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photo by Jobs For Felons Hub on Flickr

Look, I’ve got to be honest. I haven’t really been paying attention. Let me clarify: I have been paying a lot of attention to the 24-hour 2020 circus that is the current state of my family of five plus dog. Because as I’m sure you’re aware, (unless of course, you think this is a hoax, or it doesn’t apply to you or are just that selfish that you are bored of COVID-19, in which case you can seriously go fuck yourself all the way to the bar or political rally or Reno because I am sure that is a place where masks are “so May of 2020, gross”) we are in the middle of a global pandemic. And if I want to live to the day my grandchildren ask me about how many loaves of sourdough I baked, my primary focus these days is keeping us all alive. Oh, and of course I homeschool now. And no one ever leaves me alone. Or stops needing a snack. …

Yesterday was my Superbowl, a friend so perfectly reminded me. Yesterday was March 14th. 3/14. Or 3.14. Yesterday was Pi Day

I love to bake pies and I hate to bake pies. Baking in general, specifically pies feel like my own delicious white whale. So many things can go wrong. There are so many schools of thought on crust and filling and baking times and temperature. Was the butter cold enough, the oven hot enough? All butter? Some shortening? Glass plate? Metal? …

“What’s wrong mom?” my 10-year old son asked. He has an uncanny and painfully beautiful ability to read even my subtlest display of emotions. I try to squelch what I am feeling in front of him because I don’t want to bother him with my troubles (because he is a child) but I just can’t seem to hide from his empathetic heart. Despite my best efforts to remain unphased and normal, it is often as though he sees me waving a giant flag over my head that says “THIS IS A FAKE SMILE AND I AM NOT FINE!!!!!”

But, like a fool who never learns I said, “Nothing. I’m fine.” …

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The author and her future husband circa 1998

The high-school show-choir girl in me loved the idea of singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” as a duet during the holidays. Especially if the other half of that duet was the boyfriend who would one day become my husband. Yes, we were in show choir together and then we got married and lived happily ever after; it’s adorable, we know. Anyway. The song was made for show choir. …

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My other regret was taking any wedding photos in front of a weeping willow because am I honestly that obvious?

I remember pulling into the parking lot of the Social Security Administration office and sitting in my car a bit longer than I thought I would need to. I knew what getting out of the car and walking through the doors meant; I would get out of my car with my given name and get back in the car with a brand new one. I was a married woman now, and it was time to prove it on paper. It was a moment I fantasized about since childhood. Many a notebook, journal, and any random piece of paper I could find had columns of practice signatures wherein I replaced my last name with the boy’s name who would one day become the man I’d marry. (Well, with a few practice signatures of “Heather M. Catalano” thrown in as backup.) For nearly half my life I’ve been looking forward to this moment and here it is. …

My kids’ school auction and fundraiser was last month, so of course, I did my part by getting drunk and bidding on baskets of cheese — for the children. I’m sure if you search for the hashtag #itsforthekids you’ll find my face plastered all over Instagram with the rest of the moms; our faces altered by a filter involving some kind of animal nose or glitter flowers in a halo around our heads.

Since most of the time I am seen at school wearing the thing I wore to bed the night before, I like to take these opportunities to show people that I know how to look like a decent human being (until of course I am 4 deep in whatever the hell the Dads’ Club is pouring). I like to dress up, do my hair and makeup, and put a little effort into my appearance. But this meant on several occasions the night of the party, I was met with, “Wow! I didn’t even recognize you!” To which I responded, “Um, thank you, I think?” Because while I think the intent of a comment like that is to sound like a compliment, the underlying message and actual end of the sentence is “…because most of the time you look like such a troll.” …

A year ago yesterday was opening day of little league. We were probably running late. I was probably trying to tightly tie my son's cleats while nursing a barely three-month-old baby while simultaneously trying to convince the four-year-old that watching her brother play baseball was fun to do on a cold Saturday morning in March. And it was just as we were throwing that baseball bag in the car that I got the phone call: Grandpa died.

