the packing list

I know from experience how to pack a bag for a suicidal hospital stay so I keep a packed bag (no straps, strings, belts) and leave it in my car “just in case” because my therapist may decide I’m not safe and need to check in to the psych ward (again) where there will be laundry facilities so I’ll only need to pack enough clothes for two or three days since doing laundry will be somewhat therapeutic

so I pack
two or three t-shirts, comfortable
sweat pants or leggings, can double as jammies with a t-shirt
no cords
no belts
no strings
slip-on shoes, no shoelaces
hairbrush and/or comb
blank journal, not wire-bound
several pens
warm sweater or hoody, no strings
slippers
socks
phone and charger, will be kept at the front desk
travel-size toiletries, they’ll have shampoo but no conditioner
toothbrush/toothpaste
a soft blanket, for wrapping up in when the anxiety kicks in or my roommate starts screaming at 3am and the sleeping meds aren’t working and they won’t give out more
a stuffed toy or soft pillow, for hugging while crying myself to sleep

my therapist asks, “What do you mean that you’re packed for the hospital? How do you pack ahead for a psych hospital stay?”
I will show him this list

nightime

the patients seemed to grow more somber
as the night loomed darker and the
nurses wandered from room to
room doling out pills and patience
and warnings and reminding everyone
that bedtime was in an hour so we
needed to start winding down whatever
we were doing which reminded all of us
of our mothers fathers grandparents
older siblings preparing our younger
selves for bedtime as we discovered
that a psychiatric hospital stay is very
much like a return to childhood where
doors can be locked and toys taken
from grasping hands and snacks available
but only if you behave yourself and
other people cook for you and you have
to make your bed before school begins
and classes are required and arts and crafts
frustrate everyone until later when they
realize it was something to do that got
their minds off ending their lives because even
boring activities can be a distraction from
the abyss and you’re glad another day’s over
and you can curl up in bed with your pillow
and blanket and hopefully sleep soundly
rather than waking up screaming like the
night before when your sleeping self had a
glimpse of reality and the abyss the void
the monster loomed once more

I Dream of Mayberry

My dreams
take me back home
to a land of quiet streets
children playing, riding bikes
Dreams of Mayberry on parade

I dream of
neighborhood crushes
talking late into the night over backyard fences
sneaking a quick hand hold, a stolen kiss
enough for pleasant dreams
to see us through the night

I dream of
dogs running free
no leash laws to fence them in
leaving the house to be greeted by
favorite canines with jingling collars
the garbageman’s dog lived across the street
my friends would say,
Oh, you live by the garbageman’s dog!
a local celebrity dressed in fur

I dream of
attending school
with the children of doctors,
lawyers, movie stars, millionaires
our family on our simple cul de sac
a far cry from the mansions of my classmates
entire wings of houses closed off for the season
rooms only used for parties
servants, yard workers, maids

I dream of
our family home
a three-bedroom rambler
on a quiet street
at the bottom of the hill
down the street from the Catholic church

I dream of
Sunday mornings
trapped on our street
by slow-moving church traffic
I thought everyone dealt with
church traffic on Sunday mornings
the church played a role
in our lives each week
even though we didn’t attend

I dream of
childhood confusions
Sunday with my grandmother
in the church on the hill
I committed a mistake
I was only five
evidently it was a sin
the priest felt it necessary
to scold me publicly
I refused to go back

I dream of
swimming and fishing
off Grandpa’s dock at the lake
of chasing tiny fish with a net
of releasing the trout intended for dinner
unwilling to watch the life leave their eyes

I dream of
feeding the ducks
every duck and goose on bay
winging to the child with the dry bread
back in those bygone days
when we could still feed the waterfowl

I dream of
running barefoot at my grandparents’
which wasn’t an option
unless you wanted goose droppings
between your toes

I dream of
trees and water weeds
the weeping willow leaning over the lake
no need for a swing
grab a handful of willow branches
and fly out over the water
laughing as we let go and landed
with water up the nose
while weeds in the water
grabbed at our toes

Grandma’s pancakes

My grandmother cooked pancakes
on a large round griddle

with a spatula that had come through
many meals before

so many hours I spent at her side
begging to flip the pancakes

a large brown ceramic bowl
cold to the touch

stiff peaks of beaten egg whites
folded in carefully

Grandma’s secret weapon
against boring breakfasts

a glimpse into days gone by
only the womenfolk cooked breakfast

only the menfolk got away with
not cooking or cleaning up

these were the years before this budding feminist
shouted it’s not fair to whoever would hear

It Felt Like Confusion

He looked like a teacher or someone’s uncle, the man who tried to molest me in the movie theater. They didn’t talk us through scenarios back then of how to respond to creepy old men sitting next to you and slipping their hand into your chair. I felt afraid, and tried to crawl as far away as I could, climbing halfway into the lap of my best friend on the other side. I finally grabbed her hand and whispered, “Come with me, NOW!” I was horrified and frightened and at a loss for how to respond. Tell an adult. Find an employee. Run. Why didn’t I think of any of those responses? I was frozen. I wasn’t even sure what he wanted. A grown man. I was twelve.

