Interviewee: Maria Filippone (MF)
Interviewer: Ashley Hunter (AH)
Date: October 29th, 2015
Time: Approx. 9 am- 10am
Location: Ritual Café
AH: Okay, so if you can start off by stating your name
MF: Uhm, my full name?
AH: Uhm, just you’re first and last… so yeah
MF: Maria Filippone
AH: Okay, uhm, so tell me about your childhood (laughing) this is so weird.
MF: Well, I was born October 11, 1971. I grew up in Webster city Iowa I was born in Fort Dodge, my uhm, mother is from northwestern Iowa, of Swedish ancestry. My father is an immigrant from Columbia South America, his father was an immigrant to Columbia from Lebanon. My dad is half Arab half Columbian and my mom is like American (laughs) of Swedish Ancestry. I have 4 sisters, I grew up in small town Iowa, with an immigrant father, so we were like really- we stuck out. Uhm, it was fine. I was raised Catholic, I went to a catholic elementary school, my father is a surgeon, and he worked a ton, throughout my childhood so my mother, was basically like a single mom.
MF: Uhm, She did her best, she did a good job. Uhm, so what else do you want to know.
MF: I have four sisters, I’m the second oldest.
AH: Second oldest?
AH: Tell me about school, how did you like school, like high school, elementary school?
MF: Oh, well I was in a catholic elementary school, and I was like, such a good little catholic girl. Like I would- used to like- because we had mass every Friday, we had religious ED every day, you know.
MF: So I used to – I used to fast on Good Friday, until I would have just like bread and water, some cheeses on Good Friday until Easter Sunday. Like I yeah.
MF: (Laughing) funny. Uhm, we had nuns who were teachers, and one of them was really mean, and she’d been crippled by polio as a kid. So she walked with a brace on her foot and she was yeah- she was probably just misunderstood. (Laughing). And then one of the nuns was young and beautiful and I loved her. Then another nun, Sister Teresa who I had in sixth grade, she was awesome, she was like my first taste of feminism. So I remember, one time in class she was talking about Eleanor Roosevelt and what a role model she was for women and she was for? Human rights, and then I heard her mumble under her breath except she was pro-abortion. And I was like, what? What does this mean?
MF: It’s like whatever, yeah. But yeah I mean I had- it was pretty good I mean there were some really kind of messed up things about going to a catholic school, like some of the teachers, what they did would be considered abuse now.
AH: Did they like whip you with rulers? I’ve heard that happens
MF: Yeah, I mean yeah, I remember this boy Steve and in the second grade uhm, he probably had ADHD, but there wasn’t a diagnosis then, and he was just you know hyper active couldn’t sit still and was always talking, ya know he was a nice kid he just didn’t? You know, so the teacher made him pull his pants down, bend over the desk, and she spanked him with a yard stick- in front of the entire class.
MF: Can you imagine how humiliating that was for him? So yeah I mean like and sister theona the one who had the Polio, she would walk around while we were learning to write in cursive and if we weren’t holding our pencils lightly enough like she would, she though we should hold them so lightly that she should be able to grab them out of our hands while we were writing? If we didn’t, if you were holding too tightly she would take a ruler and hit our fingers.
MF: So yeah, and there are other examples, those are the…
AH: Did you go to a catholic high school?
AH: Okay, (laughs) so you went to a public one?
AH: Okay, so how was that?
MF: Oh it was fine, I mean, ya know. It was fine.
AH: It was fine? Uhm-
MF: I mean good and bad.
MF: Ya know. It was the late 80’s…
AH: That’s true, how did high school shape you to like, figure out what you wanted to do in your life? If that makes sense.
MF: Well, uhm, well my dad had always told me from the time I was one that I was going to be a doctor.
MF: So that I think had a greater shaping on me going to med school than anything.
AH: Than school did?
MF: Yeah, so…
AH: Uhm, so how did having an immigrant father affect you being in a small town? Did you have any backlash? Or anything like that?
MF: Yeah, yeah uhm, definitely, my dad, I mean, yeah there was yeah.
MF: There’s racism, to anybody that’s different I mean even if you’re not like, even If you’re not African American, or if you’re Arab, or Hispanic or, there is racism, and also we were well off, we always lived well beneath our means, but it is clear that we were well off so that maybe played a role too.
AH: Yeah, so. Uhm, tell me about college. How was college? (5:55)
MF: College, oh my gosh college, I went to the University of Iowa, my parents made us all go to the community college and live at home one year- the first year, of college, that was when I, my mom, my mother and I were at each other throats. We did not get along at all.
