I Wish That I Could Be Like The Cool Kids

I was getting very tired of packing up and moving, but hopefully this would be the last time. Never say that. Ever. Kirksville is in northeast Missouri and likes to bill itself as the meth capital of the US. It may or may not be, but it IS a very financially depressed town. I doubt it would exist if it weren’t for the 2 universities located there. In the summer, when the students leave, it’s virtually a ghost town.


In the summer, Kirksville is as humid as a rainforest. I think the heat would be bearable it it wasn’t for the humidity. Any time Nick or I return to North Dakota and hear anyone griping about the humidity, we want to shake them until their teeth rattle: North Dakotans never deal with real humidity.

However, when winter came and everyone around us started saying how very cold it was outside, Nick and I could feel smugly superior: Missourians never deal with real freezing temperatures. Unless there’s an ice storm. In the winter Missouri can’t decide if it wants to rain or snow; the result is ice storms. Everything is coated with a thick layer of ice. Walking without falling is impossible unless you have ice cleats; driving is an adventure.  The ice is so heavy it breaks tree branches, endangers power lines, seals houses and car doors. 

We moved into a house right outside of Kirksville, then I rented a car and drove six hours to Minneapolis to attend my first ever convention. Two surprises: it WASN’T a Star Trek Convention, and I stayed with K. When K and I decided to mend fences, we didn’t fuck around. K is now someone I wouldn’t hesitate to call if I was in trouble, or sad–or have exciting news! K is married to another person from Campus Players and she has three great kids, who I’m really proud to know.


The convention was for “Supernatural.” Because Sam and Dean helped me live through Bram’s death. Because neither of those boys are hard to look at. And because I identify soul-to-soul with Dean, a man who was told to take care of his baby brother and has never been able to quit taking care, a man who has the weight of the world on his shoulders and keeps plugging along, a man who has happiness snatched away from him every time he finds it. 

Also, an absolutely beautiful man who is beautiful even when he cries.
And he allows himself to cry.


I invited my former student, now friend, Crysta to come to the convention with me and she brought her sister, who is just as awesome as Crysta is.

My name was chosen to ask a question of Misha Collins, but just as it was my turn to speak some woman unleashed her 2 year old, who was dressed as Castiel, to run down the aisle toward the actor. I mean, the kid WAS cute, and she had named him Castiel, but COME ON. I never got to speak to Misha. I DID get a high-five from Rob Benedict, who *spoiler* is god *spoiler.* So I have been *spoiler* touched by the hand of god *spoiler.*  AND William Fucking Shatner came out on stage to speak to Misha and I was the first to recognize him and ruined my throat by screaming. I probably would’ve rushed the stage and been arrested if it hadn’t been for the woman next to me (there only to chaperone her 14-year-old daughter), who grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go.



I’d bought a photo op with Jensen and Jared because I love Jensen, but didn’t want Jared to feel left out. First: those boys are enormously tall. Second, after William Fucking Shatner, I had a talk with myself about being too old to fangirl and straightening up my act. I walked up onto the photo ‘stage’ and Jared looked down from his 6’4” and winked at me. I really didn’t know what to do with that, so I turned to Jensen, who smiled and held out both arms, inviting me to hug him. And at that point, I died and left my body.


The next thing I remember is standing in the hallway with Crysta and her sister, crying.

So I guess I dissociate under both unhappy and happy stress. Good to know.

I returned to Kirksville and the first week at my job at Truman State, to be told the provost had removed the tenure line for my position. I immediately began looking for another job. They’d bait-and-switched me! I was furious. I was also out of money and tired of moving. I stopped searching for another job. Another mistake.

Trish & Sue

The house we’d moved into was infested with wolf spiders. Wolf spiders are big and ugly and oh yeah–I have a phobia which is actually NOT related to any trauma, at least that I’m aware of: Spiders terrify me. I’m here to tell you the ‘behavior modification through exhaustion’ theory is a viable behavior modification method. Unfortunately, it takes a lot to exhaust me. The whole time we lived in the house, I couldn’t go anywhere without turning lights on. I was afraid to leave water beside my bed because what if I grabbed a spider in the dark? I couldn’t watch TV or read a book or play on the computer without watching the ceiling above me for a spider. When we finally moved to a new place, little house spiders no longer sent me running. 

Nick and I briefly returned to California for Monica and Randin’s wedding. It was beautiful and I totally didn’t cry. Puppy walked down the aisle. 


When Joyce arrived, she asked Monica how many people I’d picked fights with so far. Then she turned around and bragged to anyone who would listen that I’d made Monica’s dress and hand-beaded it with 10,000 beads. I DID hand-bead it, but I don’t know if I applied more than 1,000. I was too busy to be bothered by Joyce’s inanities. I was of course repairing all clothing mishaps and being what Monica called the ‘stage manager’ of her wedding: making sure everything went smoothly and on time.

I also get to tell people I married my daughter.

Randin & Monica

The second time I went back to do Summer Theatre, I stayed with Aili and Derek and their two young children. I was allowed to direct. I was still miserable. I did get back in touch with Ruth though, and spent time with Janet and Justin, when I wasn’t trapped watching Aili’s kids. One of my friends called me an ‘indentured nanny.’ It was a weird summer and proved to me that Aili was never really my friend; I was just Bram’s wife.


Just before leaving Minot to return home, Bram’s family invited me to dinner: Conrad, Karen, Kena, Aili, the three grandkids. I sat at the table and listened to them at dinner, tearing down Minot, and theatre in Minot, and the practitioners of theatre in Minot, claiming that Minot needed culture and it was up to this family to bring that culture. No one else in Minot had the knowledge or capability to bring the city culture except this family. And oh yeah: I had to pay for my own dinner they’d invited me to. The scales fell from my eyes. 

Bad Chad

I finally saw I was not at fault for not being able to fit into Bram’s family. No one ever could have. No one was ever going to be good enough for Bram, or good enough to be a part of this family. It wasn’t me. It was their own warped sense of who and what they are. If I am the black sheep in my family because I don’t buy the crazy, then Bram was the black sheep in his family because he didn’t believe he was superior. 


I went home and legally changed my last name. I will always love Bram and Bram knew that. But I’m not part of his other family. So I guess I was wrong: Karen has won the final round and title of that family-favorite game, “Who Is Mrs Bramslastname?” Congratulations to the winner. I’ll always be the person your son loved most in the world. 


I believe I was ending my 3rd year at Truman when Monica and Randin had my granddaughter. It was a terrible labor that lasted three days and Elle will probably be the only grandchild I have. That’s ok, because she is beautiful and smart and beloved. She inherited my weird tooth enamel problem and my overwhelming empathy. She got her dad’s crazy optimism and general sweet mood. She got her mama’s tenacity and patience. Her middle name is Elle, for Michelle and Bram Elliot. She is the brightest ray of hope to be born into my crazy family.


The students at Truman were amazing: smart, creative, kind. They taught me about being an ally. They taught me how to be a better person. The faculty at Truman was another story. Ron and I immediately became fast friends. He also almost immediately broke his back and then had a heart attack. He had to retire and I’m glad he did because I love him. But that left me at TSU without an ally.  Ron and I and one other faculty member really were there because we wanted to be teachers and do everything we could for the students. Dana and David believe they are artistes and they shit all over everyone around them to create their version of art.


That includes the students, who they abuse and mistreat, lie to and use. All while telling the students this is how it is in professional theatre. At least once a semester, Dana would tell me her favorite costume designer she’d ever worked with didn’t even have a costuming degree. After bullying and mistreating me, David told me I behaved like an abuse victim. I told him to stop talking. So he asked if I felt inferior because I wasn’t tenured.


After Ron had to retire, Dana and David broke a few rules to hire someone more like them, Brad, and then began angling to get rid of me so they could hire Brad’s wife, Cat. None of these people value costume designers or really theatre designers at all. Cat told me in a meeting, in front of other faculty, that “Designers ruin a director’s vision.” No one told her she was wrong or tried to to defend me.  I don’t want to dwell in that place, so let me just tell you: Truman Theatre is a toxic, hateful, harmful place. DO NOT work there. Ever. DO NOT enroll there. Ever. DO NOT let your kids become Theatre majors at Truman. Ever.

I no longer work there. I’m not even sure I like theatre any more. Truman Theatre is toxic. And believe me: I know toxic.


My friend/shop manager/assistant Daphne and I have partnered on an etsy page. We made a killing on Covid masks and now we’re looking for the next big thing. I keep collecting stray cats. Nick bitches and tells me I can’t save the world, but he buys them the best food and freaks out as hard as I do if we can’t find one of them. Right now, we have 6, each with their own personality, each fiercely loved. 

Coriolanus, Polonius, Guildenstern, Horatio

I make good friends, friends I keep for life. Sue, Trish, and I are getting together again next week to just be BFFs. When I go back to Minot, I know I can always stay with Janet and Justin and their two beautiful, smart kids. Ruth and I are heterosexual life partners and I still call Farrah to help me get over myself. Ronnie is always happy to burst any smugness bubble I may start blowing; I speak to Adam and Noah at least once a month. Nick and Monica grew up to be amazing adults, and relatively non-neurotic. Randin is more than my son-in-law, he is my son. Kelsie is my daughter. Linda continues to be a beloved advisor.


I have fantastic friends who used to be students. Being a teacher was rewarding and I miss it. I’m trying to learn to be happy.


It sounds like I’m saying goodbye, but I have three more stories to tell you. Stick with me for three more days, and I’ll give you an ending. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether it’s happy or something else.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: