My Ideal Bookshelf – Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss

I’ve been putting off writing about my Ideal Bookshelf, and it’s mostly because of this book.

I didn’t want to think about why this book meant so much to me.

I didn’t want to remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap, dressed in an oversized Purdue Boilermaker t-shirt, and following along as he turned each well-worn page.

I didn’t want to because I have not seen my grandfather in over a year.

And, I miss him.

I miss who I thought he was as the facade shattered when he proudly pinned his MAGA pin to his sweater vest the last Christmas I visited Oklahoma.

I miss who I thought all my family was and who I need them to be.

But, this post is about Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, not them.

Yet, my memories and love for this book cannot divorced from memories of visiting my grandparents in their ranch style home on the plains of Enid, Oklahoma. Days spent fishing. Days spent building scrap forts. Days spent swimming. Followed by nights of a bowl of vanilla ice cream, topped with Hershey’s chocolate syrup and book after book read by my grandpa.

My brother and I would squirm in for the best spot on his lap, bringing with us a large stack of books. One, two, three . . . were never enough, and we would always beg for another book before bed.

But, always, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! was my favorite.

I felt that as he read the book he truly believed that I could be whoever I wanted to be and do anything I wanted to do.

Realities and convictions certainly change a glimpse into nostalgia.

Still, the book remains a treasure.

At the end of the school year, I would read the book to my students.

It was always my final activity to close out the school year, and it is an activity that I miss now that I am no longer directly teaching in the classroom.

I miss a lot of things.


My Ideal Bookshelf – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

As my brother and I wandered a now defunct toy store in Tulsa, we waited impatiently by the front of the store as our mom was checking out. What was being purchased or why we were there, I could not say, but as we were waiting, we came across a glass case with a hardback of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on proud display.

Harry Potter? I thought to myself. What kind of a ridiculous name is Harry Potter for a wizard?

Unable to keep my mockery to myself, I began on my anti-Potter rant.

“Look at me, I am Harry, a wizard.”

“My name is Harry. I fly on a broom.”

“I have a lightning bolt on my head.”

I can still hear my tiny human self’s tone as I continued bashing the, in my estimate, poorly named book about a boy wizard.

As we exited the store, I remember thinking to myself that the book would never be popular, and it would be one that I would never read.

Fast forward to that Christmas with my grandparents in Enid, Oklahoma, I would open a box containing the first two Harry Potter novels and the newly released third entry. I smiled and thanked them, but I was clearly more interested in the Lego set I had received.

Yet, as the endless hours of football played across the two television sets and I grew bored with my new Lego masterpiece, I finally made my way to England, Diagon Alley, and the halls of Hogwarts.

I blocked out my mockery of Harry Potter and became a Potterhead, which marked the first time I was ever wrong about anything . . .


My Ideal Bookshelf – Ishmael

Ishmael, Daniel Quinn

I remember spotting all three books in my father’s recycling bin, Ishmael, The Story of B, and My Ishmael.

It must have been during my time in high school because of where he and my stepmom were living, but I can’t remember the reason for the books being in the recycling bin. Perhaps, my father had simply moved on from the books’ ideas. Or, was just cleaning house.

Regardless, I asked if I could have them and reread Ishmael and read The Story of B and My Ishmael for the first time.

Perhaps, if my father knew that Quinn’s book would lead me down the path of atheism, he never would have given me the first one of the trilogy.

In all likelihood, he would have burned them for blasphemy.

Perhaps, that’s why they were being recycled.

(I plan to one day cover the hypocrisy of the Republican agenda to that of my dad and family’s lifelong recycling, but now this post is not that time or place.)

Ishmael and the third of the series have a strange fantasy premise of learning from a talking gorilla, which is probably why the loosely adapted film version, Instinct, lacked the anthropomorphized ape.

Yet, the books, particularly the first and last opened up history in a new and interesting way. It challenged the worldview that I had been shown all my life, and it turned it completely around.

I questioned everything from that point forward.






I once tried to have a friend read Ishmael, but she was never able to get into it. In her view, she already knew what the book was trying to say. I guess as you educate yourself and grow, you naturally begin to look at the world differently.

But, as a teenager trying to figure out my place in the world in small town Oklahoma, it was another chance to discover and to question.