AH: Yeah I understand that.
MF: And it was a hard year with me staying at home, (what?), then I transferred to the University of Iowa, as a sophomore and lived in the dorms or whatever, and uhm, I had amazing- I made a wonderful little life for myself, in college. I made amazing friends, I started volunteering with the rape crisis center, and that really empowered me, because I became really… I became really good at public speaking, through my work there, I always kind of had a knack for it. Because I won a speech contest in 5th and 6th grade, but… and then I was an advocate and crisis hotline? Helped survivors, and then I like, took women’s studies courses and I had a research job, at university of Iowa hospitals and clinics, in the (what)? Center and the radio chemistry lab, where I would help synthesizing pharmacticals that were to be injected in patients for ? Scans. And I would analyze the purity stuff and I actually got published on an article with my boss
AH: Oh that’s awesome
MF: So yeah, so it was uhm – so I had all these different interests, which was good, uhm, some great friends. Oh my gosh you can’t yeah. Had some good times.
MF: Well… partied hard. I didn’t get into med school the first year I applied, so I stayed and did a year of post bachelorette classes, and more research retook my mcats and then I got accepted.
AH: Oh, okay.
MF: The second time. So…
AH: How was medical school?
MF: I started medical school in August of 95, it was horrible, the first semester I was just ready to die, no I was, I mean, it was miserable. Uhm, it was like culture shock. I moved from Iowa City, like, this liberal haven, to Kansas City which is awesome, but it’s like on the cusps of like the bible beating south. You know?
MF: There was so much yeah- and I was so not used to that. And it was so like ugh. And all of these people in my class, were just like narrow minded. And before I left Iowa city I had, like this, my boss and this friend I worked with in the research job, threw me a party and gave me two bumper stickers, and I put them on my car, and one was “god is coming and is She’s pissed” and the other one was Flush rush and like I wasn’t-I didn’t want to put the flush rush on my car because that’s just mean. But the god is coming and is she pissed, I was like that’s awesome! So I put it on my car, uhm, and, this guy mineesh, in my med school class, an Indian guy, who was pretty liberal, he was just like oh cause all of our instructors would frequently mention God and like Christianity and whatever, and I never like- I was always like whatever. Let it go. But one of them particularly, in a lecture, a medical school lecture, was talking about god and Jesus, and he, and mineesh said to me after the lecture in the break, he said, what did you think about that rant? And I was like oh, whatever. And then he like said, oh, cited me bumper sticker, and this guy chad, was from Texas, or somewhere in the south, freaked out on me, it’s like you weren’t even part of this conversation dude, “god is a man, Jesus Christ was a man, that’s a fact, that’s an absolute truth. And he was like totally screaming at me, over and over and over and I was like dude, this isn’t even your convo. So yeah, that was like that. Yeah I had a rough, really rough first semester, but then like I sucked it up then, hum, got you know- met Bob at the end of first semester, my husband. But we were just friends at first, even though the first time I met him I knew I was going to marry him.
AH: Oh, you knew you were going to marry him?
MF: Yeah, I don’t know how- it was just weird.
AH: Just a feeling?
MF: Yeah- hum, but then finally second semester I was like oh I made some good friends finally, and started dating bob, second semester and it was like, okay, I can do this even though you’re like in it and you’re like- once you’re in it you feel like I can’t leave no matter how miserable I am. I can’t leave this because I have so much invested in it. So—
AH: So, if you would have left medical school- what would you have done?
MF: I don’t know maybe go back and get my PhD in women’s studies and be a professor or something – I don’t know.
AH: What part of medicine did you practice?
MF: Uhm, well okay so… so I met bob, we- the first night I met him I knew I was going to marry him. Because we went to this mutual party, it was November 7th 1995, and school had been cancelled because it had snowed that day in Kansas City it was a Friday. And uhm, they only have like one snow plow for the whole city even though it snows every winter. I’m being sarcastic, uhm, and you know people like get so nervous if they get like this much snow there. Uhm, we went to this party and then we were leaving we uh we went with mutual friends that how I met him, cause he knew my friend Scottie, who lived across the hall, so? Scottie and I went- picked up Rachel and bob and (what)? Yeah well I was in Scotties apartment cause I was going to borrow a leather jacket and he was in the shower, and the phone rang and he said get it and I got it, and anyways, it was bob, and I said hello, and he said hello, and he said who’s this, and I said who’s this? And he’s like I asked you first, who’s this? Bob and I said oh bob what’s your name spelled backward and he said Joe. And I’m like scots in the shower, call him back in 5 minutes, then I left. Then we picked him up, then went to this party and he was kind of funny and goofy, and I thought oh he’s cute and I’d like to get to know him- it wasn’t like omg I love him. And then were leaving the party and its slick and I have shitty boots on and no traction and were singing- Rachel and Scott were helping me cause I had to walk up this uhm hill to get to the car and I couldn’t get traction and were singing what’s up by 4 non blondes? Do you know that song?
MF: It’s really good – listen to it.
AH: Okay, I will
MF: And were just singing at the top of our lungs, and it was like one in the morning, and uhm bobs like, see you need to get good shoes like this you’ll never wipe out with this. And he put his foot- he’s wearing doc martin boots – and he put his foot down and *boom* right on his ass. And I ended up biting my tongue from saying: this is a story well tell our grandkids about some day. Because that thought came into my head and I was like whoa, where’s that from I was like whoa! So yeah, so that’s it. So then we got engaged the end of June, that was 95- we got engaged end of June 96, but we had a 13 month engagement, but we lived together, lived in sin. But it was like really good cause like I am so grateful that we lived together before we got married because I knew what the hell I was getting into.
AH: Yeah that’s true, instead of just jumping right into it.
MF: Right, uhm yeah, so then we were together and uhm, we- so we got married, end of second year of med school, we planned on trying to start a family right away, cause we were med students and we knew exactly all-everything that had to be right for a pregnancy to work and I just figured it would take a while. Well, right after our honeymoon I got pregnant. (Laughing) like it took nothing. Uhm, I used to joke, all I had to do was think about it and I’d get pregnant. Uhm, so we had our first child, at the end of third year of med school, uhm and we thought, we were so naive I would not recommend it to anybody it was incredibly intense, for a few years. Uhm, so we had all these wedding gifts that stayed in storage at my parent’s house, because we didn’t have our own place, so we lived- we did rotations- clinical rotations between New Jersey and Iowa and some in Florida.
MF: Because his family was in new jersey and mine was in Iowa, and we were in Florida for some of the time while I was pregnant- a great deal of time actually and so we-then we- we each month moved between new jersey and Iowa and did our clinical- like one clinical rotation here then traveled 19 hours straight with the baby to do one here, and then did that again, you know. So we could be with family so they could take care of her while we worked.
MF: Did rotations until? Some rotations you have to take call we were a student so we don’t? And uhm, then she started daycare when she was 9 months old. And, uhm, but I am lucky that I didn’t have to put her in daycare before that so we can be a family? But so it was hard, we graduated from med school and then I uhm, -I’m sorry
AH: You’re fine.
MF: Uhm, and then what was I going to say? Oh- so then we graduated from med school and we did our rotating internship here in Des Moines, at Des Moines general hospital which is no longer a hospital, uhm, and we had—I had a wonderful year. Uhm, okay so like 4th year of med school you have to pick your specialty and then you interview for it, and I have faced a lot of discrimination when I was pregnant as a med student at one particular hospital in New Jersey, New Jersey Christ hospital in the city New Jersey? By the people in administration because I was pregnant. It was horrible, actually. It was really horrible. And my school finally said- because I kept calling my school, saying and then they’re doing this finally they said if you, promise not to- and I hadn’t said I’m going to pursue this legally, but I did say you know, this is illegal what they are doing. I need you to back me up and they wouldn’t. So they finally said you can schedule your rotations wherever you want-just done pursue legal action. And I was like thanks for the support, like I wasn’t going to- I just wanted you to say that, you can’t discriminate against a student because she’s pregnant.
MF: You can’t tell her she can’t pump breast milk, you can’t tell her ya know, I mean it was horrible- the discrimination.
AH: They told you, you couldn’t pump?
MF: Right, they told- yeah. They told me- they told me first they weren’t going to take me because we were moving there from Florida I was like 7 months pregnant and I was going to give birth there, and we were- it was like one week before we were to move there and all I had heard from the school was your rotation is set up- you’re doing emergency medicine and Roberts doing internal medicine for the first month and then, you know. So I called about getting information about when and where do we meet on the first day and the lady is like, we don’t know if we’re going to take you because you’re pregnant. She was like were going to take your husband, and I was like how’d you even know I was pregnant, your school told us. OH, my what? So if you tell me, you are going to tell me if you go into labor early we lose two med students and not one, as if med students are that important. They’re scum monkeys, you know? They do the scum work. And then she’s like oh, and we can’t provide housing for pregnant students and I said first of all I’m living with my in-laws, never asked for housing. Secondly I can’t believe you’re saying this. And do you have insurance because we can’t provide it, do you have this, do you have that and it was terrible. So then I hung up, and I called my school and I’m like- I said this is what they said, they were like well let me handle it. So then they said well you can come, but there were all these conditions. Uhm, and then I get there. And the director of the program didn’t even know that this woman was saying this I think he didn’t know because I eventually did a rotation under him uhm and he was awesome, he loved me. But my first rotation was emergency medicine and dr. somar, the head of the Ed, at the end when he had to do my evaluation said I’ve never had such a brilliant, wonderful, med student. She’s the best med student I’ve ever had. And gave all these examples why and like ended up writing a letter of recommendation for me for residency. Uhm, and then I had gestational diabetes and I think part of it- I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy I think part of it is genetic and I think another part of it is more largely stress related. Uhm, and I ended up having my child, right at 37 weeks, which is 3 weeks earlier than they had expected but I went into labor and it couldn’t stop. Uhm so then we, when she was just ten days old we flew back to Iowa, and I went back to work a week- like two weeks after she was born. I did radiology her in Iowa with a colleague of my dad’s. So I was uhm, so it was like half a day’s work this guy worked so it was awesome. So I was able to be a mom and then bob was doing- I don’t remember what rotation, emt or something, and uhm, then we went back after six weeks, to new jersey to do more rotations, another month of rotations, two months, and I had this manual breast pump, cause I couldn’t afford and electric one and that was before insurance paid for it, and they put a conundrum on it for me. You have to be in the hospital from 7 am to 7 pm, those are your hours, and you can’t leave the hospital grounds during that time. So I- there was no place for me to pump. So there was this stupid little room, in the residence lounge, with windows that were high, but would- one time I went in to pump and I sat at the door so nobody could get in and I was pumping and someone looked up over, I don’t know who it was, and they reported me. And I was- and it was a resident- not a student- and I went- she, the administrative secretary, whatever, she said, you are NOT allowed to pump on hospital grounds. I said well where can I pump? You have to give me a place to pump. It’s at the dorms across the street. And I said well you won’t let me use the dorms, and she’s like but you’re not allowed to leave the grounds from 7 am to 7 pm, even to cross the street. Even though everybody left any time they had free time. Like the residents lived across the street, ya know, go home and chill and watch TV. If they had free time if it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. So yeah- so it was really stressful, and then oh! When I had been rotating in internal medicine after my ER rotation, kay I was a med student living off of loans, didn’t even have my own, ya know, apartment, I was living with my in-laws, so I had limited maternity clothes, and I was getting evaluated by one of the doctors who did my? And they were assholes, they were cocky and rude, and he wrote0 cause he had to write professional attire like evaluate and he’s like pretty okay for a pregnant girl. That’s what he said. I was like, I’m here clean, professional attire every day. Yeah it’s not snazzy, but ya know it’s like khakis and a shirt you know. And my white coat.
AH: Oh, that’s terrible.
MF: So at the time I picked my specialty, here’s my point. At the time I picked my specialty I was really disenchanted with medicine. I was in love with my baby girl, and so torn every day that I left her to go deal with that shit. And I’m leaving missing these precious moments of her life. So I ended up applying for radiology for the wrong reasons, because it’s a good life style, although look at my husband he’s not a good example of that because he works like 80 hours a week. He chooses to, you don’t have to, but- and it’s good pay. ? Reimbursement. So I picked that even though I’ve always wanted to do OBGYN.
AH: Oh, that’s what my mom did.
MF: Is she retired?
AH: Uh, yeah she loved it so much when we moved here she wanted to go back, but she just never did. She does transplants now.
MF: Really transplants?
AH: Yeah she’s a manager, she used to be a coordinator, and she just moved herself up.
