It’s strange what the heart can hold. Or, I’m just happy my brother is here.

by renegademama

Lord, I feel like we haven’t talked in a year. I feel like I’ve lived about two lifetimes the past two days.

On Thursday, I got two messages from my mother in rapid succession, which I missed while exercising. Since it was the day before the anniversary of my grandmother’s murder, I was on edge and tense and reflective, the way we are when these days come back around.

The texts just said “Please, call me.”

I called, and my mother said, “Have you heard about the fire? Ross (my brother) called from his truck. He evacuated the hospital and was trapped on a road, surrounded by flames.”

And then the line cut out and my mother got no more information.

In a word, I fucking flipped. I was thrown directly back into the moment I learned my grandmother was murdered: full body shaking, racing brain, barely able to speak. Shock, I guess. Luckily I had friends there, since I was just leaving her house.

My brother’s wife and children made it out, but I had a vision of my brother suffocating, jumping out of his truck, burning up. That was at 11am. From then until 5pm, we had no idea if he made it out or not, and all I could do was watch Twitter updates of the Camp Fire in Paradise, now the most destructive fire in California’s history, and pray to God my brother wasn’t in that. You tell yourself he’s super smart and level-headed. You tell yourself he won’t take risks.

It dawns on you that raging fire kills the logical alongside the illogical. You go back to Twitter.

And yet, he was in that. Right in the center of it. I could see where he was on the map, and I could see where the flames were via Twitter updates.

It was 110 degrees inside the cab of my his truck. He watched the bumper melt off the car in front of him. People were driving on hubcaps because their tires had melted, running out of cars that had caught fire. There were cars and propane tanks exploding, people carrying kids and pets needing rides, running to buildings for shelter only to have it catch fire, too. It was black as night in the middle of the day. Apocalyptic. Devastating.

Turns out my brother made it to a Kmart parking lot and sheltered there, and obviously, made it, or this post would look very different. The hospital where he’s a doctor found him through emergency services.

They lost everything, as did most people in that mountain town. They’re here now, and I can’t tell you what it felt like to hug my sister-in-law and niece and nephews. And to hold my brother’s face in my hands.

They showed up yesterday, on the anniversary of my grandmother’s murder. It was strange to gather again on the same day, two years later, in despair, again, and yet, not quite, because we all made it through this one.

I’ll share what I wrote on Facebook, and a few photos, but the truth is I don’t have insight right now and I’m so, so fucking sorry for people who have lost everything, for the terror, for the devastating we dodged but others will receive. I can’t even think about my brother and sister-in-law soon walking over the ashes of their home with their three children for the past seven years.

So much love to all of you. Please keep the people of Paradise in your thoughts, and the Californians affected by the Southern California fires. If you’d like to help people in the NorCal fires, here’s some info. I may set up a fundraising account for victims, but I need to organize it and figure out who will get the money, etc.

Local friends please look up on Facebook places where you can drop off supplies to be taken to Chico.

This is what I wrote yesterday when my brother and his family was on his way to us.

Two years ago today, my grandmother, Joan, lost her life at the hands of my cousin. It’s strange what the heart can hold, what it learns to exist alongside. We’ve moved through worlds since then: terror, rage, bone-deep sorrow. I still move through them.

Yesterday, when we didn’t know if my brother made it out of the fire, I kept thinking there is just no way we could lose him the day before this. That’s not a thing.

But then again we never thought we could live through what happened two years ago, but it’s strange what the heart can hold, how you learn to live with a side of you always grieving, a little afraid, a little confused. It washes life in more vivid light. I’ll give you that. Nothing is clear. Nothing is as it seems. Nothing is secure, but truly fuck the whole concept of “every day is a gift.” I mean, it’s true, but fuck it on principle.

Today we are gathering as a family just like we did two years ago. To be alive and be friends. To hold what the heart holds.

my brother took this picture from his truck

As my sister-in-law said, “Isn’t it strange how you can lose everything but feel only joy because your people are here?”

Parents of Potential Non-Voters: THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

by renegademama

Attention every parent with a kid 18 and older: You have a job and if you fuck it up we will further descend into the desolate wasteland we are currently inhabiting. If you love decency, life, freedom, or puppies, you must harangue, bribe, harass and manipulate your offspring into voting on Tuesday.

This is your one job. Other than voting yourself. This is your second job.

I’m assuming your kid is already registered. Obviously.

