Edith B. Zelman Eulogy by Cindy Zelman

My mother would have turned 86 on Friday, March 4th, 2016. Below is the eulogy I read at her funeral on February 19th.

My mother passed away on Saturday, February 6th, 2016 at the age of 85 years, 11 months, and two days. Today we honor her.

My mother possessed a quiet strength which I often misread as passivity because she was not direct  and bold as I am. My mother was very strong, however, right up to the end. So ill from cancer, unable to eat or drink, and then unresponsive, she continued to defy all predictions of her imminent demise, confounding every hospice nurse who visited.

“We expect her to be gone within 72 hours.”

But still she breathed.

“It could be this weekend; it could be today.”

But still she breathed.

“She will be gone in 24 – 36 hours.”

But still she breathed, and hospice stopped predicting.

Until she breathed no more, and on her own terms, she passed.

Many decades ago in the 1960s, when my brother and I were small children, my mother was a woman ahead of her time.  She had married my dad in the 1950s but by 1966, she knew her marriage would not be a happy one. She and my father separated.  My father tried to come back, but she wouldn’t have it. “It’s either you or Fran,” my father said in his inimitable style.

“I don’t feel as if I’ve lost a husband, Ben,” she said to my father, who loved large quantities of shoes and clothing. “I feel as if I’ve gained a closet.”

When my father was officially with my stepmom, Fran, he said to my mother, “Fran says we should get a neat, legal separation because of the kids.” To which my mother replied, “I don’t want a neat, legal separation,” and as my father’s eyes grew wide thinking my mom might want him back, she continued, “I want a neat, legal divorce.” She showed this strength for her own well-being before the Women’s Movement made it okay. My mom wanted what she wanted on her own terms. She was willing to be a single mom and a divorcee before society said it was okay.

She was strong.

My mother was kind. My mother lived a long life filled with kindness. She loved my dad, despite his difficult personality, which often expressed itself with verbal taunting. My mother could easily have been angry at Fran.  But my mom was too kind to be unfair.  My dad once “bragged” to my mother that Fran didn’t mind when he spoke to her poorly, to which my mother immediately replied, “You shouldn’t talk to Fran that way either!” Many of us would have found some measure of satisfaction in hearing that our ex-es significant other was now experiencing the same hell we had. But my mother was much too kind to feel vengeance.

In fact, she forgave my father for all of his infractions because she was kind, just as she always forgave me for mine.  I was not always as kind to her as I could have been, but she always forgave me with a mother’s unconditional love.

My mother was a much loved woman. In her senior years, before she became ill, I would take her out to shop at clothing stores or bed and bath stores or what have you, or we might go out to eat at a local restaurant. No matter where we went, people always came up to her and said “Hi, Edie!” with big smiles on their faces. I was very impressed.  Even at the nursing home, there were genuine tears when my  mother passed. “I loved your mom,” one nurse said, echoing the sentiments of several of the staff who cared for her at the end.  It’s quite an accomplishment to be so well-loved.

Some of you know me as a writer. Some of you know I have often written about my mother and my relationship with her in a light that is not flattering to her or to me. So today, as we honor her, I would like to read in public for the first time two short passages from my essays that do honor her.

The first is from a published essay called:

From A Smirnoff and Coke:

Once, my mother was a colorful figure of the night, showy in her dress, donning bright green-and-orange sweaters, or stark black-and-white dresses. Hitting all the singles clubs.  I remember giant-checkered skirts, and circle- and leopard-skin blouses. She wore wedge heels and bright pink lipstick. She was always tall at nearly five foot eight, with a well-developed bosom that LURED man after man to her side. She had thick dark hair that she wore in whatever style prevailed in a given decade. I remember the flip-up hairdos in the 1960s and the pictures of her from the late 1940s wearing banana curls, which she called “shit curls.” She turned heads in her day: Edie, the tall, thin Jewish girl with the big boobs and the jet black hair. More than once she has repeated what her mother-in-law said to her when she was dating my dad, “She can’t be Jewish, she’s too tall and too skinny!”  Imagine my grandmother saying it with derision and a Yiddish accent. Of course, my mother took it as a compliment – she was skinny and tall, as opposed to short and fat, like my grandmother.

