Adventures in Dachshunds: The OH GOD, MY DOG HAS ZOMBIE EYEBALLS edition

(Warning: this post has some icky eyeball pictures. Those with Ommetaphobia may want to skip this one.)

I’ve worked three days in the past two weeks. Thanks, polar vortex!

The timing of being home so much turned out to be great. As anyone who follows me on social media knows, one of our dogs suddenly went blind last month. For a handful of days, the sides of Edward’s eyes just looked irritated and red. Not the biggest deal–dogs always have all kinds of strange things going on, especially old dogs. Maybe it’s allergies, I said. Maybe he’s allergic to dogs.

Starting to look gross, but not too bad yet.


Once he couldn’t see, he just started keeping his eyes closed all the time.


As the redness got worse, we took him to the vet. They did a funky little test on him that basically turned his tears neon green, then they examined his eyes with some kind of special light/tool. Nothing odd showed up, so they sent us home with an ointment. We repeated this process two more times as his eyes became increasingly weird. They went from red, to milky/cloudy, to ZOMBIE EYEBALLS.



It was clear that he was totally blind in one eye and the other was about to call it quits, too. Our vet told us she’d never seen anything like this, which is always super fun to hear, and referred us to a veterinary ophthalmologist. There, the incredibly kind and smart doctor informed us that Edward has a VERY rare disease, something he sees maybe once a year and something that there’s no way our regular vet would know to diagnose. Essentially, there’s a glitch in Edward’s immune system telling it to fight an infection when there is none. As a result (somehow), his corneas became completely inflamed and his eyes were clouded with white blood cells. “He’ll be fine,” the vet calmly told us. “A few weeks of medicine and he should be back to seeing just fine.”


We about fell over. Edward and Billy turn 15 next month. We had accepted that Edward was now blind and just really wanted an answer for why he had zombie eyeballs. It was a better diagnosis than we expected. They took him in back for a cortisone shot near his eye, gave him lots of treats, admired what a handsome man he is, and sent us on our way with some prescriptions.


Resting flanked by concerned brothers.
Resting after his cortisone shot.


He already seems to be doing a bit better. Today, his eyes tracked me setting down his food dish, where before I had to set the dish down and then move him to it, pushing his head down into the bowl so he could find his food. I always assume the worst. In everything. All the time. But even I think the doctor is right—Edward will see again.


Here at The MacGregor Home for Elderly Dachshunds, we know we will have our hands full as our pack continues to age. The fact that both Edward and Billy will turn 15 next month is amazing. Billy spent much of the past few years battling stomach problems and seeming like he was about to die, but then suddenly seemed to decide, NOPE, I SHALL LIVE. It’s now like he’s aging backwards. He’s down to 8 pounds (from 12 pounds just this past August), playful as heck, and as fierce as ever. Edward can’t hear, can currently hardly see, and has a history of seizures. And Oscar… well, he’s an adorable little disaster. He has no teeth, has basically recovered from last spring’s paralysis, has a heart murmur, and has been through some shit in his life. We have baby gates blocking all rooms without doors. I have a subscription order for potty pads. Two of the three dogs need prescription food. We have dog diapers, dog strollers, and use our steam cleaner a lot. A LOT. I cry over them and swear at them and desperately love them. I don’t know what I will do when they break our DOGS LIVE FOREVER pact. But for now, I’m just grateful that Edward seems to be rebounding from this setback.


I was depression planking and crying. Blind Eddie found his way up onto me.


For your viewing pleasure, dachshunds being adorable:

Billy, melting.


Oscar froze his paws.


This bed was our best investment.


Billy watched the ALA Youth Media Awards with me.




Desperate for the sun.


Can’t get enough of ol’ derp-face Oscar.


Oscar, king of the pillows.


Sun + bed = happiness.



They’re not going to know what to do if I have to work a full week next week. Bring on more snow!


(Also, hi, I have not written a new blog in ages. Blame winter despair. Blame the fact that I spent half of December and much of January battling and bouncing back from influenza. Blame whatever. You can always find me blogging away over at Teen Librarian Toolbox. Or flooding my Twitter with dog pictures. And hey, I even updated the EVENTS page of this blog, so if you want, you can come listen to me speak at TEEN LIT CON in April.)

The skills of defensive driving

For you, maybe it goes like this:

First real snow of the season. It’s kind of pretty.

Argh, why does everyone forget how to drive in the snow?

Okay, be careful—it’s slippery.


For me, it goes like this:

OH NO, the first real snow of the season. I HATE THIS. I wish I could make it all melt right now. Burn it with fire!


Writes note to husband before work. Quickly adds “love you” because suddenly I’m certain I will of course die while driving today and I don’t want my last words ever to him to be that the dogs need to pee.


Argh, why does everyone forget how to drive in the snow?

(Another round of my favorite song, DEATH, ICE, SLIP, etc)

Drop kid off at school. He tells me it will be fine, that what happened to my dad was a freak accident, that we will not die in a car crash. He gets out of the car but makes sure to tell me he loves me before he closes the door.

I leave the parking lot thinking, well shit, clearly I’m going to die now. The universe knows it. It made him be sure to remember to say that to me FOR THE LAST TIME.

Rational brain attempts to speak up: Excuse me, but you’re an atheist. You don’t put any stock in any knowledge or fate or reason or logic. It’s just a swirling mass of chaotic futility. Anxious brain shouts over rational brain: EVERYTHING IS CHAOS! DEATH! WHEEEE!

Then I drive, white-knuckled, south through the suburbs, glad that at least I’m not going north into the city, as that side of the road is barely moving. I creep along, not listening to a podcast, because I won’t be able to actually hear it over my screaming brain, grateful that today I’m picking up $50 worth of donuts for book club, so at least I’m driving to a fun destination. Focus on donuts.

I make it to work and breathe a sigh of relief, but know that this same loop will happen every single day that there is snow or ice on the ground this winter, no matter how far I’m going, no matter what.

It would appear that the sixth winter after my dad was killed is not the winter I magically stop finding driving terrifying.

So now what?

I run my little happy lamp every morning. This crappy darkness makes my depression worse. I do not need the added drama of my brain screaming at me about a specific way of dying. I use my lamp, I work through some mindfulness and breathing-related bullshit (and no matter how hard I try, my brain just keeps thinking of it as bullshit, even when it works). I take my medicines—all of them, the daily ones, the backup ones, the backup backup ones. I do stuff like sit for hours with a battery-powered brush, cleaning grout or the edges of the bathroom or whatever other weird and obsessive thing my brain tells me would be soothing. I go to bed and watch the cars’ lights zoom by on the highway behind our house. The leaves are all gone now, and since we don’t have backyard neighbors, I never close the curtains, so I can see the cars while I’m in bed. I wake up in the night terrified. I cover my ears when Matthew tells me a story of driving home from work and an ambulance not being able to get through. “STOP!” I shriek at him. It’s grief season. I can’t hear this.

I live in Minnesota. It snows a lot here. I work in a different city than the one I live in. I have to drive. I have to drive in snow. I have to keep going. But what I want to do? What I want to do is put on my favorite jammy pants, the ones with stars, and close my bedroom curtains. I want to climb into bed with all three dachshunds, crank the electric blanket, and sleep until the spring. The dogs would like it. My family and my employer probably would not.


My therapist has me tell myself that the bad thing has already happened. It’s not happening now. It’s not about to happen. But the great thing about brains is that they can think anything. They can understand linear time but still think time is all weird, that everything is always happening, that it loops back over itself, that it’s a Jeremy Bearimy thing going on.


And grief? Grief doesn’t care about logic or breathing or something being in the past or anything. Some days, grief only cares about expanding to fill up the container, overtaking me, blocking out anything else. And when the thing that triggers your grief is something as large and omnipresent as nature and weather? That’s hard to escape.

But I made it through driving on the first really bad roads of the season. And I started the day with $50 worth of donuts on my desk. And I will do this over and over and over, this winter and every future winter, likely not with the support of so many donuts, but I will never not get in my car on a snowy day and think of what happened to my dad. The world is a random, dumb, unfair, ridiculous place. Drive carefully out there.

Happy adoption anniversary, Oscar!

Today marks one year since we adopted Oscar. You can read about his introduction to our family here, and the fact that he was marked as “unadoptable” here, and get some other updates here and here.


Adopting him was one of the best choices we’ve ever made. He’s sweet and goofy and so, so loving. Edward and Billy love him—especially Edward. Enjoy some pictures from the past few weeks. Oscar has a good life now and we’re so happy to have him in our family.


Dispatches from the elementary school library

Oh, hi. It’s somehow the middle of October. September was a total blur of me going back to work, Callum going back to school, Matthew interviewing for a new job, me being super sick thanks to the AMAZING amount of germs small children generate, etc. Now that things have evened out a bit—back in the routine of work and school, Matthew has started his new job, I am temporarily healthy—I have time for things like blogging (though I’ve still been cranking out posts at Teen Librarian Toolbox multiple times a week—come visit!). 

One of my favorite things about working in an elementary school is simply the interaction with kids. I never know what they will say to me. Ever. So, as I’ve done before, here are a few quotable moments from my days in the library.


Summer reading part three

Books. Summer. Reading. You know the drill by now. Here’s the first installment. Here’s the second.  I think this puts me at 77 books read this summer. I have 8 more books in my current TBR pile. Think I can get them all done by the first day of school? I do too.


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The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio. MIDDLE GRADE. Wonderful look at community and culture. Filipino American Lou has a real talent for carpentry, design, and architecture. Lou is spirited, filled with determination and heart.


Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow. MIDDLE GRADE. Melly’s a shy girl, but she finds friendship and confidence at music camp. She learns how to rely less on her best friend and experiences her first crush on a girl.


When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger. ADULT. Another rich people and their problems book. These are always my favorite summer reads—a little over the top and a lot of fun.


Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. MIDDLE GRADE. A powerful look at working class poverty. Unique take on an imaginary friend story. We don’t often see families in situations like this in middle grade. Serious but ultimately hopeful.


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The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John. ELEMENTARY/MG. Wide appeal. The illustrations and high-interest plot help make for a quick read. Fun, silly, and full of mischief.



The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson. ELEMENTARY/MG. Uplifting story of understanding prejudice and encouraging tolerance/acceptance. A quiet story, the strong characters and thoughtful, unexpected friendship and its lessons make up for the lack of real plot.


Cursed by Bruce Coville. ELEMENTARY/MG. Whimsical story, fun illustrations and “documents” help flesh out the story. Humorous, but the story does drag a bit and mixed format/places we learn information a bit confusing. Fans of magic will enjoy this brownie’s story.


Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt. ELEMENTARY/MG. A feel-good story about embracing differences and seeing beyond labels and impressions. Characters are interesting and complicated. Great story about friendship, too.


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Webster: Tale of an Outlaw by Ellen Emerson White. ELEMENTARY/MG. Webster thinks he’s a bad hat, but he’s a very good dog. A sweet and emotional look at animal neglect/abuse and rescue. Humorous and full of adventure and rescues.


The Infinite Pieces of Us by Rebekah Crane. YA. Reviewed for School Library Journal.


Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre. MIDDLE GRADE. Strong characters carry this rather slow story of Lou and friends working to save her house and solve a Civil War mystery. Themes of racism, atonement, and changing values.


The High Season by Judy Blundell. ADULT. Say it with me now: rich people and their problems! I really loved this book—great writing, compelling characters, lots of depth.


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Soar by Joan Bauer. MIDDLE GRADE. I usually love Joan Bauer, but this title lacked depth—characters felt like props and MC doesn’t feel nuanced. People who like “inspirational” unrelenting positivity and adult-sounding sixth graders may enjoy this.


Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. ELEMENTARY/MG. This was great—fast-paced, super interesting, and filled with tension. The cautionary tale puts the characters in real peril. Readers will race through this suspenseful story.


Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. ELEMENTARY/MG. An excellent addition to the field of puzzle-solving books. Suspend your disbelief and get caught up in the mystery, ciphers, literary allusions, and the journeys around San Francisco.


Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Letitch Smith. YA. This is a nice mix of romance, routine high school drama, and more serious topics like racism, bullying, and becoming more socially aware. Louise, the main character, is Muscogee (Creek).


Image result for the collectors westImage result for the hating gameMoonstruck, Volume 1: Magic to Brew


The Collectors by Jacqueline West. MIDDLE GRADE. Great characters, including a hard of hearing main character who uses hearing aids, interesting world-building, tons of suspense, and leaves readers wanting more. A great addition to any collection. Be careful what you wish for!


The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. ADULT. 100% my favorite book I read this summer. Enemies-to-lovers fan? You will devour this book.


The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. ADULT. Stella is autistic and hires an escort to be a practice boyfriend, but, big surprise, they end up falling for each other. An excellent romance with tons of sexual chemistry and great writing.


Moonstruck, Volume 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle (Artist), Kate Leth (Artist). YA. Super wacky graphic novel about lesbian werewolves. What’s not to like? Cute, diverse, and full of supernatural fun.


Giant Days Vol. 1Giant Days Vol. 2Giant Days Vol. 3

Giant Days Vol. 4Giant Days Vol. 5Giant Days Vol. 6

Giant Days Volumes 1 through 6 by John Allison et al. YA/ADULT. Excellent comics about the first year (and second, by volume 6) of college. Follows a small group of girls and boys as they figure out housing, money, dating, and more. Read all six volumes in 28 hours. Really good.



Meet the SkyGirl CEOThe Glitch

Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle. YA. The far-fetched plot will appeal to readers who like their main characters in peril. Girl trapped during hurricane evacuation with the boy who broke her heart.


Girl CEO by Katherine Ellison, Ronnie Cohen. YA. Full color makes this book very visually appealing. Great profiles of and advice from diverse women entrepreneurs, inventors, CEOs, media stars, and other leaders. Inspiring and educational.


The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen. ADULT. Fast-paced read about a Silicon Valley exec who maximizes every second of every day, but is thrown for a loop when a woman claiming to be a younger version of her shows up and makes her question everything.

Summer reading part two

Last week I shared my first chunk of summer reading books. Here’s the next installment.


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Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton. YA. The prologue to this ARC says, “Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.” I’m in. Read my Teen Librarian Toolbox review here. 


Storm-Wake by Lucy Christopher. YA. Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST in a post-apocalyptic world. Dark, dense, and challenging.


Zebrafish: SPF 40 by FableVision team. Middle Grade. Great art in this graphic novel, but the story feels all over the place and doesn’t go anywhere satisfying.


There Are No Grown-Ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story by Pamela Druckerman. ADULT. A meditation on what it means to be in your 40s? Yep, sounds like required reading at this stage of life.


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Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry. YA. A bunch of misfits find each other, and some trouble, while at a Catholic school they all feel on the fringes of. Loved it.



All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin. ADULT. I always enjoy her books. The main character reexamines what she wants out of life after having to take a hard look at the actions of her son and her husband.


Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef. YA. Great biography of Shelley, whose life was just as dark and dramatic as you’d expect.


Steal This Country: A Handbook for Resistance, Persistence, and Fixing Almost Everything by Alexandra Styron. YA. Essays, interviews, photos, comics, and plenty of tips for action and allyship. Intersectional and thorough.


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Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. YA. Mostly takes place in Iran. Really great look at fitting in and finding yourself.



Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Amirah Mae Safi. YA. Iraqi American main character. Examines friendship and complicated family relationships. A little slow.


Love Double Dutch by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly. Middle Grade. A fun, fast read about overcoming obstacles and making new friends on the path to a double dutch championship.


The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller. Middle Grade. Compassionate and supportive look at the ways families can be affected by mental illness. Very necessary addition to the small field of MG books about mental health.


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Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin. Middle Grade. Della’s mom stops taking her meds for schizophrenia and Della, who feels responsible for her mother’s illness, tries to find a cure. Empathetic and quiet.


The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristin Levine. Middle Grade. A mystery with a complicated story about identity and sexuality behind it.


You Think it, I’ll Say it by Curtis Sittenfeld. Adult. Short stories. Fantastic. One of my favorite reads of the summer.



Dream Country by Shannon Gibney. YA. This Minnesota author’s book moves between the United States and Liberia and covers multiple generations. Review to come on TLT closer to the September pub date. Brace yourselves—this book is phenomenal.


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Paper Girls volumes 1-4 by Brian K. Vaughn. YA. Comic books. 80s setting, badass girls, wormholes, monsters, mind-bending plot, plenty of action, and great art. LOVE.


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500 Words or Less by Julian Del Rosario. YA. Main character writes college admissions essays for her classmates, learning about them and about herself in the process.


What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. YA. Can’t go wrong with a book by these two. Cute story about missing and making connections.


Lost Soul, Be At Peace by Maggie Thrash. YA. A compelling and surprisingly deep story about the things we lose, the things we find, empathy, connection, and family in this graphic memoir about depression and family history.


Deadendia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele. YA. Can I marry this book? Fantastic graphic novel about a trans young adult, a talking dog, and a portal full of demons. Amazing.

Summer reading part one

Summer is waning, but I’m still going strong on my summer reading pile. I’ve  read 67 books so far and hope to squeeze in maybe 20 more. Have I done anything else this summer, you may ask? Sure. But who cares about that stuff—summer is for reading as much as humanly possible (more, ideally) and staring at dachshunds. Busting my ankle definitely helped me burn through my TBR pile. Here’s the first chunk of what I read this summer—more posts forthcoming.

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Calypso by David Sedaris. ADULT. It’s possible I’ve read every word he’s ever written. The flap copy says, “This is beach reading for people who detest beaches, required reading for those who loathe small talk and love a good tumor joke.” Nothing on earth may have ever spoken to me more or made me feel more seen. Already have our tickets to see him in April 2019 in Minneapolis.



Cut by Patricia McCormick. YA. First read this back when it came out in the early 2000s. Read it this time for the selective mutism rep for research reasons.



The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. MIDDLE GRADE. This one does double duty—read it for the selective mutism rep and because it’s a Division II Maud Hart Lovelace Award nominee. A moving examination of grief, loss, friendship, and healing.



The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. MIDDLE GRADE.  This is a really excellent book with one of the most diverse groups of kids I’ve seen in a children’s book in a long time. A surefire hit with the graphic novel crowd. (LINK TO TEEN LIBRARIAN TOOLBOX REVIEW)


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My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma. YA. A cute, fun read about love, fate, and prophecy. Lots of drama and scheming.



The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo. YA. Legit hilarious book. Great main character who loves snark and pranks, but manages to eventually be introspective and grow.



Social Intercourse by Greg Howard. YA. Rom-com with potential, but the book fell flat.



From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon. YA. Cute romance with lots to relate to re: romance, crushes, ambitions, and popularity.


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The Problem With Forever by Jennifer Armentrout. YA. Read for selective mutism rep. A compelling if overlong look at trauma and at relationships.



You Were Here by Cori McCarthy. YA. Broken record—read for selective mutism rep. I couldn’t read any of these books while drafting my current novel, but now that it’s been through sensitivity readers and is in revisions, I could burn through much of my list. A sister tries to deal with her brother’s death through urban exploration and wild, unsafe stunts. Told through multiple viewpoints and in multiple formats.



How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson. ADULT. Follow-up to I Don’t Know How She Does It. Exhausted mother of teens goes back to work as her life basically falls apart around her. Oh, and she’s pretending to be a decade or so younger than she really is. Good fun.



The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell. ADULT. Essays. Picked it up for $1 at a book sale. Can’t go wrong with Vowell’s witty commentary.


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Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan. YA. Graphic novel. “Losers” get sent to a camp with a horrifying, and disgusting, secret. I wanted to like this, but found it terrible.



Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner. YA. Story about a clever, feminist, cosplaying geek girl. Totally loved it.



All Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell. YA. Stories of love, identity, exploration, and adventure in various places and times.



The Place Between Breaths by An Na. YA. A powerful look at schizophrenia. A short but demanding read.


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Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro. YA. An intense look at racism, police violence, and mental health. Powerful.



Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay. ADULT. Anthology of pieces about harassment, rape, and rape culture. Not easy to read, but important.


Fence Volume 1 by C. S. Pacat. YA. Graphic novel about an underdog who gets involved in the sport of fencing. Reviewed for School Library Journal, so that’s all I can say for now.



Angelic Book 1 by Simon Spurrier. YA. Graphic novel about a post-apocalyptic world populated by animal-machine hybrids. Reviewed for School Library Journal, so that’s all I can say for now.


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Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen. YA. Interesting look at chronic illness—the main character has photosensitivity.


Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk. Middle Grade. Graphic novel about finding friends even if you have to invent them. Will fly off the shelves. Great for fans of Telgemeier.
Two Dogs In a Trench Coat go to School by Julie Falatko. Middle Grade. Exactly what the plot sounds like it would be. Great silly and clever fun.


Mrs. by Caitlin Macy. ADULT. I always enjoy reading about the secrets and hijinks of rich people. The usual interpersonal drama mixed with a secret that affects nearly everyone in the story.

Get out of my life (but actually, don’t): the complexities of adolescence

“Can I eat dinner in my room?” Callum asks.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

“Nothing’s wrong—GOD! You’re always asking me what’s wrong. I just don’t want to hang out with my parents,” he says, showing off some virtuosic eyerolling.


An hour later, Matthew and I are about to sit down to watch two episodes of Cougar Town (once you get past the name, you realize it’s a supremely well-written show full of quotable lines). “I’m watching, too,” Callum says. “Sit by me for both episodes,” he instructs me. Matthew makes a sad face. I tell them I’ll sit by each boy for one episode. “But I came out of you! I’m more important and I love you more!” Callum whines. He is joking, but also not.


He doesn’t want to suffer through dinner with us. He desperately wants me to be within an inch of him at all times. He screams that he hates me and stomps off. We have to talk in therapy about our separation issues (meaning that he needs to learn to separate from me better and not be so obsessed with my every reaction and thought).


When Matthew and I worked together at Barnes and Noble, way back in the beginning of Us, there was a popular parenting teens book that we sold a lot called Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall? Whenever Callum swings from one emotion to another, inevitably one of us will mutter this title to the other. (A classic example of this is at some point toward the end of the school year, when we asked him about a field trip he’d been on and he snapped, “Why are you always trying to know everything about my life?” then asked if I’d take him to Target.)


It’s so complicated being 12. And I know things will only get more complicated. I feel like I spend most of my days now just observing him, studying what he’s going through and guessing at what he’s thinking (though, to be fair, there’s not much guessing yet—he continues to have no filter and tell us every thought that crosses his mind). I watch him float around the lazy river at the pool, in a tube with his best friend, a lovely girl who does not put up with any of his crap, both of them giggling and chattering. They wave to me every time they pass by my chair and I marvel that they’re still willing to acknowledge me in public. Callum will often hold my hand when we walk, or, more recently, throw his arm around me and squish me or put me in a headlock. I have one inch on him, but I will probably lose that advantage before summer ends, and soon he will tower over me. He has endless sleepovers with friends and is always looking for the next fun thing to do, but also still spends an inordinate amount of time with us. Matthew easily logs 80 hours a week of work, so I’m the primary parent, but despite how much time Callum and I spend together, he will still ask for “Callum and Mom” time—maybe we go get coffee or go swim. I’ll hear him on his phone laughing and talking and it’s just as likely that it’s with my mom as it is with his buddies. He is a little kid and an almost-teen. He’s cutting and nasty and also the sweetest kid with the best heart.


On the days that my brain feels like idealizing things, I look at Callum and think, What a fun time ahead of you, and I don’t even mean it sarcastically. There was always so much drama and excitement and just interesting things happening when I was a teenager. It’s when I became who I am. On the days my brain is being more realistic, I think, Hang on, kiddo, it’s going to be a long and rough ride. I remember what it was all like so well. It’s rather bizarre to now watch my own kid start to navigate this stuff. I feel like the more I study him, the less I actually know about him or know what I’m doing.


Someday he won’t tell me everything anymore. He won’t want to hang out, or wave to me in public, or drape all over me when we watch tv. And that’s good—it’s normal and necessary. And maybe one day I’ll stop constantly studying him, stop marveling at how he’s changing and who he’s becoming. (Our therapist is not wrong to address separation issues.) Someday I will have to set aside my two favorite hobbies, spying on people and eavesdropping, to let him be his own person, to give him space, to allow myself some level of ignorance of what is going on in his life (I have a feeling I will need it). He just always seems on the brink right now of really growing into himself, of becoming the person he will continue to be. It’s exciting and terrifying. I just hope I have the emotional fortitude to withstand it.