This isn’t the time for grand principles of “letting kids be themselves” or “learn their own lessons” or “enjoy their youth.” FUCK ALL THAT. This is the time for gathering up the barely grown and bullying them into the voting booth.

It may not be easy. I didn’t vote until I was in my mid-20s. I know, I should die. But Clinton was President and I didn’t think blowjobs were such a big deal (I realize it’s more complex than that but please lower your standards for 19-year-old me), and the greatest human rights violation I witnessed was bars doing last call at 1:15am instead of 1:55am.

I was pretty much useless, and being useless is adorable (it’s not), but I believe that very head-in-sand-privileged-apathy is largely what got us into this festering cavern of bullshit.

Don’t worry, though. I’ve got you. We can make these fuckers vote. Here’s a list of 13 surefire methods.

  1. If they’re still in school, take them out on Tuesday. Fuck school. People in power right now want to arm schoolteachers and Head School Woman thinks black bears are a threat to schoolchildren but not the AR-15s shooting them up so seriously WTF matters here? Fuck tests. Fuck worksheets. Vote.
  2. Offer to buy them a burrito. Burritos are powerful things. If that doesn’t work, tell them you’ll buy their groceries for a month. And if you can’t afford that shit, buy them 80 Top Ramen, which is like food for a month, I think, when you’re 20.
  3. Remind them that this guy is making choices for how the nation is run. Just literally show them this picture and let them decide.
  4. Also recap Ted Cruz.  
  5. Remind them that there’s a large conglomerate of humans – aka old white dudes with sour mouths and vacant eyes – who wants to whittle away Roe v Wade until we won’t have safe access to abortion. What’s that? You don’t like hearing about your kid having sex? CLUTCH YOUR FUCKIN PEARLS AND DEAL WITH IT.
  6. Straight pay them. Just write a fuckin check in exchange for that voting receipt. Who cares about your money? Money will be useless when we all fall into the ocean because of climate change.
  7. Lie, and hope you don’t get caught: Tell them the government wants to shut down Snapchat & Instagram after cancelling Beyonce, Drake, and Kendrik Lamar. Do kids even listen to that? Where am I. Whatever. Tell them the GOP wants to destroy everything they love.
  8. Show them your student loan bill. Blow that shit up, make it into a duvet cover, and stick in on their bed.
  9. Read to them how healthcare works in sane nations and how the average American lifespan is decreasing annually and the years we do live are less happy than in other countries. ASK YOUR CHILD IF SHE LIKES HAPPINESS AND BEING ALIVE GODDAMNIT MOTHERFUCKERS FUCKING VOTE.
  10. Threaten to boycott them over the holidays. That’s right. No Aunt June pumpkin pie. No grandpa’s turkey. NOT ONE HOLIDAY GIFT UNTIL YOU VOTE, ASSHOLE. If your kid hates family holidays, maybe avoid this one. Also maybe don’t call your kid “asshole.”
  11. The weed angle, people, the weed angle (legalization, not so much D.A.R.E.).
  12. Buy them a car or small boat or just promise to do so after you see the midterm and 2020 voting receipt.
  13. Remind them that the torch-bearing neo-Nazis are definitely voting, and those pieces of dog shit are implicitly, (increasingly explicitly), supported by our pussy-grabbing, constantly lying president, and the GOP in power is a sad gaggle of spineless sycophants, and the voter suppression and gerrymandering is so extreme and favoring the GOP so significantly that the only fucking chance we have to survive catastrophic dumpster fire fizzled-out democracy is to turn out in MOTHERFUCKING DROVES TO VOTE, so yes, kid, I get your apathy, and I remember being young enough to see apathy as an option, but that ship has sailed, and the entire goddamn nation is relying on you to save it so fuck your plans on November 6 and by the way here’s a burrito.


17 Comments | Posted in FUCK TRUMP | November 1, 2018

Shit that didn’t suck this week. Well, last week.

by renegademama

Remember that time I said I was going to write a post every Sunday called “Exploding Good Shit” but wrote the first one on a Friday and then failed completely to write the next week’s? I am good at blogging and I am good at life. So I only saw fit that this week, the third week but second post, I change the name completely and post on Monday instead of Sunday.

But I’m showing up, and that’s what matters, right? I AM HERE. And frankly, this was about the last thing I wanted to write today. It feels silly as hell. I haven’t said much about the Pittsburgh murders, the Kentucky murders, the pipe bomb #MAGA terrorist. I’ve written hundreds of words, but I just leave them in my “drafts” folder. My words feel incomplete and I have too many thoughts swirling in my head. Lately I like to think before I write. Weird, I know.

