“Protect the Children”

Yesterday I was reading about the controversy surrounding Roald Dahl’s books and the general concept of editing children’s books to make them more “appropriate.” My personal opinion is that we shouldn’t edit or ban books, but that’s not what I’m writing about this morning. As I dove in, reading both sides of the argument, I was drawn into other articles about the current furor about drag queens reading to kids and trans people, well, existing, and I started to see a common thread. In all these arguments for banning, editing, restricting freedom, etc. Almost all of them at some point say, “We need to protect the children!”

Reading that phrase over and over got me thinking about my job as a mother and I discovered something about myself: I almost never see my primary role as protecting my children.

Generally, I believe my primary role fluxes between making sure they know how deeply I love them/how worthy they are of that love and giving them information about how to navigate the world effectively. Protecting them really only becomes a priority in the presence of an immediate threat. Having read all of Roald Dahl’s books as a child, having seen numerous, amazing drag shows, and having met several trans people, I can’t find a single threat to my children there. Honestly, children who haven’t been taught to hate anyone make some of the very best teachers in how to treat people who are different from them–with curiosity, an open mind, and an open heart. The real threats to our kids are often things we can’t protect them from at all.

I mean, I have managed to save my kids from death and/or disaster a time or three, but I wasn’t able to protect my daughter from being bullied at school earlier this year. I wasn’t able to protect her from the pain and confusion she felt over the death of her beloved dog, Orion. And I wasn’t able to protect any of my three children from the chaos of the pandemic that swept through our world, destroying our routines and social connections.

What I was able to do, was support my daughter at home by talking about why bullies do what they do, who could help her at school, and giving her strategies for making good friends. When Orion died, I wasn’t able to prevent the hurt, but I was able to be honest with her, cry with her, and show her ways we can grieve and honor the ones we love when they have to leave us. And through the pandemic, I couldn’t make their lives stay the same, but I was able to show all of my kids how to let go of what’s familiar, even when it’s so hard, and find new ways to connect with others and enjoy life as it is for however long it needs to be that way.

So yeah, I would fight and die for my children in a heartbeat, but my job is not to protect them from what’s inside a book, it’s to talk with them about what they read in books. My job is not to raise them to be afraid of what they don’t understand, it’s to help them understand what they’re afraid of. My job is not to use politics to wrap them up in a cozy illusion of sameness, but to show them the beauty and fun that can be found in our differences.

I’m not here to protect them from the world, I’m here to give it to them, in all it’s flawed, frightening, difficult, beautiful, awe-inspiring glory, along with the love and tools they need to survive, connect with others, and enjoy themselves here.

My Favorite Story : )

Alright, folks, it’s time for me to switch things up a bit. My writing has been awfully heavy of late, and I need a break to feel a little lighter and brighter. To that end, it’s time to tell a story that is, without question, my favorite story to tell. It’s about my dad, who tried to get me to promise to never tell it to anyone, but instead, I promised to share it every chance I ever get. So I’d be remiss not to share it here where literally anyone can read it! (If you don’t know him, don’t worry, his sense of humor is top notch and I have his permission to share.)

Me and my Papa Bear. ❤️

I was fifteen years old and had just walked home from school. As I opened the front door, I could hear my parents arguing, which was pretty rare, so I was going to just slip in quietly and go around the kitchen through the living room to my bedroom. But the minute I came in, dad threw up his hands and stormed out of the kitchen and my mom heaved a big sigh. She was standing at the stove stirring something and didn’t look at me when she said, “Jesse, I have a question for you.” She sounded serious, so I braced myself, but nothing could have prepared me for what she asked:

“Do you have a pair of crotchless underwear?”

It took me a minute to process her words. I’d never even seen a pair of crotchless underwear, much less worn them!

“No!” I yelled. “Gross!”

She finally looked at me, but her expression was concerned. “I told your dad I didn’t think so, but I guess he was folding laundry and it was mostly yours and he says he found a pair of crotchless underwear.”

I opened my mouth to tell her they were absolutely NOT mine, but before I could get a single word out, my dad stormed back into the kitchen, holding up the offending article of clothing, red-faced and yelling, “ARE THESE YOURS?!?!?”

All was silent for a solid five seconds.

Then mom and I started laughing. We laughed so hard we cried. We laughed so hard we could barely breathe. We literally rolled on the kitchen floor laughing. All the while my dad, still extremely upset, kept yelling, “WHAT?! WHAT?! THIS ISN’T FUNNY!”

Apparently, he had only told mom about the undies, he hadn’t actually shown them to her. If he had, she would have probably done what I did then. Still laughing and crying and trying to breathe, I got up off the floor, walked up to him, and flipped what he was holding right side up, so he could see it was, in fact, not crotchless underwear, but rather my sports bra for basketball . . . which he had been holding upside down . . .

Photo above for reference only, the actual sports bra in the story was one of those cotton, two-tone, reversible Jockey sports bras! 🤣

He took a moment to process what he was seeing, then immediately said, “Don’t tell anyone! Promise me you won’t tell anyone!” but mom and I both assured him we would, indeed, be telling everyone. : )

So there you go, my very favorite story to tell. I hope you had a good laugh and I hope you’ll help my mom and I keep our promise by sharing it!

