Essays

Cosmonauts Avenue: This is Not a Picture of Me Naked

When I walk into a restaurant, alone, I have to do some heavy scoping before I choose a seat. A table that’s up against a single wall is okay, but a corner table is better. If the only tables available are ones in the middle of the floor, exposed on all sides, then I will […]

Tin House: Transactions

When I was twenty-two and single, I worked behind the counter at a bakery. Customers would point at pastries in a case, and I would hand them those pastries, my hand sheathed in a thin vinyl glove. Sometimes they pointed at a particular pastry—the biggest cinnamon roll, for instance, or the darkest croissant—and I would […]

The Offing: A Menagerie of Strays

My partner trails me up the hill, both of us weighed down with sacks of groceries, the plastic handles pressing into the flesh of our palms. We are halfway home when I see it: a blur of black fur skittering across the driveway and into the hedge. The thing is wounded — I can tell […]

Mutha: A Village Made Our Family

When my partner and I talked about making a baby, we agreed on most things. We agreed that I would carry it, and that we’d give it her last name. We agreed that the baby would sleep next to our bed and that both of us would answer to ‘Mom’. But we disagreed about sperm. […]

Brain, Child: Conversations With My Son About Gender

When my son was three, as he sat at the kitchen table playing with his Etch-a-Sketch, he offhandedly asked me the following question: “When Mommy Kellie was a little boy, did she have an Etch-a-Sketch too?” Read the rest here.

Brain, Child: Learning to See All Families

I was four months pregnant when a colleague sat next to a close friend of mine at a dinner party. Apparently, the colleague knew about my sexual orientation, but hadn’t heard my news, and so when my friend informed her that I was expecting my first child, she looked startled. “How in the world do […]

The Washington Post: We’re Not Numb; We’re Desperate

On Thursday, in response to the tragedy at Umpqua Community College, President Obama gave a speech in which he claimed that Americans have become “numb” to the violence of mass shootings. I am a parent to two young children who also teaches at a community college three hundred miles north of Roseburg, and for the […]

The New York Times: Teaching Children to Love Bees, Not Fear Them

Several years ago, reports of the declining bee population inspired my partner to keep bees in our yard. Her reasons were mainly practical—not only did she want to support the vanishing bees, she hoped our plum trees might increase their yield. But it took less than one season for my partner to fall in love, […]

Our Family Confuses People

In the real world, though, we seem to confuse people everywhere we go. Just a few days earlier, as we waited in line for ice cream, Kellie whispered to me, “That couple is staring at us.” When I looked up, a man in his late forties looked away the moment he met my eyes. His […]

Brevity: The Art is in the Distance (On Arnold Lobel and Making Work in the Closet)

It never occurred to me that Arnold Lobel was gay, just as it never occurred to me that Maurice Sendak was gay—a fact I learned just after his death in 2012. Now that I know, I wonder what it means that two of the greatest minds in children’s literature were men who spent much of […]

Brevity: The Myth of the Real Deal

When I entered my MFA program in 2003, I hoped I might be a literary success in the making. Though I had only written a handful of short stories, I imagined that a two-year writing program would provide me with the structure I needed to complete a book-length manuscript, and after that I’d have it […]

Brevity: Reading Like a Writer

One of the biggest rewards of a well-told story is a satisfying climax, one both surprising and earned—a revelation that registers with the satisfying click of all of its parts connecting. Recently, I read an essay that achieves this so well it literally took my breath away: The Man in the Mirror by Alison Kinney. […]

Brain, Child: Dear Teacher

Let me begin with a confession. When I signed up to visit your classroom on Fridays, it wasn’t because I wanted to help. I volunteered because I was curious. I wanted to see how my son had settled into kindergarten, if he had made friends, if he followed the rules, to make sure he didn’t […]

Motherly: How to Stick Up For Yourself Like a Toddler

It turns out that I need some un-socializing as badly as my kids need socializing. My 39 years on this earth have trained me to make myself smaller than I should, to be polite sometimes at the expense of meeting my own needs, to say “no thanks” when what I mean is “yes please.” My […]