They looked like men who would be friends with our dads, the men who tried to pick us up like we were virgin prostitutes. But we were too young to grasp what was happening. Our mothers hadn’t told us not to sit on the grassy corner of a street to talk and giggle. They never told us that men prowled our quiet suburban streets looking for girls like us. Exchange of money for an exchange of innocence. “How much?” they’d ask and we’d respond with, “How much for what?” We didn’t comprehend the adult game these men were playing. They could’ve been our dads. Two girls braiding daisy chains and enjoying the sunshine on a grassy corner on a quiet residential street. We were naive and so close to danger. Grown men. I was thirteen.

He looked like any other preteen boy, gangly and handsome in a little boy way, the boy who grabbed my breasts every day at school. But I was made to feel guilty for developing early. “Girls with big breasts are easy. They’re asking for it,” the boys whispered to each other. I wasn’t the only one being molested every day in the crowded Junior High hallways between classes. Other girls had breasts, too. We told the school officials, they told us he’s a good boy. A good student. They told us we should be ashamed for enticing nice boys. One woman called my friend a slut. We told our mothers. They told us boys will be boys and to stay away from them if we didn’t like it. Like it? We learned to hold our notebooks clutched protectively to our chests. We learned to wear baggy t-shirts that didn’t show our budding figures. We learned that no one would back us up if we sought help. A teenage boy. I was fourteen.

Upside-Down World


upside down hanging lamp

This is a short excerpt from a project I’ll be working on during the month of July for Camp Nanowrimo. This work currently has no name.  It will be a cross-genre work of fiction blurred with non-fiction, poetry, memoir, prose, stream-of-consciousness, epistolary forms.  And whatever else may work its way in there.


Upside-Down World
by Debi


Friends become enemies. Lovers, exes. Families, estranged. What the hell’s happening? The world is upside-down. My world is upside-down.

I’d lie on my back, hang my head down over the edge of the bed—down over the edge of the world—and the ceiling of my childhood home became the floor. The floor, the ceiling.  Magic.  This was Upside-Down World. A charmed world peopled by people similar to my people. But altered. Different. Stronger. Bolder. I was younger. Ceiling Girl older.

Upside-Down World was sparse. The only décor, an occasional floor lamp (the hanging lamps of right-side up world). The floor (my ceiling) was white, flowing-from-room-to-room. White. Always the same. Uniform. Level. Steady. I sensed something serene about those sparsely furnished and simply colored ceiling spaces. I knew nothing of Zen. But felt the truth. Less was more.

Lying on my back in this house, this home of my grownup years, the ceiling’s slanted. Unsteady. Yes. So is grownup life. No level surfaces. No easy answers. No sure footing. An upside-down world.

Dear Ceiling Girl …

You’ve watched. What did you see? What do you see? Does it make sense? You’ve followed me forever, looking down. A witness. Seen the highs. The rockbottomness of rockbottoms. Can you trace the path, the twisted journey, that led here? I’m lost. I’m here, but lost.  Confused.  I miss the surety of childhood’s future. The hopes. Dreams. Imaginations. Magic. Witchcraft. Wishcraft.

Are you still there, Ceiling Girl? Or did this upside-down world shake your footing, too?

