From The Other Side of the Sidewalk

A while back I asked people who had been affected by anti-choice protesters to share their stories with me for a project I was working on. That project was put on the shelf, but I am posting this story as a standalone piece because it is unique; it comes from someone who had an experience on the other side of the sidewalk – as a protester.

This story comes from a reader who was raised Catholic, although her mother was pro-choice. She was surrounded by anti-choice propaganda in church. Once, at the age of 14, she was peer-pressured into attending a sidewalk protest at an abortion clinic by a friend and the friend’s mother.

This interview was conducted by email.


I didn’t plan on going–I was 14, and one of my Catholic friend’s mothers decided it would be a good morning-after-a-sleepover activity. My friend AGREED, but didn’t bother to tell me until late the night of the sleepover. I was given the option to stay home, but it would have meant revealing my uncertainty about where I stood on abortion, and therefore coming out as NOT A GOOD CATHOLIC to a very Catholic friend and family.

[Read more…]

Missing David

Walking into the family home.
It’s warm with light and laughter and decoration.
Different faces than expected,
but familiar nonetheless.

No awkwardness from the core group.
Old patterns immediately, comfortably assumed.
The dogs greet each other –
a flurry of clanging tags whipping tails breathless panting.

I reacquaint with the leather-bound library and tattered children’s books.
In the kitchen my heart swells as I glimpse
the eternal boy holding his metal and wire, orange and yellow kite –
suspended in the air, magic as ever.

This is my family.
I am overjoyed to reconnect but leery of small talk.
I wander into the sitting room,
wonder when it will be polite to break into the olive tapenade.

I am drawn to the photos over the fireplace.
The same faces of my grandmother’s children look out at me
as have always looked out:
All at the height of teenhood, teetering on independence.

Among the bright smiles and dated hairstyles I catch
my uncle’s eye.
strong jaw.
smooth, unlined skin.
perfect curls.
He’s so young in this photo.

We never see him anymore.
He lives in California.
I’m not intimate with the details,
only that he met a woman – a servant of God.

I remember the strength he showed at Grandpa’s funeral:
Hugging my Grandma, breaking the mood
when he gestures to the casket, asks her
if she thinks Dad might be too warm in that sweater.
A half-hidden smile breaking into a wide grin,
his inappropriateness lightening the sorrow for a brief moment.

It’s my only story that I have left of him.
Except this:
He wasn’t there when my dad was dying,
when his sister was suffering.
When my mother was grieving.

He and I – we found ourselves at opposite ends of belief.
I realize with a jolt that if he met me now
he would think me damned to hell for eternity.

He lives in California.
With her.
With Him.
Without us.

Now the room fills – constant family mingling with family friends.
I turn away from his photo,
not allowing myself to wonder how he’s doing,
not quite able to stop myself from cursing him
for not being here.

6 O’Clock BS: Bridegroom

I sent $25 to this Kickstarter, because damn.

As of this writing the Bridegroom project needs less than $7000 to meet their $300,000 goal, and they’re got eight days to do it. They’re proposing to use the money to enhance the production value of the film, and for marketing, distribution and music. They want to release the documentary by this fall – just in time for November elections when a lot of us will be faced at the polling booth with choices that could affect the equality of our gay and lesbian friends, family, neighbors and fellow citizens.

From the Bridegroom Movie Facebook group:

BRIDEGROOM, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, will tell the emotional journey of Shane and Tom, two young men in a loving and committed relationship – a relationship that was cut tragically short by a misstep off the side of a roof. The story of what happened after this accidental death– of how people without the legal protections of marriage can find themselves completely shut out and ostracized– is poignant, enraging and opens a window onto the issue of marriage equality like no speech or lecture ever will.

Aaron’s Story

Aaron donated $20 to SSA and requested that I tell a story about him using the five following words: Fabulous, Regular, Apples, Cookies, Grin

Thanks for the challenge, Aaron! Here’s your story.


In a future far distant from our own, after human civilization had risen and evolved and fallen and adapted and risen again, an elder warrior by the name of Aaron looked after a handful of pollen-collecting instruments. The instruments were worn, but well cared for. It was Aaron’s duty to collect the pollen of the Apples that grew in the Taker’s garden. Aaron had once commanded armies; now he directed the work of one half-man who had lost a leg in a pointless drunken brawl, and who grinned whenever the stern gaze of the Taker’s guards were turned away from him.

Aaron was still tolerated in the Taker’s garden because his ciders were fabulous. Not many things were able to be made of Apples any more, but the sacred Cookies and Cider…well, they would always find a way to produce those. They must.

And then one day, one regular day that had started out like a hundred days before this one, Aaron found a worm in an Apple. He gasped, and then quickly looked around to make sure the Taker’s guards hadn’t heard. He cursed his lack of self-control. There were stories, of course, and he always knew that one day they might find a worm. But for it to happen here, to happen now…

Everything was going to change.


This is post 47 of 49 in the SSAweek Biodork Blogathon. Donate to the SSA today! Read more about my reader challenges here.

Unhappy Scientist

I was speaking to one of the women in our lab yesterday about what we would do if we weren’t in the jobs that we hold. She’s about 10 years from retirement and can’t wait to get out of the “science business”. She says she regrets being a scientist because she doesn’t like who it’s turned her into. She says that her work at our company has made her over-analytical, over-logical, over-ordered, over-skeptical. It’s colored the way she experiences her life outside of work: interactions with friends and family, her finances, her purchasing decisions, her child-rearing, the way she’s handled crises, and she says it makes life too difficult. It’s not her job that makes her unhappy, it’s being a scientist, being unable to be satisfied until she’s sifted through all of the details, asked every question, delved into every aspect of every situation.

In short, she sees the world through the lens of science and doesn’t like the view.

I don’t think that science went wrong. I think she went wrong with science. I know a lot of people who aren’t scientists. Science doesn’t make them happy, so they go into a different line of work. She’s not anti-science, and she’s very good at her job, but it doesn’t make her happy. I feel sad for her that she’s gone so many years in a profession that doesn’t fulfill her.

I talk so much about science appreciation, about the joy and excitement that being a scientist brings me. I share this here because it’s a different story about someone else’s experience with science, one that I hadn’t heard before. Nothing more.

A Moment of Happy

I loved reading this short story. I was hunched over my phone, nearly weeping into my lunch today when I got to the gloriously sappy, beautiful ending. It’s a birthday story. It’s a mystery. It’s an adventure. It’s a love story. Here’s an excerpt:

She raced into the parking lot, and as she ran in pulled the door too hard and let it slam against the wall.


“Oops sorry Mister Hansel. But I’m in a hurry.”

He looked upset but when he realized it was Alexandra a warm smile came over his face.

“So you figured it out. I wasn’t sure you would, but he assured me you’d get it.”

She smiled. “Yup!” and she ran off to the tea room.

She ran in, startling the new girl who was in there, and frantically started searching the giant jars and containers of tea looking for the right one.

“Can I help you with something?”

“No. Yes! I am looking for the Earl Grey Crème. It’s our favorite.”

They both started looking, and the girl became as frantic as Alexandra, without really knowing why.

“Got it!” the girl yelled triumphantly, as Mister Hansel sauntered in, smiling. Alexandra grabbed it, turned it around, and sure enough there it was, a post-it.

Read the full story at A Flash of Inspiration – an art and writing blog by Dennis Finnochiaro


Human Awareness

A couple of days ago I read a post on Almost Diamonds about a girl who was reprimanded by two teachers and then suspended from a basketball game for the vile, shocking, breathtakingly offensive act of speaking a few words of the Native American Menominee language to a friend during class. Stephanie Zvan, the author of Almost Diamonds, opines about the actions taken by the school teachers, and tells us a little of the history of efforts to wipe out Native American culture and language in Catholic schools on the Menominee reservation.

This is not a subject with which I’m familiar, but it struck a chord with me; it’s another sad example of humans being bad to humans, and of religion playing a nausea-inducing role in our culture. I found it interesting and passed on the link to the article on twitter:

Image says: “When is the last time you considered Native American cultural heritage?” and contains a link to the blog post.

Someone responded with this:

Never im not Native American. Therefore its none of my business. They prolly dont spend much time thinking about Irish American or German American or African American cultures eiether. Why would they?

I’ve known the gentleman who posted this for many years; it’s fair to say that our worldviews are very dissimilar, but I consider him a friend. He reads my socially liberal, left-leaning, progressive writings, and every once in a while he’ll respond to something I’ve posted. His responses usually send me into an initial fit of exasperation, but sometimes he’ll present an alternate view that I hadn’t considered. So when he shares his views, I take that as an open invitation to elaborate on my thoughts and my thought process. Also, I’m a big damn optimist – I can’t help but hope that maybe some of my views will rub off of him.

So I took a few minutes to come up with a respectful response. Here’s what I pulled together:

Sharing stories helps us recognize and celebrate our similarities, and understand and accept our differences. Just because a story isn’t instantly familiar doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something from it. In the case of the story to which I linked, one group of people is being discrimated against and punished by another group for being who they are. It doesn’t matter if the groups in question are Native American, Irish American, German American, African American, South American, African, European or Asian. You can find the common humanity, recognize the injustice and empathize with their situation, act to right the wrong, and best of all, perhaps move to make it not happen in the future to other groups (perhaps even one that you belong to).

*dusts off hands* I think that captures it.

Pssst…he wasn’t as impressed with my response as I was. We’ve gone back and forth a few more times. I think we’re currently in a cease fire.

What story or stories have you learned about that had seemingly little to do with your personal experiences, but still made a big impact on you?