I knew it was coming. We all did. He had the stroke and got a little better, then a little worse again and then he stopped eating and communicating and it was just a matter of time. So, since right now, opening day of little league, had to be the time, I chose to go hardcore mom. I asked my son if he had his hat, told everyone to buckle up, put on a smile and got through the day. Then I came home and I wrote this. I read it at his service, through very shaky tears, for a small group of family and friends. I remember the last time I saw him, my baby, Sloane, was barely two months old. He hadn’t been awake in days but when we walked in the hospital room, he was actually awake. I took the baby out of the carrier and my Dad held her up and said “This is Sloane, Dad. She is your new great-granddaughter” and he looked at her and smiled. I’d like to believe he knew who she was at that moment and it made him happy. So I am sharing what I said about him today because I would like to think if there is even the slightest chance he could see this, he would read it and it would make him happy. …

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Grant and I on a very rare date before we were outnumbered by children.

(My husband is an editor and therefore is my editor. He reads what I write and quietly fixes any grammatical errors quietly and without judgement and I am thankful for it. Since this was my (late) Valentine’s Day gift to him I couldn’t have him edit it. I am sure he will somehow log back into my account and quietly fix any errors I over looked. He can’t help himself and I love him for it. It’s another thing he’s really good at.)

I’ve been married for 13 years. Which I suppose is not that long compared to, couples like my grandparents who were married over 60 years. While 13 years may still only be a drop in life’s bucket, we have actually spent nearly every Valentines day together since we were about 13 years old. I’m not sure the math on that but it comes out to roughly 400 Valentine’s Days as a couple. As a teenager, having a boyfriend on Valentines was a pretty big deal. Some kind of gesture of his teenage love and devotion was expected and that included all or some of the following: flowers brought to school so other girls would be jealous, a gift, preferably jewelry (probably purchased at Mervyns) and a date at the Olive Garden or some other Olive Garden equivalent that one of our parents had to drive us to. …

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My house is in a perpetual state of chaos. I have three young children and even though I make a solid effort every day to stay on top of the cleaning and organization it’s just not possible to maintain. Most days it is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. At any given moment, there are probably toys in my bed, shoes on the stairs but never the matching set and crumbs are fucking everywhere. …

I can’t really claim that I am an expert at anything. However, there is one thing I have been doing pretty close to expert status my entire life and that is having a vagina. I was born with one and we have been through all the ups and downs of owning one together. I’d like to think I achieved expert level sometime after finally figuring out that you should just always have an extra tampon in your backpack every day of junior high and sometime before I pushed a 9-pound kid out of it.

As someone who not only has a vagina but identifies as a woman, I believe that I am a person who is at liberty to shed some light on how men can move forward as the near-daily accusations of sexual assault and harassment come rolling in. Men, I know what you are thinking: How could this be happening? Wait, am I a bad person too? Am I going to get accused of sexual assault? Someone hold me I am scared! I know you are scared and that is why I’m here. Believe me, I get what it is like to feel scared for your future and safety. For example, I am scared when I am alone in a parking lot, a bar, getting out of my car at night or answering the door when I am home alone. So to the men who are nervous about all the recent accusations of sexual assault I say to you, I mean I get it. But also, how about you shut up because this actually isn’t about you. The reality is this is not new information. In fact, we have been talking about this since, like, forever and you just haven’t been listening. So if you are, in fact ready to start listening to woman, I am willing share my thoughts on how you can do better. I’ll start by reminding you that it is actually not my job (the oppressed) to comfort or educate you (the oppressor). But I suppose in this moment I am feeling generous so I suggest you sit down, shut up and take advantage. Other women might not be so generous because they don’t have to be. …


Heather Andersen Shellen

I am a stay at home mom who writes, drinks whiskey & bakes pies. I take my coffee with cream and my mimosas without orange juice. These are my stories.

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