Prof. Whitney Goes to Austin

What a day of wonder. I’m in Austin, TX, Texas being my homeland and site of a whole lot of memories of all colors and temperatures.

Today I tagged along with a coalition of survivors of child sexual abuse representing several different advocacy organizations as well as themselves. We were there to educate legislators and their staff about SOL reform bills making their way through votes that would either help or further hinder folks like me to get any kind of justice AND to expose the abusers and the organizations in which they hide.

And lots of press! These today and more tomorrow. Whew!

(And Austin and music and tacos and bats and true love. A long, deep, great day.)

Here you go! Will edit/ update later on, so please forgive these messy and unhidden links-

Here’s what should be a free link to Houston Chronicle article:

And also CBS Austin

And also Fox 4 in DFW

And Fox 7 Austin

Picture him rollin (William update)

William rolled into the school year at Delta Middle on wheels! While he’s getting around great on crutches, they’re exhausting, and while he also drives a mean walker, it’s frustratingly slow. So, thanks to friends who shared a youth wheelchair, a school nurse who’s not only highly qualified but also had some relevant mom experience, and a school community that is literally built on the idea of having a school community, he had a great first day. The basic vibe was “yep, found my people.”

Since both kids AND both parents had first days of school this week, as did almost everyone in our circle as either an educator, a parent, or just a resident of a newly jam-packed college town, it’s been hectic. But, Jason and I have been able to trade off schedules, Beth has swooped in with incredible backup, and the rest has been patched together more-or-less successfully.  Colleagues have helped me to adjust my courseload to a more manageable configuration, loving friends and neighbors from school, work, church, and everywhere have been showing up with meals and gift cards, and I’m basically astounded by the ways help like this really does help. I love the students in my face-to-face course, and my asynchronous online students are patiently waiting for me to get them started a week late. Our other kid is doing well too (but a Mom-initiated update to the internet would not be welcome, so you will have to ask her yourself if you see her)! 

Also, a true emergency does have a way of helping us not to care what others think of how we’re doing! “What I was able to do in the time I gave it,” along with an apology for anything beyond that, is the new standard of accomplishment, and although it sucks to have a sick kid, I am counting this awareness of priorities as a side benefit that I do appreciate.
Still unknown what is actually wrong with William’s femur and what lies ahead. Bloodwork and microbiology yielded no new information, he goes on with antibiotics for now, and September 1st we’ll visit his surgeon (Dr. Fox, a superstar bone specialist), and see where we are then.

The Big Scary TBW List

Do you have a to-be-read list? Or shelf or pile or bags full, like my kids and I do? Are you such a cool reader kid you call it a TBR? There’s an art to the TBR, and I don’t have it. Take for example my friend and colleague Rob, who one magical year actually accomplished the impossible of actually reading all the books on his TBR shelf before buying more. Not me; it’s just piles everywhere and then I grab whatever, or I end up ordering from the library/internet anyway.

I have a TBW list. I think many of us do, whether we know it or not: these are the stories that may matter most but also can be hardest to tell. What Glennon Doyle calls your “truthiest truth.” And I don’t know about you, but these years since the pandemic began, or maybe it’s since Trump, or wait maybe it’s since… all the wrong and sad and overwhelming things ever… These years have showed me some TRUTH. And the more I know what is true, the more I have to write about it.

And it’s super scary.

What if it hurts their feelings what if they don’t believe me what if it doesn’t count what if I am wrong what if I can’t what if it’s stupid what if nobody reads it what if I’m crazy what if i regret it what if I show too much real me what if what if what if kind of scary.

Here’s the list of things To Be Written in the coming days and weeks. Hold me to it.

  1. How Mike Spiller, my first gymnastics coach in Texas, fondled my crotch while “massaging” me in a tent of gym mats at a lock-in in the early 80s
  2. How Mike Spiller is still active in gymnastics and other youth camp settings, to my horror and stupid surprise
  3. How I didn’t realize what Mike Spiller did was bad at first, so starving I was for affection and approval
  4. How I did tell what Mike Spiller did, but not right away and not firmly enough, maybe
  5. How I lived out a life for the almost forty years since then, in all the messy and fucked up ways people live lives, but with the additional mess that Mike Spiller left behind for my head
  6. How I work at Penn State and did not re-report Mike Spiller even when child sexual abuse was all anyone talked about
  7. How I watched the trial of Larry Nassar and did not re-report Mike Spiller
  8. How I recently reported Mike Spiller to USA Center for SafeSport
  9. How it appears that I am not the only one who has something to say Mike Spiller
  10. How now I am doing everything I can to encourage others who may have similar experiences with Texas gymnastics coach Mike Spiller to contact me
  11. And whatever happens from there.

