So the Universe totally knows what it’s doing.


Thorin and I were shopping at Hannaford’s. I noticed a petite women with brown hair pulled in a neat pony tail. I saw her first in the produce department. She almost ran into me with her cart because she was staring so intently at Thorin. Then in the aisle with soap and tooth paste she almost ran into me again. This time our eyes met briefly. Hers were rimmed in red.

After two more run-ins I figured it’s definitely about Thorin and likely his Down syndrome. Either that or she was trying to injure me. We got into line behind her– not by design but hers was the shortest line. She looked at Thorin, “You are a good looking boy.”

“Thank you.”

“I’ve been watching you– pushing the cart and helping. You’re a big help.”

“Thank you.”

I bet you’re a smart guy.”

“I am.”

She never looked at me. After she was done checking out she turned towards Thorin,

“Good-bye now.”


When we got to our car I saw her sitting almost directly across from us in her car– watching him. I asked Thorin to take the cart over to the stall about 20 feet away. She watched him look both ways, cross the lane, return the cart and then look both ways again and run over to me. As I started up the car my phone rang. Thorin whines if I talk in the car. I turned on music and stepped outside to answer. It was a short conversation. I hung up and looked across the way. She was still there staring. I walked toward her smiling and waving. She looked confused. I was confused, too. I continued.

When I got to her car she put down the window.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Is it hard?” she said pointing toward Thorin.

“Because he has Down syndrome?”


“He has to work harder then most people.”

“What about you and your husband?”

“He’s our only kid so I don’t know if he’s harder,” I said laughing.

Her eyes were wet, “Our doctor thought we should have an abortion.”

I put my hand on the edge of  her window. I didn’t feel like I could reach in and touch her but I wanted to connect. I waited.

“We agreed. Now we have two girls.”


“He didn’t have anything good to say about my baby” she said shaking her head, “I think he was wrong.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Did you know?”

“I did. We adopted him. So we never had the doctor full of gloom and doom but we did have family and friends that said awful things. People are really ignorant about Down syndrome.”

“It’s been seven years.”

“There’s grief support groups. Or counselors….” I trailed off.

She squinted at me, “I have no idea what I’d say.”

“Tell them you stalked a boy with Down syndrome at the grocery store. That’s a great opening line.”

She laughed which was a relief.

“You have a good son.”

“I do. Thanks.”

As I walked back to my car I heard her drive away.

author’s note: I am pro-choice. I also think any medical professional still frightening parents with never true information about people with Down syndrome is a menace.










Monster Trucks: a “boy” and his monster truck


Thorin had a minor surgery this week. Ward and I thought a nice recovery would be for me to take Thorin and the dogs to a friend’s condo in Bar Harbor. I planned it so we would arrive just as a snow storm was starting! We would be snowed in! In rural-ish Maine! What fun! What could possibly go wrong?

Thorin stopped talking at 6:00pm. Completely non-verbal except for the hysterical screaming and crying that started at 1:00 in the morning. He was burning up. Crap! How to get a sick, hot and screaming boy to the car, clean it off and drive in snow on black ice? I didn’t do any of that. I called an ambulance.

He had strep throat.  Fortunately antibiotics turned a very-sick-boy into a not-as-sick-boy.

Ward joined us and then we caravan-ed home. Thorin was much better! So much better he had an endless list of demands this guilt-ridden-mother was only too happy to indulge. He wanted to watch Monster Trucks. I saw the  Tomatometer was 31% and Audience Score was 51%. I did not want to watch that.

Picture Thorin– laying back on a mound of pillows, pleading: “I’m a sick. You stay a here.”

It’s was impossible not to cave to the charming dialect of an elderly Italian immigrant.

First thoughts–

Rob Lowe is in the film– speaking in a Southern drawl! It was as distracting as Nicholas Cage in ‘Peggy Sue Got Married.’ Also Rob must have in his contract ‘aggressively tailored Oxford shirts only.’

The hero, Tripp, is a plucky, paternally-challenged, highly-motivated man-child. He’s played by Lucas Till. Till has the challenge of portraying an enthusiastic teen pushing 18 – played by an actor in his mid-twenties -which if misplayed could seem super creepy.

