A celebration of 40 years of crabbiness, comedy, and conscience

IMG_6371(AKA The most self-serving and awesome thing I’ve done, as a person who doesn’t ask for help well)

40 years ago on November 28, I was born in snowstorm in northern West Virginia, at the precipice of the 1970s. My parents rightfully took stock of the promise and pitfalls of the 1980s and, six months later, packed up all their possessions and their fat baby into a wood-paneled station wagon aimed for Michigan and its still-pumping oil rigs. Rarely in my 40 years have I stopped that forward motion of figuring out how best to live life and how to answer life’s questions. I’ve scurried down some darkened monster-filled valleys and climbed some pretty terrific mountains (metaphorically, of course) along the way. Perhaps you shared some of those unique vantage points with me.

To celebrate life in the way that feels the most “me,” I would like to invite you to collaborate with me on a “chapbook,” or a “zine,” or more simply put, a collection of stories and memories. Ideas, words, images, and sensory memories have always been my dearest possessions, from the moment I learned to read and realized I could escape and sojourn with my mind.

The best gift I could conceive of as a careworn 39-year old is help with a collection of memories and stories from my life.

You could share:

  • A written memory, poem, or creative piece of writing of any form and in any language
  • Photos of shared moments together or of things you think I’d like
  • A drawing or a doodle
  • An article or art of another author’s or artist’s work that resonates
  • Small memorabilia from a shared experience (e.g. photocopies of concert tickets)
  • A social media post that makes you think about me

Memory is a tricky mistress. I’ve found that I store emotional and sensory memories well (my mood, the mood of others, the temperature and ambiance of the environment), but I am short on details of what actually happened. It’s quite the opposite of how many people process life! For that reason, you might be surprised how much I would enjoy you recounting a simple time we had together in moments as mundane as going to the movies, or a nice dinner. Even better yet if you have a simple memory of a conversation or a joke told during one of our more high-energy exploits, such as planning large protests, or burning the midnight oil on a cause, I’d be delighted.

This is important: I know and love MANY people who do not enjoy writing or reading. If you’ve gotten this far, you could still participate by recording a voice memo, a two-sentence email, or by asking a mutual friend to share on your behalf.

Please send your submissions to: tiffanyteneyck@gmail.com by November 1. Please let me know if you consider your submission private or if you’d be okay with me sharing it. I have no plans to produce this into a book for anyone but myself, but just in case.

Thank you SO much!



PS. If this truly isn’t your thing, feel free to share a birthday gift towards my future housing fund. If that sounds too boring you can choose to earmark this as “roadtrip” because OF COURSE I want to do the great American road trip like every eccentric introvert in the U.S. Paypal: tiffanyteneyck@gmail.com Venmo: @tiffany-ten

PPS. TBA on birthday party plans in Boston. Pencil in Saturday, November 23 and let me know you’re interested. More details soon!


orange pop

I got an orange pop today. A couple times a year if I feel the yawning, comfortable dark stretching out too near me, I’ll get an orange pop. It’s a simple thing, but when I buy it I decide I will enjoy a beautifully neon drink, a too-sugary explosion of flavor most days, instead of sitting on something high and thinking about how great it would be to slip away. It’s embarrassing, its uncomfortable, but its true.

My brain is super full today. I love my brain, its boundless empathy, its creative nooks and crannies, its attention to details. I notice everything. The squeak of a slightly off-kilter ceiling fan, the glare of a naked light bulb, music I didn’t queue up, the sudden and frightening sound of a bus speeding by, every memory associated with every smell, the furrowed brow of the guy across from me, on and on and on. There are thousands of details in every moment. They are too many. Sometimes I want to stop my endless categorizing.

I suppose I feel lots of movement in my brain today. I am not a “stable” person, I never have been, even as a kid. What I am is a strongly rooted person. I am planted in deep on this earth, constantly catching vibrations, a passing stranger’s bad day, a child’s giggle, the smell of garbage and piss in July, it all comes in and gets into these roots and they grow deeper, longer, more ready to handle the earth.

I cried today. Twice. Once in the bathroom when I remembered I don’t trust people to have my back. Then again on the way home, unusually in my car in the searing heat, stuck in traffic, feeling the many people and the miles of concrete pounding in my head. Quietly, today, for this is not despair, nor anger, but actual sadness, this is not a common way I cry. I noticed the taste of the salt of my sweat and tears on my lips. I feel better after I cry but sometimes it’s not satisfying enough, especially when I feel rage. I felt better today.

Today I’m thinking about someone else’s really bad day, about a recent phone call that was going perfectly well except their tired-sounding voice and my heart started pounding, standing outside in the cool, calm of an ideal summer evening, I felt awash in anxiety. It was building for them quietly on the other end, 2 minutes later they broke into silence, then tears. I know it sounds nuts to say that I felt that coming, hundreds of miles away over a phone connection, but I know I did. All the things my brain can do ramps up exponentially when I love someone. Sometimes it means I get people. Sometimes it means I can’t handle people. I have been a poor friend, an even poorer lover in my lifetime.

Today I’m thinking about my father and that he won’t be around forever. That has occurred to me many times, especially as his own trauma of losing his father as a teenager (his dad died young, a tannery worker, another working class man turned to salt) led him to tell me as a child that he’d likely not live past his 50s. He’s almost 65. When I visited him this month he said “some people think this is stupid, but I can just stare at the sky for hours. You see the blue sky, you see the white clouds, and it’s always changing.” Yes, dad, yes. Those beautiful details I count, too.

Today I’m thinking about the beautiful people we all saw killed instantly and immediately after the fact in the last few years. I’m thinking about a country out of sorts, people being shot left and right. Real evidence, in blood, on Facebook Live, of racism and fear leading to murder and still not everyone sees what’s right there. I’m thinking about white racism becoming a party platform, of this country shutting its borders, reviving ideas we were taught in history books were part of our tainted past. I’m thinking about all the people who couldn’t just SAY “black lives matter.” I’m thinking of the immigrant families who sit around the dinner table in fear. I’m thinking of the Black families who sit around the dinner table in fear. And I’m thinking about the white families who sit around the dinner table in fear. There are plenty of poor white folks in this country to fight for, and I’ll take ‘em over the rich right-language liberal elite that condescends on racial politics but has never once felt the need to fight over resources. I still have a heart for the poor and middle class cop families and the military families who raised boys in an extraordinarily fucked up culture. Most can’t handle the power mixed with their own fragility, they get fucked too. Though to be clear, because this world has created a binary of everything, this empathy exists while still believing firmly that cops that murder must be brought to justice. The whole fucking system needs reworked. Cop jobs, military jobs, they are options that are advertised to give honor when few jobs do for working class people. Come back at me when you can raise a family on a restaurant job (working on it).

I got up today and did extraordinary things. I am a leader but I realized recently that I should stop trying to get to the front of the room. I feel too busy just surviving some days. Today, I got up. I performed a boringly adult task of taking my car in for a recall. I performed my work with relative capacity. I was lost for 5 minutes in a bathroom today but otherwise I remembered what I needed to do. I checked things off a to-do list. I had at least 2 conversations where I was sharing a vision for the world, and in those conversations I felt authentic, I was not an imposter. I survived as an organizer.

Today, I felt the yearning for the well-worn paths in my brain that lead to those moments someplace high, but I didn’t go there. That is enough, that is extraordinary, that is my very selfish revolution. I chose to look forward to all the days I’ll get up and go at it again. I look forward to harnessing my darkness and my porousness for good. And the next time I want to go to someplace high, as long as I’ve got $2, there is orange pop to remember.


The Story of My 10-year Old Penguin Tattoo

10 years ago this week I called my oldest friend Angie on the phone scream-crying rage and sadness. My lover had died, and I learned about this on Livejournal. I had spent the weekend before with him in his small college town. I have a vivid memory of being alone on a dark highway in central Illinois, feeling excited to arrive. We had a great time and I thought sleeping in his tiny bed in his tiny dorm room was fun, having been out of college for several years myself.
What happened to him I will never understand, and that has fueled a sense of loss and fear of intimacy for a decade now. What I know has been pieced together via social media forensics–something I excel at now. I didn’t meet his friends in Illinois and he didn’t meet any of mine when he came to Michigan. I believed, at times, that I had made him up. When my computer crashed and I lost all the emails and IMs from him I thought for sure it was all in my head.

10 years later the loss and fear weigh heavier than the memories of being with him do, and that has to shift. Now. Not a moment later.

It appeared that he killed himself. It appeared that he did that exactly a week after I left. It appeared he did that after calling me and several of his friends and other lovers. We talked about mundane things. It appeared that he did that after IMing with me that evening. It appeared he was found by his ex.

We were not in love but I liked him a lot. When I got back to Michigan I said I needed space because I was having feelings but we were long distance and he was tackling some things in his life. I remember feeling happy that he called, regardless, that next Sunday.

Some parts of his story, even what happened in death, do not add up. I knew more than some, but it was clear in the messages in the weeks that came that there were a wake of people, mostly women, left extremely confused. Left like me.

I have tried not to say much about this openly because I wanted to avoid hurting people’s feelings because of his indiscretions, and I didn’t want to open up any drama. I hope 10 years later this is drama-free. 2015 me needs to let go of this feeling of total loss and betrayal. I am tired of intimacy being a struggle. I’m tired of fear driving me to do things like make sure my current long-distance partner met at least a couple friends last weekend. See, this one isn’t a figment of my imagination.

10 years ago next month my sister tried to convince me not to get the tattoo I have on my wrist. She said “won’t you get tired of it?” It was the right sisterly response to an impulse tattoo on a prominent place.  But the truth is I haven’t. I don’t ever tire of seeing it. Sometimes I falter at the description, usually giggling, “I really like penguins!” (true) instead of explaining that it’s the emoticon package he used on his Livejournal on each post. Today when I see it I can almost imagine that he was real and laughing at a silly nerdy joke and using the “happy” penguin on a post.

I am shocked at how much I’m feeling the 10 year anniversary. This has prompted me to try to write about it, which I rarely do these days (my love of writing online and Livejournal died with him, sadly). I am sorry he is gone. I am also sorry that this has hurt me for so long. I am happy that it finally feels like the memory of his smile could eclipse my tears. That is progress. This is the kind of progress I wish he had experienced.


Taking breaks

I just got back from a two-week vacation and I want to hold on to every moment. I worked during High School, 30 hours a week while going to College full-time, and have since worked 50-60+ a week doing organizing work. There was a brief 6 weeks in Mexico taking an intensive Spanish class in 2003, but mostly, I’ve worked a lot.

Photo Jun 12, 7 30 27 PM

So I took two full weeks and totally unplugged from work. I didn’t return calls, and I passed over all of my work to someone else. It was great, and it’s the littlest things that are sticking with me.

I’m thankful for the rich friendships I have with people that housed me. Kwame in Brooklyn, Carmen in Detroit, My dad and sister in Central Michigan, Meghan in Chicago, Angie in Madison, and Liz in Chicago. Each of them represents, in their own ways, significant parts of my life that rarely overlap and certainly don’t get experienced in the same week.
Photo Jun 12, 7 40 58 PM

Photo Jun 13, 8 31 29 PM

Photo Jun 14, 9 22 32 AM

In New York City, Kwame, Alison and I went to the Big Fat Flea (a plus size thrift clothing event) and sat in what are probably the only comfortable seats in all of Manhattan. Kwame and I had great thai food and watched playoff hockey. I met my comrade Marsha for coffee and was reminded how much she knows about me and my trajectory, and how much I trust her instincts on my movement work. I also got to see my other dear comrade Mischa for a beer and traded stories of our work in the Locals we landed in. So proud of him (and me!). It was great to talk to him a little too about healing from depression and finally having a plan in place that keeps me safe. These are the kinds of conversations that happen easily with old friends.

In Detroit, I got to have my favorite Dearborn middle eastern food with Carmen, and loved stopping by old haunts and new places like the uber-hip new coffee shops.

Spending time with my sister, brother-in-law, dad, and nephew was the real highlight. We spent 2 days in Pentwater and Ludington, including a beautiful half-day at Lake Hamlin. Callen, my 2-year old nephew, is such a delight. He’s a happy, curious, kid and he probably went down 400 slides in the week I was home. I keep staring at photos of him and dreaming of moving back closer, I hate missing his laughter and joy.

Photo Jun 16, 8 18 58 AM

Photo Jun 16, 3 17 16 PM

In Chicago, Meghan and I drank Michigan beer and stayed up too late and spent the day walking through Chicago, stopping for shopping and donuts and Polish food, on our way to the Bean. In Madison I stayed with my Bestie from all the years back and met her partner for the first time. I haven’t seen her in years and haven’t been to Madison in more than a decade, but being in her space felt like home.

Photo Jun 19, 8 13 46 PMPhoto Jun 19, 8 24 42 PM

I love taking advice from myself

Advice to myself written in my journal on July 29, 2010 during a free write:

“Let it all go. Be more like a child. Laugh and play, smash your fingers in the dirt and get the grit under your fingernails. Dress with abandon, bundle up when it’s cold. Warm your hands by a fire, real or gas stove. Did I mention laugh? Remember you’re not alone, you’re just telling yourself that. Remember the faces of the people that you love: they need you. You are remarkable and terribly beautiful. You will inspire a laugh again, maybe even tomorrow. Your faults are the stuff of lessons. Each day is a gift, a challenge, and an opportunity. Crying is okay, screaming too. Don’t beat yourself up, be patient in all things, including with yourself. Let love in. Be love. You are here to love. Agape.

From my journal on January 16, 2010 after writing about struggles with winter depression:

I want to be a force to be reckoned with.

Practicing thankfulness

Holidays tend to bring out the best and the worst, and sometimes I’ve wished it could just be a day off, not a special day when particular things happen. Someone asked me this week if I was going home for Thanksgiving and when I said “no” they said, “that must be sad.”
Should it be? Since my mom died, I’ve been noticing people walking on eggshells around me or assuming the worst. This year has been a big long practice session on how to embrace what’s good about being alive. Sure, I was sad a few times around Thanksgiving and I’ve gotten sad a few times today as I spend my 31st birthday alone. But being happy takes work sometimes, so I’m really grasping for happy thoughts and a mindful take on what I’ve got.
So I’m thankful for a lot. I’m thankful for my few Boston friends who hooked me up with mad food and shared some laughs, a few so deep my belly hurt. And I’m thankful my sister called me five minutes after I woke up today, not before. I’m thankful for Macho, who’s running laps around the studio tonight. I’m thankful for music even if the underground hip hop store was closed all weekend. I’m hella thankful for the T, and that I finally learned how to wear eyeliner. And my Dutch Tulip nails! I’m thankful for the sexy vampire novel I’m reading, and the little Christmas tree I bought and put Aunt Paula’s ornaments on (even if one was DOA). I’m thankful Tanya sent me pictures of mom. I’m already thankful when I get to go back next spring, that we can afford a gravestone. I’m thankful I HAVE LIFE INSURANCE and really good health benefits at work. I’m so thankful I get to work in the union movement. I’m ridiculously thankful for the internet. I’m thankful for my friends, and all the amazing people I’ve met.
“I’m thankful to see what I saw, to get this angle.”

So I live in Boston

It’s been a strange year, and I ended up moving to Boston. I had a short list of places I was looking for jobs in, including Chicago which I was really gunning for. At the end of it all I was offered a job in Michigan and a job in Boston and chose the latter to work on an awesome campaign.

So here is my completely irrelevant commentary about my new home.bos

  • People in Boston are fit! If I’m freezing and standing somewhere I usually only have to look to the side to see someone in shorts jogging. Bless ’em.
  • The one’s that aren’t running are smoking. Seriously, with cigarettes as high as they are here, I’m constantly shocked that I’m not the only one smoking. What gives?
  • The T system is magic. You wave your card to get on, and there are escalators everywhere. Sadly though the magic ends around 12:30am when the magic T goblins fall asleep?
  • Everything closes early, which astounds me. Boston is still a big city but there’s not a lot of night life. And so few 24 hour establishments!
  • The wonder of architecture: how did they build houses on these rolling hills? And how do those people jog up my street?
  • Boston is crazy segregated, surprisingly so for this Detroiter. And like lots of other places, the T doesn’t really go to the neighborhoods full of brown folks. Sigh.
  • Shit is expensive. I make a great salary for Michigan but I’m going to be constantly broke. I nearly doubled my rent to move here! I’ll include a donation link later. 😛
  • My cat Mango loves living alone so far, and I think I do too. But only for awhile! I miss living with others, or I will eventually.
  • I can finally enjoy lightly flavored seltzer water everyday!
  • I learned a few new things: never, ever think you can afford a cab from the airport, take the T because I get lost EVERY TIME I drive, particularly when I visit Alison in East Boston and end up in Cambridge on the way home, and pronounce things really strangely like “Quinzy” for “Quincy” and we all know about Wochester.
  • Also, don’t make eye contact in the train! Even if the midwesterner in me wants to say HI! to everyone!
  • street


    This summer, it’s been monumental. It’s been tumultuous and painful in a particular way that is going to divide my life as a reference point. There is life before Summer 2010 and there’s life after. And I’ve got a couple dozen eggs in the basket that life after is tremendous.

    Until then, I’m easing myself back into the land of the living. My soul had the reset button hit, and I’m still rebooting.

    I might even blog again, who knows! I let my domain expire earlier this year, and a handbag retailer is now parked on my old stomping grounds which irritated me enough to move to action: I now live virtually at tiffany10.net, which I like better anyways.

    And now, a song. “Shine” from Pharoahe Monch’s still to be released new album.
    Pharoahe Monch – Shine ft. Mela Machinko by BiggerThanBlogging

    Domestic Workers in New York Win First-Ever Job Protections

    Photo: Scott Lu.

    Domestic workers in New York have won historic changes to the state’s labor law to include protections for their jobs. Final votes on Thursday ended weeks of wrangling between state Assembly and Senate leaders and Governor David Paterson, who said he would sign the bill.

    The law guarantees domestic workers time-and-half pay for more than 40 hours and a day off each week, along with protection under worker compensation and anti-discrimination law and access to unemployment insurance. The compromise bill won’t include original demands for paid sick and vacation days and advance notice of termination. But three paid days off were granted after a year of service.

    Continue reading Domestic Workers in New York Win First-Ever Job Protections

    Facing Funding Shortfall, Worker Centers Keep Organizing

    Just as worker centers are reporting an increase in calls and drop-ins, and ripe potential among members, some are facing funding shortfalls that jeopardize their work.

    Some centers depend on foundation money for 80 percent or more of their operations. As the plunging stock market drains foundations’ reserves, the well could run dry.

    With the need for their work growing in a cutthroat economy, worker centers are scrambling to make ends meet. They’ve gained momentum in recent years for workers who aren’t in unions, battling immigrant bashing, winning millions of dollars in stolen wages, and providing a political orientation to thousands of members. So how to keep the doors open? Continue reading Facing Funding Shortfall, Worker Centers Keep Organizing