Holiday update and 2021 goals

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

Oh my love
We’ve had our share of tears
Oh my friends
We’ve had our hopes and fears
Oh my friends
It’s been a long hard year
But now it’s Christmas
Yes, it’s Christmas
Thank God it’s Christmas


There are only a handful of days left in the Hardest Year Ever. Let’s be grateful for that, even if we can’t find much else to be grateful for right now.

But there is a lot to be grateful for.

On the professional side: I finished the second draft of my novel, Holding Pattern. I hired a writing coach who has helped me through a lot of my anxieties surrounding publishing and self-promotion. I connected with dozens of other writers, some of whom have become treasured friends. I joined a twice-weekly writing group. I established some good habits. I prettied up this website a bit (okay, it’s a work in progress).

On the personal side, my immediate family is all healthy and as happy as we can be given the circumstances. The kids are still distance learning, which is not their favorite, but they are doing the best they can. My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage in October, which feels like a big accomplishment.

This will likely be my last post of 2020, so I wanted to share some goals for the new year.

My first and biggest goal is to get Holding Pattern published. I will be both querying agents/editors and exploring indie publishing. Right now I can see that there are strong benefits and drawbacks to either method. It will be interesting to see what happens as I send this darling little book baby of mine out into the world. I will also be working with beta readers, working on fine tuning the language, and hiring a professional editor to help me get the manuscript as polished as possible.

My second goal is to try and use this website more effectively. I know myself well enough to know that committing to a set schedule for posting will probably backfire. So I’ll just do the best I can.

My third goal has to do with the new little book baby that’s currently being birthed. I’m about 20k words in. I’m hoping to finish a first draft by the end of 2021.

Thanks for sticking with me. Wishing you the very best holiday season and looking forward with excited anticipation to the New Year!



Forward motion

Right now I’m sitting in my bedroom listening to the sounds of my neighbors, who live two doors down, as they finish packing up their moving van. Occasionally another neighbor will stop by and wish them good luck on their journey.

I don’t know these particular neighbors, because we’ve only lived here 15 months, but I remember that particular combination of exhaustion and anticipation on the day we moved. That feeling of one chapter closing and another opening, the sadness of leaving behind our home of twenty years and the pure excitement of finally having achieved our goal of moving to a bigger home, in a neighborhood with trees and big backyards and good schools.

I’ve done hard work before. I’ve set goals and I’ve achieved them. Publishing my book shouldn’t be any different, right?

I’m a person with anxiety, and it’s so easy to let fear take the wheel (or more accurately, let fear take the keys so we just sit in the driveway, listening to the radio but not going anywhere.) I have specific goals and dreams, but they are so scary and the work to achieve them is overwhelming.

I thought writing my book was the hard part. Then I thought revising was the hard part. But no — those are my strengths. As long as I make the time to do these things, they are honestly as easy as breathing.

This morning I’m reading articles about establishing an author platform, social media content planning, building an author “brand”… and, well, my stomach hurts and my heart is pounding and I kind of want to just go back to bed.

My book and I have had a good run. So what if I’m the only one who ever gets to read it?

“Do it scared” is great in theory, but my question is HOW? How do you do something that gives you stomach pains and heart palpitations? How do you go from “I’m going to be sick” to “I can do this”?

It all feels so big and scary and icky and awful. I’m an artist, not a business person. I don’t want to sell me as a brand.


I have things to say

So it’s been six months-ish since I posted anything here, but what a six months it has been, amirite? This year, man. Obviously, there’s the pandemic (which the rest of the world seems to have under control but not our shitshow of a country, but whatever.) The distance learning, the kids being at home all. the. time., the not knowing if you’re exposing yourself to a deadly virus every time you go to the store to buy milk.

But also, I’ve been going through some shit.

