Friday, April 27, 2012

Musing on Unlawful Removal From Businesses

The following is expanded from journal posts made over the course of the two days following the incident.

On Sunday, January 13, 2008 at around 4:45 pm, my rights as a breastfeeding mother were violated. I was shopping at Hot Topic with my Christmas money and had collected a few items to buy (including a couple of kick ass onesies). Lilly was toddling around and slipped. She banged her head on a shelf and started crying. I tried to calm her down, but she was flipping out and wouldn't sit back in the stroller, so I sat down amidst the clearance shirts I was already looking at, out of the way of other customers, and started nursing her while continuing to shop.

I had her head basically in the shirts and my shirt was covering every bit of my breast as well as a bit of her face. I was the picture of 'discreet,' sans a nursing cover (which I had tried in the past and ended up flashing an entire store... I could not nurse in one without flashing, so I stopped trying to use them, as I found myself to be more discreet simply using the bottom of my shirt).

An employee walked by and smiled at me and said hello. My husband was looking through the band shirts for me while I continued to browse the clearance. A minute later, the same employee came back and informed me that I couldn't nurse in the store. I calmly explained that that wasn't true and that the law states that anywhere that I am allowed, my baby can eat.

"Well, we've already had a customer complain," she insisted. We were three customers!

"That doesn't change the law," I told her and she left to talk to her manager. Another minute or so passed and then the manager (turns out she was only an assistant manager, but she was the authority in the shop that day) came over to squat next to me on the floor.

"You can't expose yourself in public," she began and I looked down. All you could see was my baby's hair and my shirt. Not even a millimeter of breast was 'exposed.' My gaze drifted over to the pregnant teenager across the aisle, whose breasts were on full display. "Hot Topic is a private store--"

"There is no such thing," I replied, adrenaline flooding my system from the emotions burning inside me. She thought her store was above the law?

"You can't just squat down and breastfeed," she snarled. I was sitting in the exact same position I had been to reach the bottom shelf of shirts, which is only an inch or less off the floor, with some spilled over from previous searching customers. She continued berating and lecturing me every time I tried to quote the law and eventually she dropped the word 'indecent' and we degraded into a full-out argument. I was furious, embarrassed, feeling harassed and my mind went to the teen, worried that this was her first nursing in public experience and it would give her an incorrect view of her rights as a mother. The manager refused to give me her name, though I asked repeatedly.

Finally, Lilly stopped nursing and started staring at the woman yelling at me. She didn't notice and was telling me to leave, over and over. I just gave up on her and asked if I could buy my merchandise on my way out. She told me that I could and I got into line, but it wasn't over for her. She broke my last bit of control when she sneered that I was wrong and couldn't go around exposing myself in public. Previously, she had been speaking softly and insisting she wanted this to be a 'private matter.' This comment was loud enough for the people around to hear.

I turned around and yelled at her that my rights were being violated, that the law was on my side, etc. Somehow, I had managed to avoid calling her 'ignorant,' 'stupid,' and 'prudish' (words popping into my head) although my mouth was running beyond my control, I was so angry. She called mall security and told me I could no longer purchase my things and that I had to leave. I threw my clothes back at a shelf and accidentally hit her with the onesie. Oops (really--I didn't want assault charges, I just wanted out of there at that point and didn't want them to think I was trying to shoplift).

She then started saying "You need to leave, now!" over and over, while I was insisting that I was trying, but she backed me into the line of customers and rammed my stroller into a nearby customer, at which point, she seemed to notice that she was preventing me from leaving. So, she announced "Everyone move, she's leaving!"

An old woman was smirking at me and my husband told me that he was pretty certain she was the one who had made the complaint. It was bad timing, as then I turned to her and called her a fucking bitch. She stopped smirking. We left and mall security never showed up, so I bought a calendar on the way out that I'd been eying.

I went home and journaled about it on Cafemom. Information flooded in from supportive moms who were outraged and cries for a nurse-in began. An ex-manager for another Hot Topic quickly contacted the company and provided information for me (and others) to do the same. Before I knew it, the Vice President of Hot Topic, Ed Gusman, had joined Cafemom for the express purpose of trying to contact me (I was busy taking care of my baby, unaware of the storm I had set in motion with my journal).

My husband was shocked and angered by the whole thing and he contacted Mr. Gusman on my behalf. I sent Mr. Gusman an e-mail with the details of the incident and this is an excerpt (I shared the letter in its entirety in another journal post):

"I felt humiliated, angry and discriminated against. These are not feelings I ever expected to be subjected to in Hot Topic. In fact, they were very much against what I have always believed Hot Topic stands for. I am hurt and cannot believe that I was put through this, simply for trying to exercise my legal right to nourish and comfort my little girl."

I pointed out that had I been offered the changing room to nurse in, while it still would have been a violation of my rights, I would have used it without confrontation. The problem was that I was told to leave just because I was nursing. I then went to include the law for my state in my journal:

Breast-feeding in public permitted.
191.918. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a mother may, with as much discretion as possible, breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.
(L. 1999 S.B. 8 & 173 § 6)

I received an e-mail reply almost immediately.

