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Kane (and Able)


little boats

This is a story about my nephew, Kane, who just turned 7 years old. About the things we have in common, and the ways that he helps me be good.

*      *       *

We rarely just say Kane, but rather Kane-o, and he is an odd bird, one of my favorites. Didn’t really talk until 3 or 4, won’t eat anything that’s not a cereal bar without extreme goading. Getting him to eat a single bite of apple required intense negotiations, and even then he chews it the exact way you or I would if forced to eat a spoonful of diarrhea, with his hand in front of his mouth to prevent himself from spitting it out. Still, he’s a sport about it, dutifully eating his fruit and veg. He wants to be a doctor someday.

Kane is incredibly affectionate and sweet, quickly befriending anyone who shows him kindness or attention. “I love you, Auntie Sarah. You’re my best friend,” because I sit and read with him on the couch. Or, “I’m sitting with my best friend Auntie Sarah,” announced to the room, after I offer him snuggles because Ollie punched him in the chest. This is not specific to me–anyone can quickly become his best friend, and yet that somehow doesn’t make it any less sweet or sincere.

Kane likes to have Harry Potter read to him, though–as Sam pointed out–he doesn’t really seem to follow the story at all. All he’s concerned about is that you’re moving forward in pages, which he keeps Rainman-like track of in his head. You literally never need a bookmark, since Kane always remembers what page you were on last, even after hours or days.

Sometimes while reading I’ll ask him what words mean, to try and keep his focus:

       Sarah – “ ‘Harry began to feel ill’–what does ill mean?”

       Kane – “Uhm…Sebastian? What does ill mean?”

       Sebastian – “Uh…it, like, means, like, sick, or whatever.” (Teenagers!)

       Kane (to me) – “It means like sick.”

He does this with every word, while Bastian and I smile. I think secretly Bastian is pleased to be considered an authority, especially in matters concerning Harry Potter.

Kane-o is 6 but relates most with Ollie, who’s 4 (as opposed to Rosie or Isaac, who are 8). They play together well, mostly, but tattle on each other nonstop, often over non-issues (“Kane-o’s reading a book!” / “Ollie’s not eating his carrots!”), and we are all so over it and have said “Use your words to talk it out” and “You just worry about your own self” more times than I can count. Sometimes they hit each other, though, and then we do Time Out.

*      *       *

This day what happens is that they climb all over the couch, smushing it up, which unnerves me. Getting ready to go to a museum, I ask that the boys help fix the pillows (of which there are SO MANY, Mom); Kane-o declines, without comment. Ollie helps, trying to motivate Kane (“Kane-o! It’s okay! We’re helping!”). But Kane throws a pillow–attitude–which accidentally grazes Ollie, and is obviously enough to end the world.

So we get a timeout, for resisting clean-up, and then throwing, and that’s when Kane-o REALLY blows: “God dammit mother fucker stupid shithead!”  with a hand gesture that’s like the “Rock On!” symbol, or like SpiderMan shooting webs. But from Kane, we know it means “Fuck you!” And so timeout is extended, and then extended again, after he lets loose another impressive string of swears, instead of apologizing to Ollie. And on and on, for maybe 5 minutes.

I stay patient, calm, clear with my explanations of what was happening and why. Though rarely and barely able to stem the flow of my own overwhelming emotions, I can be good in a crisis. I can be solid while somebody else crumbles, especially if it’s a child.

By the end, Ollie is standing next to the Time Out spot, where I’ve called him over, while Kane-o lays on the floor, on his back, stiff, eyes terrified, mouth taut, breath rapid, barely able to eke out an “I’m. Sorry. For. Throwing. A. Pillow.”

“That’s okay,” chirps Ollie, already off on his merry way. I pull Kane-o up to standing and he continues the motion, falling forward into my arms and already shaking with sobs. “Do you need to be held?” He nods yes, I pick him up, easily, as he’s bird-boned.

While he cries, I walk around, swaying gently, talking to him, trying to soothe. “It’s scary to feel so out of control isn’t it?” He nods, and I think of all the times I’ve come back from the brink: shaken, shamed, and uncertain. A few weeks ago I threw beet greens on the floor, so unable to contain my hurt and frustration, yelling at my Moms and then crying, inconsolable, for hours.   

“I know I don’t like when I feel like that.” And then, for both our sakes, “I think everyone feels like that, sometimes.” He tightens his arms around my shoulders.

*      *       *

On the road, in Colorado, I was hit by a wave of anxiety and depression so complete that I slept for days on end, waking to the disappointment of continued consciousness and praying for sleep to return, rolling me in its thick, merciful, obscuring blanket. Cried hours into the bedsheets, embryo-shaped, contracting around a center of pain and pity, meditations on all my own awfulness.