In April, about three weeks into this pandemic/quarantine/apocalypse, my left shoulder began to hurt. NBD, I thought. I probably slept weird. I probably overused it. I’m probably just old. I waited for it to go away. But it didn’t. Long story short, despite 3 months of physical therapy, multiple diagnostic tests, two different doctors and one chiropractor, the pain is worse than ever, my whole arm hurts, and I am looking at possible surgery.

This really, really, really bums me out. I don’t want surgery. I can’t make the connection between how cutting into my flesh will somehow take away pain. I know, I’m an RN and logically, sure, it makes sense to remove the probable source of the pain but the surgery and the recovery will also cause more pain, so…..

But also, can we talk about chronic pain? Because it is a nasty bitch. When your physical body hurts all the time, it makes you tired (because you can’t sleep, but also, because pain is just energy-depleting.) It makes every little annoyance unbearable. I’m exhausted. I’m mean. I snap at my husband and kids. I hate everything. And that’s so not me. I’m the patient one.

We had a guest on the podcast who is a therapist specializing in the trauma/emotional roots of chronic pain. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot. How much was figuratively heaped on my shoulders at the time when my pain began. Suddenly having full responsibility for my kids’ schooling, having them home 24/7, having my essential worker husband at work every day and not knowing if he was safe, being in fear for our lives and well-being every minute of the day, worrying about my aging parents who live 200 miles away with no family nearby, seeing everything I was looking forward to this year get washed down the drain by corona, and then as time went on, dealing with not being able to go places and see people and do things, finding out school will be 100% online at least until November, deciding to homeschool my youngest rather than attempt to make his 5 year old self try and sit at the computer all day, and trying to somehow keep it together emotionally so my kids didn’t/don’t freak out. (And don’t get me started on racial injustice and the piece of garbage in the Oval Office who wants us all dead.) It was a lot. It’s still a lot.

And on top of all of that, I also had to deal with a cancer scare. I’m fine, but it was scary as hell. In June I had pelvic pain on my right side that was so bad I went to the ER. (In the middle of a pandemic. So you know how bad this pain had to be.) An ultrasound showed a complex cyst on my right ovary. It turned out to have a lot of cell divisions which is a red flag for cancer, so I was sent to an oncologist. Scariest thing I’ve ever had to deal with, with my own health. Fortunately, everything turned out to be okay, the oncologist was one of the kindest doctors I’ve ever met, and the cyst was likely an endometrioma. But yeah. So that was also on my shoulders for most of this summer.

I’m trying. I’m trying to revise my book and get it ready for publication. I’m trying to advocate and raise awareness and funds for PCOS. I’m trying to homeschool my kindergartener and support my 5th grader and my college kid with distance learning. And all the other, regular, everyday stuff like cooking, laundry, cleaning, bills, etc.

I’m not a whiner. I know plenty of people are worse off. But this is all just…… UGH.

No positive spin, no happy signoff. Just UGH.


Some word vomit for your Sunday morning

So clearly, my last plan failed. To be honest, I haven’t opened my laptop since the last day I posted here. I got sick the next day and so did my daughter (not with coronavirus, although I can’t be completely sure of that, can I? because we sure don’t meet the qualifications for a test), and then honestly I forgot all about it. So here we are.

To be honest, I probably shouldn’t even plan to participate in any kind of challenge. To be honest, I’m not feeling particularly creative right now. All I really want to do is sleep and maybe read a little. I don’t feel depressed or anxious, I just feel kind of numb. I find it amusing to read social media posts from people who feel bored or who have all this free time. I guess I have a hard time remembering what life is like without small children around.

What will you do with all this extra time? the world asks. Learn to play an instrument! Paint the house! Organize your closet! Keep a daily journal of this extraordinary time in history! Take an online class! Watch all the movies! Do ALL THE THINGS!

All I want to do is take a nap. And read my book. Maybe sit out on my patio and get some sunshine occasionally.

