Seventeen years ago my father wrote a speech he would read in front of the church just 2 months after losing his youngest child.

He spoke of his father and how my grandfather brought his wife home to care for her when it was apparent she wouldn’t be recovering from the cancer that eventually took her life. I remember Grandma Hannebohn and the odd bed that adjusted Grandpa had set up for her in the room just off the kitchen in their home in Miami, OK. It took up the place of a sofa where I, my cousins, and my uncles and aunts had once spent many hours watching professional wrestling and CMT (country music television for the uninitiated). Grandpa had cable (!) and every so often I’d get to switch it to MTV, back when they still played music videos. But I digress.

Grandpa set up that bed for her and she could look out the sliding glass doors & see the sunshine. Her bleeding heart bushes were right outside. I was always fascinated with the odd little flowers: pink heart shapes with a little white teardrop from the middle. I am forever reminded of my father’s parents when I see them.

Grandpa was as attentive as he could be. I remember making the trek from Missouri to Oklahoma more than usual during that time. During one of these trips my dad and his father got to talking about life and my grandfather turned to him and said, “Dave, the best a man can do is to do what he knows is right.” From his actions I know he did his best to live that way.

Seventeen years ago my father recounted the tall tale of his dad getting out of the Army after the Civil War and being hired as a drover to drive a herd of bees out west.

Seventeen years ago my father told his secret to surviving that most sacred right of parenthood: changing a diaper that is some mish-mash of liquid and solid. (Baby powder in the crook of the elbow for the curious.)

Seventeen years ago my father stood, on his first father’s day without his nine year old daughter and told all the other parents to let their children be what they want to be and to get out of the way to live their own lives. They’ll figure out their own path.

She must have been seven or eight. We were playing cards, peanuts specifically. (If you don’t know the game it’s like playing multiplayer solitaire and that’s really the best explanation I can give you. The point is you each have your own deck.) After a few rounds of Cailin beating us all soundly my mother watched her “shuffle” her deck.

“Hey! Are you just shuffling once?!”

My sister, having no qualms whatsoever about breaking one of the most basic rules of card games, laughed maniacally.

Mom made her reshuffle and from then on we’d watch her like a hawk. The single shuffle is still called a Cailin Shuffle in our household.

Cute but scary. I often think my youngest has her same qualities. Cute, rather charming at times, but when the switch is flipped scary af. I often wonder what path she would have chosen. Whether she would have been rebellious or the straight arrow type. I’m inclined to think the former but in a mischievous way.

He also spoke of the incredible hugs my sister used to give. Now look, there was a certain sibling rivalry between Cailin and I. Having been the only girl for 11 years, I was understandably upset when my position had been toppled. But even I could admit that her hugs, when genuinely given, were a thing to behold so I knew when Dad spoke of her in the afterlife giving his own father one of those full-bodied, enthusiastic, glom-onto-you-until-you-can’t-tell-whose-arms-are-whose hugs he was imagining those arms around him at that moment.

Grandma’s been gone since ’89, Grandpa since ’92, Dad since 2014, and Cailin since 2001.

There are things I wish I had asked; things I wish I had done with them while I still had the chance; things I wish I had told them.

Dad had his own way of saying things that stuck with me. There was a day, I can’t remember where it happened in my timeline, some time between college graduation and divorce a few years later. Dad was driving me home, most likely from church because I didn’t have my own car at the time. I was feeling really down in the dumps, recounting every bad decision I’d ever made. Not sure why but hee turned to me and said, “You know your mom and I are real proud of you.”

That’s stuck with me: the look in his eyes, the sincerity in his tone of voice. I still tear up when I think of it. That’s one of the best things he could have done for me as a parent.

Tell your kids you’re proud of them. Don’t just say I love you, don’t just pat their shoulder. look them in the eye and tell them you’re proud of them. That they’ve done their best.


Musings of the seasonal sort

I’ve been trying to come up with something poignant and meaningful to write about the holiday time this year but I haven’t been able to come up with anything so here’s what’s been muddling around inside my think meats for the past couple weeks.

I don’t particularly care for the Christmas season; mostly because it just reminds me that I’m missing my sister and my father and that I can never truly understand the people who get excited for Christmas months in advance. (I’m of the opinion that these people have either never had anything tragic happen in their life or that they are under the age where one realizes the world is not handed to you on a silver platter.) Each year I identify with Ebenezer Scrooge a bit more. (Sidebar: this is my favorite Christmas story, hands down. The redemption of the crotchety, horrid, old man is awesome and it has a touch of the scary for good measure. I also secretly hope that if I ever get to that point Charles Dickens himself would show up at my bedside and direct me through my past, present, and possible future. I watch several iterations of it each year and cry every time. Yes, even for the Muppet version.)

Look, this time of year sucks for a ton of people. Maybe you’ve lost someone (or several someones) and that empty chair at the table just makes you want to break down all over again. Maybe it’s because you have no one and no where to go and the constant reminders that seemingly everyone else is getting together with family and friends for Hanukkah or Christmas or Solstice just twists that knife a little deeper. Maybe you have family but opt out of visiting because of reasons. Maybe your family has opted out of your life because they believe their rules are more important than loving another human being. Maybe, maybe it’s just too stressful because you are worrying about pleasing all the people around you and the thought of doing that for one more day has depleted all your spoons for the next decade.

It doesn’t matter whatever reason, big or small, you may have for being down during the holiday season. It could be the fact that you just realized you only have eight forks instead of nine and great aunt Myrtle is now going to have to eat her goose with a spork.

It’s okay.

It’s okay if you’re not the reincarnation of the happiest person on earth. It’s okay if you get invited to one more party and you say no because you just don’t feel like it. A lot of the time I think the sentiment is: Let’s just get through December so we have a nice holiday and then all hell can break loose. Your mental health doesn’t magically improve because there are colored lights everywhere and songs about dying parents needing footwear on the radio. (Seriously the writer of that song is a special kind of sadistic. I mean, did they sit down one day and ask themselves, “How can I make more people sad during the time of year when seasonal effective disorder is a great concern?”)

So, stay home from the party put on by the office coworker you almost never talk to. Order a pizza and watch ridiculous Christmas horror movies (the cheesier the better). Make yourself a very large cup of tea, turn on the yule log YouTube video, and point the space heater at your toes so it feels realistic. Breath.




I may be just spitballing here.  I may have had one too many beers on a Tuesday night.  I may be just melancholy and thinking too much.  

But I’ve been looking for God. Funny thing is, I find them in the simplest of things:  The rays of light shining through the clouds.  Random songs I find that make me tear up. (Give a listen to Darkest Hour by Glen Philips) Pie. (No seriously,  pie is one of God’s gifts to human kind. It’s soooooo much better than cake. I WILL FIGHT YOU.) 

Look.  I know it may be stupid.  Possibly dangerous to dwell on thoughts of this nature.  It’s this time of year. I can’t not remember the people who are missing from my life.  My father.  My little sister.  God.  Too many people have left this earth.  And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way at this time of year.  

So, look.  I may be melancholy,  but I’m looking for God. I’m looking for anything that gets me through the next two months.

I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I’m definitely not a role model for anyone.  

But,  if you find yourself in a similar situation,  I’m going to urge you to do the same,  or similar if you’re not God-inclined. Look for what will get you through. Look for ANYTHING that will take you to the next twenty-four hours.  

Find some good music to play over and over. Go cuddle some kittens at a rescue.  Stop and enjoy a sunset on your way home from work.  Blast whatever-the-hell song makes you feel good and screw anyone who judges you.   And, (while i don’t condone addiction of any kind.  All things in moderation, kittens.) you could probably use a beer right now, so allow yourself that.  

Give yourself permission to be ridiculous because you don’t have to be strong all the time.  

And take care of yourself.  

And have a slice of pie. 

This is Saturday

It’s eight o’clock on a Saturday and I’ve just rented Grosse Pointe Blank on Amazon because I’m in love with John Cusack and I have nothing better to do.  

I’m 37. I’m desperate for my life to change.  I spend Fridays and Saturdays either watching old movies or writing a novel I have no guarantee will ever see the light of day. 

I have no desire to ever buy a house. Owning the trailer I live in now has been experience enough.  I’d rather spend my life on travel expenses than a mortgage.  Domesticity scares the hell out of me. 

Since my youngest is 16 going on 17 I have no illusions of ever being the picture perfect mother.  I raised my kids on Dracula and zombies instead of Disney.  I don’t exactly fit the ideal.  

Cookie cutter life is not for me.  

I’d rather live out of motels  and apartments than to bend to the demands of what society calls normal life. 

I’ve always been an odd duck. Not that it really bothers me. I’d rather be that than the myriad of variations on the theme of beige.  There is no sequence of events that could have ever landed me in that situation. 

I think … I think … once 16 graduates high school … I’ll have to make some decisions. 

One: what am I going to do with the rest of my life? Ideally it would be to move to Iceland and spend my time writing novels and short stories which include fantasy themes and enough scenes of horror to produce intrigue.  

Two: since I’ll be nearly 39 once my children are grown,  can I get away with still not growing up? 

I mean,  I did the whole college thing.  I got a respectable job that will support my family and put a roof over our heads. I’m doing the office thing, fucking 8 hour days, dying in the corporate machine.  Someone shoot me. 

No, I’m happy.  Happy I’ve got enough money to provide for my kids.  Happy I can buy groceries.  Happy my bills are paid for. But it’s not enough. It never will be. 

And,  as usual,  I’m desperate for change.  

The Backup Plan

When dealing with anxiety and/or depression you develop your own coping mechanisms to deal with the constant dread that fills you, the picking in your brain that tells you you will never ever be good enough, the maniacal laughter that bubbles up from some wretched dark place when one more thing gets piled onto your already aching back. You learn what makes those feelings ebb, or at least makes them manageable. But what happens when your usual coping mechanism backfires and makes everything ten times worse?

This has happened to me a couple times and every time I fall off a tall cliff, questioning all I know. I isolate myself for days on end and conspiracy theory the shit out of my life. Everything that could even be remotely tied to my personal failures is blamed on some (most likely imagined) slight. Mole hills become mountains and mountains become continents. My mind (sweet Jesus my messed up brain is cruel) tells me I have ruined everything and nothing will make it better because that thing that was supposed to make it better? Yeah that’s shit now.

I spend so long just waiting, thinking if I get here (wherever here is) things will be okay. I can breath. I won’t have such bad thoughts. I’ll feel  happy again. I won’t see grey where others see color.

But the problem comes when that here makes everything worse. I immediately shut down. I can’t function. I set myself on a low energy autopilot and fake smiles hoping people won’t look too closely because if they ask anything I will lose it. I’m not very good at improvising healthy choices. I have a hard time coming back from that. Sometimes it will last a week, maybe months. There are no rules, which makes me crazy.

This time however I came up with something fairly quickly borne of drunken amazon browsing and a desperation to do anything even remotely non-destructive for myself.

I have ordered two books.

Both of which I have read before so I know I will like them.

The first is one I have borrowed at least twice a year (sometimes more) from my local library. Basically whenever I feel shitty. Sunshine by Robin McKinley is probably the book I have most often read and re-read in my life. It’s not exactly a happy tale, but it’s adventurous and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. Honestly I have no idea what took me so long to get my own copy instead of hoarding the library’s every few months.

The second is older, a book my parents had and I read many times when I still lived with them: HRH The Rider by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Sort of a done to death trope of royalty switching places with a highway brigand ( in this day and age anyway) but it always brings me back to those romantic feelings of a young girl just getting her feet wet in the oh-my-god-he-loves-her genre. This is not the typical Tarzan or John Carter of Mars Burroughs, in fact I never really read those but I did read the  non-serialized stories of his and loved them more than the works he is typically known for. The Oakdale Affair, The Monster Men, The Mad King, those were the Burroughs stories I loved. The Rider was always my favorite though and I think I read it so many times that my parents’ copy is now held together with a rubber band.

So these are the two things I am hoping won’t backfire. These books do not have as much of a chance to backfire, at least, than other coping mechanisms. They’re not particularly drag-you-out-of-the-mud-jesus-look-how-happy-you-are-now stories. In fact you might call parts of them scary or at least harrowing, but I find that’s what I need. Something to jolt me out of the shitty mess I’m wallowing in.

It does not make sense on paper that a story about killing vampires and a troped up prince and the pauper tale plus violence would put me in a better frame of mind. This makes sense to me, in my head.

I now have two backup plans for when things go awry and my head will not shut up and my own personal blue screen of death is imminent.

So here’s to hoping.

The Drawer Incident

So, a few weeks ago I posted this photo online 

and complained my cat Emmex had made a mess of whatever feather stuffed thing he may have gotten into. (Spoiler alert: I don’t actually own anything stuffed with feathers except maybe an old coat but that’s packed away. Not my finest intellectual moment.)
Today,  I was at work and had this exchange with 16:

I was freaked out for a moment but work got busy,  people broke things they shouldn’t be touching and I completely forgot about the drawer warning.  

When I got home 16 was at work so I was all alone.  Yes! I thought. I’m going to burn some sticks and enjoy a beer on the deck! 

So that’s what I did.  No sooner had I posted this to Instagram where I hoped to receive approval for my languid summer eve,  than 16 texted again reminding me of the previously stated doom. 

I will give you three guesses as to what was in that drawer.  

If you guessed dead decaying robin congratulations! Your prize* will be mailed to you! 
*prize consists of dead bird plus bonus cardboard box

I contemplated attaching a picture but thought better of it because,  let’s admit it,  not everyone wants to see that.  