Outside, I could hear sounds of merriment, signs of life, people dancing and singing, teasing children, drinking whiskey, making and eating Pho, together. I felt no jealousy or resentment. Just the plain knowledge that they existed so far beyond my realm, and sadness at that thought.

I could hear that people were, but the best I could do was to seem, to appear, and I was too tired even for that.

How long could I lie hidden, without raising suspicion? My sickness showing through every crack, and I burned with the shame of people’s curiosity and concern, unable to even make eye contact. Unsure of my place in the conversation, my point of re-entry to the human race.

I think the hardest thing, sometimes, is to be forgiven, which is to say: to forgive yourself.

*      *       *

“Nobody’s mad at you, Kane-o.”

“They’re not?” more sniffles, optimistic disbelief. The best I have to offer him right now is love, and an open palm. An invitation.

“Of course not, sweetie,” I say, swaying. “We just don’t like it when you feel so out of control. We want you to be calm and happy. We want you to be here with us.”

“Nobody’s mad at me?” head heavy on my shoulder.

“Nobody’s mad, I promise.” Tighter arms, like a hug; I squeeze back. “You ready to be put back down now?” No, he shakes his head, not yet.

But then in a little bit he was.


I Love My Two Gay Moms


In Celebration of Legalized Same-Sex Marriage

Beth, Rosie and Mom: Wedding Day

Note: I originally wrote this almost 3 years ago, then re-tooled it on a whim last night, in preparation for an amateur open mic night at a tiny burrito restaurant. My moms were legally married on Sunday, May 24th at the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, UT. This is a story about how I first came to have two mommies, written in 3 parts.

Beth & Mom

Part I – “Motherfucker”

My little brother coined the term, and it stuck right away. Crass, sarcastic, self-consciously funny–it was a perfect fit for our wise-ass family. “Motherfucker,” as in one who…well, our mom’s new girlfriend, Beth (her given name).

There were predecessors–Denise the secret alcoholic and Debbie the painfully bland–and we had welcomed them without much fanfare and done our best to support Mom in her later-life coming out.

But Beth was the first one real enough to warrant a nickname, cool enough to happily accept, standing there in Mom’s kitchen, peeling linoleum and dark, low-hanging cabinets, only slightly self-conscious–at the moment of our meeting–that she had just taken a hit from a honey bear bong, sitting slyly on the counter.

Kids, meet Beth. Beth, my children. We weren’t expecting you home so soon.


But mom was blushing, smitten, in love.

Moms in Love

Part II – “Motherfuck

“How can you have more kids when you don’t even care about the ones you already have?? You think you can just fuck us up and then try again with a new batch?!”

I said this. In public. At a fancy sushi restaurant, where they’d taken us to share the Big News: a baby. Mom, her four adult children, and Beth, our MF. They were nervous, anxious, eager for approval, and I didn’t make it any easier, letting them ahave a piece of my mind, thinking myself the only one brave enough.

Not that our opinions mattered. They were already decided, donor sperm and turkey baster at the ready.

Nevermind that Mom’s youngest was at this point already in his twenties. Nevermind that they’d been dating less than a year. Nevermind that the four of us “emerging adults” were struggling, failing to thrive, still reeling from divorce and a consistent lack of cohesive parenting.

They were going to have a baby. Well, Beth was. Mom was already well past ovulation. They were going to raise a child, together.

Maybe they wanted a fresh start. Maybe Mom thought she wouldn’t make the same mistakes twice. Maybe they had NO FUCKING CLUE WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND THIS HAD “BAD IDEA” WRITTEN ALL OVER IT, and I told them as much, without shame, ever righteous.

They did it anyways, those motherfuckers.


Part III – “Mother” 

But then there was this baby, a little sister, Rosie, and she had curly hair and blue eyes and a wary gaze. She distrusted strangers. She smiled when I sang to her.

Of course, in the nine month intermin we’d doubted, gossiped, judged Beth’s ability to parent, judged Mom’s ability to parent. Beth would probably try to make Rosie just like her, down to the miniature black converse (didn’t work, Rosie preferred pink and purple from the get-go). Mom would probably pick at Rosie for the littlest things, continuing our same battle for emotional superiority (she didn’t, too old to care).

And we would be left to fend for ourselves, the failed first batch, forgotten.

We weren’t. You see, what else happened in the interim is that Beth got me to go back to school, and helped me to believe (or remember) that I was a great student, intelligent, capable. What happened is that Beth made sure my nephew had adequate daycare, they type of education he deserved, much to my sister’s alternating relief and chagrin. What happened is that Beth supported my oldest sister’s family, always pushing for them to pull through and work things out, even when the rest of us thought they should throw in the towel. What happened is that Beth helped my younger brother adjust to life after the Navy, and trusted him to figure it out for himself when he rejected her help.