If anything, my life is exactly like it was before the shutdown, only now the kids are just here all. the. time. I’m constantly serving food, mediating sibling disputes, kissing boo-boos, supervising schoolwork (and schoolwork-related anxiety attacks). And I do get more rest. That’s a good thing. But not so much with writing time. I used to occasionally have a few quiet hours on a Tuesday or Thursday if my husband was on day shift to be able to be creative but now…. not so much. It’s not a complaint so much as…. it is what it is. Uninterrupted time just does not exist.

My husband is an essential worker, so he still has to go to work every day. Will he be exposed to the virus at work? I don’t know. My oldest kid has diabetes and I have asthma, two conditions that increase the chances of dying if we do contract the virus.

[Insert first interruption here: Husband needed to get hangers out of our closet. Okay.]

Anyhow. It scares me a little, and sometimes I can feel the tension rising in my body when I read about how many confirmed cases there are and

[Second interruption: Kids barge in without knocking, certain Daddy is hiding in the bedroom. He’s not.]

Faith is something I struggle with. I grew up evangelical. I’ve done my time in many different states of religious/spiritual belief ranging from atheism to Unitarian Universalist to liturgical Christian to semi-agnostic holiday-observing-but-otherwise-non-practicing mishmosh of Christian/Jewish, with a smattering of admiration for earth-based and non-deity-centric spiritual practices, which is kind of sort of where I stand today. It would be nice to be able to have a religious faith guiding me through, but I just don’t. I don’t feel comfortable within any religious/belief system. I don’t really believe God has a plan or there is some deeper meaning or benefit to all of this. I’m just getting through one day at a time. Quiet resignation. It is what it is.

The thing I hate is what it is doing to my kids. I mean, they are fine, for the most part. My oldest will finish his semester online. He misses his friends but he is old enough to get this whole thing. My 9 year old daughter is a ball of anxiety and disappointment. She was gearing up for her dance recital, in rehearsals for her school play, she was finally thriving in a fantastic new school and looking forward to field trips and activities. She misses her friends and her teachers. Online school really sucks for her because she is such an extrovert and she loves participating in class and being around other kids. And my little guy is missing out on his one and only year of preschool, which I was enjoying almost as much as he was.

I am grateful that we are all well. I am grateful that my husband is still employed and that this shutdown doesn’t affect his salary or his job. I am grateful to be able to be home with the children. I am grateful that we are fed and housed and clothed and medicated. I am grateful for this big, comfy house with a backyard we can play in. Yet. It’s still a big pile of suck.

[Third interruption: Oldest kiddo needs me to double check his insulin pump insertion site.]

Anyhow this is getting long and has just become one big pile of word vomit, and I’m sure the next interruption is on its way, so I’ll end here for now. Stay home. Wash your hands. Peace.


Where I Work

My writing spot

It’s March 20, 2020 and the world has gone bonkers and me right along with it. I’m trying to keep it together for my kids, but honestly, this whole isolation thing SUCKS. Even for us introverts who would rather be home than anywhere else. So in the interest of focusing on ANYTHING besides the global pandemic and the resulting mental health fallout, I found a 20-day blogging challenge from Writer’s Write and I’m going to attempt to participate. It may seem stupid, but right now I’m hoping it will help keep me sane.

For Day 1, I’m supposed to post a photo of my workspace. For me, most of the time, I write on my laptop while sitting on my bed, in stolen quiet moments when the kids are occupied. Not ideal working conditions, but we do what we can, right? Sometimes I have more structured writing time, when the kiddos are in school, and I will move my laptop to my desk or my dining room table. At those times, I tend to be much more productive because there are fewer interruptions. But my bedroom is comfy and peaceful, so it lends itself to creativity and flow. I keep some favorite books nearby for inspiration/encouragement.


More on belonging

On re-reading my last post (why do I do this?), I worried that it sounded like I had given up on connecting with people entirely, which, of course, I haven’t. I have my family and a few close friends that I love and have authentic, organic connection with. I just no longer feel the need to try and fit myself within a group.

