‘You got a copperhead kiss hidden up your sleeve, thirty-three’

I’ll be 33 in two weeks.

To mark this occasion, I have Googled famous people who died at 33 and re-learned that Chris Farley and John Belushi were both 33 at the moment of their untimely demises. Not to mention good ol’ Eva Braun, who is the postergal for bad taste in men.

Ahhhh, what a refreshing dose of reality on the eve of my continued slog toward middle age.

I am going to go ahead and start wistfully thinking back on 32 since it takes me a month to write a single post these days.

Thirty-two was a good year. I kind of can’t believe it went down how it did but I’m happy with it. I did some things I never dreamed I would or could but now I have a bit of a taste for the unexpected and unobtainable. So we will see how that pans out.

The Wolf’s Bane

I am so excited to see the finished product!

Betsy crafted this incredible story and was kind enough to ask me to do the book’s layout. I adore her writing so I was happy to do whatever I could to be involved. Check out this mini documentary on the project as a whole.

COMING 2015: The Wolf’s Bane from Emily Beard on Vimeo.

I am super proud to be a part of this project and cannot wait to get my hands on a finished piece. I just want to smell it. Is that weird?


To Holden, on the eve of his third birthday:


Three years ago at this moment you lived inside my belly and I had no idea who you were. I knew you got the hiccups regularly and I knew you had a rump about the size of your head, and that I could never be quite sure which was which just from running my fingers along your contours. But I didn’t know you. I saw ghostly ultrasound photos of the silhouette of your face and I assigned hopes to you and for you, but you were a mystery to me. A mystery right up until you came barreling into this world, announcing your arrival in a chattery newborn tongue that, when I hear it on video now, breaks my heart, because it is the language of a place nowhere near here. Another world entirely.

Flash forward three years and I know you. I know that when you wake up every day you are going to point out some things in your room to make sure they are as we left them the night before. I know that you are going to want Cheerios with raisins for breakfast, or maybe a waffle. I know that you are going to want a nice cold glass of milk every day. I know that you collect cardboard tubes from the paper towels and the toilet paper, and that if I throw one away without offering it to you first, I will have to answer to you. Dude. I know you.

You are this little bundle of insane energy, a tiny English-speaking person who knows the alphabet and can count to 20 or so and identify letters and numbers as they pop up around you. And you’re starting to spell your name. You love music and putting color onto blank surfaces. I make up songs for you and you catch on to them quick, and have the melody and even the lyrics down pat after only hearing them a couple of times. At nap- and bedtime, I sing two lullabies to you and you hum along with me and sink your head into the crook of my neck as I rock you. I have to tell you, those moments are some of the rare times when your poor ol’ overextended mom really feels loved in this mean old world.

(One of the lullabies is a modified version of this song, which my mom sang to me as a baby. I sing to you: “Lay your head on my shoulder. Whisper in my ear. Baby, you’re the one I love. Baby, you’re the one I love.” Repeat ad nauseum. I also sing “This is my Holden, this is my friend. He is my baby until the end” to the tune of “This Is My Story,” a hymn we grew up singing at church. You love both these lullabies.)

You are pretty much potty trained (I say “pretty much” because we still put a diaper on overnight, even if you only really use them half the time, and I suppose you still have accidents once in a while during the day when you’re too busy playing to take a pee break). You look like a little man in your boxer briefs and we are so incredibly proud of you for mastering the potty before even turning three. Seriously, dude, you’re a toilet rock star.

Your faces remain incredible.


There is this serious browface, which you administer to items you are examining. Sometimes you shoot this look at people. It is withering.


This is the face of pure joy. In this photograph, you made this face after chucking a rock into a river. You are often easily amused, which you get from me.


This is your 30-year-old face. It’s like peering into a crystal ball.


Your eyes are bright and searching and invite comments from strangers everywhere we go. Someone always says something about your eyes. I am holding out hope that you get your dad’s vision and not mine, or else you will end up having to obscure those big blues with glasses.

My little shark

We went trick-or-treating this year. It was our first proper Halloween outing. (Last year there was bad weather that abbreviated our attempts and the mall was cleaned out by the time we got there.) You dressed as a shark and were not terribly happy about it as we cluelessly tried to cram your limbs into the getup. You got the hang of the whole trick-or-treating thing about halfway through, and even actually said “trick or treat” to some folks near the end of our outing. You collected quite the haul from the fine folks along McChesney. I am glad we have such good friends in walkable neighborhoods. It was so much fun and I think next year you will be even more into it.

Speaking of good friends, you and Rory are going to have a new friend on the scene in a month or so. Rumor has it that it’s a lady friend to add to the mix. Not to mention your new friend Ruth, who was born not too long ago in Chicago. Are you ready for all that pressure, of being the oldest in the bunch? You are going to need to make sure you are being a good toddler role model for all your new friends. Last time you hung out with Rory, you froze with a mix of bewilderment and terror every time he grabbed at you. But you returned the favor by sort of poking at his eyes and laughing. Boy, I see so much of me in you that it scares me.

_MG_0388 _MG_9820 _MG_0186

You have very strong opinions and we are working on your tendency to get frustrated and lash out. (Again, I see a lot of me in you.) But you are such a point of light. You wake up happy every day and instantly start observing and asking questions about the world. Lately you are fond of “Where did it go?” and “What happened?!” You are intrigued by process and pattern. You like to deconstruct things. You like to organize and group. You like to surprise and be surprised.

You still have an arm on you, and your aim is pretty good. We’re working on catching.

You love to identify colors, shapes, numbers and letters, wherever they pop up. If you can identify a number, letter or shape that’s a color, then it’s like you’ve hit the lottery.

You get so excited when we understand what you are trying to tell us. And it gets easier every day.

You like to help load/unload the dishwasher. You like to “help” with laundry. Turning lights on and off is your jam. You like to pick out your spoon for your morning cereal. When you make a mess, you like to point it out and be allowed to clean it up. You like finding trash and throwing it away, even if it’s not yours. You like finding things in the trash that you think we should reconsider. You LOVE flashcards and have learned some insane words (“vicuna” and “urchin”???) from the ones we have. You love your grandparents and ask about your cousin Levi a lot.


You are obsessed with Farmer Jason and we have watched his DVD probably a hundred times. I can recite it from beginning to end and I bet you could too, if pressed. You think that Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” song is top shelf, but you like just about any kind of music as long as it’s loud enough and mama and daddy will get up to dance with you. You like to do “red bed,” which means wrestle on mama and daddy’s bed. (We had red sheets a while back.) You are a ruthless wrestler, and not above roundhouse kicks to the face.

Saying hi to passing cars, as you do.

School is going great. You like seeing your friends and getting to play outside. Your teacher says such wonderful things about how sweet and inquisitive you are. You talk a lot about your friends Madisyn and Kaia. I think you’re sweet on Madisyn or maybe it is the other way around. We do homework on the weekends and turn it in on Monday.

You seem happy. Occasionally you have your meltdowns or you have to be put in line when your attitude gets a little too toddlerish for our liking. (We don’t want to end up needing a Supernanny in three years, so we are trying to keep you in check.) But for the most part, child, you are happy. And I couldn’t be more grateful that that seems to be your baseline.

I’m proud of how you are growing and how much you love to learn. I watch you and wonder how much of me got into you, and hope that I can help you navigate the difficult parts a little better, now that I have lived long enough to know a little bit about myself.

You’re having a big time. We’re having a big time. Year three is going to be so much fun.

I love you,

Some things happened and now we are here

Ah, so, I convinced some folks to put me in charge of the Design Studio, and they did.

It’s so exciting and daunting. I’m ready to do it up right. I have a lot of ideas, a lot of things I want to do.

I’m stretched a little thin right now, though. Still doing the old gig, which was already a 60-hours-a-week job, and now I have just seriously compounded my commitment and I am finding that there are literally not enough hours in the day for me to get done all the things I need to get done. I started working at 9 a.m. Monday and it is now nearly 1 a.m. Tuesday and with the exception of one restroom break and a quick trip to get fish and potatoes in the cafeteria, I have not had a moment of downtime and I am nowhere near being done with my to-do list. Oh, I guess you can count the drive home as downtime, but I sure did think hard the whole way.

I’d be a lot more productive if the space-time continuum would just bend to my will.

I’m excited and frazzled. I just have to survive the rest of the year and get through the holidays and then, hopefully, there will be a clearing and I will be able to take a deep breath and then really dive deep.

I’ve written “I” a lot here but there are a lot of “wes” involved too.

‘Try not to hold on to what is gone’

Mildly obsessed with this song at the moment.

Current status: Midwest travels edition

I am at a bar in a kind of huge strip mall in Des Moines, Iowa. There is a wall of giant, beautifully crisp, flat televisions behind the bar, all showing the same baseball game, and not a single eye is pointed toward them. People are yelling at each other, as you do in most situations when drink and loud music get involved. Boyz II Men’s “Thank You” just came on the loudpseaker and threw me uncomfortably back to my youth when I used to have that single on a cassette and would rewind and replay ad nauseum, only to swap it out with whatever Brandy single I was also obsessed with at the time.

There is a table of middle-aged men in business suits directly in front of me, and they are cackling like madmen and dropping F-bombs in the course of whatever story one of them is relaying.

I flew in this morning and did that ridiculous thing occasional airplane passengers do where I felt a kinship with my fellow stranger travelers. You know, you break through the clouds and suddenly spot the blue arc of the Earth’s boundary and you start to look at the backs of people’s heads — their tiny, stupid, insignificant heads — and they start to seem both stranger than ever (I am on a flying bus with people I’ve never met, and we are rocketing through space and time!!!) and more familiar than ever (someone on this plane near me will not stop farting oh god), once you consider that they are living the same weird life you are, but in a different way.

I had these idiotic thoughts before achieving full caffeination; forgive me.

This is my first extended stay in the Midwest, which is to say it is my first non-layover trip to the Midwest. It’s true — the people are nice and the grass is green. Right now in this little strip-mall bar, there’s a country song and then an R&B song. Country song, R&B song. And then a Mr. Big song (you know the one). And now the song that is about butts that masquerades as being about bass. Ah, the Midwest. The great melting pot of America.

This is about to sound a lot like bragging, but…




Goddamn, this state is beautiful.

Getting RIPped

I heard a (hip young) undertaker on Fresh Air today talking about cremation and embalming and death rituals and all that fun stuff, and it occurred to me that I am in my thirties and I have procreated and yet I still have not put on paper my wishes in the event of my untimely death, which is getting more and more statistically probable with every new day I draw breath. What am I waiting for? (Someone to do it for me.)

I suppose I can put a couple of throwaway paragraphs on the internet and then ask the twelve of you who still read this blog to feel free to email a link to all my loved ones should I die, to make sure what they understand of what I want squares with the crap I have actually thought about and written down. Is that how we do death prep in the Web 2.0 era? Oh god, we aren’t in the Web 2.0 era anymore are we? I should be tweeting out my living will in 150 parts and ending it with “LOL.” Also, I am just kidding. I know there are not even twelve of you left who read blogs, especially this one.

In all seriousness, I don’t want to be embalmed. What a waste of time and money and horrible chemicals that are causing everyone cancer, probably. I want to say, “put me in a wooden box and stick me in the ground wherever there is already a convenient hole and let me get all wormy as quickly as possible so maybe some flowers will grow above me, but DON’T put any pea gravel anywhere near me,” but I know it is more complicated than that. I’m not particularly sentimental about what happens to me after my death, because who cares, but I accept that it is a practical concern that the living will be left to deal with so maybe I can do them a solid and take out some of the guesswork.

First, give away all my organs. Or the ones still working, I guess. I won’t need any of them unless you think there is a decent, scientifically sound chance of reanimation, in which case PRESERVE EVERYTHING, INCLUDING MY BROWN FITZWELL BOOTS. My eyes are terrible but one of them has a weird spot in it that bestows magical powers, so don’t let that shit get buried. Give it to someone!

In all honesty, I am kind of charmed by the idea of donating my body to science and maybe being empirically useful for once in my life/death. Maybe hanging out on The Body Farm and getting nice and ripe in the sun for the clipboard-wielding students to study, and then eventually becoming a part of their collection of skeletons. Yes! It might be the closest I get to being in a Head Museum. Let me bookmark that application process right now, actually.

If that doesn’t work out, for whatever reason (no one can find a free truck to get me there?), just cremate me. Except let’s consider water/lye instead of fire. I don’t need a fancy or beautiful or comfortable coffin and I have no interest in an eternal resting place that’s just taking up space in the ground. Just pulverize (politely and efficiently) what’s left of me and take the bone “ashes” and mix me up with potting soil and plant something interesting with part of me. I will try not to spoil the new growth with my acidic wit.

If you think that I am joking in any way about all that stuff ^^ or about putting any or all of the following phrases (or those found in my previous post) in places meant to memorialize my life, let me reassure you: I am completely serious and, should there prove to be some kind of afterlife where I am not sentenced to hard, hot labor for all the schemin’ and cussin’ I did while among the living, I am going to DIE (AGAIN) LAUGHING when I see one of these phrases printed in my obit or on my (exquisitely designed) funeral program or on the cardboard box where my cremains rest. (Which reminds me, which one of my designer friends wants to take charge of the funeral program project? Come get this ridiculous Victorian-era decoupage source book from my office so you can be sure to really make the whole thing sing.)

Some more epitaph suggestions, should anyone choose to keep part of me in some kind of urn or manila envelope:

• Former indoor kid

• Quick to light, slow to burn

• Still silently judging you

• Hopeless romantic who never once believed in love

• Follow me @eyedeadcreative

• Once had her photo taken with Todd Zeile

• Incompatible with life

• Greatest hyperbolist of all time

Write something

Write something.

Write write write something. Anything. Use words to conjure up pictures in other people’s heads and yes maybe even your own.

Stop asking why. You know why. You have to do it. It’s as much an instinct for you as blinking and breathing are. Can you imagine how awful it would be if one day you woke up and you couldn’t muster the energy to blink or breathe anymore? Your eyeballs would shrivel up in your head and you’d die. That is going to happen to the interesting part of your soul if you don’t write something soon.

