Sentencing!

July 17th, 2020

Well, here we are, finally. On Friday 7/10/2020 I was sentenced to 2 yrs probation, 10K in fines, 61K forfeiture. My lawyers are happy, and I’m relieved it’s over. Life has been a little too exciting for my taste these last few years and I’m looking forward to hanging out and enjoying the plebeian. There will be more political rants, but not today. Today I’m going to the park.

A few have asked if I have a kickstarter or gofundme campaign they can donate to. What you can do instead is make a donation to if/when/how, part of my phenomenal legal team: if/when/how - Lawyering for Reproductive Justice Lawyering for Reproductive Justice

If you’re here for the first time and looking for some background information, the links below will provide some informative detail:

My Interview with Mother Jones: She Started Selling Abortion Pills Online.
Then the Feds Showed Up.

Chelsea Conaboy, February 2019 (March/April issue)

My Blog Post about the raid: What It’s Like When Armed FDA Agents Raid Your Place While You’re Getting the Kids Ready For School
February 11th, 2019

And the original post about my own experience in 2012, that led to all of it: RU486 (Mifeprex/Mifepristone): Buy the abortion pill from an offshore online pharmacy now, save yourself $500 later
November 9th, 2012

What would you think if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

What do I do when my love is away?
Does it worry you to be alone?
How do I feel by the end of the day?
Are you sad because you’re on your own?

No, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

Would you believe in a love at first sight?
Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light?
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, get high with a little help from my friends
Oh, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I just need someone to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Oh, I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends

— The Beatles, 1967

Lyrics by Billy Shears

Lessons from the Mommune

March 4th, 2020

In August 2016, after living alone with my daughter for three years, I took a leap with two other moms with kids the same age, and we rented a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom duplex in a hip section of lower Manhattan. I had met one of them through a mutual friend in the NY dance world. The other we met on coabode.org, a roommate matching service tailored to single moms that want to team up on housing, bills and childcare. Commune living is something I’ve been actively working on for over a decade. I knew since I was about 20, after breaking up with my second boyfriend, that marriage, the two-car garage, picket fence, and lifelong monogamy were not things I was cut out for. It wasn’t just about sexual partners — I’d found sharing much of life with just one other person, be it a roommate or boyfriend, utterly myopic. I wasn’t sure if I wanted children, and when I imagined it, I imagined it alone, or living in a big house full of my friends.

When my daughter was born, her father and I were sharing a 4-story brownstone with a dozen other adults (none of whom had children) in an ambitious attempt at architecting the postmodern commune. I learned a lot about group dynamics in that house, and by the time I was ready to make the leap again a few years after leaving him, I knew that living with other parents, with whom I could trade and split childrearing responsibilities was of paramount importance. I also knew I wanted to live exclusively with other moms. While the modern cry of women with children is to demand that our men equally share the burden of household and parenting responsibilities, I find this is regularly contradicted by the playground-mom past-time of volleying stories of fatherly incompetence with the other exhausted moms. I wanted to live with other soldiers, not rookies.

Shared Values

Our first conference call (for one was arriving from out of the country) centered around a google spreadsheet I shared with the group for collaboration.

Don’t you just WISH you had done this with your spouse before moving in together? Love is blind, and makes us think things like that having great sex means living together will be a breeze. Which is why it’s actually very cool to have a platonic relationship with your co-parents — your perception is not clouded by having your brains fucked out.

Pros: This was incredibly helpful in determining what sort of apartments we should look for. It also served as a casual springboard for conversations about custody arrangements and annual income, which are not generally ice-breakers.

Cons: Not everyone was honest. Gee, kinda like dating. It constantly baffles me that people lie their way into relationships, but oh well, we accept these truths as self-evident. Hell, my ex lied to me about his income so I’d feel safe having a baby with him. Would that we could all accept that we are flawed, push past our fears of rejection, and courageously express our true selves to others right off the bat. Would that others weren’t so easily rattled by what is new and different — for it’s true that people often flee from what is unfamiliar. As I tell my daughter, everyone is a little crazy, you just have to find the people that are crazy like you. The sooner you can get it all out an uncomfortable on the table, the quicker you’ll weed out the people that you don’t jive with and zero in on the kindred nutballs.

The Setup

Real Estate

The three of us co-signed the rental lease, which meant we all had equal footing in terms of rights and obligations, and we all had to be transparent about income in order to figure out what we could afford and qualify for. Home or Lease ownership has a direct influence on your relationships. When I was co-owner of a house with my daughter’s father, living with a bunch of people with tenant status, the power imbalance was a clear obstacle to that fuzzy feeling of an egalitarian commune. If your roommate is also your landlord, you are less likely to go next-door and tell them to turn down their music so you can sleep. Additionally, as the landlord, your assumed role as ‘fixer’ means fielding copious requests for repairs, even when you’re also working a full-time job, taking care of a baby, and paying the equivalent of your tenants towards the mortgage each month. When it comes to decision-making, Democracy is slower and messier than a benevolent Monarchy, but I unquestionably prefer it. Regardless of how you arrange it, transparency and consensus are critical.

