born intuu guest dinos

a sonder file: chapstick. v1

It’s my favorite Monster in the Closet! Deb is opening our journey here with a tale of bloggers, friends, and passing connections that strengthen with every passing.

Welcome to the Sonder Files.


I met Rara in early 2014, just days before I met my second son.

I’d read and savored some of her words before the meet-up, but missed most. I was focused on the little one I knew would be coming soon.

If I’d “met” Matt online before, I couldn’t recall the meeting. I left our gathering intent on following Matt’s blog, which I did just about the moment I got home.


I grew up in poverty. Poverty itself was exhausting; the predation that came with being poor and relatively defenseless, downright terrifying.

I’d written about one or two of the predators who marred my childhood before February 2015. I’d been careful to show how those experiences of predation made me a stronger and fiercer me.

In February 2015, sick of people saying things like “oh, he couldn’t do that!” or “not in my neighborhood!” I decided it was time to write about all the predators I remembered. I posted “A Tale of Nine Predators” on my blog.

It didn’t feel right. I’d meant to be informative, the better to help people understand there are predators in even the most genteel of neighborhoods, but I’d left myself feeling spooked and off kilter. Having the post on my blog felt like a new violation, so that I contemplated deleting it.

Someone suggested transferring it to Rara, Matt, et al’s blog Stories That Must Not Die. Because I’d met Matt already and could remember his kindness, that seemed like a good idea.

I emailed him asking if I could move it over, and explaining why. He promptly encouraged me to send it over so I could make my blog a safe space again,

and did so with such gentle words that I’m weeping reading them again.

In early May 2015, Matt emailed to let me know Rara’s husband, Dave, had died. Matt needed to find someone to watch Rara’s cats.

I felt gut-punched. When I met Rara a year earlier, I’d meant to mail her all the time, even with a new addition to my household! And there it was: An entire year had passed without my writing a single word, no matter how often I thought I should send Rara a note.

I could not fix her grief. Heck, I couldn’t even write her a single freakin’ letter in a whole freakin’ year. But I could and did, with my husband’s help, try to find someone to watch her cats for the remainder of her prison stay.

We searched, but we didn’t find anyone.

I’d failed again.

When Matt made details about Dave’s service available, I debated whether to go.

If I went, wouldn’t that make me an impostor? I’d failed thus far: to write, to keep track of where Rara was at, to find a home for Rara’s cats.

I decided I’d go. A lot of people are unnerved by grief. I’m not. So, prior shortcomings be damned, I wanted there to be no more. I went. My boys came, too, not because I dragged them but because that’s who they are … even Li’l D, at not-then-six.

I knew Matt would be there, and that I could stand quietly in his shadow regardless of anything I’d done or not done.

Matt greeted me and mine as if we’d known each other forever. It felt like we had.

We stood outside before the service, with Rara–still Rara then, not yet Ra to me–huddled over Li’l D, who’d spend the ride over trying to make sense of why she was in prison.

Li’l D didn’t want to enter the church for the service, so my husband waited outside with him. I carried Littler J inside, where I promptly realized I had not a single toy to keep him occupied. He soon started fussing, leaving me digging through my purse for anything that would entertain him. Results? Nada.

But Matt had something: a tube of chapstick so old that the label’d fallen off. He offered it to Littler J, who examined it, shook it, gnawed on it, and dropped it at least a dozen times.

Matt collected it and returned it each time, not only helping keep Littler J contentedly occupied but me feel much less like an impostor.

By the time I stepped out the doors, I felt I’d found not only a friendly acquaintance but a friend in Matt.

From bigger things, sure, but also from an unmarked tube of chapstick.

Rara is Ra to me now.

I see her more frequently than Matt, in part because she and I live down the street from each other.

(She seemed a whole lot less bothered by my failures than I was, so I let them go. It’s good, too, because letting go left room for other, better things than regret to grow.)

Though Matt lives further away and we’ve only seen each other once in person since we met for the second time last May, he and his hold a place of especially warm regard in my heart.

His written words remind me why, sure … but what really reminds me, as I break into a smile, is when I see a worn tube of chapstick and remember Matt and Littler J wrapped up in the most unexpected play.

Each tube is an uplifting reminder: That’s right! There’s a Matticus DJ in this world, and the world is better for it! 





