festival that we snuck into without tickets, blowing bubbles through the moon roof on the way there, and putting Alexis on the news truck in a pink wig during the Indigo Girls.

I miss Sega Golf and VHS Movies because I couldn’t afford cable, and the way you’d hold me from behind while I did dishes.  I do not miss mixing your insulin, your tissue trauma, worrying about your blood sugar, or giving you shots. I do not miss calling ambulances,  ER visits, and how you refused to see a doctor. I miss the good days, the good meals, the family time, and how many places we took the kids. I miss bills with both our names on them.

I remember peaceful weeknight evenings with you when we’d make coffee in our cobalt blue mugs, take a few hits off a joint on the porch and snuggle in for the night. I refuse to ever date an Aries, or a diabetic, or a guy without a license. I still have cassette mix tapes that you made for me and few songs from the 90’s don’t make me think of you. Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne (not the 90’s!), Ani Difranco’s Imperfectly, Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, and Pearl Jam’s Black are some of the ones that stand out. I’ve never met a man who held the small of my back quite the way you did when we walked into a room, like I was property. I think you thought I was.

I miss how much you loved Alexis, how much you loved me.

Chris & Alexis Circa 1995 at the Hyannis Ferry, we were leaving for The Nantucket Inn

I love how many photos you took of us because if you hadn’t there might not be any of me. I remember 35mm film and having to send it off to be developed. I ordered 3″x5″s because they were cheaper. We’d get pictures in the mail and get excited over coffee at the ones that actually came out. No one prints pictures anymore.

Everyone knew you lived to live and that you were here on your terms, even if it meant a short life. I wish I could have had a little longer with you. I wish the children did, too.I’m angry at you for not taking care of yourself. I’m angry at myself for not telling you how fucking much I did still love you before you got on that boat. You still knew though, right?

I miss how you were such a good, all night hold me, snuggler.

You never let go.You would say “If I die in my sleep, I love you.” and as you kissed my neck I would laugh and make you promise you wouldn’t die next to me. “Do not die in our bed, I mean it, say you promise!. And you would say it.

And you would keep that promise.

I want to say thank you for sparing me that, but I’m not sure I’m thankful. I wish I got to hold you, the same way I did so many times on the floors of our apartments or in the grass by the harbor.

I have not been right since you left. I got pretty serious, and scared, and have spent decades worst-case-scenario planning. I say whatever I feel, so as to never miss an opportunity. I only keep close people I really love. I say or think “If I die…” a lot. 

I’m making changes though and want to love life a little like you did (Minus the jail, booze, dying young part.) Certainly not in the reckless-ride-on-top-of- a-truck-on-the-highway -going-the-wrong-way, kind of way that you did! I’m going to take care of myself a little better, but I’m going to try to relax a little. Today, thinking about you, and about how you sort of breezed through and didn’t worry much about anything has helped me a little bit.

I really miss you, Chris Jacobs. Thank you for the time I had with you. All the good. All the bad. You left us way to soon, but on your own damn terms. You helped us live while you were here. Still loving on you 18 years later you crazy fuck!


PS I still find rocks that are shaped like hearts and wonder if you leave them for me sometimes. 


At Falmouth Harbor