Baby Piers is here!

For me, 2016 was marked by the making of two things; (1) 'I See Red,' and (2) the growing of Baby Piers. On January 12th, 2017, I released my novel and thirteen days later I released my baby. Introducing Azariah Daniel Piers, born 1/25/17 at 6:20pm. He came into the world pink and screaming, at a healthy 8lb 15oz and 20in long.

There's a good chance that it'll take me a little longer to write my next project, but it's absolutely worth it to be able to stay home and raise our son for the forseeable future.

Book Update

Over the past two weeks I've had the pleasure of hearing from readers of 'I See Red.' As a first time published author, it's both incredibly exciting and somewhat terrifying to release work out into the wild. I am so happy to say that so far my experience has been overwhelmingly positive! I started with a handful of reviews on Amazon, and I'm super excited that the list is growing. People are reading the book and connecting with the characters - what more could an author want? 

I always knew that marketing would be the most difficult part of this process - yes, marketing has been harder than actually writing the book. How does a first timer get their book into the hands of the influencers? I'm still not sure. The theme of 'I See Red' is that big things grow from small seeds, and I find this to be a fitting reminder during the marketing process. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and I am so grateful that so many people have liked, shared, and promoted 'I See Red' on Facebook and Instagram. I know that as time goes on, and I have more work to offer, this process will become easier. 

In the meantime, do you know anyone who might like this book? Are you part of a book club, looking for some fresh fiction? Do you go to a parents group? Do you know someone who teaches, raises, or advocates for children with difficulties? Do you know a leader in the education, parenting, or behavior field who might like to read about a little boy with a big story? If so, please let them know my book exists. Have you read the book already? Add a review to Amazon, please! 

I so appreciate your ongoing support. It shows me every day that ordinary people can do big things, like spending a year writing a book, when they're connected through the encouragement of others. 

It's launch day for I SEE RED!

Today is the day! You can click here to find 'I See Red' on - where you'll also find other helpful things like a synopsis and reviews. Remember, the first nine chapters are available here for free, so if you're not sure if this book is for you, go ahead and start reading!

I SEE RED: Chapter Nine


Fatherless Day

[I see red.]
   Jacob and the baby got home after the clock picture on the schedule said he would—halfway to the next number, actually. Zoe and I spended extra time making Ramsay behave gooder than him usually acts. She said it will take lots of days to get him to be green instead of red—we have to be patient and not give up. Patient is a new word I have, and before today I didn’t know what means ‘patient.’ Today I learned it means waiting calmly, especially when it feels like no things are happening. When Jacob got home, him looked angry with Zoe. They are fighting now, and I am pretending not to listen, but really I am hearing all the words.
   “Fix him yet?” he laughed, but not in a way that was funny.
   “He’s not broken,” Zoe said in a serious, serious way. (Trust me, I have seen her be serious.)

[I see you.]
   Jacob is perhaps the least likable human I’ve ever met. Keep in mind: this statement is coming from someone who has spent the last three years with people who have tried to kill me more than once. Jacob… he’s a thoroughly different animal. It would be validating to say he was a fat creep who had dried pieces of flaming hot cheese snacks all over his chest, and his hairy gut hanging down out of his shirt—but that’s not Jacob at all. He’s a remarkably well-kept man in his early 30s who took five months off work to be a stay-at-home dad to his first and only child. He treats Aurora the way any child deserves to be treated.
   Dallas isn’t his biological son; I get it. Dallas is a handful; I get it. Dallas probably has a personality disorder; I get it. Dallas can sometimes rival Jacob for the Worst Human Ever Award; I get that more than most. But the way Jacob treats Dallas, compared to his own flesh-and-blood child, is astounding. He looks at Dallas with hatred in his eyes, and each word exchanged is sharp-tongued and fear mongering. Whatever Jacob is hoping to achieve out of this relationship with Sarah, he didn’t plan to achieve it with Dallas at home. It’s not as if he thought the boy would disappear; I guess he just hoped the dad would take him someday, to give them a break from the constant mess that is Dallas. That day never came.