Flashbacks from the Wild, Part 3: Caves, Dragon’s Egg, and Guano

Sunday morning cartoons paled in comparison to Saturday morning cartoons. In fact, Sunday spent at my mom’s house lacked any cartoons, which was due to either attending the weekly church service when she could not be convinced not to go or because our basic cable package lacked Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel only played TV movies in the morning.

A particular Disney TV movie was on my mind as we made our way deeper into the caverns at Carlsbad.

I couldn’t remember the name of the movie or who was in it or what even happens in the movie, except for a teenager getting lost in a cave and finding a dragon’s egg.

I made a mental note to google the movie and see if I could find the title of the movie and read the synopsis. It was not the time for such things as Google or Snapchat or the Twitters because under the advice of the park ranger, my iPhone was now on airplane mode. For some reason, cell service is quite poor hundreds of feet underground.

The path of the cave was well lit, and I spent much of the time snapping pictures of beautiful rock formations cast in eerie lights for park goers to enjoy.

The cave was much larger and deeper than any I’d ever been to before, and I’d been to quite a few caves.

Again, no Google underground and the names escaped me, but I remembered the cave under Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. I’d been to Silver Dollar City quite a few times, but I only remember exploring the cave once. I’d been to Missouri’s strange amalgamation of Las Vegas, a cruise ship, hillbilliness, and bible-thumping more times than I care to emit, but a few pleasant memories of Branson exist. A few.

I remembered camping in Oklahoma with my mom, step-dad, brother, and my dog, Cricket, and after a night of tenting, we explored the campground’s cave.

Silver Dollar City’s was much larger than the Oklahoma one, but it was still much smaller than Carlsbad’s.

Further and further into the underground, my friends and I traversed.

Yet, one previous cave stood out the most.

In high school, I was a part of nearly every club there was at the school, except those that were Christian or farming affiliated. And as part of the Gifted program and the Science Club, we ventured to a nearly uncharted cave in northeastern Oklahoma.

The first trip does not particular standout, other than a girl getting stuck for a bit when she tried to follow my cave exploring. And, when we went back as far as we could travel, blocked from going farther by a cave lake, we shut off all the lights, and I practiced my best Gollum impersonation. This prompted a pitch black Gollum-off. I still stand firm that I won.

It is hard to know for sure now, but I think I went on the first trip my sophomore year because if I am remembering correctly who was there from my high school, it had to be my sophomore year.

The second time I went to the cave more memories are easily recalled. The cave was nearly flooded so we were unable to go back into it as far as the previous trip. When attempting to find a handhold, I accidentally touched a small bat. I hopelessly flirted with a girl that I ended up not asking to my senior prom because a few weeks later I would go out on my first official date with a girl I would meet at a speech tournament, who would later become my first girlfriend, first love, and first breakup. I also had the world’s worst shoes for caving, and with the cave being a bit muddier due to the rains, I spent much of the time slipping and sliding all over the cave.

Upon exiting the cave this time, my coveralls were completely covered in a thick layer of mud and bat guano.

Meandering through Carlsbad Caverns, my mind was lost in memories, as I followed the lighted path to the elevator to travel back to the surface.

As I sit down to write this blog post, I decide not to look up the Disney dragon egg movie.

Some things are better left as memories because the whole picture can sometimes ruin a trek to the past.

Flashbacks from the Wild, Part 2: Orange Dream Shirt

Occasionally, I, and I assume many others do as well, have recurring dreams. Some dreams standout fully. Some dreams just snippets here and there. I’ve not had any vivid and outstanding dreams for a while and certainly none recently that are recurring. But, as we made our way to the canyon we were hiking to, our conversation shifted, ebbed and flowed, to that of dreams.  

From Carlsbad, our hiking spot was an hour or so through dirt and gravel roads with signs that read “If Light Is Blinking, Toxic Gas Present. Do Not Enter,” which was a sign similar to that on Hawaii’s Big Island as my brother, stepfather, and myself made our way across the lava flow with stop signs peeking out of the lava rock and other signs telling people to turn back as they will be breathing in glass fragments and carcinogens. We did not turn back then. We don’t turn back now.

The trail was well marked, at least it was until the trail ended, and we made our way down into the canyon for a lunch of trail mix, hummus, and cheeses. As we chat, I discussed one recurring dream I had growing up.

It is a take on the whole suddenly-aware-you-are-naked-in-public dream. Only in this dream, I am wearing a giant white T-shirt with a smiling orange on the front of it. I don’t go into all of the details about the dreams, but I get the gist across.

I remember dreams where I am in middle school wearing the giant T-shirt and nothing else and trying to be nonchalant about it. Or, where I am riding a giant wheeled old-timey bicycle across my hometown with only the shirt on. Or, where I am rolling silverware at my grandparent’s diner. Or, where I am counting money in the safe at the now defunct Hastings Entertainment. In all scenarios, the only thing I am wearing is the dress-like giant white T-shirt with a smiling orange on it.

As we discuss dreams and then the conversation launches into other subjects, I tried to place where that shirt came from.

At the time of the hike, I couldn’t.

The following day, we are off to the famous Carlsbad Caverns.

On the drive, we passed by a drive-in theater, and then, it hit me.

The smiling orange shirt.

A familiar childhood spot was the Admiral Twin Drive-In in Tulsa, OK. I spent many summers watching the somewhat blurry screen with somewhat poor audio quality emitting from the car’s stereo. And, I think back to the very first time my mom, brother, and I loaded up the white Ford Taurus.

It was after a day of swimming at my grandparents, and in wet trunks, we loaded up into the car to watch the Ferris Bueller starring in the latest Godzilla remake.

I remember only wearing a t-shirt, found under the sink at my grandparents sink, which is a place I remember well because it held many girl swimsuits that I could never bring myself to wear but would always think about it, every single time I went swimming.

Was a smiling orange on it?

I wonder.

Flashbacks from the Wild, Part 1: Fuel and Fury

As the narrator reads through the president’s decision to ban transgender people from the military, an almost inhuman rage fills me as I scream, “Fuck you,” in an empty car.

Tears well in my eyes, as I continue to mumble, “fuck, fuck, fuck” over and over again.

The glass is beginning to fog and ice over from the clouds hovering on the ground. It is much colder driving back home than it was driving to Carlsbad.


I was looking forward to the drive and to a weekend getaway, even though winter break had been filled with one getaway after the other.

But, I was particularly looking forward to this drive because I would be able to listen to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. On recent road trips, I’d listened to Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green and Unbelievable by Katy Tur, which were informative, fascinating, and only fueled my revulsion for this racist and paying-hush-money-to-pornstars Dear Leader.

Nothing in the book was surprising.

It only furthered my resolve to resist, to stand up for what’s right.

But, as the words were read as I made my way down to Carlsbad, I couldn’t help but think about recent news revelations, i.e. Shithole-gate.

Once again, the president was caught in another moment of racism and Republicans were bending over backwards to find a loophole out of his racism, or simply to excuse it. Meanwhile, neo-Nazis were praising their elected troll from all corners of the internet.

I’d always thought I’d been taught that racism was wrong, evil.

How’s is it a topic for debate now?

Then, as my car rumbled down the highway, I remembered a conversation.

Prior to moving to New Mexico, I went up to Tulsa, on this particular trip for three reasons. One, to search for engagement diamond options. Two, to close out my original savings account in favor of an account I could access across state lines. And, three, to have lunch with my grandparents.

After I accomplished my first two tasks, I met my grandparents at my, then, favorite spot, Siegi’s Sausage Factory.

It’s funny because there are a few meals there that come to mind. My mother ordering salmon (it’s a German restaurant) off the dinner menu at my birthday lunch. A meal with my ex after the trans-intervention with my family. And, actually, quite a few others.  

Yet, this one’s stands out in a more profound way.

It was the first time I remember having fundamental disagreement with my grandparents.

One where I could not see or understand their point of view, and I could tell that they were disappointed in mine.

As we ate, and I have no recollection of how it was brought up, my grandparents expressed their dismay at the University of Tulsa changing the name of its law school after it was revealed that the founder of the law school had been affiliated with the KKK.

From my point of view, of course the university would want to distance itself from the racism and bigotry and of any association with that hate group, and I expressed as much.

After much back and forth, the conversation went nowhere.

They had their opinion.

I had mine.

And as the words of Michael Wolff filled my car as I rumbled down to Carlsbad, flashes of that meal and conversation swirled through my mind.


Trump Attacks Senator Who Confirmed ‘Shithole Countries’ Comments   

University of Tulsa law school to remove founder’s name after discovering his affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan

Croquet, A Tradition

It’s been two days of skiing, and I am aching. I have not skied since a half day at Sandia to celebrate my undergraduate degree in 2010. So, to wind down after a walk around a lake (and I refuse to call it a hike because my body is sore, and I know it would do a full revolt if it knew I took it on a hike) and exploring the California mountain town, my friends and I opted for a couple rounds of tabletop croquet.

I have a long history of tabletop croquet and an even longer one of croquet. Having held a mallet since I could walk, my launch into the miniaturized table top version began in high school, when a set was found at Pier 1 while looking for mother-approved Christmas ornaments. My brother and I took the set to visit my father and family in Houston to celebrate the New Year, as the Houston lawns proved much too small for the actual version of the game. Finding the miniature version a success, I would later convince the Mannford High School Student Council to host a tabletop croquet tournament during one of the generic sports homecomings my senior year.

My competitive side really shows during a round of croquet.

“No, take your two! Set up and make your wickets! But, you gotta make it!”

“Come on! You gotta make those shots!”

“Nice. You’re good. He’s wicketed from you.”

“Roquet us both, but not too hard, but you gotta hit us, too.”

My croquet coaching takes me back.

It takes me back to recently showing my friends tabletop croquet at a going away party for a friend leaving the state, as my teammates look skeptical as I explain the many, many rules.  

It takes me back to Oxford. As I take a break from writing about Shakespeare, with a mallet in one hand and a gin and tonic in the other, I rule the pristine lawn surrounded by buildings, which had at one time been film sets for the Harry Potter film series and various period pieces. Somewhere, hidden in the internet is a Facebook photo from my old non-trans account, when I could still be befriended by family, of my blue striped hoodie and middle school-aged khaki shorts with pockets large enough to hold a large bottle of fizzy water and a Robert Jordan paperback. I still have the hoodie. The shorts, I believe, finally dissolved in the wash. It takes me back to “going high pitch” in frustration as my team failed to make their shots, a vocal intonation, which would earn me the nickname of Princess of Yearbook during my junior year of high school, and a nickname that when an ex questioned what P.O.Y. meant, I would lie and say it meant Prince of Yearbook.

The game of tabletop croquet continues to take me back.


And, further.

To family reunions and tournaments.

To never making it to the final round.

To tracing my finger along my father and uncle’s name on the winning plaque, hoping that one day, my name would be on it.

To my grandparents lawn with towering trees, surrounded by an expansive garden, a pool with a diving board, a large dog run, a yellowish-brown tin barn covered speckled with spray painted the University of Oklahoma symbols, courtesy of my father and uncle.

I remember game after game of croquet on that lawn.

But, I remember things said to.

And although, I wish I could make the words go away or make the words impact lessen, I can’t.

“Did you bring your husband with you?”

It’s uttered as my father’s shot comes up short.

It’s laughed when my uncle’s mallet skims the top of the ball, not making solid contact.

It’s teased when I fail to make the next wicket, leaving my ball in a perfect position to be used by the other team.

The remembered phrase makes me feel sick.


But, I remember.  

As the games of the night end, my team loses both, and while I want a rematch, I have a thirteen hour drive in the morning and head to bed.

But, I hear the phrase “Did you bring your husband with you?” again and again, uttered by my father and family members. It reeks of misogyny. And, I wonder, how many memories will continue to be tainted by sexism, racism, homophobia, or transphobia?

2018 – What is the Cost of a Principle?

I’m not going to dive back into my thoughts about border patrol stationed north of Las Cruces because I already went into my . . . shall we say . . . discomfort at this idea.

But, as I cross through the checkpoint, waved through at this point, my car must be in their system, a phrase from my audiobook lingers in my mind long after it is read aloud by one of the narrator.

“What is the cost of a principle?”

As the characters in Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer discuss the trials and tribulation of leadership, and while I won’t discuss my rapture for the author’s latest fantasy epic, the phrase causes reflection.

“What is the cost of a principle?”

I think about the four postcards sitting in the hardback of Oathbringer, postcards from my California ski trip, postcards that I can’t decide what to do with.

Do I send them?

To who?



What would I say?

I think about the new year and celebrating this New Year’s Eve at a drag show at an El Paso gay bar.

I think back on past New Year’s Eves.

Watching the clock on a stove in old Albuquerque High School, renovated into a studio apartment, with a ginger beer margarita in hand.

Watching the clock on a small TV in the kitchen, finding the cliched Times Square coverage to be nearly unbearable.

Watching the clock in the living room at my grandparents’ in Enid, Oklahoma, bundled in a coat, hat, and gloves after being dragged behind a four-wheeler in a sled.

A drag show is certainly one way to celebrate the New Year.

The audiobook continues the epic story of good versus evil.

But, I keep coming back to, “What is the cost of a principle?”

Is it time?

Is it family?

Is it friends?

Is the principle worth it?

What Kind of Year Has It Been? (2017 Edition)

While contrite and perhaps a bit predictable, let’s review the year of 2017.

2017, a year of devastating consequences and hope.

From every single time the 45th president opened his mouth to every time that the Republican party caved to his immortality for the sake of power to every vile policy enacted (Muslim Ban, Trans Military Ban, CDC Word Ban, Tax Scam, Ending DACA, and every other dismantling of U.S. democratic institutions) to the cowardice and the traitorous failing to hold the 45 president’s administration accountable for their election collusion and corruption to the rise of open white supremacy in the name of the Alt-Right and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, 2017 has taken its toll.

It has taken its toll on me and on others.

It has taken its toll on the relationships with others.

It has led to “To Whom It May Concern,” to “Disappointment,” and to “Where Things Stand”.

It has led to “Child of Trump Nominee Speaks Out.”

It has led to the Women’s March and the March for Science and the Tax March.

It has led to ACLU and Human Rights Campaign donations.

It has led to action and voting and calling my member of Congress.

It has led to being called mean and cruel for speaking up and out.

It has led to near-breaking, near-shattering.

Yet, as the shadow falls across a once proud and hopeful nation, it is not the end.

Though, it is an ending.

And, with that ending, hope still remains because even in 2017’s darkest moments, there was joy.

There was camping and board games and paintings and new friendships and city exploring and a Drag Queen Christmas and skiing and resolve.

Resolve to get through this.

Resolve to move forward.


Because as 2018 promises more darkness and devastation, for not just those who are marginalized but for all of American democracy, there is still hope.

There will always be hope in the darkest of places.

And in the words of a Jedi Master, “This is not going to go the way you think.”

Aware. Never Forgetting. Now, Always Forward.  

To Whom It May Concern


Where Things Stand

Child of Trump Nominee Speaks Out

My Ideal Bookshelf – Hatchet

Hatchet, Gary Paulsen

There are a lot of books on my Ideal Bookshelf, which I consider to be gateway books. Neil Gaiman’s 1602 led to Ultimate Spider-Man and the New Avengers and Invincible and more. Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World led to A Wizard’s First Rule and A Game of Thrones and The Way of Kings and more. Gary Paulsen’s wilderness survival narrative is another one of those gateways. A gateway to escapism, to isolation, to freedom from society’s norms and expectations.

Hatchet is one of those novels that launched me into the world of rigorous reading. Prior to Hatchet, I’d read, but not in the same way. I’d read Hank the Cowdog or The Hardy Boys or Animorphs, but while impactful, these literary works are more “literature” and less “Literature,” a biased distinction I would learn about in college.

Yet, with Hatchet, I would devour more and more wilderness survival novels from Paulsen and others. These stories, while primarily about a male survivor, explored a protagonist that didn’t fit in with the world, a protagonist that escaped. While sometimes these escapes into the world of the wild was voluntary, like in Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain or Paulsen’s The Island, sometimes they were less than voluntary, as in Hatchet. Yet, always, the escape into the wilderness is transformative, life changing.

Perhaps, that’s why I dreamed of my own wilderness escape, developed a fascination with sustainable living.

Or, perhaps, it was something else.

After all, Hatchet was just a story about a kid realizing their place in the world, a place unexpected but a place they belonged.