Dear [my name here],
Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention!
I am very concerned about the situation you’ve described and am investigating the matter now. 

I would very much appreciate the opportunity to learn more about your experience. 

My husband called the number Mr. Gusman attached to the message and before 24 hours had elapsed from the time of the offense, everything had been resolved. Ed asked to talk to me and apologized. Before he was removed from Cafemom for being a man, he read up on breastfeeding and was wowed by the amount of information available.

I was entirely impressed that he chose to educate himself not only on the laws, but the reasons women choose to nurse and the importance of breastfeeding. He asked me what he could do to make it up to me and I asked that sensitivity training be provided for all management of Hot Topic stores as well as education on the laws, to prevent this from happening to anyone else. He readily agreed.

He was clearly baffled that that was all I wanted and when I didn't ask for anything else, he offered to send me a gift card to purchase the items I had been forced to abandon. I let him know that while that wasn't necessary (as all I wanted was for this not to happen again), I appreciated the gesture and told him what I had been planning to purchase (he did send the gift card).

The response I received was more than I ever could have hoped for. Hot Topic's actions should be a model for any store in this situation. Not only did they avoid a scene (and becoming a hot topic they never intended!) but they left me a satisfied, returning customer. The assistant manager who treated me so poorly was subject to disciplinary action and the head manager sent me a written apology and invitation to the store (I did not go the day he asked, not wanting to be a spectacle).

I did buy the items that had been in my 'cart' -- ironically, one of the shirts was this one (which showed far more of my breasts than I did while nursing):

Unfortunately, upon my return, the employees did whisper about me and watch me like some negative celebrity, but that only happened the first time I returned. The incident was forgotten after a while and I still shop there (I don't recall if I've nursed there since the incident--I only nurse in public when my baby clearly needs to).

This incident was traumatic for me and my heart goes out to every mother person who has been refused service or kicked out of a place for nursing any reason when they were only trying to patronize the establishment. Discrimination is a cruel thing and needs to end.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

From the Grammar Gurus

As both a writer and a user of the English language, grammar, spelling and word usage are important to me. It's fun to play with (when it's deliberate) and lots of humorous posters circulate online (my favorite being from The Oatmeal) that concentrate on common errors people make.

As I was correcting my own issues in my book, I thought I'd share some of the games/tricks I've learned as well as just correcting a few of the most commonly abused words and phrases in the English language. If you love your 'quirky' mistakes, feel free to ignore all that follows, which is a list of writing tips that have helped me.

courtesy stockxchng


Personally, to remember whether I'm supposed to use who or whom in a sentence, I follow it with very specific pronouns: he and him. I ask myself which is the answer to the question. For instance.

"Who did the dishes?" Since he did the dishes, 'who' is proper.

"With whom am I speaking?" I am speaking with him, so whom is proper. I honestly just match up him-whom. The two ms are my mnemonic device.

When referencing the Doctor, however, it is always 'Who.'


Now this one is just tricky. We're taught to signify possession with an apostrophe followed by 's' with subjects. Well, this time, when it possesses something, it has no apostrophe--that is only present in the contraction it's, which is for 'it is.' Contractions always have apostrophes, which must be what screws Commander Data up. How he ever speaks Klingon is beyond me.


That special effect really had an affect on me. You affect something. Something can be an effect. Effect is the noun, affect is the verb. Simple and yet, so confusing.

Lie and Lay

"You'll lay an egg if you don't lie down." I hate this one. Not for misuse, but for trying to remember which is correct! Frankly, I stubbornly abuse them just because it doesn't sound right half the time. However, the correct usage is not that hard. You lay something down while you lie down in bed. Apparently the confusion comes because the past tense of lie is lay. Well, I like to lay down in bed, but I'm just doing it wrong. Just remember that you usually lie down to get laid and you should be fine.

Would/Could/Should/Must Have

Ah, now this is just irritating. When you say, "I would've gotten that," it comes out sounding like 'would of.' As a result, many people have taken to writing, "I would of gotten that." It's a audio trick, but it makes absolutely no sense when deconstructing the sentence. You are saying, "would have," but are using a contraction. Using 'would of' is like writing, 'Would int.' Now, this is unlikely because 'int' is not a proper word, so it's not as confusing. But I promise, 'would of' means absolutely nothing and 'would've' means that you would have done what you are talking about.


They're walking over there to get their prize. I don't know a game for this one--you really just have to slow down and think about what you're saying. 'Their' is possessive, meaning it belongs to 'them.' They're is a contraction meaning 'they are.' And 'there' is a destination. Really, it's not that hard.

Related note: Your responsibility is to know when you're misspelling something. Your is possessive--you own it. You're is a contraction meaning 'you are.'


If I say that I am better than you, then you can punch me. 'Then' indicates a time, while 'than' is a comparison.