[I see red.]
   Jacob walks away from Zoe, and I hear the garage door come up. I look out the front door, and Mommy is here in the black car with the four rings. Zoe gets all her things together, and then Mom walks in the house.
   “Oh hey Zoe, I thought you’d have left by now. How did everything go?” Mom asks.
   “We had a fantastic day, thanks for asking,” Zoe tells her, then she looks at Jacob meanly.
   “Thank you, Zoe,” Mommy says, looking a little scared to say anything that might make Jacob mad. When Jacob is mad, things get real, real bad around here.  Believe me.

[I see you.]
   Sarah is a slight thing: small, skinny and almost rodent-like. She moves rapidly through space and time, with an inability to focus all of her attention on anything at once. She’s pretty, in her own sort of way, but there’s something about her inconsistency that weirds me out. One minute she’s present, she’s on board, she’s supportive. Next minute, she’s back to her old ways of ignoring, vacillating and retreating. She sides with Jacob more than she wants to, I know that for sure. I see where Dallas inherited his small stature, his attention deficit and hyperfocus, his blue eyes, and manipulation strategies. I guess he’s an equal mix of his mother’s physical features and her prenatal wine habit. I had often wondered if psychosocial dwarfism was partly to blame for the fact that Dallas wears size 3-4 clothes at the age of six. To grow, a child must be loved.
   Jacob works in Wealth Management, with the ironic caveat that he, himself, isn’t wealthy. He tries to act rich—I guess it’s his way of keeping up with the Joneses. He wears insufferably expensive clothes, and must approve of Sarah’s every outfit before she can leave the house. They met a little over a year ago in a douchey nightclub, while Sarah was completely unraveled by the loss of her son and her husband’s subsequent rejection. Dallas’s mother’s savior was, and I suspect still is, the bottle. A one night stand gave them bouncing baby Aurora, and while she was pregnant Jacob moved in and out of the house at least three times. Because Jacob has shown himself to be so intelligent and considerate, he bought Ramsay, a $2,000 Purebred Irish Wolfhound, as a ‘practice baby’ and then proceeded not to train him. That’s a 130lb dog, in a 300sq ft backyard with a 16sq ft trampoline. Real smart, Jacob. Now everyone resents Ramsay for being ‘stupid,’ simply because he was never trained to be ‘smart.’ Jacob could use a lesson in cause and effect, but he’s too entitled for things like that.
Here’s what gets me: they drive an $80,000 car, yet their fridge and pantry are a barren wasteland. Dallas’s shoes are falling apart, the knees of his pants are threadbare—but Jacob has every new gadget on the market. Aurora is even well-dressed, at half a year old; because that’s what you get when your dad is biologically your dad. Sorry Dallas, your fate lies in holey pants, frozen food, and worn out gym boots.
   I’m repulsed by the vibe in this house. When everybody is home at once it’s enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I get the sense we are wading through toxic levels of unprocessed grief—knee deep in things that will somehow replace Grey. The dog and baby being the most prominent of replacements. I wonder how Dallas can possibly grow and change in this environment, and I’m concerned Sarah doesn’t realize the level of damage that continues to take place.
Any fool could see Sarah and Jacob are contributing to Dallas’s condition, yet Sarah can’t (or won’t) assume responsibility. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I’m not sure she has the ability to step up and give him what he needs. She can’t see the forest for the trees.

[I see red.]
   Zoe comes over to me and crouches down, so her eyes are near mine, and her tells me that her is leaving. Her doesn’t say goodbye, I don’t say goodbye, but I high five she’s hand. Her leaves through the normal door.
   Mom picks up the baby and says questions to her that she can’t answer. She can’t talk yet, at least I haven’t seen her talk. Maybe her can, but she doesn’t want to. Mom comes into the living room and sits with me.
“Sounds like you had a good day with Zoe,” she says.
I shrug my shoulders, “We’re making Ramsay green.”
“What do you mean?” she asks.
“There’s no such thing as good and bad. Just normal dogs what do good and bad stuff,” I tell her.
“What? How is he green, though?” Mom says, all confused.
“If white is the color of all the things. Red is bad, green is good. Imagine Ramsay is white and sometimes he’s red if he’s a bad boy, and sometimes green when him’s a good boy,” I explain, and I’m pretty excited. “So Zoe and me are gonna make him green most of the time. We are going to teach him manners.”
“I can’t believe we’re paying a glorified babysitter to train our dumbass dog,” Jacob yells to Mom from the kitchen.
“I’m sure you’re doing writing and math, too?” Mom says, like a question.
“Yeah, but mostly training Ramsay. Him can’t do manners today. It doesn’t happen that quick—you have to be patient,” I let her know, because her might not know how long to wait. Her smiles, and takes the baby to the other room with Jacob. I go outside and see if Ramsay wants to go on the trampoline.
I jump up and down for fifty hundred times, and Ramsay doesn’t know how him can get in. From outside I hear Mom telling Jacob something;
“She probably has a bigger picture plan with the dog training. I’m sure they’re doing the regular reading-writing-arithmetic business, too. ”
“The whole thing is bullshit,” Jacob swears. “Expensive-ass bullshit.”
“We have to be patient,” Mom says, and I smile because that’s our word for today.
“I’ll give her a week,” he growls.