From Paper Moon:

My mother was the first woman who took me on a date. I was eleven and she was forty-three and she asked, “Would you like to see a movie and then have dinner at the hotel across the street?”  She caught me pre-adolescence, young enough still to want to spend time with her whenever I could. She was home so little during my waking hours, maybe three hours a day, before she headed out the door for an evening of god knows what.

At age eleven, I said, “Yes, yes, let’s go to the movies.”

We saw Tatum O’Neil and her father, Ryan in “Paper Moon.”  

I recall sitting in the dark theater with her as the movie began to play.  I believe the movie was in black and white to visually capture the poverty of the Depression era.  Up on the big screen we watched Ryan and Tatum put on their con artist show for those of us sitting in the glow of the movie.  He was so handsome then; Tatum was so cute.  My mother sat next to me on a Saturday afternoon and then into early evening as we ate a mediocre meal at the hotel restaurant. She was disappointed with the food.

“I thought the food would be better,” she said as if to apologize. “We should have gone somewhere else to eat.”

“It’s fine,” I answered.

I sat in my chair and gazed at her. I thought: my beautiful mom, all to myself.


I was lucky to have my mom in my life for nearly 54 years. Some people do not get that luxury. I was lucky to have such a kind and quietly strong mom whose love I never doubted.  I was lucky to have generous mom and a mom with a sense of humor. She was my mom and she was my best friend for my entire life. I miss her terribly but I hold on to the belief that I will see her again when it is my time.

Mom, we are all here for you today. I love you and will think of you always.

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2015 was a very shitty year

I know it’s nearly the end of January and a little late to be taking stock of 2015, but I’ve been busy. I work full-time, have a household to run, and my mother is in a nursing home dying from cancer. Other than coping, my accomplishments were few in 2015.

On the relatively positive side, I attended concerts filled with the classic rock and pop music of my youth: Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Madonna, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Beatles tribute bands, The Fab Faux and Rain, Chicago, The Indigo Girls, Led Zeppelin tribute band, Get the Led Out, and the actual, original Robert Plant.

Publications: Just one this year. Thank you to The Broken Plate for publishing my essay, “This Time I Fell in Love with the Daughter.” If not for that, I would have published nothing in 2015.

Blog: Sadly, in 2015, I have had only four blog posts all year. My writing production was nearly non-existent in any form: essay, blog post, personal email, not even much activity on Facebook.

No good deed goes unpunished: For two years I tried to help a man escape the horrors of his life on the other side of the world, but I realized at the end of 2015 there is no way to end my involvement but to cruelly walk away. This man keeps after me, with every drama and life threatening situation imaginable. He is not lying, this is his life. You know who you are, and if you read this, LEAVE ME ALONE. Stop calling, stop texting, stop emailing, because I will no longer send you money. I can no longer fund your life or your death.

You see, I have limitations to my generosity, and I can be a mean person, just as Steven said I was. As I get older, I don’t care about being less generous or being mean. As life starts to wreck you, you disengage from humanity, and your existence becomes about survival, emotional or physical or both. As I continue to watch my mother die, I feel more wrecked, and I try to survive.

Purchases: I purchased a little inexpensive computer in the hope that I would start writing again. I purchased a cheap television and many concert tickets because I need some way to escape the horrors of 2015, and I have yet to take up drinking. I have learned that purchasing such unnecessary items does as much to help the poverty of the world as sending thousands of dollars directly to someone in need. In other words, neither activity helps at all. I would suggest never funding someone directly. I have learned you can’t solve any problems by throwing money at them, you can’t save anybody’s life. The experience will only leave you feeling guilty and angry when you have to say no. So buy yourself a TV instead.  It’s cheaper in the long run. Subscribe to Hulu. Watch the original Star Trek. Buy those Who tickets. Buy a car. Live your American dream. Find a reputable charity if you insist on throwing your money away.