What happened is that she bought us kick-ass presents and encouraged us to throw parties at the house while they were out of town.

What happened, really, is something so simple and so intuitive, yet so rare in the world of step-parenting, and that is: having met us as adults, Beth did not try to parent us. She didn’t ground us or send us to our rooms, or call us spoiled brats. She did: care for us, encourage us to further our education, help us out financially, lend us the car, let us move back home again (and again, and again). She fought for us, she believed in us. She saw the best in us and helped us to see it in ourselves.

She helped us grow, and we grew up.

There’s a word for someone like that. It starts with the letter M.

Lucky to Be Free


“I’m back…I think”

Temple Gate, KL, Malaysia, 2014

Today is our anniversary.

“WAS,” says Adrienne. Would have been. Today would have been our 2nd anniversary.

I’m spending it alone, in Malaysia, on my way to Bali, a plan I made, reveled in, regretted, and then reconciled myself to (as though a tropical Asian vacation were something to be endured–I am such silly twerp at times).

*       *       *

I never thought any of this would happen. Never thought I’d get married, and then, having committed myself fully, never thought I’d be divorced. I’d never considered living in Japan and could not have guessed, even one year ago, that I’d be the one to stay, happy in my new home, out in the world, again, on my own.

I’d never have predicted the twists or turns or characters that would lead me back to a sense of contentment, and there were times, places, dark lonely spaces, when I sincerely believed that I would not, could not, survive this heartbreak.

Life delivers us many surprises.

Temple Gates, KL, Malaysia, 2014

I can’t stop thinking how fortunate I am, like a metronome in my mind: “Lucky, lucky, lucky.” Born free, raised well, healthy, never wanting for food, running water, shelter, or love. I work a job that makes me excited to get up in the morning; I’ve seen more of the world than most people ever will; I live a charmed life, one that others can only dream of. I must never forget that, never stop feeling fortunate, or grateful.

China Town, KL, Malaysia, 2014

Happy anniversary, Chad. Thank you for the good times, the hard lessons, the opportunities, and for letting me go.

*       *       *

So here I go.

Things Fitting Perfectly Into Things


“Lost in the Language”

Bahamas – Lost in the Light (Official Video) from Scott Cudmore on Vimeo.

*       *       *

My freshman roommate in the dorms was a girl named Sung-Ah, from Seoul, South Korea. She was silly, strange, serene and sweet. English was not her first language, but the way she used it fascinated and delighted me, offering hints (I thought) at another language, culture, and mentality–another way of seeing the world. She often expressed things in a way that never would have occurred to me, and to wondrous effect.

On my 19th birthday, she told me “Today you are the main character.”

(Can you imagine any better birthday sentiment?)

*       *       *

So often we see foreign language learning in terms of limitations, impediments. We forget that native speakers are limited, too, boxed in by our preconceptions of how “our” language works, how it’s supposed to go. Verbs right here and nouns over there, adjectives in this order…until it sounds “right.”

As an English teacher, it’s especially hard–my job is to make corrections, to gently guide students towards “proper usage” (whatever that is).

*       *       *

I have a student who emails me every week, multiple times a week, just to practice his English, unassigned. He often clarifies what he’s saying by letting me know what he’s NOT saying. Example:

“My sister said “I’m going to go out side”, so I spent a day alone. It’s sounds sad, but it’s not. I need my free time…by the way it doesn’t mean I don’t like my sister or people.”

To show him that I understood, I sent him a link to the Andrew Bird video for Lull, highlighting these lyrics:

“Being alone, it can be quite romantic / Like Jacques Cousteau underneath the Atlantic / A fantastic voyage to parts unknown / Going to depths where the sun’s never shone / And I fascinate myself, when I’m alone”

He wrote back: “I love slowly song, so it fit into me.”

How could I correct that statement?

*       *       *

When I first heard “Lost in the Light,” I had the strangest sensation: I could feel the place in me that had been wanting just such a song, an absence shaped just so, the type of need you don’t know you have until it’s unexpectedly met.

This song fit into me. I could feel it click into place.

This, Friends, is how we learn.

But Also…

…also going home was a trip (in the other sense), wherein I never fully acclimated to the time change and stayed up til three am eating whatever I wanted and writing insomnia’s best ideas. Yet somehow, I felt healthy and whole.

Mac & Cheese Burrito


Pictures of Home

In My Mothers' Kitchen

I’ve been home (in Japan) for 2 weeks now, which is as long as I was home (in Utah).

