I come from a line of sentimental hoarders and cat lovers (particularly of the black and white variety). In the last year, in moments of needing to clear out my father’s home – a home he has now not lived in for two years – I have cursed him, and his particular brand of “artistic hoarding” many times. 

He saved everything. Well, at least everything he thought might be edible or creatively purposeful. Last summer, my brothers and I filled not one, but two, twenty foot dumpsters with our father’s belongings – some, probably prized possessions. He saved frame samples, mats, and papers. He saved rolls of canvases, and racks and drawers. He saved animals bones and trinkets and rolls of tape. He saved every colored pencil he ever stumbled across. 

I am not this way. At least, I try not to be. That is what happens when you’re growing up, yes? You look toward your parents to find what you want to be. You look away from them when you discover what you’d like to avoid becoming. I do not identify as a hoarder. Though, in fairness, I’m sure that he didn’t either. Still, as I endeavor to pack up what has been my home for nearly the last three years, I have been forced to reckon with what I hold onto. And it is strikingly similar to what my father, and his mother, have also clung tightly to.

In my father’s home there is a wooden chest filled to the brim with old papers and pictures. My brothers and I recently dug into it, determined to empty it and to make some semblance of progress toward cleaning out our now deceased father’s home. Somewhat to my surprise, the chest was not filled with items solely from his lifetime, but from my grandmother’s lifetime. It held thousands of pictures of her childhood nearly the century that has followed. It held letters and cards from friends and pictorial proof of my cat-loving lineage. It held our family’s past, both distant and recent, including the story of my own childhood. It held proof of my mom and dad’s once-love. It held images of my grandparents long-ago beginnings, young smiles, and swim suits. It held most everything. 

In my recent packing and organizing sessions, as I prepare to move into my first house, I discovered I am not so different. I have a tub of old journals, my collection ever-growing. I have dozens of cards and notes that I have received over the years; cards of sympathy, of love, of celebration. They mark important moments in my life and the relationships that have held (and still hold) me. I have the last card that my grandmother ever mailed me, her signature shaky and singular. I have cards from old jobs, signed by ten to twenty coworkers who either adored me or barely knew me. I have notes and postcards from friends, and pictures upon pictures from back when we all actually printed them, and even since then, when I made an exception to do so (to create something tangible from what isn’t). 

I keep a tidy home. Some might even say somewhat minimalist, but I hold secret my sentimental-hoarder-self, who cannot, will not, part with objects that make up my story. To me, these objects tie thread by thread, to the amalgamation of stories and feelings that make up my heart. 

Is this really a product of genetics? Maybe not. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that my father, his mother, and I all favor long-haired black and white cats, or that we all have kept physical records of our lives tucked away into boxes. Some might view this practice and the amassment of items that accompanies it as cumbersome, strange, or borderline nonsensical. But it is a part of me. 

The sentiment I have about being so, well, sentimental is akin to a line from one of my favorite children’s books, The Big Orange Splot. In the book the main character suddenly decides to decorate his home and yard to fit who he is, much to the chagrin of his tidy, uptight neighbors. Mr. Plumbean says, “my house is me and I am it, and it looks like all my dreams.” My boxes of sentiment may be kept tucked away, far from visible by all, but they hold something invaluable to me. They are me, and I am them. If dreams are part past and present, as I hold them to be, they also look like all of my dreams.

Thoughts on Color

To be a woman is to see a color that not everyone can see, my good friend brilliantly pointed out last night, as we sat by the river, soaking up the second-to-last longest day of the year. I had never heard, or considered, such a metaphor for a human experience (and a corresponding lack thereof), and now I reckon I will never forget it. 

Explaining the experience of being a woman (of any kind) in the world can be like this: [you, me, all of us shouting] “It’s purple! It’s fucking purple! How can you not see that this thing is purple?”

How can you not see it? I ask men silently. I sometimes ask women of other generations, or women of another persuasion (e.g., those who might hold dear very beings that oppress them). 

It’s fucking purple.

Purple is everywhere. I see purple when I walk alone down the street at night. Purple when I travel to certain places in the company of other women (other objects). Purple when I recognize my child is too old to run around naked in the front yard. Purple when my partner and I are out in the wilderness and suddenly realize that together we make one another even less safe.

When did childhood end and purple begin?

I don’t remember. 

Wait. Yes I do. I remember when men’s gazes shifted from something innocuous to something curiously heavy. Even before that, I remember being the object of unwanted attention from male classmates who were themselves children. Children who took it upon themselves to tease me, to touch me, to impose upon me with their wants. 

Purple crept into my vision like a sunset – indiscernible at first, then exploding into rich color.

As an adolescent, I grew acquainted with the color purple. I tried it on for comfort, for confidence, for style. I twisted it into a part of myself that I felt compelled to accept. My experiences seemed so commonplace. My best friends saw, and lived in purple. Why shouldn’t I?

It’s taken me a long time to un-twist all of this.

I cannot escape purple, but I can pull just far away enough to see it clearly. It is a distinct kind of fear.

I am bold and confident and feminist and bisexual and I am afraid of men. Not all of them, but many, if not most, of them – particularly strangers. Particularly strangers who gaze at me, who inhale my scent, who force themselves into my experience, into my story, into my space.

It has taken me years (upon years) to recognize that unwanted attention from men was, in itself, an act of violence. I had employed the coping mechanism of allowing myself to feel flattered, allowing my ego to expand. I didn’t acknowledge coercion, harassment, and unwanted touch as what they are – more violence. And, until I was in my first relationship with a gender queer woman, I didn’t understand, or perceive, the deepest color of purple – the specific fear that arises from feeling observed in a certain way by certain men that somehow communicates their intricate feelings of desire, disgust, hatred, and rejection. 

Deep purple is my least favorite color. 

It will probably take me another thirty-eight years to find better words to describe what I/you/we experience as women. The emotional experience of being viewed as, and treated like, an object by other humans, is complex to say the least.

For now, I’m content just to recognize things for what they are. I’m happy to find words where I can, courage (in moments) to unpack deep wounds that I have tucked away out of a sense of responsibility, and honest conversations with people with whom I feel most safe. For now, I’m grateful to sit on a dock with a dear friend and wax poetic with metaphors for the disgustingly misogynist world we live in. The world that I’m raising my daughter in. 

There’s no way to keep her from seeing certain colors, or learning hard truths. Worse yet, there’s no way to fully keep her safe. But I’m damn well going to try. One conversation at a time. 



The exact source of the phrase,“I wish I could quit you,” is fuzzy in my memory, but the sentiment frequently streams through my mind as a parent.

This has never felt easy to me, but four is hard, and feels hard-est in fact, at least compared to whatever else my brain has held onto from whatever preceded this, the seemingly impossible present.

My daughter’s feelings are so big, so strong. I want to be able to hold them for her and find routinely that I can’t. My feelings in response to hers are so big, so strong, that the field in which they meet becomes a battlefield, one in which, under these circumstances, no one is winning.

At the end of a day of single-parenting this spirited, sweet, imaginative, stubborn, creative, loving, sassy, and often incredibly rude and angry child, I want to simultaneously curl up in a ball, scream, throw things, thrash violently, cry, and submerge myself in a pool of warm water (in which I might perhaps scream some more).  I love my daughter more than life itself, which, if I explore the meaning of, really means that now that she exists in my life, there is no life without her. And a world in which she might no longer exist is not a world I want to live in, despite the fact that mothering her is quite possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done and, thanks to this experience, I will be quite satisfied if I have just this one go at it and leave it at that.

It’s so intense. All of it. The love, the struggle, the exhaustion, the wanting to do better, the anguish of not, the joy, the gut wrenching everything. It’s more than I have words for. Clearly.

I recently participated in a breath work group, during which I laid on the floor, in essence, breathing and sobbing among a roomful of others doing the same. It was wonderful and comical. It was uncomfortable and awkward. I had done it before and will do it again, because, for me, there’s nothing like grieving with a room comprised mostly of strangers to feel wholly connected to myself and humanity.

But I digress.

While lying in that space, resting in all of the beauty and discomfort of the moment, my mind, seemingly out of my control (one goal of this particular practice) went to the day I labored, preparing to give birth to my child. In that memory, I watched in my mind, as my daughter moved out of my body and into my arms – and in that moment, one that is etched into being, I recognized her. I looked upon the face of my child and immediately forgot about the struggle and intense pain of moving her through my body. I saw her and felt this strange, wondrous sense that I had always known her – this little piece of my being, entering the world tied with a string to all of my hopes and dreams and bits of myself begging to be a part of something greater.

And so she is. She is like me but not. She is a part of me and living absolutely of her own accord. She is four going on sixteen. She is a magical unicorn and she’s awful to be around. Sometimes the absolute worst. But she is also unapologetically herself, a force to be reckoned with. And I am glad to have been reminded that I knew–as soon as I saw her face, as soon as I held her in my arms–that she would be.

Ashes to Ashes

My father taught me how to cry. He excelled at it. So much that “weepy” was a quality I associated with him, much to my occasional disappointment and dismay.

To my knowledge, my discomfort with his tears didn’t come from toxic masculinity. It didn’t come from some idea I’d learned about men should or shouldn’t behave. In my mind all men, at least dads, cried routinely. It wasn’t the practice that I questioned, it was the extent to which his emotions were ever-present and boundary-less. It was that the reach and breadth of his emotions, which seemed to leave so little room for mine.

Before my father’s stroke, I struggled to show much emotion around him. Empathy for his depression and self-hatred was hard for me to come by. In his presence, I dampened my expressions, positive or negative, settling somewhere in the middle range, otherwise known as  apathy. My goal, I think, was to never give him too much to go on, not wanting to show my hand – all, of course, for reasons I’m still trying to figure out in therapy.

It wasn’t until my father’s stroke last year that our dynamic really shifted. The man I knew to express too much suddenly had nothing to say, nothing to feel. Sure, he would get ornery at times – in these moments, in my eyes, most like himself. But mostly he was quietly content, at least on the outside, to observe his former life and livelihood quietly waste away.

The last year of my father’s life, to those of us who were blessed and burdened with sharing in his experience of it, was his absolute worst. He went from living independently to relying on others to wash, eat, and move his body. He went from being chronically depressed, but regularly experiencing the joy of his art (painting and drawing) to barely able to hold a pencil. Following his stroke, he never returned to his home, to his friendships, to his teaching. He and his life became unrecognizable from what they were. And yet, other than a few conversations that would indicate so, he seemed to live day to day in a sort of content oblivion.

Yesterday, as my brothers and I, in the company of a few other loved ones, spread his ashes at his most sacred painting spot, which he affectionately called “my river.” More than one person noted that he is now in a better place. The fact is indisputable and still, my mind went to the last conversation that he and I had about his interest in continuing to live. He was less than a week into his stroke-recovery and in need of a high risk surgery to remove an additional clot in a major artery. It was one of those “he could die in surgery or die from a subsequent stroke” decisions and I wanted so much to know what his wishes were. In essence, to what extent he wanted to live.

I assumed, at the time, that he would rather be dead than to live in his current state, or worse yet, experience additional physical and cognitive decline. It turned out though, that on the verge of death, a state he had talked about for years as his inevitable relief from the burden of his living, he was terrified. At least a part of him wanted to fight. At least a part of him wanted, badly, to survive.

Yesterday, as I scooped my hand into my father’s remains and tossed the dusty particles of his being out into the flowing fresh water of his river, I felt the terrible weight of knowing that I have lost someone, and something, that is never to return. I have lost my father–one half of me, however salty or sweet. In the same moment, as I watched what remained of his body settle onto the rocks and drift away from me, I thought to myself, “thank god he is finally free.”

Everything is difficult.

Everything is difficult, my father declared today as he stared down at the utensils that separated him from from his food. Can I help you then? I inquired. He looked at me through his long, wiry eyebrows and nodded yes. Pride is no longer a thing for him.

He doesn’t say much these days, but he did greet me today with smiling eyes and what, for him, I now consider a “booming” hello. Anything more than an incoherent whisper feels like a win. 

Quiet as he is, he’s still chattier and more intact than 90% of the elders that surround him in his assisted living facility. He should be in skilled nursing, really, but it’s a small town and a nice place and he’s been there since he left the hospital post-stroke, so as long as they can accommodate his needs, he’ll remain there. It’s nearly a three hour drive for me, but is minutes from my brother (his Power of Attorney), so I suck it up and drive down monthly for a 1-2 hour visit. I recognize I could stay longer, but with as few means of communication we have left, those minutes go by pretty slowly. And, as happy as I am to see him, the grief of sitting with the physically and cognitively debilitated man formerly known as my dad still shakes me every time. 


My father kept trying to share his meatloaf and green beans with me today. While I typically decline (somehow I always end up there during a meal time), I accepted a couple of bites, both happy to be fed and to be sharing a meal with my father.

While he seems unimpressed with the facilities culinary offerings, my father was never a great cook, or much of a cook at all. He favored eggs “scrambled” in the microwave, what he called “Shtuff” (a concoction which amounted to ground beef thrown into boxed mac n cheese), Friday night pizza topped with popcorn (also microwaved), and lunch meat. Good god did the man love lunch meat. Bologna peanut butter roll-ups, turkey, ham, roast beef, salami–whatever was on sale, or not. Together we’d dig in fresh out of the deli line or roll some up for a late night snack while watching TV. He also hoarded sale cold cuts in the freezer. Wherever he was to end up, my father did not want to be in some sort of a meatless bind. 

Today, though, my dad just scooped up his sub-par meatloaf as best as he could and fumbled it into his mouth with his good hand. And after I shoveled a couple of green beans in and angled his sippy cup full of choke-resistant fruit punch gel for a “drink,” I watched him enjoy, and drop into his lap, a whole piece of lemon cream pie. I smiled.


I visited my father alone today for the first time in six months, with no brother or girlfriend to serve as a buffer. I went in with mild anxiety about that, but I also came armed with my charm, my father’s favorite skill of mine, and a book. 

If you’d asked me a year ago what book I’d elect to read to my father when he was unable to read for himself, I’d be at a loss. For starters, I think I’d be in denial that the need would ever arise. While I’ve known of his health issues and related risks for some time, I for some reason never imagined that my father’s beautiful brain would ever be compromised. I guess I thought maybe he’d die of another heart attack or that his body would just give way to his decades-long depression. I never guessed he’d lose his ability to read or process thoughts, or worse yet, to create his art.

My father was a newspaper addict who valued convenience over quality. He’d work crosswords on the regular, just like his mother, and had shelves loaded with loads of books and dust, but other than the Joy of Sex edition that I used to sneak peaks at as a teen, I never saw evidence of him paging through much else but the USA Today. 

I selected Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on a whim, or perhaps, as the result of a psychic connection with my girlfriend (who thankfully had it available on her bookcase), and though it had been recommended to me long ago by a good friend before today, I’d never even opened it.

This afternoon, following lunch, I wheeled my father away to a quiet corner of the lounge and pulled out the book. I thought maybe I could read this to you, I said. He shrugged, seemingly unimpressed. I started and read a few pages, at times fumbling with the verbose text, before looking up. He seemed captive. I shyly asked, how do you like it? And he replied, I like hearing you read, followed by, I like watching your teeth. 

I got them from you, I teased him. I spent the next half hour reading out loud to my strange old man with a warmth in my heart. 


To the father of three sitting next to me on the airplane who:

  • Smelled like a distillery (his own words) after drinking too heavily with his buddies this weekend
  • Loves sports, used to play basketball in college, always dreamed of being an ESPN announcer, and now coaches his sons basketball team
  • Grew up “dirt poor” in Poulsbo, Washington and went to college in Hawaii where his father moved after divorcing his mother
  • Is a State Farm insurance salesman just like his father was
  • Didn’t want to be like his father
  • Owns a dockside home on the Puget Sound, two boats, and ten acres
  • Used to hunt, but now only fishes. Loves fish.
  • Has a wife with an MBA who stayed home for just one year with their three children and decided it wasn’t for her, that she was essentially just cleaning up the same mess multiple times a day
  • Meets up with two buddies from grade school every year to watch the Superbowl, even though his wife isn’t a huge fan of his friends or the annual rendezvous
  • Was diagnosed with high blood pressure last year and has since cut back on red meat, cut out beer, and now only drinks gin and vodka
  • Has Swedish family hailing from Minnesota and has a traditional name that peers growing up thought was weird
  • Lives on Bainbridge Island and hates everyone around there, particularly the “wussy” men who don’t even know how to change a tire
  • Wishes that he lived in a more diverse place so that his kids could experience and witness all that life has to offer
  • Each year changes his key chain to reflect the state or place that he intends to travel that year (this year is Hawaii)
  • Took his family to Spain last year, but found his three kids to be a handful and was less impressed than expected by the food
  • Is a self-identified foodie who kindly offered me half of his Subway BLT foot long with extra jalapeño
  • Believes raising his children is the best thing he’s ever done and credits his fully developed manhood to the experience
  • Loves to read a biography and binge watch the History Channel
  • Graciously offered his car keys and ice cubes as entertainment for my restless lap infant
  • Congratulated me on making such a great kid
  • Referred to women repeatedly as “girls,” and refused to believe I am 33 despite my increasingly gray hair and deep scowl lines, both features which I pointed out to him
  • Had to ask the personal question (his words) about how it was my wife and I decided who would carry and birth our child and then offered a, “good for you two” immediately followed by, “How does your family feel about it?”
  • Ordered a Sprite Zero. Ordered a gin and tonic. Ordered a vodka tonic. Ordered a Coke Zero and then seemed perplexed when the flight attendant brought him four drinks
  • States he is going through an early midlife crisis
  • Used to be willing to “cut your throat for a dollar,” but according to his buddies has now become soft
  • Believes in the importance of kids experiencing nature
  • Is preparing himself to have the dreaded talk with his son about the birds and the bees
  • Can’t believe the exposure kids have these days to sex via technology and imagines I probably have at least three “cock shots” in my email as we speak
  • Wants to do something meaningful, feels that his current existence is not, but doesn’t know how to change
  • Has a wife who “likes her things”
  • Would do anything for his kids
  • Has never heard of a food desert or food access issues and was in total disbelief that there are kids who might not have immediate access to fresh, healthy food
  • Is happy for the upcoming adventures my family will have
  • Wonders what I’ll write in the future and anticipates that I’ll succeed as a writer because I expect nothing from it, but do it because I love it
  • Thinks he is probably “part of the problem”
  • Doesn’t know how to better utilize his wealth to do good
  • Thinks that I am probably much happier than him
  • Knows he is on a journey