Work: For the most part, work was fine. I am not a superstar at work, but hopefully, a steady player, a sixth man in basketball, a backup shortstop, a special teams player. I work with some brilliant people who are also my friends, so I am very lucky in that regard. My senior management is understanding and thoughtful, so I am grateful for that also. In my younger years, I would have needed to excel, to shine like a superstar. But now, in my fifties, I am happy to have a solid job that challenges my brain, provides a paycheck and benefits, and helps to allow me to live my life. That’s all that my poverty stricken man wants, to live his life, to have a job. What I take for granted, he will never have. He lives in a really shitty place that gives him no breaks, only obstacles, illness, deeply seated prejudice and pain on every physical and emotional level. I could have sent him every dollar in my  bank account and still he would be on the edge of crisis, or even have fallen into the abyss never to return.

Health: I believe I am healthy, despite the fact that I am working out less and my pure cardio workouts have ceased. My once lithe body is starting to get bulgy around the middle. My size 8 pants are getting tight around my thighs. I could easily solve this issue by increasing the frequency of my workouts and eating less sugar. Or I could start buying size 10 jeans.

This year I had my third colonoscopy in 10 years as I tend to be symptomatic, but I’m fine. If my friend, Bill, had had such a procedure a few years ago, he might still be alive today. Even in this country, with all its privilege, death grabs you and you succumb. Please take note.

I had a cyst removed from my scalp.  I tend to get such things, but so far, all has been benign.

Romance and Sex: None whatsoever in 2015. And I don’t miss either. I am becoming something less than human, I understand.

Life and Death.

A friend of mine died in February. She wasn’t my closest friend, but I had known her for most of my life. Our mothers have been best friends for nearly 50 years. Although Karen had many medical problems, I never expected her to die suddenly, as she did. I believe she died from a heart attack caused by a blood clot in her leg. Three weeks before her death, we attended a Fleetwood Mac concert in Providence. A week and a half before her death, she accompanied me to the dermatologist and waited while I had a cyst removed from my scalp.

“She’s a good friend,” the nurse said.

Yes, she was.

My mother is alive but dying. Today (January) she has slept the entire day, including the two and a half hours I’ve been sitting here. It could be the drugs or it could be the encroachment of death. It’s snowing outside her window. Winter is symbolic of death, isn’t it?

My mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in the fall of 2013 and lived with me in my house until November 2015.  She first fell in May. She fell in the morning while I was at work and lay on the floor, peeing all over the white throw rug, for the next 10 hours. When I returned home, I could barely lift her onto the couch. I called hospice and a nurse arrived. “Forget about the bathroom, that’s over with,” she said. But she was wrong. Eventually, my mom gained enough strength to continue living in my house and using the bathroom.

Six month later, after her third fall in five weeks this autumn, I couldn’t let her stay.

I had her rushed to the hospital by ambulance, against her will, after finding her fallen beside her bed, sitting in her pee, for 10 hours (again.) She was extremely dehydrated, I would come to find out, and she could not think straight, nor had she the strength to lift herself up and onto the bed. Nor had I the strength. I called an ambulance.

I had her admitted to a nursing home, five days after her hospital stay, again, against her will. She acquiesced because she had no choice. I refused to take her home.

I had my mother sign a Power of Attorney five days before she went bonkers again from dehydration. She signed the document voluntarily with a notary public as witness.  I had access to her vast fortune which was just enough to pay for her funeral and two months in a nursing home.

I pre-paid my mother’s funeral and bought her a coffin for Chanukah, on December 7, which coincidentally was also the 10 year anniversary of my stepmother’s death.

I filled out a forty page application for Mass Health, which will start paying my mother’s nursing home expense, once her assets have been depleted. It’s early January and her assets have been depleted. I sent Mass Health another forty pages of supplemental information.

I don’t know how to end this post. My mother is still sleeping. They tell me she has been sleeping all day. I wonder how she will be tomorrow. I wonder how I will be. I wonder how 2016 will be.






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The Second Sexual Harassment Post: Mark doesn’t know what he’s doing (?)

Another inch closer and...

Another inch closer and…

Mark has no idea he is harassing me. I’m sure of it. I’m fairly sure of it. I think I’m sure of it. We have an awkward relationship.  

At work, I possess more power than he does, a better job, a bigger space on the floor; the floor is set up with hundreds of cubicles. I sit in a 12 X 12 cubicle and he sits in a 6 X 6. Cubicle size designates power in this environment.