Rocky Mountain High

A lot can happen in two weeks.

(But you know this).

Danky Pres

When I moved to Spain, then back to Salt Lake, I had this unshakable transitory feeling. Madrid was not my home, not my place, but after living there for almost a year, I couldn’t fit back in to the Wasatch Front so easily, either.

Sugar House Rising

It took me over a year of being “home” again to feel that I belonged, to form new friendships and shed old ones, move out of my Moms’ basement (the infamous “Shame-ber“) and build a life for myself, something I could hold up to the light and recognize. Something to call my own.

Bo(ris) the Sheep

And then I went and threw everything back into the blender, like I do. As my mom pointed out, “For somebody who doesn’t deal well with change, you sure do go putting yourself at the center of it a lot.”

Thursday Eve

What can I say? I never learn, or I learn too late.

(Too late to say I’m sorry).

Sled Boat

Now nowhere feels like home, again. So I must make a home for myself, inside. Like Gwen, I will “find myself as something that was stronger than anything anyone else could give me.”

Tucked Away

Last summer, not 10 miles out on I-80, heading west towards the Monterey Bay, I wrote:

Saying Goodbye

What is that feeling? That feeling of not enough, of missing someone in advance, while they’re still with you, on when they’ve only been gone from your life for an hour or two.

Snow Spawn

Because you know how long it will be, you know–or think you know–the future, and all the pain it holds. Fists balled up and eyes squeezed tight in anticipation of some future want, some acutely foreseen longing.

Presents by Post

Really, the distance is not so far, from here to home. Nothing insurmountable.

So goodbye for now, and until next time.

Front Runner by Night

Thanks for all the memories.

Wasatch Panoramic

Homeward Bound


Give me all your poetry. Send it straight to my soul.

Christmas in Japan

City Sparkles

The beautiful thing about Christmas in Japan is that, in a country where Christians account for only 1% of the population and upwards of 70% of Japanese claim no religious affiliation, they’ve dispensed with the sacred and spiritual altogether, distilling the holiday down to a pure, commercial venture.

In this sense, it’s exactly like in the US, but without any of the pretense, which is equal parts refreshing and disturbing. Blind devotion transcends nationality, but Disney must have signed a deal with the devil for the level of allegiance and sincere enthusiasm it garners from most Japanese.

The Mouse is in the house, friends. So Chad and I went and searched him out.

Lights, Crowds, Chaddo

We began at Tokyo Station, following the crowds through the mid-town shopping district to see what amounted to twinkly lights on busy tree-lined streets, though to surprisingly stunning effect.

Taking Pictures of Picture Takers

From there we were herded from one Disney-themed tree to another. Don’t be fooled by photography–most of these were only slightly bigger than you’d see in someone’s house; for us, the real fascination was following the fervor.

Princess Tree

Also not captured in these photos: policemen with bullhorns corralling throngs of thousands as snap photos of light displays that are easily trumped by many US front lawns at Christmastime.

Roller Coaster...of Love

From Tokyo Station, we caught the subway over to Tokyo Dome City, where the Christmas “Illumination” continued, but with fewer people.

Light Tunnel

Tunnel of Love

We explored a light tunnel, and then rode the Thunder Dolphin, a roller coaster with a drop so long (218 ft) that I ceased feeling fear and accepting that this was my new reality–that I would fall into nothingness, forever. We purchased a commemorative photo, in honor of: best coaster faces, ever.

All the Pretty Little Colors

We ended our night at Wins, nearer to the Tokyo Dome, where we bowled 3 rounds and poured illicit (and cheap) whiskey into our vending machine-bought cans of ginger ale. Then Chad ate a burger at a boardwalk-style eatery, just before closing, and we rode the train home, in bed before midnight.

Tokyo Dome, December, at Night

The next morning (Christmas Day), we traded in Japan’s traditional Christmas Cake (strawberry shortcake) for pancakes with fresh fruit and yogurt. And for Christmas dinner, we opted for soy meat with broccoli in place of fried chicken. (The whole Christmas cake and fried chicken phenomenon in Japan is a prime example of the ways in which advertising has directly and intentionally warped and misconstrued the holiday to glorious, frightening all-American effect. They order buckets of KFC in advance, like we would do with Turkeys for Thanksgiving).

Lights in the City

Then went and saw Gravity in 3D. All in all, a magical, one-of-a-kind Christmas.

Merry, Scary Christmas

Christmas Altar

Sundah Dolfin


This is how we did it. Details to come.


A Year in Photos

Anti-Divorce Mural

So maybe I was wrong in that last post, as Chad said that I’m becoming a professional at making these murals.

Go figure.

Go us.