His mother is  played by the terrific Amy Ryan. She has maybe three minutes of screen time. Is she a producer? Her character dates a real priss– the town’s Sheriff played by Mr. Barry Pepper. He wipes the car door of his Sheriff’s car with a napkin after she touches it. That’s straight up weird though, right?

This film is super hokey, corn ball and slap sticky. It has TWEEN BOY written all over it. There are obvious nods to E.T. and all the other movies where good kids help a misunderstood creature against the adults who want to kill it. Thorin laughed, giggled and sighed through out.

What’s the amazing Danny Glover doing in this movie? To start he’s in a wheelchair. I do love him but what about an actor who is in a wheelchair?  Are these actors all producers?

Tripp’s potential love interest, Meredith, is played by Jane Levy who was a couple years older than Till at the time of the filming, playing an 18 year old. She got to be a producer. Bully for her!



Set up: A mysterious being will be displaced by oil drilling unless something happens!

Enter the film’s titular monster. He looks like a massive slug with octopus-like tentacles. He’s actually adorable. Think Flipper if you’re old enough.

He guzzles oil for sustenance. He and his species existence is threatened by tight-shirt wearing, drawling Rob Lowe who wants the oil they need to survive and doesn’t care who has to die to get it.

Thankfully — our monster crosses paths with Tripp. He is immediately taken with Creech — who he names after ‘creature.’ His relationship to Creech is protective, fatherly. Tripp’s biological father, played by Frank Whaley, has been a real disappointment. And now he’s stuck with an inferior substitute– Barry Pepper as Felix Unger. So Tripp will be the good father to Creech. He is so single-focused in his care-taking of his charge that he is completely unaware of the romantic feelings coming from Meredith. Later in the film she tells Tripp who is lamenting the loss of a father something like: “It made you who you are.” It’s then you realize she sounds like a 28-year-old high school guidance counselor with bad boundaries.

Okay, so everyone in this town has monster trucks except for poor Tripp. He has a shell of what could be a very sweet vintage monster truck save for the engine and all other mechanical parts. I won’t go into details but Creech stuffs his very supple body in the truck so that he is the full operating system of the fastest and most badass truck ever.

Brief aside: “Oh, monster in the truck! Monster truck!” I said excitedly to Thorin. He looked at me like I was uncool. I have experienced that feeling more than once in my lifetime so I get what it feels like. And I had even suspected Thorin might see me this way. But this look was blatant.

So Tripp and Creech are deliriously happy with each. In fact, during the musical interlude race scene– where Trip & Creech race Meredith and her horse it is clear the dreamy love song is about the boy and his monster truck. This– right here– is what I have discovered is safe terrain for Thorin. He is not ready, at least in movies or books, for the more serious aspects of romance. Ward and I suggested Karate Kid a few weeks ago. Thorin started karate.  He informed us 30 minutes in: “No, not for eleven year olds. Older kids.”

Back to the flick. Fathers are in rare quantity in this film. Meredith’s biggest role seems to be able to offer her off-screen father’s vacated premises– both of which are perfect for Tripp’s mission to succeed. A complete barn repair shop– how convenient! And a little cabin by a lake–  perfect for hiding out from the bad guys! Lazy writing or jokey?

We learn the cleaning Sheriff really loves Amy Ryan and that knuckle-headed Tripp. We see him fighting to protect Tripp against the head bad guy. It’s an almost nausea producing scene with both characters shouting in front of a high speed train. It was dizzying and I have no idea what they were yelling.

The kids get a hand from Thomas Lennon’s character– in a really good role for him. He also discover the creatures have hive mentality which means because of their super close vibes they can merely absorb learned abilities from each other. Sort of like the Trump Administration.

The movie ends in a predictable and uplifting way. Except maybe for Tripp and Meredith leaving town together at the end.

It’s a fun, easily digestible movie. But, I do have a  question. There is an almost stereotypical character. Sam, played by Tucker Albrizzi, is the red-haired, fat kid with the lisp. He along with Meredith saw the true wonder of Tripp even before all the hoopla. Tripp enlists Sam’s necessary aide. Meredith tells Tripp, “You’ll have to go to lunch with him.” Tripp good-naturedly agrees. Then it gets weird for a few minutes. They take turns looking at Sam like he’s their pet. Meredith points out Sam’s plumber’s crack to Tripp and they both smile adorably. Now I think they want to adopt him.

