Shadow Paths

My brother and I were recently discussing Frank Herbert’s Dune. I read it first in middle school and was utterly enchanted by the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear—it wasn’t their strange religion; it was the fact the I had recently started to always feel The Fear and I didn’t know how to handle it. Many rereads over many years have left me aware of “flaws in the vision”. I could absorb, but not apply The Litany any more than I could apply my favorite Bible verses to help me control my increasing anxiety. I still love Dune—it is the best book in the series.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death
that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass
over me and through me.
And when it has gone past
I will turn the inner eye
to see its path.
Where the fear has gone
there will be nothing.
Only I will remain
Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)

I’m not sure if Octavia Butler was a natural move or not, but I remember Patternmaster and Mind of My Mind; I don’t really remember the last two books in that series, so I’m rereading them. In high school, I read Lilith’s Brood which made me look at aliens and relationships in new ways. I just loved the way she has clearly had such a different “American experience” from me; it suffused her characters. Her stories were so enchanting. I was fascinated by her characters and their choices because the most alien personalities were often the human ones which fit with how I sometimes felt in social and school situations.

Of course my hands and eyes and mind found a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and what a story for every girl coming of age in the late 1908s/early 1990s. The novel was a standout, much like Dune in the Herbert canon; I didn’t fall into all (or many) of Atwood’s other books the same way (although I keep trying). I did fall right in love with the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. The world has always been a dark place for women and some of us are lucky we have the freedom and liberty we do have—but if all women, if all people, don’t have those same opportunities to succeed and fail…

I never got into the whole Earthsea thing. I like fantasy. I love magic. I just don’t get those Earthsea books, but I do love Ursula LeGuin’s science fiction and her essays. The way all of these women spin out a current theory just to see what might be is a gift. The Hainish Cycle is just a series of silken threads spun into the far future with fascinating results. I have loved every one of those books. Even the “boring” ones have something fascinating to say. The world building for each story is incredible and so is the way the larger universe is carefully connected.

I stumbled upon The Armless Maiden and Other Tales For Childhood Survivors in the fall of 1996 just a few months into my first year of teaching. It shifted my perspective on teaching, students, and stories in ways that I’m still learning to understand…The Armless Maiden and Other Tales For Childhood Survivors introduced me to Charles de Lint. I fell hard down the Newford rabbit hole and I’ve never regretted it. I absolutely loved the way he updated and used the folklore and myths of where he lived with “modern” life. I suppose that’s why I keep seeking out other authors who have their own modern takes on myth and folklore.

From de Lint I fell into Neil Gaiman. Oh, his stories are dark and bright and live in forest shadows. His stories often feel like liminal spaces. And his descriptions are sometimes too much, but rarely not enough. It’s so interesting to see what else inspires some writers via their blogs or social media feeds. His current photographs from The Isle of Skye are stunning.

NK Jemisin actually reeled me I with The Ones Who Stay And Fight. It is a great story on its own, but when paired with LeGuin’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas—well, it’s a great set of discussions. Then I had to start reading her other stories. It must be obvious by now that I am a little fascinated by brilliant people who tell stories well. Especially, world builders.

Along the way I heard an NPR story about a man who taught at a university, who had an MFA (a degree I’ve been debating for a decade since I’d only be in it to become a better teacher). This man was writing a trilogy he’d mapped out with his daughter. I devoured Justin Cronin’s The Passage when it first came out. Vampires were scary and the trilogy was massive. The world Cronin built was as fascinating as the people who inhabited it.

Dot Hutchison writes about a identity in a way that reminds me of the way Hawthorne constantly weaved “being true doesn’t mean don’t change” throughout his stories; he was only really obvious in The Scarlet Letter. Hutchison , however, levels up the idea of truth by exploring identity through the lies we tell to survive. She also brings to life “the blood of the vow is thicker than the water if the womb” as she intertwines her character with each other in supportive, painful, and true ways. The found families in her books don’t (always) replace the families of childhood or blood, they expand and strengthen the safety net.