~Me


Technological Autobiography: My Life with Home Appliances


My Life with Home Appliances

by Deborah Taylor-Hough


“Technology serves as a Rorschach over a lifetime, a projective screen for our changing and emotionally charged commitments.”[1]  – Sherry Turkle, Inner History of Devices


my freezerBack in the days before modern appliances, the work of keeping up a home was a full-time job.  From the need to replenish meats and vegetables on almost a daily basis due to a lack of safe food storage options, to washing clothing and diapers at the riverside, housekeeping was a never-ending chore.   I will examine the history of modern work-saving devices, looking at how the development of these items saves time and effort, focusing on stories from my own life and my family’s history and also discuss the role of appliances in the liberation of women from the solitary role of housewife. Continue reading

Experiment: An American Story


by Debi


My first word was boat.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the Coast from Coos Bay.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the Coast from Coos Bay near the spot their family landed after sailing the Plains in a Prairie Schooner.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the Coast from Coos Bay near the spot their family landed after sailing the Plains in a Prairie Schooner who were descended from Puritans who crossed The Pond on the second boat to Plymouth.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the Coast from Coos Bay near the spot where the family landed after sailing the Plains in a Prairie Schooner who were descended from Puritans who crossed The Pond on the second boat to Plymouth whose ancestor was a second son of royalty who came across the North Sea from Sweden.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father had been a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the coast from Coos Bay near the spot where the family landed after sailing the Plains in a Prairie Schooner who were descended from Puritans who crossed The Pond on the second boat to Plymouth whose ancestor was a second son of royalty who came across the North Sea from Sweden who was descended from Vikings who circled and settled the Norwegian Sea from Norway to Iceland to Scotland to Ireland and possibly Greenland and even America.

My first word was boat.


Writing Prompt: Where would you be if you hadn’t left your hometown?

This resembles the landscape in my recurring dream.

This resembles the landscape in my recurring dream.


Where would I be if we hadn’t moved? Who would I have been if we had stayed? I’m not sure I would’ve been alive for long.

Moving bought me time. Time to live a life removed from the places and people of childhood. Away from bullies and abusers. Away from those who still haunt my dreams and waking moments.

But then, no escape. Nowhere to run.

Bullied at school. Bullied on the street. Those ever grasping, groping hands in back lots and clubhouses. Insanity at home. Everywhere I turned, I saw only myself and my screaming face of desperation—like being trapped inside a dead-end House of Mirrors.

Let me out! Let me out! But no one hears. No rescue comes.

Help me? Please?

No. Hush, child.

A child left in the care of mental illness. They were blind. Deaf. Dumb. Numb to normal feelings.

The recurring, on-going dream of my childhood was about being buried alive. By my family. Every night. Every night beginning where it left off the night before. The nightmare that perhaps told the story of my childhood.

It went like this:

For far too many nights, tied down in a cart full of hay. Pulled by an old horse. Up and up and up and up the winding unpaved cart path.

Past the homes of friends, homes of family. Past the school, the shops, the weathered farms. To a field of grass and flowers. And a gaping grave.

They took me down from the cart, setting me quietly into the hole in the ground. Throwing clods onto my tiny child body. No! Stop! Please? Please don’t! Was I unable to make a sound? Or were they unable to hear? Or did they choose to continue despite the pleas and cries.

They were silent. Ever serious.

One handful. Another. Covering my legs. My tiny torso. My arms and hands. My face. The dirt collected in my ears, my mouth, my eyes, my nose.

The earth is cold and smells of damp. Smells of earthworms. Beetles. Clover. Grass tufts. The silence covers, envelopes, crushes me.

The lens of my dream retreats from inside my earthen grave. New scene: My family all walking away back down the hill. Silently.

The shot pans through the grim parade. The parents. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Single file. Returning from the hill.

The shot pans once more. See the empty field? A freshly dug space, no larger than a child. A view of the mountains. The soft touch of gentle breezes on wisps of grass and weeds.

The dreams ended then. The burial was complete, haunting my waking and dreaming moments.
For the rest of my life.

Who would I have been if we hadn’t moved? Still buried. Still silent. Still watching.

Without leaving, there would have been no future. No me. There is nothing to see or imagine in that alternative timeline.

It would have been

The End.

There are Places I Remember

51rkz0q2f7lby Debi

My parents didn’t move far from Yarrow Point where Dad grew up. They bought a cozy little house on Clyde Hill and settled in to raise their little family. So I came of age in what I call Retro Bellevue—now home to upscale shopping malls, expensive condos, conference centers, and towering buildings.

Back in my day, however, I referred to Bellevue as the City of Short Buildings. Even calling Bellevue a city seemed a stretch back then. The town felt more like Mayberry. Us kids wandered the streets, walked to corner stores, rode the ferris wheel at Kiddyland, and drank root beer floats with our moms at Newberry’s lunch counter. There were monkeys in the window of Nordstrom Shoes, a raccoon cage in the middle of the roller coaster, and a drinking bar for watering all the free-roaming dogs outside Frederick & Nelson’s north entrance at The Square. Continue reading