Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Response: Karen Lynch's 'Good Cop, Bad Daughter'

I started Karen Lynch's 'Good Cop, Bad Daughter' one night in bed after my girls had fallen asleep, and by Chapter Two liked it so much I was annoyed that I was too tired to keep reading. I finished this engrossing story the next night, and I swear that I tell the truth when I reveal that as I read the last few sentences of this memoir, I burst into tears.

Karen's story starts during her tumultuous childhood, raised by a nice but distant father and a mother who cares for Karen- an only child- in a way that feels partly loving and secure, and partly ominous. With a child's sometimes disturbing intuition into the machinations of their own parents, Karen understood something at a visceral level even before it was apparent: her mother was highly unstable, with a mean streak. Karen matter of factly but clearly chooses telling details of her childhood that reveal the menacing environment she grew in, until in one final stroke, the truth is outed: her mother, in a first bipolar psychosis, presses her little girl's hand against a hot pot on the stove, burning her badly. I cried reading this, for the exact location in a life of when innocence was lost is not always so candidly recalled, and a mother purposefully hurting her child is a demarcation of the worst kind.

As Karen enters adolescence, her mother moves in with a man who becomes Karen's step-father by default. And for me, this was the the secret heart and true meaning of this life story. Karen builds the outer structure of her life in the telling of her mother's mental illness, her father's desertion and her entrance into police school, but it is the love story that runs through all these markers that most impacted me- a love story between a father figure and a little girl. What is particularly touching and interesting about this relationship is not just the love, but the human frailties of the man- he is not a hero, he is not even successful in his own life by any standards of society, as he is without much money at all, owns little to nothing, has no successful romantic relationships and doesn't 'save' Karen in an overwhelming, sweeping way.  And yet, because he loves Karen and makes the effort and room in his life to reach out to her, to help her and to shelter her, he changes her entire life. 

It is Karen's ability as a writer that made this revelation so profound when it does come, as she doesn't hurry this along. The slow build up of situations and realizations that grow in Karen grow also in us as we read along, which is why the ending, which she essentially devotes to him, is so emotionally powerful. 

I was totally engrossed ( as in, I won't hear you if you try to talk to me! ) as I read about Karen's experiences- twice- traveling overseas with her mentally ill mother who drinks herself into psychosis, and once Karen even ends up in a foreign orphanage! Karen's sketches of her experience in police school are interesting and at times hilarious, and she captures the portraits of the cadets and police in charge with precisely guided words that give the reader an immediate and clear idea of the person. I know next to nothing about police training and was interested in the progression of the cadets and the tricks of the trade, as well as the depth of camaraderie and support. 

Karen's experience being a female cadet during a time when women had just been granted permission to join the active police force is a testament to feminism, and I applaud her guts, smarts and perseverance through some rocky moments where she could have- and almost did, once- quit, but did not. 

Great storytelling with a beating heart. I loved this! Buy this book! Good Cop, Bad Daughter 

* here's a great short interview with Karen Lynch: 5 Questions

Friday, January 23, 2015

People In Your Neighborhood

Obsessed with Kiesza. Love this song and video. Love her style. Love the 80's influence, background singer, her crystalline voice.

Amanda Charchian's beautiful photos of nude women in landscapes.

Lena Dunham on ABC, short interview. Love.

Bought this book today, read an excerpt in Tin House and was really impressed. Lacy M. Johnson's The Other Side

Wounds That Time Won't Heal: the neurobiology of child abuse

Rene Denfield writes a deeply moving essay on the legacy of suicide in her family:  The Other Side of Loss

The murder of Tamir Rice continues to horrify me, and America. Tamir Rice and The Value of Life the new release of video showing him lying, dying, unattended to, while his 14 year old sister is thrown to the ground and handcuffed will make the most hardened heart cry out. 

Mark Lucach writes stirringly about his wife's nervous breakdown from Bipolar, in The Pacific Standard

Karrie Higgens is one of the most exciting new voices in writing I've come across in a  long time. Her essay Strange Flowers is, without being hyperbolic, brilliant.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


once life has a rhythm and color and taste you realize the true depth of despair that you had been in. that does not mean the despair had no value to you, had no life. it had subtlety, endurance, resilience, craftiness, craft, evocation. it had beauty. if you were not connected to other human beings- and you were not- you were connected to the natural world in a way that bordered on animalistic. you played inside of bushes, emerging briar filled and with the drops of rain from leaves on your lips. you played in canyons, brushing against coyotes and snakes, worshiping the sky, dirt, venomous and snappish hermits that lived there, emerging with sticks and reeking of sage. you undulated in the great Pacific, stung by a jellyfish on the shore, rubbed raw by sea salt. you understood that you were alone/not alone. you survived with your mouth full of dirt and hands full of bees, stingers embedded in your fat little palm. you spent years like this. you were not in a cave with only shadows, you were in a shadow with many caves. 'i don't understand this life. and i don't want to leave it.' olive kitteridge says, following the motion of birds above the great ocean outside her window. that's right. yes, that's it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

People In Your Neighborhood ( I'm in The Rumpus, ahhh!! )

take a seat and read!