It feels silly to force myself to find “ten things that don’t suck” when my brain is more like ALL THINGS SUCK AND THIS IS THE END, but we have to remember that even in the darkest times, really beautiful things are happening all around all this. I don’t think we remember to make ourselves feel better, but rather to remind ourselves why we don’t give up.

Personally, I had a pretty awesome week. I went to Alabama and stayed with the loveliest friend, and I ate pickled okra and fried green tomatoes, hushpuppies, and turnip greens. I soaked up that southern drawl and feel I may actually die if I don’t hear people say “fixin’ to” at least once a day. I mean, some dude also asked me what it’s like to have “MS-13 roaming the streets of our sanctuary cities,” but I fucking digress, and that’s a separate blog post.

I spoke on addiction in front of about 75 people and spoke to just about as many at the collegiate recovery group at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After flying in a friend’s private plane, I also learned that I was born into the wrong life entirely. Turns out that in my actual life, I too fly in private planes. 

Okay okay let’s do this nonsense. Good shit from this (LAST) week.

  1. NITCH on Instagram. Do you follow them? If not, why are you even on Instagram? Seriously, the only account I go back and read to make sure I don’t miss a single post, and the only account I check every day for its stories.
  2. I taught a writing class to special needs men and women during a day program and at one point, one of the students used the phrase “eternally disposed of” instead of “put to sleep.” I realize I’m giving you no context here and that’s a little weird, but the point is that “eternally disposed of” shall henceforth be the way I refer to death.
  3. Arlo was tasked with asking people after a family dinner party if they’d like some tea. So he went around asking each guest “Would you like some tea?” And when they answered yes, he said, “It’s in the kitchen. You can get it yourself.”
  4. This comic, Lord Birthday. Oh my fucking God. I weep it’s so good.
  5. American Muslims raised over $120,000 for families of the Pittsburgh shootings.
  6. Ummmm. Bill Murray still exists.
  7. We discovered Golden Milk and it’s maybe the best thing to ever happen to us. Google it if you’re unfamiliar. 
  8. Auggie, best dog ever, dog turned two. (I told you, I’m struggling this week.)
  9. I did not know “apple brownies” were a thing until George and I made them yesterday (using this recipe), and they were fucking delicious.
  10. A friend of mine is trading writing workshops for personal training, and it feels good to do something, finally, about my back pain and lack of core strength. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been afraid and sometimes, it takes somebody willing to say, “YOU CAN FUCKING GET WELL,” and you believe them.



6 Comments | Posted in exploding good shit | October 29, 2018

I’m pretty sure Instagram doesn’t capture this.

by renegademama

I believe there is a time in the life of every mother when she low-key can’t stand her kids. Okay okay. That’s not what I meant.

What I meant was: I low-key can’t stand my kids.

Of course I mean “can’t stand my kids” in the motherhood definition, meaning I wake up every day doing my best for them and lay my head down at night wishing it all didn’t go so fucking fast and I’d jump in front of a train for them, defend them with my last breath, and don’t know how I’d continue breathing if they were gone.

You know? That kind of “can’t stand.”

But on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis, these humans are really pissing me off.

They’re a giant irritation tornado.

I don’t think mothers are supposed to admit this, but I’m going to admit it, because it’s true and real, and we get to complain about every other goddamn job without hearing WELL YOU SIGNED UP FOR THIS SHIT SUCK IT UP, so here goes: My family is annoying the shit out of me.

I think we’re broken. I think we rounded some bend and it’s all fucked now.

I don’t know if it’s just the ages of everyone or if there’s something wrong with me, but my family is heavy right now.

It seems like there is always somebody fighting, complaining, whining, or sitting around on their cell phones. I ask somebody to do something and the somebody ignores me. Or talks back. Or announces some other kid does fewer chores. There’s suddenly a lot of favoritism. My favorite part of the favoritism claim is how quickly it’s passed from one kid to the next until one kid at every moment is claiming we love some other kid more. And in my head I’m like well right now you may have a point.

George’s mission in life is to torment Arlo, who is four, meaning he unleashes a blood-curdling scream that sends me straight to the roof. He has also taken to growling. That seems healthy. Did I mention he’s four?

Have you ever met a four-year-old? The other day he threw a ten-minute tantrum because he was in pumpkin pajamas – so fucking cute I could puke – and didn’t want to take them off to get dressed because he wanted to be a “scare pumpkin.”

