I said to Hank Williams, how lonely does it get? Hank Williams hasn’t answered me yet.

When my dad died 4.5 years ago he left instructions about how we were to mourn. Specifically, we weren’t supposed to mourn. He wanted a party with beer, music and laughter. He got that party and there was plenty of all three of those things. But I’m still a salty 15 year old at heart. I don’t like being bossed by my dad and I don’t react well to it even when the bossing is coming from beyond the grave.

I mourned actively.

I sent one of those stupid sky lanterns into the air and it blew into a tree. I wore his old Cheap Trick t shirt for weeks. I listened to songs by Johnny Cash and Wille Nelson and I wept (I avoided Patsy Cline, I’m not an idiot). And now, even though my father was neither Catholic nor particularly religious, and even though I am neither of those things either, I light candles for him in elaborate churches and cathedrals.

In Bruges I chose the gaudiest most gilded spot in the entire cathedral (no small task) and I put a Euro in the little box and I prayed to the Virgin Mary. I grew up Lutheran though, so I probably did it wrong. That would have bugged him too, he was a man who liked jobs done right. We’ve been to Venice twice since his death and he gets prayers there too. Give me an ornate church and I will light a candle just to spite my dad.

Not really. I tell myself that’s why I do it, but I also do it to ask for grace. I do it to let him know I love him. To remind myself of him and take a moment surrounded by opulence to think of a man who loved his family and beer and country music and HAM radio.

This May my old roommate and good friend went into the hospital. She is unlikely to leave the hospital. My dad taught us to play Texas Hold ‘Em while smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer in the back room of our old apartment in 2004. Much like I was on the morning of Nov 13 2010 I’m sitting at home this morning waiting for bad news after a message that her condition worsened last night. These last few weeks of waiting and wondering from afar how she’s doing have been unfair and impossible. I feel like I’m going through all 7 stages of grief simultaneously and she’s still there, laying in a hospital bed with machines helping her breathe.

We were in Venice a week ago. While we were there we went to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore to see the enormous mesh sculptures of Jaume Plensa. A head and a hand that appeared, to me, to be offering a blessing. I put 2 Euros in a box and I lit two candles in front of the Virgin and first I asked her to watch out for my friend, I asked her to keep her safe and surround her in light. And then I lit a candle and prayed to my dad, who is not a saint and as mentioned above was not Catholic. But I prayed to him anyhow. I asked him to help, if he could, if that’s a thing dead parents can do. To sit with her now, and if necessary, to show her the ropes after, in wherever the after is. To give her a cigarette and talk to her about whatever you talk about in that place.

Then I went outside and I gave my kid a hug and as I looked across the lagoon at San Marco I tried not to be too angry at either of them, my dad and my friend, I tried to send glowing loving thoughts to them, particularly to her. I’m trying to do that even now, but I’m listening to Leonard Cohen covers so mostly I’m crying and thinking selfish thoughts.

I’m thinking of how beautiful and talented and funny she is. I’m thinking of the time we sat on some rocks at a little beach in Roger’s Park drinking beer and telling jokes in terrible English accents. I’m thinking of the day she came to my room and handed me a ring she’d made me and then 6 months later demanded it back before handing me a new one telling me the old one was terrible. I’m thinking of sitting on the back porch with her, barbecuing dinner and talking about everything. I’m thinking about her wedding on a tropical beach and how afterwards we all laid on lounge chairs and stared at the huge,shimmering moon. I’m thinking about going to see the Pixies with her and her sour face when they played Here Comes Your Man and how I still made her laugh by jumping up high in the air because I love that song at least 10 times as much as she hates it. And I’m thinking about how she’s still present tense but any second now I may get a message that changes her to past tense and that cannot be right no matter how many benevolent spirits are there to hold her hand. It can’t be right and it won’t ever be right and I hate it.

So right now, right this second, I’m going to think of her at brunch as she was 12 years ago, looking at me across the table over good coffee, fresh orange juice and an exceptional plate of Eggs Benedict. I going to think of her glowing in the sunshine of a beautiful summer day in Chicago and I’m going to think of her joyful and laughing. And I’m going to hold onto that for as long as I can.


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Oh yeah!

If you’ve come here from my guest post at The Feminist Library then you might be interested in reading this. It’s the poem Joy and Livernois Road by Marge Piercy that sent me to ye olde card catalogue looking for more. It remains heart breaking and amazing

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1. I have been reading Wolf Hall for the last 500 years (or 2 months) I really like it but I don’t think it will ever end.
2. My leg is basically healed even though it still hurts 60% of the time. No more crutches though, which is 100% excellent.
3. I’m trying my hand at some speculative fiction,  except news from the U.S. keeps making it feel less speculative, which is sad. Writing it it hasn’t been sad though. Writing it has been really fun, so I’ll keep doing it, thanks, I’ll just have to speculate more.
4. The entire run of A Different World is on Netflix right now. This may severely impede my speculation. I loved A Different World as a kid. It was possibly my first real exposure to the idea of university as something more than an abstract and I’m curious to see how that’s held up 20 odd (Ack! ) years down the road.
5. Speaking of 20 odd years, my 20th high school reunion will be held this summer. I can’t go because we already bought tickets back to Michigan for Autumn. I’m not exactly sad to be missing it but the whole thing has definitely left me melancholy.  Not that it’s hard to leave me melancholy,  but this is extra.
6. More soon, with more detail and more cleverness. Scout’s honor.

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It’s kind of a big deal


For the first time since breaking my leg I was just able to sit on the floor and build Max a train track setup.  It’s not my best work,  but I did it and it’s more than a basic circle, so I’m calling it a total win.
Speaking of my broken leg, tomorrow I go in for x rays and a check up with my orthopaedic consultant. I should find out how broken my leg still is (hopefully just a very tiny bit) and if I can start carrying Max from place to place again.  Also, I will not forget to ask if all the metal (a pin down the length of my tibia and 4 screws to hold it in place) in my leg is now a permanent feature in my physiology.

Most importantly of all through, I’m hoping they’ll give me copies of my x rays so I can see from start to finish exactly what was happening with my leg.
And even though I refused to post ultrasounds of Max on the grounds that it was weird to put pictures of my insides online I will totally put these up, because legs are different.  They just are.
Especially when they’re bionic.

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Lazy Mommy is Lazy

Why, yes, we are watching The Lego Movie again this morning. But there are reasons! Reasons that are not all related to laziness! We’re waiting on a delivery from Ikea and while they are supposed to give you an hour’s notice, that, quite frankly, isn’t enough time for me to walk home from the park right now. So, Lego Movie.

There’s also been jumping and train driving and playing, but at the moment I have parenting limitations. We’ll do something creative this afternoon, promise

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I’ve been neglecting this space.  I’m not even sure why but it’s been stupid of me.  I like writing here. I like the open-ness of it. I’m starting again right now.

So it’s been a sort of tumultuous autumn.  I broke my leg at the end of August and have been slowly healing since. I thought my recovery time would be spent writing and creating like a machine but for some reason I couldn’t get in gear.  I can’t even blame painkillers because they only sent me home with codeine and paracetamol which are  the least enjoyable painkillers of all,

I did however spend my time doing a lot of knitting and watching of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I knitted a shawl, a lace scarf, a cardigan, a cowl and a baby hat.  I’m almost done with a second shawl now and hope to start a sweater for Jeremy tonight. So even though I didn’t write a novel while laid up I did rediscover my love of knitting in a big way. Also I learned that I was stupid not to watch Buffy when it was originally on. That show was really good.

So this is a boring entry, I apologise for that, but by the end of the week I’ll be more interesting, promise

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#yesallwomen This one in particular

I don’t often talk about these incidents because they seem small and unworthy. Because I know too may women to whom worse has happened.

