“It’s Complicated”

There is a perfectly lovely woman at a local shop who always greets me warmly, and makes genuine, caring conversation with my husband and I when she sees us. She is a homeschooler and so that, I feel, is why she reaches out to connect. But she is a very different type of homeschooler than we: she uses a strict curriculum (for her several children), and the family is an evangelical Christian. Today I got to have that conversation I’ve had so many times in the last few years:

Her: “‘Boys’? I thought you had a boy and a girl?”
Me, smiling: “We thought so too! But we were wrong.”

I wait a beat. It takes most people a second to process what I might be saying.

Me: “Phoenix transitioned this last year.”
Her: “Ohhhh!”

Her smile remains, but who knows. It’s funny as in these transactoins I feel a tightness in my chest, a tiny pulse of trepidation. I have become more sensitive to just how fragile community living is. Each person has their own thoughtlife, their own heartaches. People are far more tolerant and loving than they might sometimes appear; I have no idea how this woman feels about a trans child and I won’t ask her, either. I simply smile and hold my head up and radiate the warmth and affection I feel toward her and hope her heart is soft, too.

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only – one day away from your arms!

Every day, besides all this work, I try to relax a little, to spend a little downtime. If I can relax even five minutes, I figure I’ve done okay. Errands are lovely because they get me “out of the office” (out of my workspace that is) and I can practice breathing mantras and sing along to music, or have one of those incredibly valuable conversations with my teens. The boys come with me on these errands, because I make them come with me. We get groceries or a lunch, or perhaps coffee. I arrive home and maybe sit down and watch a little of some serial killer fictional drama, or read a bit. I light a candle; I find a little deeper breath on the yoga mat. (“Do I contradict myself? …” and so on).

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tutorial: my favorite methods

I’ve pointed out before that my first sewing studio was a closet – a closet with a shag-green carpet (occasionally redolent with cat piss; joy!); and a closet I shared with my partner’s computer and with our clothes! This was in an impossibly-small studio apartment! There wasn’t even enough room for my sewing machine (a cheap plastic Kenmore my mother bought me) – I had to store it on the porch in a cabinet.

So I know all about how hard it is to “make space”.

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apologies: you can do better than how you were done by

Apologies have not come easy to me because growing up, the adults in my life did not apologize to me (or, as far as I could tell, to anyone else). They sometimes behaved remorsefully, but that is not the same at all. In fact, the remorseful parental behavior is rather damaging: because as a child, your parents’ distress and weakness (feeling sorry for themselves or embarrassed when they erred) will often precipitate a strong sense of your own culpability, and that is hard to recover from. If you are someone who had a childhood like this, my heart is with you. It’s a very difficult experience and it is hard to overcome.

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Did you like what you’ve read? The above essay is excerpted from my upcoming publication: “HOW TO NOT F*CK UP YOUR KID (ANY MORE THAN THE WORLD F*CKS WITH THEM)” – working title. This zine improve your parenting efforts, but is also helpful to those of us who survived our childhoods!

This publication will be available on Kindle, pdf and reader form, and a limited-edition print run. Sign up for updates!


“I, Survivor” – a podcast

the antidote to the exploitive nature of True Crime ‘casts. Check it out!


“…I know you don’t want to hurt anybody.”

strength and presence of mind during a dangerous hostage siege last month

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