The terrain changes quickly during the last part of the movie from a scenic green rural community to seemingly cut off mountains. It was great to watch it safely curled up on the couch with Thorin and the dogs.

The Long Game


For those of you who are like: “Where’s ‘Highlights From 2017: Part Two?‘” Don’t worry, Mrs. Holland’s Opus will continue soon-ish.

Thorin had ear surgery this morning.  It went well and the desired outcome is that his hearing in that ear will be improved from moderate loss to mild loss. It took a few weeks for Thorin to accept the idea. His bleak assessment of almost all medical procedures and illnesses since Bubba died has been a road-block in getting him to go to the doctor or having any procedure. If someone gets sick his response is usually, “They’re dying.”

In fact, he told me he would die if he had the surgery. I assured him, “Thorin that’s not how you will die. You’re going to be very old when that happens.”

“Sure, mom.”

Ward and I played up the benefits of his hearing getting better and his speech getting even better. I made a point of talking about other people’s surgeries and how well they went. I even played up Jane Fonda’s success with surgery.

“Thorin, she’s almost Bubba’s age and she has had surgeries! Look how healthy she is!,” I said dancing a copy of Vogue before his eyes.

I did not mention they were plastic surgeries. Why muddy the water?

And we also stayed out of his way. Fear is a personal experience and it’s important to be able to manage it. To know you have skills to manage your anxiety is powerful. Thorin did figure it out. He would agree to the surgery but he would not be happy about it. Fair enough.

I put out an ask on Facebook for encouragement. His best friend, Ella FaceTime’d (is that right?) to tell him: “You’re brave, Thorin!”

The staff at the hospital where the surgery took place was excellent, compassionate and responsive. Thorin’s ENT and surgeon even told him this morning, “Call me, Kevin!” So we did!

The anaesthesiologist was superb. He let Thorin call all the shots. He told Thorin: “Nothing’s going to happen that you don’t know about, Bub.”

I went in with Thorin to be put under. For the first time he fought. He’s not our little, unsuspecting boy. He’s now 11 years-old. He’s since forgiven me –my complicity.  And–we didn’t have to buy a pony, just dessert.

Thorin came out of surgery upset. That is to be expected. We– Ward, me and staff– were focused on him coming back and getting home. Thorin had been through the worst of his fear– DEATH.

One person was not on-board with the carefully laid plan of humans working together to help someone. Earlier, I had spied a woman– a health care professional who was there throughout the mornings events–who, strangely, was the only staff person not to engage with Thorin in some way. He was the only child in the surgical area. That tends to bring attention.

After an hour or so waiting for Thorin to rally I heard her voice. Her rather loud voice at that moment: “…he’s so retarded!” This was followed by too loud laughing.

My head snapped around. I looked at her hard. I caught her profile. Did she see me– or him? I looked back at Thorin and Ward — it was clear they had not heard. They were behind me in the little surgical bay talking. Thorin also had batting in one ear.

I noticed almost immediately that no one else laughed– not other patients, family members or staff. That means a lot. I remember when most people laughed. I remember laughing.

I pulled Ward aside and told him what I heard. Who it was? He figured that out before I told him.

I have lived, written and performed this statement: These were not on our list of parental concerns– before we became parents to Thorin. We had regular parent worries. We hadn’t planned on schooling a world, too.

So, Thorin didn’t hear that word today but he has heard it– once even in reference to him.

We all need to keep moving the line forward. Okay– so, now not everyone laughs, maybe. How about this? When someone says it you say: “Not on my watch!”  Or “That’s f’ing Al Franken of you!” I have never liked him. “Women aren’t as funny as men? Mr. Funnyman, Puke-face.”

Back to the present. When I emailed the patient advocate at the hospital hours ago I shared many things including this:

I would however very much like to talk to you. I’m assuming your facility has a code of conduct that is respectful to all people. ‘Retarded’ is an ugly and hurtful word. It is shocking in this day and age a health care professional is not educated to the fact the word retarded is archaic, offensive and just plain wrong.

