An Open Letter of Thanks to the People in My Life

On October 11th, I was standing in the Denver airport, having just spent four exhausting but incredible days writing my guts out on my memoir, Hell is for Children, in Estes Park. I’d done some intense trauma work with two other beautiful women in this process and was emotionally drained, but satisfied with the path I was on that will end in a completed manuscript.

I’d also seen a bunch of elk, which was very cool.

 

elk1

The first thing I saw when I opened the curtains in my bedroom one morning

 

That day, I’d driven around Denver and caught up with my dear friend Matt, who left Portland four years ago.

 

Matt Bauer

 

And  I finally met Megan Nico DiLullo in person after having first met on The Nervous Breakdown 7 years ago. As per the custom of our people, we had to get a photograph with fake mustaches attached to our face perineums (which is what we chose to call the divot between the nose and the upper lip).

 

mustache

 

By the time I arrived at the airport, I was spent. Ready to process the last five days of my life, but uneager to return to Real Life. After passing through security, I was watching the sky outside the windows of the airport turn dark with the approaching storm, and feeling very much like I didn’t want to return to the Pacific Northwest. I don’t mean to my children, cat, job, friends – but to the dark skies and constant drizzle. The desert is where my heart is.

 

denver sky

 

But then, as the announcement that my flight was boarding came, my phone rang. It was my son, Indigo, one of my two nearly-15-year-old twin boys. He was at Dad’s house for the week, but happened by my house to grab a warmer jacket. “Hey, mom. I just came by your house to grab something,” he said. “The backdoor is standing wide open. Do you know why?” Continue reading

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A Meditation on Taking My Sons to See Swiss Army Man

I took my 14-year-old twin boys to see Swiss Army Man last night. Maybe you’ve never heard of the movie, but it’s kind of an art film (what designates a thing an art film?) and follows a narrative arc that is very much not found in a traditional Hollywood vehicle. It has Paul Dano (who I love – from Little Miss Sunshine to There Will Be Blood and beyond) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, yes, but also a fine actor in his own right – and in this film he plays a freakin’ corpse! How exciting!) as the two leads and it’s about a stranded castaway who saves his own life by utilizing a flatulent corpse as a human multi-tool.

Anyway, I took the boys.

Because Harry Potter. And because farts. And because I’ve paid to see dozens of first run movies, usually animated, that follow the hero’s journey narrative and everyone wins in the end and I’m BORED of it and by god, you’re going to see a mom movie with me! I was so excited to see a story that was brand new, and I was excited to observe the boys’ reactions to doing the same.

Because I am a hope-filled fool.

Because sometimes in wanting a thing bad enough, I can ignore certain warning signs. Continue reading

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Some advice about asking people to read your writing

I was just commiserating with two friends/coworkers/colleagues who are also college-trained writers about when people we know send us stuff to read and give feedback on. We’ve all had similar experiences with this – and, in fairness, we’ve also been the person asking. As such, we’ve learned a lot about what to and not to do when seeking feedback on your writing. Here then are our basic suggestions: Continue reading

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Basket Case

“You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.” Brian, in a letter to Mr. Vernon, The Breakfast Club

Did you know the term “Basket Case” didn’t originally start out meaning someone who seemed incapable of dealing with life’s issues? (And, if we’re being honest, there’s also a meaning under that meaning involving the assumption the person is either completely manufacturing complaints without any basis in reality, or is, at a minimum, being histrionic about simple stuff that we’re sure they could handle better if they didn’t prefer attention over self-care. And the assumption under that assumption – the most nefarious, segregating part of it – is that we ourselves certainly wouldn’t have such a hard time if we were in the Basket Case’s shoes. Everyone’s a hero in his dreams.)

According to this really cool article I found, it seems that “one of the earliest known documented instances of the phrase was actually in denial that ‘basket cases’ actually existed, as found in a bulletin issued in March of 1919 on behalf of the United States Surgeon General.” In summary, a Basket Case was supposedly a soldier who had lost all  his limbs and required being transported in a basket. Though, according to the Surgeon General, that wasn’t actually a thing.

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Impulse Control to Major Tom

I took the boys to Goodwill the other day and Indigo found a beat up, inoperable Power Wheels 12V Battery Powered Jeep for 10 bucks. You know the kind: designed by Fisher-Price for toddlers and weighted for up to 120 pounds. He had babysitting money to burn and since the internet has been down at our house all month, he was also brimming with latent inspiration. He approached me completely jazzed announcing he was going to convert the old thing into a go-cart and could I please pay for it on my debit card and he would pay me back when we got home. I was immediately on board with this plan – anything to get my brilliant kid off the couch.

We got the thing home and Indigo immediately set to work.

indigo

Tolkien, to this point, had no interest in the go-kart, but he soon saw its potential. He approached me, enthusiastically offering me two five dollar bills and saying, “Mom! I want to pay for Indigo’s go-kart.”

“Why?” I asked.

“To be nice!” he said. “Because I love him.”

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