We measured all the bedrooms that the moms would occupy (the kids would share the fourth), divided the total rent by the combined square footage to ascertain a price per square foot, then multiplied that by the square footage of each bedroom to determine each occupant’s rent obligation. In retrospect, the prices between bedrooms were pretty drastic, and I think a better formula would have incorporated shared-use spaces into the equation as such:

bedroom price = bedroom area * total rent/total square feet

There are also factors like windows, privacy, balcony access, or which floor a room is on that can alter the perceived value of a space. Regardless of what your equation looks like, the numbers should “feel” right to everyone, and make it difficult to choose. You know you’ve got it wrong if one room has way higher demand.

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Styes, Chalazions, and Cloves, Oh my! A Holistic Remedy For Your Swollen, Bumpy Eyelid

September 10th, 2019

I’m not going to get into definitions of styes and chalazions, but I suffered with a chalazion for about a week until my friend A insisted on whipping up a clove infusion, over my protests that I was handling it just fine. It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten one, and before it had gone away on it’s own. I’d been applying warm washcloths as compresses, but only succeeded in making the skin around my eye raw and sensitive like that worn spot that develops under your snotty nose in winter. At times it seemed to be getting worse.

My friend A was born and raised in Morocco, where she learned this home remedy from her mother. She gave me a single clove to chew on while she worked. She instructed me to soften the tip with my front teeth, and then dab it along my eyelid as I would with an eyeliner. It stung a bit. I don’t think this served any functional purpose except to warm me up for what was to come.

She presented me with a brown liquid in a cup – clove mashed into room-temperature water. She dabbed a bit with her finger and motioned around her entire eyelid and underneath. I did as she said: “Go all around, keep the eye closed.”

The sting crept up slowly and then hit with the force of a jalapeño, but a thousand times worse, because your mouth is used to that sort of thing and your eye ISN’T. I gasped and whined at how much it stung. She insisted I wait. I reached for the wet washcloth on the table in front of me, which elicited another “Please, please! Wait!” She didn’t stop my hand or move the washcloth out of reach. Just this quiet plea followed a promise that the sting would go away. My eye poured tears while we both fanned my face, and I wondered for a culpable moment if there was any reason this woman I’ve known for 6 years, that my daughter looks to like an auntie, would harbor the kind of ill-will that would prompt her to want to blind me. Oh yeah — if you try this at home, DON’T do it alone the first time, or you’re likely to call 911 to report that you may have accidentally blinded yourself. THAT is how much it hurts. Have a fan or AC closeby, the cool air will ease the burning feeling. Keep your eye closed.

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Disarming the Narcissist – Case Study 2: The Narcissist’s Asshole Attorney

May 29th, 2019

“I’ll take a reasonable lawyer with a crazy client over a crazy lawyer with a reasonable client any day.”

These words of wisdom were uttered over coffee one midtown afternoon by my friend C. She was relaying HER attorney’s advice, as I was pouring my heart out over the nonsensical, twilight zone custody case I was embroiled in with my Narcissist ex.

Newsflash: It’s NOT About the Kid

It took me a year and a half and $50K in legal fees, AFTER having agreed to waive child support and single-handedly pay for preschool, to figure this out. It’s actually about keeping YOU – his Narcissistic Supply. The crazy thing is, the Narc and I don’t actually disagree on a lot of parenting decisions, even in the course of settlement discussions. The difference between us and the other fighting parents is that when I agree to something, he quickly finds some way to change it in order to keep arguing. And whenever I evade his attempt to use the kid as a creepy excuse to hang around me, he needs to file a motion and howl at the judge about what a terrible person I am. Why? Well, he was raised in an Arabic Muslim household for one thing, and yes, women in this culture are considered chattel. He was physically abused by his stepmother, who was the housekeeper prior to marrying his father — a father who openly admits that he didn’t love the woman, but needed someone to take care of him after the divorce. Voilà – Cluster B personality disorder (NPD). Narcissist’s don’t actually WANT agreement. They want a fight (aka Supply), and when you give in to the crazy demands he’s put together to spark a fight, they’ll find something else.

I was his property, and once I left the house I was out of his control. So custody of our daughter was the way he was going to punish me for my disobedience. Abusive men just LOVE taking the kids from mom upon divorce, only to dump them on a nanny or girlfriend, go figure. This was exactly what my ex wanted to do – and why not? That’s what his childhood looked like once his parents divorced. “No,” I thought, “you will not replace her mother with the fearful, illiterate, subservient nanny.” By retaining primary residential custody, I believe I broke the cycle of emotional disorders running through his family and spared my daughter a lifetime of suffering. He was fine with this as long as I waived child support, which was no problem for me, and the lawyers at our first four-way remarked that this was going to be a walk in the park. But once my ex realized it was going to be over and done, he did everything he could to prevent settlement. It’s a type of stalking, and the state of Tennessee passed a bill in 2018 annotating Title 29 to address this problem clogging up the court system.

Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. — Charles Lamb

Yes, he is a total piece of work. But his attorney was far, far worse. Because this guy had a license to practice law, the ability to translate my ex’s clingy requests into plausible-sounding parenting demands, and no skin in the game – except that he could make more money, the more he stirred up our conflict. I discovered a parallel between the business of being an attorney the business of being a web developer: the newbies will attempt to sell the client on a lot of BS they don’t need so they can inflate the billable hours, and those of us that know what we’re doing and get more work offers than we can handle — we’re just trying to get you and your project out of our hair with ample scalability and backwards compatibility to minimize ongoing maintenance (aka, “keep it simple, stupid”). You get what you pay for. The $200-300/hr lawyer will make scrivener’s errors, stir up conflict, and drive your case to trial. The $500-700/hr lawyer will get documents right in 1-2 drafts, push you towards a deal and save you thousands in misery. The catch is, you don’t get to choose both lawyers in this sticky foursome. I had the high-priced, googleable attorney who took the high road and looked for mechanisms to manage conflict, while he had a younger, more aggressive attorney that seemed desperate to prove something. An attorney whose ill-fitting suits never matched, whose office was at WeWork, and whose personal assistant was (wait for it…) his MOTHER. When push came to shove my attorney did pull some very good moves, and her advice was filled with insightful observations about human nature and conflict. But in many ways I felt like yet another proof of the old adage that nice guys finish last, and she too would at times be blindsided by the sudden 180 the other side would do after we’d made positive headway in negotiations. You need an attorney that has enough clientele that she’s not interested in billing you up the wazoo (which means she IS the sort that negotiates to keep you OUT of court — these are highly sought after), AND who can spot the kind of opposition that wants to prolong the fight. And when she does see it, she must ruthlessly push for the exposure and high costs of a trial.

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What It’s Like When Armed FDA Agents Raid Your Place While You’re Getting the Kids Ready for School

February 11th, 2019


I think there were 8 or 10 of them. Most of them wore beige, bulletproof vests. Some vests said FDA. They had guns, but left them in the holsters. I hadn’t actually noticed until my roommate said her son later told her they had guns.

My roommate had answered the door. I was downstairs with my daughter, helping her select a different dress when I heard a man’s voice. I got up and walked through the kids’ room to see a beige and black clad man with a crewcut coming down the stairs. He asked for me by name. He asked if anyone else was down there besides us, emphatically and repeatedly. I said no. I followed him upstairs.

In the kitchen he informed me that they had a Search and Seizure Warrant related to the distribution of pharmaceuticals without a prescription over the internet. I don’t remember if I nodded or perhaps I said “ok.” In the movies, people scream at the monsters, but in real life, we get quiet in the face of terror.

My daughter was still in her underwear. One of the men asked if we could put some clothes on her. The the beige and black agent – let’s call him Agent P, was the apparent mouthpiece for the group of men milling about my apartment. He explained that they would conduct a search of the entire premises. Wait — they weren’t all men. In the stream of puffy crewcut, midwestern faces, there was a black woman, S. She had an interesting name and demeanor that I liked.

I don’t remember the next 40 minutes clearly. In my head it plays out like a jumble of disconnected vignettes. Agent P asking my roommate, if she could get the two kids to school so I could stay. Another agent asking if that was what I was wearing to work, adding that if I needed to change, then Agent S (the token female) would accompany me to my room — and if I needed to use the bathroom she would accompany me there too. They wanted to ask me some things, someplace private. I remember explaining to them that I had work meetings I had to get to in the morning but otherwise could take the rest of the day off. Agent P told my roommate that she had signed for some of the packages. She nodded with a confused frown. I felt terrible. I interrupted to tell him she didn’t know about any of this stuff. They found both my phones, personal and work, and asked if there were any more in the apartment. I said no. A notification came up on my personal phone. The agent holding it showed it to Agent P without a word and they exchanged looks. Later on, Agent P would explain the evidence-gathering and forensics that they would perform on my computer and hard drives for evidence like the message that came up on the phone. Another agent asked me about my storage space. He wanted to know where it was, and if I could take them there. I showed them on google maps. They moved back and forth through the building hallway, holding the apartment and building doors open to create a passage between the innards of my apartment and their cars parked at the curb. I lamented outloud about what my neighbors would think. They said that they had told them they were there to investigate a rat infestation. Right. Armed FDA agents investigating a rat infestation. The next day a friend in Boston called me to tell me that a friend of his from the neighborhood called him to exclaim I’d been arrested by the Feds.

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