Our son has Down syndrome. I’m relieved on top of surgery he didn’t have to also hear her nasty comment or laughing.

Had our son not been present I would still be upset. The same way I would be to a racial, ethnic, sexist, homophobia…etc remark.

I look forward to speaking with you. If you are open I have some ideas on how to help you work on a resolution that educates.

I got the best email response back: I’m sorry. When can we talk?” We talked. She said something pretty close to this: “I’m glad no staff supported her but I wish someone had said something.”

“Me, too.” Yes– that was deliberate.

As Thorin’s stand-in advocate– I don’t expect perfection. I expect intention. I will accept: I am willing to work to do it differently. That’s my expectation for me.

She was also relieved that this person wasn’t referring to Thorin directly. I told her, “No it didn’t seem so.” But I couldn’t share my hunch. The one Ward had on who it was.

I ask them to consider my assistance toward making a more accepting and tolerant community. This is me moving the line forward from writing about it to educating about IT out THERE.  Being scared is not a reason not to do something. I told Thorin that, too.

*More on performance storytelling in the highlight’s of 2017 I keep threatening to publish.






Highlights from 2017: Part One


Yes, I’m aware it’s January 16th.

My mother used to write a year in review letter that she sent out to friends and family. It wasn’t the usual humble brags delivered via mailman in the 1970’s. She wrote about real things– both funny and subversive. Like: “Betty spoke her first complete sentence,  “The damn dog shit in the den again!” I’m not convinced my mother wanted to be a mother.

I started this post awhile ago– like on actual New Year’s. It’s now a thing— I can’t stop writing. Ward said I’m like Michael Douglas in The Wonder Boys. If you have


Michael Douglas as Grady Tripp

not seen it– find it after reading the rest of this. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Michael Chabon. Additionally, get the soundtrack!

Onward! The following are some of my past year highlights. It’s in chronologically order but it runs the gamut from random to sublime to why-do-you-think-this-is-interesting?

I’m a storyteller performer. I have been since I was 4 but now I get to do it outside the house. Starting in 2015 Bess Welden and I have worked together to present the storytelling production of Not Always Happy. In January we were at the Maine Women Writer’s Collection at the University of New England. I did a reading using our new format– a pick-your-own-adventure production. Each 2 – 3 minute story I told now had a prop attached to it. I knew which story would be the first and the one that would end it but the 11 stories in between were chosen at random by assigning a number to each prop. No show would ever be the same. The audience was involved and the non-linear format worked beautifully.

One of the props was a woven strap with a buckle. The story it went with is titled      Speech Therapy. It’s about Thorin being restrained by a speech therapist when he  was 2 years-old. A woman I’ve known since she was much younger came with her  mom, who I had worked with years before. The daughter told me she had guessed the strap was about restraint. She works with children who have disabilities. It’s an issue that weighs heavily on her mind. Bonus: I got to sit in May Sarton’s chair and put my feet up on the matching hassock while I read.

Satin pillow cases. I have at times– curly, wavy or coarse hair. I have had to wet my hair down in the morning to re-shape whatever it formed into during the night since Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon. And –me waiting at the school bus stop in Wisconsin in January. Fast forward to 2017, the year I discovered satin pillows cases! How ever your hair looks when you go to bed, that’s how it looks in the morning or maybe even better. I wished I had discovered this when Bubba was alive. We often commiserated about our hair.

Diagnosis. I was sick from September, 2016 to May, 2017. I started going to doctors in November, 2016. From then until April, 2017 every doctor said something like, “You don’t look sick enough.” I wish I had the ovaries to say, “You don’t talk doctor very good.” Finally one of them thought to give me a blood test. My eosinophil levels got his attention. I was indeed sick enough. After more tests I found out I have chronic eosinophilic pneumonia (CEP). It’s rare but not deadly.  I’m off and on Prednisone. Weight gain, puffy face and distemper followed by fatigue. Bonus: Healthier!

Working retail. I work for just the best person ever, my friend, Kelly. I work weekends at her store, Nomads. I love it! I get to suggest clothing options and dispense life philosophy to really swell people. I even waited on Willem Dafoe and his wife, Giada Colagrande. I was a real nerd and they were both very nice– and in a hurry. So I couldn’t

a thorin

Nomad’s in-house model

tell Willem we are both from Wisconsin and then segue-way to, “Here’s my book! Please take it!” Also compared to them I’m Godzilla. They are impossibly small and beautiful.

I’m a published author. My book, Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, was published. I had two intentions with the book: it must be funny and predicated on the truth that Down syndrome is not the problem, society is the problem. My book is my manifesto or maybe even a prayer.

The Book Expo. In June I went to the Book Expo with my sister, Betty. I got bumped up to a suite at the hotel– because the desk clerk thought the room I was assigned would be too noisy. It’s like she knew me! And she didn’t charge for Betty. When we signed in to the Expo– me having a pass and Betty, not– the lovely woman behind the counter not only– adored my wrapped dress, applauded Betty for coming to support me but she gave Betty a free pass. I signed books. I talked to everyday people, librarians, bloggers and other authors. I got Thorin a Goose Bumps book bag! Bonus: I got to meet one of my mentors– Lawrence Downes, who also wrote the forward of my book.

This mother Tweets. Eight hours before Betty and I were to depart back to Portland I discovered my return flight had been cancelled. Apparently I yelled, “I need my emergency anxiety medication!” I frantically tweeted a sharp missive to American Airlines. How else do we solve any problem now? Within 10 minutes I had my ticket.

Author reading. I did a reading at Sherman’s in Damariscotta. I hella love Damariscotta! I immediately wanted to move there after walking on Main Street a block. I asked a woman at the bookstore if she lived here long. “All my life,” she told me.

“I think I would love it here,” I said.

“You couldn’t afford it.” That’s a Maine way of responding. Not rude but instead a helpful tip!

The reading at the bookstore was awesome! Awesome part 1: having Karen and Tom came!

toma nd thorin

Thorin and Tom

Karen, a single parent who has a child with Down syndrome, relentlessly supports what I do — driving hours from Downeast Maine. She’s also very smart and funny. Thorin looks up to Tom.

Awesome part two:  at the reading was– Charlotte, a 19 year-old autistic  woman, her father and paternal grandmother who had been vacationing in Maine came. The trio rocked the house. Charlotte shared the hardship of not being accepted in public school but also talking about the community she found after she graduated. Her family gave brilliant advice for attending an I.E.P.  Bring everybody! They would show up at Charlotte’s I.E.P.s with two generations of family.

Update: I had a mind-meld with Charlotte last week. As I was writing about her here she emailed me a review of my book! It’s on Good Reads and here’s a snippet: This was definitely a treat start to my 2018 with finishing up this book. I seriously appreciate finding this book when I did. 155% recommend this book to whomever wants to read this book.

She’s now writing her own book. Bonus: She’s a good writer!

Not Always Happy the stage production. Bess and I were accepted into Maine’s PortFringe festival in June. I did two readings during the week. Most of the people who attended I didn’t know and that was a gift. It was an amazing experience. Not just the audiences but Thorin. He asked to stay during the performances. Ward and I worried. Thorin knew I was talking about his past. As I read I would sneak looks at Thorin sitting in the back of the room next to Ward. At one point he got up and walked into the hall. Ward followed him. He did that a second time. Afterward I talked to Thorin.

“Should I take them out,” I asked.


“How did it make you feel?”


“Of course.”

Review of production: “…the brilliant writing and expert storytelling of the performer, creates a close and tender experience that is sure to give you goosebumps. Excellently done, and a beautiful glimpse into the author’s world.”

And the PortFringe “Pulitzer” Award for Excellence in Writing!

We got another dog. In July I knew it was time to get Smudge* a dog friend because of two incidents: I unintentionally created a bubble water and sand creation at the beach that looked a lot like our beloved and deceased Coco-the-dog. Then I started finding white feathers. Chew on that. ( I did move the tennis ball 4 inches to the left so it was in the photo.)

