My Fair Waterfowl Day

Last week, as I approached the entrance to our sun room, there, not more than six feet in front of me, was a mama duck and her ducklings, fuzzy little ducks not yet ready to fly.

I had surprised her. As I fumbled for my iPhone to get a picture, she quickly gathered them under her wings, pushed them to a corner under the rhododendron bush, and marched towards me.

Yup. She marched. She didn’t waddle.

I backed up toward the door to my Writing Shed. She turned left, outstretched her wings, made a noise that sounded like a wounded bird, then did what looked like waddling while flying low to the ground, drawing me away. I followed her as she made her way through the yard, worried that perhaps she was wounded. She made for the Japanese maple tree surrounded by overgrown stuff.

In a stunningly Homer-Simpson-“doh!” moment, I realized that I needed to back off and give her space. I headed to our front porch and waited. She peeked around the bush, head held high. She saw me, let out a quack, then waddled back towards the sun room.

It was an impressive moment of maternal courage. I was in awe. I hope that her head-held-high quack was an indignant moment for her in which she understood that I had gotten the message—stay away from my children.

I managed to get photos of her and her ducklings as they headed away from the rhododendron bush to a more secure vegetative covering. At that point, I think she was at least convinced I wouldn’t kill them, but she might have been thinking, this picture better not end up on Facebook.

It did. And now, it’s on my blog.

duck and ducklings

Later that day, as I drove down Third towards town, the goose family was crossing the road. This was an extended family of some sort. The goslings seemed to range in age from itty-bitty-but-able-to-waddle to adolescent-but-still fuzzy. The adult geese acted as sentinels, flanking their young as traffic stopped waiting for them to cross the road. Their necks stretched high, their heads turning once to let me know that they saw me.

Why did the geese cross the road?

So I could get pictures of them. I had plenty of time to whip out my iPhone as they herded the various members of the younger goslings. They weren’t in a hurry. They were determined, however, to get them all across the street safely.
Perhaps the head turning was to say, “These picture better not end up on Facebook.”

They did. And now, they’re on my blog.

These encounters with waterfowl made my day. I can’t even explain why. Or maybe I can.

It just seemed like moments when two species co-existed in the same space at the same time and worked it out.

This seems so fair to me.

I’ve been accused of being a bully recently, in an anonymous post in a comments section on a blog. I had commented on the blog because its author had taken credit for something I had done. When I pointed that out, the author rewrote history again, this time to make herself the victim of my comment.

The anonymous commenter (I believe this was a woman) pointed out that I had a chronic need for recognition and validation. Many, many people agreed with her on this point, as well as my bullying ways, she claimed.

Bullying is nasty. It’s the coward’s way of asserting power by humiliating another simply to gain a sense of power. I think there is a difference between that and standing up for oneself—holding someone accountable for her willful misrepresentation of history to make herself the star of a show she never even participated in.

I do have a chronic need for recognition and validation. Just like that duck and those geese, I believe it is my right to be recognized—to be seen—and to be validated—to have my right to exist in my own space to be respected.

So that’s it. I just figured out why that day was such a fair waterfowl day for me. The universe (as it were) gave me not one, but two opportunities to mess with another creature’s vulnerability. Neither the geese nor the duck were bullies. They were standing up to me and claiming what was theirs to protect and defend. Instead of messing with their vulnerability, I respected it as life expressing itself.

Being smart does not make a woman a bully. Asserting her right to recognition and validation is not a pathology.

I’m not a bully. I’m a strong, smart woman who feels entitled to defend and protect that which she created.

There, I feel better now.

Note: I drove by the geese later that week:

22 thoughts on “My Fair Waterfowl Day

  1. Doesn’t the silence make you want to look deeper into yourself? All of your comments come off in a negative manner and if a lot of people are saying accusing you of this, why would you not take it more seriously?


    • Julie, Do I know you? Have I met you and if so, in what capacity? What silence are you referring to? What comments are you referring to? You never responded to my last reply to your comment. Why didn’t you? As for “a lot of people are accusing me of this,” I’m not sure what you mean by this. And why does this matter to you? Have I done anything to you? Remember people think Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, but that doesn’t make him one.


  2. Why does it matter who I am…this is a public blog. I find what you write to be offensive and negative towards others. You say you don’t need validation but you wouldn’t feel the need to point out others flaws it this were the case. Focusing your time on trying to figure out who I am rather than looking inwards just proves the fact that you have an axe to grind.