So I keep these stories close to my chest, too close possibly. I was married for 5 years and had known my husband for 10 when I finally told him about the boy I met on my first day of senior year.  He was new so I helped him find his way to his home room.  I remember feeling so jaunty that day.  I remember the outfit I picked out to wear and how pleased I was that this was my last ever first day at high school. And I remember feeling like I was doing this good deed, helping out this nervous kid.

He followed me around for the rest of the year.  He wrote me ridiculous notes about how he’d witnessed a drug deal and now gang members were going to kill him and he gave me his soccer medal because I was his only friend and he wanted me to have it.  He was intense and frightening.  I gave back the note and the soccer medal, I told him to leave me alone.  He was still aroud,  still on the periphery.  Always.  Later, my guidance counselor, a man I had previously respected, called me into his office to tell me not to be scared of this kid.  I don’t remember exactly how I responded but I remember that I saw a red haze that I didn’t know how to put into words as he spoke to me.  I think I might have said, ‘But I am scared.’ It feels like such a weak response.

The summer after my first year away at college he would show up at my house.  He gave my mother another note for me, another convoluted story.  Something about how he’d fallen off a cliff and had amnesia but someone had told him he’d treated me poorly and he wanted to apologise.

It sounds comical in the retelling, I know that, my friends even made a joke song about him to the tune of The Cat Came Back. But it never felt comical in the moment, certainly not the day he sat on the side of the road across the street of my house for hours.  I spent most of that day on the wide step at the curve of our staircase because it felt like the best place in the house to go unseen. It didn’t feel even a little comical at that moment, and it didn’t feel comical over a decade letter when he sent me a message on MySpace.  Without realising what I was doing I took myself to the wide step at the curve of my staircase in London, half a world away.  As if I still needed to hide from him.  None of it is comical, not really, but that’s how I tell the story, because comedy is easier, apparently.

I didn’t have a name for the other not-horrible-not-as-bad-as-what-happened-to-other-people incident until a few years ago.  I think I called it That Thing That Happened for a long time.  Then I read this about Not Rape and that’s the context I use to describe it now.  That time I didn’t get raped by my ‘friend’ from work at a party.  That near miss when he thought that because I was passed out it meant he had free reign.  The way I didn’t know what was going on at first, the feeling of dread as I slowly figured it out.  I still don’t know exactly how I managed to push myself into a wall and pull my jeans back up and I still hate the way I consider myself lucky that in the end he just tried to jack himself off between my thighs and then fell asleep next to me for the rest of the night.  There was nothing lucky about any of it.  I hate the way I tried to play it off as no big deal at first and I hate the memory of how the realisation hit me on the drive home, sitting in the passenger seat of a friend’s car as my brain slowly put the pieces of the whole thing together.

A few weeks later in the work break room, a girl would ask me if there was any way ‘you could make things cool between you and you-know-who?’ It was making other people uncomfortable, I guess.  She was shocked when I flat-out said no.  Just no.  A word that still, apparently, wasn’t enough.

Two days after I didn’t get raped I cornered him by the vending machines and told him never to come near me again.  I still look back with wonder at 20-year-old Carolyn, at how she found her voice where 18-year-old Carolyn only had a haze.  It still took 20-year-old Carolyn 3 more days before she slept again.  And 37-year-old Carolyn would still rather not talk about other things that were said in the immediate aftermath.  I just don’t want to, they still cut too close.

But I will talk about how just under a year later I found out he did rape another coworker.  The police didn’t take her seriously and many of our ‘friends’ didn’t take her seriously.  She once said he was hot, after all.  If I regret anything in my life it’s not the vodka I drank that night but that I didn’t tell more people about what he didn’t do to me.  That I didn’t just say fuck the consequences and warn more women, put his picture on telephone poles, write his name on all the bathroom walls.  Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference but I still wish I’d done it because I regret so deeply what I didn’t say and the role it played in what happened to her.

So I’m saying all this now, 17 years down the road, even though they both still feel too small to count.  Because I know they are not too small to count and I know I am not too small to count even though I am sometimes still scared and sometimes it all still hurts.


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