Ramsay is still having trouble getting onto the trampoline. I open the net a teeny tiny bit, but not too much, and I call his name while tapping my knees. Him isn’t sure about how to jump up here, but I remember what Zoe said today: We have to be patient. I keep jumping, I keep calling and calling his name. I wonder why he forgotted something he already knows how to do? I wonder when he might remember.
 I lay on the trampoline again, and watch fog rolling in the sky. In San Francisco we don’t get normal summer, we get the foggy kind. Zoe teached me a thousand things about the weather today—she said the season when school goes back is called fall but it feels like winter because of where we are on the map. I think it’s cold enough for a snow man, but it doesn’t snow in our land. Zoe also said that in a few weeks it will be Indian Summer, near Halloween time, which isn’t for a while. Its month is October, and our month is called August—all the months have names, but none are called Dallas. When I look at the gray fog racing, racing, racing over the sky, I start to think about Grey. I wonder how loud I would need to yell for him to hear me? I just want to tell him I’m sorry for making him dead.
I’ve tried this so many times before, and he just doesn’t listen. I whisper his name at first, and wait and see if his ghost is around. I don’t know if ghosts are real, or if I want them to be real. I say his name a little louder, just to try again. I wait for a hundred minutes, and nobody says anything to me.
“GREY!” I say, loudly this time. Mom comes out of the house.
“Dallas, it’s freezing out here. Come inside.”
“I’m talking to Grey,” I say, trying not to cry.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she tells me. “Go inside before you catch a cold.”
I cross my arms and stay where I am. I stare into her eyes and yell, “No!”
Mom reaches into the trampoline and grabs me by the arm. “Go inside!”
I jump off the trampoline and run straight to my room. I hide under the desk in my special tent, and I take out a picture of Grey that I keep in my hiding place. The picture is kind of fuzzy, but it’s still Grey. Crying is for babies, but I can’t stop water coming out of my eyes. I hold the picture, and Grey’s favorite toy close to my chest. I wonder when I will stop missing him?
I hear Jacob ask Mom, “What’s up with him? He was fine a minute ago.”
“Nothing,” she lies. “He’s just playing a silly game. Make believe stuff—you know how kids are.” Mom’s voice sounds a bit shaky. I can hear her walking around a bit, then she says, “I’m just going to take a shower.”
The water sound runs for a long time, and I get out of my tent. I walk by the bathroom, and I hear Mommy crying. The door is shut, but I know what crying sounds like because the baby does it all day long. Mom used to cry in her’s shower after Grey died, so Daddy didn’t know her was crying. When Dad saw, him would leave the house and one day he just never came home. He made a new family, and so did my Mom. I am the only one who didn’t make a new family. I never choosed Jacob—and Jacob never choosed me.
I peek around the corner to the living room, and I see Jacob on him’s computer. Aurora is in her’s baby swing, going side to side while she falls a bit asleep. Jacob kicks his shoes off and does a big fart.
Him doesn’t look like he’s going to leave here anytime soon.