A Lot

A lot is two separate words. You can allot items if you have a lot of them. Alot is an imaginary word, which is why when you write it in anything with spell check, it puts a squiggly red line under it.


You lose if your rope is too loose. You lose an item, a game or a contest. Loose is the opposite of tight. Think of it this way: When rubber is stretched out, it eventually becomes loose. So, loose is longer than lose. It follows, then, that being looser with language is for losers.

There are dozens more, of course, but these are the absolute most common. Hell, reading up for this post just depressed me over how many I didn't know (click here to feel stupid... or superior--you ass). Hopefully, this guide helped you figure out some of the more confusing word distinctions and grammar rules. If not, there are grammar lawyers everywhere happy to give you long, verbose lessons in why you're stupid. If someone who tested the second highest in Language Arts in the history of her college can still learn things and admit to it, so can you.

Are there particularly common grammar, spelling or word usage mistakes that bother you that I didn't include here? Feel free to share them and easy tricks for remembering them!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Just Call Me Mrs. Lovett

Ahh, placentophagy. Lauded as a curative to postpartum depression, a galactagogue and an immune system booster. Decried as disgusting. Claimed to be an ancient practice (it's not--despite the placenta being held in reverence, tribal peoples do not engage in this, nor is there evidence it has ever been a popular practice) and Chinese medicine (who also use tiger claws and animal testicles). However, just because something is new, that does not make it bad. Kombucha, despite claims of being ancient, is only around 60 years old or so and it definitely does help cleanse the system and kills my headaches.

I thought about this before I gave birth and based on the science that does back placentophagy, I decided that raw was the most likely method to get the most benefits. Now, not able to eat raw meat, I planned to chop it up into tiny pill-sized pieces and freeze it to preserve and swallow whole, bit by bit.

This plan was thwarted when my husband, trying to forget about the organ we'd brought home with us from the birth center, tossed it straight into the freezer. Okay, I figured I'd just plant it at some point. Then I was given an amazing offer--students would encapsulate my placenta for free as well as create a tincture and an umbilical keepsake. Alas, not enough students would sign up for the class and this would not come to fruition. My placenta remained in the freezer, mostly forgotten.

Today, I was reminded when a friend posted about her own upcoming encapsulation and asked about tinctures. So, since I'll try just about anything once, I decided I'd cook mine up and get it out of the freezer. I figured if I was going to do it, I'd do it all the way and decided to make a steak.

First, I thawed my placenta.

The colored stains on the table were courtesy of my kids--they were painting earlier
This was really gross.

Then I cut off the umbilical cord and membranes. This was both fascinating and disgusting. The membrane was slippery and I ended up covered in blood. My aspiring midwife, Lilly (5) decided that she no longer wants to be a doctor or a midwife. Her sister, on the other hand, now wants to. She enjoyed watching me pulling the membranes off and held open the bag I threw them away in.
You can see the three blood vessels. This went back in the freezer after being washed.
It bled when I cut it
And washed the meat...

Then I seasoned it and pan fried it like a good steak:

Reminds me of a giant chicken heart--all that black is the blood

And I tried it. It was chewy. The taste was... well, I described it as chicken. If chickens sacrificed humans and drank our blood. I could definitely taste that it was human. Maybe that was psychological, or maybe it was just that this is a blood transporting organ and the flavor just wasn't going to go away. The outer part was pretty yummy and I could tell that had this not been organ meat, it would have been delicious. But it was very obviously organ meat. It had the taste of chicken heart, liver, marrow... that sort of thing.

So, because I'm twisted and don't like to be wasteful, I decided that I would try to eat it in a disguised fashion and planned to make meat pies. I had never done so before (nor had I even ever mashed potatoes by myself!), but I set out to do it all from scratch. First, I had to chop up the 'steak.'
It was this dark crimson unlike anything I'd seen before--this picture doesn't do it justice and it was warm through
Then I got recipes for crust and meat pies and went to work. We had two leftover potatoes from chicken teriyaki the other night, so I made mashed potatoes out of them. I had so much crust I decided to make two empanadas rather than one pie (so my husband could have a safe, chicken pie, lol). I put in a ton of cheese, potatoes (which came out delicious!), onions and meat. I threw out the center where the cord had been attached. I tossed out everything that wouldn't fit and I cooked them up.

The pie was amazing... until I got to the meat. It was even worse like this. I picked all the pieces out and threw them out. I couldn't force myself to eat any more. It was just flat out awful. I can't force myself to try any more methods. Maybe I wouldn't be able to taste it in a smoothie, but I don't want to ruin a whole smoothie if I can.

Definitely go with encapsulation if you can. I could not justify $200 (even in installments, as I was paying off the midwife and doula), did not have postpartum depression, have plentiful milk, etc. I feel no ill effects from eating it--quite the contrary. I actually do feel better than before I ate it (except for the gross aftertaste). We'll see if my perpetual crankiness of late is cured by this ;)

Now, if only I had a nice Chianti...