Blog Feed

Posted in Uncategorized

A Blaze of Glory and an Untold Song

On September 19th 2020 Hawthorne (Emily) Barber-Dubois joined their son Oscar in the stars. The fare for this unplanned voyage weighs heavy on the rest of us here on earth. They are survived by their brother, a man of considerable volume and clear blue eyes; their sister-in-law, a woman who has far less fear than she realizes; their niece, who never fails to lift the spirits of anyone around her; their mother, a woman who is generous to a fault and makes a hell of a casserole. They leave their daughter, the brightest light in this universe; cousins, aunts, uncles, chosen family and forever friends, and me. 

Hawthorne was born in the summertime of ’83, burning out at the rubber tree, a long-awaited first child to hard-working parents outside of Buffalo, NY. Intelligent and quick from the start, when their brother arrived three years later, they asked when he would be sent back for crying so much. Pictures of that time are scarce; the few that exist are tucked into a cardboard keepsake box adorned with sea life. They grew up creative and brilliant, only to be checked by poorly controlled asthma and the regimented nature of school and church. The markers for advancement weren’t their grade level, but the guitars they played and practiced on until their fingers bled. 

They left high school early and without graduating rather than fail another math class that didn’t make sense to them. High school had not been a place of youthful adventures and education as much as it had been the backdrop to bullying from peers and professionals alike. One teacher and her laminated promise to keeping kids like Hawthorne safe kept them coming back as long as they did. 

They traveled to Chicago and found themselves in a cult now made famous by Netflix. In six short months they experienced some of the highest and lowest moments of their queer life. They fell in love with a beautiful woman who touched their heart, holding hands in secret and away from the searching eyes of elders. They endured isolation and shunning for letting that love shine.

Hawthorne left Chicago, arriving back in Buffalo the morning the towers fell in New York City; they were one of the last trains to arrive anywhere that day. Conversations about America’s due for meddling in foreign affairs only hours before in the dining car rang true as their father picked them up at the station. They returned home to watch the first tower fall, Spot coffee and cigarettes in hand. 

They dated a boy they promised to marry, still believing their eventual destiny to be a pastor’s wife, still dedicated to being straight. It may shock some to know that this relationship did not work out. When they finally embraced their love of the feminine and the female, the scorned former fiancé moved out, and Hawthorne opened the Heartbreak Hotel with one of their closest friends. The pair charmed the pants off women, drank cheap whiskey on the roof, and sometimes cleaned on Sundays. Those golden days shined in memory over fifteen years later. 

Hawthorne went on to meet people and fall in and out of love, as your twenties are for. They formed a bicycle gang with their friends; the Spreadeagle Feminists made sure that George W. had as little chance as they could. They smoked, drank, wrote songs, and played every chance they had. They worked in group homes and coffeehouses; the jobs changed but the friendships developed within them blossomed. They settled down once or twice, ended up with a redhead in the banking world, and joined the Rural Metro EMT Academy and become certified in having a pulse and performing CPR, the two most skills the company demanded for the job.

It was unexpected when their love appeared on the scene.  Ella was a scraggly creature, more a blur of black and teeth than a dog when they first met at the SPCA. A one-year-old stray, wire-haired and just wired, the staff asked if Hawthorne was sure they wanted that one. Two days later after her spay surgery, Ella the Fitzgerald terrier took a nap on Hawthorne’s chest, and the two were bonded. If you asked Hawthorne what they wanted for a tattoo, it looked like this.

I had been lucky enough to meet Hawthorne in 2008 at work one night. They stood to the door of the trailer, smoking a cigarette as I stomped past, pissed and swearing about my partner on the ambulance. Hawthorne was coming off shift and I was coming on. I had noticed the hot butch in uniform but didn’t register more than that until the morning when I arrived for shift change to find them sitting on the donated couch with their feet propped up on a flimsy coffee table, reading the paper. They said good morning without moving, and watched me step over their extended legs to punch out. Their mischievous grin told me everything I needed to know. 

I can’t say a romance was born that morning, but I definitely had my eye on them. I was married but it was a rather open arrangement; Hawthorne was in a committed relationship. It would be years before the interest sparked again. Trying on pants in the women’s room, I complimented them the best way I knew how in that setting: a firm slap on the ass as I walked by, saucy smile tossed back over my shoulder. They were speechless – a rare occurrence. 

It was at least another year before they charmed me off my feet after driving me batty. Christmas 2010 they were partnered up with me, and like a little boy mistakenly pulling pigtails on the playground, unplugged the unreliable Toughbook computer I needed for my paperwork repeatedly. We ate chocolates their girlfriend had made and tried not to think about the other. We became lovers in a dangerous time; they helped me leave an abusive situation, and their own relationship ended with its fair share of drama. They left the ambulance company and started their college career intending to earn enough credits to apply to the police academy. The first day of orientation, they came home and asked me, “do you know what I can DO with a criminal justice degree?!” With their sights set on law school, they poured themselves into their studies. After one year they changed their major to sociology and pretty writing; they met some of their best friends and most influential people in their life. 

Hawthorne learned to hold a baby when their niece was born, a bright little girl with piercing blue eyes. The love emanated from them as they gingerly cradled her and the wonder filled their own ocean eyes. Two days later, with the sand on their knee to prove it, they proposed to me in the woods of Thoreau. We were married in June of 2014, on a beautiful summer day during the Allentown Art Festival. Their gray tux hangs in the closet next to my wedding dress and still carries the scent of whiskey. The honeymoon in the backwoods gave them a taste for country life that drove the city mouse to consider law schools in northern New England. 

They graduated cum laude in 2015 and earned the Conrad Vogler Promising Sociologist award. They were so proud to have been one of the small percentage of those who leave high school and go on to collegiate degrees. Within a few weeks, with no backup plan, no jobs, and no contacts, we packed up and moved to rural Vermont. Their dream of living in the middle of nowhere was realized, and they fulfilled a promise to Ella of having a yard big enough to run around in. They met the neighbor and discovered the local law school had a rugby team that was open to community members. Without hesitation and with zero experience on Hawthorne’s part, we signed up. Besides the whole fitness and running aspect, they had an absolute blast steering the scrum and chasing down the backs.  

That summer was spent in the river with a beer in hand by day and job hunting by night, with the daylight being much more successful. When they received the call back from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for a job, they were talking about selling platelets to make some meager income because I refused to consider them selling a guitar. There was no end to their generosity and devotion to care for their family. Thankfully they were hired into their addiction research department, and the qualitative sociologist began handling more quantitative data than they had ever hoped to see.

On December first, Hawthorne fell down a full flight of stairs. It would be four months before their pain was taken seriously enough to get an MRI, and an additional two months for surgery. To literally add insult, they were laid off just days after their surgery as their department was merged with Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. They then took a job at the local designated health agency as an emergency case manager, a job that recalled their time on the ambulance.  It was there that they met their adventure buddy, a friend who later helped give them a space to better define their gender fuckery. 

After that job was unable to work with them to aid their recovery after a second back injury and surgery, they worked at the local hardware store for the summer – another dream realized – and then at the local coffeeshop. Their barista skills from early-2000’s Starbucks served them well, and the tips were often returned to the same store for more books to line our shelves. 

In July of 2018, their wife gave birth to Oscar Prince, a beautiful boy who was stillborn. They held tight to the earthside body of their starside baby, knowing that this world was too fucked up for any firstborn son. They chose his only outfit, and drove him around the mountains when his ashes were released by the funeral home. They never forgot him, and never stopped loving him. 

Hawthorne returned to work just after what was supposed to be Oscar’s due date, and left the coffeeshop for a local residential crisis respite house. There they provided peer support to other Vermonters who were dealing with their shit, and found a beautiful community of folks that they connected with. They began playing guitar again, and in a few months Washboard Honey was born. 

In the summer of 2019, they came out as genderqueer and transmasculine; finally they were able to define themselves with words that rang true. They embraced their chosen name of Hawthorne, and began using they/them pronouns, since they often didn’t catch the message they were supposed to receive when referred to as “she.” They had top surgery at the end of the summer, or as they said, they Marie Kondo’d their breasts because they brought no joy. After that they pretty much refused to wear a shirt. They were finally starting to feel at home in their body; until then, they had thought of their body as a shell of pain that carried them around and didn’t match up with who they were. 

Their littlest love came into the world six weeks early, making them worry from the moment her mama started having preeclampsia. They wore their tweed coat and flat cap for three days, wanting to make a good first impression, and ended up having their fancy duds covered with an operating gown. They followed her to the NICU and held her first, keeping her skin-to-skin on their proud chest. In the pictures, Lucy Danger is already looking up at her papa with such wonder. They loved her fiercely, and it was returned the same. 