I SEE RED: Chapter Eight



[I see you.]
            “Wanna see my trampoline?” Dallas yells from his bedroom.
            “Sure,” I say, and he leads me outside. A giant dog bounds towards me from an unsuspecting corner of the ridiculously small San Franciscan backyard.
“Who’s this guy?” I ask, as the rambunctious hound licks my face.
            “Ramsay,” Dallas tells me. “Him’s called after the guy who yells and yells so much. My Mom think’s that cooker is so funny, but him says the F-word too many times, and that’s why I only watched the one with kids.”
            “That’s a great name,” I giggle. “Why didn’t you tell me you had a dog?”
            Dallas shrugs, “You didn’t ask.” (I guess that’s true)
            “Can I come onto the trampoline with you?” I request.
            “There’s only a’posed to be one person at a time, but that’s because me and Grey bashed our heads together one time because we jumped too silly,” he explains. With this simple statement, the mood shifts like black clouds over a sunny day. On one hand, I’m thrilled that he’s trusting me with these kinds of admissions, but on the other, the weight of his loss settles heavily in my stomach.
            “What if,” I suggest, “I jump with you, but we jump sensibly?”
            “Silly is more fun,” he replies.
            “What if we give it a try?” I persist.
            Dallas nods his mop of long, curly hair as I escape the licky tongue of Ramsay by climbing onto the trampoline. Dallas starts jumping as I fumble around like a newborn horsesomehow I remember trampolines being easier than this. I definitely didn't wear the right bra for this situation. As we jump, we both start laughing.

[I see red.]
            For your big fat information, I still don’t like Zoe. Listen to me; I’m telling you the real truth here. Her is on my trampoline, and it’s super fun jumping with another person because I don’t have a brother anymore (and my sister is a diaper-face baby who does nothing), and also I don’t get to have any friends at my house. We are jumping a little at first, and then bigger and bigger. Uh oh! The silliest thing is happening! My stinky dog Ramsay just jumped on the trampoline with us!
            “Ahhhhh!” Zoe yells, as Ramsay puts himself on her shoulders and now her is lying on the floor of the trampoline with him licking she’s face. Ramsay has spit for days and days, and now it’s all on Zoe’s face.
“Help!” Zoe yells, but she’s also laughing.
            I am also laughing so much I might pee a bit in my pants. I open the trampoline net and throw one of Ramsay’s toys out the gap (he’s always leaving him’s toys in the trampoline). The silly dog jumps out, and I make the net closed tightly. Zoe is laying on the trampoline with dog spit all over she’s face. I sit down next to her, still laughing at what he did.
            “Ramsay is a bad dog. I forgot to tell you about that part.”
            “He’s not bad,” Zoe says.
            “He’s not good!” I laugh, hitting my hand to my head. Zoe sits up.
            “What if I said there was no such thing as good and bad?” she tells me, and her must be joking because that’s not real.
            “That’s fake,” I tell her, because she needs to know.
            “Hear me out,” Zoe says, “What if there are no good or bad dogsjust normal dogs who do good or bad things?”
            “Like if white was normal color because it’s no color, and red was for bad and green was for goodand a dog was just white, but sometimes it was red and sometimes it was green?” I ask her. Zoe’s face has a big smile, and I wonder why her’s so happy. We’re not even doing gold stars.
            “Yes! Exactly!” she says. I lay on the trampoline with her, but next to the edge with the door part. My dog is barking so loud for four barks.

[I see you.]
            While Dallas is relaxed, I’m going to see how far I can get with testing his academic knowledge in a casual way. Rhyming is a vital skill that children must learn, as a way to increase their ability to read, write and spell. Also, rhyme teaches children to manipulate language and express themselves in more ways than just poetry. Since Dallas loves music, I’m having a hard time with the idea that he can’t identify rhymemainly because most lyrics are built on rhyme.
We’ll work more on the finer details later, but right now, I just want to know what he can do.

