An Insta-observation.

For the past three months I have been working at the Whole Foods Market in Hingham. Derby Street attracts a certain clientele including those who have educated themselves in good nutrition and overall wellness. Besides the typical affluent stereotypes, I see many who are honestly trying to feed their families and themselves better food. Lately however, a new type of shopper has silently risen in the midst of lululemon yoga pants crowd. This new type of client has the potential to impact the way we buy our food in a huge way. They are The Instacart shopper.

It has been described to me as “similar to Uber, but for groceries.” When these personal shoppers first began to appear in my aisle, they would verbally identify themselves as ‘Instacart’ and I would need to input a PLU to indicate this transaction was a specific one. When I asked the Shopper what the job entailed, she explained to me that she received orders from customers to shop at various stores, and then she would deliver them the groceries. I turned to look at our store’s personal shopper and delivery person. “You mean you do what our shopper does?” I admit there was a little snarkiness behind the comment since I wanted our person to get the increased business. I figured both Instacart and the Shopper got a piece of the order. I was right.

Yesterday afternoon a woman came through my line with an Instacart lanyard on. I typed in the Instacart PLU number and began to process the order. As I scanned each item through, I began to smell cigarettes. I haven’t detected this odor with many customers so it is unusual to smell it at Whole Foods. Even the Team Members who do smoke make sure the scent doesn’t stay on them or in their clothes while at the register.

I continued to scan the order through and saw a non-dairy dessert that was being purchased. Sometimes, if I see something a customer buys and know we have something that is both similar and better-tasting, I recommend that product to them to try. It’s a part of my job that I enjoy- discussing and recommending different products to our customers that I love. It allows me to relate my personal experiences with the food and to connect with the customer. I bent forward to say something and realized quickly that this shopper wasn’t really my customer. I also realized that she was the source of the Ashtray odor.

According to the company website, “Instacart is building the best way for people anywhere in the world to shop for groceries. Every day, we solve incredibly hard problems to create an experience for our customers that is absolutely magical.”

Magical? I didn’t realize that part of the magical experience includes unwashed, stinky cigarette hands touching organic produce. It made me shudder thinking that this person had been touching this other person’s food. I certainly would not have wanted her to touch food that I was spending money on.

Here is how the magic happens (according to Instacart website):

  1. Customer shops on Instacart from local stores’ inventory
  2. Expert shopper picks order
  3. (provides) Finishing touches on order
  4. Delivery to homes, offices, everywhere!

Nope. No stinky, unwashed, cigarette fingers included in the above.

Every day more states, cities and towns are added to the growing list of locations where Instacart is available. My concern with this lies with the growing disconnect between the consumer and the products. Stores are going out of business in record numbers because ‘convenience’ is outweighing the experience of hands-on shopping.

One reason why I think our store is so popular, is that people come for the experience. They get to taste, touch, and ask questions about products they are interested in purchasing. We chat with them as they move through our lines and bag according to their specifications and/or needs. We assist them in placing the groceries in their car if they need an extra pair of hands. We provide ice in case there are cold items that need to be kept cold.

Humans are still social beings. Our drive to interact with each other has not lessened because we have found more ways to shop ‘efficiently’. We still need to connect with each other, and studies show that people tend to live longer when they have consistent contact with others. Sure, having your groceries delivered is a nice convenience but there is something to be said for doing your own shopping in person. Plus, you know where your hands have been.

Keeping it in the day.

In 2012, I became acquainted with the Schultz family through Mike’s blog ‘Echo of Hope’. The description of hospital life with a great sense of humor added in lifted my spirits during our hospitalizations. You can imagine how excited I was to see the Schultz name on my trip to the patient family kitchen. I introduced myself to a weirded out Mike, and mentioned how much I appreciated his writing. His posts gave a sense of validation to the crazy unpredictable life we were having. I wanted to thank him personally for lifting up my spirits. I also met Ari on that day.

For the past 4 years, I have been following their journey, praying for their journey to get easier like ours did. Isabelle had her last open heart surgery in the Fontan sequence and was doing very well. When we got home after 7 days inpatient, she instantly wanted to ride her bike. Congenital Heart Disease was not going to keep her down and she has been that way since. Her Dad and I are grateful that she has been able to grow and thrive in ways we could not have imagined.

