A letter

Dear Natalie,

Do you remember that day, a couple of years ago, I think, when we cruised around town, maybe a little bit high, and drank hot chocolate and bought pretty lingerie and then we went to a movie at the theater with the big yellow seats and you brought in your giant bowl of popcorn and told the folks at the theater that you were allergic to the oil they use to pop theirs so you had to bring your own.

You were magnificent.

After the movie, remember, we went to TJ Maxx and you bought cashmere?

What a day.

I bought a skirt that day. Do you recall? You should – you convinced me that I could pull it off.

IMG_2658The tiger skirt.

The Life of Pi skirt.

The pussy skirt.

Thanks to your pep talk and your winning argument, I’ve been wearing the thing pretty regularly and always quite sassily since that day.

I’m the badass with a giant cat face in my lap.

Just like you told me I’d be!

Except…maybe I’m not…

I’ve looked at myself in the mirror, I’ve seen my reflexion, I’ve even felt that if it’s possible to look somewhat sophisticated and fashion forward with two golden eyes staring out from your hip bones, then I look that way.

And then something happened today.

Nat, I wish you’d been there to see the look on our faces (mine and the tiger’s)

Wait, whaaaaaat? you’re screaming right about now.

So, you know how tight skirts ride up when you walk and you either have to walk with your legs squeezed together or stop every few steps to yank the damn thing down?

Well, the tiger, like any other, rode right on up – halfway to indecent – and I caught a glimpse of my passing self as I bustled around the cafe getting breakfast ready.

See Friend, it was dark outside and the lights were on inside and there were windows everywhere so it was almost like being surrounded by full length mirrors.

And that’s when I realized what I wish I’d realized years ago; when the skirt rides up, the mouth of the tiger is right at cootch level and looks like,

a vagina.

A giant vagina.IMG_2659


Now Natalie, I have to ask you, did you know about this and not say anything? Did you encourage me to purchase a pussy pussy skirt?

Please tell me you didn’t do it on purpose; that you too didn’t see this glaring faux pas.

Honey, I can’t unsee what I saw today. This tiger and I will never look at each other in the same way.

Our relationship has changed.

I spent the day wondering what other people were thinking as they looked at my crotch.

And when you have an enormous face on your crotch you know that people really are looking at it.

I almost died of mortification.

And then, I didn’t.

And then, I giggled.

And then, I thought that it was fucking fantastic.

And part of that was because I kept imagining telling you and your response and us having one more thing to laugh about and that made it totally worth it.

I adore you and miss you.

I will think twice before taking fashion advice from you.






From fashionista to appearing homeless

Every weekend I spend at least an hour cleaning out my car.  Not a big Clean with a capital C. More like a tidying up with a small t.

Basically I need a lot of shit throughout the day, the week, and it all lives in my car.

Jackets, rain coats, umbrellas, long pants, warm sweaters, shorts, a dress, several pairs of shoes with varying “coverage” – flip-flops, Tretorns, running shoes, work boots, ditch boots.

Many of the items recovered from the Free Box at the Grange.

There is a lot of food in the back too – crackers, a sparkling water or two, a couple of cucumbers, jar of peanut butter, spoon, shaker of salt.

You know, you never know what may come up during a day away from home – you’ve got to be ready for anything.

Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.

So today, I headed out dressed for a day of pulling weeds, outside, in the rain. Little did I know that after I finished that, I would be heading into the Cafe to do kitchen work.

My Carhartts were way too hot for cooking, so I rummaged through the light blue Rubbermaid in the bed of my pickup and pulled out a pair of shorts, a pearl button shirt and a hat to cover the dreaded middle part that shows up after a few days without a washing.

And stymied because the only shoes I didn’t have with me are my cooking shoes, I couldn’t sort out a Plan B, so I threw my work boots back on.

My work boots are a pair of those short, Ariat Fat Baby’s and I swore that I would never be caught anywhere outside of my yard wearing those with my legs exposed.

In other words, long pants only.

Except that today I wore them with my cutoffs which actually ended up being filthy and muddy because I wore them last time I sat in a mud puddle and pulled out dandelions.

My legs are so skinny that I sometimes purchase shoes based on whether or not they will be out of proportion to the twigs that rise up out of them.

And heavy boots are definitely out of proportion.

Anyway, here I am digging through the back of my truck, scraping things off the floor, attempting to brush off some dirt and dog hair and realizing that this is so normal for me.

I’ve spent so much time living out of a vehicle, out of Rubbermaids and backpacks, that I have fallen back into it without truly noticing.

Sure, I can come home to a house and even take a shower, which I do, occasionally, but don’t worry, not too often, probably should consider doing it more frequently.

This feels familiar and welcome. I love the ease of only having a choice or two for any activity, in any conditions, and yet I know that whatever the situation, I will be prepared.