Mark is a big man to be placed in such a small space. He is well over six feet and husky. I’m a small woman by comparison, 5’5”, and thin, sinewy. Female power, male lack of power — we turn the traditional power struggle on its head. Not that we think in those terms at the time. Such thoughts come years after knowing him, with reflection and age.

I don’t remember how my “friendship” with Mark starts. He’s  a gregarious guy, maybe he just struck up a conversation one day.We share smiles and hellos as we walk past each other in the aisles or as we stand in the elevator. We do small talk — Have you read XXX? No, I haven’t. You should. Thank you for the recommendation — he fashions himself  an intellectual, making it all the sadder that he is saddled with a shitty job in a small cubicle.  I fashion myself a writer, so I am equally pathetic. Just so you know I know. Our company is where people who can’t find creative work go — I have met fine arts painters, writers, teachers, intellectuals, poets, all sitting in these little fabric cubicle boxes doing work that we can’t explain to anyone outside of the company, because this work we do, this lingo we speak, makes no sense at all. 

By the time Mark crosses the line, it seems a year or more has passed since we met. Some small level of trust exists between us. I want him to beg off and back off because I have enjoyed his friendship for the most part. I don’t need this issue – should I turn him in or not turn him in? Sometimes we have lunch together and it’s been okay. For a time, I think he is gay, which makes it easier to befriend him, but it becomes apparent that his is heterosexual.

If it had been this blatant, it would have been simpler…

Somewhat surprised by Mark’s behavior, the harassment begins. For a week or more, Mark knocks on my cubicle wall each afternoon, and not wanting to be rude, I say, “Come on in.” Not only is my cubicle bigger than his, but it has six-foot walls and affords a measure of visual privacy. I’m not sure why Mark keeps visiting except to chit-chat on his break, although somewhere in my depths, I feel an escalation of something going on between us or emanating from him, more precisley. I can’t articulate this. I just watch the proceedings, feel something in my gut twinge, wonder what comes next.

And then “next” comes.

I sit at my desk and he moves closer. Closer and closer. Too close. I think. I’m not sure.

He isn’t talking about anything lewd. Maybe he is saying, “This weekend, I’m planning to…” or “Did you see that film, XXX?” and I’m nodding, and possibly a little bored by him when it happens. He places his hand on my leg, near my knee. This isn’t a sexual advance, I say to myself. Is it? He tells me, perhaps, “Today at lunch, I….” and his hand moves up a few inches to mid-thigh. His palm is touching my mid-thigh? Is this the region where it crosses a line?  “My brother says,” he continues, and his hand moves as close to the top of my thigh, and  as close to my crotch as possible, while it still remains minutely possible that he has not just crossed a line into sexual harassment.

I get up abruptly, say, “I need to get back to work.” Mark smiles an innocent, dumb smile, and says, “Okay.” This scenario is played out at least three more times over the next week.

I should turn him in. I should tell him to stop. I don’t know how to do either. That big, dumb smile makes me think he doesn’t realize he is crossing a line. Work is hard to come by, and I don’t want to be responsible for him losing his job. It’s strange, too, because I’m the one that is at the higher job level. This isn’t a boss harassing me. While he isn’t an underling either, he’s not quite a peer. Shouldn’t I know how to handle this? I’ve been though the sexual harassment training. Sexual harassment is subjective. If a person feels he or she is being harassed, then it’s usually considered harassment. A potentially innocent touch from Mark can be defined as harassment if it offends me or makes me uncomfortable. And this does make me uncomfortable. Technically, I have been sexually harassed.

I decide not to turn Mark in. Instead, I find a way to wiggle my way out of this situation and eventually, out of our friendship. The end of the friendship happens a few years later, actually, when I have left the division and he emails me to tell me he found a wonderful cleansing program for his colon, and all I can think of is Mark shitting all over the place. At that point I tell him I think he is being inappropriate, something I am never able to say to him when he touches me inappropriately. Instead I say,  “Mark, I think it’s not a great idea to visit me in my cubicle…You could get in trouble for spending so much time away from your desk,” never mind so much time so close to my crotch.

Eventually, Mark becomes the victim of a corporate layoff and so the problem solves itself, in a sense. I finally tell his former supervisor what happened a few years back and she says, “You should have told me!” Maybe I should have, but sexual harassment can be so confusing.