We wish everyone could have this outcome like we have. But that isn’t reality unfortunately. Not everyone has the experiences we have had with her being so active, and staying out of the hospital with the exception of a dehydration episode. Every day, I thank God for blessing her with good function for that day. I am aware that things can change without warning.

When you have a child with a condition like Isabelle or Ari, you find yourself between having hope for the future, and keeping expectations in the day. When I start thinking about Izzie’s future, there is a voice that reminds me that moment may not come and to enjoy what is happening right now. I want to believe that she will grow up and follow her sisters’ paths through school and other life events. But that voice is still there, and whispers in my ear to hold on to what is happening now, for that future may not come to fruition.

I hate being dramatic like this, but in the wake of Ari’s unexpected passing I can’t help but feel an indescribable sorrow for Mike and Erica and all of their hopes for Ari. They had just started to let themselves think about the future, and the unexpected happens. Their son was given a second chance with a new heart, and that still wasn’t enough to save him. I hope people understand my frustration or response when I am asked “So if Izzie gets a transplant, she’ll be ok, right?”

No. She may not be okay. We will always have to be on our toes regardless of how pink her lips are at the moment. We will always have to stay vigilant, check her saturation levels and worry about how hydrated she is. We will always be cautious when talking about the future. I am even reluctant to talk about her 5th birthday, which is a huge milestone for HLHS kids because it means her survival rate improves dramatically. We aren’t there yet.

There is no finish line to this race, and we are forced to remember that every time we see another family struck by the merciless heart of CHDs. All we have is right now, and that needs to be enough.

Please remember the Schultz family as they walk through this immensely difficult time. I cannot imagine how awful this is for them and for their children.

The Freedom Detours Can Bring.

When I graduated from Castleton State College (now Castleton University) in the spring of 1994, the path towards a career was wide open. I could see all of the possibilities and began sending out my resume with enthusiasm. That summer I was hired by the local newspaper to assist in the Graphics Department, something I had never contemplated doing before. My career path solidified as I fell in love with typography, aesthetics, and Photoshop. From that day on I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

As I moved forward, obstacles began to appear making the journey more difficult. I jumped over hurdles such as not having an Art degree, having little experience outside of Financial services, and having a family. Each opportunity became more of a challenge to prove my worth as a designer. I was plagued by Imposter Syndrome and when I did land a job, my fears of rejection began to strangle me. One of my favorite jobs became a nightmare of insecurity and doubt, and in the end I lost that too.

I’m sure you have heard of the saying “When one door closes, another one opens”? Well, in my case, it was one door closes and the next one opens to a “DEAD END” sign. As my age increased, my opportunities decreased. My last full time role ended with both parties deciding that it would be best if I found something else somewhere else. 22 months of desperately trying to prove myself had taken a toll. I felt depleted, and empty.

Contracting was always an option, but those roles were for a PowerPoint ‘designer’ in Financial Services. One role landed me at a Construction firm in Seaport District assisting with a massive proposal. The work was fun, I loved the people and secretly hoped that they would find a place for me. They didn’t. Instead, I went back to a financial firm for a week doing a presentation about Women & Finance that was insulting to women. When I left that contract, I knew that I was long overdue leaving Finance.

Last winter,  I was granted a contract at a Health care company covering for a maternity leave. Initially it was going to be a Project Management position, but instead turned into a design role as my talents were being discovered. I loved it. It was work I had always wanted to do. I was thrilled to be able to provide services for a sector I had always wanted to be in. After a few days, my passion to do a good job was misinterpreted as ‘being too intense’. I was confused by the office politics, but quieted down internally so I wouldn’t jeopardize the opportunity.

The feedback was always positive, and with each project I became more comfortable. When I wasn’t in the office, I would think of ways to make the production system more efficient and tried to find ways that I could extend the contract. I left feeling accomplished and appreciated. Realizing that I still needed income coming in, I applied at one of my favorite places to shop and was hired part-time. I thought of other possibilities to do freelance work.

At this time, I still do projects on the side for them, but soon that will change as well.

About 6 weeks ago, I saw a posting on LinkedIn for a Graphic Designer for this company. Instantly, I applied and excitedly mentioned the people I had worked with as references. I contacted both my former manager and a colleague, and told them I had applied. When the initial excitement wore off, I began to think about what I was told by my colleagues on my last day.

“It’s too bad we don’t have a full time role available, we don’t have the budget for an in-house designer.” 

Wait a second. Why didn’t anyone give me the heads up that this was even an option? It’s not like I hadn’t talked to anyone recently. I was just in the office not long ago talking with a manager about a few projects! 

