Posted by: rocketbride | May 29, 2017

memento morii

In 1979 I was just learning how to be thirteen. I didn’t know that I’d have to keep thinking about it until I was twenty five. I thought that once I figured out thirteen, then it was history, junk for the archeologists to find years later. I thought it would keep working that way, figuring out each year as it came, then discarding it when the new one came along. But there’s much more to the whole thing. I mean, I had to figure out what it meant to be a boy, a man, too. Most of all, I had to find out what it meant to be Indian, and there ain’t no self-help manual for that last one.

(Sherman Alexie, “Witness, Secret and Not”, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, page 211)

“Viva la Vida” by Brandon Maldonado

My 41st year is turning into a bit of a mememnto mori experience. Not in the sense that I am preoccupied with my own death (although I have been thinking about the death of my parents more than usual), but because claiming 40 means that I am officially Too Old For This Shit, as my death won’t wait for me to grow up.

In some ways this has been liberating: I’m constantly making lists of silly things I’ve always wanted to do but have ignored, like getting my aura photographed or having one of my moles removed for non-medical reasons. I have also been getting closer to a few life-long dreams: I took time out of writing this entry to register for a course that will qualify me to work in the library as well as the classroom, and I am inching closer and closer to taking a creative writing course and seeing if I can find my story.

It’s been a weird year socially. A few very long and cherished friendships seem to have died when I wasn’t paying attention, and I have been working on being mature enough to let them go. I have had trouble with this my entire life. I am not only super sad when I feel a friendship cooling off, but even when it’s going well I’m sometimes jealous of any other person that they seem to enjoy. Once my jaws are in you, do not expect me to drop off without a fight. I oscillate between thinking that I’m brave and loyal like a wolf or a terrible pest like a tick.

So it takes me a long long time to realize it when 1 or 2 rebuffed invitations turn into years without any contact from them. I am guilty of counting huge seasonal parties that are so open-door that it doesn’t really matter if I go or stay away as real interactions; they’re not. At this point, I inventory our past relationship, mourning the death of what could be. I do this in spin class, or when I’m in the middle of a run and have nothing else to think about and the grief rises up me like fumes.

Ultimately, being 40 means that I have to cut the shit and follow the same advice I would give to anyone else. If someone is acting like they don’t like you, they probably don’t. If someone doesn’t invite you to their gatherings, it’s probably because they don’t want you there, and no amount of affection you had or have for them changes that.

There are so many people-shaped holes in my heart that might never be filled again. I have to find a way to lean into this.

Posted by: rocketbride | May 20, 2017

Church yard sale

Woody and the rest of the toys had a good grasp on the existential horror of the yard sale. On the one hand, you want to get rid of the stuff that’s holding you back. On the other…my stuff!

I always come home from a church sale with a few dumb things. Usually it’s books: I can use my classroom library to excuse a multitude of impulse purchases. Maggie always wants some toy, just as her brothers did. Blake has aged out of most of the yard sale charms (this is a kid who once begged me for $5 so he could buy a VHS set of Back to the Future movies from out neighbours across the road), but he did fall in love with a sugar bowl and creamer set that look like ducks. I took home a plastic witch cauldron, because Macbeth and also I don’t have to answer to you! There are also baked goods to trap the unwary.

This year was extra upsetting because my grandparents’ flotsam were on most of the tables. I was helping the set up last night, and I rather aggressively “repossessed” a few things for myself: a 45 box with a dozen of the best 45s, a few LPs, my grandmother’s ceramic mixing bowls. Most of the family has had opportunities to go get mementos at this point, and I think my mom is right to let most of it go into the world (even if that means the dumpster) instead of hoarding it, but that doesn’t mean that I was spared a pang seeing the box with the glass Loch Ness Monster figurine, or four pen-and-ink pictures from a long-ago trip to Quebec. Sometimes I would recognize something and blurt it out, at which point the tender-hearted older ladies gave it to me immediately, no questions asked. I ended up throwing a bunch of cash into the kitty as a way of apologizing for my family’s caprice, and for my sudden onset sentimentality.

I was particularly struck by two things. There were personalized mugs, which made me comment on my grandparents to whoever was around setting up last night. One of the ladies heard the names and fetched a silver anniversary tray, which I immediately recognized as my mom’s half-hearted late attempt at an anniversary present. Their 25th anniversary was in 1982, and I remember going to the mall to pick something out with my less than enthused mother. “She’s upset that we didn’t do anything,” my mom explained at the time, my mother’s indifference to her mother’s second marriage palpable. I was a year older than Maggie is now.

This morning I was idly perusing the picture frames when I muttered, “that’s my brother…and that’s my cousin.” Sure enough, two tiny pictures of the younger avatars of my family beamed out from tiny frames I remember from the tv/figurine cabinet. The ladies handed them over, of course, and they’re currently safe on my piano, along with a few loose prints of the family that had migrated to the bottom of a packing box. Something about those tiny beaming faces seeking their destiny among strangers gave me an ugly turn.


I know that I need to give up these silly attachments. I know that the more I accumulate, the more uselessly complex my life becomes. But I’m helpless in the face of these cravings. Maybe it’s because I dream of long-gone family houses almost every night that I cling to their debris when I wake up.

Posted by: rocketbride | July 30, 2016


Five years is wood.

I’v always loved celebrating the anniversaries in terms of materials. It started as a joke, with my mom giving the Boy and I paper one year, cotton balls the next, and it became something that focussed each year. When you are meshed, when your life is complete and whole because the other person is there, it’s easy to lose track of the number. Knowing the material of the anniversary gives me something on which to hang my hat. It gives a lense to my creativity. And Mason has risen to the challenge. (There are many, when married to me.)

On the first year, he gave me an elaborate Japanese wall hanging from my favourite paper store, and I made him a picture from our wedding with red silk stitched into the border.

On the second year, we bought each other cotton pillow cases, dressing our beds in bees and rock bands.

On the third year I gave him a wallet and he gave me a fancy black and white purse of leather.

Last year, for fruit and flowers, I made him bourbon and fig jam. He bought me a perfect dress covered in flowers.

This year is another favourite. Wood is full of beautiful metaphors for our shared life. The living wood that grows together, breathing in poison and breathing out life. Cut down, it builds our house and chairs and piano, everything that keeps us sheltered and joyful. Trees are an investment in the future, a bond taken in decades and demanding patience befoe fufillment. Trees are notoriously tricksy, bearing fruit one year and staying stubbornly bare the next. Wood is life, turned into permanence. It smells good too.

I have a hundred ideas for presents, things just for Mason, but we agreed a month to buy something big for the both of us: a big wooden mission style bed. It’s going to be great. And one day, just as we did this month for my grandparents, my family will have deal with an old, bulky, wooden bed. It will outlast us. Because: wood.

(Maggie is completely over watching me type. So no pictures this year.)

(Maybe one.)


Posted by: rocketbride | May 3, 2016

Go Set a Cash Register


I need the long form for this. I’ve been quite complacent about fitting my thoughts into status updates, but I need more space for this. Spoilers ahead, but I frankly do not give a good goddamn who is angry with me. Don’t worry about losing your sense of surprise, just don’t read this book at all.

Back story: when I head that a new manuscript had been discovered, I was thrilled. Not that I’m unique, but Mockingbird is one of my favourite books. I’ve taught it many times, including last year, and I love introducing another generation of teens to the meticulously detailed social commentary hidden in the slow folksy narrative. LOVE IT.

But then doubt was cast. A lot of it. If you haven’t read that Toast article, do yourself a favour and read it in full. My initial happiness fled when Mallory Ortberg pointed out the many inconsistencies and warning flags in this “discovery.” After much soul searching, I decided not to read the “new book.” I consoled myself with the thought that I would be able to read it once Harper had passed, as her death would be the natural time for the buzzards to cash in anyway. And when she died, I asked around and was immediately lent a copy by a run friend, a person to whom I will be returning this copy forthwith.

I started the book on Saturday; I finished it sitting on my front porch, shooing Maggie away so that I could get 3 minutes of peace and finish this monster once and for all.

It’s awful. It’s terrible. It’s an abomination.

It’s not that it was a cynical cash grab; that’s the way this ugly world turns. It’s not that the characters did things I didn’t like; I follow long serials just like everyone else, and I make a point of not complaining about storylines as if I had a right to my wishes. Art is art and we should all be grateful for another chance to hang out with our fictional friends. And it’s not that the book is poorly written or unfit for publication; in fact with a few minor changes to the characters’ identities I would have thoroughly enjoyed it as a penetrating lyric on race politics in the 50’s and 60’s.

And I knew that Atticus was “a bit racist” before I read it.  Christ, what a fucking understatement.  Some jackass publisher thought it was all right to take Atticus, beautiful, upright, lonely Atticus, and make him into a horrifyingly abstract racist. All of the criticisms of his character – that he may be righteous, but he does right at no cost to himself – have been made horrifyingly true.  By releasing this book they have not only shit on one of the finest characters in all of literature, they have managed to shit on Mockingbird, as this book gives Atticus completely different motives for all of his “upright” behaviour. It’s that they inserted a dark catastrophe into the relationship between Calpurnia and Scout. And God help me, I will not be able to read my beloved Mockingbird without knowing the total shit show Maycomb becomes.

I have read books that I didn’t like. I have abandoned books in the middle. But I have never read a book and wished devoutly that I had never started reading it in the first place. This wasn’t just a questionable decision. This was a desecration.

I wish I could hold someone to account. I wish I had been warned. Now the best I can do is stop Mason from reading it, to keep it out of the hands of my children, and to warn all of my students.

Posted by: rocketbride | February 19, 2016

the saddest

Today I learned that the saddest funerals are for young people. Today I went to the funeral of the former student who died violently over a week ago; I was there because Mason couldn’t be, and I was there because I needed somewhere to put all the feelings of regret I’ve been having over not having been a good teacher to this kid. I thought that the worst part would be seeing his friends break down, but seeing his parents and grandparents was far worse. Even the music was upsetting: when someone started into “Tears in Heaven,” a song I have always loathed as overwrought, it seemed as if it had been written for today. At first I cried silently, then ugly sobbing, then more silent tears. It was bad.

How awful and frustrating it must be to love a child with all your heart and have to field calls from people who write him off as lazy or a thug? How awful to have to tend that picture of your perfect baby deep inside because you know you are the only one who feels it? And how awful to bury that child and all of your hopes for him just as he’s starting to become his own person.

Posted by: rocketbride | February 13, 2016


Last weekend a former student was shot at a nearby parking lot. Mason, who spent many years at Bat Masterson in and out of the behaviour support program, knew him quite well. I taught him one semester; if you expand the definition of “taught” to include mostly marking him absent and holding my temper with both hands whenever he graced us with his presence. To say that this kid was difficult seems disrespectful now, but the truth is that he excelled at manipulating relationships. Now that he’s dead at the age when I first met the Boy (in other words, in the dim mists of prehistory), I can’t help but regret how easily he kept me from caring about him.

We sometimes joke that a student will end up dead or in jail. It’s been 8 years since my first students went to jail (a string of gas station stickups) and now I have graduated to the next level of loss.

The funeral is on Friday, and it’s going to be awful. His friends all knew he was making bad decisions, and they warned him repeatedly. This funeral is going to be a monument to the theft of his potential. It’s going to suck.

Posted by: rocketbride | January 26, 2016


TV is in a weird place culturally right now. The decline of broadcast television and the delivery of whole seasons via DVD or the Internet has made it both easier to be a fan and harder to talk about it with other people, because no one is at the same place you are. In the weird, guarded way we discuss tv now I had watched a few Girls references go past, but I generally wait for the second ping before I decide to do anything. I mean, I probably should be doing something useful instead of looking for more tv, right?

This year My Force Awakens fixation led me to Adam Driver; my Christmas magazine had Jemima Kirke on the cover, so eventually I knew I had to see Girls.

Opinion among my online circle was sharply divided: some were cautiously encouraging, others hated the show, everyone warned me about the graphic sex scenes. I watched a few clips online, I reserved the first season through the library, and last week I dived in.

Having finished the season yesterday while in the middle of the tuberculosis sanitarium that is my life, I’m still not sure that this was a good idea. I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am not to be in my 20’s any more, which is good. But I’m still not sure that I should be spending so much time with people I am deeply ambivalent about.

