Posts Filed Under Sometimes, I’m all deep and shit…..

Every day I hold my breath as I ask how her day was

by Janelle Hanchett

Instead of calling a human being an “it,” you can call them 

“he or she”

“him or her”



“sparkle face”

“love boat”


Or, most importantly, whatever they want to be called (even if that’s not perhaps your first thought).


If you don’t have that information, and you can’t tell their gender through the lens of traditional performance expectations (in other words you can’t “tell” if they’re a “boy” or “girl”)

You can resort to calling them anything really that





Recognizes their HUMANITY


As opposed to

erases it.


If you think it’s funny or true or politically poignant to refer to a human being as an inanimate object as if that human doesn’t have

brain bones soul like you do,

then you may raise a child who goes to school with my child

and stands in a circle on the playground yelling


and pointing to my baby


she comes home and tells me about it in




of tiny kid talk.


“I think they just didn’t know if I’m a boy or a girl” and you say WELL TELL THEM and she says I DID (but they won’t stop) so you tell the teacher and she investigates and all along you’re thinking it’s innocent 6-year-old confusion but the teacher says



These kids knew it was wrong. They knew what they were doing was wrong.

And you want to fall over






in the whole fucking thing

because of all the things in the world your baby is,


is not one of them.


Of all the things in the world she is first, human,

and what do you do if the world perhaps








The heart of 5 years, 5 months and 2 days grew first in my womb, home, and veins

born here with you



She’s OURS.

ALREADY made whole, full and

knowing who and how she is though maybe you deny



of her tiny heart

against my own silent pulse

the one



sent you, too,

in shockwaves to your guts –




of love,

breath, and bones.


There are a thousand things you can say instead of “it.”

Choose one.

They’re listening.




P.S. I’m not putting my child’s face up because the thought of People of the Interwebz criticizing the way my baby dresses herself makes me want to stab things. And though this is about her, it’s for every kid like her, every kid rocking aesthetics that the world may not quite understand. We love you. You’re alright. They are the problem. Fuck ’em. Get your cape on and do you.

115 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | January 7, 2016

How I (sort of) manage Donald Trump and the rest of the bullshit.

by Janelle Hanchett

For the last two years, almost every Thursday night, I get together with the same two families. We rotate houses each week, meaning every 3rd week, the gang comes to our place. The other weeks, we go to one of their houses.

And we are a motherfucking gang. Six adults and 9 kids between us, aged: 14, 10, 5, 5, 5, 3, 2, 18 months and 6 months.

My friend Kristi suggested this. I would never be that smart. When she suggested it, I thought “Well that kinda sounds like alotta work” but answered “Yeah totally” because I’ve grown to not trust my judgment when it comes to things like this. I’ve found that life hands you some pretty interesting shit if you say “yes” as often as you can, even if your gut is all “No thanks I’m fine right here in Land That I Know.”

I’ve also learned that something “sounding like a lot of work” is a crap reason to avoid it.

And so, we eat together on Thursday nights.


We eat together through death and grief and illness big and small. Through depression and joy and arguments and just another boring old Thursday night. We eat together in the dead heat of summer and the rainy chill of winter and we eat through tantrums and squeals of delight.

The kids blend into one another, a giant ball of love and limbs that kind of rolls through the house in an air of noise, the tiniest ones following behind devotedly.

I’ll hold the baby. Mac will hold the baby. Somebody will hold the baby and somebody will cut the kids’ meat and somebody will deal with the finger that maybe just got smashed in the door. Also, they should stop doing that.

We kiss, hold, hug, redirect and discipline as if all the kids were ours. They are, I suppose, all ours.

When screams come from a bedroom we look around and ask “Which kid is that?”

If an adult’s back there, we have another cracker. We know our friend’s got it.

We know our friend’s got it.


