Sink or Swim 🖤

After my mom’s car accident, she got an insurance settlement. I can’t remember how much it was. It was enough to buy her a brand new candy apple red Honda Prelude, the nicest car she ever bought herself. It was cute and sporty and seemed to elevate us. When she could walk again, she also booked us a trip to Europe. Three weeks, I think?

This was the summer before I started high school. We were supposed to go visit her family in Holland and travel around Western Europe. We were both very excited about the trip, we had to get passports. We went to Macy’s to get new clothes for the trip. I remember I got some new white keds, some cute capri jeans, and a white sleeveless button down with rainbow colored vertical stripes. Always vertical. Suck it in.

Everyday, I had chores. The usual ones like washing the dishes and taking out the trash, cleaning my room. They were expected to be done before she got home from work. Normal.

About two weeks before the trip she added her room to my chore list. She had a huge pile of clean clothes that needed to be folded and hung up and put away. A huge pile. There was no way I was going to be able to finish before she got home. And the verbal punishment for not “holding up my end of the bargain” was always more than I needed. Yelling. Intensity. Too much. Grounded. No phone calls. No friends. For the slightest infraction, it seemed. I swear I was always grounded. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to feel what it feels like to displease her. So I stashed some of her clothes under her bed, thinking I would finish the next day and she would never know. She knew. She yelled and raged at me. I went to my room. And she said she wasn’t taking me to Europe anymore.

With two weeks left before the trip, she cancelled my flight. She invited her friend, Debbie. And she went on the trip of her lifetime. I stayed with my friend Meesh. Michelle. Meishelle. Anyway you spell it, we were both going to CKM HISP together while most of our Sutter Middle classmates were going to Sac High. And she lived in Natomas, too.

They had a nice two-story house in the new development not too far from the condo. They had a living room that we were not allowed to walk in because her mom liked to see the lines from the vacuum cleaner. We could walk to my house to use the pool if we wanted or if I needed clothes or something. My mom had a friend that was “house-sitting” for some reason. We didn’t have pets then, so IDK why.

One day, Meesh and I walked to the condo and used my key to get in. No one was there, but it looked real lived in and in my mom’s room there was a mirror on the night stand with lines of white powder, all in a row. Razor blade laying next to them. Me and Meesh got out of there before my mom’s friend came home. I was mortified. Good thing I can’t remember the friend’s name. All I remember was big hair.

When my mom got home she couldn’t wait to get her film developed and show me what a great time they had. On my trip. She even paid for her friend to go with her. I won’t forget that feeling. Let’s get excited, Annie. It’s going to be so fun and you are such a lucky kid. Let’s go shopping. Let’s make all the plans. Oops, you fucked up, now you can’t go. But I will have so much more fun without you anyway. See, look how much fun it was?

That wasn’t the last time she made promises she didn’t keep.

Now that I’m writing about MY LIFE, she’s triggered. Understandably, really. For years, I have wanted to write. I thought maybe a book, but it felt too big. Too daunting. Plus, I thought I couldn’t publish anything until after they were all dead, because it is not my intention to hurt anyone or expose or embarrass. My intention is to get it out, let it go, give it to the wind, lighten my load. And if someone thinks my writing is compelling and I can make some money off of my own personal therapy and the story of MY LIFE, I got bills to pay. Everyone else that would care is dead now. Except her.

So she’s been emailing me. She corrected a few of my inaccuracies. So I changed a few details. But I did not start this blog so that I could reconnect with her. My door is still closed and I hope she can respect that and stop emailing me. The problem is that every time I engage with her, I have a panic attack. We are like oil and water. Fire and ice. She’s the fire. She has a razor sharp tongue and says things I would never say to my children, when she is triggered. She sees literally everything differently than I do. When I was a kid, I had no choice. I had to accept all of it. Be the punching bag…or the mirror. I had to take it. And deal with it. Or shut down. Go inside. Hard crunchy shell. Like an M&M.

But I don’t have to anymore. My most recent therapist told me I have PTSD and that it is ok to protect myself from more harm. To delete and block. To go no contact. In fact, she didn’t just say it was ok, she said it was in my best interest for my own mental health to close the door.

Guess what, I found I don’t need Ativan if I keep that door shut. Peace replaced turmoil. Unless I’m triggered. And closing that door does not mean I don’t love her. It doesn’t mean that everything in our lives was bad. There was a lot of good. She taught me how to love! And she taught me survival. I always knew she loved me. She taught me how to ski when I was five, by holding me up between her legs. Make a pizza. No poles. We did fun things. We went waterskiing in her friends’ boats. We went rafting on the river. I was usually the only kid. Or the oldest kid so I could babysit while they partied. I loved babysitting. I always loved little kids. I loved to be down on the floor playing with them and making art projects. Reading them goodnight stories. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. Angels on your pillow.

I remember the hot, burning sand on my feet when we walked from the parking lot to Paradise Beach. I used to swim back and forth across the river, against the current, no life vest. Literally back and forth, one shore to the next. We didn’t know it was unsafe, then. I was a strong swimmer. Still am. Still swimming against the current. Diving into a tempest in a teacup, with an anchor tied around my ankles. Sink or swim.

I don’t know if I will ever be ok enough to open the door. I’m sure it doesn’t seem fair to her, and I understand. I’m hoping she forgives me for being broken and and sees the strength within me. That she sees that all of the harsh lessons led me to this life of abundance I have created. And that although my walls are too high to scale, I know how to build them, I know how to take care of me, and I broke the cycle and created stability for her grandchildren. I gave them what neither of us had. They have a foundation of stone to jump off. They know they are loved. And I taught them both how to ski. No poles.