Things were further complicated when I realized that Ophelia had recommended the show to me last year with the added note that the main character reminded her of me. Which is always flattering, but maybe never an entirely good thing. At least, I’ve always found it unsettling. And especially so in the case of Hannah Horvath, a narcissist who thinks trauma is being 13 pounds overweight her entire life. But after my initial Nosferatu-esque recoil, I warmed to the idea a tiny bit.

Ways in which I will admit to being similar to Hannah

  1. I have freaked out, and denied that I was freaking out so I wouldn’t appear uncool.
  2. I assumed that, if I wanted to, it would be easy to get a teaching job.
  3. I have followed up a workout with homefries, so I would likely do the same with ice cream.
  4. I have called a more successful girl my nemesis without being aware of my own petty jealousy.
  5. I have helped myself to a reading break at work instead of doing anything more productive.
  6. I have eaten junk food in the bathroom to avoid what I perceive as judgement 5
  7. I have dressed up to go out as if I was about to put a hex on some popular girls.
  8. I have erased and rewritten a tweet several times.hannah-horvath-480x320
  9. I have been really excited about my dress almost matching my shoes on a fancy occasion.  hannah_horvath
  10. I would let co-workers draw eyebrows on me because they think it would help my look.
  11. I would eat cake on a beach, by myself, in the morning, before trying to figure out a way home.
Posted by: rocketbride | January 23, 2016


I have been fighting a cold for days, and we’ve reached the point where I can stop feeling guilty for backing out of things becuase I am well and truly sick. I have spent most of the day quiet, because when I speak in a normal tone of voice I start coughing uncontrollably. I have many many things to mark, so silence is an ok strategy; it’s just the parts of the day when I’m required to be a parent that don’t work out as well. I spent the last half of dinner glowering across the table at my soup-eating children, gesturing encouragement and trying to use any latent telekinesis to make them eat faster.

I don’t like being sick. I like the excuses for comfort food and lying down, but every other thing blows. I would have had to mark this weekend anyway, but maybe I would have done more this week instead of “recovering” from the exertions of teaching, so I wouldn’t have had all that much to finish.

Either way, my ticklish chest thanks you for your attention.

Posted by: rocketbride | January 19, 2016

the democracy of ants

There’s a documentary we show sometimes called I Am; if you haven’t seen it, it’s about a rich director who has a life-changing injury and spends his recovery travelling and asking interesting minds what’s wrong with the world and what can we do about it. There are many, many ideas – as you would expect when you ask a diverse group – but one of the greatest take aways for me was the idea that cooperation is in our DNA alongside competition. And that researchers have been able to measure electromagnetic energies that change when we are around others.

One of my biggest struggles when I’m low is not getting through the moments: it’s my tendency to isolate myself. I’m an introvert who is constantly surrounded by people, so a little alone times isn’t a bad thing, but I quickly get beyond the point when its helpful and into a place where I’m depriving myself of the interactions that can pull me up. This last push of marking before the end of the semester has had me in a constant state of low-grade anxiety since the year turned, and I am coping with it in beautifully unhealthy ways: isolating myself at work whenever I can, skipping group running, searching out stuff to feed my latest media fixation. I’m not marking and I’m not feeling refreshed.

This isn’t a big insight here. I’m just processing.

Posted by: rocketbride | January 18, 2016

two can keep a secret if neither of them blog

I keep thinking that eventually I’ll tell stories about New Year’s Eve. It’s the kind of thing that my writing used to focus on: some sort of event that took me out of the regular complaints about lunch meat and anxiousness about whatever race I have to run next.

But I realized that I will never write a compelling entry about New Year’s Eve, nor have I ever done so in the past, because too much of what happens on any NYE should remain shrouded in mystery. Not because it’s shameful – I didn’t throw up in anyone’s flowerbed or insult someone to their face – but because conversations on New Years are all transient and liminal and they are full of secrets that hide on all the other days and nights. To tell the true story of New Year’s would be to pull apart all of those earnest confidences. Truths that hide in the ground year round come up for one breath of air that night and then submerge again as if they never were.

And also, it’s none of your business. It probably wasn’t any on mine either, but I was there so I got the blessing.

I think this is what I truly miss about my pre-child life: being around kids is surprising every day, but being around independent humans opens the door to another kind of surprise. And though I have felt the need to hide during so much of this grey season, when I think of NYE, those small secret surprises are what I look back on, and what I look forward to finding again.

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