Although I have written this post in present tense as if it is a current event, this occurred a decade ago.  I remember mentioning the incident to my new girlfriend at the time, asking “Is this sexual harassment?” And she nodded her head vigorously and said, “Of course it is!” As with the first post on sexual harassment, I was not traumatized by this incident so I feel fortunate. Still, it was annoying and a more confusing incident than when I was 19, because I didn’t have someone walk right up to me and pin me against a wall. Could Mark have just meant to be friendly? I’ll never know. Yet, I would like to know your experiences, if any, that you care to share regarding sexual harassment, in the workplace or elsewhere.

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Working It: The First Sexual Harassment Post or “Yes, His Name Was Dick”

Yes, His Name Was Dick

When I was a student at Stonehill College in the early 1980s, I had a regular part-time job down the street. I was a cashier at the now defunct Fernandes Supermarket at the corner of Main and Washington.  The area is now a modern mini-plaza with a mini supermarket chain called Tedeschi’s, a mini restaurant called “The Fresh Catch,” some little boutique shops, and a Dunkin’ Donuts. But thirty years ago, the Fernandes Supermarket was the main attraction, and I was a one of their first line cashiers, working 25-30 hours a week. I attended college in mornings and early afternoons, and I worked late afternoons, evenings, and weekends. I always had a lot of cash in my pocket.

I was good at the job and became one of the “courtesy booth” workers. Given the fact that I can be so rude, it was ironic, me in a “courtesy” anything, but I did my best (most of the time) to provide customer service to those needing to buy postage stamps, play the lottery,  or laying down 12 items or less on the conveyor belt.

Tuesday nights were slow at Fernandes. I could literally stand in that courtesy booth for an hour with no customers. When May came around in 1982, and I was sophomore at Stonehill, I decided I would discreetly study for finals while I waited for customers. While studying a book wasn’t very professional of me, I was 19 years old and not very professional. Frankly I was bored and had big tests coming up. I opened a big hard cover book of something: English? Philosophy? Required science for non-science majors?  It was well into the evening, more than 30 years ago, and I don’t remember exactly what I studied that night.  But  I read, I underlined, I highlighted, on a slow Tuesday night, as I waited for customers.

Dick probably saw himself like this guy

Dick probably saw himself like this guy

We had many different front end managers. Mr. Reardon was our main store manager and at night, there was a rotation of men (all men). Tuesday night was Dick’s night. Dick was a tall, awkward, gawky guy, in his early 30s, I would guess, with light brown hair, a left over mustache from the hairy 1970s,  and with a mildly bucked tooth smile. Had he been a good guy, I might have considered his face pleasant. Because he was such an asshole, he impressed me as goofy verging on ugly. Of course, ugly or good looking don’t matter when someone harasses you.

His personality made him look more like this guy.

His personality made him look more like this guy.

“What are you doing with that book?” Dick asked.

“I’m studying for finals,” I said. Don’t think I was a nice, sweet girl trying to explain myself. I was 19 and full of sarcasm.

“Put the book away. You’re at work.” He wasn’t wrong.

“No. Why should I? There’s no one here, Dick, and no one can see the book, anyway, unless they come into the booth.” He’d come into the booth.

“Put it away.”

“No.” And so I didn’t.  Only a 19-year old who doesn’t really need a job could be that brazen. I felt I could speak to Dick that way because our relationship hadn’t been all bad. He’d admired the way I’d handled a difficult fellow employee when I told her, “What works for me is I pretend to be normal. I say normal things. I do normal things. Although I feel like I’m faking at first, eventually, I start to feel normal.”

“You should be a psychology major,” he’d said. I thought he liked me and was just giving me shit about studying in the courtesy booth.

I don’t know if it was that Tuesday night or another night when Dick was managing, but sometime after that incident, he managed to corner me in the fake “office” with no actual ceiling, just the supermarket ceiling so high above. Or maybe it did have a ceiling but for some reason, I remember it only as walls with the color green. We were the last two left in the store and I had just finished counting my drawer. I was preparing to leave. He walked toward me. I had no idea he was walking “at” me.

“I’ll see you next week,” I started to say, and all of a sudden, all 6 feet plus of his tall lanky body was pressing against mine and I had my back supported by the back wall of the makeshift office.