Take a sip, loosen your standards.

Write write write, what can we write about?

Last night on Radiolab they were talking about laughter and how Aristotle thought it was our ability to laugh that made us human and apart from the other beasts. But Aristotle, while boasting a badass name, was wrong. Laughter is certainly a weird thing when you really think about, physiologically, what is happening during a fit of laughter. But laughter isn’t a uniquely human thing. Why would it be? Animals laugh and play and experience joy, too. I figure the only thing that makes us truly human is our capacity for self-sabotage. May science prove me wrong.


Is there a medication that kills ennui? Or transforms it into courage?

Actually, I don’t think ennui is what I have. I have the opposite, sort of: So many huge things I want to do but seemingly no time at all in which to do them, which creates a kind of crushing suffocation and a world that both zips around you and never seems to change.

So, what, like, mushrooms?


I’ve been thinking of all kinds of one-sentence bios for myself lately. Or are they epitaphs? Maybe that is the same thing.

• Incapable of sitting like a lady

• Liquid courage, solid shame

• Unimaginably bad at fantasy football

• Cannot pronounce “library” without total emotional and mental focus

• Hack

• Completely, breathlessly, incontrovertibly in love with adverbs

• Never even touched a banjo :(


I saw “Boyhood” a few weeks ago. The only movie I’ve seen in a theater all year. It was lovely. I know everyone knows that already. Richard Linklater is my spirit animal. These are random thoughts. I got giddy when I saw the Lamar Sorrento painting on Ethan Hawke’s wall. That kid playing Mason could not be cuter and the adult playing Mason could not be cuter. Patricia Arquette’s boobs could not be bigger. I know that before I am able to accept it, my own boy will be bigger than I ever imagined. It’s terrifying, in the way a roller coaster is when you are at the top of that first peak. I suppose I am lucky in that I like roller coasters.


I’m not dreaming lately. I hate hate hate that.


I saw someone from my deep past last weekend and I went up and said hello and he wouldn’t even look at me. It was painfully awkward. I tried to talk to him and he kept looking past me, into the distance, obviously wishing I’d just go away. I left feeling like complete shit. He won.


The older I get the more my family breaks down. Lately some things have happened that I’ve not even been able to fully process, much less address. This one thing I had in my childhood that set me apart from so many — this solid, loving, close-knit family — has dissolved. It breaks my heart. I know nothing is permanent, but damn.


I’m tired of layoffs.


I miss taking photos, constant photos. You see the world differently when you are behind a lens. When you get out of that habit, the world goes a little flat.


I haven’t traveled anywhere in a good long while. I was supposed to take a road trip recently and it fell apart in spectacular fashion and didn’t actually happen. We are going to the Smokies in a couple of weeks for a little bit, but I am pining to see something new, to breathe the air of a place I’ve never been. I want to know why no one will just pay me to wander around aimlessly. I would have made an incredible trust-fund kid.


Wrapping up a random post is difficult. It’s 1 a.m. and the boy will be up at 7:30 and I’m really doing myself no favors by staying up, considering the insane workday ahead of me.

Let’s end with a photo of this guy, whose smile could power a grid. He’s in such a big way lately. So many new words and phrases and such a sweet attitude most of the time. My heart.


Unexpected momentum

Status: I'm doing fine.

Tonight I was leaving work and taking the stairs because the elevator is out, and I caught a glimpse of myself in the stairwell window. And I was sort of taken aback by the sight of myself — my hair is long, suddenly; I’m in long sleeves, suddenly; I wear glasses, suddenly, except I have for so very long now and have yet to get used to the idea — and the sight made me happy for once. Like every other person ever, I tend to go negative when faced with a reflective surface. But for some reason tonight looking up and seeing my reflection was a comfort. I am a living, breathing, working, questioning, hoping being. I learn things every single day and it’s been a long time since I’ve been truly bored. I’m working so insanely hard these days and trying to be a good parent and daughter and sibling and partner. So much is happening right now in my family and professional life that it’s kind of impossible to lasso. Someday I hope to be able to write about it all (The Great Family Insanity of Mid-2014) but in my old and wizened state, I am trying to let dust settle when I can before kicking it back up again. (My employers circa 2009 would be so proud to hear this, I bet!)

It’s kind of insane the degree to which so many things have fallen apart these past few weeks. But it’s equally insane the degree to which so many things are getting set up to happen. Potentially. Although, maybe not. That’s the problem with potential.

And while I have to mourn the loss of things that can’t ever be the same again, I’m not afraid. We keep moving forward until we don’t move anymore. That’s what we do. If I’ve learned anything it’s that This Is What We Do, even when we don’t have any clue what we’re doing.

That comforts me. Because tonight I saw someone in the window reflection who clearly understood that.