I mean what I said as we parted ways on the airplane. I wish you the best of luck.




To have a daughter

Eight long weeks ago I gave birth to the perfect, beautiful being that now lies next to me. I watch her small chest rise and fall as I marvel over her existence, over the life I am now responsible for. While I existed for thirty-odd years without her, it feels as though I was ever-so slightly incomplete; she was always present somewhere, if only as a wish, a want, a premonition. As she emerged from the water that I had so arduously labored in, I felt an inexplicable twinge of recognition as I gazed upon her face. “Of course that’s you,” I thought, as if there was no other way that she might look, no other form that she might take.

Motherhood continues to be a labor of love, but it is one I accept with gratitude (at least in my better moments). She doesn’t do much just yet, of course. She sleeps. She poops. She guzzles breast milk like it’s going out of style. She coos, cries, stares, and practices smiling. She is so simple and yet so utterly complex, ever changing, and completely herself. I spend many moments wondering, imagining how she’ll develop, who she’ll be in this world. Her face is now present in my considerations of what adventures life may bring. Still, I feel compelled to be only in this moment. I want only to sit as I do in this space, my boundless love surrounded by these four walls. I want only to know the impossibly sweet smell of her head and the curious odor of her small, clenched fists. I want only to think of my desire to reach out and awaken her, to pull her to my chest, to once again feel her warmth and gaze into her knowing eyes, her all too familiar face.


Pumpkins and lucky stars

It is July 1st. One day past our baby’s “due date,” or as our doula so nicely puts it, our “guess date.” Due dates are, of course, always estimates. They’re given to parents to instill hope in the eventuality of seeing their child face to face after what can feel like an endless number of days, weeks, and months. We are 40 weeks pregnant and according to our beautiful, hand-drawn gestational produce calendar, our child (still a technically a fetus) is approximately the size of a pumpkin- a plant which tends to range in size from something the size of a large fist to something that you can carve out and turn into a small home. Yes, I am carrying one of these inside of my body.

Our long-legged pumpkin of a baby is of normal weight, according to our midwives, and is of the male persuasion, according to dozens of unsolicited predictions from strangers across the span of the past few months. I have also learned from these curiously nosey individuals that I am carrying high, carrying low, have not yet dropped, and am looking ripe, tiny, and huge all at once. It’s so nice of folks to share their many observations.

Numerous formerly pregnant friends warned me that upon becoming pregnant, my body would become a topic of public discourse. I was also warned that my stomach would be touched by many an unknown passerby, a prediction which, thankfully has yet to come true. I’ve instead witnessed a great deal of self-control as woman stand a few feet away gawking at my belly with their involuntary “grabby hands” held at a safe distance. And people say there’s no hope for humanity.

This pregnancy has truly been a wild, incredible ride and I say this fully understanding that I/we have yet to really enter the wonderful and challenging world of childrearing. Also, as someone who doesn’t generally speak of miracles, it is clear to me and the woman I happily call “wife,” that we are two remarkably blessed individuals. WE MADE A BABY. On the first try. Yes, of course, with the help of a little semen (a generous gift from an invaluable donor), a massive amount of intention, and the assistance of a small, stuffed rabbit known as Basil that has undeniable fertility powers (having now helped a second lesbian couple to conceive). But the fact is, it happened relatively easily, and as two women who have watched numerous other female friends struggle, the fact that we’re thanking our lucky stars is a vast understatement.