If I get hungry, I’m set.

If it rains, I’m set.

If I have to plant some squash seeds, I’m all set with the seeds, the hoe, and gardening gloves.

If I suddenly have to look appropriate, I’m set for that too.

And, if I find myself heading towards a Mancos Middle School track meet, I have my booster club jacket for that.

I’m not necessarily proud that I have reverted. I came home last night and took a long shower and then put on a dress – just to remind myself that I do have the opportunity to not wear dirty clothes scraped off the floor of the truck.

And yet, I am nostalgic; I miss the simplicity, the sense of adventure, the carefree days of my youth.

And yes, I actually am a little bit proud because being a dirtbag does come so naturally and not just anyone can say that.


The Dildo House

Not a place that sells dildos.

Not a home built out of dildos.

And if dildos are currently being used there, I don’t know or need to know.

But, this house will always be the dildo house.

It’s an old house, generations old, and many a person has lived there.

When the current owner bought it, he was young, relatively innocent, and ambitious about a total overhaul of the place.

He even had some of his youthful friends come and help with the gutting, replumbing, rewiring, and rebuilding of the still-stuck-in-the-1800’s house.

Well, almost stuck there, with a small nod towards modern day amenities.

One of these sweet young (25?) young men was sitting on the floor in the basement of the house pulling electrical wires from a hole in the wall.

The wires got a little caught on something causing him to give a feisty tug.

The wire pulled loose and with it, a great surprise.


A giant, pink, dildo landed in his lap.

I am not kidding.


Pink flesh colored.

With a tube of lube.

I so wish that I had been there at that moment, but I wasn’t. But I do imagine him jumping out of his skin when an unrealistically sized silicone penis landed right next to his real one.

I might have missed that scene, but what I did get to see was the found item resting on a piece of OSB in the backyard waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it.

That will never be unseen.

In case you want more info on dildos



The unthinkable

A baby has died. A teeny tiny member of our small community is gone.

I can’t, I won’t even try, to fathom what is going on in the hearts of his parents. It is too unbearable to imagine.

For everyone who is a parent, it is our worst nightmare; it is the possibility that keeps us up at night worrying. It is the reason why we yell at our child for crossing the street without looking. It is the driving force behind standing over a sleeping child searching for the rise and fall of gentle breathing.

For me, it is the fear that has given me cause to wonder if I really am cut out for this parenting gig.

With my children having reached the ages of 21, 19, and 17, that fear has not diminished even an ounce. The only thing that has changed is the possible cause of death; car accident instead of SIDS, fatal football head injury instead of choking on a Lego.

Instead of hovering over my sleeping child as I did when they were small, I now hover, waiting for them to return for the night and go to sleep.

Today, no one is sure what has happened, why this child has come and gone as quickly as he has. All we know is that he is gone.

Does it matter what happened? A very wise woman said that to wonder about the hows and whys distracts us from dealing with the fact that this baby is gone…forever.

My sadness is so very deep.

As it is within our small, insulated world. There is a collective grief that many feel and we don’t necessarily know what to do with that pain.

As I fumble around, remembering the weight of that tiny man in my arms (wailing, because I am definitely not a baby-whisperer) I also see something beautiful happening.

I see community. I see that what exists in our town is strong and unique and loving.

People everywhere are throwing around the catchphrase “community.” It’s hip and trendy to “create community.”

The reality is that if you open your eyes and your heart here in this valley, we already have it in spades.

Folks who don’t even know this family are crying tears and rallying to help in any way that they can. Food, money, childcare for the sister…it doesn’t matter what, how big or how small. What matters is that a child has died, there are people suffering, and the love that flows through our town is astounding.

One of my chickens was killed yesterday.

My son hit and killed a fawn less than an hour later.


Death of the innocent, death of the young.

I know that my chicken and that baby deer are not someone’s child and that my pain over my girl is piddly in comparison to my friends’ pain, but I feel surrounded by death.

And that is painful.

Unbearably so.

And, I appreciate living so close to the natural world that I can see that yes, creatures are born and creatures die before what we think is their time.

Today it doesn’t make this child’s death any less brutal, but maybe some day it will help with the hows and the whys.

I think that I am rambling here. I want to talk about this, I want to process the grief, and yet I don’t want to make this about me. I don’t want to presume to hurt anywhere near as much as mom and dad. And I certainly don’t want to be a gossip.

But death needs to be talked about and picked at and felt. Our culture is at a complete and utter loss when it comes to grief. If one is not devoutly religious then it is likely that there is no set of guidelines for how to cope with the unimaginable.

For anyone who has seen Rabbit Proof Fence, there was a scene where a grandmother’s children are taken from her. She collapses on the ground and beats her own head with a rock. It struck me as beautiful. In moments of intense agony, who wouldn’t beat themselves with a stone?