This morning, I was writing out an Instagram post for the podcast I’m part of, and I wrote about how being part of a platform where women can share their difficult stories has helped me to become less judgmental of others and less fearful of being judged for my choices. As I wrote, I began to see the connection between my fierce need to belong and my fear of judgment.

If I’m part of a group, then I must be “okay,” because I’ve been accepted. I belong. Even if I maybe have to conform a little to fit within the group dynamic. If I’m just floating out here by myself, I’m much more vulnerable. If I follow my own path, I give up the safety of association with others, and I open myself up much more to criticism. But it also forces me to get comfortable with who I am, as an individual, because I have to be my own friend. I can’t just adapt to the behaviors and patterns of the group. There’s freedom to step out and decide who I want to be, what’s important to me, and how I want to spend my time.

Last night I was talking with my 9 year old on her way to dance class. She has struggled this year with some of the girls in her class, because she doesn’t quite fit in with them. These girls are all slightly older than her, and interested in things that my daughter isn’t familiar with (mainly social media apps), and when she asks about them, in her own words, “they look at me like I’m a freak.” Every week, I have to give her a pep talk on the way to dance class and encourage her to stay true to herself and not worry about what these girls think. I tell her that she is an individual who doesn’t follow the crowd, that she doesn’t have to like or do things just because everyone else does, and that these other girls don’t understand that it’s okay to be your own person. Even if it means some people won’t like you.

There is a mindset in our society that tells us that only certain choices are appropriate, that you have to follow the crowd, that you have to belong. You have to look a certain way, act a certain way, have a good-paying job, get married, have children, go to church, buy a house in the suburbs, drive a nice car. And if you don’t go along, if you don’t follow the formula, if your priorities are somehow different, then you’re a freak. And honestly, fuck that. Because the things that make people different are the things that make them who they are. And when people truly step into who they are as unique individuals, when they put aside the fear of judgment and decide to embrace themselves just as they are, it’s incredible to see.


Belonging, being myself, and bee people

My song came on the radio yesterday as I was driving my youngest to preschool. You know, MY song, the one that I will always turn to top volume and sing all the words to, the one that even my kids know is “mommy’s song”, the one whose lyrics I have written on my social media profiles because I relate to it so hard. Do you have a song like that? Mine is No Rain by Blind Melon. (All I can say is that my life is pretty plain/I like watching the puddles gather rain.)

This particular tune was released when I was 19, way back in the olden days when videos on MTV were still a thing. I loved the lyrics, and even more, I adored the video. A weird little girl, freckled and chubby, is dressed up in a bee costume, complete with antennae and tutu. She tap-dances on a stage and instead of applause, she is met with laughter. She gets upset and runs off the stage. Sad and dejected, she roams the streets, performing her dance for random strangers, but they mostly just stare at her. They don’t get it. They don’t get her. She dances by herself for a little while, but you can tell her heart isn’t in it. Then, she approaches a gate. As she peers through the gate, her jaw drops open. On the other side is a field of people, all dressed in some variation of bee costume, frolicking and dancing happily. She runs to join them, and they immediately accept her as one of their own.

As I drove along yesterday, listening to the song, it occurred to me how much of my life I spent as that awkward girl, looking for my field of bee people. I felt like nobody “got” me, and I desperately wanted to belong. In my 20’s, I found belonging in my religious community and in groups for new moms. But when my beliefs shifted, and I was no longer a “new” mom, I didn’t belong anymore. In my early 30’s, it was my theater group and my workout buddies. But then I got pregnant with my daughter and had to put those things on hold, and those people slowly drifted away. Later, it was school, but then I graduated and everyone went their separate ways. Each time, I finally felt as though I had found my bee people, and each time my life took a different turn, I realized that I didn’t belong after all. It was always a lonely, broken feeling, even if the circumstances around it were positive.

