Just a bit about Haley

Haley B. Elkins is a West Texas-transplant currently holding down the fort from the Midwest. Sometimes what she writes is funny, and sometimes it is not. Her work has appeared on xoJaneThe FriskyThe Good Men ProjectIndian Country Today, and Rue89, among others. She has appeared in UP with Chris Hayes to discuss gun culture in America. She holds a BA in English literature, women’s studies, and technical writing from the University of North Texas. She is married to a community organizer, and together they have three wily rescue dogs.

She can be found on Facebook here, and Twitter here. She can be contacted here.

Writing

A thing or two about being a Texan, a woman, and an activist

On keeping the knife, can opener, and eyebrow pencil: refusing the age of ‘ambivalent’ feminism

You know the day is off to a rocky start when you yell “MASTER’S TOOLS!” at your husband at seven in the morning while he’s in the shower. And even then, I yelled it as a joke, after unleashing a scalding stream-of-consciousness about Elissa Strauss’ “Welcome to the Age of Ambivalent Feminism” (complete with cheeky subtitle about how that’s a Good Thing, like it was a Martha Stewart product). When I’d marched downstairs for coffee, brooded as I brewed, and marched back upstairs yelling “AND ANOTHER THING!,” I realized how upset I was.

On soil, sensibilities, and returning home

In summer there is unyielding sunlight, and the sickening sound of ice striking windowpanes is a distant memory. It’s a time when everything just careens merrily past spring — a season that gives gifts and snatches then back and then bestows others — into full, lush growth, a veritable jungle in a place where rivers exist and trees can truly grow. I’ve been up north for seven years now, and the difference in both soil and sensibilities still hits me like sixty degree air conditioning every time.

On big pictures and small moments: an open plea for young leadership

My singing voice is a soft, firm alto that I inherited from my mother. Like love, it is not boastful or envious; it is patient, and kind, and it simply thrums forward, keeping time to the world.

And my mother’s voice, singing Dylan, is so often the motif that underscores the concussive click-clack-clang of thoughts that happen when I struggle to process something large and malevolent.

It is the voice I hear this morning as I read and re-read Daniel Somers’ suicide letter to his family and the accompanying Department of Veterans Affairs reports.

Your parents are not your parents: a meditation on tragedy

Luke and I were in a store, ordering reducers for our kitchen flooring when Boston happened, for that’s how we will always refer to it from now on, a grotesque kind of shorthand where we reduce tremendous carnage to the mere date or city: do you remember Boston?

It broke into the radio’s regular programming, just two short lines that most of us missed.

“What happened? What did they say?” said our clerk.

“Two explosions at the Boston Marathon,” said her partner. “It just happened.”

Two weeks: on scars, breasts, and the fear of demanding better

I wrote the following essay, in fits and starts, through Autumn, a season where everything is preparing to die. Then I took some time off from it, and am publishing it now, in the Spring, a time of rebirth. It doesn’t have a thesis, it is a thesis, on scars and breasts, on the women they’re attached to. On how we’re so traumatized anytime we have to navigate the American healthcare system that we have no emotional energy left to condemn it afterwards. On how we fear demanding better for our own health.

On hats, hair, and being Not-Black

After posting on Facebook about how my husband loves what he calls “my hat” — a gigantic, old-school pink puffy shower cap I use to keep my hair dry when I shower — the white commentariat was politely, respectfully silent, but a couple of my African American girlfriends weighed in.

Eulogy for the gentle soul

“Mark died,” I said to my husband. He’d been forty years old.

And then Luke reached over and put his hand on my knee, and I stared at Mark’s picture on my little screen and thought about how he and his wife had been together for two decades, since they were teenagers, and I started crying.

The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes

“Haley-Brooke, what’s the matter? Where are you?” my mother said when she picked up the phone. That’s the no-nonsense way she says my name when she hears me cry, running it together into one drawled word that comes out Hay-la-broooke.

On losing my fear of horror movies

“I didn’t understand The Exorcist,” said my husband as we scrolled through Netflix movies.

