The Boat Ladder

We like kayaking, but since installing the wheelchair ramps it’s been difficult to store them close to the house. It’s also a pain to carry them so far, especially since Walker’s kayak doesn’t have convenient grips for carrying it single handed.

So we needed a solution that would put the kayaks closer to the water, but be safer than laying them on the concrete or lashing them to the dock.

Oh… and now that life has slowed down enough for me to edit video, we’ll be posting at least once a week to our new YouTube channel.


Finding Normal

“I realized today why I kept having panic attacks last week,” she said, leaning back in her chair and setting her headphones on the desk.

Being an utterly rational person in complete control of his emotions, like all Real American Men who don’t need “feelings” or medication, he downed a shot of whiskey and took a deep drag from a CBD vape flavored with testosterone and diesel fuel. Fixing her with a condescending eye, he growled, “What exactly upset your delicate womanly nature, little lady?”

“I realized that nothing had gone wrong in our lives for almost a month… and I was panicking because I don’t remember the last time that happened.”

The man of the house was so shocked by this revelation that he promptly fell out of his startup surplus Aeron chair, hit his head, and woke up in the looking glass world of a 2020 where everything didn’t go to hell.

This exact change didn’t actually happen, but the essence of it was conveyed by a friend’s Facebook post a few weeks ago and I have to tell you that it hit me right in the feels.

It’s been a long time since I wasn’t dealing with a crisis of some sort, and I’m having to learn how to be a parent, partner, and individual in a context not defined by disasters.

Three years ago my marriage was beginning to come apart, after years of me privately straining to keep it together. Then Alli was nearly killed by a horse and the subsequent year was largely defined by helping her recover and learn to deal with the physical and mental effects of traumatic brain injury. Just as we were beginning to find our balance as a family, we were hit by the double haymaker of COVID and Rich’s ALS diagnosis.

While the last three years have been some of the happiest of my life, they have also been defined by repeated small-scale disasters.

And I think that’s why I’m struggling to settle these days. Struggling to write, to read, to play video games. Finding it difficult to go for a walk in the forest and listen to the twitter of birdcalls and rustling of breeze through the trees.

I just know that there has to be another disaster coming.




There was a simplicity to the world a year ago. We had all gone into lockdown, believing that everyone would do their part and America would be able to whip COVID-19 within six weeks. We played on TikTok, baked bread with friends over Zoom, and watched relaxing YouTube videos in which people with soothing voices exhorted us to find peace as the world fell apart. Maybe… just maybe… if we all worked together and did our best, the world would re-emerge as a better place filled with more loving people, except for those few clowns like Joe Exotic who would provide entertainment for the rest of us.

That isn’t exactly how things turned out.

But I’m having to believe that, perhaps, on a a smaller and more intimate scale, I can make that happen in my own life.

I can take care of these kids that have come into my life. Help them with Scouts. Watch movies with them. Take them on walks in the forest. Go kayaking on warm mornings and watch the glassy water split on either side of our boats, ripples trailing away until they lap gently against the shoreline.

I can talk about movies with James and my friends back south. Help Alli and Barb with fixing up the house. Slowly work on writing projects and get my damn YouTube off the ground one little video at a time.

There is no instant solution to finding peace or fixing the world, but we can take small steps each day. We can take each day, each hour, as a fresh opportunity to find joy.

We can slow down.

Friends will come and go. Oil pipelines will shut down. Toilet paper will be out of stock.

But I have the blessing that the pandemic didn’t destroy my livelihood. I am moderately healthy and have enough of a safety net that I don’t need to fear starvation or bankruptcy or homelessness.

If I take the time to consider the lilies of the field and breathe deep the breath of this big blue world, and know that I don’t have to make a dent in the universe as long as I am helping the people around me… it will all be okay.



The sun is just setting over the swamp. Rain pours down. An angry old woman in a gray cloak, an excitable young pugilist with a fancy haircut, and a dimwitted male cheerleader rush down the garden steps and come to a sudden halt.

A shadow darts across the screen. Is it a monster? A bird? A startled rabbit?

ABBIGAIL shouts an alarm and draws the sword she carries beneath her tattered cloak.

ABBIGAIL: “Be ready to fight. There are mutants nearby!”

OZZY whips his head back and forth, looking for danger. His finally coiffed hair teeters atop his head, seemingly ready to leap into the fray in his place. He growls with surprising menace for such a dandy as he raises his fists and stands behind ABBIGAIL, ready for a fight.

BANDIT, confused, trips over OZZY and bumps into ABBIGAIL.

ABBIGAIL swings her sword wildly, shouting a battle cry. OZZY roars and lashes out, punching at BANDIT and ABBIGAIL alike, not quite sure who he is supposed to be fighting.

BANDIT: “We’re going to get them! Fight! This is awesome! Take them out!”

ABBIGAIL: “Will you shut up? Stop fighting me and get the damn rabbit!”

OZZY, pulling back from punching Bandit in the face: “Oh… I thought we were fighting him.”

