Advice Boundaries & Birds

Image: The Fairy Pig looks at a great blue heron by popping out of the sunroof on the car. She’s borrowing K-Pants’ binoculars.

Let me tell you a story. I’m a birder. Until recently, I thought I was simply the daughter of a birder. Growing up, my mom would suddenly pull the car over, rattle off a list of very-specific characteristics of the bird she was looking at, then tell us to remember what she’d said so she could look up the bird in her Audubon guide when she got home. I knew a lot through osmosis.

Then a few weeks ago I headed to Sauvie Island with my friend Tony, his two boys, and the Fairy Pig. After a focused ten minutes spent discussing shorebirds with our binoculars pressed to our eyes, I realized a) I am a birder independent of my lineage, and b) I have my first birder friend. Tony and I were looking at a group of western sandpipers. 

Upon reflection, it’s possibly not the casual nature fan who can differentiate similar-sized birds in-flight. The bald eagle flaps its wings like it’s lifting weights at the gym; the turkey vulture soars like it’s the Platonic ideal of a glider plane; the great blue heron flies so slowly you think it might fall out of the sky.

This time of year on Sauvie Island (the country’s sixth largest river island, sitting near Portland in the Columbia River, attracting thousands of migratory birds), apart from the farms and locals, you’ll find a lot of birders and duck hunters. We occupy the same areas. But the birders keep outside the hunting borders because we like to stay alive and not bother the hunters. 

You can tell the birders because we’re usually not driving trucks, and we pull over at seemingly unexplained spots. 

On Sunday I took a crew to Sauvie: the Fairy Pig, Boy Woww, our new au pair, and me. We hopscotched viewing spots with a few other cars. At one point, a swoop of sandhill cranes took to the air right over our heads. I jumped out and started to video. It’s magic to watch anything take flight, but a group of sandhill cranes with their dinosaur-like rolling calls, their gangly spindle legs, and elegant opera-glove wing tips, well it makes me have a childlike sense of wonder and joy. And I’ve been video recording some of my favorite times in nature for mini-meditations on my Instagram page (@EvelynShoop). 2022 knocked me over with a coronavirus tidal wave and is demanding that I hold on and find moments of peace wherever and whenever possible. 

As I was walking back to my car, another birder car pulled up with an older man inside. He rolled down the window. “Can I give you some advice?” he said. 

Now if you’ve known me for a while, you’ll be sucking in your breath. I welcome advice if I ask for it. I welcome advice if you have walked a rough path of parenting or grief or self-discovery with me. If our lives are entwined and I reach out, I am all ears. But otherwise, no. N.O. I have to hold this boundary for self-protection as a human who parents. I have received so much unsolicited parenting judgment, errr… advice… that I am not interested in your advice even if it’s life-altering. Most often your advice comes from your own personal experience and it’s helpful and comforting to you for me to receive it. But not for me. And I already have a frickin’ awesome, all-star slate of advice-givers… some professional and some personal. 

So when my new friend The Anonymous Birder rolled up and asked if I wanted advice, it was very easy to just say, “No, thank you.” 

This was not what he was expecting. So he decided I should hear the advice anyway. It was something about not getting out of your car because you scare the wildlife. He didn’t get all the way through his monologue, though, because I repeated “NO, THANKS.” And I walked away. At which point he yelled “FUCK YOU,” and sped away. Which for birders in the wild is like 15 MPH. 

Advice is a lot about assumptions. He assumed I didn’t know what I was doing, that I hadn’t been to this exact spot five times since November, that I wanted to birdwatch like him. His advice was about his frustration that I wasn’t doing things like he does and that because of it I had altered the experience he wanted that day. 

So here’s the thing. On a normal day, I would be proud of myself for setting boundaries, but I would also be boring holes through Anonymous Birder Friend’s skull with my laser beam eyes. I would add the karmic insult he enacted upon me to EVELYN’S INVISIBLE VAULT OF GRIEVANCES. I always have it going. But this time I stopped and had a little chat with myself. 

I’m not taking this personally. It’s about him. I’m doing a great job raising little birders, and he can go shove it. 

Confetti and marshmallows and dark chocolate did not rain down from the sky, but maybe next time. Or the next. Maybe you need to fill your punch card with 10 zen moments before you get your reward. Or maybe somewhere down the line I’ll be a less angry person in general and that’s the reward. [scratches forehead and ponders]

In case you have a lingering wonder about me scaring the wildlife, well, getting out of your car definitely annoys the song birds: the sparrows, the chickadees, the finches. They are fickle and often prey. Generally being alive scares them. But my experience is that the sandhill cranes, the snow geese, the cackling geese, the Canada geese, the great blue herons, the American coots, the mallards, and the great egrets could really care less. I mean, like, don’t chase the birds. But at this same spot back in November, my husband and K-Pants played football, the Fairy Pig and I ran up and down the road, and Boy Woww chilled in the car reading a book. The only thing that bothered the birds were three bald eagles dive-bombing them, which frankly created the most beautiful soaring cacophony I’ve ever seen or heard.

(For a video of sandhill cranes in flight, check out my Instagram page, or request to follow me: @EvelynShoop.)


Evelyn is screaming wearing red lipstick. There is a a comic-book style pow image in back of her.

I discovered recently that my biggest fear is that I’m a bad mother and that one of my children will die by suicide. It’s hard to write that because I don’t want advice or reassurance. I just want to tell you what’s really happening in my inner life. 

I woke up early from an anxious dream. I have anxious dreams a lot. They’re mundane. I’m trying to leave an event but I can’t find my car. There’s a hurt bird and I’m trying to call the Audubon Society but none of the numbers will go through. So I was laying in bed after a dream, calming my body, resting my head on a tension release thing. I decided to go through what I might be worried about, like flipping through a catalog. The tension release thing is like two humps of a camel that I put at the base of my skull. It helps relax tightness in my head. I started thinking of things…

Work? I hadn’t worked all of January recovering from omicron. No, it wasn’t work. Everyone in my business and our clients were incredibly understanding and for the first time I was letting myself rest and receive grace.

Money? Not working meant less money. No. I had a sense that things would work out. 

Child care? We hadn’t had reliable child care since mid-December, and things were still very much up in the air. Everything falls apart without child care. Strangely I wasn’t worried about this. Things had worked out before and somehow they would again. 

The kids? Boy Woww had been having anxiety attacks; the Fairy Pig and K-Pants were their intense selves. My head started to relax and rest into the tension release thing.

When I hit on the right thing my body tells me. It’s taken me a long time to be able to listen to my body, and still I often ignore it. 

I dove down this hole. Is it the kids themselves? No. Is it the intensity of parenting? No. Is it that I’m a bad mother? Yes. There it is. Is it that I won’t be able to help them? Yes. Is it that my badness as a mom will lead to terrible outcomes and one of my kids may die by suicide? Yes. 

Now let me be clear: I am not wishing these things into being. I am not writing them into being. I think that a fear of saying things out loud, lest they come true, keeps us silent and suffering in our inner worlds. And yet I tremble as I write the words. 

Here’s what’s happening at our house. Three beautiful, imperfect gemstones live here. They sparkle in the sun. They glow under kitchen lights. They have crevices that magnify the light. These three gemstones are my treasures. They’re my gifts from God. I want everything wonderful for them and I want to be whole and happy myself. 

And we live in the world. And the world is rough. 

Boy Woww has been having anxiety attacks to the point that they interfere with his daily life. He likes things to be calm and quiet. He’s lived through two years of pandemic so far, something I never had to do as a child. Boy Woww has a sister who is about to get a diagnosis of ADHD. Her body doesn’t allow her to be still. Personal boundaries are a roadblock that stop her from showing her love, so she casts them aside. When we want to watch a family show, she climbs the back of the couch and stalks the family as a predator cat, which drives K-Pants nuts. K-Pants is in his first year of middle school. Middle school has wild ups and downs. And when he has a bad day at school, the whole family feels it. 

These are the things of life. And we’re living them.

I explained all this and more to my therapist. A good therapist is a critical resource. The Fairy Pig learned to walk in my therapist’s office, which I am quite proud of because it meant I was getting the help I needed when I needed it. 

Here’s what my therapist said (I’m paraphrasing, of course):

You can’t control the future. But right now, in these moments, you’re paying attention. Paying attention is important. You’re finding all kinds of ways to help your kids navigate the world in their own ways. For Boy Woww, you’re working to get him the help he needs in big and little ways. For the Fairy Pig, it will be interesting to see if after she gets extra help for ADHD, she becomes more manageable for Boy Woww. They are opposite personalities who need each other and it’s very difficult. You’re doing a really excellent job noticing things and validating your kids.

After getting this wonderful reassurance, I felt comfortable to tell her about how I get overwhelmed and scream at my kids. It probably happens twice a month, where a fire-breathing monster takes over my body. 

What happens when you do that? What do the kids do? 

They tell me to stop it, to take a break. K-Pants will roll his eyes and possibly swear at me. The Fairy Pig will yell back at me, “Mom, you’re NOT HELPING!!” In those moments, I think to myself, “How do I have such disrespectful kids?”

That’s a really good sign, actually. 

What? How are any of these things a good sign?

They’re not afraid of you. When you’re at your worst and you’re screaming, they’re not afraid. Even though it’s awful and no one likes it. 

I was hoping the screaming would go away, and it was for a time, but in pandemic, I’ve had plenty of times where I see myself ramping up, the embers getting fueled with air, and yet I can’t walk away. But still, there are many more times that I do walk away now. Does that make sense? I’m screaming like a cornered squirrel with its tail on fire at the same rate or more as before, but I’m also walking away and taking a break more. So I guess that’s a win?

You are parenting three intense children. Whenever you walk away that’s a win. That’s your whole goal at this point: walk away. 


Hearing this was a sensation of whole-body relief. I hold myself to impossibly high standards. I don’t consciously do it. But deep in my psyche there is a quarterback playbook filled with sure-fire runs and passes that I imagine other people using. Plays that get you out of tricky situations, that allow you to stay calm and also teach your children about problem solving and gentle parenting. Plays that I don’t know how to call for. 

So here I am on Scream Into the Void Tuesday. The void screams are so necessary and freeing. The screaming at my children happens. I do walk away more, and that’s a win. I’m noticing things. I’m talking about it. And that’s good enough for now. 

1,000 Piece Puzzles & Formula 1: Who Even Am I (Are We) 16 Months Into Pandemic?

This photo of me and K-Pants next to a puzzle was taken in May 2020, when I still thought 500-piece puzzles were a strong enough pandemic tonic.

One night back in October or November 2020 or January 2021–it’s hard to say, it was one of those months when the darkness fell before evening–I sat hunched over the kids’ table in our kitchen, my legs in a squat to the side of my tiny chair. The kids’ table is wooden. My grandpa etched leaves and flowers into it, and I always remember it being with us growing up. Now it’s in my kitchen. And it was the only surface in the house that was free, where I could do my 1,000-piece puzzle somewhat protected from the other pandemic inhabitants.

I needed cookie sheets to handle all the pieces. One puzzle chunk on this sheet, another on the table, another over here on that sheet propped up on a second tiny chair. At one point a kid or a husband collided with one of my cookie sheets. But my dangly and possessive claws caught it just in time. 

My precious, precious puzzle pieces. 

My beady eyes scanned the room for the culprit and hissed in disdain.  

I am not a puzzle person. Or am I? Nothing makes sense really. 

Puzzles are boring. Pointless. 

What?! Musn’t say that! Musn’t hurt the precious, precious puzzle. Musn’t have the puzzle hear. 

But really what’s the point? Puzzles are the opposite of adventure and movement. They’re inside things. Why would you even do a 1,000-piece puzzle? 

We wants it, we needs it. We needs our puzzle. 

Why fight it? I was staying up regularly until 11:30pm because I just had to do another piece. Coronavirus made me a puzzle person. My friend Adrina even got me a felt puzzle mat after the cookie-sheet Gollum incident. But then I suddenly stopped in the late spring. I got vaccinated. Things were looking up. 

Now here we are, with the Delta variant swarming and the great hordes of unvaccinated White Walkers upon us as winter is coming. 

We wants it, we needs it. We needs our puzzle.

So if you have any 1,000-piece puzzles, I would like to borrow them. And a shout out to my friends Robin and Jessica and Tommi’s little lending library for loaning me puzzles last winter. If I were a cat, the 1,000-piece puzzle would be that hand rubbing my back while I purred. I was not expecting to ever write that sentence. 

And then there’s Formula 1. 

I would like to talk to you about Formula 1. My sister and brother-in-law introduced me and K-Pants to Drive to Survive. The Pants learned the meaning of a Netflix binge through this show. I have never understood race car driving or watching a race or why it’s a sport or why anyone would attend one of these monotonous events in person. 

But I feel conflicted and anxious even writing that because of my August 2021 self. 


There. She feels much better now. 

Name a current F1 driver. August 2021 Evelyn can tell you five facts about them–who they might be driving for next year, what might happen if Valterri Bottas doesn’t drive for Mercedes and it shakes up the whole lineup… I have 10+ reasons why Lewis Hamilton is my favorite driver (predictable, I know, but how can you NOT?!), followed by Sebastian Vettel (did you see his LGBTQIA+ solidarity rainbow helmet in Hungary? And of course you saw him stop to check on Lando Norris after that huge crash in qualifying at Spa), and why I would definitely be married to Fernando Alonso in my imaginary F1 life in which I am also the technical lead of the Alpine Renault F1 team (because HELLO of course we would travel as a pair). Look, I lived in Spain, so of course I would choose a Spaniard, and I know that Carlos Sainz is the young dreamboat, but I’m not really a Ferrari girl, plus BONUS Fernando and I would get to hang out with Esteban Ocon all the time (who definitely should be your favorite young driver. There are so many great young drivers, I know, but I’ll convince you about Esteban, don’t you worry). 


I am a girl who freaking loves Formula 1 and 1,000-piece puzzles and the only way you’re going to get them away from me is if you steal them and climb to the top of Mount Doom, where you–like me–will become consumed by the pure joy of these two things and lose your focus. Don’t worry, though. I’ll bring you back to reality by snatching them out of your hand as I bite it off and fall to my fiery death. 

Who’s watching the Dutch Grand Prix with me Sunday?

Your 2021 Beaverton School Board Voter’s Guide

If you read your 2021 Washington County voter’s pamphlet, there’s a lot of delightful and often neutral sounding stuff in there: let’s get back to school, let’s keep class sizes down, let’s keep kids safe. We all want that. But there’s a lot under the rhetoric. Let’s break it down.

  • Four races are happening for Beaverton School District positions.
  • Everyone who is a voter within the Beaverton School District boundaries votes in all the races.
  • Our school board is seven members, six are white (the one Black member of the board is not running for re-election and her spot is open).
  • Our county is over half people of color. Race does not determine someone’s views or positions, but lived experience is important to bring to the board. For example, our school district disproportionately disciplines Black and Latinx kids, kids who come from families with low-incomes, and special ed kids. We need school board members who will actively build relationships within those student populations and not rely on the district and other school officials explaining away the problems.

We can assume that everyone in the district is a good person and no one is intending to cause harm. And yet we still have very inequitable outcomes for students. Nice people is not enough. We’ve had plenty of time with white, don’t-rock-the-boat school boards. It’s time to meet the moment and get a board ready to achieve equity and seek racial justice. Let’s get some shit done.

Here’s who to vote for:

Ugonna Enyinnaya. As an attorney, an immigrant, a woman of color, and a mother of a BSD student, Ugonna will bring skill, unique insights and important lived experiences to the School Board.

Ugonna will make an excellent school board member and bring a perspective that the board sorely needs. She’s very interested in listening to students and is raising a son who is currently in middle school. Raising a Black son in the Beaverton School District is a challenge. We need Ugonna’s voice. And yet, this is the hardest race to win because Ugonna’s opponent is a very middle-of-the-road white lady incumbent. In the school board meetings I’ve watched, I can’t point to one interesting thing that Ugonna’s opponent has said. But she’s a safe white lady who has been on the board. Those things alone will probably sway white, middle class voters. But not us! We’re voting Ugonna. Let’s do this, people!

Dr. Karen Pérez-Da Silva. Karen has 20+ years of experience in education and advocacy. Her expertise in bilingual, bicultural education, along with her support of initiatives to diversify the teacher workforce in Oregon will build momentum for racial justice in our school district. She’s awesome. Of course vote for her. She’ll be running for a higher position at some point I hope–she’s incredibly talented.
Sunita Garg. Sunita believes taking an in-depth look at the diverse BSD population is critical to eradicating the status quo. Sunita’s experiences and perspectives are key for strong action toward achieving equity for all students. Sunita’s opponent Saralyn Dougall is running on an all-lives-matter platform. She believes Black lives matter insofar as everyone matters. This is a problem because in order to create a more just society, we have to look at how our society has been set up specifically to drive inequality for centuries. More on this below. Vote Sunita. It’s important.
Now this is a fun race. Susan Greenberg has been on the school board and she’s fine. Susan is more willing than other current school board members to talk about equity, and yet we still haven’t seen strong stances from Susan when it comes to meeting the needs of our students facing the most trauma–whether due to race, class, or immigration status. But, Susan’s opponent Jeanette Schade is a real bummer of a candidate. Think white Christian nationalism and… well that really sums it up. Christianity is entwined with white supremacy going WAY back, and the trouble is that the dulcet tones of eternal salvation through a rigid interpretation of the Bible that only accepts heterosexual, cisgendered people who stick to specific male/female norms are just so sweet. I’m Christian (devout, progressive), and this white Christian nationalism BS really gets my panties in a wad. So vote for Susan. Susan is CLEARLY the right choice, just also please donate to Ugonna’s campaign and maybe be real about the fact that Susan is still very middle-of-the-road. But with a cool new board around her, there’s hope!

Confusing Rhetoric Explained

We’ve seen candidates like use confusing language. Let’s unpack some of it.

What does it mean if you hear a candidate say that science should be taught “based on biology”?

This is transphobic language. It means the candidate believes that sex and gender are always the same. Our LGBTQIA+ students suffer under policies made based on this thinking that excludes students who don’t conform to heterosexual norms. This is the same type of thinking that has allowed the spread of discriminatory anti-trans legislation like “bathroom bills” and athletics bills. We should be seeking to undo and heal harm rather than perpetuate it.

What does “politics out of schools” mean?

“Politics out of schools” is being used in backlash to 2020’s racial justice tipping point. It assumes that before 2020, schools were neutral and apolitical. The fight for Black lives, equity, and human rights is not inherently political, but it does mean reexamining school norms and learning to be better.

What does it mean if you hear a candidate say that Critical Race Theory has no place in our schools or is racist?

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been around for decades. It’s a field of study that helps people see where and how racism exists today. In order to fight racism, we must understand how it works. Racism is much more than our own individual beliefs. Critical Race Theory helps us see how the long history of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, voter suppression, immigration practices, etc. continue to impact US laws, policy, attitudes, education, justice, and more.

Fear-mongering about Critical Race Theory falls into a well-worn pattern of white supremacy that seeks to discredit racial justice movements. Beware of claims of reverse racism, Marxism, communism, or other fear tactics that have been used since the Civil Rights Movement to stoke fear when the status quo is challenged.

Graphics content collaboratively created by West Haven for Black Lives. Graphics by Nectar Digital Collaborative.