We sit together through crying kids who haven’t eaten enough for dessert. We sit through BS times in marriage. We sit through alcoholic family members and no money and a little money and vacations and rounds of strep throat and on Halloween maybe we dress up together. We sit together through pregnancies, the expected and unexpected kind, and we sit together through newborn periods and husbands working out of town and questionable mental health.

Each week when I ask “What can I bring?” or read “My house tomorrow, 5:45pm,” I know soon I’ll be at a table with friends who are just friends because we are friends. If that makes sense to you, you are a fucking blessed human.

We pass baby clothes around and it’s less painful because I know I’ll get to see another baby in those pajamas, on a Thursday night, as if he were mine. We all live within a mile from each other. Sometimes we walk to each other’s houses.

Sometimes we stop for a couple weeks, but we pick back up. Right where we left off. Just exactly where we left off. We keep picking up where we left off like a little crew that won’t give up and when the world is crashing and pummeling around me, when 10,000 things are happening that make me feel thrown around at sea, the chair at that table with my friends becomes a 10,000 pound anchor.

A built-in support system. A group of humans who already know because they’re already there. They’re always there. Sick? Soup. Depression? Company. New baby? Both. Out of town? Plants watered.

We know our friend’s got it.

I watch the three girls who’ve known each other since birth, in each other’s clothes, now they’re in a tattling stage. We tell them as they come, one by one, that they can work it out with each other. We laugh. They’re getting big. Ava and Rocket sit with us now at the adult table (none of us have a table big enough for 14 people). We talk and talk and talk. We get interrupted again and again and again. We get up, we clean up, we get annoyed, we discuss revisionist history, and a maybe a trip snowboarding this weekend. They all come out of the room without clothes. Somebody just poured water in her plate. Arlo is snatching toys. The three-year-old is on time-out. The baby’s nursing.

Everything is just as it should be, this Thursday night.


In times like this, when mosques are being fire bombed and Muslims spat upon and planned parenthood shot up and San Bernardino shot up and all the schools shot up and all the life bombed and Donald Trump white supremacist hate-conjuring as if the Japanese Internment never happened and old friends are dying and getting sick and newer ones too, and, and.

Each Thursday I sit at a table with my friends and our whirling-dervish mayhem, good food and love become a tiny shelter in an insane unjust bullshit world. It’s all falling apart, out there, it seems, but tonight we share something we made or they made for me, taking in the love of humans still in my arms, now in my arms. Our kids. Our bellies. Lives move on and on and yet stay right here at our table.

We don’t have to talk about it. We just pick up where we left off.

Our kids are the ages of the ones who died in Newtown. We don’t have to talk about it. We will, for a moment. For a moment somebody will say something, but probably not much else, as we sit down and serve ourselves and smile at the 2-year-old who just removed her clothes for the 10th time tonight.

What beauty. What luck.


People, I never tell you what to do, but I’m telling you this: Get yourself a crew. Find them. Show up. Cook some food. A lot. Pick up where you fucking left off.

Every time. Just pick up where you left off and know they’ve got it.

Know your friend’s got it. None of us were made to withstand the weight alone.

Mac kissing the head of a baby who isn't ours but is kind of ours.

Mac kissing the head of a baby who isn’t ours but is kind of ours.


Two spots left in my January writing workshop.

February is half-full.
Join us now!


(Also, hang out with me (well, via video). I’m way less batshit than I appear in my writing. LIES I AM WORSE.)


Hey kids, we gotta talk about 2015.

by Janelle Hanchett

I saw it again. That quote. That meme. The one that says: “The way you talk to your kids becomes their inner voice.”

Can we talk about that for a moment, kids? Because if it’s true, that my voice will become the one whispering sweet nothings from the recesses of your adult mind, we should probably pretend 2015 never happened. Can we do that?

Perhaps we can just let this one go. You know, in the broad scheme? Of the 18 years you hang with me (at a minimum), let’s just call 2015 a bust and move on.


