Their Bad Mother

Their Bad Mother

Sticks And Stones

I get hate mail. I’ve gotten used to it, for the most part, but still: getting angry e-mails (or comments or Facebook messages) from people who don’t like something that I’ve written or – more often – the fact that I, a mother with two small children, write about my life at all is never easy to take. It’s especially not easy to take when said mail takes me to task for, say, writing about the death of my father (which, I have been told, distracts and detracts from bigger and more important tragedies in the world) or for anything that I do that is related to Tanner.

I got an e-mail last night that did both. And while I’m slowly learning to suck up the hate for writing about my father, the Tanner stuff is too raw and too now for me to just gloss over. Tanner is dying. He’s dying quickly, more quickly than we thought that he would at this stage of his life. We had hoped that he make it into his teens. He won’t. So my nerves are a little raw, and getting mail that tells me that I’m exploiting him cuts in a uniquely painful way.


It hurts because it’s something that I worry about. As I wrote in a post some time ago, I’ve felt awkward about writing about Tanner, because it *could* be interpreted as exploitation, simply because writing about Tanner brings traffic and traffic brings dollars. Not a lot of dollars, but still. But not writing about Tanner means not telling his story, and it is a worthy story, an important story, and the cause of raising awareness of Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy – a disease that kills boys, a disease for which there is no cure – is an important one, and if I don’t tell that story, take on that cause, who will? So it goes for running 100 Miles For Tanner, and wearing Tutus For Tanner – these are meant to raise awareness, to get the word out, to make people sit up and look and listen and think and maybe, maybe, click the link to donate, or even just talk to their kids about kids who are different, kids who can’t use their muscles, kids who will die, and if I don’t pursue these avenues of awareness, who will?


My letter-writer stated that I was clearly selfish, running for Tanner at DisneyWorld. It is, after all, DisneyWorld, and my children came with me. Why did I not go visit him instead? Why did I not bring him with me? I could say that I visit him as often as I can. I could say that bringing him – who is in need of much aid when traveling – was very seriously cost-prohibitive. I could say that I’m frantically working to find ways to give him the opportunity to do such things as go to Disney with his cousins. But those are not the point. The point is that I cannot win. And that is why this particular piece of hate mail hit a nerve – because I cannot win, even in my own mind. There is not enough that I can do. And there is no one thing that I can do that would be perfect, that would be above critique, that would be above my own concern that I am doing enough, well enough, in this time that he has left and whatever time thereafter.

I need to not let that discourage me. I need to not let that stop me from doing whatever I can to give what I can to Tanner, and to the cause of raising awareness of Muscular Dystrophy.

But on days like today, that’s hard.

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posted March 17, 2010 at 4:45 pm

For once in my life, I’m speechless. I stared at my screen long enough for the captcha to expire, trying to think of something to say, and everything I typed came out wrong …
I’m so sorry that this ignorant, asinine, PETTY person attacked you in such a personal manner. How dare (s)he attack you for dealing with your grief in your own way. If this person doesn’t want to read, don’t.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve dealt with childhood illnesses and loss that I sympathize. I lost my cousin to leukemia when he was 5. He’d be 23 now.
Perhaps it’s just common sense.
You are doing everything you can. You can only be there so much, and then you have to find something else to do. You have to try to help the next victim, and the next, because you weren’t so lucky.
And, when it’s all said and done, you will remember.
That’s the most important part.
You, as well as Tanner, are in my prayers.
Again … I’m sorry!

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posted March 17, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Please keep writing about Tanner. And anything else that moves you.
Many years ago, when I was in the 3rd grade, the school nurse came and talked to us.
She told us that one of our classmates had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and was going to need help sometimes and that he might get really sick, but nobody knew how quickly he’d get sick. And that maybe he would die. We were 9.
His name was Zeb Oswald and he lived to be 26. He was an amazing man and I think of him everyday, even though we weren’t close in school. It had been 8 years since I’d seen him when I attended his funeral. I don’t remember him going from walking, to using crutches, to a wheelchair, I remember how he was at the top of every class. How he always smiled. I remember he was going to write a book and didn’t get to.
It’s been over 20 years since that day in 3rd grade and it doesn’t seem like any progress has been made in treatment for this disease.
So keep writing. Keep making people aware.
For Zeb, it’s too late. Maybe for Tanner it isn’t. Maybe for the child next year who’s diagnosed it won’t be.