1 june30


Next obvious sign. A few days after the sand incident I was sitting on our screened-in back porch looking online at Dietrich, a six-year-old dachshund/chihuahua mix from a shelter 30 miles away. As I contemplated him a small white something fell in front of my field of vision and came to rest in my lap.2 july 11 It was a white feather. Where did it come from? Even Ward thought it was strange and his standards for strange are much higher than mine. He was also on to me.

“Kari, why are you on a shelter website?”

“Just look’in. You know, the Coco sand thing.”

“You want a dog.”

I’m not a complete control freak– I called Ward as I was getting in the car with Thorin and Smudge to go meet Dietrich. Ward’s quick assessment, “I know you’re coming back with the dog so let’s not pretend you’re just going to “meet” him.”

Smudge and Dietrich were introduced in a closed kennel. After they didn’t try to kill each other it was determined to be a match. Dietrich had been given his name at the shelter. He was a stray so they had no idea of what his name had been. None of us liked his name. Ward suggested Dev– we’re big fans of Master of None. * Thorin and I agreed.


Smudge and Dev

And, the white feathers? They showed up for a bit more after Dev came to us.***

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The Beach. We had a glorious summer here in Maine. It was endless, extending into  October. We all went to the beach a lot. Body surfing, reclining in chairs, reading, walking and eating too much from the Mainely Burgers food truck. We home schooled thorin at beach 2017out there in September. It was Thorin, me and retirees. Sprinkled in the mix were students and people who work flex schedules. One brilliant– warm breeze blowing, 89 degree day in late September every one was commenting at the beach how lucky we all were. A woman next to us said she came out during her teaching breaks. She also said something everyone was thinking, “You never know when your last beach day is going to be.”

Lake House. The only lake house I have disliked was the one Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock starred in. It’s not enough lake house and too many sensibilities to put aside. I like Keanu Reeves. I used to love him but it’s waning.

Our family’s vacations were spent in family-run resorts in northern Wisconsin. We would rent a cottage on a lake for week or sometimes a weekend in the fall. We went with other friends. Over time I learned how to swim, canoe and make perfect s’mores. I also learned, much later– I wished I hadn’t skipped out on so many of those trips in my too-cool-for-school-teens and once with a live-in-boyfriend I should have dumped in favor of storytelling out on the big  porch facing the lake. After our dad died a psychic told my sister that he lived at a lake house next door to our aunt Betty who passed almost twenty years before him.The last month of my mom’s life we sat on our back porch and pretended the lake was just past the neighbors trees. My mom would comment on hearing people laughing in the water. She said she wished she was strong enough to walk down and put her feet in.

Somewhat long interlude about the seduction of the crickets: As our summer yawned on I became aware of crickets. I started noting when they started in the day– each day earlier in the day. I started reading about them. Among other things I learned it’s mostly males who sing by rubbing their wings together and cricket chirps can serve as a thermometer. That first link is to an article titled 11 Cute Facts About Crickets. Number eleven is that we will likely be consuming crickets in the coming years. Cute! The second link tells you how you can predict weather temperature by cricket chirps. If you want to go deep on that phenomena click here.

I got Ward interested in counting cricket chirps with me. I told him I thought sitting in the den with the porch door open– listening to crickets was like being at a lake house. That night we made up the couch bed and slept in the den falling asleep to crickets, owls, birds, drifting voices and cars. I woke up feeling like I had at other lake houses– dreamy, peaceful and rested. Ward felt the same. We went to the lake house every night for almost three weeks. Some nights were unseasonably warm and others required an additional quilt. We didn’t talk about ‘lake house’ except at night to ensure we we’re still going there.

I don’t even want to guess when part two will be up. Peace Out Cub Scouts, K

*More on Smudge– after Walt and Coco died we waited 6 months to get Smudge who had been named Chanel. We love and adore her. She has a major issue which is not letting humans touch her other than Ward, Thorin and I. Andrew, Ward’s bother, is not convinced she is as he put it, “a 100% dog.” Thorin suspects she’s part human. He said, “She’s suspicious but good.”

**I have been writing this so long he hadn’t been accused when I started.

***I admit, I live in a coastal city inhabited by seagulls and we have a shit ton of white feathers in our burg. Fyi: I was very picky about which feathers I photographed. They had to be random.

The Bread Winner


I took Thorin to the film The Bread Winner . I honestly thought it was a kid friendly albeit serious film. In watching it we discovered it was about an 11 year-old Afghani girl (the same age as Thorin), Parvana, living under the Taliban rule in 2001. First her father is taken away to prison for defending her right to accompany him to the market place. Left at home are her mother, older sister and little brother. Parvana dresses as a boy so she can leave the house to work in order to support her family. What follows is heartbreaking and horrifying.



So, maybe you’re thinking, “This mother will go to any length to not take her kid to Wonder.” Seriously, Wonder seems sentimental and trite based solely on the trailer alone. When I told my friend Kelly after we went she offered, “Isn’t this the time of year there are holiday films?” Oh, how we laughed.

I saw Greta Gerwig– my favorite actor, director, writer and human– interviewed on The Hollywood Reporter — she said as a child she thought films were created by gods. Brief aside: FUCK YOU TWICE GOLDEN GLOBES for not nominating her for best director! But then again you nominated The Bread Winner. You must like your women subservient and fearful. Sad. And relevant. Art and Life now seems to be about the contradictions.

I do believe films are god-like. Stories help us make sense of life. That is a big part of The Bread Winner.

Thorin has had the movie goer’s experience which is different than the film goer’s experience. The movie goer’s experience is about the yes and the connection and the next, please! The film goer experience is about the friction, the unease, the uncomfortable sensation and defeat. The Bread Winner is didactic, to be sure, but it also shows what an oppressive state looks like. We are still the fortunate son, America. We have far to go to be this desolate. The Bread Winner shows what happens to human beings who want to learn to read and understand– and become.

We went on a snowy day in Portland. A day home schooler’s, retirees and  young people in love go to films. An older heterosexual couple behind us in line asked what movie we were going to, “The Bread Winner, about the Taliban, ” I answered.

The women looked at Thorin and said, “That sounds important.”

I tried to explain why we were there, “It has a happy ending?” It does and doesn’t.

She started to say more. Her husband gently touched her arm, “Not now, yes?” They fell behind us.

Parvana weaves a parallel story for her young brother of a prince who confronts the Elephant King. Thorin rose in his seat to exclaim, “Yes!” upon a uncertain victory. As an audience member he and I needed this. Hope is paramount. It’s why we keep moving forward, yes?

And– in further defense of my decision– I read beforehand that Common Sense rated it  for 11+. What I didn’t see until after the film– when I was frantically searching for information– was that was based on 3 reviews. One of which offered the following sober advice from a 13 year old : “Straight down awful movie. This was the worst 2017 movie yet! Don’t see it.”

But, I’m glad we saw it. And so was Thorin. He said, “This is sad. Father in jail. Bad men with guns. Girl is boy. Beat mom.”

The pain and disharmony in this film is in some superficial way on par with a Disney film where a parent is dead or dies. Except in this film it shows that circumstance is a true tragedy and not an opportunity to move the story along without parental interference. It is a horrible thing for children to be separated from their parents. Parvana is a hero and she inspires others. The film ends on a sad, anxious and messy note.

I explained to Thorin afterwards that women in some countries cannot go outside their homes without a man and even then it is scary. He understood that and was confused. So am I.


Part 3: Are You Buying What Back-to-School is Selling?


August 25, 2017— This is the conclusion of my conversation with Michelle S. Hite, Assistant Professor in the English Department at Spelman College on oppositional consciousness and parenting. (Originally published September, 2015)

Click links to read Part One and Part Two.

Kari: Do you believe there is a universal need to be accepted?

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Part 2: Are You Buying What Back-to-School is Selling?


August 20, 2017: I am re-posting my conversations from two-years ago with Michelle S. Hite, friend and Assistant Professor in the English Department at Spelman College. It is back-to-school season and the topics we discussed are just as relevant, in fact they are timeless. This is the second of a three-part discussion. Click this link for Part 1 of our conversation.

Check out Macy’s back-to-school commercial. The soundtrack is Tears for Fears “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” with new lines including: “Everyone on their best behavior.”

Curt Smith, founder of Tears for Fears on the song: “The concept is quite serious – it’s about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.”

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