Thanks to the many people who have tried to love me at some point since 1982 and have recently answered questions when investigators have gotten in touch. I’m diving into the big scary TBW.

Here’s to all the truthy truth!


On an equinox, day and night are of equal length; the dark time and light time balance each other. This Sunday was the Vernal Equinox, but it also was a sort of personal equinox for me. It is a time of turning over to a new season, on levels literal, emotional, metaphorical.

There really have been no appropriate bins of seasonal clothing, no decorative seasonal garden flags, no holiday decor to pretty up this last couple of years. Since a good writer friend told me she loves my lists, I’ll list some of the events and characteristics this looooooong last season has featured:

  • Burnout
  • Panic attacks
  • Pandemic
  • Divorce
  • Money problems (see: divorce)
  • Professional rejections and disappointments
  • Missed opportunities
  • Failures
  • Cancellations
  • Health problems: mental, kidney, brain, uterine, teeth, jaws, joints, Covid
  • Treatments: surgeries (5), braces (1 set), medications (so many)
  • Overwhelm
  • Self-judgment
  • Dissociation
  • Near-total societal badness

Lots of dark in that season, and all the flashlights out of batteries at times.

BUT. I arrived home at 4 am Sunday, on the vernal equinox, from a trip. Climbing into my bed, I thought vaguely, “I made it.” And on Monday, I woke up to these sights:

What you are seeing is living stuff revealing that not only is it still alive, it is growing new stuff! And even though spring/new “leaf” (get it?)/new life metaphors are cliches, they are also true.

New light this spring:

  • Headspace
  • Embodiment
  • New love that feeds, not starves
  • Teeth, jaws and face that cooperate
  • Writing ideas
  • Energy
  • Medicines (different and better ones)!
  • Fun plans
  • Self-compassion
  • No part of my body is cold right now!

There may be a pandemic, still. Education is still full of disappointments and frustrations, both personal and systemic. So is society. And life. There may still be lots of societal badness, complete with wars and oppression and tons of harm. I even still wake up every day with joints that hurt and more ideas than I can ever finish, and I want more money.

But still! Leaves are growing! I made it.

I’m participating in the Slice of Life Challenge
hosted by Two Writing Teachers

“I’m getting to know a different side of you,” he said

I’m participating in the Slice of Life Challenge
hosted by Two Writing Teachers

Which of the ones folks know is me? The one who writes, a lot, boldly? The one who has three books in progress but works on none? In one place I’m a leader, in another, behind. Among teachers, an author and friend; among academics, someone who had potential. Or still does? Senior colleague or deadwood? I can’t say.

To a regular person (do I know any of those?), in a regular town (not my college town of super-people), I’m a person who has written a book. Ok, four of them. An Author.

Which of the ones folks know is me? The one whose kids skip grades? Who throws good parties, or volunteers at church or school? Or one who cries, overwhelmed, that she can’t do it until the laundry is put away? And the laundry can’t be put away because it’s piled up; it’s un-beginnable. And I can’t wash laundry until laundry is put away, and I can’t tidy up with all this laundry everywhere, and I can’t work with everything so untidy, and I can’t tidy because I have too much work, and I can’t work because I’m too overwhelmed, and, and, and. That one? And did I take my meds today?

The teacher-writer? The full professor? The ex-wife? Wayward daughter? The program lead, the one who forgot, the committee chair, the fuckup? The girlfriend? The single mom, the MILF, the middle-aged, the grey? The extra ten pounds, the “hx hysterectomy,” the grumpy, the short kid, the bookworm, the blonde? Yes, that’s my real color, no highlights, no makeup. No filter. Except when I give in to wanting a filter. And on Zoom. Every professor deserves a damn Zoom filter.

Which one is me? The wounded kid or this take-no-shit feminist? The liberal, the radical? The Christian, the Sunday school teacher, the mom bringing cupcakes? High test scores, or self-hatred? ADHD or genius? Metal head or choir singer? Optimist?

A light under a bushel, or a fucking volcanic eruption of Big Feelings?

I had a magical friend who gave me the best gift when I was away at summer grad school in Vermont (camp for adults!), missing my female partner and sleeping with a man who didn’t deserve me. (He would write me, five years later, only to learn that by then I had married):

“Anne,” she proclaimed. You’re allowed to be complex.”

And I have been!

From my chair, Akumal, MX

I’m participating in the Slice of Life Challenge
hosted by Two Writing Teachers

Clumps of sargassum afloat

Sips of mojito

Two marimbas playing the Super Mario theme

Wisps of cloud and dollops of cloud

Strawberry ice cream

Green coconuts on a shade tree

A spectrum of skin from burnished mahogany to piggy pink

Iguanas mating not far from a cool pool

A pelican cruising for fish, low and smooth

Magnificent Magnificent Frigate Birds

Warm sand chunked with washed-up coral

Woozy bouts of half-sleep or reading

Nothing noisy, nowhere to be


How is it that every task takes ten times longer than I think it will… except for the tasks that I most doom-crastinate about, which end up actually taking approximately 2.7 minutes each?

How is it that I feel better now that my ex has a new person, not worse?

How is it that a whole bag from Sam’s Club sat undetected in my garage for more than six months?

How is it that my feminism has not eroded my desire to be thin and young by now?

How is it that the older I get, the more new and raw and I feel?

How is it that the more I live through trouble, the more I’m grateful to past Anne for all the trouble she got me through?

I’m participating in the Slice of Life Challenge
hosted by Two Writing Teachers

“Adventure” awaited

“Let’s drive to Baja, and keep going till we reach tropical blue water.” And he meant it. He was always saying things like this. When we met, his way of asking me out had been “Let’s go on a big long walk until we get really exhausted.” I laughed, and two years later, here we were engaged. 

“How far is that?’

“I’m not sure,” he laughed. “I think I have a map though.”

And that’s how we ended up in an unreliable blue Volkswagen, driving through Baja California in the winter. With him, when it worked, it was always like this: unexpected and impractical, yet sort of epic. The kinds of adventures you could write about, or that made a good story at a party. He never just did anything the normal way; it was always bigger, less informed, and in a big hurry. This made me crazy, but in those first years together, it actually worked out more often than not.

We made sure the car’s spare tire was good enough for dirt roads, and we sprung for a new map so we’d have updated info on where the Pemex stations were. We packed sleeping bags just in case, since between us and the little town of Mulejé, which he had declared our destination, there were lots of places the tourists never went, and would the hotels be open in winter anyway? 

He always declared our destination, truth be told. After all, he had been there before, being from California. And he was used to traveling, and somehow not afraid of things not working out– we’d find a room; there’d be someone to ask; we’ll buy food along the way. Maybe this is how you came out when you had parents who had traveled this way, picking up for impromptu adventures anytime they wanted since they (a) didn’t really have to have jobs and (b) didn’t plan anything, ever, unless you made them. And when you have your college paid for and can spend your summers not having to work, not paying your own bills, just free to roam around and adventure. His grandmother paid for everything. Whereas I had spent my own teens and twenties working, and doing practical things, and had grown up with parents who were more about working and saving then about traveling anyway. I wouldn’t know how to just walk into a town in another country, with my eighth grade school Spanish, and figure it out. I’d be scared to.

We did find rooms along the way, little motels for the few Mexicans who traveled through Baja Norte, always off a little dirt town square with a little Catholic church and a little Pentecostal one, and maybe a mini super and a taqueria or two. Rooms with linoleum floors and hard Mexican beds and uncovered light bulbs with a pull chain, just fine to sleep for a night but definitely not bookable on

It was on that trip that we picnicked on bananas and smoked salmon on a beach so littered with large, intact seashells that we kept our shoes on. Then we collected shells in our lunch bag.

It was on that trip that we snorkeled in the Sea of Cortez, feeding Sergeant Majors from little packets of saltines we had stuck inside our swimsuits. 

It was on that trip that we spent New Year’s Eve at a party on the square in Mulejé, where fathers gave impassioned, sentimental drunk speeches and kids ran around popping firecrackers.

It was on that trip that I learned to go with his flow. To ignore so many red flags, the bad feelings in my gut. It was just easier; his mind wasn’t going to be changing anyway. Maybe it was like he said: What was I being so uptight for? Everything had worked out, hadn’t it?