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Confessions of an overstimulated parent

On a recent Sunday, I was working in my yard, marveling at all the charming little buds and bulbs of early spring. I was listening to This American Life on my iPhone, when I heard a text ding through. It was from Isaac who was inside the house.  Our daughter is in her first year at college hundreds of miles away. I’m not sure why my husband of nearly 22 years opted to deliver this news to me in this way. He’s well acquainted with my propensity for worry. I raced into the house hurling concerns at my pathologically unconcerned spouse. “A quarantine? What does that mean?”  “How many kids are sick?” “How long will it last?” “Where are they being kept?” He waved off my barrage of questions with a casual ease. He hadn’t asked any of these questions. DIDN’T EVEN SEEM CURIOUS!  Next, I called Hannah. She told me all she knew. It was only one case so far. The boy was in serious condition — on a ventilator. She was in a room at the hospital with everyone else from her floor and they didn’t know how long they would be there. I could hear the violent chatter of dozens of teenagers in the background. I imagined them all on the phone with their parents dispersing the news like hundreds of airborne seeds blown from a dandelion’s downy head. It may have been helpful if I could have offered comfort to my girl in that moment. If she had expressed any vulnerability at all — sadness, fear, loneliness — I might have stayed on the phone with her, but all she seemed to be feeling was... read more

Movie Review: Mustang

Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven Writers: Deniz Gamze Ergüven and Alice Winocour Starring: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan I often struggle with offering my opinion about foreign films because, well, they’re foreign. Not understanding the language and the culture makes it difficult for me to determine what I think of the writing and the dialogue — a critical aspect for me! If it seems unrealistic, stilted, or bizarre I have no way of telling what the problem is. Is it the original script? Is it the translation? Or is it just my lack of understanding when it comes to this culture? It could be a combination of all three! Mustang is not an exception. At times, I found myself perplexed and at odds with the words being translated across the screen. But in the end, whatever might have been lost in translation between the original vision and my perception didn’t seem to matter. I found the movie to be original, poignant, and powerful. This film brings viewers into the world of five Turkish sisters ranging in age from prepubescent to late teens. The girls, who have been raised by their grandmother, are beautiful and wild, seeming even feral at times. A walk home from school turns into a rollicking celebration as the girls stop to play in the ocean with a group of male schoolmates. In their drenched school uniforms, the older sisters ride on the boys’ shoulders in an impromptu game of chicken. Next stop: a fruit orchard where they help themselves to apples, the youngest girl laughingly using the fruit to give... read more

Semi-empty nest

Lately, I’ve been having those dreams where I’ve lost track of the baby. It’s been too long since I fed her and I can’t remember where I put her down. I am panicked. Where is she? Why isn’t she making any noise? What if it’s too late? I wake up sweaty, pulse racing, as I gradually remember that she’s not a baby anymore. A couple of months ago, I took my little girl to another state and abandoned her there to live amongst strangers. At least that’s the way it felt. Another way to say it is that I dropped my 19-year-old daughter off at college.  In the weeks leading up to this milestone, we came up with a joke; it felt like kind of a strategy to allay our collective anxiety about what was happening. We rationalized it. Going to college isn’t really that different than, say, going to camp, right? We decided to call it camp to make it less scary. i.e. “Hey honey, have you started packing for camp yet?” My daughter has always been fiercely independent. As a toddler, she took off in grocery stores and at parking lots. Other kids her age seemed glued to their mothers’ hips, while Hannah was always skirting away, hiding, dashing, exploring. I have a memory of watching her tiny three-year-old form running away from me at Alki beach. I was sitting with friends and holding Eli, then a six-month-old baby, as Hannah got further and further away. I kept thinking she would turn around and head back. She would sense that she had gone too far and get... read more

Movie review: Room for improvement

So Room is not going on my list of favorites. In fact, I would say I’m not a fan, despite Brie Larson’s shattering performance as a young woman held captive, who is regularly raped and abused and has given birth to her five-year-old son during her seven years living in a backyard shed. If this story sounds unpleasant, well, that’s because it is. It has also become a fairly common story in the media (bizarre!) and I found it impossible to watch the film without comparing it to the news stories that have been circulating about young women discovered after being held prisoner for many years and who have given birth to children fathered by their captors.   In terms of Larson’s performance, I read one review where the author suggested that she was just going for the “no-makeup” Oscar, which is pretty funny. (That is definitely a thing!) But I disagree. I found her to be believable and powerful. The experience of raising a small child can often be dull, exhausting, and aggravating and she managed to express these kinds of small every day sorts of emotions amidst the extreme drama and danger of her character’s situation. And she handled the bigger moments as well. With a quiet intelligence, she deftly conveyed moments of devastation, fear, and sorrow that could easily have slipped into melodrama.    Jacob Tremblay, the kid playing her son, did an okay job. Child actors, as a rule, can make or break the film, IMO. I always compare them to Lukas Haas in Witness and they frequently fall short. Tremblay is no Haas, but he does a decent job... read more

