Category Archives: BLOG DEPOSITS

Winter Solstice and Solace

Winter Solstice and Solace

I started 2020 on house arrest, pouting and healing after surgery. About the time I started venturing out into the world, the world was put on house arrest too. And we were all pouting, in one way or another.

BigHaggis and I have a happy marriage (a safe home), my midlife-grad-school-life prepared me for long solitary days of reading and writing (gave me a toolkit to avoid insanity), BigHaggis already worked from home (no stress over conversions), we are healthy (no debilitating illnesses or costly meds), we are childfree (no homeschooling), and I’ve been teaching online and hybrid courses since 2005 (little-to-no training for me to step into a new role).

Suddenly we became acutely aware that – especially during this pandemic – we were living in a space of Great Privilege.

I did not feel right complaining about the water anxieties we discovered in our rescue dog, the creative unclogging measures taken in the hall bath, the battle between my car’s side mirror and a telephone pole (unsurprisingly, the mirror lost), the spare cash I slipped the painter to patch the bullet hole in Hurricane’s kitchen ceiling… it all sounded impossibly bougie – and –  incredibly insensitive.

Some of my friends disagreed. Derelict Deb should plow on! they said. This was the time to write about funny things. Everyday things. Everyday life. Humor that would make us laugh in dark times.

People would laugh, they insisted, to hear about my July trip to a grocery store in which I told a family shopping en masse without masks and fondling all the items in the checkout lane – that I was so glad to see a family choosing not to live in fear. Good for them! I said loudly through my mask. I also refuse to live in fear or trust science and was just recently released from intensive care at the hospital (I said, getting louder and closer to them) and was so glad to be off a ventilator and out of quarantine – out in the free world again. Such Freedom! I shouted, moving to remove my mask. (They unceremoniously abandoned their cart, the mother clutching the youngest of the three teens to her as they all awkwardly sped out the door.)

But is this not in itself a prime example of how “everyday life” is not so “everyday” anymore?

Wouldn’t laughter, from my place of security, be hurtful to those who have lost jobs and fear losing their homes, who have loved ones dying or in the hospital, who were muddling through an America during an anxiety-filled election year? We need strength, aye. We need laughter, aye! Who is right? In a year of thin skins and so many being impacted so negatively, I felt it best to take some time away and focus on other projects, things beyond the lens of social media.

In this weirdest of all weird years, through the anxieties and strangeness and incredible sadness and pain of losing loved ones, I am trying to keep the highlight reel of my heart to the positives.

I tackled some projects (previously abandoned mid-stream) and began new ones, centering on interesting research and even more interesting humans. I re-learned how to grow and process/can vegetables and stock my own pantry. I started writing my second book. Through great pains and creative no/low contact travel (involving both Louisiana Cousin Eddie camped in the driveway for 3 weeks and a 15-straight-hour-car-drive to avoid hotel stops with two teenage girls) we hosted Staycation 2020 in our backyard when summer camps for our nieces were canceled. (Picture a sun-soaked Coppertone teen drama crafting singing cookout toenail painting ice cream Lalapooloozah mixed with late night Pina Coladas and reruns of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 Countdown, circa 1986.)

In the fall, I filled an entire journal while conducting the Hurricane Relocation Project in which I moved Hurricane to a senior living apartment complex in our town. More on the HRP in the new year but for now have this: (sung to The Sound of Music’s “Maria“) How do you pack and move a Hurricane? Moving a force of nature from town to town?

Being sequestered at home was not without wrinkles, of course: one incident involved me embracing my inner redneck, tromping out to the “back 40” in flip flops and streaming profanities in at least three languages to a group of migrant workers with chainsaws who’d “wandered” onto our property conducting forestry management (read: thinning baby trees and shrubs) on private land. When the Sherriff arrived, no doubt he was surprised that I did not, in fact, have curlered hair, a ratty bathrobe, a shotgun, and a Marlboro hanging from one lip.

Some days we are not our best selves.

While many (including me) have lamented this year about the increasing divisiveness, anger, and lack of humanity we see in our nation, I prefer to look at us as growing, albeit painfully, because part of our American legacy is that dangerous combination of arrogance and action, stupidity and stupendousness. We have grown loud and unafraid to push back at an 18th century white euro-centric vision that has been taken out of context, distorted, and attached to a 21st century America in disastrous ways. We are pre/teens on the global scene, and I feel that we are acting like spoiled 13-year-olds who cannot get their way, learning that we cannot pout and throw the game board in the air, cannot cross our arms and ignore racism, cannot stamp our feet and deny science.

And, like the teens I’ve known in real life, I have faith that America will outgrow our stubborn (sometimes willful) ignorance, learn to listen both completely and critically, and act creatively and wisely, embracing both progress and kindness.

And at the end of this year, there is some solace for the darkness coming to us through the Universe. On Monday night, Jupiter and Saturn kissed in the night sky, appeared as one bright planet. The last time they came this visibly close to each other was in the year 1226.

We stood in the driveway with BigHaggis’s hunting binoculars and felt small but somehow, huddled together, not insignificant.

This winter’s darkness is as literal as it is metaphorical, but it also serves as a reminder that humans have historically turned to rituals and stories to remind one another of hope and deeper truths. I intend to return to sharing my stories in 2021, and I hope you will join me.

While the dumpster fire of 2020 begins to smolder, we must be honest; it’s just as likely someone could toss a cigarette butt into the forests of our hearts and set the whole thing up in flames again. My sincerest hope for the future is that we let the scorched earth that is our country smoke and linger and regrow, much as the nutrient rich soil of farmland or forest does after a burn. There was little controlled about the fire we’ve been experiencing, but I believe in the rich nutrients that lie below it, fertile with possibilities for better tomorrows.



Posted by on December 22, 2020 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Caps & Gowns & Pandemics

Caps & Gowns & Pandemics: some thoughts

WTF people. Why do you put your kindergartner in a cap and gown? What have they accomplished, exactly? Become as well regulated in their toilet training as the family golden retriever?

kind grad

I love when parents share (and overshare! Oh the shade!) on social media. I revel in making fun of these folx well before the cocktails begin to flow at ShropHQ, and the snark only increases with my gin intake. Life prior to social media seems sepia smooth to me these days in my memory of undocumented locker clean outs rather than today’s let’s pose with some certificates for mommy’s Instagram account.

I am childfree, of course, so I shouldn’t cast stones. And yet.

throwinf stones

Middle school graduation photos are utterly painful. Parents don’t kid yourselves that this shit is way more for you than for your kids, who won’t realize until they are 27 that what they really should have gotten was a trophy for surviving puberty.

ron burgundy grad


My favorites are the photos with grinning parents standing next to lackluster teens who clearly would rather be inside playing Mortal Kombat 42 in which they are getting their asses kicked by a 12-year old girl in Australia playing under the name KillSquadLeader6. Look closely; these kids have checked the fuck out.

Senior year final semester during Covid sucked so hard, and their faces show it.

Can you blame them?

class 2020 quarantined

I have been thinking lately about how lame high school graduation was for me. I was not exactly engaged as a HS student (cough cough), so it should be no surprise that I was disinterested in the ceremony that marked its end. I was off to Texas. Ready for adventure. I was so focused on the things ahead of me that I did not take the time to appreciate where I was in the moment. I was focused on getting out, getting away, starting my LIFE.

I feel this frustration bubbling in the graduation drive-bys and the Zoom meetings and front yard pics with social distance signs and grandparents hovering in the background in masks. Part of me enjoys how many people have embraced creative measures to impart a sense of ceremony on those who are being denied it through no fault of their own.

social distance dating

But mainly, it’s frustrating as fuck. My heart breaks for kids who really looked forward to all the frivolity to be had in senior year – the games, the dances, the ceremonies. Even though I didn’t give a toss, I know that many students want and NEED to mark this time and these achievements and are being denied it. No iHeart Radio concert or online address from a celebrity will replace senior prom or having your name called as you are handed that diploma.

For my part, I have taken to writing cards to the grads in my life.

It’s a small thing, but it’s all I’ve got.

I have no idea how these cards are being received, since they don’t contain cash. I get it. Most likely they will be trashed as soon as they are read. And I’m OK with that.

I have actually enjoyed writing them. I have to do them slowly, partly because I have serial killer penmanship, and partly because I want them to have the possibility of being impactful. Maybe, just maybe, a recipient will read the card and NOT roll their eyes at one more piece of unsolicited advice from an adult they aren’t sure remained sober enough (then or now) to really remember what it was like to be 17. After all, I sucked at high school, so who am I to give advice?

write congrats

Maybe, I think wishfully, these few sentences will be more remarkable because I am no one special, nothing amazing in the world other than their friend. Maybe they will take these words to heart more than those from a 30-minute speech given by an important person in a robe – to a crowd of young people dressed alike in similar robes, extolling to them the virtues of non-conformity and being unique in the world.

And really? Does the class of 2020 need any pithy quotes about life and passion and the road ahead of them? In addition to Covid Crap, they are inheriting a shitshow of a country, which (in my humble opinion) is prime for a new revolution. One that is overdue. And it’s gonna hurt.

It’s a world in which Jurassic folks (my age and older) bitch about how lazy and entitled Millennials and Gen Z folx are while simultaneously watching them turn up in impressive numbers across the country to protest injustice peacefully, combatting rage and tear gas (and worse) and then show up again the next day, and the next week, marching for change.

protester silhouette

Meanwhile, I watch some of the same proud balloon-waving Facebook-posting graduation-grinning parents bitch about having to wear a mask to shop at Target.

Pinterest-worthy quotes seem beyond ridiculous to an 18-year old who is venturing into this world of so much palpable uncertainty and strife.

So what do I write?

I try to write the truth.

wondering what to write

Life is not going to go as you want it to go. Ever.

College might go on “hold” for a year – or longer. Many folx lost their jobs and tuition is no longer within reach. Do not blame your parents. Don’t whine; look for solutions, jobs, scholarships, and internships, ways to contribute rather than drain.

All things in your life are reflections of the choices you make.
If you want different outcomes, make different choices.

And for those still going to college, I say that college is probably not going to look like it did for your parents, so be open-minded and flexible. And if you are a first-generation college student, the road map for you might look like directions drunkenly scribbled on a bar napkin. But you can do it.

i have my doubts
BE SKEPTICAL about the interpretations people give you about college, like:

College won’t have the same assholes that HS did (it certainly will – welcome to life); it won’t be as hard as HS (it will be, academically, emotionally, AND you’ll have to feed yourself); you’ll be fine (but you will have to readjust/expand your support systems in order to stay sane); we’ll always be here for you (we love you, but we’re turning your room into a home gym as soon as you drive away).

And in addition to being disabused of these notions, you’ll most likely be faced with social distancing measures that make dating seem like some bizarre game show from 1962 with designer face masks becoming a new mark of social status.

dating game

My (unsolicited, eye-roll inducing) advice?

Live your life by a compass not a clock.

Pandemic fallout might “take” a year from you, but that’s marked in time. Dreams are measured in distance. And just because you followed a winding path to get to your next goal (whatever it may be) doesn’t mean that you wasted time in getting there. The journey is as important (and sometimes more so) as the objective. It is a grave mistake to think that moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.

kids move the world

I tell graduates that their education experiences are a grand dress rehearsal for life – a life that will be (at some point, maybe soon) ALL THEIRS to live. It is a great thrill and a crushing responsibility all at once.

I hear young voices every day in my work, the news, online, in discussion boards, and in my personal hemisphere. And they are, without exception, brave without knowing it, strong without being given a trophy for it, and they are discovering that passion and conviction can change the world. This, more than the gin and melatonin, helps me sleep well at night. The kids are gonna be alright. Hell, they might even save us.


Keep Calm and Be Kind
Derelict Deb



Posted by on June 11, 2020 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Day Drinking on the Deck

This post is part Animal Planet and part house-arrest-drinking. So if you have no interest in Neighborhood Nature or Lockdown Liquor Drinks, then move on, sister, this is no place for you.

Fun Fact.

#QuaratineLife has made me a more tuned-in day drinker.

For me, day drinking – usually reserved for vacations, weekends, and Tuesdays that piss me off – has become less reckless-college-road-trip reminiscent and more of a subdued back-deck-bourbon event.

It has become somehow less taboo in a world in which no one can smell the contents of my cup.

I’m not looking for confessions in the comments, gang, but admit it. You’ve started some early ass cocktail hours since mid-March, haven’t you?

Hamish doesn’t judge. Much.

For me, it’s also become an interesting game I play with my dog, Hamish. He wisely does not snitch to those who flirt with him during conference calls, and I, in turn, allow his backyard shenanigans when I am on my third Quarantini.

I try to exercise a modicum of restraint; I do not watch any news while imbibing so as not to become belligerent, and I eat snacks to avoid being completely legless before 7pm.

Hamish would like to point out that my cigar habit is probably not the best one to broadcast during a pandemic of a respiratory virus, but for those of you wanting cigar and Quarantini pairings – you know how to get in touch.

I am only human. I have paused Zoom to cut more limes and used the mute button to cover the noise of the blender. Sunny afternoons, Hamish and I have been known to engage in existential day drinking discourse about his thoughts on the chipmunk he has been stalking since last weekend. (And he is, of course, relentless in his never-ending orations urging me to allow his furry ass on the couch. But on this policy, thus far, I remain steadfast.)

So persuasive.

Next Fun Fact.

I am enthralled with the way nature has responded to the lack of humans and humanness out and about in the world:

Probably looking for the late night club scene, wild boars roamed the street in Catalonia.

Hungry goats taking over a seaside town in Wales.

With a lack of ferry traffic, dolphins swam into ports near Sardinia.

Leopards are lounging about in temples in southern India.

Two deer walk into town, quietly judge a souvenir shop in Nara, Japan.

And here in the U.S., coyotes enjoy a day at the beach by the Golden Gate Bridge while wild turkeys are over-running Harvard’s campus with appropriate arrogance.

On a daily, I have found that in the quiet moments, watching nature has been a soothing balm that balances with my Merlot levels and aides with pandemic anxieties.

Brace yourself, I’m about to throw my inner hippie on you.  (If you have a turtle or wolf spirit animal, then you are zen with this and can probably just skip to the cocktail recipes at the end. Everyone else, keep reading.)

We have no trees (our house was built on open farmland) but we put out as many bird feeders as we can manage. We have three pairs of Cardinals who come to feed, bluebirds, chickadees, and all manner of finches.

It’s not a Marlin Perkins flashback and it’s not the Quaranpiña Colada talking. The flapping and pecking are raucous; the singing and chirping are nothing short of magical.

quick search for the phrase birds are louder on Twitter reveals that I am not entirely alone in thinking: Are the birds chirping more fiercely these days, or do I need to drink less?

Sometimes, like a badly dubbed kung-fu movie, I give them voices and personalities to go with the flitting and flirting. The cardinals are loving and attentive, the finches are competitive. There is food enough to share, and they have all learned to fend off the asshole blue jays. I feel like there are lessons to be learned here, though I have no idea what those might be. That’s not the point is it?

Watching these birds, as well as the other critters in our backyard, has become a comforting activity in a weird house-arrest sort of way, when we don’t venture much beyond the fences.

One friend has watched a family of foxes drink water every morning from a broken bird bath lying on the ground. Another friend has a diligent wren who has built nests in his garden. The wren sings daily, diligently, to attract a mate but so far, no one has swiped right, poor fella.

We have a clutch of cottontails that live by one corner of the fence, and we hear coyotes sing some evenings. We have an elegant red tail hawk that lives nearby, and we see him hunting sometimes; I vacillate between which one I most identify with. I fear the coyote, respect the hawk, but some days I feel like the bunny.

Isn’t it ridiculous that we get so involved with our lives that we forget the world manages just fine without us in so many ways? That so many living things go on with their days, unseen and unnoticed because we are not still enough long enough to see them. My hope is that we’ll return to post-pandemic work and remember them every now and then. That we will think, “I wonder how that garter snake is faring today?” instead of “where should I go to lunch?”

In the meantime, as we all continue in this mad mad world, here’s wishing that you find some peace underneath the frogs invading your gardens, or in the birds flitting about the natural spaces in which you wander and wonder.

And, if you are lucky like me to have a backyard and a cool place to watch it, I hope you do it with your favorite drink to hand.

Here are the ShropHQ April Quarantine Cocktail recipes,
which have all been personally field tested.

(And are still tasty if you are sick of the nature
both in your backyard and in your living room!)

April’s Quarantini
*good any time of day
Over ice
Barefoot hard seltzer Pineapple and Passion fruit flavor
Sprite Zero

Or in a blender
combined with fresh strawberries!

Home-School Slushies – by subject
*Served in tall Tervis ½ way with ice – drink w straw

Truly hard seltzer grapefruit flavor
fill rest with pink lemonade

chilled shots of El Jimador tequila

Truly hard seltzer berry flavor
with Gatorade Zero Glacier Cherry

Platinum Vodka
Crystal light pink lemonade
Sprite Zero

Truly hard seltzer wild berry
with Gatorade Zero Berry

Sunny Day Sippin’
Platinum Vodka
Sprite Zero
Crystal Light lemonade
Pomegranate juice
Drink outdoors w a good book and 15 SPF

Corona Coffee (AM)
fresh brewed coffee
Splash of half and half
Refill as needed

Corona Coffee X2
 *for AM Conference call with people you really don’t like
fresh brewed coffee
Splash of half and half
Refill as needed

Typhoid Mary
* for conference calls with 3 or more people (better to make a pitcher and be prepared)
*no garnish. Make sure your tall glass/cup is not see-through

over ice
Platinum Vodka
Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix
pickled okra brine
Texas Pete
horseradish (in my case, loads)
Smile after every sip

Afterschool or Recess Refreshments
over ice
Botanist or Gunpowder Gin
Food Lion Diet Tonic
three limes wedges
Drink with slow deep breaths

Quaranpiña Colada
*for only the truly devoted day drinkers or Saturdays with a chaperone
In a blender w ice
2 cups Chi Chi’s piña Colada mix (has rum in it)
2 cups Kraken rum
Garnish with pineapple if you have it
Hold on tight

drinky wink ecaard

Your Derelict Debutante




Posted by on May 6, 2020 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Monday Mourning

There is a particular loneliness that comes when a cancer survivor mourns the loss of someone who has died from cancer. But today, I’ve talked with a few folx who are also feeling the solitary state of mourning, a sadness specific to the lockdown lives we are currently living.

Like many others, I’ve struggled with survivor guilt; it makes you itch all over and it overwhelms you, making you feel as there is not enough oxygen in the room. There is a place in the shadows where we survivors slip when this happens. It is a cool, dark, plum-colored silhouette into which we melt and wait.

We wait there for someone to ask for advice, to need a shoulder to cry on, to require someone to vent to. We are patient. Survivors are often asked to help – in the early days. We’re asked to translate doctors’ and nurses’ visits when a friend has been recently diagnosed and is managing the thoughts of the news and the fear and the next steps.

But eventually we aren’t a comfort. So we stay quiet. Because our voices don’t have the same weight anymore. A body going through chemo can’t help it; they will look at you with a film (of annoyance at the least, thinly veiled anger at most) because you have already come out the other side. You lived.

Kind souls never say it, but everyone thinks it. Why this one? Instead of another? It’s the unspoken How Dare You that makes a survivor retreat back into our safe purple shadow again. And we can stay there for days, bitches.


There in the shadows, we can stay and hide from the expectations that the world wants from us. The cultural script survivors are supposed to follow. The world wants me to put on a smile and march down to the nearest Komen Pink 5K.

I don’t want to. You can’t make me.

Today I am mourning the loss of a friend who died from cancer. We were not particularly close. She was a sweet and soft soul; she was thoughtful and inspirational, always looking for ways to see beauty in the world. So (as you can surmise) we had little in common.

She was by all accounts an amazing person, and the list of adjectives used to remember her with love and affection is long and wondrous.

And as I mourn this sweet soul, there is that omnipresent accusatory murmur at the base of my skull  – the one that says How Dare You.

Well that voice can fuck right off.

If living through the shittiest parts of life has taught me anything, it’s that there is no right or wrong way to mourn a loss. We need space to do it, and we need to do it in a variety of ways. Whatever you feel when you’ve lost someone, own it; you are entitled to feel it. You need to cry? Scream? Run? Call someone? Take a long lunch and a long walk? Do it.

I’m not saying that referring to your husband’s balls at his funeral should be the new trend in memorials, but funerals are for the living. And we don’t always do a smart and proper job of it. And how to mourn someone in time of pandemic? When social distancing keeps us from holding the very people who need most to be held?


We put light into the world in honor of the light it has lost.

We do what humans do best. We improvise.

We will have time to gather and mourn in groups again, but for now, we send love through 5G. We call and text people we’ve not spoken to in years and we share stories of love and laughter. We reconnect with folx long out of touch but never out of our hearts. We create paintings, compose songs, and plant flowers inspired by the love we feel for someone who won’t get to experience them. We write words into blogs that we would most likely never share otherwise.

We reach out. Out of the shadows, no matter what created them, and we make ourselves available to mourn with our friends.

Your Derelict Debutante


1 Comment

Posted by on April 6, 2020 in BLOG DEPOSITS


The Time to THINK

We are living through strange and stressful days. But living through a pandemic has reminded us that what we have in common outweighs that which divides us.

The virus has reminded us that we are strong and resilient. And compassionate.


Some of us will struggle more than others, and some of us will find new depths of compassion and fellowship as a result of supporting those who need us most. The pandemic has sparked creativity and kindness that I hope with all my heart lasts well beyond the impacted days. We will have to find creative and kind ways to celebrate the milestones we’ve missed – the birthdays and graduations, anniversaries and even memorials for those we lost who we mourned from home because we had to keep a safe distance.

The distance and isolation will change us. Has already changed us.

Without the commitments and hustle and noise of the outside world, we also now have the luxury of spending energy in different ways.

Some of us – without judgement! – are binge-watching the dumbest things on TV because we can’t seem to get off the couch.

just remember PB egg season

Some of us are getting more walks in than ever before.


And this talented family, has won the InterWebs this week for creativity:

Les Mis in times of Covid

We can (and should) creatively gripe and find humor in these difficult times, but let’s talk about things those of us without recording equipment and music tracks in our living rooms can do.

I’m suggesting we all THINK a bit more.

I am a loud extroverted person. So you would think that staying home and spending quiet time would drive me nuts.

But I’m also a researcher, which means I know how to spend days at a time devoted to reading, writing, and quiet reflection. Perhaps more than my DUR surgery in January, my mid-life doctoral pursuits did more to prepare me for the pandemic, for the space we must all give one another now.


But the two most important things being a student over 40 taught me?
The value of patience and reflection.

Whether you read, write, draw, puzzle, … try this week also to reflect.

Spend time in that lost art of THINKING. It seems we live in a time when we don’t do that enough. How many times to do we say/hear “I wish he’d thought about that more” or “I don’t have time to think about that right now” Hm…

stop breath re connect

Our lives are rushed and full and sometimes we complain that we don’t have time for thinking and reflection. Well guess what? Consider this pandemic has given us all the opportunity to do just that. Think and Reflect.

If you are currently juggling homeschooling (in addition to other aspects of your life that have been corona-rearranged) consider adding deliberate REFLECTION to your  (and your kids’) weekly schedules.

You don’t have to be GenX or older to do it, for fuckssake.


You can absolutely make time for thinking. And reflecting. And sharing. And there are loads of sources out there to help you – and kids of all ages – with all kinds of writing and drawing prompts (check out the links below for starters).

The slower pace of pandemic days are perfect times for THINKING.

Think about what matters most to you.

About WHO matters most to you.

Write a letter letting someone you’ve not spoken to in a while that lets them know you are thinking of them.

Make a Skype date with someone you haven’t seen (pre-pandemic) in a long time.

Think about how we can all be better humans on the other side of all this.


This pandemic has made us all aware of ourselves, our neighbors, the spaces we share. But it’s also bringing into focus what is really important. Don’t waste the opportunity to be thoughtful in new ways, including introspective ones.

Think about it.

Your Derelict Debutante



THINKING (and writing and drawing)  LINKS to SHARE:

Drawing Activities for Analyzing and Reflecting (Coursera -MOMA youtube video)

Reflective and Art Therapy Activities

What is reflective writing? Watch this video (great for kids too!)

300 Creative Writing Prompts for kids

Interactive Story Starters (from Scholastic) teacher’s guides

180 Journal writing prompts (kids) from DailyTeachingTools online

250+ journal prompts from JournalBuddies

Reflection Writing & Activities– high school + college writers (ClemsonUni)

105 Writing Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery

3 steps to promoting student reflection

Meditation for Kids – the Imagine Project




Posted by on April 1, 2020 in BLOG DEPOSITS


How Derelict Uterus Removal became Pandemic Prep *OR* Whine Less Love More, Bitches!

How Derelict Uterus Removal became Pandemic Prep
Whine Less Love More, Bitches!

This blog post is late in coming, because I have rewritten it so many times I almost forgot where it started. And for a while there, I was on a lot of drugs, so give me a break. In January, after months of pain and pain management, I had my derelict uterus removed.

That bitch never did her job any way, so good riddance.

Image result for shantay you stay gif

No one who knows me, even in the periphery, was surprised to hear that my uterus had fallen in line with the rest of my derelict debutante existence. Massive tumors (benign but substantial and inconveniently located) were the culprit, but because so many people schedule surgeries in November and December, I was on pain management (mostly drugs) from Halloween through mid-January.

Couple this with my editing and teaching jobs, caring for a friend going through breast cancer, a measles outbreak at my Uni, and the compiled stress of the last year (completing, revising, defending my PhD dissertation, graduating, moving, …) and, well fuck it. I was just exhausted. I told my boss I had to have a semester off for mental health reasons as much as derelict uterus ones. And it wasn’t even Christmas yet. Percocet and vodka were my best friends.

If you spoke to me during this time, you may or may not have been alarmed.

Pain isn’t the only thing I have a high tolerance for, TYVM.

One nurse told me that I had an “impressive tolerance” when I told her that I thought it was some weird “ovarian death throes” tossing me painful “fuck yous” every 6-7 weeks on their way out the door. She tried not to giggle. Then, because they actually heard me, my ovaries tried to murder me on New Year’s Eve, causing a kerfuffle and resulting in increased pain meds and general loopiness until my surgery in late Jan.

So another (count them, bitches, that’s lifetime of THREE) abdominal surgery later, and I feel tremendous. I mean really, when your abdomen already looks like Frankenstein? That hysterectomy was a walk in the park. I feel fab! Is it terrible to wish I could have done this years ago?

bride of Frank

To contain risk of infection (and also because you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck in the beginning) I was on “house arrest” for two weeks, then limited activity as I felt my energy return. I was completely med-free in 3 weeks and back to having lunch dates that were more liquid and less lunch by week 4.

And Then.

Because we have friends and family who work in the government (and in departments that liaise with the CDC) we started getting phone calls. Covid19 was coming. It has been here in the US since December and preparations were needed. Instructions followed. Limit your SM and network news. Bookmark the CDC and WHO websites. Stressful whatsapp calls occurred. I was particularly calmed by chatting with a dear friend who was on the ground in Sierra Leone working with the WHO to manage the Ebola pandemic there in 2013. Perspective is paramount. We were to be smart and make sure that those in our lives with compromised immune systems started thinking ahead about limiting contact with the outside world.

dont panic cartoon

In these situations, when your loved ones are in the highest risk groups, it’s hard not to be alarmist.

But what’s harder? Dealing with eye-rollers.

You know who I mean. Those who complain that this is much ado about nothing and “media created” and in the same breath whine about not being to book a cruise this summer. Careful bitches, your privilege is showing.

Covid19 is the new honey badger. It doesn’t care what your zip code is, or about the color of your skin, or what religion you do/do not practice. It doesn’t care if you are healthy or how old you are, or what natural disaster you’ve already survived in life.

It does not care if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t vote, and doesn’t care how you do.

It doesn’t listen to social media, politicians, or preachers.

You are a human, and therefore a target. End of story.

honey badger

Honey Badger Don’t Give A Fuck

The DUR (Derelict Uterus Removal) prepared me well for the Covid Pandemic in that I’ve learned how not to lose my mind while also not leaving my own home for weeks on end. I’ve worked from home in the past, so I (re)learned how to structure my day so that I wouldn’t slip into mental oblivion. I began and maintained projects that stimulated my brain as well as my body.

Netflix binging can only get you so far, dolls.

So start thinking now about alternatives, like books and puzzles (not digital ones), or possibly learning new skills, like cooking or sewing. Don’t embark on massive home remodels, but cleaning out a closet can’t hurt. Learn how to can foods, or how to knit, play an instrument, or meditate. TAKE NAPS. Find things that help keep mind and body focused. I personally have developed the Yoga and Merlot method (while supplies last).

Wash your damn hands. Make anyone who comes into your home do the same.
Buy bleach and laundry detergent. Prep for your household with common sense.

And yet with all this physical and mental prep – it still doesn’t mean I won’t get sick. Most of the country is (generally speaking) healthy and if we do get sick, it won’t kill us. But not so for the population’s most vulnerable. SO PLEASE STAY HOME. Don’t go to a medical facility unless you absolutely have to (and call first if you can).

stay home docs

Social distancing is now a household word. Not taking Covid19 seriously is irresponsible. And equal to choosing to put lives at risk. Which makes you a Dick. Sorry, but own it. If you care for no one other than yourself, then you’re a Dick.

Disruptions are going to happen. Your lives will be inconvenienced. Conference calls and homeschooling are often impossible to juggle, but you know what? We’re all juggling and struggling through it, so practice patience. Ranting on FB or posting political memes on Twitter helps no one. People are eejits and some will over-react, yes. (Shall we wax poetic over TP, my love?) But can’t we just as easily discourage eejit behaviour by showing, insisting(!) that we remain calm, and listen to experts like the CDC and the WHO (not FOX – who posts online stories of people licking airline toilet seats WTAF).

Focus on being helpful and sharing useful things, like links to museums and zoos that are giving free virtual tours:

My favorite, the Atlanta Aquarium:

And free music and concerts (live streams):

Embrace your inner explorer with NASA:

Or explore a national park with a 360 virtual tour:

Educational links and tips on keeping your kids engaged and keeping you (in your new role as homeschooler) from becoming enraged. Give them limits, but give yourself a damn break too. Just do the best you can.

And remember that singing and being silly isn’t banned.

Record your kids doing a Sweatin’ to the Oldies routine (Youtube it!) as proof of “gym class”. Go for walks outside if you can; your dog will love you more for it. Loan out (mail or door delivery) books and encourage reading. Video chat with friends and relatives.

Write letters, draw pictures, and MAIL them. What a treat to get something hand-written, in a day of instant communications, because the recipient knows that someone thought enough of them to spend their time and energy doing this thing. Just for them!

And most importantly, Be Kind.

Our national motto should be KEEP CALM & BE KIND.

Try to claim one act of kindness every day. A deliberate act in which you did something for the care or comfort of another. Last Friday, I paid the tab ($22) for a woman at the Dollar Store buying school supplies. She was close to tears as her card was denied. We’ve all been there. (And if you haven’t, good for you. But don’t you dare look down your nose at someone who is struggling. You could be there still one day.) There were 6 people in line behind me, getting impatient. I told the clerk to ring up mine and I would pay for both. The look in that woman’s eyes told me it was the best $22 I could have spent. I’m not bragging. I’m not a hero. I am an ordinary human who is capable of compassion.

I’m hoping that you all are too.

Remember please that disruptions to you might become true hardships for others. It will get worse before it gets better, but this is the time to let your humanity shine. Some of us are going to “do isolation” better than others. But we are all in this together. Support one another. Stay home (if you can) and stay well.


Your Derelict Debutante
#DocShrop #KeepCalmBeKind

Image result for XOXO gif




Posted by on March 20, 2020 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Where the Hell Have you Been? OR A Weegie Refugee Comes Home.

A friend of mine visited my blog site a few days ago and sent me, without pretext, this message:
“Bitch how derelict can you be? Your last post was almost two years ago.”

I had a handy, snark-filled reply at the ready, but then my inner Irish poked me and said, “Ah Feck sure she’s right.” I went to the site. And sure enough. March. 2018. I was writing about writing. And squids. And critics. And hearts.

Well, fuck.

In lieu of an apology for disappearing in the blog space, let me just say that I’ve been busy, bitches. My anxieties, doctoral research, and writing stresses were matched only in size and scope with my fervent accruing of frequent flyer miles.

NOTE: For those of you just joining, I left the U.S. in Sept of 2015 with my husband, who is now lovingly called BigHaggis. We lived as Ex Pats for 3-4 years as I completed my PhD. We adore Scotland. And Glasgow. And Brexit can go Fuck Itself (technically, I think it’s already trying…) but we still consider ourselves Weegie Refugees. AND NOW I’m about to cover 20 months in about 2000 words, so strap in.
ketchup spill
Let’s catch up, shall we?

April 2018: Ireland
BigHaggis and I traveled to Dublin for a glorious 5 days of distilleries, breweries, cathedrals, crypts, and castles. Much fine Guinness was consumed. Many irreverent jokes were made. I was only removed from one pub and really? It wasn’t my fault. We made merry and adopted the phrase “fiddly diddly” from a traveling German and his drunk (but cute) girlfriend.

Also April 2018: Switzerland
While I lead a 2-day writing retreat of bright young talents, BigHaggis amused himself by loading his daypack with whisky, water, and cigars, and sending me photo evidence of his personal invasions (read: border crossings) into Germany one day and France the next. Neither country could be arsed to acknowledge these accomplishments, so he returned to our hotel in Basel each evening, a bit miffed. On our free day together we walked through some incredible museums and the Basel Kirche, drinking in the beautiful town and river all Disney-spotless and impossibly crisp…

basel selfieEnjoying some glorious weather in Basel, Switzerland. Perfect for strolling along the river drinking QuikMart red wine in stolen coffee cups and smoking Romeo Y Juliet 875s. #livingourBestLife

PRO TIP: The bells will deafen you (think: Quasimodo) but the views atop the spires are worth the climb #goodshoes And if you ask nicely, you can borrow the keys to the Basel Kirche crypt (not on any tour) for a look-see. While we want to return one day (Geneva perhaps?) the whole country seems to be both pristine and expensive as fuck, so the jury’s out on that one.

May 2018: Scotland
End of the term marked the last of supervision for my PhD. Anyone who has gone through a doctoral program will have many words about the importance of not being left free-range chicken. I am no different, but let’s just say (here, anyway) that it was a challenge to both my sanity and my liver.

May-June 2018: Scotland
We hosted family for a 2-week holiday which included a day trip to Edinburgh, the Rosslyn Chapel, a relaxing highland cottage stay, the Hogwarts Express train, Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, Isle of Arran, and all the coos my wee nieces could handle without exploding (thank you Pollock House). The glorious two weeks was marred only one day of rain, and one annoying royal wedding that forced folx to fly union jacks for ½ a day. (Stop rolling your eyes. No Scot gives a fuck about the British crown or who they marry, even an American beauty. Scottish Independence can’t come soon enough.) June saw more visitors (10 days of tour guide fabulousness) including serious saturation on the Isle of Islay, where woolen mill tales and flights of whisky and chocolate pairings were magic. The smell of the 30cmx30cm plot of land BigHaggis owns can be smelt in every bottle of Laphroaig.

The Smith-Shropshire crew walking the fields of the battle of Culloden, where many of my ancestors were killed.(ClanRanald of the MacDonald of the Isles). And (below) feeding baby Heiland Coos at Pollock House, near Glasgow.


July 2018: The Netherlands
BigHaggis and I travel to the metropolis of Enschede, to the University of Twente, an engineering, science, and technology university. (Think MIT or GaTech, but much much smaller. And their students speak Dutch + at least two other languages. And they build robots and drink really good beer.) In short, not a place I would ever have been accepted to study. But they were hosting a conference on the power of narrative, and a very cool woman who had heard me speak in Berlin (Nov 2017) asked me to run a writing workshop about narrative and identity, and even offered translation, because she thought my drag life and it’s research was part-academic-part-stand-up-comedy and something folx would enjoy it. How the hell do you say NO to that? (I didn’t. And I will brag a bit to tell you that 40 signed up for the workshop, slightly more than that attended, and the Fire Marshall gave someone an ear full afterwards.) On the 4th of July, we toasted our Ex Pat lives coming to an end, in a beir garden in the Netherlands.

Also July 2018: Germany
Off to Dusseldorf to see Frau Dr Fabulous, a lifetime friend, musician, and all-around amazing human. We drank, we laughed, we walked the city and drank some more! We strolled through art shows and riverside festivals #alltheoysters, and even crashed a church service/violin performance. Standing in the front lawn of that church after the service, we watched as they assembled tables and tapped the first keg of beer, I almost found religion again. (Almost.)

Monaco selfie w Ben

Also July 2018: Monaco & Nice
We were hosted by old friends made new again. We partied like rock-stars on the Cote D’Azur and marveled at the crazy cool compassionate people in our lives. BigHaggis also discovered that copious amounts of Rose leads to him dancing on tables. (There is photo proof of these shenanigans!)

Also July 2018: Spain
Barcelona in the summer is a nightmare. Go any other time. The beaches are beautiful but like walking on the sun; the heat is only somewhat squelched by copious amounts of cold beer, but then you eat the tremendous (served in hot cast iron skillets) paella and say fuck it. I’ll just sweat until I get back to Glasgow.

August 2018: BigHaggis goes back to the U.S.
Without me. I am crushed, even though we knew it was coming. The GEE18 (Great European Exit tour of 2018) is over. He is returning to find FT work (Fuck you very much Brexit) and (hopefully) a place for us to live once I have submitted my dissertation. I made arrangements with Glasgow friends to check in on me and make sure I’ve not collapsed in the Cigarden and been set upon by hungry urban foxes. I go on a writing retreat in the Trossachs. I cry for 2 days, but then am cheered by pals at Katie’s bar and a long weekend on the Isle of Bute with fellow writers and my chin is up again.

September 2018: Glasgow
I keep busy. Mostly. I work on chapter revisions and allow a crazy woman to use my flat to film her horror movie project. I live in the Mitchell library and few pubs in our neighborhood. I binge watch Lucifer and X-Files episodes and eat tons of Tunnock’s sweeties. I crank out the 30-page bibliography of my dissertation and do nearly-naked happy dances in the wee hours in my flat. I have mini breakdowns over giving away our beloved fichus tree and when BigHaggis sends me flowers. I find someone to sublet our flat. Because after 8 weeks, I need BigHaggis. I rent a beach house at Oak Island, NC, so that I can see him on weekends. But Hurricane Florence shits on that dream setup, damaging it (and the whole island) badly enough that there are no toilets, no running water, intermittent power, and no Wi-Fi. The view was still amazing, though, the owner told me. I told him to fuck right off. I also had a hard time explaining to Scots what a hurricane is – and how large.

hurricaen florence

For my non-U.S. friends: See the long narrow state whose arse is sticking out and clearly in the path of where Flo will make landfall? Yeah. That’s where this genius rented a beach house to be a writing retreat. FML

All of Scotland fits about 2X in (square footage of) NC & SC borders. So explaining that this hurricane was 4 times the size of Scotland to somenoe who’s never ventured out of western Europe – or even out of the UK? A challenge.

October – December 2018: North Carolina & the dissertation cocoon
BigHaggis started a new job with BigPharm and found us a wee house to rent. Heaven at first, but Ex Pat Limbo is not a sustainable life. Adjustments were hard for me. Free range writing and editing. The stress. The stress-eating. The stress-drinking. These months are an absolute blur. Holidays were had, even hosted, but not much of it stuck. I’m advised to edit 12000 words OUT of my dissertation. I struggle with homesickness and self-confidence, spinning in self-doubt and a desperate longing for my Glasgow flat and the Christmas markets I know are happening in City Centre without me. BigHaggis gets a promotion and can now work from home. We go to the animal shelter and adopt a scarred pit bull that is 38 pounds, 5 years old, and shy. We name him HAMISH. It’s maybe this that keeps me from derelict danger zones of depression.

We adopted Hamish on 18 Dec 2018 and our lives are so much richer for it #AdoptDontShop #PittiesRule

January 2019: Cocoon and Classroom (Elon University)
I teach a winter term course based on my research, which I call “Lip Sync for Your Life”. I have drag queens do a “Drag 101” in class and the students and the queens are all brilliant. I am hoping my transition back to teaching in the U.S. will be this easy. (It wasn’t.)

Jan-Feb 2019: Glasgow
Burns Supper with good friends. Dissertation edits, printing, and finally. Submission.
SUBMISSION. The tears. The whisky. More tears. More Tunnock’s. I get a new tattoo.

Feb – March 2019: Greensboro
Teaching. More Adjusting. Also, I sign up for dance lessons (more on that later) because the tango is fucking cool.

April 2019: Glasgow
3.5 years of research and writing and whisky. Conferences, workshops, retreats, and travel to 8 countries and countless cities, and so much of Scotland. 10 weeks of living apart. 3 intense weeks of VIVA prep. To survive a 2-hour 10-minute VIVA (oral defense of dissertation) and I AM A DOCTOR.

#DocShrop celebrations with many Harris Gins and shenanigans ensue for several days. I get a new tattoo. I cry off and on the entire plane ride back to NC.

Coffee mug BigHaggis got me for Christmas #hegetsme

May 2019: Greensboro
I finish my corrections and begin a new project – a collection of short stories that feature dogs. We shop for houses. The PhD limbo is over, and we are ready to stay put for a while. But first, many drams and celebratory gins and travel/graduation shenanigans must happen!

dunvegan selfie
The #BigScotsHols crew at the seal boat landing of Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye. 

June 2019: Scotland
A two-week glorious holiday (ending at Hogwarts for graduation, of course) with my best friends in the world. Fryer Ted, Turner, and Gboy come with me and BigHaggis and we show them the country we love, the country that adopted us without reservation. Time is spent in the Highlands golfing, hiking, drinking, and fly-fishing. GBoy and I fish with flies Mackula tied for us more than a decade ago, when he dreamed in the last days of his life to see the Isle of Skye, and to go fishing with us in Scotland. There on the banks of the River Tweed, I heard his laughter in the running water, and I knew he was proud of me.

Me and GBoy, setting out to fly-fish on the River Tweed.

Two weeks of adventures and giggles races by and ends with a graduation day in my beautiful University, in my beloved city, shared with treasured friends. It’s almost too much. It is filled with champagne and a tremendous dinner at Curlers Rest and (appropriately) Lady Balls Bingo at one of our favorite bar/restaurants called the Hillhead Bookclub. My heart is full of love and my hair is full of glitter. The next day, I get a new tattoo.

#DocShrop’s entourage on Graduation.

Post-Graduation: ShropHQ-to-date
(July 2019 – January 2020)
Life has been undeniably good. We’ve begun slowly unpacking our memories and filling our new home with them. We held a glorious graduation party so we could celebrate #DocShrop Stateside. We hosted family for the holidays, and it was glorious, even though it flew by. Family reunions, cooking, shopping, puzzles, Nutcracker ballet, homemade versions of “Nailed It!” (more on that later) and lounging on our deck in the warn sunshine #CackalackyChristmas). Hamish (now 59 pounds, healthy, and full of attitude) flourishes. (And by flourish I mean he is a spoiled rotten snuggler.)

eileen dunon castle selfie

Don’t let BigHaggis’s scowl fool you. He was having a “Highlander” moment at Eileen Dunan Castle.

I struggle some days to remember the anxiety attacks, the tears of frustration, and the meltdown stress of it all. But I find that the day in Berlin, when someone called me “the Drag Lady” and referred to me as an expert, is a stand-out memory. As is the first set of drag queen interviews I conducted, BigHaggis tagging along and ordering specialty cocktails with dirty names. And the sunrises on the Isle of Eigg as we walked lazily to the water’s edge, mesmerized by the colors above and below. The memory of BigHaggis blocking me so the Swiss Guard wouldn’t catch me taking photos of Drunken Moses in the Sistine Chapel.

Navigating Tesco deliveries and discovering that we could get whisky delivered. To. The. Flat. Being invited to Alasdair Gray’s home, where he poured us healthy drams with Mad Bastard Stevie, who took us to his whisky club in Edinburgh after a rugby game. And the snow falling and bells ringing in Vienna on Christmas night. Or watching a falcon land majestically of the arm of the man standing next to me on the grounds of Dunrobin Castle.

Smoking countless afternoons over books and music and playing backgammon in ourGlasgow Cigarden. Seeing whales jump next to a CalMac ferry boat. The first dinner BigHaggis and I shared in Curlers Rest. And the last. These are the memories that I mine. I get to decide which ones to share, but I could, if I wanted to, hoard them all to myself, curling up in them like a napping dragon.

Not everyone supported this grand expedition of ourse, and there were many rocky days, of course. But we fucking did it.

“Was it worth it?” is seldom asked of us. These days, it’s “Do you miss it?” Oh Yes. The homesickness for a Weegie Refugee is real. The stress is not forgotten, but it is overwhelmingly outweighed by the fabulous adventures. And the laughter. And joy. And pride. We did it. #teamshrop did it.

Not bad for a derelict debutante.



Posted by on January 24, 2020 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Squids & Writers

I have been struggling with my writing lately. It’s not a big secret. Or even a particularly shameful one. Everyone has moments when they feel like they are floundering, even when it’s in an ocean of their own design.

mr incredible typing

‘Tis the writer’s curse, they say, to be haunted by words that seem always just out of grasp, phantasmagorias that linger and tease and move through the air with both graceful fluidity and sharp punctuated movements, like squids.

Squids and writers have a lot in common, actually.

For example, squids have three hearts.

And I think writers do too.

They must, because the very pursuit of their craft means they are constantly being stabbed in the heart, or in the general vicinity of the heart, at least. Two of these three hearts exist merely to take the abuse of the world, because people are assholes. Assholes who are dismissive and cruel about artists in general.

As an artist, my life is open to the opinions of the world in the way that, say, a plumber’s, is not. If a plumber screws up their job, something leaks. Or explodes. Or something that was meant to flow away from your home, flows the opposite direction, resulting in fecal matter streaming over your designer floor tiles. There is nothing subjective or up for interpretation about turd water floating into the hallway. Shit flushes or it doesn’t.

Artists also do their jobs; a writer creates a short story or a screenplay; a sculptor fashions an art piece from clay and steel and plastic components; a poet authors a sonnet. But for these folx, people will line up to loudly have their say about how horrible they think their work is. Because art is subjective. One man’s jar of distasteful piss is another man’s critical commentary on the hypocrisies of the Catholic church.

Critics will tell you that you are not good enough. They (and often your own inner demons) will tell you that will never be good enough. They will look at you with those judgmental eyes that say that you are doomed to follow a passion that will only break your heart over and over again. You will sink into debt, despair, and probably addictions. They worry (usually aloud) that you’ll never find love, when you are worried that you will never find peace.

They don’t know that they are breaking your heart.

And they don’t know that writers and squids have hearts to spare.

And so the writer smiles, knowing that while one heart is breaking, another is healing. And the third one is pumping enough oxygen and energy into me to fuel my fantasies of bathing in the blood of my enemies. Sometimes this bathtub is full of ink in my waking reveries, but usually it is filled with blood.

Anyway, writers and squids.

They both often look effortless to the outside world. Like we are both just lazing away our days, drifting on the tides. But trust me, our lives are stressful. And every now and then, when you poke or threaten us, we will spray you violently with ink.



Posted by on March 2, 2018 in BLOG DEPOSITS


 Not Throwing Away My Shot

If you are a Hamilton fan (and let’s face it, who isn’t) then you instantly recognize this lyric. Hubby and I saw this amazing production a few days ago in the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, where the acoustics were tremendous, the cast was superb, and the whisky was reasonable, which was nice since the legroom was not.


This post is not about Hamilton, per se, but I will say that the production lives up to all the hype – and then some.

It’s about the fact that I bought the tickets 16 months in advance.


This is a record-breaking event in my life. Not only because I have lived my life according to my “Cadaver Metric” (patent pending) by which I measure my current overall health by considering what kind of cadaver I would make, but also because I live with the assumption that someone will have to make that decision sooner rather than later.


In short, I don’t commit to anything more than a year out because I assume I won’t be alive then.

Relax. I don’t actually think I am dying. I think we are ALL dying, simply at different rates. The PTSD and anxiety that accompanies the survival of a terrifying illness means that I find it impossible to imagine my life 12 months out from wherever I am right now. So purchasing FECKIN THEATRE TICKETS more than a year in advance raised quite a few eyebrows indeed.

Have I conquered my fears? (Nope.)

Am I growing as a person? (I doubt it.)


Simply, I love the theatre. When I was younger, I even had dreams of being on the stage, but was told by a director that I was a girl who “should not be in the spotlight.” (Yes. They actually said that. In front of the whole cast. Then made me sing my solo mic’d from backstage.)

really bitch giphy

It was a little traumatizing. But with equal parts stubbornness and stupidity, I continued to audition for everything anyway (one time I was dismissed mid-audition without reading because the directors were so sick of me).

I continued to sing (in my church choir, in my car), stage managed in community theatre, directed/produced plays in college, even did some (very briefly!) stand up in Los Angeles. Karaoke moment? Sure. Intense poetry readings? Yup. Musical drag numbers, Hell Yes. But after high school I never again auditioned for theatre.

shelley BW

Shelley Berman, a veteran comedian and performer – you probably remember him as Larry David’s dad on Curb Your Enthusiasm – and an amazing human being, was the one who encouraged me to do stand-up. I had never been so frightened in my entire life. It was an open-mic type affair in a place in Burbank, California and I am still amazed that I did not wet myself on stage, but Shelley helped set it up and I would never let him down. Shelley also gave me great advice. Humorous, whimsical, practical, actionable advice. So instead of pointing out the exact spot where I didn’t belong, he helped me craft the humor in occupying it anyway. He was lovingly brutal.

We had countless conversations about life and love and family. He loved my imitations of my grandfathers the most, even asking my permission to borrow a joke about the chauvinist one who (according to me) “lost a part of his soul the day the WNBA was formed” and the other, who advised me not to bother with ancestral research because “I’m sure you know enough assholes already, dear.”

strong line of lunatics

Shelley was never convinced that I belonged in academia, and had mixed feelings about me having a Mid-Life Crisis that involved me pursuing more of it. But he also knew that it was time. Time to write my truths and shoot them out into the Universe. Time that I finally took my shot.

Hamilton was a personal milestone for me in a weird and wonderful way, a commitment met from 16 months out. Go me. Although, I will tell you what I told Shelley 20 years ago (and Cubby, and Aram – who were not nearly as amused) – that being a writer suits me, because I consider it a sport like bowling – one must really want to wear those shoes, which is probably why one is encouraged to drink while doing it.


Here’s to small successes.

#keepwriting #keeplaughing #teamshrop


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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in BLOG DEPOSITS


The Fire Swamp Certainly Does Keep You on Your Toes

My dad (Mackula) was a huge movie buff. He loved watching them, talking about them, going to see them, and reciting pieces of his favorites, inserting quotations into everyday life. He had wide and eclectic tastes, for example: The Ten Commandments, Fletch, Planet of the Apes, Platoon, Stripes, Amadeus, Pulp Fiction, The Pink Panther, Die Hard, Beetlejuice and The Princess Bride. Arguably, this last one topped the list. (1)

film reels and popcorn
As I write, it is January 2018 and I am thinking of him and his movie loving self on this anniversary, that this time ten years ago, I was living in what Mackula referred to as the Fire Swamp.

Following a massive heart attack (the last in a series) and stroke, doctors gave Mackula 6 months to live. Hubby and I left Texas and moved into Grandpa Val’s river rock cottage in the Smoky Mountains to be closer to him. Those last sentences are both incredibly sad and dangerously misleading, in that it sounds as if we are big-hearted loving people who were living in pastoral bliss as we offered support and succor to a dying parent. Yeah, not so much. Er, sort of.

Mackula called our house the Fire Swamp because the dilapidated dump actively tried to kill us (think electrical fires and ROUSs) while we worked to flip it into the 21st century.

In 2005, we discovered that the old well had not been capped correctly and that drinking the contaminated water had caused me to develop a blinding kidney infection. The only voice mail on my phone when I was released from the hospital was from Mackula saying, “The Fire Swamp Certainly Does Keep You on Your Toes!”

Mackula was in many ways my best friend, and I like to think that in his last months, I was his too. We talked on the phone literally every day that I didn’t see him personally, and sometimes, even then. (There were days when I hugged him goodbye and left my parents’ house in the morning, was back in the mountains by lunch time, and after dinner, we would talk for over an hour on the phone.)


Working 60 hour weeks at two jobs, missing Texas and our friends, I often felt isolated and frustrated and Mackula would patiently listen and give thoughtful advice. I didn’t always take his advice, of course. “Fuck those Humperdinks!” while funny enough, is not exactly sage advice, even when it’s coming from a mostly dead man.

When researchers from Duke University interviewed him for a series of scholarly papers about those who live with congestive heart disease, he would complain that they didn’t laugh at his mostly dead man jokes. He kept me updated about his pot garden (tomato plants) and Evie (my grandmother) getting busted stealing all the TP on her floor in the nursing home. He would regale me with his latest escapades, like the day IRS agents scared the shit out of Hurricane by ringing the doorbell at 7:00am on a Thursday. (2) Or how he wanted me to arrange matching bright red sparkly pedicures before his next hospital stay so he could shock the nurses on the unit. Or he would email me a document to proofread – a letter he wanted to send his friend who owned a funeral home, requesting a lay-a-way plan in lieu of his refusal to die in a timely manner.

“If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.”

But we talked about dark things too, with a shared macabre humor that most everyone else found off-putting or offensive. We talked about illness, and pain, and death; we talked about the funniest parts of dying. He shared things with me that he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) share with Hurricane, his wife of 40 years. In this sharing – his fears, his regrets, his memories, his beliefs – as with everything, he made me feel special.

mackula BW

He’s been gone now for ten years. The week after his funeral, Heath Ledger died. Mackula did not live to see the insanity of the housing market crashes, or gas prices reaching over $4.00 a gallon. Had he not gone first, he would have mourned the death of George Carlin. And that’s just through the summer of 2008.

As I sit in a posh Victorian flat in Scotland, writing on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I think about how much has changed – and how much has not –  in the last 10 years, living without my friend, my dad. I still struggle to manage the (new, improved) stresses of life, and smile knowing that my Fire Swamp has taken on new forms, new challenges and trials, but it still keeps me on my toes. There will never be a life without a Fire Swamp. We just have to navigate it the best we can. When I feel overwrought or like I am running (out of time) or being chased (by deadlines) or misdirected (by eejits) I stop and breathe and listen for Mackula’s voice in my ears. The goofy chuckle that would precede the words that concluded every phone call. For the 2 years, 9 months, and 17 days after medical science said he would die any day, just before hanging up he would say:

“Rest. Heal. Sleep. I shall most likely kill you in the morning.”

And I would respond (as I still do): “Love you too dad.”


“Have fun storming the castle!”

(1) If you are not a fan of (or have ever seen *gasp*) the movie The Princess Bride, then this post might be a bit confusing to you.

(2) They were looking for my eejit first husband, who – among other things – decided he couldn’t be arsed to pay his taxes. Hurricane recovered from her initial shock to feed the agents pancakes. Along with every name and number in her address book she thought might help them.


Posted by on January 28, 2018 in BLOG DEPOSITS