And so, I write.

For me. With the door closed.


Tattoo made by Timpac.

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Tits Up

OMG. My tits are going viral! In the middle of the night the Daily Mail in the UK published a story about my breast reduction and now all these other news outlets have picked it up, mostly in the UK at this point. Some in the EU and US, even AU. My favorite so far honestly, is Scotland! I am finally a real Outlander! 😹 Google search “Annie Anderson breast reduction” and/or “Annie Anderson boob cast” and you will see! It’s crazy, y’all! Just from one 15 second Tiktok video I made!

After that video got 3 Million Views in a matter of days, I was contacted by a press agency. They wanted to write a story about my breast reduction. We worked out a deal and they sent me interview questions. I checked them out to make sure they were legit by contacting all the journalists I know and scoped out other content creators that they represent, so I knew what I was getting into. I knew it was hopefully going to hit The Daily Mail, The Sun, other tabloids and who knows where else! I knew they would try and make it sound crazy and fun and interesting and dramatic. I answered their questions and gave them some photos (I don’t remember giving them the damn parrot photo and regret it if I did, l will tell you the story behind that damn parrot some other time, lol) and then I didn’t hear anything for a week or so. The reporter emailed asking for more photos from 2012 when I first started to consider plastic surgery and from when I was younger. So I grabbed some of the photos that were not buried deep (like my memories) and sent them over. He said they would try and pitch the article the next day and he would let me know if anyone picked it up. Two nights went by, no email. When I was on my break at work I decided to google “Annie Anderson Breast Reduction Cast” and instantly the top three links were photos of me and stories! They had literally dropped a few hours before! So I knew before the reporter contacted me, lol.

The top hit was the article in The Daily Mail-UK. I opened the page and my jaw dropped and my hands and legs started trembling and my co-workers thought I was losing my mind…which incidentally might not be a unique occurrence, I know.

As the night went on , more and more websites were posting their version of the story. All very similar, but also different takes and interpretations of my interview answers. I did not write the article. And I know it’s a little outrageous, and I know it’s not “news” and I know there are plenty of women with boobs bigger than mine and I know this is the most I have laughed in 2 and a half years. There is so much beauty in that. I am finally at the place in a woman’s life that we learn to love ourselves as we are (yes, I know I needed surgery to get there) but I finally don’t give one flying fuck what some anonymous hater on the other side of the globe thinks of my decisions or of my body. You cannot hurt me by saying I’m fat anymore. I carried the pain of being called fat and I remember every single circumstance and face of the person that said it to me. Of their moms that heard them and either pretended not to or then yelled at them or punished them because they threw stones at me before I was wearing my armor. Of the guy that called me a “FAT CUNT” when I accidentally cut him off on the road. Well, I’m suited up now, Bitches! I am me. Your insults and idiocy mean nothing to me. And PS for the people bashing my tattoos in the comments, lol: I fucking LOVE my mid-life crisis aka party arm. My tattoos are badges of fucking honor. They are better than therapy to me. And I have plans for more.

So sit back and enjoy the ride…

You are lucky to know me as I am lucky to know you. Be kind. It’s not hard.

Or STFU. La, La, La, La, La…I can’t hear you.

And that, my friends, is the most powerful position a woman can be in. Wonder Woman. Gold-plated wrist guards to deflect all of your bullshit. And a gold lasso to pull myself out and away if I choose to go.

Here’s my angle. I remember being home alone, a lot. Standing in the kitchen and eating for so many reasons, most often not hunger. My mom always provided a roof over my head and food to eat somehow, someway.

When I was a child, I was usually the chubby kid. I have solid memories of my mom telling me to “suck it in” intermixed with eating my fries and at least half of hers. I remember nights where we had only an artichoke with mayo for dinner. I remember canned green beans and generic Mac and Cheese from the yellow or white box with black writing and nonfat milk with Crystal Light whipped with a hand mixer until it was fluffy cuz it was a low cal dessert and no, we never drink juice, empty calories. I remember crying in the grocery checkout because my stomach hurt so badly because I hadn’t eaten all day or I hadn’t eaten enough and the checker was giving my mom a hard time about the Food Stamps and we couldn’t get home fast enough to eat the liver in the bloody white tub and the ketchup my mom bought with the government’s money. So much ketchup. Drown it. Don’t even chew it. Choke it down. Do they even sell liver at the grocery store anymore? Let’s fucking hope not.

I do stand by an artichoke as a solid dinner option, usually paired with some kind of meat, BTW. Chicken breast or steak preferred. And I’m not gonna lie, I like me some A-1. And I add balsamic to the mayo cuz now I’m fancy.



1. the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.

2. deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc.: poverty of the soil.

3. scantiness; insufficiency.

That’s how you define poverty. I’m pretty sure if you qualify for Food Stamps in the state of California that you are living at poverty level.

I grew up in poverty.

And my mom worked hard and pulled us right out of that shit. The cycle broken. I’m broke, but I’m not poor. I worked hard and I pulled myself up a-whole-nother notch. I’m still working hard. At life.

So when the news agent asked if I was interested in allowing them to write a story about my breast reduction and basically represent me and my story to pitch to the world with the very slight possibility of making some money if it got picked up, I was all in. I embarrass myself for free every single day. I like to hand wash my laundry and hang it out to dry and I don’t give a damn who sees my underwear anymore.

Get it?

It’s my underwear. I can show it if I want to.

You don’t have to click or follow, but I do appreciate it when you do. You don’t have to like what I have to say, but I also appreciate that when you do. When you get me. You don’t have to believe every tabloid headline, and I’d appreciate it if you don’t. Remember, I didn’t write the story, I just answered questions about my story.

Don’t get it twisted.

So let’s have fun and see where this goes. If we ain’t laughin’, we cryin’ and it’s time for us big mamas to live our best life in whatever way we can.

It’s time to love the life we are living.

And it’s time to shine.

Thanks, Sam, for finding me. Right after I found my damn self. 🖤

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Always On My Mind 🖤

The last time I spent any real time with my dad was when I was 12. It was then that I realized that the only time I saw my dad was if I called him or his girlfriend to ask if I could come visit. So I tested the theory. I waited for him to call me and tell me he missed me and could he come pick me up. Turns out, I waited forever.

At my Aunt Luanne’s wedding, my dad asked the DJ to play Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind and then he asked me to dance. He was a crier. Like me. He cried while he held me close on the dance floor.

“Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
And maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have

… If I made you feel second best
Girl I’m sorry I was blind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

… And maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
I guess I never told you
I am so happy that you’re mine

… Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

… Tell me
Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died
And gi-ve me
Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied
I’ll keep you satisfied

… Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
You were always on my mind (you were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind (you were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind”

I hadn’t seen him or heard from him in at least six months by then. I was pissed. Cuz I was hurt. I was embarrassed, for so many reasons. Everyone there knew the life my dad was living. They knew he was not a good father to me. I think they were angry, too. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Abandoned.

I remember he was always smiling when he saw me. He use to whistle through his front teeth. I got to ride on the back of his motorcycle, wind in my hair. I sat on his lap and drove his truck while he pushed the pedals cuz I couldn’t reach. That scared me. It didn’t scare him at all. He took me fishing and he took me to visit my Great Grandmother. She always had Spanish cookies baking and $10 bills. She knitted me slippers and a blanket. She taught me how to crochet and we cracked walnuts while watching a Telenovela. She made me a toilet paper cover for the bathroom and curly ringletly ties for my hair. She owned the whole damn block of houses. Like all of them. They used to have a ranch, before I was born. I never met Joaquin, my great grandfather. He and Josefa immigrated from Spain. Mi familia es de Valencia, Espana. I’m proud of that. Pero, mi espanol es muy malo.

He was never out of control when I was with him. He would argue with the people around him if they had too much to drink or were talking about something they shouldn’t in front of me. He always seemed to have cash in his pocket. Let’s go to Scandia, daddy. Let’s drive the cars, daddy. Let’s pretend it’s all good, daddy.

I’ll pretend no one told me about the time you were in jail and someone gave you an apple with razor blades hidden in it and you took a bite. Oh and the time you were on so many substances that someone kicked your ass and slammed your skull into the pavement and you were permanently fucked up after that. Traumatic Brain Injury. And let’s pretend I didn’t see the scales or the baggies or the people coming and going, always a party. Let’s pretend the days at the duck pond were enough. Pushing me on the swings was enough. And your tears were enough.

They weren’t.

I grew up without really knowing my dad. I couldn’t tell you his favorite color or his favorite food. I can’t remember if his old green truck was a Chevy or a Ford. I can’t remember or I never knew. I’m not angry anymore. Now, I’m just sad. And now I see those old trucks everywhere I go.

I wish I had been able to tell him that I can see things from a different perspective, now. I can see how hard it must have been to try and keep up with a rolling stone. I’m sure it was hard enough to keep track of new phone numbers and where are they now? It was hard enough, I know. I struggled, too. But god damn it, why didn’t you stand up and say no! She needs some stability! She needs to know I love her! She needs to feel my arms around her when she’s sad or when she’s happy, when she does something good or fails. Someone to hold her up when she can no longer do it herself.

I would have liked to tell you I forgive you and I still love you and I’m so sad I didn’t know you. I’m sad you never took my kids fishing. I’m sad you never cooked them dinner. I would tell you that no one, and I mean no one, deserves to die alone without someone they love to hold their hand as they take their last breath and Covid can fuck right off.

I wish I had known. I wish someone would have told me. I would have been there, somehow, someway. I guess I will see you next lifetime, daddy. We got work to do.

So, I just keep fucking going.

And now I’m writing about it. It’s like a faucet. Drip, drip.

My dad died on 2/4/20. I got this one on Valentine’s Day, made by Bri.

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Diet Dr. Pepper 🖤

When I was just finishing 8th grade my mother was hit by a drunk driver on her way home from work. It was a head on collision that almost killed her. The passenger was killed instantly and the drunk driver died on the way to the hospital. She was lucky to be alive.

This was 1986, I was 13, and it was just before the seatbelt law went into effect. The bystanders at the scene used toenail clippers to cut my mother out of her seatbelt, fearing the car was going to explode before EMS could get to her. They cut her out and she walked, with help, away from the metal box that protected her. She was transported to Sutter Medical Center Sacramento where they found she had two broken legs, a broken collar bone, her face and chest were smashed, and her abdominal muscles were ripped apart where the seatbelt hit. The same seatbelt that saved her life. The same hospital that saved my husband’s life. And the same hospital that continues to save mine.

I was at home at our new condo at Del Verde Square in Natomas. She had graduated from PA school and paid $53K for her first home purchase. It was a brand new condominium complex and it was ours. She bought me a captain’s bed with drawers on the bottom. We had all new furniture. She used the antique chest of drawers and vanity in her bedroom, not mine. We always had Diet Dr. Pepper in glass bottles but I had to ask before I could drink one. I took the bus home from school that day, like I did every day. My mom’s boyfriend’s brother showed up at the condo, unusual, and told me my mom had been in an accident and he took me to the ER. Her boyfriend Larry was there. I have only vague memories of seeing her. I remember she didn’t recognize me. She wasn’t making sense. She didn’t know who the president was. Traumatic Brain Injury. My visit was brief. They needed to stabilize her. I was in shock. Was she going to die? What do I do now?

Larry’s brother took me to my best friend Sara’s house. I lived with Sara and her mom, Linda, for at least 3 weeks while she was in the hospital. Her home was familiar to me, I already spent as much time as I could there. This was a bonus. They even had an extra bedroom for me. We made quesadillas with salsa and sour cream cooked inside. Linda bought us Bel Air chow mein and we ate it cold. We listened to World Destruction over and over again on the record player and blasted it and danced like we were in a mosh pit. We swam at night in the half-buried doughboy. We read Fifteen and Ruby Fruit Jungle and we called the popcorn party line. We went dress shopping for 8th grade graduation. Baby blue.

My mom left the hospital AMA (against medical advice) to attend my graduation from Sutter Middle. She was an Honored Guest, and Larry pushed her wheelchair to the front row. Both legs were in casts, her right arm was in a cast, she still had two black eyes and scabs everywhere. Someone had helped her get into a dress. She wore a wide brimmed hat.

Larry took her back to the hospital after the ceremony. She wasn’t ready to live her life yet. I went to my Grad Dance. We had a limo. I made out with my date even though he had a scab on his lip. That’s a gift that keeps on giving. Thanks a lot, A.M. I am reminded of you every other year or so, at this point. 😘

As middle schoolers do, I floated through my life pretending the bad stuff didn’t exist. I pretended everything was normal and everything was ok. Fake it til you make it. Your mommy’s alright, your daddy’s alright…surrender.

My mom was the poster child for seat belt legislation in Sacramento. There was an article in the Sacramento Union about her accident, a photo of her on a gurney was front page news. Was that her 15 minutes?

Once again, she survived. I don’t remember that Larry stuck around very long after that. She couldn’t work out for three hours a day and do triathlons anymore. Her near death was too much for him, I guess.

Too much and not enough…

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Don’t Get It Twisted

I just said goodbye to my daughter as she left on a road trip from CA to TN to take her lifelong childhood BSF (that’s teen for Best Sister Friend) to college. Cass doesn’t start college until mid-September. So we get a month with her before she leaves us. Before she leaves her childhood behind and she leaves me.

So here I am crying again.

I’m definitely in my midlife crisis phase of life. It started with tattoos when I turned 45. I chose tattoos over another shrink. I don’t want to talk about my trauma anymore or tell my life story to another therapist so they know where I’m coming from. So they know what I’m carrying. It’s always the same advice. Find gratitude everyday. Find five things you are grateful for each day. Understand that your parents are flawed, as we all are. Broken. Forgive that. Let go of the anger. Scream if you have to. God damn, punch a wall if you have to. (Just once, though. Then fix the hole.) Feel the pain and release it. Write a letter and burn it. Write a letter and send it. I’m in the burn phase. No contact. My door is closed.

You’ll notice you haven’t heard much about my father. He’s dead. He died of Covid, before he was able to be vaccinated. He had fucked up his body through drugs and alcohol and had multi-system failures that were exacerbated by the virus. I doubt he would have gotten the vaccine anyway. Nothing I can do about that now. Part of me wants to believe he would have, if I asked him to. For me. Cuz he owed me.

I’m not ready to write about him. That one is deep. I have lived most of my life being hurt and angry that he was too weak to fight for me and be the dad I needed. Being ashamed of his life choices. Now that he is dead and I didn’t get to say goodbye or tell him I finally understand how hard it was to…

I’m not ready.

So I finally started getting tattoos at age 45. In my mind I have always been a tattooed chick. A badass bitch with a sleeve. I just didn’t know what I wanted for my whole life. Then I decided to just get whatever the fuck I wanted.

Everyone asks if it hurts. Yeah, it fickkng hurts. But it’s tolerable. Bearable. Worth it. Each one has meaning to me. It’s sort of like my life story, on display. And it’s a work in progress, just like me.

My first tattoo was a contortionist, all twisted up, traditional style. It says “Don’t Get It Twisted.” it’s badass and was done by a guy named Luis. Me and my BSFs used to always say that to each other. It’s a way to say don’t mistake what I say or do for whatever you think it might be. It’s what I decide it is, I define it. Don’t doubt me and don’t discount me, cuz I’m a badass bitch. For reals.

So don’t get it twisted. I cry a lot but I’m not weak. I just feel things.

I just don’t want to talk about it in real life. And I only want to feel it in small doses. So that’s it for today. That’s all I got. Putting it back on the shelf for another day…

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Bits and Pieces 🖤

I wish I could remember my childhood in chronological order so I could tell you a story from start to finish. But I can’t. I try, but it’s all jumbled up. I try thinking about it year by year, grade by grade, but we moved and I changed schools so much that some memories overlap and contradict each other and then I remember something else, long forgotten. Buried.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But let’s be real, this is a long and winding road, complete with pot holes and toll booths, and it might take us awhile to get there. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

I did 4th and 5th grade in the same year. I was in a split class, with Mrs. Mazon at Theodore Judah Elementary in Sacramento. She is the only teacher that I remember before middle school. The only one that has a name and a face and a feeling. She was my favorite teacher. I started the year as a 4th grader, but doing all the 5th grade work. Mrs. Mazon told my mom I should be moved up a grade, based on my test scores and performance in the classroom. This wasn’t a new idea. When I was in kindergarten they wanted to move me up to 1st grade but my mom wouldn’t let them. This time, my mom agreed. So I skipped a grade. Wise beyond my years and forced to grow up too fast.

By then I had been identified as Gifted. Smart. High IQ. I got to leave the classroom and go to GATE classes once or twice a week and play brain games with the other smart kids. My favorite was this Archeology kit, where we got to imagine we were Archeologists on a dig and we studied fossils and how to carefully chip away at the bullshit to get to the prize. In another lifetime I either was or will be an Archeologist. It just felt right.

We lived in an apartment on 22nd and F Street, on the first floor of a two story building. I had multiple Michael Jackson posters taped to the wall, next to C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, and Chachi. Tiger Beat Magazine decorated my room. My mom had bought me a beautiful cherry wood antique bedroom set at a garage sale and I still have those pieces in my home to this day. My daughter sits at the vanity to do her make-up and homework. My clothes fill the chest of drawers, even now. The bed is in the rafters, covered in dust and cobwebs, like my memories.

I remember Food Stamps and mac and cheese in the yellow box with black writing and canned green beans in the same color scheme. I remember both being poor and having nice things. My mom was a bargain shopper, Marshall’s for the win. I remember that she was a Medical Assistant, and yet we used Food Stamps? So maybe this part is jumbled. My mom challenged the FNP/PA program at UC Davis and applied as an MA. Not an RN, as required. She interviewed and they made an exception. They believed in her. She was the only Medical Assistant ever to be offered acceptance. Gifted. Smart. High IQ. Pull yourself out of poverty, mama.

She worked and she went to school and she studied and she dated and she partied. I was always a Latch Key Kid, house key on a chain around my neck. I remember one night, home alone, I fell asleep on the couch. My mom was working late that night. I woke up to sounds like someone was trying to break in. I had learned to convince myself that the sounds I heard that scared me were nothing at all, just the house settling, the wind blowing, all in my imagination. That’s survival. That’s battling anxiety and a life skill. Truthfully, I was terrified. I went to the kitchen and grabbed the biggest knife I could find and I went towards the sound. I was afraid, but I am no cowerer. Run into the fire. The sooner you deal with it, the sooner the feelings go away. I heard someone trying to open the slider in my mom’s room. I don’t know where I found the courage (or stupidity) to throw open the curtain, knife in hand, to see who was going to break in and kill me or be killed, but I did.

It was my mom’s friend, Keenie, trying any way she could to get in to check on me. My mom had been trying to call me, but I was sleeping, and didn’t answer. She was worried. She sent her friend to check on me. I was a 9 or 10 year old with a knife in my hand, ready to fight for my life. Seems like a useful life skill to me. My mom taught me lots of useful survival skills…lucky me.

At some point, we moved again, and again, and again. I’m having trouble with the timeline, but do you care? Does it really matter? Or can I just throw it all into this bucket and carry it around with me?

I think we lived in Alameda two separate times with Sacramento in between. This is where the sidewalk ends and where I met my friend Gioia. This is where we lived with Darius, the Songwriter. I remember living in two different places in Alameda. We lived in an apartment one block from the beach and we lived in a duplex next to a giant Victorian mansion…or at least that’s how I remember it. I was on the Alameda Alligators Swim Team. My coach made deals with us to buy us Jelly Bellies if we made our A times. Or at least I thought that applied to me, like it did the other kids. I didn’t fit in with the girls on the team, the ones that had been swimming together since they were 5, including the coach’s daughter. I was new. I didn’t count. The girls used to sing Tomorrow from the Annie musical in the locker room. I think some of them were auditioning for it. They told me to shut up when I tried to sing with them. I went to the meets and I made my A times. I even made some AA times. My mom would take me to the meet, set up my dome tent, leave me with snacks and my race cards and my moon boots, and then she would leave. She didn’t volunteer to be a timer. She didn’t work the snack bar. She rarely watched me race. And I never got those Jelly Bellies. I did jump off the high dive, just to prove that I was as good as everyone else. It sucks to always be the new kid. You can’t be an introvert and survive it. Fake it til you make it or at least until you move. Again, more life skills. Adaptation. Assimilation.


Gioia’s mom, Chloe, was an artist. A real artist with an attic studio. They lived in a Victorian house with secret stairwells and unlimited art supplies. Chloe made fresh pesto and they always had string cheese. Her dad was a lawyer and I thought they were rich. This was the era of rainbows and unicorns and sticker collections. There was a store called Great Stuff and it was a special day when Chloe would take us there. I wish I still had my sticker collection. I wish I lived in a Lisa Frank world. At Gioia’s house, we used our imagination and our brains and we did experiments and created. I spent so much time with them, and I wished it was my real life. After we moved away, Gioia came to visit me and spent some weekends with me. My mom took us roller skating in Capitol Park, before the skateboards took over and before they were outlawed. We wore our rainbow shirts and we went to the State Fair. My mom bought us rainbow feather roach clips and we wore them in our hair. We didn’t know what a roach clip was, but she did. I went with Gioia and Chloe to her grandparents house in Turlock. We played in the orchard and we ate sliced tomatoes with mayo and we played bumper pool. I didn’t know then who Chloe Fonda really was, or who Gioia Fonda would become. To me, they were a family that took me in and included me and exposed me to science and art and good food and what I thought was stability. Chloe was a mom I wanted to become. She is part of my own version of motherhood and I am so very grateful for her influence on my life. You should let her art influence yours.

I know this may not be as exciting as the drug dealer part of the story, but it’s where my heart wanted to go today. Bits and pieces, folks.

Nothing more than bits and pieces.

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What the Fork?! 🖤

Mom and Tony #1 taught me table manners, like don’t put your elbows on the table. I wonder if they remember these things as I do? I wonder if they thought it was funny in the moment? If they thought it was good parenting? It wasn’t and isn’t, and I can still feel the prongs of the fork leaving painful indentations on my right cheek. I’m sure they told me repeatedly. I’m sure they tried other methods before this one. But some stuff will stick with a child into their adulthood. I don’t advise teaching table manners by forcing your tired 5 year old to eat the rest of their dinner, while laying their face on the prongs of a standing fork instead of their hand with their elbow on the table. Clean your plate, Annie. Elbows off the table, Annie. I don’t care if it hurts or if you are crying, Annie. Maybe next time you will remember, Annie.

In Sandpoint, ID we had a treehouse and a bowling alley in the basement. My mom pierced my ears there, in the bathroom. I was 3, I think. She sterilized a sewing needle with a match, and numbed my earlobes with ice. I can still feel the ice. Frozen. But I was pretty, so it was ok. The neighbor was angry with Tony about what, I have no idea. The neighbor stole the ladder to the treehouse so we couldn’t play in it. I think that’s when we moved to Lake Cocalala.

In another house, we had those couches. The orange and brown velvet with the dark wood frame. You know them, everyone had them in the 70’s. I remember waking up early in the morning, mom and Tony still sleeping. I wonder what that white powdery stuff is, all lined up nice and straight. What’s that hand held machine thingy with the red plastic that rolls like a conveyor belt? What’s in those plastic bags next to that thing that weighs things? Don’t touch anything. Don’t make Tony mad. Look Mommy, I am potty training Mrs. Beasley. See how cute I am? Pretty please can I have a Stretch Armstrong like Jed? Anything you want, Annie Bananie.

I don’t remember the end of that life. Not today anyway.

I think the next era was a stint in Sacramento. Orange Grove Elementary. I had pigtails and a big wheel and a Snoopy lunchbox. Enoch told me he loved me on the playground when we were playing Boys Chase the Girls. My mom was the Brownie Leader, so maybe it was 2nd grade. She loved the Girl Scouts, was one herself. I was in a pageant! Like a full on gown and swim suit competition. My friend Marnia’s mom bought her two dresses to choose from. One dress was pink and fluffy with tulle and gorgeous. The other was yellow. I hate yellow. Marnia’s mom made me a mayo and chard sandwich that she grew in her garden in their backyard and I liked it. Marnia loved the pink dress. Her mom wanted her to wear the yellow dress, so she asked me which dress I liked the best. I lied and said I liked the yellow dress the best because I was jealous of everything and I wanted her mom to like me. Marnia’s mom made her wear the yellow dress. I wore a white dress with a red sash, and a red swimsuit with nylons and white block heels. I carried a red carnation. I did not come home with a crown.

We lived in the apartment complex across the street from the school. It’s still there today. I drove past it last year when I took my daughter to water polo practice at American River College. I pulled into the parking lot and it all came flooding back. Mapquest had me go a different way to ARC than I ever remember going before. As I turned onto Orange Grove Blvd. I remembered the school. Orange Grove Elementary is now an Adult School. Our apartment building appeared unchanged.

It’s funny how you hide things in your brain.

We went from living the high life, to living in poverty. And yet somehow, we always got by. My mother is resourceful and strong. She knew how to survive.

I remember riding my big wheel up and down the hallways and the man in the wheel chair that would come to his screen door and watch me. I have somewhere seen a photograph of me in pigtails, in a brown corduroy outfit with orange ribbons in my hair, so I think I remember that. I remember they tried to train me to use my right hand to write instead of my left with this special red mechanical pencil. It didn’t work, I’m still left-handed. I remember Brownie meetings on the grass at school, with my mom as leader.

On my honor I will try…

One is silver and the other gold…

I remember sitting at the end of the couch in my mom’s legs watching the Love Boat and Fantasy Island and her letting me eat her french fries cuz she said she was full. I ate mine and hers. I never doubted my mother’s love for me. She paid me in french fries.

I do remember. Sometimes.

Sitting in the parking lot, I thought I should get the heck out of there before someone calls the cops and says there’s a 40-something year old lady sitting in her car crying with her dog and she doesn’t belong here.

She doesn’t belong here anymore, that is.

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Jack-In-the-Crack 🖤

I don’t know where to begin. Definitely not in Times New Roman. Not Arial. Maybe Book Antiqua. For sure not Comic Sans.

I have always written things. My thoughts, my memories, my joy, my sorrow. You name it. Just not term papers. Never quite lived up to my “academic potential” like Mr. Coombs told me when I was 14. This was before my mom moved away, before I

…before I


Or was it after?

There is a lot to this story and I don’t know that I can tell it in chronological order. Bits and buried pieces blur my vision. Each moment locked inside that pale pink box sealed tight with a bright pink bow. I had a therapist once tell me that I was angry. That anger was the core, that I needed to let the rage out. Here, scream into this pillow you will feel better. Tell them how angry you are! How could you not be angry? Say it with me now “I AM ANGRY!” But I wasn’t, then.

The only thing I felt then was sadness. Mourning for a little girl lost, generations gone by.

My mom was 15 when she became emancipated from her immigrant parents. I only really know her version of her story, and I’m sure there are at least two other sides. That much I have learned. She was born in Utah, moved to Holland as a baby, came back to the USA on a big ship, back to Holland in 4th grade? and then her parents finally settled in California. Did I get that right, Mama? These things have been told to me from the time I was a child, so it is a child’s memory that tells this story. My story. Intertwined with her story. So perhaps that isn’t always the way it truly was. Close enough. I’m not making this shit up and we always disagreed…the sky is blue, no, it’s purple today…it is what it is. Don’t get caught up in the fine details. Moving along…

She told me her life was terrible, her parents didn’t understand her. She told me she was raped by a trusted family friend and they didn’t believe her. She was a wild child. She got her own apartment and a job, I think at a shoe store in her home town. She was Homecoming Royalty. My father was captain of the football team, the oldest son of the Chief of Police who retired and became a bar owner. He could do no wrong. On paper, anyway. She got pregnant in 1972 at the age of 19. She considered an abortion. She drove her own damn self to the consultation. I was told that my grandfather, Papa Ding, saved my life that day. But now she tells me I am wrong about that. But that’s the story I remember. A child’s memory.

Ultimately, it was HER CHOICE to stay pregnant, as it should be. She chose me.

There was a wedding, in lavender, a floor length gown. There are pictures, I have seen them. There was an article in the newspaper, I have read it. There was no happily ever after, we all lived it.

During that first year of that first marriage, my mom walked in on my father in bed with her best friend. She packed me up and found her way to Spokane or Coeur d’Alene or both, in Washington of all places, I’m not sure which. I don’t remember why she picked Washington. My father visited, but, in the end, it was too much for either of them. They divorced, and the adventure began! It was my mother and I against the world…as she would say. Hugo and Ina…you go do this and I’n a go do that.

I went to 15 different schools between kindergarten and 9th grade. We moved all over the country: Fairfield, Spokane, Couer d’Alene, Sandpoint, Lake Cocalala, Anchorage, Miami, Alameda, Sacramento. We moved in with so many boyfriends. Do I name the names? As long as I stick to the facts, don’t exaggerate, always tell the truth, it’s ok, right? I can’t. I’m afraid. Of the truth. So for this part of the story some names will be changed for the sake of privacy. At least until I speak to a lawyer. There were so many boyfriends. Steve, Dean, Darius, Larry, and Doc are the ones I remember. Then there were the husbands. 5 in all. Randy, Tony, George, Mark, and Tony #2. To be fair, I didn’t even attend the wedding for her and Mark and she married Tony #2 when I was an adult. Each of those men represent eras in my life. Revolving doors. Which dad? Daddy Randy or Daddy Tony? It’s ok, you can call him Daddy Darius. Darius was a songwriter. He wrote me a song for my birthday. I can still remember some of the lyrics. It was beautiful.

“A little more than a year ago, I had the chance to meet

A little girl who was so beautiful and sweet

She knocked me off my feet

And Annie, that little girl is you.

She’s got her mother’s eyes and mind of her own

Everybody knows she’s a special little girl

After all she had the finest teacher in the world…

I’d like to yell out loud and say Annie, Happy Birthday To You…”

I loved him. I loved them all except Mark and Tony #2. By then I had built my wall.

Daddy Tony was a drug dealer. Like for real drug dealer. Like travel around the world and move to the Keys kind of drug dealer. Like drive around in an RV for a year to avoid the feds kind of drug dealer. I remember living/hiding out in Anchorage, AK and going to preschool in the perpetual dark, playing outside in the snow in the never ending night. When I was 5, they left me with the parents she emancipated herself from, for months. I started kindergarten in CA while my mom was living the high life, gallivanting who knows where doing who knows what. Much later in my childhood, my mom told me it was then that Tony was arrested and she was searched and detained. She says she didn’t know he was a drug dealer at the time. That is what saved her. I don’t know how he got out of that, but it is all about who you know, I think. Then, halfway through the school year, they came and got me and we moved to Miami to be near The Keys. Not for the beaches. I finished kindergarten in Miami and my mom got to be there for that first day. Only it wasn’t anyone else’s first day. I don’t remember any names or faces of friends from kindergarten. Not one.

But my children do.

We lived in nice houses and had nice cars. Tony bought mommy a Lincoln Continental and I thought we were rich. We went to Disneyworld and Parrot Jungle, and the place where the whale was the star of the show. I had a step-brother named Jed. We had a lakefront house on Lake Cocalala. Santa brought us all ice skates that year. I made snow angels. I could have anything I wanted, if I asked nicely. Pretty please. One night, as I lay in my bed with the door cracked open and the hall light on, they were yelling. But my memory can’t decide which house we were living in that night. Was it Sandpointe? Miami? I wonder if my mom remembers. I was scared. I was a small child. There was banging. Then I watched as Tony dragged my mother by the hair down the hallway, intentionally banging her head against the walls. Stay in your room, Annie. Don’t get out of bed, Annie.

I was frozen. I wet the bed. I took the sheets off of my bed and put them in the dirty clothes hamper and didn’t tell my mom. She discovered them, I probably lied about it because I was terrified and she told me that Tony would punish me when he got home. Once again, frozen.

In the writing, I remember the bits and pieces. Not in order, mind you, but they fall out at random times. Forgive that, please, and try to keep up.

This pale pink box with the bright pink bow is bursting at the seams. Like a Jack-in-the-box, these things pop out when you don’t expect it. That’s the proof of the trauma, I’m told. Avoidance. Don’t turn the crank and don’t open the box. And don’t ever tell anyone your truth.

Trauma? What trauma?

Everybody has trauma.


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Lo Siento, Mama

It gets me every time. Thankfully, it usually waits until I get home. I love my job. But sometimes, it’s fucking hard. And not always in a stressful, too busy, or emergent way. Sometimes it’s hard to be part of the team that takes care of the aftermath. The nothing after the storm. It’s not the calm. It’s the nothing, the in between, the loss. The you have to keep breathing and the you need to get out of bed and you need to eat and the yes I still have to push on your belly and the please let me know when you are ready to say goodbye.

I do what I can to ease the pain. We choose the only blankets and hats that will ever touch their skin. Those beautiful handmade ones that the old ladies knit and donate just for this purpose. I get my friends to help me make plaster molds of tiny feet, cuz it takes 3 of us to do it, so that when they are lost in their grief they have something tangible to prove it happened. Something beautiful to hold in their hands. It’s hard to be the ones that do all the things. The things that come before and the things that come after.

We talk to them, you know. We hold them like they are our own and carefully and gently do what needs to be done.

Sorry, baby. Lo siento, mama.

Is there anything else I can do for you while I’m here? Call me if you need me.

I say these things a hundred times in 12 hours.

And we take that home with us. Those images don’t go away. For them or for us.

Their loss is our trauma, too.

And some days are harder than others, in so many different ways.

So if you wonder why I am the way I am, in part, this is why.

Silently I say

Keep fucking going. It’s the only way. For both of us.


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Too Much and Not Enough 🖤

I had my own apartment at age 15. My mother had fallen in love, again. This one would become her 3rd husband. She was good at falling in love. There would be two more husbands after that one. It was the staying that she had trouble with…

By the time I got to high school, I had gone to 15 different schools. And no, my parents were not in the military. I was the daughter of a single mother, a rolling stone. She was always looking for something better, never satisfied. Never in one place long enough to grow roots. She calls herself a wanderer, because “those who wander are not lost.” She may not have been lost, but I always was.

So she fell in love and wanted a fresh start in a new place. Again. I did not. I was finally part of something that felt solid. Even though in reality, it was as solid as quicksand. I was a cheerleader, and on the swim team, and was going to be Editor-in-Chief of my high school yearbook my Senior year. I had friends who were my family. I didn’t want to start over again. So she let me stay.

She got me a studio apartment on the second floor of a run-down 4 unit building, a couple miles from school. Her boyfriend even installed new carpet for me, in exchange for cheaper rent, $225/month. She got me a couch and stocked my kitchen. All the ramen and frozen pizzas you could eat. She paid the rent. And then she left.

This isn’t fiction, by the way, in case you were wondering.

I was a Junior in high school, 11th grade, without parental supervision. My friends thought it was cool. At first, we tried to keep it a secret from my father’s side of the family, my friends’ parents, and school administrators. We didn’t want anyone to call CPS and we didn’t want to go through the emancipation process. Like she did. When she was 15. Her side of her story is a whole book of a story. And that book is hers to write.

So I went through half of Junior year and all of Senior year, and eventually the rest of my life, unparented. Neglected. Abandoned. Because phone calls and visits are not enough, especially if you are the custodial parent. But let’s be honest, the neglect and abandonment wasn’t new. There is so much to this story…

I didn’t even drive yet, when she moved two states away. I depended on my friends for rides to school and work. For laundry and grocery shopping and for all the things. Then I turned 16 and my grandparents bought me a red 1971 VW Bug for $1100. This was in 1989 and that car meant independence and control for me. When it wasn’t breaking down on the freeway, that is. But hey, my mom got me AAA, so that’s safe, right? Oops, no cell phones then.

Me and my friends partied like they did in the movie Less Than Zero. Like first year college students, just leaving the nest. Like rockstars. It was too much and it was not enough. I rarely made it to a full day of school and I barely graduated. I had to take classes at night at Fremont Adult School in order to have enough credits to walk the stage. Good grades do not equal intelligence, this I know.

CKM Homecoming 1989. Rockstars. That’s me in the middle.

I remember having my heart broken for the first time that first year I lived alone. I had given up a part of myself I was supposed to save “for the right one.” He wasn’t worthy, even though I really wanted him to be. I wanted someone or something that was mine. Looking back, that may have been my first panic attack. I remember calling my mom, sobbing, unable to catch my breath. I’m sure her heart was bleeding and she wanted to reach through the phone to give me a hug. But she couldn’t cuz she was two states away. I’m pretty sure she hopped on a plane the next day to come and be with me for a few days. She wanted to be a good mom and she loved me, she just was so broken herself that she often made all the wrong choices. I only know that now because I am a mother. I was too busy living that whole life to know then how much damage was being done.

My story is an iceberg. It’s what’s below the surface, the parts you can’t see (or can you?) that can cause the most damage to a ship in the night. And this iceberg dives deep, into the briny deep, the briny deep…

It’s all too much, and not enough. But that’s enough for today. My heart can only bleed in small doses…

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