In Death as in Life

Nobody wants to get old. Getting old isn’t beautiful.

If we are honest with ourselves most of us look at the elderly with at least a slight feeling of revulsion in the pit of our stomachs. We feel this way only because it triggers fear within us. The fear of aging is not only the product of our own vanity but also the realization that the end is near. We want to presume, “it will never be me. I will never let myself get that old, that wrinkled, that stooped. I will never have that funk of age or skin like paper perforated with brown spots and bulging blue veins”.

But we will.

And we will wonder how we got there and how we let ourselves get this way.
photo wedding

But until I sat with my Mama* and held her hand, watched her breath get shallow and her eyes grow heavy I did not know this secret. Right before you die you become beautiful again.

The people that love you will gather by your bedside. They will marvel at the brightness and depth of your eyes. They will caress and wonder at the softness of your skin. They will clean you lovingly and brush your hair into place. They will be enamored with every wrinkle and with every imperfection that makes you unique. They will drink in the sweetness of your whispers and treasure every little snore as you rest and every breath that comes after a long silence. There is no insincerity in this admiration. It is pure.

Angela Josephine Fenech, nineteen years old, on her wedding day.

Angela Josephine Fenech, 19 years old, on her wedding day.

There is a strange but fragile beauty in death.

For those last few weeks, days and hours before death we will be young again. Beautiful in the eyes of those that love you. We will forget every wrinkle and every spot.

And we will die as beautiful and as precious as the day we were born.





* Mama was my name for my grandmother, Angela.

My List

Endless laundry

Broken dishes

Always buying only one flavor to prevent fights


Realizing that bloody noses and accidents only happen two minutes before you leave for work

Dirty feet


Never getting dressed for work before the kids have eaten breakfast



Cooking bacon when you can’t stand the smell, look or feel of bacon


Never cutting things in half


Always reading the quantities on the side of boxes and only buying in multiples of three, then hiding any excess to prevent fights

Screaming when it is soap time during bath

Yelling then wishing you hadn’t

Giving in then wishing you hadn’t

“Poopy head” talk

Accepting that it doesn’t matter who you are your kids will pick their noses and eat their boogers… and like it

Celebrating the day when I get to work on time

Celebrating the day I get to bed on time

Doing anything to prevent fights

Getting off shift to go on shift

The three kid alarm clock on Saturday morning

Cartoons when I can’t hack it… stories when I can

Kissing three little heads asleep on their pillows

Coming Home

Alaska has a particular smell. The air itself has a certain crispness to it but the smell is a mixture of fresh camomile, pushki  (cow parsnip) with just a hint of fish skin. This is the smell that tells me I am home.

I recently took my kids to my hometown for a visit.

Growing up I didn’t really believe that there was anything special about being from Alaska. In fact, I dreamed of getting out. And I did, as soon and as far as I could.

Essentially, this was me:Glee+BP

A cheesy small town kid in the big city with big dreams and terrible fashion sense.

Anyway, the farthest place I could think of was New York City. Mind you, I had never ridden on public transportation, there were no homeless people, there was one black person in our entire town, I didn’t “know” any gay people and I sure as heck had never seen a transvestite. “Going out” entailed doing town laps in a beat up Subaru and meeting in the grocery store parking lot or hiking into the woods to have a bonfire and to drink Lucky Lager beer from a can. “Break up” meant when the weather was warm enough that the ground started to thaw into mud and you had to switch from Sorrels to Xtra-Tuffs. And “tolerance” meant you could drink an old Salt under the table. I had never even eaten a bagel, for god’s sake! So NYC was the natural choice.

When I first got there I wouldn’t go out after dark. I gave money to every homeless person that asked, because how on earth could I say no? The subway was terrifying, people pushed and it smelled like urine. It was strange that people didn’t seem to see me on the street and nobody said ‘hello’. People used the word ‘soda’ instead of ‘pop’ and ‘on line’ instead of ‘in line’. And there were people, so many people, so many different people.

To me NYC was a vast wilderness of untamed beasts but eventually, I learned to survive in the wild. I quickly learned that the streets of NYC are just as safe at 2:00 AM as they are in the middle of the day. I learned that the same homeless man sits on the same corner every day and I learned never to give money to the one that took a taxi home at the end of the day. I figured out how to get anywhere I wanted to go on the subway. ANYWHERE! And I kinda got used to the smell and started using my elbows more. I ate every kind of food imaginable AND I could order it AFTER midnight. To top it off my lovely friends chipped in for a lap dance at a tranny dinner club for my 23rd birthday (and no, you may not see the pictures). My survival skills were honed.

The biggest thing that I learned was that where I grew up was actually interesting to people. Growing up I had learned about the ‘lower 48’ but soon found out that the lower 48 doesn’t grow up learning about Alaska, other than a lot of really poor stereotypes. You know the saying “there are no stupid questions”? Well, there are stupid questions. A lot of stupid questions. And I got asked the majority of them. But I was proud of the exotic, unknown place I was from in that superficial “there is actually something unique about me” kinda way.