Seanan McGuire (under every name) not only embraces and explores monsters, but she has the ongoing motif(?) regarding softness that I’m just now really noticing. The amount of research she puts into her books to make the science work, to give the magic rules, to honor folklore blows my mind in the best way. She is a true thief of knowledge who wraps information up in layers of story and it put me in awe.

I’m about out of words, but I would be remiss in not mentioning an author who captured me in a descriptive net with her Binti novellas. Nnedi Okorafor is a gift. Her other stories are just as vivid and engaging. I’m working my way through them in my massive pile of books to be reading. So far, each one has been a little breathtaking and enchanting. I’m also grateful to have learned about Africanfuturism and that not everyone in this world accepts that their gods or spirits are myths.

I don’t know that more than a few people will read this and I don’t even include any of my favorite nonfiction writers or poets. These authors have given me stories I can reread and sometimes teach. They explore truth, trust, affection, friendship, and sacrifice. They allow pieces of themselves (small pieces) to be shared with their readers.

Thank you all for sharing.



My students have come to know my four rules for life and everything else over the last few years. It started with an activity in my 2011-2012 English 4 class (my penultimate run of When The Legends Die by Hal Borland). We came up with some rules for life Tom learned and it got me thinking. A few years later I was using Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Legal…it took me a little while unpacking those with a few new groups of students to settle on The Big Four—exception may have a fifth thanks to The Year of Mess (I’m trying to be appropriate and apolitical).

Be Smart. Live and learn or look for the lessons from success and failure because life and personal choices will litter our history with both. I’m firmly in Aristotle’s camp on this one. The greater reality, the great hereafter, doesn’t matter; how we live our lives and what we learn along the way does. We cannot divorce ourselves from uncomfortable realities. This is the time and place we were born into. Learn how to navigate the world of children. Recalibrate and learn to navigate the world of teens. Recalibrate and learn to navigate the forest of adulthood. Use it all to help others as elders if we survive that long.

Having grown up white, mostly middle class, in the Pacific Northwest granted me certain privileges. Growing up female granted me certain dangers. Growing up with my father in the sights of some unscrupulous folks (look through my older posts *cough*Rajneeshis*cough*) granted us a certain level of implied danger for several years. So, my parents stealth taught us to Be Safe. We learned what to look for, basic ways to defend ourselves, why groups are important, why loyalty among friends is vital. We learned about trust.

Be kind was a natural outgrowth of something my earliest students were already passing onto their siblings and children. Take care of each other. Exercise compassion. Put your religious love into charitable action. See something wrong? Step in to stop it or find someone who can. See someone who needs a friend because they a different? Be that friend. I’m just sorry it took me a minute to believe the sincerity of a couple of my biggest smartasses.

The fourth I talked about all the time. I stole The Scarlet Letter from English 3 so I could teach it to English 4 and moved it back again as my teaching assignment changed, because I’m the only one who loves slogging through the old school fairy tale starring Hester Prynne. I’ll give up Huck Finn and Dead Legends any time to dig my teeth into the bleak, savage beauty of Be True.

I’m helping shape the next generation of critical the miners and communicators. It is brutally hard sometimes. I have to keep learning. I have to listen when a teenager or adult tells me I’ve screwed up & I have to fix the problem. I have to try to get my students to connect with fiction, nonfiction, & poetry the way they connect with video games or their favorite TikTok creator or Instagram influencer or YouTube vlogger.

I’ve learned how to accept help over the years. I’m quick to offer help. We all need help from time to time. We all need forgiveness too. We need a chance to actually grow, to implement change, to become our truer self. This is where Grace comes in.

Grant yourself grace.

Grant others grace.

Don’t be a fool and make yourself a doormat. Don’t walk all over others. When you see someone trying to be better accept that backslides and mistakes are human. That’s where grace comes in. We are living in a time when screaming and extremism makes the news. Maybe the rest of us can tip things a new direction through truly granting a little grace to those on the edges who don’t like what they’ve become. Maybe we can be a moderating influence that makes America more than it has been…maybe we can make the world better one neighborhood, one classroom, one community at a time.