I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember what he said. How I wish I did. I don’t remember a lot of fear, but a little of it. I didn’t believe he would really do anything more than what he was doing. Maybe he would try to kiss me. Maybe he would fondle my breasts or try to squeeze my ass. Maybe he did. It didn’t go too far because if it had I would have been traumatized. But the idea of more, such as a rape, seemed inconceivable. We were standing in the middle of a supermarket with cereal and produce and frozen peas right outside the walls. The florescent lights were bright as hell.

At the time, I thought Dick did this because he found me attractive. I was only mildly attractive. I did understand when the fear started to creep in, when he didn’t let me go after the 1st or 2nd or 3rd request, that his actions were about power. Still, I thought it was about attraction AND power. All these decades later I know this was about anger and power. I had angered him when I defied him about closing my books. Perhaps on other occasions when I disrespected him, as we all did.

I also don’t remember how I got away, but I did. He didn’t keep me pinned for too long. Maybe he’d hoped I would respond in kind rather than indicate I wanted him to leave me alone. Maybe in his head, he was “coming on to me” and not harassing me. 

As a young worker in a supermarket, back in the day, I wasn’t aware of sexual harassment issues or laws. Several years later, I would become aware, and take mandatory training in the issues surrounding sexual harassment, after I finished college and eventually began a career working in corporate America.

Back then, I told Steve, another assistant manager, what had happened. Steve was a street smart guy, who treated us all with respect.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said, or something to that effect. Perhaps I was more frightened than I recall. I must have been afraid to spend another Tuesday night as the last shift cashier with Dick.

“It will never happen again,” Steve promised. And indeed, it never happened again. I can only imagine Steve spoke with Dick. Dick probably denied doing anything wrong and Steve probably said, “I’ll break your fucking legs if I ever hear you laid another hand on Cindy or anyone.”

That is how we took care of sexual harassment at Fernandes in 1982,  by having a tougher guy talk to the other guy. Eventually, Dick was fired when it became known that each Tuesday night, he exited the supermarket with a cart full of unpaid groceries. 

If you have a sexual harassment story you are willing to share, please do. I realize for many, this is a traumatic experience, and in my own particular case here, I didn’t suffer trauma. I have been lucky in that the times I’ve experienced harassment (and there have been a few), it never went so far as to affect my life or career or my state of well-being. I know for others, the opposite is the case. 

Posted in 1980s, Harassment, Work | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Working it

The other day I was walking down the long aisle at work. I work in a cubicle environment capable of seating 300 people per floor. I can’t say how many cubicles are on the my floor, since it’s been years since anyone made me count them (yes, I once had a job that included counting and taking inventory of cubicles) but it’s daunting to look from one end of the floor to the other.


This is only about half the hallway. It’s at least twice as long.


















I experience existential moments these days, as I traverse the long perimeter and wonder: What is the meaning of life? How did I get here? Do I really spend the best days and years of my life sitting in a square box made of wood and fabric, my ass plunked down in an ergonomic, high end plastic office chair, alongside 300 other people doing the same thing? I don’t mean doing the same jobs, but existing similarly in this cubicle environment?

This could have been me but I have no musical talent.

This could have been me but I have no musical talent.

Wasn’t I supposed to be a rock star? Remember when you were little, Cindy, singing into the handle of the Hoover vacuum, which reached your mouth perfectly as a fake microphone, belting out “It never rains in southern California, but girl, let me warn you, it pours, man it pours?”  Come on, I was eight. I even took up the guitar at age 11, but I kind of sucked. I was also aware that I couldn’t sing for shit. But I could fantasize.  Then I started to write in my teens and thought: I’ll be a famous writer! Oh, yes, yes, that one. I was a pretty good writer. But pretty good is a long way from GREAT, ASTOUNDING, ORIGINAL, BRILLIANT. I’m still a pretty good writer, even with a few publications to my credit, but not famous, not brilliant, etc.

This is how the hallway looks by the end of the week.

This is how the hallway looks by the end of the week.

A college professor? When I was younger, I thought, yes, the perfect marriage of my writing interests and my academic interests. But after that first master’s degree, I didn’t want to be broke for another 5 years getting a Ph.D. with no promise of a teaching job, so I sucked it up and began my career in “business.” I was 28. I’ve spent the last 25 years of my working life “doing things” in the cubicle-d world of business. 

I actually don’t mind the cubicles. I have had offices here and there throughout my years of working and have often felt isolated and depressed in them. I thrive on the activity of others around me. I think thriving in such an environment depends on temperament, what kind of job you are doing, how much you get paid, and whether your co-workers and bosses are good people or assholes. I’ve experienced all variations. Right now, I’m in a good place. I cannot mention where I work and would appreciate if you didn’t either as I want to keep a separate existence between my writing and my “paying” job.  However, when I talk about past jobs in future posts, I will name the places.

What I would like most is to hear from you. Tell me about your work experiences. And by work, I mean anything you consider work – past, present, future. You might work in an office or work at home or be a homemaker, a mother, a stay at home dad. I want to hear your stories. Please comment here and tell me.  Let’s talk! Thank you.

Posted in Fantasies, Work, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

What Do I Have in Me?

20141224_002730503_iOSMia is my little 8-pound cat who I adopted, along with her son, Timmy, in 2011. From the start, it was clear that Timmy was the outgoing, affectionate animal, curling up on my chest, leaning his backside against my neck, and purring himself to sleep. Mia would let me touch her, sometimes. I could pat her, sometimes. It depended on how defensive she was feeling. She was not an unfriendly cat, just not very affectionate, not very trusting of the human touch.

Four years have passed since I brought these cats home, and now Mia loves affection. She will push her body into my hands and arms when I sit on the floor with her. Her purr is loud and wonderful. She will meow at me until I pick her up and kiss her head and cheeks. Again, her purr is loud and wonderful. The other day, while she was pushing herself into my arms, she performed one of those adorable signature kitty moves: She plopped on her back and exposed her belly with her paws curled in the air. The purr: loud and wonderful.

My mother was watching and said, “I didn’t think she had it in her.”

Still, Mia has her emotional and physical boundaries. When she has had enough, she swats at you with her paws. She does not hurt you, but make no mistake, she’s telling you she’s had enough.

Tonight after work, and after a swim at the local sports club, I ate dinner: a perfectly roasted chicken, red roasted potatoes, carrots, broccoli with fresh melted deli cheese, brown rice with dried cranberries, and cranberry sauce, fresh, prepared with an apple. I cooked all of these items myself. The chicken was spiced deliciously with fresh onions, garlic, orange and green peppers, and Goya Adobo, a mix of salt, pepper, garlic and turmeric. Some olive oil to baste it. The chicken meat was moist and nearly addictive. The brown rice with cranberries was a treat and the broccoli tasted delectable. Who knew broccoli could taste that good? The cranberry sauce was chilled and zesty and refreshing.

This was not just one of the best meals I have ever cooked, but one of the best meals I have ever eaten.

I didn’t think I had it in me.

My mother always cooked. She stopped cooking sometime last year, several months after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, when the pots and casserole dishes became too heavy to pick up, like leaden weights hanging off her stick arms. Her arthritic fingers no longer able to grip. She lost most of her appetite. She can no longer pick up a 9 pound chicken, handle it, spice it, place it in a 5 pound Pyrex and get it into the oven. That’s my job now.

Except for a few forays on my own in my younger years, I have always lived with my mother or her with me. Who lives with whom is a matter of perspective and not all that important. I have spent my life with my mother, and perhaps that is one reason for my failures at romantic relationships, my strange commitment to her, leaving me noncommittal to whomever I have dated. That’s one reason. I’m sure I could come up with a few other equally fucked up reasons for my failures in relationships.

Let's Dance, put on your red shoes and dance...

No weddings in my future, just a cat or two or three

A successful, romantic relationship that lasts more than a year is not something I have in me, not now, maybe someday, maybe not.

Still, I am happy to say that one positive that has come out of my long-term relationship with my mother, and even out of her illness, is my new ability to cook – and to cook well. That’s one thing I’m sure have in me, which I never knew I had.

Meanwhile, Mia and I will make known our boundaries, growing wider, not yet wide enough, as we struggle with the intimate relationships in our lives.