I realized yesterday that now, at 45, I no longer look for the field of bee people. Part of this is circumstantial — who has time to look for bee people when you’re a busy mom of three, who also writes and podcasts and does advocacy work? But more than that, I finally feel like I’m okay with just being that awkward little bee girl, dancing for myself, and I don’t care anymore if nobody gets me. I don’t need a field of bee people to find happiness. I’m content with who I am.

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain. I like watching the puddles gather rain.


The problem with blogging

Once again, I have gotten into the habit of starting to write blog posts and then deciding a few paragraphs in that nobody wants to read what I have to say. Fiction is easier, in that respect. Telling a made-up story feels a lot less vulnerable than putting my real-life thoughts and insights out into internetland for anyone to see.

I started to write about faith/religion, how I was raised a certain way, walked away in the extreme opposite direction, and then came to a place somewhere in between that felt good for a little while, and now have stepped off the grid almost entirely. But does anyone really care? When it comes to religion, almost everyone I know seems secure in their beliefs and traditions, while I’m floating out here in outer space looking for a safe place to land (and realizing more and more that I belong out here in outer space.) Nobody in my real life wants to listen to me talk about it, so why would anyone read about it? Same thing when it comes to my journey with weight/body image stuff, or pretty much anything.

I’m a born questioner, a skeptic, an enthusiastic observer with insatiable curiosity about the things that interest me. And I want to write about these things, but every time I try, I get overwhelmed with self-doubt and this fear that what I say really doesn’t matter, to anyone. I mean, I can’t even get people to click “Like” on my Facebook posts.

Do other writers feel this way? Why do some seem so confident that others want to read their commentary? And what makes people read it? How do you get over yourself and just write?

Screaming into the void this morning…


2019 in review, part 2: electric boogaloo

Another change that happened in 2019 was that I began to use my voice as an advocate for women with PCOS. PCOS, also known as polycystic ovary syndrome, is a complex endocrine and metabolic disorder that I and many other women I know live with. It is common (affecting 10% or more of women and girls), misunderstood, and critically underfunded, and can lead to life-threatening complications such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and endometrial cancer. It also comes with a higher rate of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. And despite all of this, there is no approved medical treatment for PCOS.

In March of 2019, I joined a group of doctors, researchers, nutritionists, and patient advocates on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. We attended meetings with our representatives and senators and asked them to co-sponsor legislation that funds PCOS research and recognizes PCOS as a public health priority.

In July of 2019, I co-chaired a 5K event in Philadelphia to raise funds for PCOS research, awareness, and education programs. Our event raised over $10,000.

In September of 2019, I traveled to Orlando, Florida to attend a PCOS symposium and to participate in and assist with another 5K event.

As an introvert who would rather do just about anything than talk to strangers, all of these things were WAY outside my comfort zone and frankly, more than a little terrifying. But the experience of advocating for myself and other with PCOS was life-changing. To be able to walk into a room, identify myself as a nurse and patient advocate, and talk to congressional staffers about my experience with PCOS, and have them agree to sign on to the legislation — it felt incredible, and deeply meaningful. Like I was actually changing the world for people like me.


2019 in review: part 1

2019 was a year that brought a lot of changes for me. Some obvious, some known only to me.

The biggest change, and the one everyone who knows me is already aware of, is that we sold our house and bought a new one. This may not seem like that big of a deal on the surface. People move all the time. We only moved 6 miles from our old house, staying in the same city (Philadelphia) and the same general part of the city (Northeast). And on the positive side, we moved into a house much better suited to our family of five, almost doubling the amount of square footage in our home, adding a second full bath, and moving into a neighborhood with a much better school and much less crime.

But leaving the home we spent 20 years in, the first home we ever owned, the neighborhood where we both grew up, the house we brought all three of our babies home to, was a profound and difficult change. Especially for me, a homebody by nature. I identify very strongly with the place I call “home” — it is a part of who I am. And I still feel uprooted and somewhat unsettled even 6 months later. I know that eventually this house will feel like more of a home, and I’m still happy that we found a great house in a nice neighborhood, but a big part of me misses the familiarity of the place that was home for so long.