You Should Go

I threw away half of my clothes last week.
Old and ill-fitting
I’m tired of things that don’t fit
but unsure how to take off this
modus operandi
which has become so tight,
It’ll tear if I laugh too hard.

I do know
nothing will change
unless I change it.

So I threw away half of my clothes last week.
It felt so good.
I bought new things
that fit more than my body.

I pulled down all my make-up from
the dark shelf in the bathroom closet.

I put my wallet and lip gloss,
sunglasses and car keys
in my first new purse
since tossing my wallet in a
diaper bag six years ago.

I dragged out my tote full of shoes
I never wear–
yellow heels, butterfly sandals, red satin . . .
I’d forgotten how beautiful they are.

I bought new earrings–
colorful, a little wild, a little ridiculous,
a lot fun
Just the way I used to feel.

I’ve lived here nearly seven years
and my shoes
my colors
my self–
bold, sure,
slightly ridiculous,
considerably optimistic
have been waiting all that time
so quiet, so small.

When my children needed
Motherhood took
more room
then more
still more . . .
There was nothing left
no energy, no time.
She had to go
out of sight
out of mind
so quiet, so patient
until lately.

that part of my self
I put away
unable to part with her
even if I had nowhere
to take her anymore.
That part of myself
has grown restless,
has been rattling around
in the totes and closets,
thumping like a tell-tale heart
against locked, plastic lids–
against my own ribcage
whenever I think about changing up
the ratios.

And Motherhood–
that 800 pound gorilla,
who pushed her aside
who packed the totes
who clicked the lids shut
and walked away
with rolled up sleeves
to focus on her work. . .

the last one I expected . . .

Motherhood just whispered in my heart . . .

“You should go to her.”

I Love it Here

Life will knock you on your ass sometimes. Out of the blue, on a sunny day, suddenly there you are—leveled by whatever it is. Getting back up is a struggle. It takes time and it hurts and it’s scary and even from your knees with bleary eyes it’s easy to see that the life you’re coming back to isn’t the same one you went down in.

Macular degeneration was one of those for me–completely unexpectable—TKO. Going (hopefully very) slowly blind was nowhere near my list of things to watch out for. I went down hard and stayed down awhile–angry, sad, depressed, desperate. Now, I’m working my way through those things (for neither the first time, nor the last) and back to my feet in a new life.

A life that brings with it a whole new way of eating, some serious sunglasses, a wealth of anxiety about vision loss, a lifetime of follow-up appointments, and the knowledge that my future includes someday losing my central vision and, with it, a good deal of my independence.

But it’s worth it.

I love it here.

There’s horses and whiskey and margaritas. I love laughing and lipstick and guiding my babies as they grow. I love the woods and the mountains, misty mornings, and wild thunderstorms. Music, poetry, snow-melt river water running through my hair, and warm sun on my skin.

My man, my friends, and my family are funny as all Hell and have kept me company, laughing or crying, through every nightmare I’ve ever had to face.

And I’m fascinated by the strange muddle of humanity I’m part of—clashing and connecting, messily growing into what we’ll all be and do.

Life’s wellspring of treasures is as infinite as our capacity to endure it’s horrors. And when I’m having trouble finding my feet in the darkest dark I keep at it, not because I have to or need to or should or can but, because I want to;

I love it here.

Waking up With You

The morning sun blazes
a burning trail
through tranquil, lowered lids
shattering the night
and my soft sleep.

You see it, too, and
only half awake,
reach through the blankets
the darkness
the hours we walked
through separate dreams . . .

until you find me.

Hands gripping hips
you pull me close
tuck me in
over your shoulder
under your chin
a place I fit so perfectly
the night is whole again.

And, just like every morning,
even (especially?) after all these years
I’ll count leaving your arms
among the hardest things I do today.

Enough pt 2

So the container broke

I sifted through

and . . .

it’s all still here.

Well, all of it except

the crippling fear

that these words aren’t worthwhile.

Now, I’m left to wonder

was it really too fragile?

was it truly that it was struck too hard

by some malevolent or careless, outside force?

divine destruction?


or . . . .

did I simply outgrow it?

Enough pt 1: https://blackinkbirds.com/2022/11/09/enough/


I’ve shattered again.

But instead of gluing the pieces back together

I’m sifting through what was in the container

when it broke.

There’s no one here to tell me I’m ready.

No one I can ask if it’s good enough,

if I’ve met the goal

achieved the end.

Just me and all these words

that look like everyone else’s.

All those years

how did I not realize

I was still storing my worth

in the eyes of others?

I am calling it back now.

From every mis-place.

Even if I’m shattered and

have nowhere to put it


Thirty Eight and the Bad News

A couple of weeks ago I had a routine eye appointment and got some bad news about my eyes. I have serious signs of dry, macular degeneration in both eyes. Macular degeneration . . . sucks. I am way too young for it and have none of the risk factors, but the bottom line is, it’s likely I’ll be legally blind within 10 years. There is no cure or real treatment and no way to know how fast or slow it will go, just diet adjustments and vitamins that can sometimes slow the progression.