But every summer I would get on that plane and make the 26 hr. journey home (at least 2-3 layovers and a 5 hour car ride). The smell of camomile, pushki and fish would hit me and quickly the rush and the noise of the city would fade.


This was when I finally began to truly appreciate where I had come from, when I began to carry Alaska with me like a locket around my neck. I could look at the mountains and recognize how beautiful they really were. I could appreciate the space and the quiet and the friendliness and that smell that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Before, I don’t know that I had ever really paid attention. This is when I understood coming home.

Every time we go to Alaska my husband and I have the “how could we make it work” talk. I am lucky to have married someone who spent his summers fishing in Alaska and has deeper appreciation for it. As a side note: he also lives in Carhartts, knows how to chop wood, understands the magic of duct tape, can fix anything and can almost keep up with me at the bar (wink), all very under appreciated attributes out here on the outside.

Alaska3I know my kids would adjust to being Alaskans in about 15 minutes flat. They would love the space and the wildness and the water and even the smell. I can imagine them growing up there. I can see them swimming in 45 degree water and fishing with their friends in the summer. I can picture them making snow forts and sledding down the gully out behind my mom’s house.

But secretly, I am afraid that I wouldn’t be able to hack it. I fear that I would have more of an adjustment than they would. I have gotten used to stop lights, cheap grocery stores, $25 pedicures and lord knows, I haven’t shoveled snow in years and to be honest, my tolerance is really down. I have even gotten used to traffic and noise.

In fact, I don’t mourn the fact that I have moved on and that I have made a life for myself in another state. I will always be an Alaskan. I guess the hardest part for me to accept is that my kids will never experience Alaska in the same way I did and to a certain extent, they will always just be tourists in my hometown.

Texts to the Office

Mama at workI am going to be in a little late this morning. I locked my kids and my keys in the car.

I am running a little behind today. One of my kids pooped her pants and my husband left me with an empty gas tank.

I know this is going to sound crazy but I am going to be late because the chicken coop caught fire and I was chasing chickens around my yard.

Gonna be a little late. Both kids pooped their pants on the way out the door. I have changed four diapers and four pairs of pants.

Can you turn on my office light. I am soooooo late!

I have reached my pinnacle of stupidity. My sitter left a half hour ago with my car keys and my purse in the van. So whenever I figure out how the f*^% I am going to get to work I will be there.

A Response to Hank: The Stuebenville Rape Case

Lately, there has been a lot of coverage in the media regarding the Stuebenville rape case. Everyone has something to say about it. Even Henry Rollins blogged about it. Interestingly, it was his post that fired me up a bit. While I found Hank’s comments diplomatic and his tone sufficiently outraged, I still felt that he narrowly missed the point.

It goes without saying that what happened to the girl in this case is unspeakable. It is a nightmare. Although I have very strong opinions in this area I don’t often comment on them publicly or in writing. As I told one friend, I like my friends too much to either alienate them with my opinions or to dislike them because of theirs. That may be lame but I am okay with that. I choose to like people rather than dislike them. However, this time, perhaps I have a unique perspective on this subject; first and foremost I am a woman, I am also a mother, I am a mother to two beautiful girls, I have a sister, I have nieces, I have a son and I am also a prosecutor.

Three things in particular that Hank wrote troubled me. He wrote 1) “I thought first about the two young men”; 2)  “Would you be “more sorry” about what you did?… At what point do you get “better”, how many years in one of these places does that take?” and 3) “What made these young people think that that what they did was ok?”

First, I take issue with the fact that Hank, like many, many others “thought first about the two young men”. I did not. I thought first about the girl and her parents. Yes, it is difficult to grapple with the idea that human beings can abuse each other in this way. Our first reaction is to ask why and wonder where things went horribly, horribly wrong. There must be someone, something to blame. While I can understand and appreciate the sentiment that there are larger social issues at play here, rape is nothing new, not to our culture and not to any culture. Rape has existed since the beginning of time and throughout the world.

The fact that rape still occurs is a complex societal issue and clearly, prevailing attitudes need to be changed, but how will that happen when someone who is socially evolved thinks “first about the two young men.” In my mind, that is backward. Our first question should not be, how did we as a society fail these boys? The question should be, how did we as a society fail this girl; our sister, our daughter? Change in social consciousness cannot occur when we think first about the rapist and not the victim of the rape.

Second, Hank wonders whether or not while serving a lengthy prison sentence “would you be “more sorry” about what you did?” He goes on to ask “at what point do you get “better”, how many years in one of these places does that take?” In my profession I am a proponent of treatment and rehabilitation. I am all for rehabilitation. I am all for treatment. But rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse are a different beast. Many crimes can be attributed to addiction, under-privilege or mental illness. Rape cannot. Rape is dehumanizing. There are power and control issues associated with rape that are not present in other types of crimes. This is the point where I draw the line on rehabilitation. I am sorry but I don’t see anyone standing up in a room full of people and saying “Hi, my name is John and I am a rapist.”