So now I have a free drawer for anyone who would like one.  Good for many uses: firewood, hitting wasps’ nests out of trees,  and the like.  Do not use it for utensils!

(And now I feel I should clarify: the drawer was empty & unused, and yes,  I had noticed a smell but I thought it was coming from the vent where Emmex likes to climb under the house and in an unreachable place so I sprayed some stuff that way and lit lots of incense.  Yes, lots of incense.)

So I wrote a short story…

I’m not sure if this is real or fantasy. No I’m not trying to quote Queen. I’m just really not sure what to believe anymore.

I mean, Preacher Stewart says it’s probably because I don’t pray enough. Maybe I’d be full on if I was more religious or a better person or maybe if I hadn’t stolen that half a pound of ground chuck back in December.

God, it’s just so messed up.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

Late last June, or maybe it was July, it’s hard to remember all the details, I was struggling, really struggling, y’know? Like too poor to eat anything but ramen noodles struggling. Like being too depressed about my finances to bother doing anything about my appearance struggling… Like standing on the edge of a bridge struggling.

But I got a job finally. It was a crappy little job waiting tables at some hole in the wall pub but after a couple months I had my regulars and they’d tip me decent and I was crawling out of the dark abyss I had been in. Damn it. I was doing it. I was really getting things sorted. I had enough to eat proper sandwiches and broccoli. Oh god, I missed broccoli. I’d buy a metric ton of it with a good chunk of my paycheck and I’d gorge on that stuff every night for the first couple weeks… Yeah.

Anyway, I was crawling out of this hole and I could see it. I could see that light at the end. I even got myself a boyfriend. He was smooth and easy going and exactly what I thought I needed. I mean, if I had looked at it objectively I would have seen it in a different light, but hindsight is 20/20 y’know?

So things are going good for another couple months or so then he up and leaves. Disappears in the middle of the night with half my wardrobe and the stash of 1500 dollars I’d been saving for emergencies.

God, I crashed so hard. The first day I kept it together, but after… After was a whirlwind of destruction and I couldn’t stop it. My entire paycheck got spent on pixie sticks and booze. (I will not touch pixie sticks to this day. Never mind I don’t eat. One thought of those things and I want to throw up. Violently.) I got fired from my job because I guess it’s kind of hard to employ someone who doesn’t show up for two weeks.

So there I was, back in the state I had been trying to get out of so desperately. You know what that does to your mind? I was back to eating ramen noodles when I could beg for enough change from people on the streets; and that was on the days I could get out of bed.

Then December came. God, those cheerful decorations everywhere, the holiday songs, people just smiling way too damn much. I shut myself in my room, piling blankets and towels and other crap over the windows and door to block out the sound of the outside world. I ran out of noodles. And then I ran out of booze.

I emerged on the 22nd of December like a cicada crawling out of the earth. I hadn’t seen the sun in ages so I guess it was a mercy it was overcast. My clothes were dirty twenty times over and I knew what I looked like to the people who walked past. I knew what I smelled like too. I didn’t care.

There was a butcher shop on the corner that had closed early. I knew the guy who ran it, sort of, mostly by reputation. He wasn’t a bad guy, just the sort to take the skin off your back if you crossed him. Anyway, I saw the piles of meat in the coolers and my mouth filled with saliva. You know that deep achy feeling when you haven’t eaten properly and you can feel it tug at your soul? At that moment the only thought in my head was how fantastically delicious a burger would be. I stared through that window for a good fifteen minutes then made a decision. I wasn’t going to rob the place. I was just going to take enough to feed my complaining stomach. So I went around back, smashed the lock and hauled out a couple handfuls of ground beef.

Now, I don’t know how a soul works but my theory, god, my stupid theory… It’s just, y’know how when you die you’re supposed to go to heaven or hell and you get whatever you deserve for eternity right? Yeah no. That’s not it at all. Because I have these flashes and I think this moment right here is what made that in me.

I was coming out of the alley and there was this kid. This kid, geez, couldn’t have been more than seven. And she was rail thin. I mean really freakin’ thin. She was wearing this poofy winter coat about two sizes too big but the wrists that poked out of those sleeves were bones. Just bones. She probably hadn’t eaten in longer than I had and here I was with my ill-gotten beef just staring at her. God, just staring at her.

I handed her the meat, told her to go home and cook it up and I think she was confused. I shoved it into her hands anyway and she finally got it. Making a smile that I swear could have lit up a thousand suns she ran back down the street and turned a corner.

It made me think y’know? I started to think about my life and how that kid was just happy with enough beef for a meal or two. I still hated my life. I still wanted to crawl back into bed and sleep the rest of my life away. But there was this spark of something else.

So at this point I could either go back in the shop and risk getting caught or I could crawl back to my room and forget it ever happened. The problem was that guy, the one who owned the shop, he’d returned while I was standing like an idiot not 100 feet away from his busted back door. He figured it out pretty quickly and I ended up here. I don’t remember what it felt like. I know it must have hurt though because I was black and blue for a month after.

Look, I know what this sounds like but I swear if I had a better explanation I’d tell you. It’s just, I get these flashes y’know? They’re like memories… No that’s not really right. They’re like I was somewhere else and then I just end up back here. I mean, you can call it whatever you want, heaven, paradise, but it’s this beautiful place. Just, god, beautiful and no one’s sad or hurt and it feels nice. It’s just really nice. And I know I died back there but maybe that one final freaking bad decision made up for, like, I don’t know, maybe twenty percent of my messed up soul.

Preacher Stewart says it could be better. He says I could get full on if I prayed more. I could stay there longer. I could get up to maybe fifty percent someday. That would be cool. Yeah, I could handle fifty percent. Split the time between here and there.

There was this one time I saw someone familiar. I think it was my gran but she was real far away and blurry. But I could hear her voice and she just wanted to sit me down and talk. I mean, I’d like to talk to my gran again someday. Maybe if I get to fifty percent she’ll show up again.

I’d like that.

#BLESSED *insert sarcastic overtone here*

I might be dying.  Probably not.  But right now it definitely feels like it.

Sunday I had a fantastic first experience with an anaphylactic reaction to mixed nuts.   Nope.  Never had a nut allergy before so that was an amazing surprise.

Today I decided to experiment and had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.  (I feel I need to explain there were no peanuts in the mixed nuts from Sunday so I had a reasonable expectation that I was only allergic to tree nuts and not ground nuts, or whatever you call them. This was not the case.) I haven’t stopped leaking and sneezing since. Luckily I have not had the itchy mouth and swollen throat and asthma attack like I did Sunday so I’m still in denial hoping I can enjoy peanut butter and just chalk this up to a horridly allergen-ful Michigan spring. 

I have taken two fexofenadine and one cetirizine and have now added a benadryl to that count because NOTHING IS WORKING. 

I fully expect my children to regale me with tales of strange utterances and  ridiculous requests upon waking in the morn. This is assuming I survive the eve and remain among the living.  


I have, on this site, four unpublished drafts of things I started to write then was either interrupted or I decided I did not want to finish what I had started. Three are several sentences long, one almost a paragraph. The fourth is only half a sentence: “I promised there…” I’m not entirely sure what the fourth was going to be. It was started a year ago so my memory may have fuzzed a bit.

I constantly start things and they sit a while before I get back to them. Recently though I have been finishing things. I finished the Icelandic sweater I started knitting last year and I finished a book I’d been reading off and on for a few years. It is not a bad book. It is a rather good book. The problem was with me. Every time I would start reading it again some major life crisis would happen and I’d set it down in favor of something easier, something fluffier and something not quite as deep. These fluffy books wouldn’t satisfy me however, and I would find myself craving more and more. They were snacks. This other book was a meal.

I recently found myself in a relatively less stressful place in my life so I decided to try again. At first I was afraid something would happen to prevent me, once again, from finishing the book. But nothing happened. I finally finished it. And I feel a bit more me than I have in quite a few years.

You see, I used to eat books. I would devour four or five in a month. Then I had a [insert major life event here] and everything fell apart. I couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore. More things happened in the five years that followed. I fell into deep dark depressions and high anxiety that prevented me from eating at one point for 3 months. (Seriously, nothing tasted good. Nothing. When I had recovered I had lost 50 pounds and most of my mind.)

I’ve gotten better since then. I’m not whole. I’m not sure I’ll ever be. But I’m more me than I’ve felt in the past 6 years. I’m taking an out of country vacation at least once every year, I’m reading more books that have substance to them, I’m not depending on someone else (I could write pages and pages on how this has changed my perspective in life) I’m writing a book (though it’s slow-going and my confidence has been shaky at best) and I think I’m getting to a place where I can trust my decision making skills.

I’m not quite there.

I may need to rewrite this draft a few times.

But I see my life headed in a direction that could lead somewhere I like.

And that’s huge.

I’m going to color tonight

Because the world is scary

I’m going to color tonight

Because I can’t do much about it

I’m going to color tonight 

Because if I can add just one small ray of sunshine

Then I know

That the world is not as scary

As it was before

page from You Are Here by Jenny Lawson