BANDIT: “There! I see it!”

With that BANDIT blunders past OZZY and ABBIGAIL, knocking both of them to the ground. He leaps into the bushes in pursuit of… something.

And he is gone.

OZZY: “What are we fighting?”

ABBIGAIL, sheathing her sword and muttering curses: “We were supposed to kill that rabbit, but numbskull just scared it away.”

OZZY, smoothing his hair: “Maybe he’ll catch it for us.”

ABBIGAIL: “No. He ran the opposite direction.”

The camera pulls up from the exasperated hunters and pans out over the landscape to show BANDIT running down the street, screaming threats at the top of his voice. A few zombies and rodents of unusual size veer off away from him, seemingly scared away by the sheer force of his loud stupidity.



feminist books, part 1

One of the most exciting parts about home schooling is having the flexibility to try different classes and learning styles. When Walker was struggling with math a couple months ago, we switched him to a new learning program and it has done wonders for both his confidence and grasp of math concepts. Ellie has been exploring the idea of launching a webcomic or writing a novel, so we have been trying to support her in those goals, even as we sign her up for classes in different art styles.

On the other hand, home schooling means occasionally blundering into complicated discussions that would be dulled by the generally safe and palatable public school curriculum.

This morning we prodded Ellie to begin her next novel study. She was less than thrilled at having to read something challenging, so we decided to try and make it interesting for her by offering some books that might feel relevant and provide jumping off points for discussions about women in history and society. Alli was out on a grocery run, so I poked about on the internet and found a few articles listing recent works of feminist historical fiction. I skimmed over them, picked two that had some intriguing books, and forwarded the book lists to Ellie for her to consider.

I should have just told her to read a Toni Morrison novel. Or some Sylvia Plath poems. Go 90s new wave feminist and order up a reading of The Vagina Monologues.

A few minutes later, Ellie came stomping up from her basement lair to complain that the books all looked lame and she wasn’t interested in politics.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“They’re all feminist books. I don’t want any more politics!”

I blinked.

I’m an English major. To me, the existence of feminist literature is as obvious as queer literary theory or the tension between modernism and post-modernism. Besides, the girl is woke as 🦆. I know she cares about women’s rights and the perspectives of traditionally othered persons.

I sometimes feel lost when talking to Ellie. I came into her life just as the teen angst was setting in and she definitely inherited her mother’s fiery intensity. Not a temper, not exactly, but a blaze in the eyes that says in no uncertain terms, “I will eat your soul if you finish the fruity pebbles.” So I decided to take a cautious approach.

“Why do you think feminism is political?” I asked, setting my voice to confused.

She rolled her eyes. “Everyone is always fighting about politics and I’m tired of it.”

She’s not wrong. Her daddy and uncle are quite a bit more conservative than the rest of us, but we all get along just fine and debates almost always end with laughter all around.

“So, you’re triggering on ‘feminist’ then? Think these are all going to be angry rants about the patriarchy?” Her mother had gone on a patriarchy rant within the last couple days, so it seemed appropriate to bring out that word.

“Yes! I just want people to get along and I want to read a good book and not have to think about politicians all the time.”

This is where I explained that few if any of the books had to do with politics. That the “feminist” in the list title referred to the books featuring female protagonists who were self motivated and strong, rather than solely celebrating the achievements of straight young white men from England or America. I almost veered into a passionate defense of underserved perspectives in literature and the value of reading against the hegemony, but I restrained myself.

“So can you look at the books again?”

She shrugged. “After I mow the lawn, sure. There better be something interesting.”

“Oh, I want to read several of them. I’m excited to see which book you choose because I’ll read it too.”

Well… that promise sure came back to haunt me, because after mowing the lawn Ellie promptly looked at the lists and picked the first book from the first list without even looking at the preview on Amazon. I admit that it does look interesting… but… well, we are still debating whether she gets to keep her selection.

More on that in part 2.

Journal Maryland

for the birds

Last summer Walker and one of his buddies helped me install a new nesting platform at the end of the dock. We used a large, plastic and metal shipping pallet, braced with 2x4s and secured with long screws and rope.

All fall and winter the new platform sat empty, waiting for a new nesting season to come around. Winds gusted through the pallet. Waves battered the piling. Cold gripped the plastic and wood and metal, causing them to creak and groan as they contracted at different rates.

And still it held until finally, about a month ago, the ospreys returned and began building a new nest atop the platform.

We watched in nervous anticipation, ever afraid that the next storm would blow away their nest as had happened year after year with the previous platform. But it held. The birds twisted their sticks through the crossbars of the pallet, anchoring them securely and building the nest ever higher. As late winter storms gave way to spring winds, the nest remained firmly fixed to the platform.

And now we have new neighbors. They are a bit noisy and have a habit of leaving scraps of sushi scattered on the dock, but they are quite entertaining and seem to be ready to settle down and have a family.

I’m trying to catch a couple more videos of the birds flying around the nest, and then I’ll post the full construction and results video to YouTube in a few days.