No amount of telling a rapist that he can’t rape is going to stop him. Women can stand up and yell “RAPE IS NOT OKAY! WE WILL NOT ACCEPT THIS BEHAVIOR!” until we are blue in the face, and frankly, women have been doing just that for over 30 years. And all the sex education and women’s studies classes in the world have still landed us in the same place. The place where, in 2013, boys will stand around and laugh while they sexually terrorize a young woman.

What other way is there to show women that they are valued than by having actions such as these punished severely? The point is not to lock these boys up to make them feel bad about what they did. Whether they feel bad is not the point. Whether they feel bad doesn’t change what they did. It doesn’t mitigate rape. The point is to ensure that these boys do not rape any other girls for a specified amount of time and to demonstrate to that girl and to all our daughters and sisters and nieces that we have their backs.

Lastly, these boys knew what they were doing was wrong by any standards. In my experience people who commit crimes absolutely know what they are doing is morally wrong. They just find a way to rationalize it or justify their behavior. Similarly, the boys in Stuebenville knew what they were doing was wrong. They simply justified it. She was drunk. I was drunk. She was asking for it. She wanted it. Everyone else was doing it. By blaming parents, coaches and teachers for their sense of entitlement and asking how we as a society failed these boys gives them the justification that they were looking for. It gives them an excuse for rape.

So let’s start by thinking first about the victim. Let’s talk about how she has been forever “damaged”, abused, battered, taken advantage of, degraded, humiliated and devalued. Let’s talk about how we failed her. Then let’s talk about how we value her. Let’s talk about how important her bodily integrity is to us. Let’s tell her that we are willing to sacrifice those boys for her.



I have been clenching and un-clenching my jaw all day. I am so unspeakably angry. I sit here punching keys to voice my overwhelming anger. I am not often at a loss for words but today I am.

I look at my kids and I love them so much it is physically painful. Even when they are not with me I can feel the weight of their warm little bodies curled up on me.

I worry about them every day. I wonder how I am going to protect them and keep all three of them safe, keep them from becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, protect them from stress, anxiety, depression and heartbreak. To a certain extent I have made peace with the fact that I can only do my best and that I can’t keep them in a bubble. But on a day like today… I feel so small. I feel so lost, desperate and helpless.

There are things in this world that I cannot predict. There are things I cannot stop. None of us can. But can there be some measure of security? Can I send my children safely to school? Can I send them to the mall to pick out stocking stuffers with their Dad? Can I expect that they will be here to wake up on Christmas morning with joy and excitement in their eyes? Can I anticipate them creeping into my bedroom tonight to tuck their cold feet under my legs?

If only we had the power to follow someone into death and drag him back to face the destruction he has left. Senseless. Cowardice. I am so tired of these men who believe that the only way to be recognized is by killing innocent people… and children! Then they kill themselves. Too cowardly to even face up to what they have done. Too cowardly to face the hurt and the anger. They have their “moment of glory”. To be remembered. At what cost?

It would be easy to sit here at my keyboard and remove myself, to let my head say, “It was not my child”. But it was somebody’s child. Some mother out there tonight will not feel the weight of that warm little body curled up next to her like I will when I go home at the end of the day. For that mother I ache.

As some of you know, I work as a Deputy District Attorney. I spent 18 months working in the Domestic Violence Unit prosecuting crimes of Domestic Violence. It was one of the most challenging and emotionally charged times in my career so far, but I was also passionate about it. Eventually, I asked to transfer out of the unit in order to focus on myself and my family. I had a hard time leaving the files i.e. the victims, on my desk when I left for the night. I had trouble sleeping at night and being present “in the moment” when I was at home. With three young children I had to make that choice. It has been a good one for me and my family but it hasn’t taken away my passion for eradicating Domestic Violence and working to protect the women, children and men that it effects. Prego and the Loon is an amazing blog. Read it, it may really open your eyes. I would like to thank Prego and the Loon for nominating me for the Prego Project Award. I am honored.

Prego and the Loon


Prego Project is a voicing violence award to provide support and strength to victims of domestic violence and those affected by it. I want to recognize those willing to speak up and discuss personal stories of domestic violence accounts. In an abusive relationship there is often a lot of crazy making, and over time you tend to feel that your voice means very little to the world around you. Sadly there are two things that showered me with a bit of sunshine, and helped me regain my voice… or actually make me feel validated. I say sadly because one was receiving my restraining order against my ex-husband. The second was receiving a certificate stamped and signed by the California State Secretary recognizing my situation and accepting me into the Safe at Home program. For those of you who are not aware the Safe at Home program, is “an address confidentiality…

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