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Settling in: Utah Edition

For ten years, my project was to understand Hawaii, my life in Hawaii. I lived in small communities where one person has a big impact. You know everybody-- or they know you. Or their auntie does. You can't step on too many toes. It keeps people polite.

As a white American, I had a lot of learning to do. I thought I was pretty cosmopolitan, anti-racist, and politically correct. But lots of Nice White Americans (tm) think that about themselves for only as long as they live in all-white liberal enclaves. I had to confront the fact that things I thought were universal values actually weren't. When I taught sex-ed, I received training from the Planned Parenthood-co-created Pono Choices program. It was designed to be culturally sensitive-- to be inclusive of all kinds of families, and use metaphors about hoewa'a (paddling canoe) navigation to explain the importance of healthy community. But the script used the words, "unwanted pregnancy" over and over. And my teenage s…

My birthday plus sad hard things plus good wonderful things

Today is my 37th birthday. It is also the one year anniversary of the last day we spent with Matt. It was a beautiful day-- he made me breakfast in bed with the girls, with my favorite strawberry short cake, and he spoiled me with a beautiful leather journal and a tiny gold triangle necklace. We had a wonderful talk about the future, lying next to each other while the baby nurse and napped between us. I was going to be in Utah for the summer, taking care of grandma, while he took the space at home to finish his PhD and start a cattle herd to join his flock of goats. We talked about replacing our wedding rings-- his had been lost on a fishing trip, and all the stones had fallen out of mine. That night he had me braid his hair and cut off the long braid. "It's time for a change," he said.

He had to leave early the next morning to catch his plane-- he tried to leave without saying goodbye but I stopped him, told him I loved him; he said he loved me too.

Months later, I foun…

The First Year of Suicide Grief: Some Advice for Pain

The year is kareening around, we're hurtling through space on our tiny blue rocket ship called earth, and the one year mark to Matt's suicide is coming at my face.

We're doing amazing. I love my kids, they love me, I take care of grandma, she takes care of me, I've started a garden, we've got new little chicks, I've written half a novel, made new friends, the girls have learned to read and write English, and I'm learning to crochet.

And it's been bloody brutal. Since the middle of the night when I got the call from the police, my heart has had an ice-metal stake through it. It was a nuclear detonation and although we survived there are hugely echoing after-affects, radiation poisoning that will poison us for years and generations.

But there have been things that have helped. And I think they would help anyone, in any kind of trauma or pain. And I'm going to make a note of them in case I'm floudering, for me to come back to, and add to. And if th…

Our First Trip to Disneyland: Some Naval Gazing!

Well hello world!

I did something ridiculous last week. On my middle child's 7th birthday, I surprised the kids with a last-second trip to Disneyland. I took a video of their faces as they opened the trunk of the car and saw the packed suitcases-- their confusion turned to deeper confusion. The new 7 year old began bouncing around and the 9 year old munched on her doritos in profound shock. Hours later at the airport she asked, "Why are we going to Disneyland?" I said, "Just for fun!" She looked blank. "Oh."

So I may have failed in instilling a rabid lust for all things Disney and Princess in my children. Up till now I always thought of that as a sort of cultural triumph-- that and they've never been to McDonalds. After this week though I feel a little differently about my kids' cultural upbringing. I've missed some opportunities to create a shared experience with them-- to plant the seeds of nostalgia. The first few years of my oldest'…

Showing Up In the Body At The Rally

The rally last weekend was under clear blue skies. A middle aged white man in a fleece jacket and khaki pants addressed the crowd from the pulpit. Pulpit? Yes. "Every world religion castigates its followers to be wise stewards. We are charged with the care and keeping of ourselves, our families and our earth. Without the clean air and pure water of our planetary home, we could not survive to glorify god."

I was bemused, standing next to my new friend Cinnamon, hip length red dreadlocks, big husky dog on a leash, and well-used bicycle.

We had not stumbled across a church meeting. We were at a Provo, Utah clean air rally.

The previous week the air quality had gotten to "red." When I dropped the girls off at school, a placard outside announced "Inside Day." When the air is this bad-- grey-yellow and soupy-- the children can't play outside.

Kids with asthma and allergies are encouraged to stay home; to stay inside.

As if walls and 60 year old insulation a…

BBC SHERLOCK IS GAAAAAAAY: Or At Least I Really Really Hope So

Anybody who has spoken to me in the last five years or so knows that I have a bit of a Sherlock Holmes obsession. I want to try and explain why these fictional characters are so important to me, especially in their incarnation by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on BBC Sherlock. 
I first watched the show in about 2012, when the first two seasons are on Netflix. Matt had already watched it, and I had slept through it. He was in the habit of staying up all night with Netflix going while I slept. He watched it and he thought I should watch it. I was Luke warm. My only experience with Sherlock Holmes was Laurie King's wonderful feminist reimagining about Mary Russell. The rest of it seemed sort of, I dunno. Stodgy. Ridiculously masculine. But I agreed, and watched it all in one sitting more or less. As we often do now in this age of Netflix binge-watching, over two or three days I got to the end of the Reichenbach fall, the sixth episode and final episode. It ends with Sherlock …

Admit it: Not all Suicides are Preventable

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"How do people keep themselves safe?"asks a reporter to Inspector Lestrade in BBC Sherlock's first episode, "A Study in Pink." "Well, don't commit suicide," he quips. Then he takes a softer tack: "Obviously, this is a frightening time for people, but all anyone has to do is exercise reasonable precautions. We are all as safe as we want to be."

Sherlock Holmes then texts everyone in the press conference with the single, emphatic word, "WRONG!"

What can we do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe? Parents are terrified of the specter of teen suicide. In Utah, my new and old homestate, the teen suicide rate has tripled since 2007. It has the 15th highest suicide rate in the country.

The response to alarming statistics about suicide is to bulk up prevention programs and access to mental health. The school where I did my initial student teaching 13 years ago, Lone Peak High School in Alpine UT, responded to a contagion of suicid…