Is it really such a big deal?

The older I get the more I start to think some of the things I grew up learning were sinful and wrong are really a big deal, let alone anyone else’s business. I’ve written before about the relief of learning about gray-sexuality, about how much it meant to know I wasn’t broken. For some reason I’ve been noticing more people speaking about bi-erasure or bi-discrimination in the last month. People who are bisexual aren’t greedy or unable to choose—they are not broken. So why is it okay to treat them badly?

Looking back on things I’ve read or watched or heard I see real parallels to how many in society treat the overweight. As though these groups of people are still safe to pour misplaced anger and angst onto. Fuck that!

I sat in one of my favorite restaurants alone (I usually am) eating and reading and thinking. I realized how much I appreciate bisexual energy. There’s something soothing for me who has only felt sexual attraction once or twice in my life about people who feel it more often and more freely. I appreciate the affection that’s offered by people who are comfortable with men and women. I’ve also noticed that not everyone who gives off this energy would label themselves as bisexual or biromantic (which means they aren’t) but they still have a level of comfort with physical affection and verbal affection that wasn’t common in my community growing up and that I most often see in bi people.

I’m not sure why today or this weekend I feel compelled to put this out into the world. As extremism rises, why are the small things or the old “sins” such a big deal?

People engage in premarital sex often and few really take the time to condemn it unless they are being particularly creepy and patriarchal. People infringe on the ability of others to live in safety all the time and if they are white or wealthy they often get away with it. People practice unbelievable cruelty every day and it’s waved away under many guises—gotta be honest, it’s not what my God or my savior actually taught.

So why do we make such a big deal out of people who are just trying to live their lives in love and make the world a kinder place?

Sisterhood is vast

I use this as a hashtag sometimes as a reminder that my faith is based on love in action.

Whether or not I like someone, common courtesy tells me to be polite; treating someone with basic courtesy does not mean I respect them or trust them—it means I see them as human, as worthy of attention as I would like to be. Somewhere along the way, I’ve watched people forget this when they interact. Most of the time there is nothing lost by listening to someone, by shaking their hand (or whatever post-physical distancing equivalents become the norm), by using their chosen pronouns or title. I’ve experienced people who use their faith and/or truth as a weapon. I’ve use truth as a weapon and, thankfully, I learned to change; moments of regret should help us change.

I’m trying to articulate how important it is to embrace a more egalitarian approach to everyday interactions. We will never be equal in a society that values money or education or conventional standards of beauty or…or…or as much as ours does.

Sisterhood is vast.

We have to watch out for each other. We have hold ourselves accountable for what we do, what we leave undone, what we say, and what we leave unsaid. We have to listen to each other. We have to learn from each other.

We have to forgive ourselves.

We have to let go and hold on and accept the innate dissonance of reality.

The sisterhood is always expanding.


Today’s title is courtesy of @shethority

I’m only writing tonight because it’s on my calendar to post on my blog. I’m laying in bed with the windows open smelling my neighbor’s fire. Their music and conversation drifts up in a low buzz when I’m lucky. Other times two of the backyards have dueling music or the conversations get loud. My first year in this place I resented all the noise and didn’t handle it well; I can’t remember (other than the one live backyard band until 02:00) why it was worth so much fuss or frustration—that was just before medication. It’s amazing how much working meds help me mentally. When they stop working, it usually takes time to recognize the rising frustrations and interior inconsistencies as results of med failures.

Taking my meds doesn’t automatically relieve me of depression, anxiety, or migraines. Medication helps.

Writing helps me too.

Since I really accepted that I will deal with these things for the rest of my life (even before I accepted the needs for medication for me), I wanted to normalize taking about depression. My parents would have had no idea what to do if I had approached them in high school to talk about what I termed The Fear. People didn’t talk about such things in the late 80’s. It’s not my parents’ fault I felt broken on multiple levels and they weren’t equipped to really acknowledge those kinds of problems. It is important to me now (has been important for the past decade or so) that people become okay talking about mental health, personal diversity, and what it means to be true to ourselves.