I’ve written about Deb and her loving family before, but in case you didn’t already pop over to follow her then, here’s another chance.  {One of the greatest things about life, is all those extra chances we get.}  But before you run off to her place, leave her a little comment here to let her know you’re thankful she sondered. It’s these types of messages that remind us how the little things we do and the quiet things we are, make all the difference.


    1. Thank you, Jackie. Your words especially make me smile thinking of yet another sonder at the farmers market this morning.

      Li’l D stood over Littler J’s, making funny faces and sounds at J while I waited to buy some food. A woman paused, said, “Your kids are so sweet!” I said “thank you” at just the time she finished her thought: “Good mom.”

      Reading “You did good” feels kinda the same: all these connections woven together in ways that awe, even understanding only a fraction of how all those pieces fit.


  1. That picture at the end. It’s what I remember most clearly about the funeral, thankfully. I am so glad you found a place for your word at Stories, and that Matt & the rest of the family made sure you felt safe to do so. Yay for chapstick, and Matt!

    Love you, Deb– and I love your boys, too. Thank you for being part of this. ❤

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you so much for a chance to be a part of this. I’m so much more grateful than I express. I think it’s having written this post that’s had “safety” so prevalent on my mind the last couple of weeks, and which helped me find my way to understanding that very probably would have continued eluding me … had I not meet just the right convergence of circumstance to understand how the sadness then fits with the joy (and safety) now.

      I’m so glad we are neighbors. I’m so glad how much you love my little boys. I love you. I love how you open your heart to others and make it easier for them/us to open our hearts in turn.

      ♥–for you, for Matt, for learning, and for worn tubes of chapstick!

      Liked by 5 people

  2. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t make it to that meet up long ago, mostly because I’m a chicken. If only I had met you all then… but I know y’all now and that’s all that matters. It’s nice to see three bloggers I love connecting here.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well I was tentatively planning another one February 20th or 21st… 😀

      But yes, you know us now. And you’re welcome with any of us, ever, at anything we do, of course. Not that you’d want to follow us to work or something, but you totally could. 😀 Actually, now that I think on it, I should link up your post about Deb’s sonder on you– it’s all connected!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. What Ra said. If you’re ever feeling like being around people without wanting to say much (and can overlook the fact cleaning is the 19th or 104th priority here), our door’s always open and there are things we can cover the couch with to make it less horrifying. Ahem.

      I’m also glad Anthony nudged me out the door that day. I had a million excuses for not going. As always, he was right that I’d have a great time. Even as an introvert. (Turns out there are lots of us, which takes away so much awkward!) I love the thought of another one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello~ all
    I’m really moved. I thought you all knew each other for years. You sure seem like you do!
    This written word is so powerful. I feel so grateful to everyone who went to the service – and who continue to share their chapstick tube’s for all our best hearts’ intentions. As need arises in communities who have communities who didn’t realize they had communities until they discover, word by word, moment by moment, that they do!
    *We are all connected*
    How you’ve composed this post makes this image of the typewriter look to me, just now, like a musical instrument.
    You are all so beautiful ~ and my husband and I picked a good Birthday to celebrate! I also didn’t realize how much I’d love reading everyone’s writing! I just felt good vibes and followed my own heart ~ which took me to you ~ and to ‘here and now.’
    Hubs, Hugs (and I didn’t want to correct my original typo). We are centers.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. We really are all connected. On Friday, I read a powerful but heartbreaking article about an attorney fighting for clients who were/are experiencing serious health consequences from a company’s polluting the environment decades after learning their runoff was toxic. I sat with that for a while, and then tried to explain to a friend how sad I was that human beings would knowingly and continuously create risk for one another. There’s this fear that there’s not enough for you and me, I think; that I must protect me even at your cost. I feel like that approach fails to reflect the interconnectedness of us all … the wounds one inflicts on others and self by pretending we are completely separated from each other save when we choose it.

      Thank you so much for your loving, compassionate words. I’m warmed by them, and already looking forward to the next time we meet.

      Like Ra said, to anyone new to the next meetup, it really we seem like we’ve known each other for ever … and in a way, I think, maybe we have.

      Big, big hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Deborah, and thank you for sharing more 🙂 As connected as we all are, your experience as you described with this article supplies an example of how advocacy is still needed on the part of our connectedness and humanity – as curious as that is, considering that we are connected whether or not we choose to see it. Thank you for you. 🙂 BIG hugs back!!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t know you used to live here! A couple of times, Anthony and I have talked about moving … but, really, this is where we built our family starting almost exactly seven years ago. We’ll move if we need to, but it’s a good place to be. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Your comment warms my heart. It reminds me how 900 miles felt so, so far away when I first moved to SoCal, but how now … it all seems so close, when I remember to think of different geographies than those purely measurable in miles.