Later in the afternoon I received a message from my former manager encouraging me to apply. When I spoke with them on the phone, I was told that they wanted to look at a few other resumes in addition to mine, of course. I was also told that I would definitely be hearing from them. My heart sank. I knew what this meant. The person I had worked with was trying to be nice, and I did appreciate the gesture. However I would have preferred more of an honest response because professionally, I deserved one. The fact is, they weren’t entirely crazy about hiring me. I didn’t fit in as well as I had hoped.

I was scheduled to work the next day. My heart was heavy as I walked in through the parking lot towards the entrance. I punched in, put my apron on, and walked slowly to the front. I saw my colleagues laughing and smiling. They were happy to see me and I was greeted by the supervisor letting me know where I was needed. I did my job, and for the first time in my working life, my heavy heart did not affect how I performed my job. I smiled, I greeted people and happily completed the tasks before me.

I love where I work right now. I love that Whole Foods allows me to be me. I can be ‘intense’ with enthusiasm for customers. I can be a partner of a transwoman who is welcome in the store and can be herself there. I am allowed to have life events that prevent me from being there on time (as long as it happens sporadically of course). People are happy to see me. They help me when I need it, and in turn I help them. Customers for the most part, are nice to me and engage in conversations about their weekends, meals, whatever.

The pay is not anywhere close to what I was getting before, but that doesn’t matter to me right now because I am happy. I do see people from the financial firms I had worked at before and sometimes I get the “OMG I feel so bad for you that you ended up here” look. I no longer have a corporate job so that means I must be doing badly.  I smile and usually say something like “When I go home, I don’t worry about other people’s groceries so it’s awesome!” And it is. It is awesome to go to work, do my job, and then leave. I don’t carry stress from the office home with me. I can be with my family and be 100% present.

There is no compensation for that feeling. I have gone from the bondage of stress from the office to freedom from it. So what if I wear an apron and have a name tag? I know I am right where I am supposed to be. This path feels good upon my feet and for that, I am grateful.

Feelings.

Feelings are funny creatures. They don’t listen to logic, they are impulsive, and whimsical. They never seem to care about when the right time to present themselves might be. People generally underestimate them, and try to put them into boxes or containers so that they can maintain an outer appearance of being ‘together’. Some feelings are so old and deep, there is no box or container in the world that will keep them locked away.

My feelings are very strong. When I was a child, they would overwhelm me in such a way that I had absolutely no control of what I was saying or doing. I had a hard time chasing them around and finding containers to put them in. My bedroom usually reflected this inner conflict, with clothes strewn on chairs and books scattered on the floor. It always felt that there was a lot of noise going on inside of me as I struggled to organize my thoughts.

Some days, my feelings pantry was quiet. Everyone was in their rightful place. Sadness, anger, fear, and insecurity were staying in their boxes on the first shelf. Other days, all of the boxes would be flung open, and I would be a mess. When I think back on my childhood, I remember being frustrated that I couldn’t control these unruly feelings like everyone else seemed to. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Sound familiar?

Last night I was having an emotional conversation with someone, and the Abandonment Issue Box was flung open. My heart beat faster and I began to sense that I was losing my grip. Logic was not helping me reduce the whirling dervish that was growing bigger with each breath. My mouth opened and out came “She threw me away like I was garbage.”

Whoa. Thank God the person on the other line wasn’t having any of that because she cast a line of logic that whipped that sucker back down to size.

“She didn’t throw you away, she was giving you a chance! A chance we were not given, and it sucked!”

Back into your box, Abandonment. I’m not a child anymore and you need to calm the f*ck down.

My answer to Abandonment is Connection. Connection to other people that make me happy. When I connect with other people- it makes my soul happy. My heart opens. I feel whole. The downside is, when Abandonment decides it wants to go for a walk, I crave feeling whole so much, that I don’t realize that I am overwhelming other people who are not like me. What made this recent episode so interesting, was that in spite of knowing logically that I am loved, the mere thought of being rejected AGAIN, ignited Abandonment’s box.

The lesson here is don’t underestimate childhood emotions. They are bigger than we realize and if left unchecked, they can wreak havoc on relationships that you are working so hard to keep. It also goes back to “It’s not all about me.” The world doesn’t revolve around me. Abandonment really thinks that we are the center of the universe, so when I am able to view the world holistically, it stays in the Box. I used to cringe in meetings when people would share about their ‘inner child’. Not anymore. I believe 100% that emotional scars from childhood can impact your life today. The goal is to not allow the scar tissue to warp how you react.