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A Fellow Canadaian Mother

posted March 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Ignore than all. Those small little people that hound you… that is all they deserve. Follow your heart, it is wise and kind and will not lead you astray.

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posted March 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Catherine: I LOVE reading your blog and the subject matter is great and relevant and important – don’t let some poor excuse for a human being let you think otherwise. As the person before me stated -‘don’t read if you don’t like’. You wasted your time on their email. Your nephew is a doll and I pray for him and look forward to many more postings regarding him and his life – and pictures and postings about your angels too!! Hang in there!!

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posted March 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Catherine, There is ALWAYS going to be someone nasty and petty. We can’t let those people get to us.
I recently was in a position where I was questioned by a nun about things that I wrote in my blog. It was a venting post and I was so angry that I used bad language (ok. very bad language, but they were the right words for the job). Worse yet, she was essentially trying to shame me into not sticking up for my daughter. (As if that would happen)
After I explained the context of my words (which I hadn’t laid out fully to protect the innocent as well as the guilty) she seemed to understand, but expressed concern that I have a constructive way to get rid of my bad feelings. “Oh, I do, Sister,” I replied, “I write my feelings into a blog post and then they have been released into the universe”.
We write what we write because we have to. A smug, repressed or self righteous critic doesn’t understand it. and never will. Clearly this person was missing the empathy part of her brain.

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posted March 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I’m in tears for you over here, Catherine. Anyone who reads you, who KNOWS you, knows your heart is in the right place — on Tanner, and on everything you’re involved with. Why this person is kicking you while you’re down… well, I don’t understand it.

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posted March 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm

I’ve just started reading your blog and it’s because of your posts on the hate. I’m really sorry that this is what women on-line must face. My profile is still pretty low so I haven’t got the hate comments (or almost any comments for that matter) yet. All I can say is, keep writing, keep telling your stories and keep following your heart. We need as many strong women’s voices as we can get.

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posted March 17, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Believe what you know is true. Don’t be distracted by those who are sent to distract us from our faith.

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posted March 17, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I am just so sorry .I lost my daughter in January this year, at only four days old, and if people had started sending ME hate mail when i talked about her, I don’t know what in the world I would do. I am just, so so sorry, for you, for your families, and of course for poor Tanner.
Much Love x

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posted March 17, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Oh Catherine,
As someone with a blog that essentially no one reads, I have no experience of hate-mail. But I do have an imagination, and I can imagine how painful it must be.
I’ve read your posts about your father’s death and yes, I’ll admit, I’ve wished you would “get a grip”. But don’t take this wrongly – I asked myself why your grief “bothered” me so much and I discovered that it’s probably because I’m jealous. Yes, jealous – of your grief.
My mother had early-onset dementia from about the age of 60. When she died – suddenly, unexpectedly – in August 2003, I was upset ON THE DAY, and upset AT THE FUNERAL. But I can’t say I felt any real grief. My mother and I were never very close (not enemies either, just not close) and in the last couple of years she had no idea who anyone was and was essentially a vegetable (couldn’t do anything for herself, include sit in a chair). For me, her death left me cold.
And so, when I read your achingly painful posts following your father’s death, yes, I’m jealous. I wish I could have had that much feeling, emotion, sentiment for my mother. She was my mother! I don’t really miss HER, as the person she was, but I do miss having A mother. I feel incomplete, like I’m missing a whole part of my life – the complicity with a mother part.
And so I envy you your feelings for your father, and I wish you would write about them less because of failings in ME. I don’t think I’m cold and emotionless, but seriously, the loss of my mother was more of a relief than anything else. I envy you your feelings, your emotions, your love for your father. I feel bereft of such things with regard to my mother.
I have felt grief, of course – when my first daughter died in utero at 5 months, I was ripped apart with grief, and still feel the pain even now, almost 10 years later.
Conclusion to this ridiculously long comment – don’t let the hate-mail get you down. I’m sure the “haters” have many failings of their own, your words just bring them to light and no one likes to have their failings brought to light. But that’s the haters’ problem, not yours. This is your blog, your space. You write about what you want and if someone doesn’t like it, then they go read something else.
Stay strong, Catherine, your emotions are what we come here for!

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domestic extraordinaire

posted March 18, 2010 at 7:53 am

(((((Catherine)))))) When someone you love is dying, no matter what you do, you will never feel like you have done enough. Please don’t let that guilt rush over you, put that energy to more positive things and please try hard to ignore these hateful comments and emails, like I said at your other place, I can’t imagine and I know its easy for me to say that.
I think the bigger picture is that this person is angry and disturbed and feeding off your reactions. And by giving her the satisfaction of not one but two blog posts directed towards her, well she is just going to get hungrier.

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posted March 18, 2010 at 9:48 am

I have been reading your blog entries just recently… it all started with that ridiculous article that has everyone freaking out. I have to say that I am appalled at how enraged people are getting about the “mom-bloggers”. WHO CARES! Don’t these people have anything better to do with their time then spread hate in wold already full of it? You are a mother who is going through an insanely horrible time right now. To lose a parent, and deal with the inevitable loss of a child, must be unbearable. I cannot even begin to understand. Aside from all of that… why shouldn’t you make money on your blog… IT’S YOUR BLOG! I’m a 31 year old mother of 1, who runs a small online business from home. I have started a meager “mom-blog” myself… and after hearing about all of this, I went right to my blog and signed up for adds. Not because I think I’m going to make millions from them (when no-one reads my sad little blog), but because I can! As far as I can tell, I still live in a free country… so do you. We have the right to WRITE! Someone can go out and tell their life story in a book, and get paid to do it… really, what’s the difference? So, not that you needed my two cents, I say keep on writing. I’m sure it’s good therapy. Goodness know we could all use some of that.
(My thoughts are with you in these trying times)

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posted March 18, 2010 at 12:40 pm

I think that people are just jealous. Plain and simple.
You should be allowed to write whatever you want. As should I. I talk about my impending divorce and have been told to suck it up. Being told that our pain isn’t real, because it isn’t as big as other peoples? Just is insane. It’s real for me. My husband falling out of love with me? Is real. Is going to take time to deal with. You loosing your dad, especially the way you did? Can take years to deal with. Nobody should be allowed to tell you how to feel. It’s your process to write about your emotions, because as writers, this is how we deal. They can always walk away. They should, they just tend to spew first.
Try to remember for ever person who hates, there are 100 times as many reading, holding your hand virtually.

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posted March 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I know you’re not one for a pat on the back, but you deserve a pat on the back for what you’ve done and are doing for Tanner. You also deserve a hug(and I’m not even a hugger).
It’s easy to say “Ignore the trolls”. It’s easy to say “just let it go”. But, like so many things, it’s easier said than done.
Praying for you and Tanner and all your family…and even the stupid trolls. (I think Issa’s right about jealousy.)

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posted March 18, 2010 at 7:37 pm

My enormously valuable two cents: many people who have serious problems of their own write and speak as if they sorta kinda have a clue. I have been prone to take these people seriously because they seem credible. If someone like THAT hits an already sensitive spot of MINE, I end up in long discussions with my friends and husband wherein they spend valuable minutes (hours? ;)) saying, “Noooooo, you’re not a total idiot!!!” So I pose the possibility that some of the hate mail is from the “don’t listen to anyone more messes up than you are” category. (NOT that you’re messed up in any way!) The most messed up people can be deceptively normal-ish.
I didn’t bat an eyelash when I read that you were at DisneyWorld! Nothing about that seemed wrong or strange to me at all. I don’t know…it just didn’t.
And writing about your father’s death? Ummmm, that detracts from what again? Huh? Man, I thought death of a loved one ALWAYS fell under the category of totally appropriate to write about.
I have a child with Autism. She’s 7. I can’t count the dollars we’ve lost to this disability. The bottom line is, things cost MONEY. And disabilities/hospitalizations cost A LOT OF MONEY. If your writing brings dollars, that’s a good thing all by itself. But um, doesn’t that also mean more money FOR Tanner (and your whole family)?
Also, I wonder how many racially and/or sexually exploitative ads, TV shows, and movies this commenter has consumed — THAT’s exploitation. Getting the word out about a disease and its implications is NOT.
I’m so sorry about Tanner, and the pain for your entire family. I cannot begin to fathom it.

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posted March 18, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I’m so sorry — I was reading in a hurry and it was my first visit to your blog — I just realized Tanner is your nephew. Even so, I hold to my original sentiments!

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posted March 18, 2010 at 10:12 pm

I have a simple plan for all the hat.ers — how about they GET UP and change the channel if they don’t like what’s showing? I think that if we’re going to have a real exchange of feelings and ideas, then there need to be some rules of engagement… some r.e.s.p.e.c.t should be a given, not a gift.
I don’t always agree with you, but who the heck cares? You’re not out to change everyone in to clones of yourself… or, wait, were you? 😛
Say what you want to say, the rest of us have your back!

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posted March 19, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I think if they don’t want to hear about your stories. Then don’t read. It’s not like you’re putting a gun to their head and forcing them to read your blog. I, for one, think you are doing a wonderful thing for Tanner. I had never heard about Duchenne’s before and now it’s one of the things I’ve donated money to. Writing about our motherhood and our stories apparently offends some people. I think your writing is amazing. So many times I wish that I could convey my feelings as eloquently as you express yours.
Keep writing. There are more of us out here that support you. Tell the rest to go somewhere else.

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posted March 25, 2010 at 10:02 am

Don’t allow the haters to cast their shadow over the truly beautiful expression of love, however raw & awkward it may feel, that you share here. They’re projecting the black bitterness in their own hearts onto you because it’s all they have. And when they drag you down, they win another victory, because they’ve cast their shadow a little further. Your light is brighter than that. The more they hate, the more fiercely those of us with love in our hearts have to shine.

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posted April 4, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Oh, the internet can be such a confusing place.
On one hand I’m very happy that you are talking about Tanner to raise awareness about his disease. He, and other boys with this disease, deserve this. I am grateful, on this hand, that you blogged about it as I had never heard of it either.
On the other hand I was a bit confused with the Disney trip, and I thought it funny that you ended up not even running, right? Honestly, that was pretty convenient, don’t ya think? I, too, was wondering why Tanner wasn’t invited on this trip or why his family wasn’t rewarded with the money it cost to send your family on this trip rather than the trip itself. That, I know, was out of your hands.
I understand that it would’ve been costly for him to attend, but wouldn’t it have been worth it? I know that this trip wasn’t funded by you, but you would think the “funders” would’ve thought of this.
It is just such a sticky subject either way you look at it. You are doing your own work, though, and that is a good thing. Whatever your porpose and your means to achieving that – work it.

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posted April 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I had to refresh the captcha, and lost my blog URL, so this post is for that.

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posted July 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Don’t you dare let these hateful/jealous people harm your heart.
If I knew what to say to make it better, I’d email you, but I’m human and don’t have the words to bring you peace. If I emailed you anyway it would go something like this:
I’m sorry. This sucks. I’m sorry. I’m listening. I hear you and you torn heart. I’m really sorry. Love to you and yours. Sara

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posted August 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

I read because you’re so honest. There’s no way to guard yourself from others’ criticism or hate, but even if those voices are loud, they’re not the only voices out there.

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Carolina Moore {Expect Moore}

posted August 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I love analogies. Here is one for you:
It is so easy to be the Big Bad Wolf… to run around to all the little piggies houses and blow them down, all under the guise of asking for a cup of sugar.
It is much harder to be a piggie, build a house, and be forced to defend it. To sit inside, worrying that your house is going to fall down on top of you.
Sorry, wolfie, this house isn’t made of straw, or of sticks… this house is made of brick. You cannot, will not blow it down. Don’t even bother knocking here, Mr. Big Bad Wolf!

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