There are four of you. I am the mother to four of you. That’s four brains at my mercy. I do okay with that most of the time. And I started 2015 out okay, too. Your dad got hurt at work, then some stuff went down that damn near ruined me (which I can’t talk about on the internet), and then, well, your dad was called to work 2.5 – 3 hours away. For 10 months. And my life was turned upside down, against my will, with no solution in sight. I guess it was just too much.

Sometimes I handle glitches in my fucking life plan with dignity and grace. Other times I act like a crack addict who misplaced her last baggie.

Never do crack.

Seriously though, kids, usually I can muster the perspective, patience, and strength to roll with life’s bullshit, and I kind of just keep on going, as we do, after kicking and screaming for a few minutes. And then I accept it and move on, because I can’t live with resentments. I can’t live with the inner turmoil caused by WHY ISN’T LIFE GOING MY WAY GODDAMNIT? It will never go your way, Janelle. Not always. So just stop. Throw in the towel. Enjoy the fucking ride.

But this year, I couldn’t. I just could not “get okay” with my husband pulled away from me for 10 fucking months. Every morning, every afternoon, every evening: I was alone with you guys. But I work. I WORK TOO. But I couldn’t do my work. I had to work but couldn’t work because I had virtually no help. How do you live like that? When you have to do but can’t do day after day? The part that really messed with me was that there was nothing I could do about it.

I felt trapped. Cornered. I literally, in a very real and tangible way, could not meet the requirements of my life. I was failing everything and everyone, drowning in mediocrity. I can’t be expected to have a career but live at the mercy of somebody else’s career. IT CAN’T BE BOTH. I CAN’T DO EVERYTHING. I simmered in rage and self-pity, and fought to the death my own powerlessness.

There was nothing I could do, so why was I fighting? Because I fucking hated it. Because I didn’t want it. Because I was outraged. Because I missed my husband. Because I’m immature and ill-equipped for life. Who knows why. It’s just what happened.

And the more I fought, the more I kicked and screamed, the more it didn’t work, more exhausted I grew, and the more depressed. And anxious. It was a slow build to disaster.

My ability to sleep vanished. I was nearly out of my mind with exhaustion. I remember the day I called my best friends and my mom and said “I think I’m depressed.” Their response was something along the lines of “No shit, Einstein.”

But you four. You were just there, looking at your mama. You were just there, in the car, as I drove you around, or made dinner, helped you brush your teeth. You were just there, in our home, waking up and making lunches and doing your chores. You were just living, little kids, doing your kid life, looking to me to do the mom life, while I fell apart under the love of your gaze.


They say my voice will become the one in your head.

Will it be the one that screamed “What the hell is wrong with you?” one morning, on day three of 4 hours of sleep, when I simply lost it?

Will it be the literal grunt I gave you in response to you telling me something about your day? It was 3pm. We were driving home again. I knew all the evening is on me. I had 60 papers to grade. We had nothing for dinner. I guess I’ll take 4 kids to the grocery store. I’m so tired. I’m like a zombie. My body weighs a thousand pounds, my thoughts a million. My eyes are blurring on the road.

Hey mom. Hey mom. Hey mom. Let me tell you about this thing. Can you believe that? Hey mom.

“Mmm.” I don’t even pretend to care. I can’t. I don’t even pretend to listen. Your voice is barely audible beneath the roar of my separation.

Will it be my voice demanding “Come take this baby!” so I can make dinner without him getting burned as he clings to my legs and screams?

Or maybe it will be the 700 “I just can’t talk to you about this now.”

Please give me a moment.

Please stop talking for a second. I can’t do this anymore. I fucking can’t do it. I yell it on the phone. I scream it. I hang up. I throw a picture frame.

My grandmother got depressed once, after she had her 5th child. One day, she lay on the couch and didn’t get up again, for a long time. It was maybe 1952. A friend brought her a paint-by-number art set. She did paint by number, one tiny shape at a time, one tiny minute at a time, for days, until her mind pieced itself back together, and her legs worked again.

“What are you going to do, Janelle?” My mom asked.

“Janelle, DO ONE THING TODAY.” My friend said.

I cleaned the linen closet in the hall. I did that. I did that one thing that day. The next day, I got vitamins and herbs and told myself I had 30 days to feel better and then it was off to the doctor for medications. The day after that I got a therapist. A couple of days after that, I realized I heard you tell me about the kid who took your math book , and I cared a little.

Slowly, I got off the couch.


They say my voice will become the one in your brain. I said a hundred things this year I’d like to erase. My silence perhaps more awful than my words. Does silence echo too? I imagine it does.

But what about when we sat on your bed and I said “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. You don’t deserve that. I’m having trouble managing my anger.” And we hugged, hard, again. For everything. Or the hundred times I showed up anyway, broken and distant, but by your side with the tenacity of a fucking bulldog, because you’re mine and I’m yours? Does that silence count? Will it hold you too in 20 years? I put on your favorite songs. I watched you sing with blurred eyes. I loved you with perfect clarity.

Do you hear that, too? All the moments I kissed you and said “I’m really tired. I’m having a hard time. But I’m trying to get better.”

I didn’t want to make this your problem. I didn’t want to put this on your shoulders, but I owed you an explanation. This isn’t your fault. I’m working through something. I will get better. We’re a family. We’re broken. We hold tight and get remade. THAT’S WHAT WE DO.

I’m painting, kid, one tiny shape at a time, and pretty soon it will be done, and I’ll be me again, and my voice will stop cracking mid-sentence, in defeat, or rage.

I don’t always love that I’ll be the voice in your head. I’m not sure I even fully believe that. I hear my mom’s voice. I also hear my dad’s (P.S. WHY DON’T WE DO THIS GUILT SHIT TO DADS?), and a few asshole teachers, and a couple good ones, but mostly, I feel what it felt to be in my mom’s arms, to live in her home, to smell her hair and skin and know this is home, even fucked up, loud, sad and weird. I knew she’d always come. I’m lucky to have that. It’s all I ever really needed to know, in the end.

I hope you know that too, that though my voice was shit in 2015, my arms have remained the same. And they’re yours.

Let’s go.






Hey, I don’t want to be all alarmist and shit, but these are probably the last sessions I’ll be offering of the live Write Anyway writing workshop.

Get on it, friends. I’d love to write with you.


Um, why am I crying? I was never “this” mom.

by Janelle Hanchett

I fear what will materialize with perfect clarity as a lie on my deathbed. I wonder how I’ll reflect on the 36th year of life.

The next and the next.

I don’t mean to me morbid. It’s not morbid. Morbid is wasting the one fucking chance we have at life. That’s just my belief, of course. Maybe we get a repeat. That’d be cool, but I’m not willing to risk it.

It usually takes years for my mind to change, but once it does, it feels sudden, jarring. Like a loud knock on a door I never knew existed.

I look over to see who it is and it’s a new truth sitting there like nothing ever happened. Like she’s always been there, chillin’, waiting for me to notice her.

I guess it’s just “getting older” and that’s that. I guess the pack of experiences grows deeper and wider and weirder and we have no choice but to see the world differently and it’s not strange or even interesting.

Except, well, it is.


A couple weeks ago, on the bi-annual date taken WHETHER WE NEED IT OR NOT, Mac and I struck up a conversation with a couple who was just like us: married, with kids, on a date.

Only they were about 60.

They gave us that familiar “I remember those days” look as we told them about our 4 young kids.

The couple was lovely. I liked them.

As they got up to leave while we were finishing our avocado chocolate mousse (which I am normally opposed to on principle because keep your fucking HEALTH FOOD OUT OF MY DESSERT THANKS, but this was delicious), the man looked at me and said: “It goes so fast. Hold onto this.”

I didn’t need to tell you that. You already knew that. You knew he said that because it’s the thing every older parent has said to every younger parent since the dawn of humanity.

I waited for my internal eye roll. The irritation. The IF IT GOES SO FAST WHY ARE THEY STILL HERE feeling. I waited for the old familiar Smile-And-Nod-out-of-politeness.

But it never came.


Instead I saw a flash of sadness in his eyes and knew it as my own. The pain in his voice that might as well have been mine. I felt commiseration. I felt the same. I felt life racing by my head again and powerless and a little stripped.

Later I thought “Well shit, I guess I’ve been around long enough now to see the ‘other side.'” Their side.

Then I banished the thought immediately because I AM TOO YOUNG FOR THIS SHIT.

Or something.

The pain, though, is merely a flash buried beneath a pile of gratefulness for the passing of time, that they’re all still here, that we’re still here to watch them be here.

But it’s there now. And it wasn’t before. Even when I started this blog it wasn’t there. I used to write about dropping my kids off at school and daycare and wanting to scream “FREEEEEEEDOMMMMMMMM!!!!” out the window. I only felt relief. Now I feel more.

There were so many years more to come. There were more kids to come. There was the possibility of more kids to come.

Last June, I had my last baby. In November my first baby turns 14.

I thought when I was 22 and had my first child that 18 years might as well be 90 years because it’s so many years. Shit, it was almost the number of years I had been on earth.

She was young. I was young. We were all young.


What I didn’t realize is that it isn’t the kid LEAVING that filets your heart, it’s the CHANGING and transition from little kid right here playing, to kid at arm’s reach, to kid in carpool without you, to beyond and beyond and that one day you realize that the movement is away, always, as it should be, but always away, and the closeness clarity and simplicity of the early years are over so fast it might as well be 90 days. 90 minutes. 90 fucking seconds.

When you talk about this with people they’ll sometimes say “Oh, well, I enjoyed EVERY phase and never got upset about my kids growing up.”

Well, you clearly love your kids more dearly than I do. Let me run out and make you a cookie with my bare hands and adoration.


My point is not that new stages are not wonderful and exciting and dynamic and joyful. Can I tell how rad it is to sit down and have an intelligent, sarcastic banter with my tween? Or how amazing it feels to (legally, ahem) leave her with a sibling or two while I go to the freaking store? My oldest child feels like a dear friend now, sometimes. We laugh and laugh. It’s everything. It’s more than I ever could have imagined.

My point is that the wild abandon of your little one playing in the sand on a beach will not last forever and I, at least, feel a twinge of pain to know that stage has passed.

It’s the first time they refuse to hug you in the car before school.

It’s the first time you realize they’ve sat with you chatting on the blanket rather than played in the surf.

The first time they prefer their room, over you, to talk with friends.

The first time you realize they’re too big for this or that or the other thing and they’re in reality now rather than imaginary land.

The first time you realize that in less than 5 years your kid will be “full grown” (hahaha).

And in a little over 2 years she’ll be driving.


I don’t know when it happened, and it doesn’t feel like me, but every morning when I get Arlo out of his carseat to drop him off at the babysitter’s I damn near cry. Or I do cry. Not weeping. Just a tear or two.

He puts his head on my shoulder as if he knows.

I don’t know where the pain came from. I can’t even make sense of it. Because he’s my last? Because it’s too much time away? Because I’m old? Because I’m a sap now?

Maybe I’m just tired. Worn out? Depressed? Hormonal? Maybe it doesn’t feel worth it anymore. The time away.

Ah, fuck it.

Is this why they say that stuff about “wiser?” I sure hope not. I’m not wise. I’m just 14 years into parenthood and feeling the weight of my baby’s face on my shoulder and going to work anyway because it has to be done, and part of me wants to go, though in this second it seems I’d give anything to get back in the car and drive away with him.

Is this it? Is this what the “old people” are talking about?

My family right now feels so complete. Nobody can ever leave. It’s the six of us. It’s perfection. It’s whole and contained and just right. Soon one will leave, then the next and the next.

It will change. It will get better. It will get worse.

It will just get new.

But this day, this one won’t come again.