Translation: He wanted to hide in my bed and jump out at me, which he had already done three times and I played along, like a motherfucking saint, but it wasn’t enough. And I was like SON I GAVE YOU THREE MINUTES IN THE MORNING MAYHEM WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME.

Of course we were running late because unless I wake up nine hours before we’re supposed to leave, we’re running late.

Rocket torments George. Why? Who the fuck knows why. It’s like he sits around thinking of the most annoying thing he can do to his younger sibling and then he does that.

Ava torments Rocket.

It’s like a goddamn sibling-torment circle.

And when they’re all happy, George is running around the house, Rocket is making some sort of screeching sound, and Arlo is bouncing off the walls in maniacal reaction to the energy of all of them.

And I’m sitting there like this family sucks.

Legit question, and answer carefully, because it ain’t that simple: Are kids more annoying when they’re pissed off or happy?

I think it’s me. I think I’m the asshole here.

And then there’s the tattling coming from the eight-year-old. I love tattling. In other news, she suddenly doesn’t sleep well. George was my super sleeper from on high and now she’ll keep herself awake for a full goddamn hour.

The wall of sound. The squealing. The rolling around on the floor. The mess.

I am just not into it. I am so goddamn tired.

What does that mean, exactly? When we look around at our kids and we’re like “Maybe I don’t like this very much.”

I’m not even sure why I’m writing this. What’s the point? I don’t have anything to offer. I’m sure the comment section will fix me. We all love that.

I guess I’m just saying it out loud because it’s real, and I think we, as mothers particularly, are not allowed to just stand up and say “I fucking hate this right now.” We aren’t allowed to go through really trying phases that maybe we cannot fix, that maybe we have to just get through somehow until it changes.

We decided maybe George needed some activities that were hers. Some special shit. Maybe she wanted some attention. We got her into a hip hop class. She joined Scouts.

My teenager and I spent an hour together the other day during the early part of the school day. After a major blow up, I said fuck it and took her to get coffee with me. That felt good.

I’ve made sure to ask Rocket about his day, and spend time one on one with him, talking. I make sure I read Arlo a few books most nights.

I’m trying to do right by these kids, but holy fuck, guys.

I implemented screen-free evenings. We colored together with fancy pens. We had fun.

Sometimes we try tiny changes and hold on. Sometimes we cling to nothing and hold on. But I wanted you to know it’s like this, because maybe your house is like this too, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us. I think some phases of family life are just really, really hard.

And we can meet each other there.


actually Instagram may come close sometimes



What I wrote in this post is largely why I explored the narrative of the “redemptive power of motherhood,” and all that sanctimonious bullshit, in my book.

Because sometimes, this shit just feels like work.

Sacred, important work? Sure, but still, work, with all the bullshit therein.

Oh, hey. Also. Next week, on the 25th, I’m giving a talk in Huntsville, Alabama about motherhood and addiction. JOIN US.




44 Comments | Posted in bitching about the kids I chose to have. | October 20, 2018

Exploding Good Shit: Volume I

by renegademama

In an act that feels so wildly foreign to me I can hardly utter the words, I am going to start a weekly post called “Exploding Good Shit” (because that’s the name that just came to me right this second). But now I’m realizing it’s a bit of an ambiguous title because am I exploding good shit or is good shit exploding?

Some mysteries must carry on unsolved, I guess.

Anyway for the rest of the year and maybe beyond, I’m going to post the good shit I encounter each week. It will be on Sundays but don’t hold me to that because this is the first one and I’m pretty sure it’s not Sunday.

Now, why the fuck would I take this journey through Optimism Valley where decidedly better people live? Gratitude Canyon where the yogis sit full lotus?

Because for two weeks the only post that came into my mind was writing BURN THIS MOTHERFUCKER TO THE GROUND 200 times in a row.

I could be wrong, but I think that’s a problem, and it doesn’t offer much, you know, in terms of actual helpfulness or insight. Not that we always need to be “helpful.” Sometimes a solid rant is in order.

But lately I usually find myself in two conditions: directionless rage or resigned desperation. Neither of these are places from which a person can create, or live dynamically, or be helpful to anyone, or move forward at all.

In her acceptance speech at the National Book Awards, Ursula K Le Guin said:

“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries — the realists of a larger reality…”

We have to remember this right now more than ever, that if we can’t see new paths, if we can’t forge new alliances, if we can’t break through the patterns of our pasts, we are destined for more of the same.