‘LIQOUR STORE PARKING’

On a recent evening, I stood looking at the stenciled words marking parking spots in front of the store that had recently opened near our house. Having been here several times before, I was surprised that I hadn’t noticed the problem sooner. In situations like this, I imagine myself as a rogue guerrilla editor, setting out by night with red spray paint in hand to correct error-ridden signage with proofreaders’ marks. It would be so helpful to all involved. I would be like an editing superhero, righting the many public wrongs of the written word. The tall, smiling man who always seemed to be working came to open the door for me. He had perhaps noticed me lingering. I lowered my umbrella and entered, considering whether I should tell him what I had noticed. My children are often appalled by my tendency to offer my observations and suggestions to strangers. Going for it, I piped up, “So did you know that the word liquor is misspelled in your parking spots?” I said pointing at the white words painted on the concrete. “The U and the O should be reversed.” He turned to look outside. He looked back at me quizzically. “Our parking spots?” he asked, with a strong African accent. “Which parking spot?” “All of them,” I responded, sweeping my hand across all three. “See, The U should come before the O; after the Q.” He grinned like he wasn’t sure whether to believe me—like I might be pulling his leg. “Really?” he asked. I nodded. His brow wrinkled and he looked back through the window. Turning back to me, his face... read more

The care and feeding of pre-adult humans

I recently arrived home to find my son with a few of his friends in our kitchen eating what Eli referred to as “a snack.” In some ways, I could admire what was happening. I mean, my boy is a capable cook and he had thrown together what looked like a tasty egg dish for his friends. But to be honest, I felt a mild panic. The sheer volume of food being consumed tapped into my deeply rooted insecurity that we might actually run out. A brief inquiry revealed that this snack contained nearly a dozen eggs and several pounds of “leftover chicken” (in actuality, the chicken had been prepared for a dinner planned for the following night). A few terse remarks on my part belied my urge to yell, “We can’t afford to feed anymore teenage boys!” The boys, perhaps sensing my alarm, responded by shoveling the food more quickly into their mouths before escaping to the basement. Now that my kids are busy, independent teenagers, it sometimes feels as if I have no children at all. They are often out — at work, band practice, swim team, or hanging with friends. When they are at home, they generally hide in their bedrooms with the doors shut. But when they do show up, they are more of a presence then ever. They have strong opinions and huge appetites. They love to laugh, sometimes at our expense, but more and more, they seem to want to make us laugh too. At 18 and 16, they seem to be phasing out of the tendency to believe that adults are boring and... read more

In praise of favas

I was heading into my third decade of life when I first had green beans that didn’t come from a can. I thought that there must be something wrong with them. They were so firm and crisp. I’m still embarrassed when I think about how I asked the waiter if they had been previously frozen. They simply bore no resemblance to the mushy, salty version I had grown up with. It was a similar story with salad greens, iceberg lettuce being the only kind I had ever seen. Initially, I was less than impressed with the limp leaves served in my fancy restaurant salad. It wasn’t that my parents didn’t provide healthy and interesting food. I think they probably did the best they could with what was available to them. But as a member of the Oxbow CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for more than ten years now, I realize that the quality and variety of the produce I had growing up was quite limited. As a young adult, I bought the same sorts of veggies my mom had served because it was what I felt comfortable making and eating. The CSA was my sister’s idea. She was living with me at the time and brought home a flyer. “Want to try this?” she asked. Thus began my veg-ucation. Today, I shelled and peeled four pounds of fava beans. This effort yielded only about two cups of edible content. I recall the first time I encountered these massive, spongy pods in our box. When I looked up the process for dealing with them, I had a hard time wrapping my... read more

By way of introduction

I’m Ashly Moore Sheldon, a professional writer and editor. My main obsessions include soccer, gardening, literature, and pop culture, though I am knowledgable and inquisitive about dozens of other subjects as well. I have experience writing and editing for nonprofits, academic institutions, literary publications, and corporate entities. I have been responsible for producing a variety of publications, such as annual reports, grants, newsletters (both print and electronic), case studies, fictional stories, memoir, appeal letters, web pages, and more.  I live in a comfortably imperfect house in Seattle, Washington, with my sweet husband, two surly teenagers (they’re actually pretty lovely most of the time), and a beautiful, self-absorbed cat. Seattle has been my home for nearly two decades. Before moving here, I never lived in a place longer than five years. I am the oldest of seven. My siblings are varied, intelligent, and interesting and I am proud to be related to every one. My father, a retired orthopedic surgeon, taught me about fitness, cultural literacy, and the value of being a hard worker. My mother has consistently provided me with an example of patience, kindness, and unconditional love. Ever since I was very young, my favorite thing to do has been to read and write. Above all, I admire the beauty of well crafted language. My greatest pleasure is found in words that have been perfectly strung together to give readers palpable, chill-raising pleasure. This ideal provides the foundation for my work as a writer and editor and the intention I bring to every job that I do.... read more