Thursday, November 26, 2015

Baby Boxes: Nothing to be proud about

A sampling of baby boxes from around the world

Baby boxes. The ultimate expression of capitalism. Children are now an inconvenience and we can't afford them. Our solution to people throwing their newborns into garbage bins? The sanitized baby box where you can drop your baby into something resembling a mailbox.

We pat ourselves on the back thinking these baby hatches are a wonderful humanitarian gesture. after all, are we not saving these babies from garbage bins? Wouldn't it be kinder to make birth control more available and affordable so women don't have to make the horrible decision of dropping their baby off like it's some kind of unwanted puppy.

Baby boxes are growing throughout the world. Germany know has 99 baby boxes. Canada has six. China had to close down it's pink baby box when it got over 150 babies in one day. Why are we congratulating ourselves?  Their growing popularity should be make us weep.

Time flies

Time flies
Even when your mind stands still.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


As visible as air. That’s how I have felt most of my life. Until this moment, sitting in front of the mirror, waiting for them to arrive. I like the way I look wearing this stolen necklace. My eyes reflect the deep green, my skin the gold inlay. I am a woman to be noticed and suddenly I can’t give that up. Vanity has hit me with a destructive ferociousness.

I know I’ll be fired. That’s a given. I’m not sure what else they will do when they come to get the necklace back. I don’t really care anymore. It felt good to be noticed for once, walking through the airport and onto the plane wearing the necklace in full sight.
I’ve been invisible since childhood. At first I blamed and cursed myself for being lazy after seeing the effort other people put into being noticed. But after my attempts at bad perms and misguided fashion went unnoticed, getting some attention just felt like a lost cause.

After awhile being invisible feels like a joke you’re playing on the rest of the world. Eventually, you want somebody to get the punch line. What’s the point being sarcastic, condescending, sly, kind, funny, intelligent, mean, interesting, provocative, weird or kooky if no one reacts to you? Since everyone drank the self-worth Kool-Aid and developed sky-high expectations, ordinary is bad. With tattoos, cosmetic surgery, hair extensions, contacts and affordable designer-fashion no one settles for ordinary anymore. But the magic bubble of self-esteem magic evaded me. I remain forgettable.

I’m not bitter. I cultivated the art of being indistinguishable and as an important tool in my job as a courier. I turned my problem into an asset and made good money. What a relief to give up the exhausting self-pity and start enjoying my lack of distinction. Being invisible became my ticket to freedom. In the business, I have a reputation as someone who gets the job done. I’ve never had a package confiscated by customs. I’m proud of that.

I can see now I shouldn’t have taken this last job with a pick up in Paris and drop off in Amsterdam.  I said yes because I wanted to see the exhibit of Maria Sibylla Merian’s Caterpillar Book on display at the Rembrandt House Museum. Maria was a 17th century painter who at the age of 52 left her comfortable Amsterdam home and sailed to South America in search of bugs. She found beauty in something the rest of the world finds revolting. I admire that. I wonder if she would be amused to see her paintings now on giftwrap paper and greeting cards. 

I have to dress down for this trip, which meant leaving my favourite pair of shoes at home. Shoes are always dangerous. People always remember nice shoes. I had just finished a job smuggling 35 yards of Vicuna yarn out of Paris tucked between silk blouses and suits. The fabric had taken five years to steal due to its rarity and somebody wanted it out of France and into the USA, immediately. I got to wear my $1,500 shoes and $3,000 suit on that trip. Customs didn’t even open my suitcases. 

This trip I was a mousy student with no money or taste. The plane was late to board so I sat watching the unhappy families. Their misery seeped so far into their bones they just couldn’t pretend anymore. I feel more comfortable with them. I don’t trust happy people who have followed game plan of life without any messy problems interfering. Everyone has problems. I would like to go startle them by asking them why they are so miserable. I tried this once on a flight to Rome. A middle-aged man with beautiful hair, wearing a silk shirt with monogrammed cuff links sat down beside me. As he put his leather briefcase under his seat he sighed, a soft, low flutter of his lips. I leaned over ever so slightly and asked him “Why are you unhappy?” If I had been beautiful he would have been intrigued, perhaps even amused. Instead he looked at me with disdain and snapped open his magazine. He spoke briefly with the steward and changed seats after the plane took off.

On this job I sat alone. My instructions were to check into l’Hôtel Hospitel,where another envelope instructed me to go for a stroll. When I returned there was a bag waiting for me with the package inside. I barely made the train because of the taxi being late. Once on board, discovered my book was left at the hotel. I could see the package at the bottom of my bag and sat the entire three-hour train ride with “What’s-inside-Open-it-up-What’s-inside-Open-it-up” going round and round in my head to the rhythm of the clickety-clack of the train. All these years I held my promise to never open any package.

The first and last package I opened was the birthday present I delivered to Cuba during my virgin flight. Marcus approached me five minutes before the flight boarded and I said yes for the thrill of doing some illegal. Halfway through the flight I felt a pang of remorse. What if I was carrying something dangerous that would destroy Western civilization as we knew it? Guilt ridden, I took the package to the bathroom and undid a small corner of the birthday wrapping. Inside was a small ham radio. Somebody wanted to contact the outside world from Cuba. Big deal. I sailed through customs and dropped the parcel off to some Cuban woman. There was a message waiting for me at home. Marcus was a recruiter for the courier agency who only hired unexceptional looking people. He thought I was a good candidate.

I started working full time soon afterwards, delivering packages from one city to another. I detached from their mystery. I knew I was carrying something important enough for someone to pay huge sums for delivery by a person who would then disappear forever no questions asked. Curiousity is a liability in my line of work.

This time, I lasted until half an hour outside the city before I tore open the package. Inside was an emerald necklace. I put it on immediately and stood looking at my reflection in the door. A man with deep blue eyes and thick black hair passed outside my door. He looked at me and nodded. I never made the drop-off point. Instead I bought some dresses and shoes that complimented the necklace.

I stayed one week in Amsterdam and another two in Paris. I wore the necklace the whole time, not even taking it off to bathe. I started writing down all the compliments I received in a little book and spent my evenings reading them over and over. One night, I went back to the hotel room of a strange man. I stroked the necklace while he made love to me and watched us in the mirror over the bed.

I stopped picking up my emails, threw away my cell phone. I knew what the messages being left were telling me. I had signed the contract. I decided to go home when the weather grew cold enough for a coat. I bought a beige sweater to wear overtop the necklace. I felt at peace when I arrived at the house. I tidied up, wrote a few letters, moved my favourite chair in front of the hall mirror and sat down to wait for the company goons to arrive. I

’m feeling sleepy. The pills are working. I move closer to the mirror. I want my last image to be of my beautiful necklace and how unforgettable I look wearing it.


Like the truly sad, the truly tired don’t want to talk about it
Both want to laugh
Take time not to care
They don’t need to vent about feelings
Or wear a victory cross
Give them that occasional luxury
Of sitting and forgetting
Have their tears be from laughter
For a change.

God hates a whiner

I was always stuck in the middle with my older sister Tricia, who pinched me violently if I so much as breathed on her. I was also within reach of my father, who would swing his arm around to smack at us when we would start fighting bellowing “Shut up, by Jesus!” This was usually the signal to toss our baby onto the front seat with my mother. By then he had crawled over each of us, poked us in the eye, pulled our hair and made everyone shove him away.
The trip was almost completed when we reached the one bridge from the mainland to the island. It was a conflicted moment for me. Crossing the bridge meant getting out of the smoked filled car and into my grandma’s kitchen but the fear of crashing down into the river below mostly outdid the relief.

I knew it was only a matter of time before we all died crossing that bridge. Those swaying steel cables would snap from the weight of our car and the whole bridge would thunder down into the water below. Maybe those with a window seat might live since they would fight to get out first. I knew I would drown.

As soon as we started crossing the bridge I began making my deal with God. “I promise to stop making up such dramatic lies in confession. I promise to stop bugging my younger siblings. I promise to eat all mother mother’s casseroles and not complain about anything anymore.” I never kept any those promises so I knew it was only a matter of time and I would be plunging towards my death with my bossy older sister screaming in my ear.

My terror was not helped by my father’s favourite ritual. He would stop mid-way across the bridge, open his door and look down through the crisscrossed bottom to the gushing rapids below. All the others would lean out the window to look below. My brother would usually spit or thrown out something to watch it fall. The deafening sound of the water was enough for me. “Nope, nobody would survive THAT fall,” Dad said, every time, clicking his teeth with relish and then taking a swig of his beer. It was over 25 years since Richard Delaney, my mother’s previous boyfriend, had skidded on ice in front of the bridge and plunged down off the cliff into icy waters below. My father always had to stop on the bridge to mention Richard.

Grandma’s farm was past the village of St. Anne’s. When we drove through, my father would nod hello to everyone while my mother did her running commentary about the ugly blue of the Dupont’s house or the Gagnon’s living in a trailer off their property or how the O’Brien kids were still running wild. I would hold my breath and look for the two grand oaks side by side, marking the driveway to my grandmother’s farmhouse. Our car would hardly be up the driveway, the dust not even settled onto the windshield when we would jump out. “You kids wait until the car is stopped”, my mother would yell. We never did.

In the summer we would rush over to the riverbank where we would shove each other to see who would the first to fall in with their clothes on and get into trouble. Our mother would eventually catch up to us screaming the whole time “Stay out of the water. There’s the under tow!”

In winter we would run up the steps of the porch, through the back door, right into the kitchen. My stomach would start to rumble and my mouth water when the smell hit me. “Where are they?” I would ask Grandma, even though I knew the beans were in the oven and the cinnamon rolls in the parlour covered by a tea towel. Then the boredom would set in.

Grandma had raised 14 children between an avalanche of chores. After my grandfather died, she renovated the farmhouse by moving the pump to the kitchen sink and installing a flush toilet. It was a delicate machine: No longer than five minutes to do your business and you to ask to flush. I couldn’t stand looking into the bowl and seeing coloured water. I wanted to pee on fresh water. As the eldest, Patricia always had to use the bathroom first, so I started lying and saying I went number two just so I could flush the toilet before I used it.

Since children could break things by simply looking at them the rules of the house were simple. No children in the dining room, parlour, den, Grandma’s bedroom, front porch, bathroom or cellar. In the 18 years I visited my Grandmother, no one ever sat in either the parlour or dining room. Outside the front porch, barns, gardens and river were off limits. On the rare winter afternoon when Grandma felt it was too cold for children to be outside, we were allowed to watch her ten-inch black and white television with fuzzy reception in the kitchen. It got turned off if we fidgeted or argued over programs.

I was glutton for my Grandmother’s baked beans. My greediness pleased her. Grandma confessed to me once that she was intimidated by my mother’s home economics degree. Mom was filled with nutritious facts. At the dinner table she nagged us about our vegetables by listing all the key vitamins and minerals they offered. Even though she knew about the science of cooking she was a terrible cook. Most of her meals were bland, white and limp, and sometimes downright disgusting. Grandma would look into the distance and say to no one in particular, “Ah, it’s your mom who is the fancy one around here. She’s been to school. I’m just a simple cook.”

I would look at her in astonishment each time. My mother made cakes from a mix, squeezed cookies from a tube and combined tuna, noodles and potato chips for dinner. My Grandmother could take butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and create a masterpiece. “I wish everyone cooked like you, Grandma,” I would reply. She would smile and stroke my hair.

Grandma thought all her grandchildren quite spoiled. She equated good behaviour with no complaining. We were a noisy crew. My brothers were weepers, my sisters were screamers and I was a nagger. During a visit my younger siblings were upstairs sleeping, recovering from the chicken pox. I was feeling left out since I never caught the virus. My older sister had gone with my parents to visit relatives on the other side of the island. I was alone with Grandma who was making bread. For short time, I imitated her, using the little piece of dough she had given me, pressing, pulling, slapping down, pressing, pulling. I soon got bored and wanted to play the organ.

“Grandma,” I whined, “why can’t I go play the organ? There’s nothing to do here. Why can’t I play the organ? I promise not to touch anything else. Nobody every lets me do anything. How come I can’t go into the parlour?”

She did not reply but scooped up her dough and slapped it down into the pans.

“Grandma, how come I never get to do anything here? How come I can’t go play the organ?”

She lifted up the bread pans and put them on top of the stove.

“Grandma, please just let me look at the organ for awhile. I want to play the organ. How come I can’t play? I promise I’ll be good. Grandma, Grandma. Are you listening to me? How come no on ever listens to me?”

Grandma threw down her tea towel. Grabbing me by the upper arm, she dragged me over to the stove. She lifted up the circular lid of the stove and poke me hard in the back so I doubled over to look down into the red-hot coals of burning wood.

“Do you see that?” she hissed. I nodded yes. “Well, that’s what hell looks like and that’s where you’re going if you don’t start behaving. God hates a whiner.” 

I went to sit in the rocking chair, rocking in silent terror contemplating the fiery torments of hell. I always thought hell would be cold like the water below the bridge. Half an hour later, Grandma gave me the first cinnamon roll to come out of the oven. I saved some for the trip home, putting the final piece into my mouth as we crossed over the bridge of death.


Growing up without love
You never get over the suspicion
That you are inherently unloveable.
It is always there
That voice whispering
“of course, what did you expect.”
You wait for rejection
When the anticipation is too much
It’s easier to walk away

Over time
We work ourselves up to likeable never expecting love
But still feel greedy when we want more.
Don’t push the voice warns
You may slide back down
And have to start apologizing for breathing all over again.

I tack up the slogans on my bulletin board
LOVE yourself first
Feel GOOD about yourself
You are SPECIAL.
Too soon I grow bored with my
flaccid internal cheerleader.
And circle back to fear.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

E is for Epitaph

She was not afraid of the devil
Except the one reflected in her mirror.

Sometimes the weight of sadness settled between her shoulders
Making it hard to take a deep breath.
Otherwise she was happy.

She always remembered the north
As cold and silent since
winter was often the time of her greatest suffering.

She avoided being bitter
And instead hang onto a sliver of grace
that left her feeling grateful.

When she thought of Rick
She remembered afternoons
grey by three pm
tangled between the sheets
that finished too quickly.

Even though there was nothing to be done
She did regret her part
Not making that call.
If she had offered love and forgiveness could that
Have reverted his final moments hanging from a tree?

This was not her only sorrow
There were others
She pulled to her
Just as she did her pleasures.

She did not expect to be greatly missed
But hoped friends would have kind thoughts of her
After she was gone.