[I see red.]
            “Dog. Dog, log. Dog, log, bog,” Zoe says, and I don’t know why. “Can you add more?”
            “Dog, log, bog, big,” I say, looking at the clouds.
            “Ooh! Close!” she says, “Big, bog. Hear the difference? “Ig,” “Og” Like thisdOg, lOg…”
            “Bog!” I yell, “Tog, zog, fog!”
            Zoe is smiling again and says, “Yes! That’s called rhyming. This rhymes: tog, zog, fog, blog, frog!”
            “Blog, frog, dog!” I yell, and I laugh because this is a funny game and I want to play again. I’m also looking at the clouds, and one is shaped like a bunny. Bunny, funny, runny.
            “Do bunny and funny rhyme?” I ask.
“Sure do!” Zoe tells me, “What about this? Bunny, funny, lumpy, honey? Do they rhyme?”
“Do it again,” I say because I am not sure and also forgot what her said.
“Bunny, funny, lumpy, honey,” Zoe tells again.
“Lumpy is the odd one,” I say, “Lumpy, bumpy.”
“Want to give me a challenge?” she asks.
“Hmmm… Bag!” I yell.
“Bag, tag, sag, rag, flag,” Zoe says, and she’s definitely very good at this game. “Here’s a challenge for you: cat.”
“Cat, f...fat! Yeah, fat is a word! A mean word, but it’s a word. Cat, fat, flat, yat, gat. Are them words?” I ask because I’m not sure, and being not sure makes me nervous.
“Doesn’t matter. We can make up tons of words for this gamelike daf, baf, maf,” she goes on and on.
“Maf is a word. Like when you get numbers and do plusses and take aways,” I remind Zoe because she must’ve forgotten.
“Almost! Watch my tonguemath,” Zoe says, poking her tongue out her mouth. “Math is numbers. Maffffis a made up word. Practice with mefff, now thhh.”
I bite my lip when I say f and I get to poke my tongue out when I say th. This game is so fun because my brain is getting so big with information, and I also get to poke out my tongue at Zoe, who I don’t like yet.

[I see you.]
Mental notes:
1.     Dallas can rhyme words.  
2.     His auditory processing is fine; he just needs to have things explained to him sensitively. I can see that embarrassment has played a significant role in keeping his academic learning at arm’s length. He doesn’t know why his ability to learn was stunted, but he does know that he’s not as “smart” as the other kids.
3.     Dallas is able to catch up on missed concepts with relative ease. He’s also showing signs of readiness for new challenges.
4.     Because of his home situation, Dallas lacks in cultural capital. (That is, access to non-financial social assets that promote him beyond his economic means. Yes, the family “lives rich,” but they’re drowning in debt. Dallas has never been to a museum, he’s been to very few restaurants, and hasn’t attended extra-curricular activities.)

            We lay on the trampoline for a while, together but apart. I notice he’s close to the door of the trampoline safety net, and I wonder if that’s because he thinks I’ll hold him again. Today I feel like I’m spending time with an entirely different childa clear departure from the boy who threatened to jump off a roof just four days earlier. Finally, I’m starting to relax.
            “Do you think this cloud looks like a bunny?” I remark.
            “I was thinking that already!” Dallas stammers excitedly.
We first met during the summer, where we spent two weeks alone. With his family, he was a monster, but with me, he was great. He was this beautiful child, so free and for the most part, easy. Sure he had meltdowns and strong opinions on things, but he was accessible. Everything changed when we went back to schoolhe completely shut downthere’s been a steady decline ever since. Today has been the first time he’s been able to have a back-and-forth conversation with me in three weeks. Something about school doesn’t bode well with this kid.
I look at my watch12:30 pm.
“It’s time for lunch,” I announce.
“We already eated lunch!” Dallas remarks with a puzzled inflection.
“Humans need to eat every few hours,” I reason.
“We can eat more nuggets,” Dallas shrugs.
I dismount the trampoline, into the slobbery embrace of Ramsay, who has been waiting for the equivalent of a dog month for us to return. He furiously wags his tail, and it hits me right in the back. He’s a sweet, sweet dog in need of some serious training. Dallas leads us into the kitchen and climbs up on the counters again. I hate that he subsists on chicken nuggets, but I’m also aware that changing too many things at once is a recipe for disaster. We’ve already made so many advances todaythese chicken nuggets are the least of my concern. Dallas repeats his earlier process, making himself exactly six nuggets. I take a kale salad out of my backpack and set it on the counter. He stares at my food with the same disdain as I stare at his, despite the fact that I ate nuggets just a few hours earlier. Clearly, I was only eating those delicious nuggets for his benefit… it’s called building rapport, people. They weren’t delicious at all...
I see a kiddy painter easel in the living room, with a large pad of paper attached. I grab a marker and write Daily Schedule at the top.
“Do you know what times on the clock mean?” I ask, casually.
“There’s numbers, and they mean things happen at them times,” he says with nugget breading flying out of his mouth.
“Exactly! So, we’re going to make a poster about what we do every day. That way, if we forget, we can look at the poster. Does that sound OK?” I suggest.
Dallas shrugs, “OK.”
I grab the pen, and we get to work.