If a man want to feel pretty, why should he be mocked or bullied? If a woman wants to feel tough, why should she be ignored or bullied? if someone swings wide in their personal aesthetic, how is it our place to judge them?

Why is it embarrassing to have a therapist or psychologist? Why is someone weak for being easily stressed out or showing emotion? Why isn’t it okay to take medication for physical or mental health? Why is it okay to mock someone for being overweight? Why is it okay to judge someone for their socio-economic level?

Birth control isn’t a gateway to promiscuity.

When I first entered an online community in 1999, I came across as a “self-righteous, judgmental b*tch” and I was told that more than once—usually at times when judgement was far from my intentions. In high school, I came across as a “stuck up b*tch” according to friends and acquaintances even though I was just horrifically afraid of people. Teaching taught me early on that not everyone is going to like me and that’s okay. Every year I become more comfortable with the ways I’m not “normal”. I long ago accepted that I’m never going to be conventionally attractive. There’s a price to be paid for being true to myself and accepting the changes that come with success and failure.

In these strange time, more and more people are experiencing the waves of strong emotion, the edges of depression, an increase in anxiety, and a thousand other shades of “broken”. It’s okay. It’s okay to be angry about how life has changed. It’s normal to have times where our own minds become echo chambers or spirals of negativity. We are all human. We all have issues. The best we can do varies by person and by day—how we face these times, what we are willing to learn and do is what matters. Accepting that “normal” is a myth might be the first step in letting go of the rightness of judging others and ourselves.

Working on being our better selves is important. Holding ourselves to impossible standards of beauty or normalcy can trap us in The Fear. What we each need from ourselves and others us varied and it’s okay to embrace that as long as it doesn’t include harming others. One of the most important lessons that is left untaught or unlearned is that truth isn’t a weapon. Truth is important, but like most things it is better when paired with compassion.

  • My rules for life…
    • Be smart
    • Be safe
    • Be kind
    • Be true

Prepare for The Random

Days where I don’t have anything to say are why I stop posting 100% of the time. I’ll have a streak going and then find myself without anything worth saying—it doesn’t stop me offline so it shouldn’t stop me here. Power through and all that Jazz. So, here’s what’s on my mind right now:

  • Got a Grove box yesterday with basics like minty soap and mintier toothpaste.
  • The weather went from wet to low 70’s & it’s beautiful.
  • I feel like I’m actually edging my way out of the total darkness—it’s still a little grim, but I’m alive and that’s a blessing.
  • I miss teaching in the classroom.
  • My tennis shoes are looking at me like, go for a walk. This week’s poor excuse is the street work in front of my house and hills.
  • Reading the Newsflesh series and more romance novels. Glancing through the news for good articles to read and discuss.
  • I have too many boxes to break down and stack up. I just let them collect. This may be some weird packrat pathology tied to my wide streaks of laziness and procrastination. I can feel my goddaughter judging me.
  • I got to the point where I made a ridiculous number of playlists that are all eclectic, but I tend to listen to “Utter Silliness” the most. I had my playlist problem under control for months.
  • I think I’ll go to the six-feet away cocktail hour a block down today. I am really missing my friends and this way I can catch up with a few. Texts just aren’t the same as a table full of people I adore down at The Great Pacific.
  • Love the maps by @alfred_twu on twitter. It’s fascinating to watch the states come together or drift apart.
  • Do some people not think about how much worse this pandemic would be without all the social distancing? I keep thinking about my folks, my friends who are immune-compromised, and I also think about how much I want things “back to normal” already. I just fall into the camp that thinks there will another new normal and no return to the old normal.
  • I’m trying not to obsess too much about the things that freak me out.
  • I have got to renew things soon and finish small projects. I also have to finish a couple of big projects.

I hope this finds you well (especially if you took the time to read this). Most of my posts end up with one to three views which makes it harder to stay motivated. This time around, I just keep reminding myself the only way to get better is to practice. At least my head is a little lighter.