I shouldn’t have been so selfish by saying that I was thrown out like garbage. She was right. I grew up in the best circumstance that anyone could have asked for. I had no right to be selfish when others have suffered because they were not given that chance. My heart is heavy today, but I will focus on what I can bring to the day instead of what can I get out of it.

Jumping someone else’s train

Last night I had a hard time getting to sleep. My mind raced through the various chapters of drama that have presented themselves over the past week and I couldn’t seem to come to a resolution that would allow me to close my eyes. I am at the center of it all, so this is not about laying blame on others. I know my actions have reactions, and the outcome of any situation in my life is dependent on this. Even so, my heart remains to feel heavy.

My emotions get the better of me all the time. I would LOVE to be the type of person who can switch the train tracks of their emotional trains at the mere thought and avoid catastrophe in the process. Alas, I am not. I am the type of person who has a very difficult time with the switch, and sometimes I don’t even realize I missed the station until it is too late. Last weekend was an excellent example of this.

I am an intense person. My emotions often show themselves on my person before my brain registers that they are front and center. In other words, my facial expression may appear to look angry, but I am not conscious that I am angry until minutes after the expression first crept across my face. This often leads to constantly being misunderstood, and this has affected every aspect of my life.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. And many times, the patch is there without my knowledge or intent. Throughout my life I have strived to rip it off, keep it a secret and not give away what I am truly feeling. Alcohol became a great way for me to take time off from that goal until it turned on me and did the EXACT OPPOSITE. Seriously, if you think I am emotional sober….yeah. It was ugly.

Because of this misunderstanding, and my lack of taking a few minutes to separate myself from a situation, I was accused of doing something I never would dream of doing to anyone. I was accused of harassing an elderly woman. As I was trying to explain the situation to a third party, a police car showed up in front of my house. Never in my entire life has anyone ever called the police in regards to me. Never. My heart sank and I began to panic. My immediate impulse was to try to explain that this wasn’t what it seemed, that I was frustrated but walked away from the other person to give them the space they asked for. It didn’t matter. According to this police officer, I was the biggest asshole on the planet for even thinking about harassing this poor older woman. Let’s just say he had no interest in hearing anything I had to say.

Tears ran down my face as I begged my mom to come over and help me. She knew I would never hurt anyone. She understood me and my hope was to get some validation that I am not the worst person on the planet. Melissa stood by my side and gave me guidance as how to handle myself since I have literally no experience with police. Chris also tried to help and my girls wanted to be with me knowing how upset I was. All I could think was, how can anyone think that I would be capable of hurting someone like that? I don’t think I stopped crying about it until the next morning to be honest.

A few days later, I was the target of another assault by someone else. This time I could shrug it off and say to myself that it was more about their struggle than about me. Still, my heart remained heavy as I attempted to get ready for work. Am I really this horrible person that everyone in my family secretly hates? Do they go out of their way to avoid me and my chosen lifestyle? The second guessing is hard to avoid in these situations but by the time I reached Hingham, I was able to put a smile onto my face. Well, kind of.

My new job is not glamorous. I don’t ride in an elevator to get to my cubicle. There isn’t a fancy coffeeshop I get to stop in on my way in. Instead, there is a feeling that I am ok and accepted no matter what. I put my apron on, punched in, and set about doing what was expected of me. In spite of how heavy my heart was from all of this turmoil, I was able to smile and help others. At previous roles, the feeling of being unacceptable would be exacerbated by my surroundings. Not here. Here I felt appreciated and accepted. I could make people smile back at me and it didn’t matter that others close to me had hurt me. All that mattered was being present for others. It was truly a blessing.

For the first time in my life, in spite of my sadness, I was able to have a good day at work. I had never been able to say that before. If you ever find yourself in a position where you feel like things couldn’t possibly get worse, try to reach out and help someone else. For me, that made all of the difference.

The situations have somewhat calmed down but my heart is still heavy with how I appear to my neighbors. I cannot make amends to this person for upsetting them right now per their wishes. The other situation seems to have smoothed over and I hope that they received what help they needed to get through it. I know I have the most incredible people in my life both at home and work who have helped me get through this as well. Hopefully I can get better sleep tonight knowing this.

 

Taking Ownership

Like most people, I have a few flaws. I’m scatter-brained. I forget things like birthdays, anniversaries and doctor’s appointments. I say what is on my mind, whether you are prepared to hear it or not. At times I appear as if I am not listening to you or not interested in what you are saying. My ADD brain doesn’t always like to cooperate and share my attention span.  My facial expressions are dead give-a-ways of what I am feeling. I tend to jump into things and instantly want to retreat because I overwhelm myself with responsibilities.

I am not perfect by a long shot.

February 23, 1993 I woke up with the awful realization that I had hurt someone I care very much about. The pain in my heart began as soon as my eyes opened and was growing by the minute. Shame, remorse, disgust, and despair weighed on me that morning. I knew I had to see my friend that I had hurt. I got dressed, threw my hair up in a ponytail and grabbed my cigarettes. I knew I had done something horribly wrong. What I didn’t know was the whole campus already knew about it.

Well, maybe not the ENTIRE campus knew but it certainly felt like it as I walked along the path towards the dorm I was asked to vacate months earlier. I couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes and struggled to hold myself together. There wasn’t anyone (thank God) at the sign in desk. I ran up the steps to my former suite. I opened the door and saw a few of my former friends sitting on the couch. I said hi and asked if my friend was there.

“Did you hear what happened last night?” I asked not wanting to hear the answer.

Anne, one of my former suite-mates, flicked her cigarette ash into the ashtray. “Oh we heard what happened. She’s in there.” I saw the glances between herself and the others. I looked as sorrowful as I felt, hoping that they would feel sorry for me. When I looked at them, the expression was pure “You have a lot of balls to show up here.”

I slowly opened the doorknob and timidly opened the door. The door felt like it weighed 500 lbs. All I remember is my friend not being able to look at me because she was so angry. Her face was swollen and basically I had to get out after I expressed how sorry I was.

From there I went to the library and saw my ex Jim at one of the computers. He always made me feel better. I sat down next to him. I opened my mouth to say what an awful night I had and he immediately said “I heard what happened to Martha.” I stopped. Jim knew the story before I had gotten there. I asked him what he thought I should do. He told me he didn’t know, but what he did know was that people were fed up and that I had to stop. My hands shook as I wiped my tears away. I wanted to stay with him so I didn’t feel so alone but he had other plans. I went back to my room carrying a sense of loneliness and despair I had never felt before. This was it. I could not drink again. Ever.

That was the beginning of my journey to sobriety. It was an experience I never want to forget. It made me into who I am today. I own it. It’s mine. I did something horrible and learned from it. I didn’t get sober right after that, unfortunately. Instead I had to experience more insanity that eventually led me to where I am today.

My father also made a lot of mistakes. All were made due to lack of self control. What I love about him and who he was, was that like me, he owned them. My father took responsibility until the day he died. He didn’t try to lie, make up a modified version of the story to make himself look better, or dodge the subject. He stood up and accepted it. As I see others around me try to manipulate truths, it makes me even more proud of him. It’s not easy owning huge mistakes, especially ones that are the result of lack of self control. Decisions made when you are in the throes of your addiction are especially difficult to reconcile in this society where being ‘strong-willed’ and in control are ideal.

Don’t get me wrong- my father ultimately paid the price by giving up on life and choosing to be alone his last years on this earth. The weight of his mistakes crushed what soul he had. Instead of embracing the forgiveness that was given to him, he succumbed to guilt and his heart just couldn’t go on anymore.

One thing I have learned in my life is that when you run from your problems, your mistakes or poor decisions, eventually they catch up to you. You can only run so fast and so far before the consequences are nipping at your heels. I am grateful that I faced the music for what I did to my friend, and have for other mistakes. When I did try to ease the pain for myself, it didn’t work. It hurt like hell but the reward is knowing that in spite of my weaknesses, I am stronger than I realize.  It is better to say “Yes, I did do that and I know it hurt you. I am so sorry and will make an effort never to do that again” then it is to say “It wasn’t me.”

For me it brings back the question of “What kind of person are you and what kind do you want to be?” If I want to be truthful, accountable and a decent human being, then I need to accept all of me and step forward. My father’s example of not hiding who he was, on one level, inspires me to continue doing the same.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Dad. Love you.