I feel that now, whether or not The Old Annoying People are telling me so.

I pat his back and kiss his little head, pass him into the arms of another. I wonder if she sees my tears.

I get in the car, drive away, and write to you. I’m not sure I know what else to do, today.


so many years here.

so many years here.

48 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | October 6, 2015

Thinking of the moms who can’t make it

by Janelle Hanchett



I can’t make it.

You tell us about it, teacher, how it’s a blast. How we should come. How we’ll love it. I need no convincing. I love pumpkin patches. I love the fall. Before the words have fully left your mouth I check…nope. Working that day.

I can’t not show up to work. Maybe I can get a sub. No, not really. I teach college. You can’t really just get a sub, or “call in sick.”

You’re still talking about how wonderful it is. The picture you paint makes my gut hurt and face smile. I see my kindergartener on the train ride, scaling the haystack, picking out the perfect pumpkin. I tell myself “We’ll go as a family. We always do.”

I tell myself it will be just as good. My heart sinks just the same.

I see her there with other parents. I see them with their phones, taking pictures. Maybe my kid will be in the frame, in the background. Along the sidelines of the frame, near yours who sits front and center.

I wonder if she’ll wish her mom were there. Let’s be honest, there’s no way she’ll even notice. She’ll be having a great time, as she should.

I know that, yet I kinda wan to quit anyway.

In the 4th grade classroom they’re going to the Maidu museum. Oh, it’s amazing! The other moms coo.

Damn! Wednesday. I teach that day too. He’s almost 10. He wouldn’t let me hug him the other day before school. He’s getting so big. Oh, lord I want to go. To not miss out. I think of the twinkle in his eye if I could tell him “Hey! I’m going with you on the field trip!”

He’s not too big for that.


I was never the kid who’s mom worked in the classroom, drove the kids on field trips, manned the carpool. My mom was busy making a living to keep us alive. I didn’t feel deprived. I didn’t feel resentful. I was elated to see her at the end of the day. Period.

And she was always there. Our dinners were heaven around the little table. I’d crawl into her bed when I needed it. She never said “no.”

On the weekends she took us on impromptu camping trips and to the beach and made us hot dogs in the fog while the ocean roared behind us and I knew it was right in the world because she was there.

She was always there.

No, not always. Not at school.

But everywhere else she circled me like sunlight.

And I knew it. I felt it, no matter where I was.


I tell myself it’s the same with my kids. I know in my heart it’s true. I don’t remember a single incident of sitting at school wondering “WHERE’S MY MOM?” I was just glad we were on the damn field trip I the first place.

The mom who can’t come. The mom who isn’t on the trip. The mom who works.

Sometimes I can come now. I have a little more flexibility.

Some don’t.

Some can’t come at all, ever.

I see you.

I hear you.

I know what it feels like to be the mom showing up in work clothes 20 minutes late to Back-to-School night, scanning the list of meetings and events and assemblies and this and that and “You should come” and “Volunteer please” and every one at 9am 10am 3pm and the sinking reality of you aren’t going.

You talk to your child, pick the most important. You can make it to one, I’m sure. The boss will give you the time off. Maybe you’ll just lie. The pumpkin patch is not a business priority. Odd.


I don’t want to go to all. Screw that. I’ll leave that to the helicopters. But I’d like to make it to a few, and volunteer a few times. I’d like that, you know?


A million questions theories scenarios reasons feelings but fuck all that.

I just want to talk about the 45 seconds when you realize you can’t make it to the pumpkin patch field trip and wonder for a second what the hell you’re doing and what she’ll think or won’t think and how your mom was there or not and how it was and is and will be okay, even when it’s kind of not.

You and me. We can’t make it together.

You and me. We’ll make it together.

And so will they.


they’re fine. we’re crazy. it’s all as it should be.



Join me for my last writing workshop of 2015.

There are only 5 spots left. We’ll have a hell of a time getting to know each other.

Let’s do this.







32 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | September 4, 2015