With the advent of 2020 also came a new wave of discovery and personal development. They began taking testosterone; nearly immediately their voice began to drop. Their soft alto voice deepened and richened into a smooth baritone; they picked up new harmonies and new skills to adjust for the transition. Their mustache and beard began to come in, their arms and legs became more muscular. Their thrill was a daily celebration. 

Hawthorne was injured at work just two months after Lucy was born. The medical system plodded along, finally recommending surgery in March, just as the novel coronavirus made landfall in New England. Ambulatory surgeries were cancelled, and Hawthorne waited, not patiently, for a date. It wouldn’t come until more than 5 months after the original injury. Unfortunately after that long wait, the “Hail Mary” surgery did not bring relief. 

Car rides were a particular hell for Hawthorne, but we travelled out to western New York for a cousin’s wedding over Labor Day weekend. We met up with close friends and danced at the wedding until we lost our breath. We met friends’ babies for the first time, and Hawthorne took Lucy down her first slides and on her first swings. They sang with their brother and their cousin, and smiled for dozens of pictures. 

In the dark hours of the morning of Saturday, September 19th, they woke up sick. After steadying out with an early morning bath, they took a nap. They fell asleep with their head on my chest, cuddled under their favorite blanket in our bed with Ella curled up behind their knees. Our son’s ashes sat under his golden crown across the room, guarded by his teddy bear as they always were. The sun poured through the windows in the early fall morning, throwing rainbows from a crystal prism on the windowsill. The frost melted to dew on the grass, and Hawthorne slept on. They never woke up.  

Hawthorne leaves behind a family devastated, a daughter too young to understand, and me. They leave a legacy of laughter and music. They leave a body filled with pain and burning, with lungs that didn’t like to work and a mind that outpaced us all. They leave a woodstove for me to curse over, a pandemic that continues to rage, and a political climate that is wrenching apart our democracy. They leave their dilapidated fishing hat and about a thousand flannel shirts. 

But the Universe must have balance; where there is leaving, there must also be joining. Hawthorne is reunited with their family who has gone before; their father and grandparents. They have finally met their father-in-law, and probably are avoiding my mother. They are able to take their son’s hand and hold him as close as they once held their daughter. The captain of misadventures is no longer held back by pain and trauma. 

They also leave us gifts – not just the crow presents of railroad spikes and shiny rocks, not just the memories. They leave us with their music, their words and harmonies. They leave us with the connections they made with us, between us. They have touched literally hundreds of lives. And they leave us with a reminder to live – to carpe the fuck out of that diem.

So when you are out in the world, finding your way from place to place, and you find a pen someone has dropped, or someone’s wallet in a snowbank, or an inhaler tucked into the crook of a resting tree, you will know that Hawthorne has stopped off for a little visit. When you hear someone say, “well I didn’t think that would happen!,” know that they just wanted to have a little fun. When you hear quiet music, play it loud; and when you see injustice, stand up and speak out. Everyone who knew them knows that Hawthorne was not a quiet soul; I don’t see any reason that should end. 

Posted in On Writing

“Hey, Have You Read…”

I have been devouring books lately. 

While I always was a reader (save that anomalous period in my twenties), it’s hard to remember a time when I read quite like this. 

Maybe when I’ve been involved in a series; Brian Jacques’ Redwall comes to mind, as do the first five books of a most famous series involving an English wizard student. During my early teenage years, I read everything by Patricia Cornwell that I could get my hands on, about the forensic pathologist whom I hoped to emulate at the time. Prior to that it had been Lurlene McDaniel, the tragic romances of (some terminally) ill teenagers; after that it was Nora Roberts and the approximate six thousand books she’s written, as well as under her pseudonym, JD Robb. By these five authors alone I must have read somewhere between 200-300 books, and that’s not an exaggeration. This is also not to mention the everlasting Babysitter’s ClubBoxcar Children, and Judy Blume volumes that pre-dated any shred of romance or shadow of puberty. OK, so I totally read like this when I was a kid – or at least before college. 

I fell in love with public health reading my assigned incoming freshman book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. Paul Farmer remains an inspiration to this day. That’s the last book I remember before schoolwork took over. I had ideas of being an English major on the pre-med track at that time. That first semester I took two heavier reading courses, one mandatory and one for adolescent lit, which introduced me to entire worlds – the ones that stick with me are Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials. Those books still take up residence in my soul and influence my daily thoughts, that there is something under the surface of everything we see. The next semester, however, I took a class on the American health care system, and that beckoned me on to major and get my degree in public health. Luckily, it meant I got to read a whole bunch of other books – memoirs and sociology alongside the drudgery of biochemistry. I didn’t realize that the accounts of folks living with Downs’ syndrome or paralysis would be some of the last things I would read for a decade.

The dropoff was steep; I struggled with my mental health in my senior year and ended up spending some time on an inpatient psychiatric unit. I can look back now and have compassion for the young woman who was scared and alone, both vulnerable and stubborn. After that, reading was largely missing from my life. It was a combination of the medications (which I definitely needed) and major upheavals in my life: getting married, moving to Buffalo, and knowing almost instantly that it was all a mistake that I couldn’t make right. For the first time, I was watching TV regularly. I’ve seen more CSI, NCIS, and other various cop drama than I care to remember sitting on the couch in my husband’s grandmother’s house. I was still very depressed even if I couldn’t articulate it then. Finally I transferred my EMT card and got a job with the local company on overnights. It took two semesters to finish the few credits I needed to transfer back to actually finish my degree. The year of school days and work nights pushed me to the brink of exhaustion. I’d sometimes pick up one of my Nora Roberts for a bit of comfort, but reading was something, like writing, that had largely disappeared from my life.

Later, in the early days of our relationship, Hawthorne and I didn’t exactly spend our time together turning pages. We talked about it, though, extensively. By the time they left the field to go back to school and I changed companies to be outside the city, we were an official couple. I had a brief window where I’d always have at least one paperback at the ready.

Hawthorne knew I had not been able to indulge in books and reading the way I wanted, the way we talked about doing one sunny day. They wanted me to read more than romance, which I wholeheartedly agreed with, though it has always remained my comfort food. I had felt so stymied that I was intimidated by the sheer number of possibilities of “what to read next.” I will forever be grateful to Hawthorne for gently opening the doors to whole new worlds and drew me back into this beautiful genre I hadn’t begun to explore of creative nonfiction with authors like David Sedaris and Oliver Sacks. They also introduced me (in some cases, re-introduced me) to Hemingway, to Steinbeck, to Jeanette Winterson and Annie Proulx, Truman Capote and Flannery O’Connor. As I returned to the written word, I introduced them to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Tracy Kidder. In the four months between Hawthorne starting school and me becoming the quality manager at my ambulance company, I read ten novels, two of which – Bridges of Madison County and East of Eden – are still some of my favorites.

It was an amazing way to build a relationship, on a bedrock of literature shared and mostly enjoyed. We had some failed trials, sure; I liked Lolita, but haven’t yet tried any Dostoyevsky; they never did get through more than a couple chapters of Nora Robert, and I liked more real science than they ever did. As for the myriad of sociological authors they left behind on our shelves? There’s only a few on my TBR: Proust, Foucault, Shelton.  

As I began to read more and more reports for work, I turned less to the shelves again, but never so hard as to forget their importance in my life. Even now I still have a tendency to absolutely inhale the volumes of Nora Roberts, gulping down chapter after quick chapter whenever I stumble across a new one. My mother used to buy me two of her books a year – one for my Easter basket, and one for Christmas. They never lasted a day. Now I willingly go on anticipated binges; I wait a while, cleansing my palate of formulaic cis-het, white, vanilla romance. Then I will frustrate myself trying to navigate the connection between the Kindle app and my library app to blow through four or five that have come out during my fast. I carry the Kindle to the kitchen to get fresh coffee, to the back door to let the dog out, and forget to feed myself (don’t worry, Lucy cannot be forgotten). At the end, I raise my head, utterly dazed and disoriented. It takes a couple hours for the headache to fade and my vision to clear, and few days for my neck to get back to the correct angle from being so intently bent towards the screen. (I’m rolling my shoulder out and correcting my posture now just thinking about it.)

After Oscar’s death, then Hawthorne’s, I have turned back to words. Writing them, reading them, watching my tears soak into the ink. I pushed myself through Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking and thumbed the dog-eared pages of my favorite romances. When I began starting to piece my new life that I’d been given back together, I filled my shelves to bursting (they were already quite full) with self-help books with titles like Girl, Wash Your Face and You’re Not Lost. They had some good lines; there’s plenty of marginalia to go back to, but over self-help books just weren’t that helpful. 

I began reading again, deliberately, in 2021. That year I started nine books and finished five. One of them, Too Like the Lightning, remains unfinished – not because it isn’t amazing, but because I rarely have the time to devote to being totally immersed into a world so different than mine. Ada Palmer’s glorious stories demand of me a minimum of two uninterrupted hours to make any progress. 

In 2022, I made daily reading a habit I wanted to keep (with wavering success) and set a goal of 26 books for the year. Counting a 500-page novel draft from a friend, I hit the goal with an eclectic mix of gay romance, mainstream fiction, Brene Brown recommendations, and nonfiction books about the death of the body. There was the beta-read novel for a friend, two audiobooks, and at least 5 Nora Roberts on my Kindle. 

My goal for 2023 was 30 books. I planned on pacing it out, but then someone gave me TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea.

Since then, I have had an insatiable need to stare into the pages, my eyes racing over the text, and never feeling like it’s enough. I feel greedy, possessive; I gather these volumes to me, unable to wait for the paperback versions, needing to feel the weight in my hands. The scent of new books, old books, the dust and the ink all further whet my appetite for them. I long to be in bookstores with infinite money and infinite time, and have visited three different libraries already this year.

On my little retreat in Provincetown; I brought several books that I had started or wanted to read, a mix of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books on writing. To no one’s utter shock and disbelief, it turns out that when I have stretches of time to myself, I still will find a comfy spot and dive into a book until something interrupts me. I finished two books I had begun prior to the retreat, and read two more completed, and started a fifth. (I also may have visited every bookstore in town and purchased an additional ten titles but that’s not the point. In fact, I should be commended that it was only ten, especially since one of them was a used bookstore.)

I thought, okay, this is a little vacation fluke. I can’t keep up this pace. I’ll fall back into my old ways and struggle to get ten minutes of reading, my little goal, in per day. 

Turns out I was only partially right – I couldn’t keep up that pace, but holy crap, I am still reading more than I have in years. I’ve finished, what, three more books since returning? In three weeks? I am two books ahead of my goal per Goodreads. 

I keep a new picture on my phone screen to remind me that “what you are not changing, you are choosing.” I have been trying to get off my phone for a while. It’s hard. I like the distraction, the immediate dopamine hit, and I’ve also discovered a particular animal sanctuary whom I’m a little obsessed with. But man, I do not want to be staring at that little screen as long as I do. I’ve set limits on apps – 30 minutes on Facebook, 60 on games;  but I can easily make excuses to not follow the self-set rule. I find ways to circumvent it, opening things to read in my browser instead of Facebook, subtracting the Maps and Facetime minutes. Bad mental health days see the times spike; good days, where I hike or create or connect with live people, those days see the times drop. So, too, the days I spend reading – and that’s what I want. 

I want to live a life where I do read voraciously, where I am spending my energies in saturating experiences like books or travel or laughing with friends. I want to be caught up in my life as I get in the lives of characters, to be focused and mindful of the story and my place in it. I want to think of seas as cerulean and feel my heart pound for fumbling first kisses. I want to remember the hum of magic just under the surface and the feeling that we are never really alone in the woods. I want to find the worms when I dig my hands into the earth, brush dandelion seeds from my daughter’s hair, and show her the world beyond these screens. It’s not easy to get away from all the distraction, but oh, it’s so worth it. 

This was long and rambling. Thank you for reading. I hope you keep reading, anything you stumble across. Blogs and books and cereal boxes and bottles of shampoo in the shower. It is thrilling to me that my words can be part of your reading journey. Thank you.

Posted in Uncategorized

Me, Myself, I

I’ve been talking to myself for years. Out loud, in my head, for as long as I can remember. Truth is, I can’t really tell silence apart from my thoughts when I’m alone.

I remember when social media discovered that not everyone has an internal monologue and how shocking it was (I was surprised, were you surprised? I was very surprised). I have no idea what it is like to live and not have a constant radio in my brain, peppered with dad jokes, movie quotes, and song lyrics, like hurdles for the racing of my thoughts. Even now, I can hear the words as they want to be written down. It’s so hard to keep up, even though I know I have good typing speed. The red lines indicating misspellings are new obstacles that must be corrected and cleared before I can go on. Unless I am taking minutes and need to keep up with others, there is no way for me to not edit as I write. It takes far more energy to fight that urge than it does to simply roll with it, hit delete with my pinky a few times, and correct the spelling. Does it screw up the flow of the radio? Not really, because I’m watching the screen and if I spell something like “F-I-H-G-T,” and don’t correct it, that’s when my brain stumbles trying to figure out how the hell to say that – out loud, inside my brain, where no one else can hear it. 

This is something I have wondered about with telepathy, or the burgeoning technology that allows those who cannot speak to be able to communicate brainwaves. Do they have an internal monologue? What gets transmitted? Is it all the static, the rushing thoughts, a high-speed monorail constantly switching tracks? Or does it have to be delivered, a thought like writing, like “this is what I want to say?” Either way, unless I lose the ability to speak and write (one of my greatest fears), count me out. I don’t want to have to share this with anyone; not for their sake, but mine. Usually. 

I started reading Oliver Sacks close to ten years ago. Between us, Hawthorne and I collected and read a dozen of his titles. As a person with migraines, and with close proximity to other ways the brain can betray the body, it was fascinating. I recognized some of the stories – patients I had taken in the ambulance and the things that they had said. Some of the diagnoses with more rare characteristics I know I’ve seen on hospital drama shows. The self-care movements of late, with emphasis on how we speak to ourselves, make me want to reread those titles. (Should I add them to my GoodReads list? TBR pile? Change their spot on the bookshelf? Does it count to my year goal if I re-read something? The train rushes on without answers.)

In listening to folks like Brene Brown and KC Davis, as well as in therapy sessions and with certain friends, I accept the challenge of looking inward. I think of all the different “me’s” there are: my inner child striving for perfection, my alter-ego struggling to come to the surface. I think who I try to focus on most are more time-based than psychological, though – past, future, and present me. 

How do I take care of me today?

Past me, I can give her therapy. I pay the fee and let her lead for the 50 minutes. It is her time, to bring up whatever she needs. Parents, relationships, pain, grief. She usually tries to save the good memories for me, or just share them with friends who aren’t paid for their service. She is gracious and if she doesn’t want to use it, she gives it back to present me. 

Future me, I can give her action. I can get that thing done instead of waiting til tomorrow; I can unload the clean dishwasher, prep the coffeemaker, charge the devices. Future me is often harried and forgetful, trying to get out the door with a dog barking in the crate and a toddler insisting her shoes be on the wrong feet. It’s not that she’s not grateful, she just doesn’t usually remember to say it.

Present me. What can I do for present me? I’m still learning. I’m learning to slow down, to let present me breathe. To enjoy the moments as they’re revealed, miniscule packages wrapped in grace. I relax my shoulders, unclench my jaw.

Present me has it tough. She has to deal with the negative self-talk I still fall into (though my most common nickname for myself, dumbass, comes out less and less these days). She gets caught up in the shit; being touched-out, exhausted, and unable to do anything of substance past toddler bedtime. A mere mortal, my wife used to call me, when I wouldn’t accomplish ridiculous amounts of things on an arbitrary list. Fuck that noise. 

All of these gifts – the therapy, the action, the grace – come at costs that I’m willing to pay, if not always able. Sometimes I screw up. I rushed through watering my plants this week, a chore I always enjoy. I usually stop to stroke the leaves, and yes, talk to each plant. They get compliments and wonder, apologies if needed (add to the list: repotting some of these plants. Who can help with the old hoya? What size pot do I need for the new succulents? Why is aloe such damn challenge for me to keep alive? How much food do the violets need? The tracks are singing.) This week I was distracted with a sick kiddo and wanted to get it done. When she is sick, she’s much more snuggly, and it’s easy to let myself rest with her like that. 

If future me gets action, she also gets accountability. That’s a gift, wrapped and waiting patiently, for present me to get there, the satisfaction of checking it off a list or the time and energy saved from it already being done. 

If past me gets therapy, she also gets space. She is not shoved into corners to let everything inside build and build and build; she gets the space to release that. Another gift to present me, the cleanse of release. 

And if present me gets presence in this bonkers and beautiful life, what more could she want?

There’s a quote that has been lodged in my head, paraphrased and uncited. The part that sticks with me is where it says something to the effect of, if we were to be fully present when we did something as simple as grocery shopping, we would be utterly overwhelmed by the beauty of the colors of the produce, the smells from the bakery, the choices before us. Not that I want to spend more time in the grocery store, but I get it. The moments when I put my phone down and pay attention to the moment – good and bad, the snuggles and the puking, the books and the bills – fill my cup. Those moments, the ones saturated in color or scent or light, the ones where I feel my connection to whatever earth I’m standing on, it’s those that I can give myself over and over again.  

And if my mind whispers along the tracks of calling myself spoiled, well, it’ll find something else soon enough. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the view; after all, we’re all just passing through. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Safety First, or, As American as Violence

Today I discovered that the FBI released a public service announcement and website on how to attempt to survive a mass shooting. The FBI. The biggest law enforcement agency this country. It’s not even new; it was released three years ago, and just happened to hit my feed today.

Run. Fight. Hide.

If this messaging sounds familiar, there’s a reason for it. 

American politics and policies have long put the onus on the victim to protect and defend themselves. It didn’t start with active shooter drills in elementary schools. Gay folks in the armed forces were taught that they could avoid sexuality-based violence if they kept their mouth shut. Women have been taught for decades how to avoid getting sexually assaulted. Black families have taught their children how to interact with cops so they don’t end up jailed or killed. 

Systemic issues should not place the burden of safety on the individual. And yet, here we are. 

This country was built on the blood and bodies of innocents. The colonizers didn’t see indigenous people as people. Still don’t. 

This country was built on the backs and by the hands of people stolen from their homes and enslaved across oceans. The slavetraders didn’t see black people as people. Still don’t.

This country was built on the unseen labor of women and fertile wombs. The patriarchs didn’t see women as people. Still don’t. 

This country was birthed from violence, and begets, and begets, and begets. 

“It could never happen here.” It could. It has. It does. It will.

Four years ago, I was in the minority (along with my public health friends) who were aware that this country was not prepared for a pandemic. You can’t shoot a virus, so I guess there wasn’t much funding. 

Twenty years ago, I didn’t live with the weight that any day, in any public or semi-public place, I could be a victim of a mass shooting. Columbine was supposed to be a once-in-a-generation tragedy. So was the Oklahoma City Bombing. So was 9/11. 

It has been going on so long I don’t even want to say that it isn’t normal. Because now, it is. 

In my line of work, we like to use simple visual tools to convey big ideas (stay with me here). The one that comes to mind is from OSHA, the organization responsible for ensuring occupational safety. Here it the hierarchy of controls, courtesy of Wikipedia: 

Can you see where we are on the chart? Where marginalized folks have been for generations? 

We are at the personal protective equipment level. 

The hazard has not been removed. It will not be. 

The hazard has not been replaced. It will not be. 

People have not been isolated from the hazard. They won’t be. 

The way people operate their day-to-day lives has changed, it can be argued; but not for safety, not on a societal scale. 

We are at the point of the triangle, where the individual must accept that no one in power is going to do fuck-all for them, and it is their own responsibility to survive the violent actions of other individuals. 

I’m not saying it’s not an important video and message to get out; I’m not saying it won’t save lives. It will. My point is, even though it shouldn’t have to, there are not enough people with enough money and enough power who can eke out a single fuck to give.

I don’t have a solution. Well, I have some ideas, but they keep getting squashed in the hallowed halls of the government. Call this a rant, call this screaming into the void. The video tonight just made it crystal clear that, for some time now, I’ve understood that on any day, it could happen here. And you know what bothers me about that, is how matter-of-fucking-fact it was. Just like, oh, might rain on Thursday. Might cause traffic problems. Might get shot while doing the grocery shopping this week. 

And it’s coming out like this, rage pouring through my fingers, as I sit here knowing my daughter is sleeping soundly having no goddamn idea about this yet in the next room. It breaks my heart and strengthens my resolve that I know all too soon, she, too, will learn that she might be next. 

Check out the video if you have the bandwidth. My daughter will learn how to stop the bleed. How to run, hide, and fight. 

May that she, and you, only ever know the fear of it happening and not the reality. 

Posted in Uncategorized

En Queer Air

I just came back from my second solo writing retreat. I started last year and decided it was going to be an annual thing, but both trips have been so beneficial for me, I really want to make it twice a year.

When I started writing this, I was mostly packed. I had my laptop and notebook out; that was it. The dishes were done, the linens collected and cute retro fridge emptied. All my bags were by the front door. 

I did not want to leave Provincetown. 

I had been twice before; the first trip with my ex-husband and his boyfriend, my memory was almost nonexistent. I don’t remember anything but walking alone while they held hands and walked ahead of me. The second time, with my wife and my cousins, was much better; still a little hazy in the rearview (and likely a beer or two), and close to ten years ago. My memories are blurred on the edges, photographs taken with too much joy and laughter to be in focus. I remembered the color on the streets, in the sky, on the people. 

From the moment I first walked downtown, I could tell it hadn’t changed. I mean, sure, I didn’t remember the exact art galleries or the placement of most of the boutique shops, and there certainly weren’t at least four recreational cannabis retailers. We hadn’t left the main drag then, and weed had still been illegal.  

Staying there solo for a whole weekend has been sating the craving in my soul for community, for being queer and creative, for the space to read and to write to my heart’s abandon. 

Queer spaces are few and far between in the real world, and when I’m out and about and it’s not Pride, the absence is noticeable. I feel it in my bones, a whisper the arises with every step on pavement. You are not safe here, not really. You are not the same, and different is dangerous.

I know I exist a lot easier, safer, than a lot of folks in my community. I am protected by my femme invisibility in a way many queer and trans* folx are not; I am protected by the privilege with which I was raised, and shows on my skin. Were I to stop saying the words “wife,” “queer,” “Mexican,” almost no one would look at me and be any the wiser. There is safety in the layers of privilege and protection. Still, I know how many “other” boxes I check, and I know the risks of being “other.”

But here, there is a lightness to my step, a shedding of the fear that inherently ripples through a regular day, a tiny rock stuck in my shoe. Here, I feel I am queer until proven straight. Here, when I walk into a bookstore full of pro-choice and pro-woman and sex positivity rally posters, and I cry, those tears are understood. The woman behind the counter has to ring me up twice after we get to talking and the transaction times out. She offers me the dyke discount, and I take it, walking away with pins and canon I hadn’t previously known. She shared her publication, and invites me to call her when mine is available. 

Here, the veil of threat that hangs over all strange men is gone. I am not leered at, by anyone. Children aren’t pulled away from anyone passing; the only up-and-down looks come from the drag queens who read you in the street the hour before the performance. Here people dress in clothes from the head shop, from the boutiques, the thrift stores and tourist shops, all mingled together. The colors of the town and streets and signs aren’t diminished by the rainbow flags; rather, if anything, the kaleidoscope of the town overshadows the six classic stripes.

I take my time; I walk everywhere possible in Converse and Docs, my skirt flouncing as I step on and off curbs. The goal of this weekend is to rest, read, hike, and write: my favorite ways to make myself a priority. Happy birthday to me, I’m going to enjoy it. This is the first time in five years I have actually felt like celebrating.

My last night there, I walked the mile from my AirBnB to the restaurant at 7pm when dusk was just stealing over, before the coyotes came out. I had two drinks and walked back in my dress at 9:30pm, alert, but not afraid of walking past emptying bars and through residential neighborhoods. 

There is safety in numbers, and the ubiquitous presence of queer and trans* folk was a balm over my fight-or-flight response, still healing after Hawthorne’s death. There is so much hatred in the news, so many people in my community endangered by the insidious poison spewing forth from other states; this gay-ass heart feels constantly bruised. Being in one of the oldest historically queer communities in the US takes the weight off my heart. I drink here because I’m safe, because even at a table alone, I am held. 

The second layer of ease is the sheer artistry I am surrounded with, created by hands and by nature. My first morning, I hiked the causeway at low tide, marveling at the curves the water carved into the sand, the glittering remains of seagulls’ feasts, the grace of the cormorants as they dove. My last morning here happened to be World Book Day, and I celebrated by finishing my 3rd and 4th books of the weekend. I took one to the woods and read poetry out loud, speaking the words into the wind and hearing the trees sigh in appreciation. 

On the map I can see the acreage protected by conservation; in the streets I see the bursting expression of beauty and love in everything from the tiniest sparkle of glitter to the towering sculpture of a snarling griffon. It’s in the flowers planted in tiny gardens, the colors on the houses jam-packed into neighborhoods with streets too narrow to pass on. It is in the library, open til 8pm on weeknights, in the plate glass windows of a hundred galleries, in the crystals embedded into stone walls. It is in the queens’ makeup, and the wrinkled smile of the woman who greets us at the establishment. It is in the voice of an unknown language that sings and reminds me, this is where I belong. Somewhere I can lay down the daily weight of danger, of not belonging, and be enfolded in the loving arms of a place so steeped in creativity, community, and a not-so-subtle “fuck you” to everyone who thinks any of us are less than. 

I didn’t want to leave, and already I yearn to go back. This time, I’ll remember so much more: the causeway and the hills, the way the sand blew across the highway, the comingled scents of lobster and taffy, the sea and pitch pines.

When I did finally leave, watching the rain begin in the rearview, I left with sand in my shoes, zero leftover cake, ten new books. This time, I leave with crystalline memories with the soundtrack of the sea, and a promise that I won’t stay away so long again.

Posted in On Writing

All Tools Need Recalibration, Sometimes

We are a quarter of the way through the year; this is my fourth post, of a goal of 25, meaning I’m at least 4 posts off-schedule. And I’ll tell you, there’s something that’s been really circling in my brain.

Why am I writing this? Why am I so reluctant to give it up?

It’s not like I haven’t been writing – I have. I’ve got a couple different projects in the works that are insistent about the little time I have, and my attention no matter where I am. Soon, they’ll demand even more: a social media presence, marketing, and hopefully, in-person and virtual events. That’s a lot to squeeze in to an already full schedule of mothering, working full time, and general adulting. 

Many other projects sit unfinished; short stories, an essay collection, a Patreon under a pen name that I once had dreams of funding other projects. The simple truth of the matter is I will never have enough time to write all the things I want to, even if it were my full-time occupation that also paid the bills. Because once I start pulling those out of my head and onto paper and out into the world, they are replaced exponentially with new ideas. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the ideas, the never-ending spiral of creativity. But the actualization of those ideas, the transcribing and editing and whatever comes next, takes the most finite of resources: time, money, and energy. Something’s gotta give. 

If you know me, or have been reading for a while, you’ll know I need a clear and framed approach. So here goes. 

Of the multiple potential routes from here, I see three solutions I’m willing to consider. 

  1. End the blog: or at least, the desire/promise to post every 2 weeks. This has already sort of happened naturally, except the need is still there, knocking.
  2. Change the blog: lower the drawbridge between what I write here, and what I write elsewhere.
  3. Change the goal: adjust downward from the goal of 25 posts this year to a number that feels more reasonable, and is in within reach, as long as effort is put in.

Ending the blog would remove the self-induced pressure and internet accountability (which, mind you, has been incredibly loving and gentle when it does come) of posting on the bi-weekly schedule. With my daughter getting older, there is now more to do with her – events at the library, birthday parties, sports and activities. This often comes on weekend mornings, historically my most productive writing time. 

Winter sapped my energy. Now that we have turned the corner into spring, albeit a chilly one, I had hopes of the switch flipping, and the tap of words just flowing. That hasn’t been the case. I am still tired, I am still struggling to wake up in the mornings with enough eyes-open time for myself before the day starts.

Perhaps the biggest reason to continue the blog on a schedule is simply the fact that I enjoy it. I’ve learned, with time and therapy, that reason is valid AF. 

So that knocks off choice #1. I’m left with changing the blog, or changing the goal. 

I’ll start with the latter, since it’s less anxiety provoking. Changing the goal is not really an issue for me. I work in managing change, for crap’s sake; you can’t do quality improvement without rocking the boat. And I support those changes, and the people making them. I know it’s not easy, it’s not comfortable at first. And sometimes, the goals we set need to be adjusted because of factors outside of our control. Even if it’s because of things that are within our control, they can need to change: maybe the original goal was too ambitious or aggressive, or it just does not fit anymore. Right now, 25 posts seems like a lot to catch up on, if all other things remain the same. 

Changing the blog? That’s a little scarier.

For over two years I’ve used this blog to explore grief, to maintain hold of some sort of thread of consistency after Hawthorne’s death; I’ve used it to complain and work through why things are so goddamned hard sometimes. I have hoped that by voicing my struggles, others who might stumble their way here might not feel so alone. Delusion of grandeur? I don’t think so, but it’s possible. All I know is that when Oscar died, there was one (1) blog about a queer family and stillbirth; an excellent one, to be sure, but only one I could find. 

More recently I’ve been writing about writing – not to steal the title from one of my favorite bloggers at Writing About Writing, which you should also check out. I’ve also written a couple fiction pieces, and a couple reworks of writing prompts I’ve had from other spaces. For the most part, the divisions between the different types of writing that I do have been secure and unbreached. What would it mean to do so?

I write under two different pseudonyms, for the sake of distinguishing and protecting the content and myself. I’ve got family who read this (thank you, love you all) whom I would not be comfortable reading my more, uh, explicit content. And I’ve chosen a name to publish my book(s) under which I’m not releasing here. If my wildest dreams come true, I want a little bit of separation for my daughter and my family. Maybe should have thought about that before I started this, but hey, I hadn’t even thought about writing a novel, let alone publishing it. Those goals definitely changed, so I guess now we will see how long I can successfully keep those separate. 

Also, I write these quickly. My novel has been in the works for nearly two years. But for me, blog posts aren’t painstaking works; sometimes, like today, they come out all at once. Sometimes there are weeks in between the start and the finish, but the actual writing/editing/tweaking time isn’t more than 3 hours. I’ve got friends who have been working on a single piece that will go on their blog – they’ve been refining and perfecting, moving with it as it morphs and changes – and it’s amazing (still, can’t wait to see that piece online, hmm?) That’s just not what my blog is for me.

Which brings me back to the changing the blog to work better for me, to have it meet my evolving needs. Over the years – and it feels astounding to know that it’s been a plural number of years now – I have used this space for exploration of my grief, of life after loss, of family and writing and myself. Sometimes I wonder if it’s too “journal-y,” but based on what my actual journals look like, the answer is definitely no. 

Natalie Goldberg says that we need to dive through and compost our thoughts in order for something halfway decent to come from it. In Writing Down the Bones, she says that “Our senses by themselves are dumb. They take in an experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies.” This would still be a space for exploration, it’s just a matter of what I’m exploring.

At the end of the day, I realize that this is my blog and I can do literally whatever I want with it. I answer to no one for this. No higher power, no internet-at-large. You read it for whatever reasons you have – you support me, you like to ramble along the twists and turns of my brain, you’re bored and this shows up in your inbox. For whatever reason you show up, thank you, I appreciate you. 

And I’m going to keep showing up. Clearly the answer is not to stop writing, not when I’ve punched out over a thousand words of this on a solo Saturday morning. I could move the goalpost, and aim for 20 rather than 25, doing 2/month from here on plus a couple extra. But I don’t think I’m going to do that. I’m going to stick to the original goal of 25, knowing that I’ll be re-evaluating again come the end of June. 

Which means that the content is going to change somewhat, and this time, I’m not putting restrictions on it (don’t worry, fam, the sexy stuff will still be elsewhere). I’m just going to say, don’t be surprised if you read something that seems a bit different than my usual. And one day if you pick up a queer novel with a strange name you’ve never heard before and pieces of the story seem familiar? Maybe you’ll remember a blogger who had trouble with self-imposed deadlines. Or maybe you’ll just enjoy the vague familiarity, and you’ll let yourself sink into the story as if it were the couch of an old friend. 

However it goes, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope to see you along the way. 

Posted in On Writing

Grace? Yeah, I Know Her.

I’ve learned to give myself grace over these past two-plus years; as someone who has always found relaxing to be stressful, it was a hard lesson. I needed to learn how to let things go, how to swim with the tide and let it carry me, without feeling guilty for it. Not everything had to be a struggle, even if life with a three-year-old can otherwise indicate. 

Now, I think, it’s time to give myself some goddamn accountability. 

This is said with no self-directed anger, no guilt, and no shame. There is no judgment to pass. I have given and given and accepted and accepted the grace from myself and others for what I have done and not done, and for what I have lived through. The past few years have been a lot; the past year, the past month. 

The days have been so, so long. I wake up, my child wakes up. We go to our respective daily responsibilities with different levels of engagement, with their different structures and purpose. We come home at the end of the night, tired; we eat, stare at the TV and each other, read a couple books and head to bed. There’s a lot of scrolling involved, a lot of half-hearted conversation. I have learned to be at peace with both wanting to do more, and knowing that these last blustery nights of winter are not going to be the time.

We’re supposed to get a big snowfall in a couple days; there’s been precious little this winter thus far, just enough for two quick snowy adventures. We haven’t even busted out the snow pants yet. Now here in mid-March it sounds like the lion finally has sank his claws into the low hills and curves of coastline, dragging the dregs of winters along. I won’t be running this week, though I’m cleared to, and I’m feeling physically better than I have since last May.

I made it out for a couple solid walks this week, walking out my door at work and letting it slam behind me, keeping my pace quick as I crossed neighborhoods and made my way to the beach. The sea was restless and high, prowling along the shore. She’s waiting for something.

I felt the pull of the tide, shifting and tense, echo in my veins long after I left the sands behind and made my way back to the office. I try to channel the energy into work, seat-dancing with the jitters, getting psyched up for a major project kickoff the next day. 

Until my director called and told me I was off the project; it had been recategorized to another (albeit more appropriate) department. The hours I’d put in on it this specific project for the past four months were for nothing. 

Anger spilled from my eyes in hot tears, tightening my throat on the repetitions of, “this is bullshit.” I felt overlooked and invalidated; thankfully, I’m close enough to my supervisor to ask if this is because of something I’ve done, and she was able to quell those worries before they even had time to blossom. 

The following four days were tough. Something about this felt pivotal; I remembered the sea’s edge, the cold foam that rolled up along the shore as waves broke further out in the harbor. Suddenly the surf seemed far away, as if I walked along a cliff edged with small stones that bounced their way over the edge. Change felt imminent. I talked with friends about it, paced and swore. I wished I was able to not throw myself into things like this. Why did I sink so much of myself, so many of my spoons, into the hours that I traded for pay? Because I care about my job, and I’m passionate about my field and the potential in it. OK, well, if I didn’t care about the job so much, would it be easier on me? Would I be less tired, feel less discouraged and down if I could find a job that didn’t challenge my heart and soul so much? 

If I were going to be so absorbed by something that it had the power to drive me to tears of any kind… did it need to be a job?

Yes, of course, I thought. I need to work. Working provides health insurance, stability, and a paycheck, which provides food and shelter and more stability. Those are basic needs that a job meets. Satisfaction comes after, then passion. Cool, cool. 

But what if… 

I grabbed a notebook and the first thick pen I could find.  

What would it look like if I took this writing thing seriously?

Not quit my job seriously, or like all the success stories of pretty white girls who “just went for it.” I’m 36 year old solo mom with student loan payments about to restart. The farthest I’m going to “go for it” is picking up the jar of medium-heat salsa at Wegmans for an untested recipe. I’m not moving to Bali for six months to write my book, or turn a fitness instructor career into a successful entrepreneurship. For those that did, good for them – that’s just not me, not where I am, and really, not what I want.

I want my stories read. I want people to read them, talk about them, enjoy them. I want my words to mean something to someone, whether it’s an inspiration or a moment of recognition, or a laugh in a dark moment. I want to connect with people. I want to tell stories I see myself in, see my friends in. I want to be part of the movement of more queer representation in fiction. I don’t need to be the next TJ Klune (though holy shit, if you haven’t read him yet, GO), but the mark I want to leave on this world is in that line. 

I’m currently sitting on 6 half-finished blog posts (yes, I’m still very behind) and two novels – one in its 9thround of edits, and I’ve been querying agents for, and one that is a rough draft of the second book in a series of seven. How long am I going to leave them sitting on my computer? How long am I going to wait?

The first novel – a standalone fiction piece, about 250 pages – wasn’t planned. Oops. It had started as a short story, and just kept going. It still needs some polishing, some work; looking back and editing it, I can see how far I’ve come in my writing since “finishing” it, so the tweaks continue. Still, I’ve sent out eighteen queries to agents for representation. I’ve had 8 outright rejections, consider 2 more to be rejections (waiting for a response for over a year), and have 8 open and sitting in agents’ inboxes. 

I wrestled with the idea of going the self-publishing route for an absolutely asinine reason – I felt like maybe I hadn’t paid my dues as a creative person enough. The memes are out there: “Stephen King was turned down 80 times. Keep going.” Agatha Christie had a bunch, John Grisham, Jack London, NK Jemison. 

I was absolutely shocked when I received my first rejection – a form email the day after I had sent it. I wasn’t shocked by the rejection, but by my reaction – I had done it. I had sent it out into the world. The letter felt like a rite of passage, and did not discourage me in the least. Some of the rejections I’ve received have been helpful, giving advice on what to clean up for my letter, or story or synopsis. A few have been just templated, [INSERT NAME HERE] that leave me nothing to improve. 

I have also had three actual people read, finish, and provide excellent feedback on that novel’s first iteration. Some of the points, I acted on; others I stood by, all for one reason or another. The consensus I came away with was, “this is pretty good, and could be even better.” 

After voicing my artistic angst at not “paying my dues,” to someone who loves me enough to not scoff (until later), I was able to let that notion go. I need a publisher to get my book printed and distributed, not to validate my talent. I wanted an agent to make the connections and worry about the marketing, not to pat me on the head and tell me that we will try again.  

If I don’t hear back with a positive response from an agent by my 37th birthday, I’m moving ahead with self-publishing. Based on that timeline, by the end of 2023, I will be a published author.

I had to pause after writing that. Sit back, take a healthy gulp of coffee.

How’s that for some goddamn accountability.

Posted in Uncategorized

Irrational, Inescapable Fears

Anxiety is a siren. She beckons, her voice sliding in to wind around my mind. I don’t want to hear it; I don’t want my thoughts to follow her sly whispers, but they are drawn along against my will. She does not sing of that which I most desire, but rather, she has charmed my fear into giving her my secrets. She sings of the death of my loves while I stand helpless, of my own violent end as if I am already half-ghost. 

It was stormy last night; no lashing rain or blanketing snow, but fierce winds that whipped through tight screens and rattled loose shutters, and the temperature plummeted to -10 Fahrenheit. The hundred-year old house groaned and snapped, the heat clattering in pipes that sound off in the walls. The poor dog, anxious during any storm, was practically climbing the walls. She’s mostly deaf at this point, so whatever sense she has of storms must also be confusing when she can’t hear what we can. Still, she seems more comfortable outside than she does in during a storm. She stands facing the wind, her scraggly hair blown back as if she stands on the prow of a ship. She looks fierce in her Thundershirt and her long eyebrows swept back, and has to sniff every individual leaf that has entered the yard since the last time she was out. Then she comes in, shivering, looking pitiful, and only wants to be wrapped up in blankets.

The lights flickered as I made dinner, and I swore I could hear Hawthorne’s urgent voice. “Get the candles in one place. Fill the tub so we can flush the toilet, only pee in the downstairs one! Where are the beans? WHERE ARE THE BEANS? Oh, okay. What pot can we use on the stove? I’m going to make cowboy coffee! Maybe. Where’s the Mokapot? Better grind some coffee while we still have power, I’ll get the hammer to smash more just in case.” I think they were just waiting for their once-in-a-lifetime storm, the kind they heard about from their dad, who snowshoed to his parents’ home in the blizzard of ’77. They had already been through Buffalo’s October storm of 2006, but they wanted their legacy blizzard in Vermont.

It was comforting to think of them as I ran through my mental checklist. I knew where the candles and lighters were; the external battery for the phone was charged. We had plenty of pantry items, and we were not in a situation where we would be stuck without power or heat and with no way out. The extent of my storm prep was to text my cousins and ensure they knew that they were the backup plan if we lost power. It was too cold to mess around with that, and without another heat source.

We kept power; it didn’t even flicker hard enough to disrupt the evening run of PJ Masks. It was Friday night, so the TV stayed on a little later than usual, and we read a couple of extra books. By 8:45, I was ready for Lucy to go to bed, although she wasn’t quite convinced. As she climbed in, however, the siren’s song slipped past my defenses.

I was afraid that she would freeze to death in the night, and I wouldn’t be able to save her.

I stood, watching as she bounced around her toddler bed, avoiding laying down, and I tried to tell myself that was a silly thing to worry about. Her room was warm, the heat was on; I’d wake if the power went out and various things beeped a last complaint, and I would be awake at least twice during the night to let the old lady dog out. She was in no danger.

Do you want to take that risk? Are you willing to gamble on losing again?

I gave in.

It wasn’t hard to convince her to come to my bed. By 9PM, I had the fleece blanket I’d made Hawthorne on the bed, so Ella would have a soft, warm place for her belly, and Lucy tucked up on the inside of my bed, already hogging my pillow. I brushed my teeth and laid down, mentally checking off where my sweatpants and socks were, my robe and extra blanket for letting Ella out. It took Lucy a long time to settle down – relatively, I mean, for a three year old. Within fifteen minutes, my hand was rising and falling with her steady breathing as it lay on her chest. 

At this point, I truly do not know if I could survive losing her. And so the siren sang me to sleep.

I’ve had all the standard advice about anxiety, from deep breathing exercises to medication to “just don’t think about it.” Those things can usually keep the irresistible song to a dull roar, and I can function. 

Last night was just one of those times where it reached out and wrapped around my mind, pulling me against my own volition. I didn’t even try to fight it, not more than the most cursory effort, anyway. It had been a long and difficult week for my anxiety, and I simply did not have the effort, or the fucks, to give. Twenty-four hours later, I have no judgment and no regret. It was a simple fix; she climbs into my bed most nights anyway, jolting me awake in between puppy bathroom breaks. We all slept well and warm in the refuge of my bed.

One day, giving in to the siren may be my downfall, though it’s hard to think of how. Maybe it’ll keep me from taking a trip; maybe it will tell me to not allow Lucy to go off to college alone. I’m not really worried about that.

What I am worried about is that one day, the siren will speak truth, and I won’t hear it until it’s too late. Until I am too late.

So I listen; and some nights, when the wind whips and the temperatures dive deep, I follow her song and aim willingly for the rocks, and I take no chances.

Posted in On Writing



There’s something wonderful about intending to go to bed early, and just read for ten minutes; then finding yourself at the end of a book, your feet freezing from being in such a position that they fell asleep without you. 

This is what I aspire to.

As a writer – a title I am still getting used to calling myself – my goals are amorphous(?). They are shapeshifters; I want to write full-time, I want it to pay my bills so I don’t have to commute any more. I want to afford a small house where the floors don’t creak until Lucy’s old enough to sneak in, and that’s when they alert me. I don’t need to be famous,  I just want my stories known. 

I want to keep people up past their bedtime reading my books. 

When I finished what I (foolishly, naively) thought to be my final draft of my first novel, I gave it to my closest people who would not blow smoke up my ass. They had some great notes and critiques, and told me all their thoughts, good and bad. And one told me they’d stayed up later than they meant to reading it. 

I carry that like an ember.


I have done no writing this December, other than the 200 or so words above. Not a blog post, not a journal entry, not even scribbled thoughts from my walks. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe I needed that break after November, where I wrote 50,194 words of a new novel to win NaNoWriMo. That seems legit, right? That’s a lot of output for one month, especially while balancing being a solo mom to my toddler, working full time, and trying to keep up with the rest of life – which, admittedly, some of which went to crap.

Maybe I ran out of motivation; it’s not always easy to get up and moving and settling down to pull words out of my brain at 5 AM, and often harder to get back to that after putting Lucy to bed.  I know my mental health took a dive; what poet Jarod K. Anderson refers to as “brain weather” was dark fog and thunder for days on end. But did that happen because it’s winter and I have SAD as well as complicated grief? Or did it happen because I stopped writing daily, all of my carefully structured routines fell away, and the darkness took the opportunity to close in? 


It’s January now, less than a week left. The writer is there; I’ve got lines and paragraphs that are waiting to find a home, waiting to be taken in and finished and find their place. I’ve got quotes and prompts aplenty, creative fodder galore (quick, name that tune). I’ve updated my inspiration journal, my reading journal, my daily journal. My writing? Not so much. But she’s there; maybe buried under blankets of inactivity and depression, but there, and stirring. 

This is not going to be a good blog post. This is not going to get my voice out there and be read by anyone other than those who have subscribed, and honestly? Maybe only half of those folks, too. 

That’s OK. 

This blog is for me. I have other writing projects that aren’t for me. I write and edit things for work, for friends; there are a few of you who might read this whom I owe some thoughts to, and I promise I’ll get to them. I’m working on edits for two novels I’ve written, and one in progress. I have multiple short stories and flash fiction sitting, waiting for their turn. Those are different. Those are the stories I intend to put out there only after high polishing and buffing, and hopefully, professional publishing services. 

This is where I practice, where I make mistakes. Where I stream it out and write from the heart, whatever comes out. There’s no guise, no plan, no plot or structure. It’s raw, sometimes more so than others. It’s public because just knowing it’s public gives me the accountability I need to return, even when the words are slow to come, even when the document sits open for fifty-one days. 

My goal for this blog in 2023 is to publish 25 posts. I was torn between 24 (2 per month) and 26 (once every 2 weeks) and split the difference. In one aspect, I am already behind; I’m not going to get two out this month, which means I’m already playing catch up. 

In another aspect, I’m just getting started.

I haven’t spent the past weeks since NaNoWriMo idle. I’ve been in consumption mode; I’ve been reading more than ever, searching out inspiration instead of passively scrolling. I’ve been back in the MasterClass series, hanging on the words of N.K. Jemison. I’ve got podcasts lined up, and plans. So many plans. Best of all, I finally have my pen name for what I intend to publish – with or without a publishing house.

Two major things I have accomplished since NaNo might not seem like the sort of things one would crow about, or even call accomplishments. For me, they are. One, I’ve set a date to self-publish my first novel. If none of the queries I have out to agents come back positively by then, I’m partnering with a service to publish my own novel. 

The second is even more of a victory. Every so often, when I would write before, I’d come across something that sounded close to my poems, or someone who sounded more like me but so much better. And I’d stop. If I wasn’t going to be the best or the first, what was the point (I need to be cautious, my gifted child status is showing)? 

This changed in 2022. I remember the exact moment; I’m not going back to check, so forgive me if you’ve already heard this story. I had taken myself on a solo writing retreat in the mountains for three days and nights. I brought along The Night Circus on a whim. On my second full day, as I added more hot water to the clawfoot tub that had gone tepid while I was engrossed in Erin Morgenstern’s world, I felt the ground shift. Beliefs and doubts, worries and hopes were tossed around like Boggle cubes and settled into a new pattern, a mosaic tableau that rolled out, just waiting for me to take the first step.

I was reading something incredibly magic and engrossing; and it made me want to write. I wasn’t dismayed, I wasn’t disheartened that I could never write that well.

I wanted to write more.

I wanted to bring people into my world, into my stories, to captivate the reader, to pull them along the plotlines and pitfalls.

It took 35 years to figure out I could be inspired, not outshone, by people who were good at what I wanted to do. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, seeing as it took 34 years to realize I didn’t want to “have it all,” as I had been raised to believe. 

Better late than never.

Today, in the final days of January, I have more than doubled my word count for December. It’s nothing that will get me on the NYT bestseller’s list, but it certainly has not been a waste. I had already decided that my word of the year is “Forward,” following the concept of non-zero days, something I learned on Reddit (yes, inspiration is everywhere). Any progress is good. Another quote I’m keeping in mind, and I am not going to go down an internet rabbit hole trying to figure out where it first came from, but it was still important for me to learn: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing half-assed.” 

As I’m sure it is for some of you, this is a MAJOR adjustment from the idea that “anything worth doing is worth doing well,” another maxim I was raised with. 

So while my blog goal will stay at 25 posts this year, it’s just that: a goal. I may or may not make it. I will absolutely try, but as long as I can continue the forward momentum, no matter how small, I’ll take that as a success. 

If you’re still subscribed, or still reading after this ramble, I hope you’re coming along for the ride.

Posted in Uncategorized

Come at Me, Bro

The anger is closer, more accessible, than the reason for it or the details. I didn’t know anyone at Club Q. I’m learning the names slowly as the news quietly updates. It bothers me that the only updates I’m seeing are from Huff Post Queer Voices, and sites that lie inaccessible behind paywalls. 

Have we all become numb?

I felt it yesterday; I don’t know if it was the day, the news, or the season, but “numb” is a good descriptor for most of my Sunday. The way my bestie said it summed it up perfectly: “there’s so much to feel and so little space to feel it.” And so, blankness becomes survival. 

Today I woke up anxious and angry. Little things are frustrating; not the stomp-your-foot flavor of frustrating, but the take-a-match-to-it kind. It took me a while to realize why, to remember. It took until afternoon again for anything to cross my Facebook path. 

And this attack happened mere minutes before Trans Day of Remembrance. An annual day of mourning and remembering, scheduled and on a whole lot of calendars, because we know we are going to lose more of our community to violence and hatred. Not long before they died, my wife wondered if they’d make that list one day.

Today, I’m not numb; I am angry, and I am tired. 

I’m not even supposed to be writing this. I had a funny post planned, a nice short one with typos and mistakes I’ve made using talk-to-text, because it’s National Novel Writing Month. I’m about 6000 words off of my goal with just ten days to go. 

I couldn’t post that after I saw the news. And I couldn’t sit silently; not for long, at least.

There’s a tweet going around that says “If you can’t wrap your head around a bar or a club as a sanctuary, you’ve probably never been afraid to hold someone’s hand in public.” And that hit me, hard.

I’ve never seen myself as a victim; not when I was in an abusive relationship, not when I’ve been actively discriminated against. No matter what has happened to me, no matter the dizzying amount of anxiety I have, I still consider myself a fighter. 

Because yeah, I’ve been worried about what it would mean to hold my wife’s hand in public. I’ve felt my protective instincts go up when I am with another woman in public. I’ve taken stickers that I’m proud as hell to display down off my car in order to be safer travelling. I’ve used the buddy system in out-of-state gas stations, leaving the dog in the (running) car, so that my partner would be safer – or have a witness, if they weren’t.

I’ve felt the stares, directed at me, directed at my wife, and before that, other partners. I realize that not everyone knows what it’s like to feel that hot punch of hate, to feel unwelcome because of who you are and who you love. Not everyone knows what it’s like when conversation stops when you walk in, and you know what that silence means.

When Hawthorne and I were first married, there were states where we would half-jokingly say “Oh, guess we’re not married! Ok, see ya!” When we were first talking about having kids, we had to look into the legality of names on a birth certificate before we even felt safe trying. When I was preeclamptic and Lucy’s arrival was imminent, we elected to go to the in-state hospital, which was twice as far away as the out-of-state one, just to protect those rights.

We were denied wedding services by vendors because we were not a union of a man and a woman. We were not-so-subtly called out during our niece’s dedication ceremony; not by name, but it sure was uncomfortable when the message of the sermon was that Jesus can even forgive homosexuals, those that are sexually impure. 

I have been present for a couple fights at bars and clubs, and during my time on the ambulance, responded to plenty. Only two were at known queer establishments, where intolerant people went to make a point – or whatever reason they gave. Still I have felt safer in bars and clubs than I have in most churches I’ve been to. And no, I don’t expect everyone to understand that. What I want people to understand is, my experience is just as true and valid as yours.

These days, I’d love to get a night off and find a gay bar in a major metropolitan city, have a couple drinks, dance, and Uber home. However I’m increasingly afraid of doing so; I’ve got a kid I want to come home to more than I want to unwind at a bar; and truly, Starbucks is no safer from assholes with guns than a bar.

Historically, bars have been safe gathering places for people who existed outside the confines of man-and-woman, binary, and proper. They have been burned down, smoked out, condemned, and shot up. They are flagships of survival. They’ve given their bricks and mortar just as we have shed our tears and blood for our right to exist in this world.

For every person who exists outside the boundaries of the binary, for every person who loves someone they’ve been told by someone – person, organization, religion, or society – for each of you, I am angry, and I am with you.

For every person who has had their life taken by these senseless acts of violence, especially in places when you were supposed to be safe, I am remembering, and I am with you.

For every person who has been harmed, abandoned, assaulted, evicted, disowned, denied your human and civil rights, I am hurting, and I am with you.

For every person who has shed their blood and their tears just to fucking exist, every person who has fought – with cops, with protesters, with religious figures and politicians – I am thanking you, and I am with you.

For every person who has been afraid to hold someone’s hand in public, piss in a public restroom, cut or grow their hair, wear a dress or pants, have stickers on their car, travel to specific places, go out by themselves to get gas, I am raising my hand in sorrow and solidarity, and I am with you.

I’m no victim, and neither am I invincible. I’m fully aware that being a woman, and being queer, make me a target for certain bigots. I’m something to abhor, to castigate and disparage. I’m something to dispose of, teach a lesson to; someone who doesn’t match their idea of what a woman should be, and as such, deserving of scorn and derision. And as I am all of those things, I am something to be feared.

So go ahead, fear me. If you see me as a target, be damn sure that I know it, and your hateful opinion does not change me. You have come for us, and we are still here, and we will continue to be.

I am angry: for me, for my daughter, my friends and family and community. And hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned.

Posted in Beliefs and Practices

Dia de los Angelitos

We kept the celebration small this year. The kitchen table was pulled out, the basket of condiments banished to the pantry for tonight. There were 6 place settings crowded around the square table. I pulled the three chairs I owned in around in and added the stepstool; the kiddo would get a kick out of that. Lucy had her high chair, and I was happy to stand. Truth be told I was too excited to sit. 

We set the table together, with silverware clattering on plates, as “Lucy Danger” and “gentle” don’t always go together. The sun had set already, and the sky was vaguely purple with the cloud cover and light pollution from the city refracted inside it. I fiddled with the vases of bright orange carnations, and bit my lip as I worried that they were not marigolds.

Suddenly, there was a rush of warmth and the voices of our beloved guests poured into the room. Lucy was startled and ran to grab my leg a moment, but found herself swept up in hugs.

Oh, but they looked wonderful. They’d all dressed up for the occasion. Stan, in his suit from the church picture that his wife had taken, shit, must be ten years ago now; Clark, a fresh flannel button down and pressed slacks, with his hat and walking stick and sunglasses. Hawthorne, dapper as could be in a lavender button down, jeans, vest, bow tie, and pocket chain. And Oscar, my sweet boy, in a checkered Oxford shirt and suspenders on his jeans.

He’s gotten so tall, a full head taller than his sister, who was looking at him with wide eyes from her perch up on Clark’s shoulders. He’d be four now; he sure seemed like it. Lucy kicked her legs and demanded “down, down please!” Clark lifted her off his shoulders and put her down, and I watched my children, my babies, run into the other room to play. Their grandfather went with them, a smile on his face that I could tell reached his eyes, even with the sunglasses.

I turned from hugging Stan, who followed in to watch his grandkids play, and found myself back in my spot, head under Hawthorne’s chin, their arms wrapped right around me. We fit perfectly together there, and always had. I breathed them in; sandalwood and calendula, and the smell of their skin that I remembered so well. I wanted to pause time, to feel those arms hold me like no one else could, to lay my head on their chest where it fit so naturally. The bossa nova station I had playing on my computer slid toward something slower, wrapping around us as if we needed help holding on to each other. We swayed in place a moment, then Hawthorne tugged my hand. I spun away and back in, laughing into their eyes. We danced in the kitchen like we had so many times before. 

The kids ran in, demanding food, followed by the men. Hawthorne gave me a last squeeze and let go, reaching to pick up Lucy as I turned to the stove. 

“Hey, baby. Remember me?” 

Lucy  nodded. “You Papa,” she said, pointing. My eyes stung, and I closed them against the wave of emotion. She was always to ask to look at pictures, and didn’t always recognize Hawthorne. “That my Mama,” she continued, the same way she told her friends at school every time I came to pick her up. “Who that?” 

“That’s your brother Oscar,” Hawthorne told her. 

She gasped. “My picture!” She strained to get away, and since neither of us knew what she was talking about, they set her down. She ran into her room. “Mama, my picture!”

We all followed her in, Oscar pushing through legs to get to the front to see. Hawthorne gripped my shoulder and tears filled my eyes.

She was pointing to a painting given to us by our beautiful and talented friends when we had been pregnant with Lucy. A branch of a birch tree against a truly Oscar blue sky – she had color matched it to pictures we posted of our Oscar sky. On the branch was a birds nest made of twigs. Inside the nest was a gold crown, and half of a perfect egg. Well, when it had been given to us, it was the shell of the egg, glued on like the twigs and the crown; the shell had been broken during the move. Lucy asked about it often, asked why it was broken. I always told her it was because she had hatched, and the crown was for her brother Oscar. He left it here when he went to the stars, I would tell her. 

Lucy climbed up on her bed, turned and gestured to Oscar. “C’mere,” she told him. “My picture. My egg broken, I hatch. You has a crown! My picture!”

Stan clapped his hand on my other shoulder. “Ya done good, kid,” he said as he turned and walked out. He wasn’t much one for displays of emotion, his own or that of others’. Clark echoed the sentiment and action. “Well done,” he nodded, before stepping out. The kids began chattering about the books on Lucy’s shelf, and we watched our babies play. 

The timer beeped, and I ran back to the kitchen. It wasn’t a traditional dinner in any sense of the word. We had chicken nachos with Chiavetta’s, shepherd’s pie, shrimp cocktail, cereal with milk, and ice cream. We sat and ate the smorgasbord happily, passing things around the packed little table, then one of the grandfathers would turn easily in their chair to place the dish on the counter. Oscar got a kick out of sitting on the top of the backwards stepstool. Wine flowed and beer foamed, raised in toast, and enjoyed without any negative anticipation. All were well here. 

After dinner was finished, I pulled out a cake I had hidden in my bedroom, away from little fingers, frosted with bright orange flowers. I lit the candle and brought it out carefully. Hawthorne, Clark, and Stan joined in singing Happy Birthday to Lucy, and she clapped along in her Papa’s lap. Between us all, we managed to eat half the cake, and polish off a tub of ice cream with it.

Despite the sugar rush, Lucy and Oscar were both beginning to droop after the meal. We moved to the living room, where there was just enough space to have Stan and Clark each take a comfy seat in a high-backed chair known for cradling its occupants. Hawthorne and I snuggled up on the couch with the kids. I took our son into my lap, and Hawthorne held our daughter. We sat and talked, sharing family stories we never had a chance to, as well as old favorites. I caught them up on the highlights of the year. They had felt some disturbance through the veil, more of the unpleasant things that I tried to lighten in the retelling. I didn’t want to dwell on the hardships and illnesses, the tears and sleepless nights. I wanted this bright, golden memory. 

We continued to talk as the candles burned low, and the grandfathers each drifted off to sleep. I held Hawthorne’s hand over the back of the couch, surrounding our sleeping babies. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open any longer, but I didn’t want to let go. Hawthorne laughed and my head came up; I’d fallen asleep and kept talking, nonsensical ramblings. I shrugged and smiled. It’s not like it was the first time that had happened. I laid my head in their hand as they murmured to me, all the little things we used to say in bed together, before they rolled over and I’d curl around them to finally fall asleep. A tear slipped from my eye – I knew they would be gone when I awoke, my lap back to being space for only Lucy, my couch and house otherwise empty. The dog would wander around, confused as to where her family went. I didn’t know how Lucy would respond. Another tear fell, and Hawthorne wiped it away with their thumb. 

The last thing I heard was them telling me they loved me, with the weight of Oscar back in my arms, before the candles faded out and I drifted off to sleep.

I hadn’t needed the marigolds after all.