Today, my father would have been 76 years old. In years past, I would call him up, sing him ‘Happy Birthday’, and attempt to make plans to see him. He would laugh and thank me for serenading him on his birthday. He would ask me how Liz was doing, and how the younger two were. I would share an Addie story and send videos of the two playing together. He would ask me about work, and how my life was going. He didn’t understand the concept of Blue Tooth so he would think I was in danger for talking on the phone while driving. This would lead to the goodbye portion of the conversation.

Today, I sat and thought about how much I miss the opportunity I used to have to pick up the phone and hear his voice. As I sat at my kitchen table finishing my lunch, I realized that today was not just his birthday. Today marks 30 years from the day when my life changed forever.

March 18, 1987. My stepfather, mom and I were on our way back from Mass General where I was being formally tested for ADHD or ADD at the time. The H hadn’t been added yet. I knew it was my father’s birthday and my parents had mentioned that we were going to stop at my soon to be former step-mom’s house on our way home. “Are we stopping because it’s Dad’s birthday?” I asked, truly believing for a moment that he had come to his senses and moved back in with her. I was happy we were going to see them because I adored my father’s third wife. Anita was so good to me and I loved my step brothers and sister. I couldn’t think of any other reason of why we would stop by other than wishing my Dad a happy birthday.

I was a naive 14 year old. My parents looked at each other and my mom went silent. She didn’t say anything other than “I don’t know honey.” Steve kept driving. I sat in the back, my heart filling with excitement over seeing my father. What I didn’t know during that short drive is that I wouldn’t see him again until I was 16 years old. I didn’t know in that moment, that my father had done something that would change all of us forever, especially him.

My father had a few addictions. I won’t go into them here but I will say he enjoyed the slot machines quite a bit. Like many with addictions, his grew out of control and he was making poor decisions based upon impulse. He left the family law practice to start his own business. He isolated himself from the rest of the family, and caused a rift between himself and his wife. I knew that they had split up, and the news made me very sad because I loved them very much. I didn’t understand what was happening and kept asking him how it could be fixed during the last dinner we had together.

The last dinner we had together was when he told me that he and Anita were getting a divorce. We were at Mamma Mia’s on the waterfront. He gave me a fake Rolex watch and a hundred dollars. I considered it a belated Hanukkah gift. I had no idea it was a goodbye present. Funny that he gave us watches. Did he know that time was going to forever change after that moment?

We reach Anita’s house and I get out of the car. I am starting to feel as though it is a tad strange that both of my parents are here to wish him a happy birthday. What was going on? We walk in and Anita asks us to go downstairs and sit in the living room. I remember my step-sister crying and I am trying to figure out what is happening. I was told that my father was in a lot of trouble, that he had taken money that didn’t belong to him, and that no one knew where he was. He had left the area and the police were looking for him. It was about to hit the news so everyone thought that I needed to know before everything hit the fan. I was speechless.

Years later, I jokingly said to my father that one thing you don’t do with an adopted child is LEAVE them abruptly and disappear for over 18 months. Abandonment issues, anyone?

My story then goes on to taking 5 valium and a beer, a classmate saving my life by calling the police, and me finding myself in one of the three places alcoholics end up at the end of their drinking- only I had just started so….yeah. I landed in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks. I felt worthless and unwanted like I had never felt before. It was absolutely one of the darkest moments of my childhood. The man that I adored and would have done anything to be with, disappeared without a trace and hurt others by his actions.

Being 14, I wasn’t able at the time to realize that his actions affected the entire family. I didn’t know the effects his actions were on the law office or what my uncles and cousins went through. I wish I was more aware, because I think the feeling like they didn’t care would have been eradicated. They cared a lot. My uncle Richard was driving me home after a Seder one night and told me how angry he was at my father. At the time, I felt like he was mad at me but he wasn’t. He was angry on my behalf. They all were. No one could really say it at the time and today, I know with every fiber of my being how much the Levins care about me and my family.

That moment in 1987 took my life from one pathway and sent me down another. The man I knew as my father died that day, and Jeff came into the picture in 1989. Jeff hated himself and what he did to his family so much that he left for Florida after he paid his dues in prison. The shame eventually ate away at the man he was and this past October, it finally took him.

In spite of my father’s poor decisions, I loved him. Even though he became Jeff, I loved him. He distanced himself from me a few times in my life, and I did from him, but I loved him. Not a day goes by that he isn’t in my heart and today, on his birthday, I hope he was blessed with the peace he desperately looked for since March of 1987.