  4. Wow. This is such a powerful read, Deb. I found Ra’s awesomeness when she sent a Christmas card to a blogger on whose place I contributed. Her positive energy was contagious. I was hooked on Matt’s blog the day I accidentally(?) found it. He was gracious enough to let me contribute on his blog when the other one closed. Even though we may not meet in person, these two are priceless friends.

    PS. Chapstick has new meaning for me, too. 😃

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. And, oh, they truly are priceless friends! ♥

      I chuckled at your PS! Until I read that, I’d forgotten how chapstick has been a sore spot for me the last couple of years. I haven’t been able to find one to which I didn’t have some kind of minor reaction. But then, after that set of exchanges in the church, I feel such a visceral sense of comfort at the sight or thought of chapstick. It’s funny and delightful to see then through eyes of now.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sitting quietly reading your sweet connections Deb, I am transported to Ra’s life, and yours, and a tiny glimpse into the funeral, and what a sweetheart Matt is. It was through Matt’s blog that I kept up with Ra’s news while she was in prison. I’ve never met any of you in RL, and maybe never will, but the connections remain.
    Hugs, Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been thinking about the concept of meeting a lot the last couple of weeks. I’ll soon be meeting in person someone with whom I’ve corresponded for several years. I went to type that I was excited to meet her before I realized it didn’t work: I’ve already met her, despite having never met her body. It’s a fantastic thing about these social networks with which I sometimes struggle: while finding the balance is hard, they enable us to truly meet some people we might have hugged or shaken hands with in person, all without ever meeting as truly as we sometimes can in these spaces. All of which is my long way of saying, while it wouldn’t be bad to meet in person, my heart often feels like I’ve already met some of those who brighten my world here through their words! (And then, the physical meeting is an affirmation of the meeting that already happened some time before.)

      (My, but this sounds metaphysical for someone who just spent an hour listening to a Software Asset Management presentation! Heh.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s weird…or maybe not weird, but I always put Ra, the Closet Monster and Matt together. They just seem to fit perfectly like…well, like chocolate, marshmallows and crackers. What do you get when you put those three together? You get S’mores. Those sweet, yummy, irresistible snacks you just can’t resist 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Not at all what I was expecting, when I came to read volume 1, but a truly beautiful beginning to the series. I feel closer to you all haven been able to read your story like this. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I actually found you (Ra) through Deb. Her series on her Mother was magnificent and brave and made me cry and cry. And then one of her posts brought me to you and I felt that I was brought here for a reason. Both of you are amazing writers. I really enjoy both of your blogs. Thank you for writing. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I suddenly remembered there was a moving comment to which I’d forgotten to reply, and so I returned to reply to it. I just made it through the first two sentences and immediately started crying, more not-all-tears-are-bad-tears ones. These words:

      “Her series on her Mother was magnificent and brave and made me cry and cry.”

      I can’t even begin to describe how those words fill my heart. It was so heartbreaking and hard to revisit it, and though I knew it was right doing so, it somehow feels even more right as I read your words. Thank you, for those words above, for the lovely rest of your comment, for reading, for commenting, for being you. I am so grateful.


  9. Such powerful stuff, moving your stories. It is such a clear way to guard your own healing. And we all fall short sometimes, miss the chance to do things we intended to do… sometimes, I really do believe that “it’s the thoughts that count.” Sometimes we need to do more, but often the thought means more than we realize. Ra understand that. Nice piece Deb. I was so touched by your piece about finding a post card your mother wrote you… loved reading more here. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I look back through what I remember of my mom’s life and then of my life as it overlapped with hers, I’ve become more and more cognizant of how those “failures” are really often the best we could do with where we were at any given moment. Life’s more peaceful when that’s remembered, for sure.

      Thank you for reading and for your compassionate words. ♥


      1. It took many years for me to come to terms with that reality, and let some things go, from a very challenging childhood. As my mother was dying of Huntington’s I was able to accept that she really did her best, even if it wasn’t the best for me. Making peace, helped so much in the end. Thanks again for sharing.

        Liked by 2 people


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