Enjoy the boys; two minutes after this picture they were not so friendly. What is it with cats and their need to be on clean clothes?


  1. It’s super cold outside. I hope everyone has a safe place to sleep.
  2. I feel like I can breathe for a minute.
  3. I miss some of my people.
  4. I love reading out loud despite my dyslexia.
  5. I love science fiction and fantastic lit.
  6. Writing for fifteen minutes a day is more challenging than it should.
  7. I hope all the people traveling are safe.
  8. Tow truck drivers and others who help in times of car trouble are much appreciated.
  9. Should I subscribe to Aaptiv?
  10. I’m so grateful for my job even when I feel defeated or frustrated.
  11. This year has been a series of reminders that flexible and adaptable require reflection.
  12. How much more time do I have?
  13. Why are little cats the noisiest?
  14. Maybe it’s the same reason big dogs think they belong on laps?
  15. I like naps way too much.
  16. Sometimes I crave the quiet.
  17. I just want them all to find success…


  1. It’s super cold outside. I hope everyone has a safe place to sleep.
  2. I feel like I can breathe for a minute.
  3. I miss some of my people.
  4. I love reading out loud despite my dyslexia.
  5. I love science fiction and fantastic lit.
  6. Writing for fifteen minutes a day is more challenging than it should.
  7. I hope all the people traveling are safe.
  8. Tow truck drivers and others who help in times of car trouble are much appreciated.
  9. Should I subscribe to Aaptiv?
  10. I’m so grateful for my job even when I feel defeated or frustrated.
  11. This year has been a series of reminders that flexible and adaptable require reflection.
  12. How much more time do I have?
  13. Why are little cats the noisiest?
  14. Maybe it’s the same reason big dogs think they belong on laps?
  15. I like naps way too much.
  16. Sometimes I crave the quiet.
  17. I just want them all to find success…

Random Thoughts

  • The more I watch, the more I listen, the more I read—the more I learn.
  • Got a lot graded today (so much more to do).
  • Being true means embracing the shadow-self and learning to deal with the light and the dark inside.
  • Massive admiration for my friend Paula and her family—she made a huge jump in her thirties to be more true to her whole self. I cannot imagine the strength that takes.
  • I miss the friends I haven’t seen as much of, but I know the love will easily stretch until life brings our orbits closet again.
  • Their “Tigger Modes” are a little hilarious and a little scary.
  • We can all make it through tonight: we can all make it through tomorrow—right?
  • Proud of the former students I run into—they made it to the stage of adulthood where we all feel like we are totally faking it some days…it’s a journey.
  • I was hoping The Saints would win their game.
  • I love listening to the rain.
  • I want another tattoo, but I’ve gotta build up my saving first. A burst of flowers.
  • Why don’t we have more copies of Brave New World?
  • I am so excited for Poetry class and Commonplace Book Projects for seniors.
  • Sometimes I wish I were braver…
  • Few things are easy.
  • I need to get back in my word-bag

Good night, good morning, good day & good luck…

Trying To Sleep

I’ve been in a funk lately.

I haven’t been making the best smartest decisions. And, I keep thinking about my failures.

As I’ve tried falling asleep the last few nights, my failures (past and present). I know that I wouldn’t be who I am now without my failures. Sometimes they involve overreacting, underreacting, trying too hard at the wrong things, not trying hard enough at the right things. Mostly though, I hate that I have hurt people or made the lives of others more difficult than they needed to be. I can listen, but I can’t always tease the reality from what I’m told—I’m more aware than ever of how much I don’t know.

I do know that I have learned from my mistakes and failures. I know I’ve learned from my successes. Too often it doesn’t feel like enough. Many of us constantly reach toward our better selves even as we stop ourselves from making the smart choices. Sometimes we stop ourselves from making the right choices too.

I hope I make more right choices. I hope that I am a positive memory more often than a damaging one.

On these days or nights I remind myself that it’s okay for people not to like me. I can be a bit much or not enough. What my head knows isn’t always easy for my heart to feel.

This post feels like an expanding spiral that doesn’t really say anything…