All of this is to say, isn’t it weird raising children? And weird being parents? And weird that anyone survives adolescence? And weird that anyone survives parenting? 

When suicide is in the news

I don’t even know where to start. 

I’ve been writing this post in my head since Tuesday, but waking up today, seeing what my Twitter was full of, made me sit down and write it.

When famous people die by suicide, I feel a lot of things, mostly because of what I observe all around me. When someone famous dies by suicide, social media is flooded with people saying “oh no” and posting suicide hotline numbers and caring a lot, for a few hours, maybe a few days, about mental health. I am not at all suggesting that those sentiments are fake or misplaced or whatever. A lot of these sentiments are coming from those of us who live with mental illness, who totally get how this could happen, who think, damn, it got another of us. 


When someone famous dies by suicide, I spend a lot of time cringing. I see articles saying Spade or Bourdain “committed suicide.” We don’t say that anymore, people. It’s not a crime or a sin (don’t correct me). These people died by suicide. They died from depression (or whatever). I see and hear people saying they can’t believe it. Like they know. Like any of us ever know what is going on with someone. My mental health battles (and they are battles) are out there and upfront. You all know I live with major depression and generalized anxiety. It’s no different than knowing someone with cancer or diabetes or MS or whatever. I have these diseases, diseases that are very real, diseases that could certainly become terminal, but that I treat and live with thanks to lots of medical intervention. But not everyone wants that out there. Why? Because the stigma and shame is still so great. It’s everywhere.

After Spade died, I overheard a few people at work talking. They were saying how selfish suicide is. How someone has to “deal with finding them” etc. I was so mad. So mad that I didn’t call them out. So mad that I didn’t calmly say, “Hey, that’s all really insensitive. No one says it’s selfish of people to die when other diseases become terminal. No one says of cancer patients, didn’t they think about someone having to find their body?” I knew if I opened my mouth I’d snap. I would probably cry.

How dare they.

You can mourn celebrity deaths. You can feel terrible that they died by suicide. You can be shocked. You can tell people to get help. But I hope you also understand that mental illness is RAMPANT. That the DSM-5 includes more than 250 diagnoses for mental illnesses. That 1 in 5 people lives with a mental illness. That suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents. That teens with a mental health condition constitute the highest dropout rate of any disability group. That more than 70% of youth in our juvenile “justice” systems have a mental illness. That there are a ton of barriers to treatment for many people. That LGBTQIA+ kids are many times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids. That trans kids are especially vulnerable. I could go on. And I have. Over and over.

Talking about all of this, treating it as just another illness, another thing that kills us, is good. It’s normalizing. The more we talk, the more we compassionately talk, the more we can bring this out of the shadows.

Also, this is all A LOT. If you’re on social media, it’s flooded today, and was on Tuesday, with thoughts about mental health, with articles about these deaths, about suicide. It can certainly be overwhelming and triggering for a lot of people. You might need to step back. You might need to walk away instead of have a rage blackout in the general direction of your coworkers. I’m posting this, without rereading it, without second guessing it, without making it less ranty, then walking away from social media today. And that’s okay.


There is so much support and help out there, if you can access it. If you can bring yourself to take the first steps. Neither of those tasks are easy. Not by a long shot. Help is expensive and complicated and not quick and involves a lot of trial and error. It is extremely difficult to let the voice in your brain that says to get help be louder than the voice in your brain that says it’s not worth it. None of us really know what anyone else is going through. Even if we put it all out there. Take care of each other. Educate yourself. Know warning signs. Reach out. Watch how you talk. Be compassionate. Look out extra hard for teens, for queer kids, for people in your life. Help is not easy. Hope is hard to find. Depression is a monster. All those other 250+ mental health diagnoses? Monsters. All of them. 


I didn’t know where to start and I don’t know where to end. Here, have some brilliance from Bunmi Laditan.