Middle-age and middle-ground

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photo: Paul Stollery for Unsplash

In 2016, I applied for a position in my writing program, after years of contract work, and the post went to a younger woman, with less experience. That was a wake-up call, and I could feel the shift; I’d entered a new time. A time of pending crone.

I made the decision to relieve myself of the burden of ever applying for an academic position again. My focus moved on to writing and enjoying life.

But in the last while — months now — there is something disturbing at play. I cannot place a finger directly on it, but perhaps it is about fear. If it is true — as gleaned once, in a yoga class — that we are motivated by either Fear or Love, then yes, it is fear. (Though I resent the binary thinking of “either/or.” …

Let’s resurrect the idea of tithe, and keep art in our lives

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photo: Jazz-to-GoGo playing in Vancouver park, courtesy of Viviane Hotz

This past summer, this was the one way I heard live music: in the park, and on the beach, with a jazz standards group. Bring a blanket and bottle, enjoy the setting sun, the warmth on my back. Listening to tunes that have sustained for decades.

The idea of tithing is even older: take 10% of whatever we earn, and give it to something or someone we believe in. It used to be about the church. But let’s focus on the What you believe in piece. Or What sustains you.

I know I cannot live without music and literature, dance and visual art. The list of arts, and what they bring to us, are two very long lists. …

Whatever happened to role models?

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photo: courtesy of author

I recently wrote a piece in response to a one-off piece written by a celebrity, a piece that gained many thousands of views on this site. (The celebrity piece, not mine.)

I shared my piece on the Womxn of Medium Facebook page…and within not even an hour of posting, I removed both the article and myself from that page; the anger was palpable. How dare I “attack” someone who has just suffered a miscarriage?! I must be cruel and heartless, they agreed.

I suspect that a number of those who then turned on me (I refuse to use the word attack unless I am in combat on some real militarized, weapon-filled front) did not actually read my piece at all; they missed the point. Or perhaps they read, and still missed the point. One of them went so far as to say that reading such pieces is WHY she is on this site. It seems macabre to actively seek out such pieces of pain and suffering in one’s life. We all do read about such; it is part of life and literature. …

When people do not “have” children

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photo: Iraj Beheshti for Unsplash

We applaud celebrities who publicly decide not to have children, and we know the world is over-populated (or at least in light of what some few are willing to share). There are now gatherings of like-minded folks, clubs with names like ‘No Kidding,’ ‘Babes Without Babes,’ ‘Hitched but not Hatched.’ But amidst the names-that-smirk and the too-frequent politicizing (why begs to be asked), there is a quieter reality that’s worth celebrating.

What does happen when people do not have children — people who are not celebrities, and who do not hang out in packs, with spare hours to conceive of clever names? Especially those who end up living in places such as a suburb, where so many people do have children? …

Give them choice

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photo: Ego Myznik for Unsplash

There is too much about post-secondary education that is prescriptive, particularly in the first two years, in over-filled classrooms. Now, with so much education online, there is less contact, less choice. This is a time that feels to be too constricted. We’re all ready for a break.

Look for opportunities to build choice into your classes

I teach 200-level large-lecture creative writing classes. Sounds like an oxymoron, and is, for the most part. I feel removed from teaching “writing,” and in truth, the Teaching Assistants are doing the real connecting. They do the reading of student writing, and the grading. And so much of the one-on-one question and answer. …

A simple daily domino act

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photo: Tatiana Colhoun for Unsplash

Is that overstating? Change your life?

A little piece

A password is a little piece of your day — a throwaway, really. You type it in, your device opens, and you get on with your day. A very small thing indeed.

But you can make it count. Five years ago, my life seemed to come to pieces with a medical diagnoses that sent everything into a tailspin.

It was one of those days when, for some reason, I had to change a password — something I usually find to be yet another irritation of contemporary life.

I found myself typing in it’ll@llbok — it will all be okay. It wasn’t all okay! But there was something soothing to typing those words at several points throughout the day as I worked and emailed. …

Wrestle down the blank page in 5–10

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photo: Brandon Lopez for Unsplash

There’s a passage in Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, by David Michaelis that speaks of Schulz’s work-ethic, and his pleasure and tension in that:

“He had an absolute faith in his craft, at the core of which was the belief that ‘a professional cartoonist has to have the ability to take a blank sheet of paper and out of absolutely nothing come up with an idea within five or ten minutes. If you can’t deliberately do that, then you’re never going to make it. You just have to be able to do it cold bloodedly.’”

(Michaelis, page 372, Harper 2007)

The phrase ‘cold bloodedly’ stops me. I have a curious urge to argue with that sentiment. Maybe because it is just so bereft of sentiment! …

Kindness, respect, or acceptance?

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photo: Shingi Rice for Unsplash

And where is Love?

When I was young, I would have said Love is the most important. But I have not included it in these three possibilities. Not that it is unimportant. But love — all by its own lonely self — can be something you say about french fries. Or chocolate.

I am no longer young, and in my life, I have had probably a typical number of connections and relationships, been married for almost three decades, now widowed, and moved on to a relationship that is nourishing and sustaining.


After Love, I came to think that Respect was the most important piece in a relationship. After being married for more than a decade, and engulfed in the busyness of parenting young, I believed that mutual respect would guide me to sustaining a long-term relationship. …

Pass, Fail, or a Number

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photo: Matt Lee for Unsplash

I teach in an MFA Writing program, so my experience grading students may be very different from yours. But if you teach in the humanities, this may be useful.

I have taught a graduate student workshop online before, but there is something different about this most recent term, the fall of 2020.

When it came time to grade, I wanted to exist in THIS photo, in that world of people lined up ready to compete…instead of where I was, like so many others, hunkered over my laptop, scrutinizing student end-of-term portfolios — at HOME.

If only they could just all go on a run, and I could count them as they drag themselves over the finish line. Somebody could have an A+, the next an A, then A-… It would be so much easier. …

My mother’s courage.

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photo: taken by author

On December 23rd, my 85-year-old mother was on this plane. On board with her white hair, big purple coat, and her small suitcase, mindful of the other passengers, taking to heart the admonition to pack lightly. She’s a bit stooped at this point; life has bowled over and bowed her these past few years. But some years ago, she wouldn’t have been caught dead or alive on such a contraption as this.

Heights and what-am-I-doing-up-here

Once, going for a walk in a nearby park, after walking through a beautifully forested area, we hit upon a high bridge crossing a stream. There was a railing on only one side, and the bridge was narrow. …


Alison Acheson

Alison Acheson’s latest book is a memoir of caregiving, Dance Me to the End: Ten Months and Ten Days With ALS. She teaches writing in an MFA program.

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