This sounds like a bunch of kumbaya shit, doesn’t it? It sounds like a Band-Aid over a gaping wound, but I don’t think it works like that, because if we want to be bringers of a new reality, we better fucking stay reminded of the beauty that’s here, now, the kind that’s possible, so we can imagine the kind that feels impossible.

Nobody has ever had more than the shit-show of the time they were living in, and yet, humans have progressed.


No but seriously. Think about it. Nobody living through war, genocide, nondescript universal social depravity, et fucking cetera, could see the future. They didn’t know whether or not it would end. They had to hold onto a vision they couldn’t quite form. They had to refuse to accept “today” as the ultimate end.

They had to not be resigned. They had to not be paralyzed with rage.

This isn’t about vapid “be thankful/happy/optimistic” declarations from my greater self. I spend half my life looking for my greater self and wondering if she exists at all. That motherfucker is wily.

For me, and maybe for you, it’s a reminder that even though we still think voting will save us despite the fact that the GOP now has even more free rein to suppress votes and this will continue for possible generations and Trump is still having his Mein Kampf rallies and Melania thinks she’s the most bullied person in the world and OH RIGHT the greatest threat to humanity agreed upon by like 96% of the world’s scientists is deemed a “hoax” by the regime in power, who surely isn’t just looking out for the corporations they deem people, focusing instead on more massive tax cuts for their billionaire friends and oh yeah it’s a dangerous time to be a man and a murderous dictator is in love with our dictator who prefers to kill people via removal of healthcare, and…yeah…where was I?

Right. Reminder.

My commitment to weekly unbridled joy posts is a reminder that none of that is ever all there is and that we can go all the way there, all the way into that mess, but we can’t stay there.

We have stay in all of it. We have to be aware, but to all the things.

There are wild, ridiculous, beautiful things happening. There’s hilarity in the world, utter joy. There are people changing their immediate worlds, people pushing the boundaries of what’s around them. People contributing in tangible, real ways.

There are people living their lives in the wide-open.

And we get to be here.

I want to not forget to be here, too. In this world that offers us so much laughter and love and people doing really cool shit. Everyday people.

Because otherwise, we’ll be crushed. We can’t get crushed.

So here we go. Ten things? Ten sounds good.

1. This text exchange with my 16-year-old


2. My friend Natasha Nicholes is turning her world green and when I read this article about her I think I may have cried just one tear. Don’t tell anyone.




4. Mac completed a Spartan race with one of his best friends. He wore this tank top and was a little disappointed it wasn’t tighter.


5. My friend Lisa celebrated thirty one years of sobriety. Here we are on a tiny plane in Canada trying not to die.


6. This whole interview with Fran Lebowitz but particularly this line:

“Not everybody’s opinion is worth listening to!”


7. The U.S. poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith, is going to read us poetry for five minutes a day in a new podcast called “The Slowdown,” starting in November.


8. This guy singing Jerry in his dirty work pants


9. The annual pumpkin patch challenge is underway and at patch #3 George was so pissed at one point she refused to look at me. Ava is holding her fake sign, because we keep forgetting our letterboard. We don’t own a letterboard. 


10. My wild and beautiful friend Sarah released a punk album with her friends in Oakland and the band is called Nasty Pussy. (This was a few weeks ago but it’s still one of the best things to happen to me this year.) Don’t miss the lullaby anthem “Little Donny.” 




Upcoming Write Anyway Online Workshop

If you have something you want to say but aren’t saying, YOU SHOULD FUCKING SAY IT WE NEED YOU.

Sorry for yelling. What I meant to say was: “Consider taking my Write Anyway workshop this January.”

We spend six weeks writing, and dismantling the nonsense in our brains that keeps us from writing the things we really want to write.

I can’t make that shit go away. But I can help you lose faith in it.

I made this workshop for the person who:

  • has a nagging question or persistent feeling of “You should write this,” but isn’t;

    fun fact: sometimes the bastards are in your own brain

  • can’t decide what to write about;
  • constantly hears the “you suck why are you even trying?” voice when she sits down to write;
  • is too afraid to write what they’re really feeling/thinking/experiencing;
  • is agonizing over what people will think;
  • is obsessing over perfection; and/or
  • getting bent out of shape for 3 days over assholes on the internet criticizing in ways that hurt (and somehow they always hit where it hurts). Insulting intelligence. Name-calling. Making fun. Crafting Reddit threads against you.

I hope you join us. I built a whole career out of saying things I’m afraid to say. Thank god fear can’t stop our fingers from moving.

11 Comments | Posted in Unbridled Joy Posts | October 12, 2018