MF: Cool, that’s good. So no, I when I was pregnant with Gloria my obertrition in jersey, so she was like what do you want to practice? And I said I want to do what you’re doing. And I said I want to do abortions. Because I’m prochoice I want to. So she said, like the next visit she said, I’m going to tell you this, if you are fine with the fact that someone else, will raise your child more than you do OB, if you are not okay with that, at all, do not do OB. And that like hit me. And I was like okay, thank you. And anyways, so then, because of all of that I switched my, I switched what I? And uh, bob started, he was like the weirdo med student that always wanted to specialize in whatever he was doing. If he was doing? He wanted to do? If he was doing EMT oh I want to do EMT. Oh I think I want to be an orthopedic surgeon, like shit or get off the pot dude. Don’t be so wishy washy, and change your mind all the time. And so he ended up looking into radiology and he really liked it, so we were applying together doing couples match, which is a hard thing to do, when you’re matching for residency. Not many people get in the same city or state even. But we were both- we didn’t match so we were doing the scramble- which is another thing- and they wanted to interview him at metro health hospital which is part of kaywestern? In Cleveland because he had a bigger-stronger GPA than me, because I had like all c’s my first semester, and after my first semester I had no c after that, but ya know my GPA wasn’t as beautiful as his. So they wanted to interview him, and he said well can my wife just come along and then they were like, calling him back and they’re like well okay we will interview her too. And then they interviewed us separately and I guess we both said the same thing, they-they asked us both the same questions, and we didn’t plan it we just said. And they said if we could take just one of you who should we take? And we both said – like I said take him, I’ll figure out something and then he said take her I’ll figure out something. And then they ended up giving both of us a spot. Okay so this was 4th year med school, but then we had internships after and that was here. And I got to tailor my schedule a great deal, they gave me a lot of leeway dr. reemer who is an OBGYN here and he did abortions, he did 2nd tri abortions too, so he was one out of two people in the state that did that. He’s retired now but he sort of took me under his wing. Cause me- he was very sarcastic and he is very intelligent, and he’s not always approachable. I went up to him, and he was scrubbing in for his C-section and I was like hi I’m so and so and I hear you do abortions can you teach me, ya know, his first reaction was no, and then I was like okay thanks for your time. And then he was like okay, I’ll give you exposure but I won’t teach you. And then I just sort of wormed my way in. I ended up doing like a few on my own he trusted me so much, and I tell you, that is- that was really super, gratifying work. And I know like, I get excited? Against abortion and I get it’s a hard thing, but they can only speak for themselves, they can’t speak for anybody else. You have no right to take that away from any other woman because were not in the same shoes. But I truly felt like I was really helping women, and he said- so I would spend every free Saturday I wasn’t on service with him, in his clinic doing abortions. Uhm I would- every time I was on another service I had an afternoon of downtime I would say can I go to dr. remmers office and not just- because he only did abortions twice a week, but I would just do OBGYN and OB, help deliver, I mean just a whole range of ? And then I was able to switch some of my other rotations so I could be with him so I was with him like 3 months total that year plus whatever free time I had. And I adored him, and he said right before we were to move to Cleveland, like in June or may of 2000, I was in a surgery with him, and he said to the scrub nurse, can you believe that these hands are going to be wasted on a radiologist. I was like wasted? Rude! And then right before I left, it was a Saturday I was in his office, watching him do abortions and we were in the lab and he said here, you go to Cleveland, you do OB, you come back here, I turn my practice over to you.
AH: What did you say?
MF: I was like I’m very honored, thank you, I’m going to do radiology though, but thank you. And then I- we went to Cleveland, and I was miserable doing radiology. It was miserable leaving my daughter at day care at 7/6:30 in the morning, and getting her at 5/6 at night. And I looked into trying- and I looked into transferring into OBGYN but it was like, that wasn’t even much better, it’s actually a worse life style. And I really wanted to just stay at home and finger paint with her, just be with her. And a lot of the female residence like they got it, they understood, they felt the same way like, how precious it is to like be at home with your baby. Cause she was 2 and a half- 3 by now. And then, I met with different- interviewed with different family practice positions, I considered coming back here and splitting up our family, Gloria and I would come back here and I would finish family practice here and be under dr. remmer’s wing. But I couldn’t, when it came down to it I couldn’t, take her away from her dad. And I also, the program here, was unsure because they were- they eventually closed a year later, which was good that I didn’t come back but, ya know. So things were up in the air, about that. So then it was like, okay- so then I was like okay, I’m going to quit radiology, and I had been turned down from one position, for family practice positon, but then- I got offered two other positions. And I hadn’t made up my mind yet but I was like I’m going to take 5 months off, so I went through July of 2001, I was like I want to paint my house, in Cleveland and I want to do all these things, with glory, ya know. Have home cooked meals, sew a costume for her for Halloween, and I want to do all this shit- and I did, like the first day I was free I like painted the kitchen. And then yeah, and then September 11th happened, it was 2001 and it was like, I don’t know, everyone was like rethinking everything, ya know? Like wow, what do you really want to, you know, do? Time is your most important resource, how do you want to spend it? And I was like, I don’t even want to go back, I want to be a stay at home mom, I want another child, I can’t do this right- I mean it was crazy. It was like so much pressure on us, its like were, and I mean it was crazy how hard it was. And he was like okay I support you, and my dad didn’t speak to me for 2 and a half months, when I left medicine, my mother was really disappointed. But eventually they came around, and yeah- so. And yeah, that fall- or no, I’m sorry, it was December when I made up my mind, 2001. And a few weeks later, the beginning of January, I was trying to get pregnant and I got pregnant again right away and the director of the family practice program that rejected me called me and said we’d like to offer you a spot after all, I was like thank you that’s so kind but i-ive made other plans. If you don’t mind me asking what are they? And I told her and she’s like oh good luck, and the reason she gave me when I asked her why they rejected me the first time, you seemed overly interested in the call schedule and I said well, my husband is a resident here in radiology, and when I was a resident with him, we didn’t have to worry about conflicting call schedules, because we were in the same program. We wouldn’t be on call the same night. It’s kind of important if I’m in another program, because we could potentially be on call the same night and we have a young child and no family in town. Like how would we manage that? That’s why I was interested. Like there’s no though as to like that, ya know, there’s no- like such a whatever, jerk. I was like really? I seemed overly interested in the call schedule and also in my head I was trying to compare it to the OBGYN call schedule, I had been exposed to- I had been told about from the OBGYN head because I was like now really is there that much difference in the call because if there isn’t I might as well do OBGYN. But whatever.
AH: So tell me about, cause you’re going- where are you going on your trip in a couple of months?
MF: Egypt. Oh, ghazi.
AH: Ghazi, what got you into that? Doctors without borders types of things?
MF: Uhm, I always, I grew up, in a house with the Arab perspective, the Arab narrative on the Israel- Palestinian conflict from my dad and my mom. And that is a perspective that is missed here in the US. We have a pretty proziounous pro-Israel perspective on the conflict. It’s changing but yeah, so. But then I had friends I met and made in college, like you meet on Arab, you pretty much meet them all because they are like so friendly and inclusive, so ya know I like, I had- all of a sudden I had all these Arab friends. They were Jordanian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, I mean all of these- this group. So I dated a Palestinian, one of them and just his narrative of his childhood was so different than mine, and it just really struck me, it was like oh yeah we would throw rocks at the tanks. I was like what? And I’d be like what? Anyways, so that kind of, I don’t know. And it’s just the growing inequality and how we just don’t give a group of people their basic human rights. And that happens in many places in the world, like I get that, but we don’t give other places 10 million dollars a day of our tax dollars. Ya know? My tax dollars aren’t directly- I guess in some cases- I get that. (Pause) I’m sorry I have to see if it’s my kid.
AH: No, it’s okay.
MF: So I don’t know, I just feel like this is something I can do, so I need to do it. So I’m going with this group called Washington’s physicians for social responsibility. Washington state, not D.C. and they’ve made several trips to ghazi before, and it is a medical mission, this will be my first time with them and I’m excited- really excited. I think there is like 19 of us going.
AH: Oh 19? That’s great!
MF: And were from all over the country. So…
AH: Okay, that’s cool! Uhm, I’m trying to think of more questions, Uhm, do you want to tell me about your kids?
MF: Sure (laughs) Gloria day she’s 17, Gloria Daya Eleanor ieda. Ieda was my aunt’s name, something Arabic name. Uhm, she’s, 13 and Francesca Maria, she’s 8.
AH: Has Gloria decided where she wants to go to college?
MF: She’s applying, she would love- she is brilliant, she has like a 4.2, she’s incredibly smart, she’s incredibly talented and she also has a work ethic like nobody you’ve ever seen before. So she- she wants to do musical theater, she wants to be on Broadway, no doubt she will be there. She really wants to go to NYU, she likes NYU, and she really wants to be in New York City. But it is hard to get into tish and I’m like we will see but I would love it if she got in there, but this is a kid who for one year before we did our production of rent because we have our children’s theater, we started- she- one of her dream roles was Mimi in rent, and the thing of being the daughter of the people who founded the company is that you have to work 3x as hard to be taken half as seriously. So she has to work extra hard to get her roles. So she for 1 year before hand, would run 3-4 miles a day, every day, on the treadmill to train for this role, and she would sing the songs on the treadmill that Mimi sings in rent, while she was running to practice. Like totally researched the show, I mean she works her butt off, anything this kid does she earns. And another example when we did- we just did columbine as our season opener this year of the columbine high school shooting, she auditioned for it. And she had the best audition, the best. And the best call back, and she didn’t get the part because we had a- our mission to stand by and we wanted to- we were more honored- we had to honor that so she didn’t get a part. And it broke our hearts not giving her a part but she ended up being stage manager and assistant director did some choreography for it and then ended up getting a part in rocky horror picture show at the garden, so it worked out. So I said are you bummed you didn’t get a part in columbine and she said no cause then I wouldn’t have been able to do rocky horror. So it worked out- but how would it have looked to the public that were always casting our daughter? Ya know, and we needed new blood in there too and we got some really great new youth from wakkey, valley, who joined, so yeah. We had some new blood, some new youth, so that was great. They were wonderful. But yeah, she killed auditions, killed it.