    • Yes, it’s a public blog, but you are making some pretty wild assumptions here, so it does matter who you are. I get it that you think I’m an asshole, but if you are getting that from reading my posts, that seems peculiar. I’m curious why you came to my blog.


  3. Once again, you are more focused on me rather than the issues at hand. You may say that the problem doesn’t lie within but what you choose to write is always open for individual interpretation. I perceive your posts to be negative and spiteful. Please remember this is a public blog. If you don’t wish to hear the feedback, whether negative or positive, you should keep your opinions to yourself. Thank you, I’m done!


    • I’m confused…am I not communicating with you now? Courage has nothing to do with it. You answer all questions by asking who I am.


      • Well, yes, you are confused. And no, you aren’t communicating. You seem absolutely convinced that I am an asshole based on my stor. Apparently you think I am not telling the truth. On what are you basing this assumption?


      • JULIE: Please remember that this is a public forum, as you have pointed out, as I give you my response to your posts.
        First, and foremost, you are a coward. You are nothing more than an adult version of a school yard bully. You focus on juvenile character assassinations instead of staying focused on verifiable facts. Then, when challenged to reveal yourself, you further your childish behavior with responses ducking the request. Your refusal to identify yourself is a clear attempt at trying to place Karen in a powerless situation as to not be able to address her attacker with any sort of context or background. Your determination to not identify yourself is close to a masked rapist, attacking someone, telling them deserve it while doing so, and then running into the night afraid to deal with the consequences of their actions.
        Second, you are a hypocrite. You accuse Karen of being negative and spiteful, and yet every single post you have made has been filled with venomous spite and anger. Perhaps it is you who needs the mirror placed in front of them.
        So, Julie, here is my challenge to you, identify yourself. Take off the mask, place yourself out there in order that your ‘truth’ may be validated within the context of who you are and where your background of Karen comes from. Failure to do so, will do nothing more than strengthen my labels of you: COWARD, BULLY and HYPROCRITE.


  4. Karen,
    You know who I am so perhaps this will make things easier for you. I agree with Julie, whoever she is. If people are saying you are a bully, regardless of whether you know them, it would benefit you to take a look at that. What is your part in this? Your part. Not mine or Julie’s or the anonymous commenter on my blog. Yours.

    As you say, “bullying is nasty. It’s the coward’s way of asserting power by humiliating another simply to gain a sense of power.” I agree. Which is why I consider your repeated negative comments to be bullying. Reporting me to the State Bar is bullying. Repeatedly flagging my LinkedIn profile for inaccurate information because you think it should say June instead of May is bullying. Calling me a liar and lacking in integrity in public forums is bullying. Making back-handed compliments on social media is bullying. Repeatedly commenting on blog posts that have nothing to do with the subject you are discussing is bullying. Sending threatening texts and emails is bullying. Screaming at people in public is bullying. Trash talking about people behind their backs is bullying. All of these things I have either experienced personally or watched you do to others. These behaviors are not the acts of someone defending herself. Yes, the mother duck stood up for herself and her young, but she did not attack you, nor did she attack repeatedly, long after the actual incident had passed.

    As I have said repeatedly on my blog and in social media, I value your service to the writing community in Livermore and the greater Tri-Valley Region. You worked long and hard to promote the literary arts here. I am grateful for that as well as for our 9 years of friendship. You, and the rest of your family, were an important part of my life, which is why the current situation is so painful for me. I understand that handing over Storied Nights was extremely difficult for you. But that does not give you the right to attack and bully me when my version of the facts differs from yours. As a writer of nonfiction, you know that everyone has a different account of what happened. Everyone. That’s how memory works. So what if my story differs from yours? Tell your version. Speak your truth. Just don’t bully me if my truth doesn’t match up exactly with yours.

    I wish you well. Karen. Start a new literary event in WA and run with it. Dream big. Thrive.


  5. Cynthia-

    Since it is possible that I am one of Karen’s family members that you refer to above, I feel I must respond to your comment. You talk about truth as if it were simply a matter of memory, but in many cases that is not how it works. Memory IS all that is involved if, for example, two people remember an unrecorded conversation differently. There is no way to determine an objective truth in such a case, so the only “truths” would be the memories of the two people involved in the conversation. In many situations, however, there is an objective truth. The Storied Nights event in May of 2013 is one of those situations: There is a poster for the event, and your name does not appear on that poster. Karen is listed as the host of the event. Your only involvement in that first Storied Night was as a member of the audience. (And there are other records of the objective truth as well.) So, if your memory of the event differs from what I have just described, your memory is wrong. My response to your question (“So what if my story differs from yours?”) is to say, simply, that your account of what happened is wrong. It is inaccurate. It is, in fact, a lie. As long as you list yourself as Co-Producer and Host beginning in “May” instead of “June” on your LinkedIn profile, your profile will be inaccurate. Pointing out inaccuracies is not bullying.

    I will mention only one of the other distortions in your comment, because it presents an incomplete and inaccurate version of what happened. (And I only refer to this incident because you decided to bring it up in your comment.) Yes, Karen did (finally) threaten to report you to the State Bar, but she did not actually do so. There was a quote attributed to Karen on your Law Firm Web site that was there without permission. Karen wrote to you and asked you to remove it. When you did not, she called the Bar, asked if using a quote without permission was a reportable offense, and found out that it was. She did not mention your name, or the name of your Law Firm. Then she wrote you again, telling you what the Bar had told her, and asked again that you remove the quote. You still did not. Finally, she wrote to you and told you that if you did not remove the quote by a certain time, she would report you to the Bar. And then, finally, you removed the quote that you had been using without permission. This, too, was not bullying.

    Finally, Karen did not call you a liar. She accused you of rewriting history, which is what you did. Truth is not simply a matter of memory, unless memory is the only way of attempting to reach the truth.


  6. As someone who was actually bullied a large part of my life, this blog post really spoke to me. I know what it feels like to be humiliated, afraid, not in control of your own life because someone more powerful than you uses that power to keep you in what they consider your place. These people weren’t seeking validation or recognition…they were taking. That is what bullies do, they take something that is yours to make you less.
    Wanting to be recognized for work that you did, or at the very least not having someone else take credit for it, is not bullying. I think that’s a pretty human desire. When one constantly has to fight for that, sure, things can get a little emotional. It’s still not bullying. It’s fighting for something that belongs to you.
    I have been fortunate to work in creative groups that felt recognition was important and not a scarce commodity reserved for a few. In the last play I was in, included in the “Special Thanks To” section of the program was a guy who’s only contribution to the play was allowing us to borrow two fake trees. Recognition. Gratitude. Simple gestures that hurt no one and can mean a lot.


  7. Tom,
    I find it interesting that Karen feels the need to turn to you to defend her after she repeatedly calls into question my courage, and as she puts it, “ovarios.”

    Yes, you were one of the family members I referred to and I have no beef with you. My concern is with Karen’s long-standing tendency towards bullying behavior. If I feel bullied by her — and I do — then she needs to look at her behavior rather than blame me for it.

    As for your statements about Storied Nights, I have never claimed that I started it nor that I hosted in May 2013. I have always been quite clear that I inherited the event from Karen. I never claimed that I appeared on the first poster or that I did anything other than appear in the audience, as you point out. I am well aware of these objective records and my memory does not differ from yours.

    I am also well aware that I had a meeting with Len Alexander and Karen at Peet’s Coffee & Tea on May 20, 2013, and was asked to take over Storied Nights. Given that I had less than 2 weeks to produce the upcoming event, I started immediately. I asked Marilyn to serve as my co-producer and we met several times in May. I also met with LVPAC staff, sent out a call for submissions, and contacted numerous writers about reading in June. I created a system for tracking submissions and also a Facebook page. I wrote a press release and did online promotion. So in fact, I did a ton of work for Storied Nights in May 2013. This is not a lie. This is the verifiable truth.

    Your account is not wrong, it just doesn’t include some critical details. And that is where your problem lies. My LinkedIn profile is not inaccurate. The fact is that Karen and I overlapped in May 2013. I’m sorry of she does not like my version of the truth, but that doesn’t make it any less true. She is free to point out inaccuracies, but repeatedly flagging my profile for the same bit of information is harassment.

    As for the State Bar, Karen repeatedly texted, emailed, and left messages in which she stated that she had “reported [me] to the State Bar.” She did not (finally) threaten, as you state. If she had a problem with my website, she should have contacted me with her concerns and I would have discussed the issue with her. But that is not what happened. She called and texted that she had reported me to the State Bar for fraudulent information. Later this changed to using her quote without permission. When she told me that she wanted the quote removed, I immediately contacted my web person and had it removed. Once again, the problem is not that Karen wanted the information removed. The problem is the way in which she achieved her goals.

    My feelings are valid, and I feel bullied by Karen’s behavior. I do not use these words lightly, and sadly I am not the first person in Livermore to have these feelings. It is up to Karen to decide what she wants to do about that.


    • Just for the record, I never planned on commenting publicly that you had made up a quote, attributed it to me, and posted it on your Law Office website as my testimonial to your services. I never even knew the words “fraudulent information.” This is from my email to you after the quote was finally removed:

      “I see that you have removed the unauthorized testimonial attributed to me from your website, therefore, I will not report you to the State Bar Association. Be assured that when I called to ask if it was a reportable offense, I did not mention your name.”


    • Cynthia,
      it occurred to me that you said it must have been difficult handing over Storied Nights. Actually, it wasn’t. Storied Nights came to be because of the many meetings Len Alexander and I had over several months. The poet laureate refused to back anything that had to do with prose–as usual, there was only room for poets.
      It was clear to me that a venue for prose needed a sponsor. Len thought of Peets and LVPAC leant it’s name to the evening.
      The irony is that I learned of this when I met with Len over coffee to tell him Tom and I were moving away from Livermore. I told him I would host the first and possibly second ones so we could get it rolling, and look for someone else to take my place when I left. I wanted to make sure that the venue was in place.
      So was it difficult handing it off? No, because I felt like I had finally succeeded in making a home for writers who were not part of the “Poetry Community.”
      Yes, we met on May 20, but that was to discuss details. I asked you a couple of weeks earlier in an email if you wanted to take it over and you said yes.
      What is difficult for me is that you don’t seem to be capable of recognizing that it was due to my efforts to get the venue and my asking you if you wanted to take on the task that you have it. For some reason, from your first post about this, you are spinning it that the Chair of the Commission for the Arts asked you to take on this new reading series. He did not even know who you were.
      Yes, we remember things differently, and it occurred to me that you might actually believe your version. Which says a lot about what you think of me and what you thought of me back when you took it over. I have the emails and other documents that back up my co-called version of the history. I’ve actually referred to them to make sure I wasn’t crazy.
      So what has been difficult for me is that you, who claimed she was a friend, have either rewritten history, or were rewriting it as it was happening to diminish my role in it. You say you are grateful for what I did. Perhaps, but you don’t really appreciate it–and by appreciate it I don’t mean say thank you–I mean value it the same way someone recognizes the value of a work of art or precious stone. I wonder if you are capable of that. And, that is what has been difficult for me.


    • Cynthia-
      I am so incredibly disappointed in you and your actions within this past year in regards to Karen and your supposed friendship.
      I have had far too many people in my past that have lied and expected others to just go along with it, at times even justifying that the small change in facts or omissions in details were not that big of a deal. Friends and family whom were false to my face, only to find out that they are stabbing me in the back.
      The truth is, it is all a big deal and it will eventually catch up to you. If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that narcissists will go to the most elaborate lengths to protect their façade, at times even making themselves believe that what they are spewing is the truth. The reason is that it takes one validation of the truth to be revealed for their carefully crafted lies to come tumbling down.
      Though I am sure it is of no loss to you, I feel our friendship needs to come to an end as I will now always question everything you say and do. Trust is a fragile commodity. I wish you and Katie the best and encourage you to do your own soul searching about how you will treat the people in your lives as you move forward.


  8. Cynthia-

    I find it interesting that you would think Karen turned to me to defend her. I am perfectly capable of thinking for myself, and responding on my own volition. Once I had decided to respond, I did ask Karen a few questions to refresh my memory, and that was the extent of her involvement.

    I will not comment further on your justification for continuing to use “May” in your LinkedIn profile, other than to say that your explanation makes it, strictly speaking, true, but still potentially misleading. If you disagree with me about that, there is nothing more to say.

    As for you comments about the State Bar incident, my account is closer to being accurate than is yours. I was here when all of this was happening, and just now I asked to look at Karen’s emails to make certain that I was getting things in the right order. What I remembered wrong was this: Karen sent you two emails asking you to remove the quote, and only mentioned the Bar in the third, which was the one that gave you a deadline. The first two emails were sent on May 13th of this year, and the third on the 15th, with the deadline in that email being noon on the 19th. The quote was still on the Web site on the morning of the 19th, but was removed just prior to noon. Karen never used the phrase “fraudulent information” in her emails, and she never did report you to the Bar, or say that she reported you to the Bar. Think what you want, which is obviously what you always do. Thinking something, however, does not always make it so.


  9. I am sad that the Darters are getting pulled into this dispute but I respect that you are coming to Karen’s aid as members of her family. However, I started this alone and I will finish it alone, even if it is beginning to feel a bit like a hostile gang.

    We can argue all day about details (of which my evidence differs quite significantly from yours) but that is missing the main point, which is this: someone called Karen a bully and she denied it. Then someone else chimed in and Karen discounted those comments because she didn’t know the person. So I stepped in as someone Karen knows and said I’ve felt bullied too. That’s three people who have stepped forward. This discussion is about Karen’s bullying behavior — not anything I may or may not have done. It’s not about the poet laureates or anything they might have done. It’s about Karen and the role she plays in a long-standing problem of relationships gone bad, hers and mine being only the last of many.

    I am not saying Karen doesn’t deserve credit or acknowledgement for her work. I have given her credit over and over again — and you would know that if you had ever attended an event that I’ve hosted. But you have not, so really you have absolutely no idea what happens at Storied Nights. Accusing me of not giving Karen credit does nothing but make you look foolish.

    The problem is not that Karen isn’t getting credit — she is — it’s that she clearly feels this is insufficient and wants more. The even larger problem is that she didn’t ask for additional credit. Instead she unleashed a relentless barrage of snarky Facebook comments; emails, texts, and phone messages containing threats; totally off-topic rants on my website; and other forms of harassment. The level, intensity, and tone of her comments constitutes bullying — in my eyes and in the eyes of many. It doesn’t matter what her intention was. It doesn’t matter what her justification was. If I or others felt bullied and harassed by her behavior, then we were. Our feelings are valid and not up for debate.

    You don’t have to like this state of affairs, but you do need to accept it. People have felt bullied as a result of Karen’s behavior. I have stood by and watched it happen to others for years. Now it’s happening to me and I am taking a stand. This is unacceptable behavior and will no longer be tolerated. Bullying, harassment, and out-of-control behavior are never acceptable — even when you have grounds to be angry. Disputes can be resolved in other, more productive, ways.

    Let me be crystal clear: the problem is not that Karen stands up for herself or that she wants to receive credit for her work. These are admirable qualities. The problem lies the hostile manner in which she seeks validation.

    I’m sorry to be the one to spell this out to all of you, but it is long overdue. Sadly most people are afraid to say anything about Karen’s behavior because her tendency to retaliate is so well known. Most seek to avoid her wrath at all costs. But as I said, I am taking a stand on behalf of myself and others. You can all be as disappointed in my so-called bad behavior as you want. It will not change the fact that the ball is now in Karen’s court to either change her behavior or else accept the consequences of being perceived as a bully. It’s her choice.

    I do not intend to revisit this subject. I have far better things to do with my time than to continue to argue over this or any other topic. My hope is that you can let go of your anger and defensiveness just long enough to see some kernel of truth in what I am saying. I have always treated you with respect and kindness and will continue to do so in the future, even if you do not recognize it as such. I wish you all the best.

    PS — That quote that you claim I made up and attributed to you? It was a direct quote from an email you sent me regarding my advocating on behalf of my daughter at an IEP meeting you attended. I have a copy of this email, and as such, I was perfectly within my rights to use it on my website as a testimonial. However, when you asked me to remove it, I did. I didn’t have to, since I had not made it up as you claimed, but I did so at your request. Only after the fact did you let me know that you hadn’t in fact reported me. But that is not what you said in your initial texts and phone messages. And even if I’m remembering it incorrectly, none of this has anything to do with Storied Nights, which is why it reeks of harassment and retaliation. This situation is petty, disappointing, and saddens me deeply, but if you refuse to see the role you play in it, then there is nothing I can do except walk away. My sincerest hope is that one day you will understand how you are you own worst enemy, Karen. You were a dear friend once but now I am letting you go.


  10. Pingback: Why the Goose Family of Third Avenue Crossed the Road | Writing Shed

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