I am thrilled to be the Sunday essay of the week in THE RUMPUS. Please take a read and comment, I'm nervous! We, The Crazy Ones

I donated for this lovely writer and blogger and speaker and lover of women, Jen Pastiloff. She could use our help, ladies. She's one of the good ones.

This essay by Emily Kaiser in The Washingtonian is a beautifully expressed piece on loss and the shaping of a generation. How Millennials Mourn

Interesting story of a 16 year old boy who ran away to avoid chemo and years later is now healthy and cancer free.

Astonish yourself and look at our universe

One small step in the right direction for a cause near and dear to my heart, something I fight for and will continue to fight for is an end to solitary confinement at all in prisons- in Penn. they have stopped using it for mentally ill prisoners.

New research supporting that depression is an allergic reaction to inflammation. All the more reason to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, and the largest part of that? Avoiding sugar. Take your fish oils and probiotics, people!

Janine Canty writes a searing and original essay for The Weeklings: Don't Blame Yourself I really loved reading this and read it twice.

We use primarily glass and stainless steel for everything. Another reason why: BPA-Free and Plant Based Plastics More Dangerous Than We Thought

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Justin Timberlake and The Baby

It is 2001 and I am in Culver City, California, on an enormous sound stage worthy of old queens like Elton John or Cher. Music thrums through my body, at maximum capacity volume before eardrum rupture, so loud that the bottom of my feet sting slightly from the constant vibration. I am dancing, I am covered in shimmer body lotion and my taut mid-section is exposed as I tip my pink cowboy hat over blonde braids and wink at Justin Timberlake.

The room explodes in an incandescent shimmer bomb of confetti and Justin, two feet from myself, is perfectly groomed, gorgeous, slim, electric- a dancing dynamo with twenty-five cameras pointed at his face. CUT! the director roars, and the entire room sags like a deflated balloon. Justin smiles at me as I pantomime being overheated, waving at my pink cheeks, and I smile back. The group of girl dancers I have been hanging out with for the last ten hours giggle behind me like a cartoon chorus. A few hours before, when I stood in a circle of four people talking, one of which was a world famous pop star, I felt the same kind of ridiculous giggle threatening to erupt inside of me. ' Everything is so close to happening, ' I thought. ' There are so many things that I believed were out of my reach and now I know that they aren't. '

Two weeks later I was looking at the pink positive sign on a pregnancy test. I was twenty-six, unmarried, and already a single mother with a child from the same man I was now pregnant with again. We had broken up just a few months before.

I was working part-time at a preschool so that I could work my hours around my son's hours at school, also attending college at night, when I decided that I was going to pursue my life long interest in acting. My own ability to handle so much more than I thought I would be able to- school, good grades, single motherhood, work, writing- had inspired me to look above and beyond goals already set.

I began answering ads for bit parts and auditions, sending a headshot and an inflated 'resume' of my past entertainment experience. I answered an ad for dancers in an N'Sync video, and received a yes, you are hired! The set for the video was enormous and thrilling, with two gigantic white staircases on each side, climbing up to a top platform with a circular spinning disk that N'Sync danced on, and in the middle of all this, on the ground, there was a gleaming dance floor with secret doors and mirrors for special effects. All the N'Sync members were friendly and sweet, some definitely on the prowl for a quick hook up with an 'extra', which is what I was. Justin was very likable- polite, funny, charming and an incredibly hard worker who contributed ideas to the director all through the shoot and entertained us with an impromptu beat box session on the overhead mike. We danced and stopped and danced and stopped from 5pm one night until 5am the next morning. We ate free food and smoked cigarettes and chatted with the singers.

The positive pregnancy test two weeks later was possibly even more life altering for me than the first one had been. The first time, yes, I was young and had nothing- but: I was young, I had nothing- nothing to lose, everything to gain. This time, I was in a place in my life I found intoxicating, a place of empowerment and learning and mothering and dancing on sounds stages with famous singers. Meeting and watching Justin work was a formative experience. Not because of his celebrity, but because of the level of success he had achieved at such a young age. It was clear, watching him talk with the director and shoot jokes to the staff before practicing his dance moves while the rest of the group chatted up the gorgeous extras, that Justin was the standout,- and not only because he was talented, but because he clearly did not take that talent for granted. I was impressed that despite his fame, he was not smug.

I had to make a decision. I have never in my life felt so entrenched in a cliche- the fork in the road had come thundering out of the sky and Zues's hand, and speared me right between it's points.