AH: What made you want to start your theater group?
MF: It started in 2008 and it started in the basement of our church. There were just not enough opportunities for kids to do theater and so bob met with our minister and he was like I would like to can we do this here and he’s like sure- go for it. So it started and it grew- and it grew-. I mean it’s sort of just like if you build it they will come. Like there was such an interest, and there were a great deal of people at the church who supported us and helped us, there was some, not much, but some resistance, to it but it just grew so much that we were like, we got to take it out of the church because ya know, it is a church not a theater. So yeah, we ended up buying the building on grand and we rent that space to other theater groups for rehearsals, and like yoga workshops or we rent it to dance groups and there are some comedy groups that hold rehearsals there some times. It’s like a rehearsal space? But it’s the home base for Des Moines youth theater. So, which it is beautiful for how it has just grown.
Ah: And then you guys just started a club?
MF: Well we- oh you mean our jazz club?
MF: That’s what we’re doing know. (Laughing).
AH: How’s that going?
MF: Oh, my husband has great dreams, he starts these ideas and I’m always kind of resistant- well not resistant but like wait, let’s take a breath and uh, yeah, so its funny cause he has these great dreams and he wants to run forward and I’m like wait wait, lets like check it out. And then I’ll get on board I’ll be like okay we can do this, then he’ll be like I don’t want to do it omg. And I always have to be like shut the fuck up, you cannot do this. Uhm… I don’t say it like that. No uh he wanted to just invest in some property downtown before it was unaffordable because downtown is changing so much. And we found this building and we were actually the last small people to buy a building here downtown because chum and go, and what’s the other organization, they bought up all the other stuff around us and they’re going to develop stuff. We got it in the nick of time. We wanted it to be- we didn’t know at first we wanted a restaurant slash live music thing. And we just got to know max welman and realized what a need there is for jazz, a dedicated jazz club here in Des Moines. Because we wanted it to be a bit higher end, classier, like not cheap drinks ya know? Not people getting stumble drunk ya know? Fall down drunk but just- so max sold us on the idea of a jazz club so we did. And in the process of it we were looking into what it takes to run a restaurant and the regulations and this and that and we were like fuck it, were not going to do it. But yeah, people can go out to eat and then come here.
AH: Okay uhm…
MF: My other two kids I should say something about them! Not just talk about Gloria
AH: Yeah, go for it!
MF: My Eleanor she’s amazing, she’s my introvert, and she’s so strong willed, she’s been strong-willed from the moment she was born. Always resisting me, always a resistance fighter, and she is so critical, like she analyzes everything, she is very analytical. Like I’ll pick her up from school and be like how was your day, and shell just have this- ya know- spew this like blah blah this happened and it sounds all negative and I’ll be like so did you have a bad day? No I had a good day, but you sounded like you were just all angery, no. and its just like, I get her. Shes just, she sees everything in a situation. And shell say it back to you and it sounds negative but its not, shes just recognizing the entirety. She can’t decide if she wants to be a Supreme Court justice or an engineer. So I don’t know we will see.
AH: How old is she?
MF: She’s 13, so I was worried she’d have a hard time in middle school, but she’s loved it. I’m glad. She is half deaf, she has single sided deafness. And we didn’t discover it until she was 5, but once we discovered it a whole shit ton of stuff made sense. She was born without a cochlea on her left side, and she was born in Cleveland and then when she was born and in Ohio they didn’t do new born screening- hearing tests. But they did here in Iowa, and now it’s like all states do them. But they didn’t then, and if they would have done it then they would have noticed. But there’s a whole ton of stuff. She can’t hear in a noisy room, she can’t filter conversation in a noisy room. Like how it was nosier in here and he can’t hear if you’re on her deaf side. So it’s kind of dangerous. Like she can hear the car horn honking but she can’t vocalize where it’s coming from so that why we have the deaf child sign in our neighborhood, asked the city to put it up. And then she’s had certain limitations from it, like a lot of things made sense once we discovered it. And I felt terrible that we didn’t discover it sooner but whatever. But if you have to pick a disability for your child this is the one you pick because it’s so- you can live with it. And she was the youngest person to get, a Baha put in at the university of Iowa hospital and clinics so- a Baha is a anchored hearing aid- it’s not really a hearing aide, hearing aids amplify sounds, this one doesn’t it works as a prosthetic device so they put a titanium screw in her skull on the deaf side, and you have to wait 6-8 months for that to assimilate to the bone, and then she attaches a prosthetic processor to it and that sends the sound on her deaf side through her skull bones to her good side. So shell never hear out of this ear but she’s able to- it helps her with school.
AH: That’s actually really cool!
MF: Yeah, the Bahas were made for people who had microcha- different abnormalities in their outer ear where they couldn’t gather sound so it would take it and so people who have problems on one side but they still have functioning inner ear, things then they can still hear things said toward the bad ear and they will still be able to hear it. But she’s kind of limited with how much use she gets out of that because she was born without a chocela she had chocela aplasia, the specialist in Iowa City said he’s never seen someone with it with no other abnormalities. Like mental retardation, kidney problems, whatever. And that’s what we were thinking of when we first discovered her deafness, does she have some you know, auditory- brain tumor? Does she- what is going on? Does she have some sort of genetic syndrome we missed? So yeah, she’s fine. She’s great. ? Wouldn’t pay for it and that was a whole other battle. The surgery they wouldn’t pay for the surgery. But that was a whole other battle. And then my youngest, Frankie. The only-best way to describe Frankie is to describe her birth. I had natural childbirth with the younger two.
AH: Oh god
MF: And with Elly it was amazing, I did the Bradly method- it was like I could feel the endorphin high between the contractions, from my body- I mean it was like great. I didn’t make a sound. But with Frankie, the Bradley method didn’t work. She was mal positioned, her head was instead of coming like this where this comes out, the smallest part, and she was like twisted, so she was like this thing coming out. So she was my last, should have been my easiest birth, and it was my hardest. I pushed for like 2 a half hours which was twice as long as the other two together. And I didn’t have any drugs, and screamed so much I didn’t have a voice, and I had a midwife here, she was born here, and she had the OBs just in case to back her up in case of a C-section. Because I couldn’t get this fucking child out and I didn’t know if it was a girl or a boy, and so I just remember I was thinking I just want to die. I can’t do this anymore, and all these people are like okay then you don’t care that all this people are looking at you. Like I had ob., and a resident and a med student and like nurses, like 8 people lined up like looking, just waiting and I’m like I can’t do this and finally somehow I got her head out, finally. And she was there- just her head and she was screaming her head off! Screaming, angry, mad, and I didn’t know if it was a boy or girl but you can hear these lungs on this child. And uh, the midwives let the cord stop pulsating before they cut it so the baby gets all the placental blood. And her cord was really short so, she got her out, and put her in my arms like this, and I didn’t look between her legs to see if it was a girl or boy, so I was holding her like this and I’m like what is it what is it. I was like I don’t know, and I remember thinking I don’t know what the hell you are, I could go my whole life without knowing, I love you. But no, and then we saw it was a girl, and she was just this angry old little Italian dark looking like her grandmothers on my husband’s side. Loud, obnoxious, screaming her head off from the beginning and that’s how she is, she is so loud. She’s wonderful, she’s a sensitive sweet soul, and she’s so smart and she’s so lazy, like she’s going to be… I’m going to have to push her. Because she has more brains then both of her sisters put together and the talent, of them put together. Like she can sing a song, and carry a tune like a professional. But she’s kind of lazy, maybe it’s being the youngest I don’t know. But she’s yeah…
AH: So you guys have all girls?
MF: Uh huh.
AH: Did you guys want any boys or just whatever happens happens?
MF: I don’t care, definitely wanted a girl but after that I didn’t care. But it would be cute to have a little boy- we’ve always talked about adopting so we’ve always talked about adopting a boy, I’m getting too old. I enjoy not having to take care of little ones all the time anymore I miss it sometimes, but yeah…
AH: Uhm wow, we’ve talked for almost over an hour, we can call this good.
AH: Is there anything in this that you don’t want me to put in my transcript or anything you want me to leave out?
MF: I don’t know it’s up to you, maybe- use your judgement.
AH: Oh okay