[I see red.]
            Zoe and me made a poster. It is about times and clocks and things that we do at those o’clocks, also what the clock looks like when things happen. She’s good at drawing clocks. Here is how it looks like:
Daily Schedule
Description: MG_2857.JPG
Zoe arrives
Dallas and Zoe eat breakfast   
Description: MG_2858.JPG
Number activities   
Description: MG_2859.JPG
Play time  
Description: MG_2860.JPG
Snack time
Description: 115.JPG
Letter activities
Description: 2.JPG
Outside play time
Description: 230.JPG
Wash hands
Make lunch  
Description: .JPG
Eat lunch
Description: 30.JPG
Story time  
Description: .JPG
Project time
Description: .JPG
Jacob and Aurora come

Zoe leaves

            I look at the clock on the wall and it looks like the long hand is on the five and the short hand is a teensy bit after the one. I never knowed how to tell time, and I still don’t know how to actually do that, but I matched it with the shape on the schedule.
            “If we look at the schedule, which activity would match one o’clock?” Zoe asks.
            “We already eated lunch!” I laugh.
            “Wow! We are really ahead of our schedule today, Dallas. When we work harder, faster and smarter we get free time. What should we do until story time at 1:30 pm?” Zoe says, and I think hard.
            “Well, actually I don’t like stories. Only information books,” I remind her, because she forgotted.
            “We can do information books, that’s no problem at all,” Zoe tells.
            “Let’s play with Ramsay again,” I decide.
            “First, we’ll set an alarm for 25 minutes. When it’s almost storyuh, information book time I’ll give you a reminder. When it beeps, we go inside. Deal?” she says.
            “Deal!” I agree, “Let’s find that stinky dog.”

[I see you.]
            We walk outside, and Ramsay launches himself onto me again. This dog needs some boundariesI really wish he had owners who gave a shit. I’m pretty sure he was an impulse buy before they had the baby. That happens so oftenpeople acquire a dog, then when a baby comes along, they completely drop the ball with the dog. Without training the dog is out of control. Subsequently, nobody likes being around him. Then the dog gets a bad rap for what humans neglectedand so goes the story.
            “Does Ramsay know any tricks?” I ask, doubtfully.
            “Him isn’t smart. He’s a bad dog, ‘member?” Dallas replies.
            “I thought dogs were white... red was bad, and green was good?” I recall Dallas’s own words.  “Ramsay is white. Sometimes he does red things; sometimes he does green things.”
            Dallas hits his forehead with his palm, “I forgotted. Everyone says he’s a bad dog because him is too silly,” he pauses and grabs the dog’s face. “Ramsayyou are not good or bad. You just a doggy.”
Ramsay dances around and whacks me once again with his crazy tail.
            “I was thinking about our schedulethe one with the clocks,” I interject.
            “I know what’s a schedule,” Dallas replies with a sharp tongue.
            “I was wondering what you’d like your project to be?” I ask.
            Dallas thinks for a minute, “What means a project?”
            “Well, it’s something you work on for a while. It’s something you carefully plan, it’s something that means you do your best work and don’t give up.”
            Dallas thinks a little more, as he grabs a dog toy and throws it to his giant, lanky, licky pet. Ramsay bolts towards the toy, rolls in the dirt, completely forgets about the toy, starts digging a hole, then runs back to Dallas. He stands there panting excitedly in his sweet, goofy, doggy way. He lets out a single, seemingly unnecessary bark.
            “I wanna make Ramsay be green,” Dallas concludes. “I want my project being about telling him how to have good manners and be kind to people.”
            I smile from ear-to-ear. I couldn’t have planned this any better if I’d tried, and I thank my lucky stars I came here today with low/no expectations.

            I smile, “Together we’ll make him the greenest dog that ever lived.”