I loved that it was accepted.

We don’t have that. If someone saw me beating my own brains out they’d call the cops.

So we make food. We show up at friends’ homes at 9:30 at night to just have a little bit of company and not feel so alone. We accept the parents right where they are and do not judge. We worry; about the mother, the father, the sister, the grandmother. We talk about the child, the sadness, the hows and whys, because whether those things matter in the big picture or not, sharing those thoughts helps us to bond as an extended family.

We say the words coroner, autopsy, burial, in hopes that speaking them will take just a little bit of the power, the rawness, out of them.

If I can say autopsy, then hopefully it will help Mom and Dad say it too.

Because it is an unbearable word to use in the same sentence as your child’s name.

We gather together and pick at the wound – perhaps if we pick enough scar tissue will develop and the pain will lessen.

We create the container that will hopefully help this family in feeling loved and supported and not alone in this agony.




Everyone is leaving

I was driving down from the high country over the weekend, happy as a clam after a beautiful run, and thinking about E and how proud I am of him, blah blah blah, and it suddenly hit me:

They are ALL leaving – not all of mine, but all of the kids from his class that I consider mine.

And all of their parents are going through the same thing that I am.

In a town this size, having a child in the school means that you have the opportunity to get to know pretty much all of the kids in town, especially the kids in your child’s class.

The kids here start in kindergarten and 13 years later, walk the stage together. We parents, sitting in the stands at graduation, have been sitting together since the first kindergarten orientation, through awards ceremonies, football games, track meets, powder puff, 5th grade graduation, 8th grade graduation, until, the final high school graduation ceremony which is intensely emotional for everyone involved since these children are our children.

And now they’re all leaving.

Feels like 1/2 the town is going.

Asa? I’ve known that young man since he was in utero. How can he head off to NM? Andrew? Sweetest boy in the world, my PE teacher-buddy, in Nebraska? How am I supposed to watch him jump if he’s that far away?

Ro, who I don’t see very often but I have such a spot in my heart for him (and his family), and Drew the cowboy – who’s going to keep me in the know about The Rodeo Dream?

Thank god there’s still Chance.

And the girls…

I didn’t have girls, which I will say is probably for the best. But there are a couple in E’s class that are super close to my heart. They were sweet little things in cute dresses and bows in their hair and now they’re my friends.

Or at least I think they are – they might be saying “crazy lady – we only tolerate you because we like E.”

Taryn, Jessica, Anna – I’ve watched you grow into sassy, saucy, young women; women who I admire; and now you’re just taking off.

It’s really unfair and inconsiderate.

So, the question is, which one of you am I going to follow (when I’m not chasing E down in Durango)?

Nebraska, La Junta, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Fort Collins? Maybe, I could just go on a college tour and see all of you, get my fix, pretend that you miss me as much as I miss you.

Small town living, while great in some ways, is tough in others. The downside to knowing everyone and everyone feeling like family is that when someone else’s child leaves town, it feels as if one of my own is leaving the nest.


One time I could handle. Mildly awkward, but still something about which to self-assuredly laugh.

But twice – way too much.

Last night we had dinner with friends and bunches of their family from out of town. As the last of them were leaving the house, an aunt(?) asked if MCB and I were mother and son.


It was so awkward and no one came to my aid. So I gave it a simple, “No.”

And that didn’t make things any more awkward at all.

My “no” hung in the air, reverberating, while every possible male/female combination ran through the woman’s head. Then, when she knew she’d hit on the correct one, you could see mortification written all over her face.

It seems that I have totally been kidding myself about how old I look.

Here I am sashaying around town in my look-at-my-ass sparkle jeans when I really should be sporting Coldwater Creek.




I quickly and surreptitiously checked MCB’s face to determine if he actually flinched or not.

If he did, I didn’t see it.

A lot of my friends are considerably younger than I. I don’t always forget, but I do much more so than I used to back in the day when I felt like “middle age” was written across my forehead.

When I look in the mirror I don’t really see the wrinkles and I don’t have any grey hair to speak of and I still have acne and I dress like a teenager, which I thought was okay but now I’m rethinking that.

So no, I don’t really focus on my age and because I don’t, and I do honestly think that I might get carded in the liquor store, it never crosses my mind that I might look older than some of the people close to me.

And if I realize that I might actually look somewhat older, I never thought I could be mistaken for someone’s mother.

Oh. The. Horror.

Reality hits



Mancos, Colo.

HIGH SCHOOL: 2016 graduate of Mancos High School … Competed in football, track, wrestling and basketball … Four-year starter … Played linebacker and full back for the Bluejays.

PARENTS: TW and Suzanne Strazza

Fort Lewis College