Sunday, February 10, 2008


©2008 Celeste Billhartz

Awhile back, the letters were WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? It was ment to get Christians to think before doing something stupid or illegal or just plain wrong.

My letters, WWMS, stand for What Would Mardi Say?

Mardi is my cousin. Like her mother before her – who was always my model for proper behavior -- Mardi makes a lot of sense. So, when I find I’m winding my guts around my brain, and I’m about to say or write something that is true AND hurtful, I think, ”Now, CB, what would Mardi say? “

Just to be sure I don’t forget, I taped a big sign on my fireplace mantel: WWMS? I see it, every day, when I am typing my diatribes against adopting. More than once, those letters have saved me from saying – publicly – what I say in private conversations with other activists. No sense in hurting the feelings of millions of good people who adopted a baby and are being good parents. Unfortunately, their gain was a mother’s loss.

Mardi would want me to be polite.

I can do polite. I just choose not to remain silent about millions of girl/mothers whose only sin was “obedience” … that much-valued behavior drummed into the character of every middle-class girl and boy.

And, most of the “unwed” mothers who were not allowed to bring their babies homes were nice, middle-class girls.

And most of the “unwed” fathers were middle-class boys who dared not defy their parents, dared not “ -- marry too young and ruin your life, your future –“ etc. Needless to say, they were … obedient. Millions of them, obeyed their parents, their church, their culture and class.

As one mother put it, about her Catholic boyfriend who said his parents and church wouldn’t allow him to marry her, “He didn’t sin by loving me, he sinned by leaving me.”

Indeed. She had no help, no parental support. All the adults in her life and her church insisted she had only one choice: adoption. That was the saddest day of her life, 40 years ago, when she surrendered her little boy.

They reunited a few years ago. He has never forgiven her for “giving” him away.

Tell me, how do I stay polite about that? Leave it out of the story? Would that make you feel better, reading this?

It’s impossible to tell the truth about adoption coercion and not ruffle some feathers, so I guess I will just keep telling the truth … AND keep glancing up at the fireplace mantel.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Carol et al

Carol et al

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 I’m a simple woman. I live a simple life,  apart from the hustle and bustle of work and family. I live alone, have no pets … well, I have the mouse who lives with me. She’s in my basement, in a box. I know she lives there because I have found … her … you know … droppings. Or, as I describe her … "my little shit machine.”

 I have always lived with a mouse. First there was Carol … I named her for Carol Burnett … remember her? At the end of each  tv  show, she tugged at her ear – as a signal to her daughter.

 My “Carol” had an ear that looked like somebody took a bite out of it and it was a tad larger than the other ear. I figured, well, she got the larger ear from scratching it, so much.  (Humor me.)

 My Carol went to the great cheese-fest-in–the-sky … I guess. I never found her remains and I don’t know how she got into the house or out of it. I just never saw another mouse with a huge, cleft ear.

I lost another mouse to my stupidity. I had set a humane trap – one of those that doesn’t snap their necks, but lures them into it with a food item then slams shut. I always took the “inmate” out to the woods, and released it. I just didn’t want any more “shit machines” in my house. But, I forgot I had set the trap under my dining room table, and by the time I noticed that the trap door had closed,  the little visitor was … dead … starved to death … by my negligence.

 I blessed the mouse and took it out to the woods and placed it  in a clearing … so a hungry falcon or owl could find a meal.

 I’d have a cat if I were not allergic to animals. Cats suit me more than dogs. I am not of the generous and spontaneous spirit dogs require. I am solitary, predictable and  cranky, given to bouts of  regret that are best soothed by steady purring rather than effusive, sloppy kisses.

That probably sums up my unsuitability for marriage, etc., too …J



Friday, February 1, 2008

Lucy Doesn't Listen

Lucy Doesn’t Listen

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 We manage to have dinner about every month or so. It is always such a pleasure to talk about our very different lives, her family, her  car, her mother-in-law, her dog, my recent ---, her advice, her taxes, etc.

 I love her, of course. Still, I drove home with an ache in my heart, making peace with our one-sided chat.

 As I roam  the back roads of aging, I want to spend more time with the listeners and less time with the interrupters. I really do. And, I am not seeking to educate them, one at a time. I want to discover the listeners, one at a time. I want to find the listeners.

 I accept those who don’t know how to listen. I just … smile, and we move on to the topics they present. There is nothing else to do. I  will meet Lucy next month and we will love seeing each other; and I will know, going into the restaurant, that I must do so without expectations … just … enjoy her, us.

 I know she loves the “listener” part of me. She calls it my “smile” … but, it is my silence, my listening/loving she appreciates. She just doesn’t recognize that.

 Listening is hard. I didn’t know how to do it, until I was trained to do it, as a volunteer taking phone calls on a suicide/crisis hot line. I am ever grateful for it.

Here’s a mini-test: While you read the paragraphs, above … did you “interrupt” me with your words/thoughts, “Well, you could/should tell her you need to finish what you’re  saying.” Sigh …J

 See, we just don’t know how to listen.

 I don’t have a manual in front of me and I hesitate to tell you something that isn’t “by the book” … but, here are some nuggets of advice that might come in handy, sometime, when your friend just needs a good listener:

 • When someone starts telling you something, just listen. Smile, nod, say, “Hmmm” or “Uh huh” or any other  short comment that assures him/her that you are attending to the words.

 • Your mind cannot hold two thoughts at the same time, so choose to listen to your friend, not to your interior mind-chatter. Focus on his/her words, face, eyes, voice, etc. This is harder than you think. Most of us never do it right. Practice. Try it out on the next phone call you get from a friend or family member. Just … listen.

 • Do not change the subject from your friend’s topic to your topic, your thoughts, your advice, gripes, commiseration, solution, etc. This is so difficult because we are not trained to listen. We think we are being a good friend/mother/sister when we give advice, so we rush to tell our friend how we would handle the situation, or how a similar experience affected us, or what advice someone gave us that worked or didn’t work.

 Being listened to, really having been heard,  for as long as it takes to say it all, is the most peaceful feeling in the world!  When you have been heard … whether or not you solve a  problem … your energy is better, your heart is lighter, a quiet power fills your soul.

 I want more listeners in my life And, I wish that for you – more people in your life who, truly, listen. What a gift of love.