I chose my baby. I chose to be a single mother of two. I chose to become large and unwieldy and impregnated and breastfeeding, everything opposite of a lithe young dancing queen. At first, I mourned. I knew I was giving up something, something mysterious and thrilling that probably would never come my way again.

I felt deeply at the time that I was being tested. I am not a religious person, or a person who has a particular set of beliefs about what human life means or is. Yet I had a sensation so powerful it reminded me of a physical workout, in which you are tempted to give up, but know that enduring will bring a deep satisfaction and sense of pride that will last long after the memory of a struggle has faded.

I know that my bright lights, big city moment did not come at the cost of my heart. Am I pro-choice? Yes. Do I believe that everyone should do what I did? No. Do I know it's what I had to do? Yes.

Now we tease Lola that Justin Timberlake is her 'real dad'. She actually looks so startlingly much like him that I am tempted to wink up at the sky and say ' I get it! '

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Ever is diabolical.

EVER: Mommyyyyyy!!

ME: I'm on the phone, just a second.

EVER: No!!! Mommy!!!

ME: Ever be quiet please.

EVER: yelling, No, nooooo, noooo I won't! Mommy answer me!!!

ME: Sweetie, give me a minute. I'm almost done, please be quiet.

EVER: Mommy I need you!

ME: No you don't.

EVER: Yes I do!

ME: Ever stop!

EVER: Mommy answer me!!!!

ME:  What is it?


ME: Ever? What? What did you want?


ME: inarticulate noises of frustration


EVER: Mommy? Mommy? Mommy!!!


Saturday, January 10, 2015

People In Your Neighborhood

take a seat and read

" Without feminism, I would have been the worst bitch in the world " Vivian Gornick in The Believer

A blogger is being publicly, repeatedly flogged in Saudi Arabia. Please sign Amnesty International's petition to free him: SIGN

Melatonin as cancer treatment in Life Extension

'Sister, Interrupted: A True Story' by Maria Alexander in Medium, a heart rending story of what the consequences of distracted driving can be.

'The Disappearance of Rosemary Tonks' by Ruth Graham in Poetry Foundation. A writer with ascending renown and fame who walked away from it all.

I love this! A dad creates drawings based off things his toddler says, and things he hears himself and his wife say to her I Am Not The Babysitter

I am looking forward to reading this novel: Descent

A night out with Lena Dunham and Her Girls, in Inside TV

Continuing the important, national discussion about concussions, one family talks about the son they lost to concussions playing high school football.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


January, you little fucker. Just when I…

Underwater eye, rolling in the water. Observation without action. Being alive is…

There I was. In a different light cone, there I am. Quarks glued perfectly together. Happy with big shoes on a Chevy in a hat I bet one of my Grandmother's  knitted. They are both dead now. In a different light cone, do you think they are there, knitting for their first grandchild?

I'd like to say Hi Daddy.

I'd like to hug my sister.

They're still alive. In a different light cone, do you think it was all all right, in the end?

In the end, there was a BIIIIG sign that said:


So if you have your eyes squeezed shut, like I do on the very top of the roller coaster, you won't see the sign. 

lala my eyes are open

I have this book I bought for the kids, when Lola was a toddler, by Maya Angelou, called Life Doesn't Frighten Me. And I've been fascinated by this book, this poem with art, since. It has Basquiat paintings. Of course it's possible for life not to frighten anyone for a period of time, you know- a few days, a month, even a highly lucky streak of a years. But a lifetime? A lifetime of mostly, almost all the time, not being afraid of life? It's been the work of my life to not be afraid of everything, of myself, of other people. The strange, amazing, wonderful thing it that somehow I never learned to be afraid of love. That has been the engine that has powered my life. That, and sex and awesomeness.*

*thank you Jack Donaghy for your mind vise.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

People In Your Neighborhood

take a seat and read!

This is a newsletter from The Realm of Caring that has a feature from my friend Elizabeth Aquino, who writes on her blog about her daughter Sophie's seizure disorder and the amazing results they've had with cannabis- after many medications have failed. 

One of my favorite authors gives one of the most entertaining writing interviews I've ever seen. Pat Conroy, and his wife who is also a writer, Cassandra King.

in The Gaurdian, It's Silly To Be Frightened of Being Dead by Diana Athill

If you believe that your reality is valid, that is matters, you can change the world like this 10 year old little girl did. As I read this, I kept wondering: What if she had told herself she was wrong, silly, just a little girl and didn't know any better?

An old one from Dressed Up Like a Lady: True Love and Divorce

Oren is a dad blogger of two who has Stage Four lung cancer. Read his words: Chemo Talk

Black and Missing Foundation: Providing An Equal Opportunity For All Missing

On 37 Paddington, important, deeply personal writing about the police and black people: PTSD 

So in love with this song It's on my running playlist and I dance down the street :)