Posted in Aging, Caring for parents, Cats, Cooking, Food | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Broken things

The Broken PlateThe mirror in my upstairs bathroom medicine chest almost fell on my head. The mirror is separated into thirds, with each third opening when you push it, screws holding the turning mechanisms together, and  magnets holding the doors closed when pushed. Personal things are hidden behind the mirrors: antiperspirant, several tubes, half-used, of anti-itch cream, for a variety of uses, expired, floss, gauze pads, band aids, and items I am unable to recognize after 12 years of storage in this medicine chest. It’s just one more area that I need to purge of uselessness.  One of these mirror doors almost fell on my head  because the cabinet is stuffed to the gills; technically, the leftmost mirror popped out. Talk about potential bad luck. I was having trouble closing the mirror against the chest, and I pushed too hard one day. (Oh, the metaphors for life that come to mind based on mirrors, pushing too hard, useless items stuffed inside, etc.)  I could feel the mirror falling and was able to catch it before it broke my skull. The mirror is still whole and sits beside the vanity, with the screw that broke off the hinge on the floor. My orange and white tomcat likes to play with the broken screw. He does this while I pee. I watch him and wonder when will have the energy to fix the medicine chest. Do I even have the skills?

I’ve been able to superglue the screw and hinge together with great success; however, every time I try to re-install the mirror in the vanity, the top screw breaks off again. You see, there is not enough room to fit the bottom and top into the grooves with both screws in place. In other words, I am taking the wrong approach, trying to squeeze this thing in and breaking it over and over. (Why do I feel as though I am somehow discussing my romantic life here?) I need to come up with a more creative (and less lazy) solution. I have one in mind. I will spare you for the moment.

Speaking of broken things. I wrote an essay while I was a student in the Solstice MFA program in creative writing of Pine Manor College entitled, “This Time I Fell in Love with the Daughter.” The essay is essentially my coming out story between the ages of 18 and 24, the longing and struggles I faced in the 1980s, and the eventual revelation that I was a lesbian. The essay is about broken friendships, broken hearts, and broken people, so I find it apt that the essay has been accepted for publication by The Broken Plate, the national literary journal of Ball State University.

For some people, this is an uncomfortable essay because it is raw and vulnerable. Yet it has done well out there in literary journal land where 95% of my work gets rejected, with the venerable Gertrude Journal writing to let me know the essay reached the finals and that they saw much promise in my writing. Please continue to submit, etc.  I think there were some other “good” rejections for this essay. I’m thrilled, however, that the students of Ball State University have chosen this essay for their publication. Thank you very much.

“This Time I Fell in Love with the Daughter,” is the sixth of eleven standalone essays from my final creative thesis at the Solstice MFA program. There is a final chapter to the thesis, but I don’t believe it is standalone, so I can safely say I’ve published more than half of that thesis. The thesis is all about broken things — parents, lovers, friendships, sex, hearts. I keep trying to finish it, as it could be a full length book. I keep changing the name of the book based on my mood. Right now I’m calling it Marcella Songs: Essays on Valiant Failures in Love.” It’s all about shattered mirrors.

There is a lot broken in our society and around the world these days. I don’t have to tell you if you read the news or the pseudo news on Facebook. Part of me would like to jump into the fray and the arguments, but I cannot. I get too angry and I alienate people. So I don’t discuss politics much, but I continue to think of myself as a writer and hope my personal stories somehow achieve a universal theme and make a tiny dent in improving something in this world, any little thing.

I did get the third of the mirror back in place. It took extra effort, not something I’m known for these days, as my workouts wane, my writing production is in the toilet, and my performance at work is only mediocre. Still, I brought a step-ladder into the bathroom and had to glue the broken pieces while I held them in place where they belonged, rather than trying to squeeze something in a space it couldn’t squeeze. (“I held them in place where they belonged,” again, ripe with metaphoric possibilities, but I suck at metaphor.) So, the mirror is back up and functional (to a degree), chipped a bit in one corner where I had manhandled it, and not fitting exactly as before. It’s still broken, but it got up again.

Thank you for reading about broken things.



Posted in Creative Nonfiction, Creative writing, Essays, falling in love, lesbianism, Memoirs, MFA Programs, publishing, Reading, Solstice MFA Pine Manor College, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment