Perfect for Valentines of All Ages: “Worm Loves Worm”


Hey you. Yes, YOU. The sorry so-and-so who’s forgotten it’s Valentine’s Day and are now scrambling to find a last-minute present for your boo.

Why don’t you skip the tacky bodega carnations and dusty CVS chocolates this year and go with a gift that really means something? Why don’t you head on down to your neighborhood bookshop and pick up a copy of Worm Loves Worm?

This book, written by J.J. Austrian and illustrated by this guy, is a thoughtful, poignant, adorable celebration of love in all its wormy splendor. Its simple, cheery illustrations and sweet, inclusive message have won the book heaps of praise, including a spot on The Advocate’s “21 LGBT Picture Books Every Kid Should Read” list, and today’s great write-up in the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

J. J. Austrian and Mike ­Curato’s “Worm Loves Worm” … brilliantly explores the idea of love between two beings, regardless of gender (or species) and despite societal pressures.

Curato’s spare but sure silhouetted images and Austrian’s straightforward text are a perfect match to deliver the simple story of two characters who just want to declare their love and commit to each other.

And of course, the story of Worm holds tremendous personal significance for Mike and me, which my hubby explains with touching eloquence in his own writing about its release:

Throughout our lifetimes, each of us will be criticized for something that we cannot change (in other words: for being yourself). During those times, it’s paramount to remember what is most important in your life. For me, love is what is most important. Some people see the love that I have for Dan as being “different.” I beg to differ. In Worm Loves Worm, no matter the opinions and criticisms of others, Worm and Worm hold fast to what is most important to them: each other.

Sure, a few angry wormophobes have been upset by this book. For them, its depiction of G-rated affection between sexless garden-dwellers, and the image of spritely cartoon insects throwing their friends a little party, crosses a line. (The objections usually go something like: “I have no problem with the wormos personally, blah blah blah. I’m just worried that the wormos are trying to EAT MY BABIES.”)

But if Worm comes with any “agenda,” it’s nothing more sinister than the wish to offer a positive lesson in open-mindedness, acceptance, and love.

Though marketed as a children’s book, Worm Loves Worm is a story about eschewing rigid categorization. So, whether it’s for a dear little one, or a grownup sweetheart, this book’s heart-tugging, family-friendly message makes it the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for loves of all ages.

Now get out there and grab your Valentine a copy before this holiday is over!



A Note to Bernie Fans Who Say They’ll Never Vote for Hillary

Marching up Main Street in my hometown, Brattleboro, VT. (photo credit)

Dear fellow Bernie supporters:

Single-payer healthcare. Tuition-free college. A $15 minimum wage. A path to citizenship. Breaking up the big banks. Overturning Citizens United. Halting mass-incarceration and dismantling the prison-industrial complex. Rebuilding our infrastructure and revitalizing American industry. Getting aggressive on climate change.

These are just a few of the progressive g-spots worked so masterfully by Bernie Sanders. They’re what make him, for so many of us, an absolute dream of a presidential candidate. His message is a sweet serenade that gives us the deep-down quivers, pitching tender, irresistible woo to our idealistic hearts.

Bernie is our political soul mate. So why would we even think about giving it up for someone else?

Well, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a shitnado of sheer, unmitigated lunacy swirling on the other side of the presidential race. This year’s slate of contenders for the Republican nomination is an unholy roster of unhinged, retrograde sociopaths ranging from “scary” to “HOLY FUCKING SHIT I’M MOVING TO A SURVIVAL BUNKER IN THE YUKON IF WE LET THIS MANIAC ANYWHERE NEAR THE NUCLEAR LAUNCH CODES.” That this election might very well send one of these mendacious Tea Party dunces to the White House is utterly horrifying. This nation – this world – simply can’t afford it.

And yet, my fellow Berners, an alarming number of you have sworn that, should she emerge as the Democratic nominee, you will refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton. Indeed, there is polling that indicates 14% of Democrats would rather feed their children to rabid hyenas than cast a general-election ballot for Bernie’s top Democratic rival. And that’s scary, too.

To be clear, I’m a fervent Sanderista who’s as eager as anyone for a Bernie Revolution. And with our guy having fought Hillary to a draw in Iowa, and seemingly poised to walk away with New Hampshire tomorrow, I’m thrilled to see it may already be underway. I’ve been watching Bernie defy expectations for twenty-five years, and I know we can win this thing.

But if Bernie ultimately fails to secure the Democratic nomination, I’m going to vote for Hillary. Without hesitation.

Look. I get it. There are plenty of valid reasons to be wary of Clinton, Inc. Many of us were disgusted by the politics Hillary played against Obama in 2008. Many of us will never forgive her pro-Iraq War vote in 2002. And many of us are leery of all the cash she’s collected from her BFFs on Wall Street. And yes, next to Bernie – whose politics have been consistent for decades, and who proudly touts the socialist label despite its liabilities – Hillary comes across as one who would burn down Yellowstone if it would win her Ohio. So if her candidacy gives you pause, I totally understand.

And if, in the event of Hillary’s nomination, you just can’t bring yourself to support her – if you wanna tell Hillz to shove it, and teach Democratic elites a lesson in grassroots resolve – fine. I can’t ask you to defy the tug of your conscience.

But in heeding those conscientious whims, just remember that the resulting Republican administration will be one of climate-denying charlatans, will seek the immediate repeal of Obamacare, and will name something like seventeen justices to the Supreme Court.

And then consider: While the DNC is off learning its hard, four-year lesson, how many holy-shit warming thresholds will we cross? How many Americans will lose their health coverage and die for lack of care? And how long until Roe v. Wade goes the way of the Voting Rights Act?

The unbridled right-wing havoc we can expect when the Tea Party’s dimmest are running the West Wing seems an awfully steep price to pay just so you can flash an angry middle digit at Hillary. And you know who agrees with me? The B-man himself.

We all want Bernie to be our next president. But if the Democratic nomination isn’t in the cards for him, sticking it to HRC won’t do him any favors. Bernie will shift his support to Hillary, and will surely encourage us, his loyal followers, to back him up. Because he understands the unbelievably high stakes of this election. Because he knows that the alternative to a Democratic win is a piss-our-collective-pants disaster. Because he was right the other night when he said that even on their worst day, both he and Hillary are a hundred times better than any of the Republicans they might face.

In this election, Bernie Sanders stands as a totem for the unabashed liberal soul. Yet his politics don’t preclude him from supporting Hillary Clinton. If you’re a progressive who cannot, under any circumstances, bring yourself to do the same, so be it. But then you don’t get to claim Bernie as your political spirit animal.

Sincerely, your Bernie-buddy, Dan.

Hillary’s not all bad. She bought my husband’s book!


School’s Out Forever

Big day for Little Bear, who’s been with me since kindergarten.

Hello, friends! Happy 2016, and welcome to the new, improved DANNED FOR LIFE! Let this serve as my inaugural post on (along with some highlights I’ve migrated from the old site), and even more excitingly, as my very first post as a college graduate!

That’s right, I’m DONE. School’s out FOREVER. After five-plus years of hard work, studying, and pitiful blog-neglect, I’ve finally earned that History degree I wouldn’t shut up about, and somehow managed to get the words “Magna Cum Laude” inscribed on my diploma. I know, right? All this, and I’m only in my mid-30s!

But don’t worry. I may be like a zillion times smarter now, but I won’t let it change me. I’ll still be that snarky, but soft-spoken know-it-all you’ve come to adore. And now, with all this free time on my hands, I expect you’ll be hearing quite a bit more from me. (That is, until I find a job. Which actually is my number-one priority right now, so … )

Stay tuned for what I promise will be a fresh, dazzling showcase of all the wit and wisdom bursting from this newly minted BA-brain of mine. You won’t be disappointed.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Mike has a Mrs. Robinson outfit to try on for our role-play night innocently watching The Graduate on Netflix night.

Donuts of New York: Love at First Bite


“We met one night while waiting for the G train. Blue said my glaze looked irresistible; I told her she was berry sweet. It was a recipe for warm, gooey love. I asked if she wanted to take a walk around the park sometime. She said, ‘I can’t. I don’t have legs.’ Forty minutes later the G train rolled up, and by then, we knew we were baked for each other. That was a dozen years ago. Today we share a charming prewar pastry box on Kent Street, raising our own little batch of munchkins together. After all this time, we’ve managed to keep the dough-mance as fresh as ever.”

– Chocolate Cake and Blueberry Buttermilk, Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop, Greenpoint.

I Remember “Danny Boy”

I remember the piano in the patients’ lounge down the hall from Dad’s room.

I remember how I was aimlessly plunking the keys when an old man came in to play.

I remember when, two months earlier, Dad told me he didn’t have much time left.

I remember how he made a point of telling me that there was one particular song he wished to be remembered by.

I remember how he referred to it as my song.

I remember the curiosity of this moment, as he had never so much as hummed a bar of my song in my presence.

I remember how non-musically inclined he was.

I remember how he hardly ever called me “Dan.”

I remember how the news hollowed me with fear.

I remember the new He-Man figure he gave me when I was in the hospital eleven years earlier.

I remember how that piano was a cheering distraction from what was mounting down the hall.

I remember that I was just beginning to figure out how piano playing works.

I remember watching the old man start into a seasoned rendition of a song he knew from memory.

I remember leaving the room before he was done, but I don’t remember why.

I remember that twenty minutes later I was at the foot of Dad’s bed watching him give his last breath.

I remember Dad’s love of all things Irish.

I remember the old man’s pitch-perfect intro.

I remember the uncanny moment and the familiar emerald air.

I remember the gentle cadence.

I remember wondering if the old man had any idea who that song belonged to.

Wayne Thies, March 18, 1945 – April 4, 1995

Little Elliot, Big New York Times Review

This Sunday, a glowing review of Little Elliot, Big City will appear in a little publication called THE NEW YORK TIMES! Here’s a snippet:

“The author-illustrator Mike Curato, making his picture book debut, beautifully renders the images in rich earth tones that are soft and smooth, calling to mind ‘The Sweetest Fig,’ by Chris Van Allsburg … “

So yeah, that was Mike being compared to one of his idols in the Sunday Times book reviewYou know, NBD. Be sure to read the rest here.

Seriously, though, what an honor for Mike. I know I keep saying it, but I am SO DAMN PROUD of him!

“We’ve all been there.”

Update: We just found out that Little Elliot also made Amazon’s list of the 20 best children’s books of 2014! So much excitement here!

What “The Birdcage” Did for Me: A Short Tribute to Robin Williams

Sometime after the release of The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams, I remember my mom telling me how much she had enjoyed the film. It was a revelation that stuck with me because I was surprised to see that she – a devout, lifelong Catholic – was completely unfazed by the film’s sympathetic (yet over-the-top) portrayal of a “non-traditional” family. The movie depicted the de facto marriage of two unabashedly flamboyant gay nightclub owners, along with their having raised a seemingly happy, healthy, well-adjusted son together. It was edgy fare for 1996 – the year that DOMA became law – flying in the face of what many, perhaps most Americans still believed about queer families. But my conservative-ish mom didn’t seem the least bit bothered or offended by any of it. In fact, she loved it.

It was with this specifically in mind a few years later that I finally summoned the courage to come out to my mom. And she has been nothing but awesome ever since.

Mom and me on my gay wedding day.

So thank you, Robin Williams, for the many great performances you gave us, but especially, thank you for The Birdcage. 

Rest in peace.  


Who Has Two Thumbs and His Own “Little Elliot” Tote Bag?

Two thumbs
This guy.

Apparently, the Little Elliot tote bag, a promotional giveaway at this year’s Book Expo America, was a huge hit. From Publishers Weekly’s “ShelfTalker” blog (emphasis mine):

“Savvy booksellers paced themselves on the number of galleys they took. Mostly there was talk about how to get a particular tote bag. I missed my chance, but for some reason many people asked me about it, as if I had a magical power to make them appear at the Macmillan booth. So cute, but alas there seemed to be a limited number that were given out Thursday and then gone. This was actually a really smart move on the publisher’s part. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted this bag. And it just gets you ready for the book, which is equally good.”

I guess being married to Mr. Little Elliot himself has its perks.

You can read the whole BEA wrap-up here, and Mike’s own take on his first BEA experience here.

My New Life in Movie Land, Part II

Yesterday Mike and I took advantage of the glorious sunshine and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a first for both of us:

Enjoyin’ the view

We then followed our little cross-river excursion with a visit to an equally iconic NYC landmark:

That’s me haunting the street corner

This one was not a first for us (I stumbled across it totally by accident while exploring the city shorty after moving here), but it was the first time pictures were taken:

(Cute texting fireman not included in tour package. I asked.)

Amazingly, there’s a Ghostbusters sign hanging inside the station, and the on-duty firemen seem relatively unbothered by the occasional gawking tourist (or newbie local) wandering in to pose beneath it:

I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghostly white legs
Who you gonna call?
This is my life now.

(For further reading on the Ghostbusters firehouse, my friend Geraldine made the same pilgrimage a couple years ago, and did a great write-up on her blog. Check it out!)

Danned for Life: Same Blog, New Name

New name, new logo

So, I changed my blog’s name over the weekend.

I know what you’re all thinking. He’s crazy. This is a huge gamble. Speak of the Daniel is already an established brand with dozens of followers and a proud record of hard-won critical acclaim (thanks, Mom). So why is he messing with perfection?

Be that as it may, the change was long overdue. You see, I’ve never been super psyched about the old name. It’s clever enough, I guess. It does what a personal blog name is supposed to do, using a punny play on the blogger’s name to set the tone and convey some sense of the blog’s theme. But the problem is that, while it is my given Christian name, I never go by Daniel. I’ve always been Dan (and occasionally Danny), and so a play on the name Daniel always felt like the topical simile I was trying to end this sentence with – unnatural and forced. That’s really all there is to it.

I’ve been kickin’ around the name Danned for Life for quite a while now. I was hesitant to make the change at first, fearing that it, too, would quickly lose its pleasing ring and I would soon come to regret the new name. But I’ve decided that it has worn well over time. It does everything the old name does, but with a more natural-sounding play on the name Dan. As my sister-in-law observed, it’s “just as funny, fewer syllables, so it works.”

And so it’s time, as MJ would say, to make that change. I understand if you’ll need some time to adjust emotionally, and I apologize for the hassle of having to update the bookmark tabs on all of your devices ( But I promise the new name will grow on you, and you’ll soon be wondering how you ever got by in this crazy blog world before you got yourself DANNED FOR LIFE.