“What’s to understand? The Exorcist isn’t exactly a philosophical rumination. It’s just a horror movie.”

“Well, I…grew up Episcopal. There wasn’t really a reference point for me about what the hell — literally — was happening. What’s an exorcist supposed to do, anyway?”

On what the failure of VAWA actually means

I’m inordinately proud of the fact that Indian Country Today just ran my recent essay on what VAWA’s failure in the 112th Congress truly means — selfishly, because of what it meant to me to write it.

Speaking up about gun culture made people want to hurt me

It’s been a fast-and-furious month since xoJane picked up my essay “On black holes, patience, and what I know to be true.”

It’s taken me this long to wrap my head around the vehement responses, both good and bad — and violent. You can read my meditation on the feedback by clicking through below.

On what my mother taught me about feminism and fear

Once, my mom spotted a bruised woman with three children holding a cardboard sign in the Wal-Mart parking lot. It was pouring down rain. I was seven. “Stay in the car,” she said, locking me in.

On blossoms shaped like doves

I called her because I couldn’t stop thinking about those children, hidden away in closets and under desks in the school office, very young and very afraid and thinking to themselves, I want my mommy, I want my mommy, I want my mommy.

On fear, rape, and being alone

The first time a man ever “propositioned” me in public wasn’t really a proposition; it was a whistle. One of those comical loud wolf-whistles. I knew it was for me, because there wasn’t anyone else for a block, and besides, he slowed his truck down and leered with a smile.

The unsinkable sugar cookie recipe

Sometimes we like to pretend that our cooking and baking simply springs fully formed from someplace deep inside our souls — we so want it to be infused with love that we make it mystical. But its origin is not nearly this romantic.

At the very least, it’s informed by those who taught us how to cook, and for most of us, it’s a weird conglomeration of all the women (and a few men) we’ve known who have cooked.

On life under the Big Top

My heritage is a questionable one. I often say that I’m the double-whammy of an Italian Texas woman, and people laugh, like it’s a joke. (It’s not a joke.)

On white trash beauty

It’s not a term that I’ve carried with me as an adult woman, any more than I’ve carried “mick,” “wop,” or “nigger” into my adult lexicon.

But recently, it has made a resurgence in my mind — or more accurately, the things it’s supposed to represent have woken up and asked for a cigarette in the form of my own childhood.

On immortality

The last year in my life that I was immortal was a year of wildflowers.

On the Fourth of July and why I’m a patriot

A familiar scene repeated itself often through my college existence: me at home for the weekend, sitting on the couch, offering commentary on the news, and my mother saying, “You’re in college. This is the most liberal you will ever be. You get conservative as you get older; that’s just a fact.”

On “the troops”

I was eighteen years old, and home from college for the weekend, when I sat on the couch with my parents and watched the “official” invasion of Iraq on the television screen.

Meditations on the passing of a year

The word of the year is “wonder.” Wonder does not preclude unpleasantness, of which there was plenty; it exists outside good and bad things. Instead, it is a simple expression of awe, for things both beautiful and unfamiliar.

On being barefoot

When I was growing up, the only time we wore shoes was at school, restaurants, or on the shop floor or a rig. This is not every West Texas child’s experience, but it was many of us. I’m sure the kids in nicer neighborhoods wore shoes, and I’m sure the ranch kids wore shoes, because god knows, there’s plenty of reasons to wear shoes out in the country in West Texas.

On sleep and “everything the same”

When I was a baby, my mother used to purposefully vacuum under my crib while I was asleep.

“Look,” she told my father. “This child is going to have that damn phone ringing at all hours every night. She’s got to be able to sleep through anything.”

On marriage, the bread, and the knife

I had come to another city, not my own, and yet, like the man said, you can’t go home again. I was caught. I couldn’t find my way around; the streets curved around hills and changed names and dead ended. People didn’t speak to me in the grocery store line, and they incessantly asked me where I was from, when they did talk to me at all. My hair was too big and my makeup too heavy and my very being felt all wrong.