This news was overwhelming. I had and still have moments of suffocating anxiety about losing my independence and not being able to fully take care of my children/keep them safe. I am sometimes crushed under the weight of the knowledge that a day will come when I’m not able to clearly see their faces as they grow into adults, not able to see my daughter’s art, and not able to read or knit or drive . . .

Along with those dark thoughts, I’ve also noticed that every vein on every leaf, every grit in the cement sidewalk, every facet of the frost on every blade of grass, every hair on my horses, every minute detail of my surroundings has become a tiny miracle to me. I don’t try to see every little thing, but since that appointment, I just do.

The week before last was hard. I wasn’t hungry, I wanted to cry all the time, everyone was sick, and in the midst of the bare minimum I had to do to keep everyone alive and clean and fed, I had to plow through having the future I’ve always imagined would be mine ripped away in an instant and try to wrap my mind around what’s coming instead. To stay sane, I found myself mentally putting things in categories as I moved through my day: “Things I can Still do Once I lose my Central Vision, Things I can’t Do Anymore Once I Lose my Central Vision, and Things I can Still do with Some Form of Help Once I Lose my Central Vision.” I imagined how things will need to be moved around so I can do as much as possible for as long as possible. I set a schedule of never pausing during the day (lest I not be able to get back up and continue) and breaking down at night after everyone was in bed, and quickly exhausted myself on every level.

But this past week, after forcing a few good night’s sleeps on myself and while deep breathing through a mini-panic attack about it all, the realization came that right now I’m in the early stage and my vision is still correctable to 20/20. I can still do and see all the things. No doubt, there are dark days ahead, but now is not the time to grieve, now is the time to savor.

Going with my man for his first flying lesson and watching his eyes light up with pure, unadulterated glee when he turned the key and the engine fired up, taking my little horse for some play time in the round pen, making time to get back to my (rather long) reading list, and soaking up the sight of my children in a way I don’t think I could have when I assumed my vision would always be clear: these are the things I am focusing on (literally and figuratively, lol) now.

I’m not quite to the end of my thirties yet, but I think they’ve been about learning how to live on even when the living gets tough. Not to just keep breathing and eating, but to keep living–cherishing, enjoying, hoping, and holding my heart open even when it hurts.

When I started this decade, my initial response to pain of any kind was to close off and do everything in my power to not feel that pain again. But now I’m eight years in and it’s become pretty clear that if I keep that up, I’ll end up living alone in my bedroom under the covers for the rest of my life. This past week, I feel like I’ve cracked an incredible cheat-code for life–how to choose to truly live in the moment.

I want to close this with two things:

One, living in the moment is not natural. We worry about the future because we are aware that if we don’t make good decisions in the present, our future might suck or just plain never happen. Living in the moment is a skill to be honed, not just how to get in the moment and stay there awhile, but when to live in the moment at all.

It’s important to take precious time and allow yourself to project possible futures, sift through information that might shift your course for the better, or close your eyes for a visit to the past to avoid repeating mistakes. For me, especially right now, I know that if I’m ever going to make it to acceptance of this situation, I have to stop savoring the moment sometimes and let the full weight of the fear, anger, sadness, and inevitability of it all move through me. If I don’t, they’ll steal my joy slowly but surely from the inside. Still, this isn’t something I intuitively know how to do, I’m figuring it out as I go and practicing.

Two, I’m okay. Obviously, this isn’t how I wanted life to go, but it would take so much more than this to ruin it. I have too many good people, too many good animals, too much love, too much humor, and too much to look forward to (whether I get to actually see it or not) for this to keep me down.

So here’s to 38–letting go of what was, savoring and accepting what is, and setting course for a beautiful what will be.


I’ve decided not to fall this year
Not to leap forward into the unknown
with an open soul
as I have always done.

There’s this anger inside
I’ve been shushing
this fire inside
I’ve been banking.

And Fall has come
with her chill breezes
her crisp apple snap
expecting that I will
rake the words she’s brought with her
into piles on the page and play
as I have always done.

But I’ve been watching the way
the woods catch fire . . .
Every leaf on every tree burning bright
until there’s nothing left
and they flutter away like so much ash.

Yet the tree is not dead.

I don’t want to die or
become someone or something else.

I just . . .
don’t want to think anymore.
Or plan or rest or try or ponder or wish.
I’m tired of insecurity and
this pervading sense
of uncertainty.
I’m tired of hoping despite disappointment
tired of working through it
as I have always done.

I’m tired.

Of everything and everyone
especially myself.
Nothing helps. I’ve tried it all.
Except letting go.
Which I have maybe never done.

So, this time
I’ll take the words
in burning hands
no tidy piles
no time for play
I’ll take the fire from the tree
and let it fly through me
instead of watering it down
I’m going to feed it these feelings
And watch them burn
Until it all flutters away like so much ash . . .

And I can change.