Fast forward and pause

A couple of days ago I had a “Date” with each of my my fabulous and hilarious twin almost six-year-old girls. With one I took her to a swimming party and lunch and the other on a shopping trip and for a snack. And it was so great. I enjoyed every second of getting one-on-one time with these little people who I love so very much. I basked in the warm glow of them thinking I am the coolest person in the world (I am relishing that as I know it won’t last much longer!) And I even got to hear, “You are the most wonderful mommy… just the best, and I just love you so much I can’t…I can’t even tell you.”

Then we went home to our new house and I got to see the girls play outside and have an elaborate game which involved dressing up to be “a little bit fancy.” It was awesome. It was perfect, and fulfilling, and made me feel like I might actually be doing ok at this parenting thing. At several points in the day I looked at their smiling faces and wished I could live in that perfect moment forever. But there is no pause button on life.

Unfortunately, there is no fast-forward button either.

Part of my goal in taking them on separate dates was to get a chance to tell each of them that Mommy is going to have surgery and that I would need to be resting for awhile and give them a chance to ask me any questions they might have. They both took it remarkably well, which is not really that surprising since I have dealt with health issues their entire lives. And one of the things that I am most proud of in the parenting style my husband and I believe in is that we try as much as possible to be honest with the kids. We give them the basic truth of the situation and leave out details that are not age appropriate.

Because kids are really smart. And they hear EVERYTHING even when you think they aren’t listening… unless you ask them to put on their shoes- which for some reason my children are physically incapable of hearing the first 17 times I ask.

So the kids are fine with this surgery, but I’m not.

I know it is the best thing for me. I am hopeful that it will finally be the answer to the bleeding issue that has plagued me on and off for the last year. I understand that it will not be even on remotely the same level as my other major surgeries (it will be only 1-2 days in the hospital rather than the 10-12 day stays I had in 2014.) But still… I don’t wanna.

I have been saying that a lot lately. I realize I can’t skip past the really hard times in life. I understand with the rational part of my brain that I have to go through the messy, yucky, sobb-y, parts, but it sucks and but I would rather not.

Because of everything I have dealt with in the last six years, I know that I can survive just about anything. I know that if I keep going, sometimes one breath at a time, I will eventually get through even the roughest seasons. I am certain that one day I will be on the other side of the immediate trauma and be able to look back and say, “Well that was a really shitty year!” And I know that I am a person who will get to a place where I can use my pain for good in the world.

But I would really like to fast-forward to that feel good part and not have to plow through this sucky section filled with grief and pain.

If you know anything about me, you probably know that the last six months have been filled with one devastating blow after another. Since October, I have lost my 28 year-old brother, who died suddenly and tragically, and not one but two good friends to cancer.

I have also been dealing with an ongoing bleeding issue that has caused me to be hospitalized multiple times, subject to more horribly invasive diagnostic tests than I can even count, and recently to have a 2 unit blood transfusion because my hemoglobin was so low I could barely breathe.

Last week I had one of the strangest experiences of my life in which I had to drink barium and then lay down on a table and have more barium injected rectally. Then the motorized table went from flat to vertical, sitting me up on a makeshift potty(basically a bucket with a plastic bag in it.) Then they lowered an x-ray screen on my other side so I was sandwiched between the now upright bed and the x-ray pannel. Next the radiologist comes in and says that I need to be higher for him to be able to see properly. So he raises the potty I’m sitting on about 3 feet up in the air.

So there I am, with my legs dangling in the air, a guy about 6 inches from me watching his screen and giving me directions- cough, tense up, release, etc. Oh and by release he did mean poop- in a potty suspended in the air, as he watched me. Don’t be jealous, I lead an incredibly glamorous life!

Then after a long meeting with my surgeon (and a highly unpleasant in-office scope, he tells me he thinks that he knows what the problem is- yay! And that we are going to fix it with surgery- not so yay.

It is majorly complicated but basically he needs to go in and cauterize my current bleeds and then put in some internal stitches to help keep it from happening again. Because of the rate I’m loosing blood we had to schedule this surgery ASAP.

This is yet another setback in a period of time that has already been far too much to deal with. I was talking to my therapist yesterday and we discussed how I’m depressed, but even my depression is atypical. I am having an extremely hard time emotionally and managing both anxiety and depression, or anxipression as I like to call it.

For me, periods of anxipression don’t look like what most people think of as depression. I am highly functional and productive, but that is just a coping mechanism. If you read Just Keep Swimming you can get an idea of what I am talking about. I feel like right now I am doggie paddling as fast as I can to keep my head above water. I don’t want to stop because if I stop swimming I am worried I will sink.

So here I am. The plan is that I will have surgery TODAY with a 1-2 night stay in the hospital then home for recovery.

As I know many of you will ask, I am good for help at the moment. My mom will take the kids the first couple of days and my husband will be with me at the hospital. Then my in-laws will be coming to stay with us for the next 10 days to help out.

I have been swimming as hard as I can for far too long. And I am tired. I need to rest.

In order to make myself actually take the time I need to let my body, mind, and spirit heal, I am taking a full two weeks off.

I have delegated all of my Mommies In Need responsibilities, I have family taking care of the kids, and I am going to do my best to do as little as possible for that time. Feel free to call, text, or email me, but please understand that I will probably be very slow to respond.

I do wish I could fast forward this part. I wish I could skip the crying and the not being able to breathe and the every step is hard and just jump to the I’ve made peace with this and I can use this bad to help someone else part of the whole thing.

But since I can’t pause the good parts or fast-forward the bad, life will continue moving at its sometimes glacial, sometimes whirlwind pace. And I will get through the worst parts by remembering those perfect ones.

My life has not been easy so far, but it has also been full of more wonder and joy than I could have ever predicted.

Thanks for all your love and messages of support everyone, I’ll be back as soon as I have taken some time to recuperate!


One Breath at a Time

It has been a just over a month since my world was forever changed. On November 9, I found out that my 28 year-old brother, Mark, had passed away suddenly and tragically.

About a month before that my friend Amanda died after 7 years of treatment for her metastatic breast cancer and a prolonged time on hospice care. When Amanda passed away, I was sad, and I missed her, and I was broken-hearted for her husband and her sons, but it was hardly a surprise. I had been visiting as often as I could through her last months and I saw her withering away. The last time that I went to see her, I held her hand, I got a brief moment of clarity from her drug-induced haze when she looked right at me and told me she loved me and I was able to say the same to her.

The last picture I have of Amanda and I together.

On the drive home I sobbed and I prayed that she would let go, that she would be released from her unimaginable suffering and finally be at peace. When I got the news of her death, I was in the middle of writing an angry rant that I will probably post eventually, but I stopped and cried for a while. I had been actively preparing for her death with my therapist (as much as you can prepare.) Every time I saw or spoke to her I knew that it might be the last time and I always ended our visits with that in mind.

I first met Amanda 3 years ago when we were both in the infusion room getting treatment. I was happy to have her as a friend, and to be able to provide free childcare for her through Mommies In Need. Three days after her death, a fantastic group called Resounding Harmony was doing a benefit concert for Mommies In Need and we decided to dedicate a song to her and to light candles in her honor. I was the one who was going to deliver her tribute. At the dress rehearsal I was a mess. I barely got out the words I had written for her memorial and then I sobbed through the whole song.

But the next day for the show, I called upon every bit of strength that I had and I was able to speak for her in a way that I will always be proud of. I had no idea that event was a sort of dress rehearsal of it’s own.

When Amanda died I thought I knew what sad was. It turns out I had no idea.

I now know that there is a level of grief that is so deep it physically hurts. I know what it is to be shocked with news that knocks the breath out of your lungs. I know what it is to fall to the ground crying because you cannot keep yourself upright. I know the panic that comes when you feel that if you allow yourself to start crying you will never be able to stop.

When my brother died, my parents were extremely smart about how they told me. They called my husband and had him come home to be with me as I heard the news. When he said he was getting out of work early, I didn’t think anything of it at first. But when he got home, he guided me to the couch and he said he had something to tell me.

At that point I got this strange tunnel vision- I knew what he was about to say would be bad and my mind was racing as to what it would be. My first thought was that one of my grandparents had passed, but I had talked to them earlier that day, so that didn’t make sense.

When he said, “Mark is dead,” I did not understand the words that were coming out of his mouth. I went into a sort of shock in which I laughed and said “No, that’s not true.” He had to tell me five or six times until I could put it together in my head.

It’s funny how some memories are so blurry and others so clear. I don’t think I will ever forget how that felt as I began to comprehend that my baby brother, the sweet little boy nine years younger than me, whose diapers I had changed, who I read all the Harry Potter books out loud to, who is a part of most of my best family memories, was no longer on this earth.

I don’t think I have fully accepted that I will never see him again in this life. That still feels too big to even start to process.

The details of the days that follow are more complicated and personal than I can even begin to share here. I will say that I am forever grateful that my other two siblings and I live in Dallas and that we are all married to exceptional people who helped us get through the worst of it. We were all able to be together at my parents’ house as we stumbled through that first day. Grieving with people doesn’t make it any less painful, but it does make it a little less heavy. My family and I helped carry each other through the moments when none of us would have been strong enough to get through it alone.

As funny as it sounds, I have a lot to be grateful for from that period. Grateful that my family could be together. That I have two amazing and hilarious 5 year-olds that I can snuggle all the time. That a friend of mine is married to a funeral director so I had someone to call in those first hours to help us stumble through the practical things you have to do when someone dies unexpectedly. That I have a pastor and a church community who were present when I needed them. That one of my dad’s best friends heard the news and put together a celebration of Mark’s life just three days after we found out he was gone. That a wonderful musician and family friend was in town and sang in Mark’s honor. And that I had that dress rehearsal.

As we talked about what we would do and say to honor Mark, I volunteered to speak for him. When my parents asked if I was sure that I could do it, I said yes. I had gotten through my tribute for Amanda and I knew that it would be a thousand times harder but that I could also do it for my brother.

Me and Mark
This picture is from a few years ago but is still one of my favorites of Mark and me.

And I did. I read a beautiful message from my father, a poem my mother selected, and wove stories that my parents and siblings contributed into a speech that I think was just right for him. We ended it with a toast and a shot of Jack Daniels because that felt like something he would have thought was pretty badass.

I held myself together through the whole thing and then had the blessing of that beautiful song in which I let it go. I cried and was held by my loving family as we continued to share that grief.

So how am I now? Well, it depends on when you talk to me.

For a few weeks after we lost Mark, I went into a hole and pretty much didn’t talk to anyone except my immediate family. My friends texted and called and emailed but I couldn’t face talking to anyone. I have slowly started to join the world again, so there’s progress.

Sometimes I am pretty good. I am back at work. I couldn’t get myself motivated to start up again for a long time. But then Mommies In Need got applications from two new families desperately in need of help. I couldn’t get it together to do admin work or fundraising, but being able to help someone else going through a terrible time in their life made me feel just a little bit better.

Sometimes I am a good wife and parent. I can pick up my kids from school and play with them and talk to my husband about all the stuff we have going on in life. My patience is pretty limited though. I get irritated easily, I snap more than I would like, and I haven’t cooked an actual meal that I can remember (not that I am normally much of a chef, but right now even boiling water is sometimes too daunting a task.)

But then there are the times that I am so sad. So deeply sad that I can’t function. Or when I feel like a zombie just going through the motions. When I walk around a store for an hour and then leave without even buying anything because I am not actually seeing the store, I am just keeping my body busy while my mind checks out.

I am going to the holiday parties, and I manage it pretty well when I am around people I know and can be honest with. But I just can’t with idle chit-chat. I found myself at one party just sneaking off to a corner with an XL glass of wine because I couldn’t face anyone.

I will tell you one thing I know for certain. I will get through this. I am a Survivor after all. I get into dangerous territory when I spend too much time thinking about how much I have been through in the last six years and wondering how any one human being can be expected to cope with the constant blows I have been dealt.

But then I stop (maybe take a Xanax) and breathe. Another thing I am grateful for is that all the shit I have been through has taught me how to manage the worst moments in life. I have learned that you have two choices- curl up in a ball and die or keep going. I will always choose to keep going.

And that looks different depending on where I am. Sometimes I take it one day at a time, or one step or a time, or one tiptoe at a time, or one prayer at a time. And when it is really bad, when the sadness threatens to envelop me or I feel myself coming to the cliff’s edge of an anxiety attack, I get through one breath at a time. Take one breath and then another and keep moving forward. If I can remember to do that, I know that even this I will survive.


Love Wins

Today was beautiful.  Actually, it was freezing cold and I woke up late and rushed out the door without any breakfast or caffeine.  But, when I arrived at my destination, none of that mattered anymore.  I was walking into a place where love was palpable.

In Dallas, there is a church called Wilshire Baptist, that recently voted on a resolution stating that it would permit all members to participate in congregational life regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, including the ability to consider all members for leadership, ordination, baby dedication, and marriage.

As I am sure you can imagine, in the middle of a red state, in the bible belt, after an extremely contentious election, this has caused quite an uproar.  Because of this decision, the church will be expelled from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (although they can still operate as a Baptist church.)  This was a consequence of their vote that the congregation understood when they made their decision.  What was not expected was that protesters would show up last Sunday, with bullhorns, screaming at the people walking into church about how they are all going to “Burn in Hell.”

Way to act Christian, Christians.

I respect everyone’s right to their beliefs, but I have no respect for people that spew hatred.  In my home church the message that “love is love” is preached from the pulpit and that is one of the reasons the members there are my people.   I believe in a Jesus who very clearly said that we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves and that everyone is our neighbor- and we don’t get to make exceptions for that.

I have been having a lot of feelings lately, I mean these last few weeks, right?!!! No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think everyone is feeling a little rough after this election cycle.

You know how I got through the election? By drinking an entire bottle of wine in my “command center” surrounded by the TV, my laptop, and my phone, while stress-eating half a bucket of leftover Halloween candy.  Around midnight when it was pretty clear how it was going to turn out, my husband had to force my drunken crying hot mess into bed and take my phone away from me.

But I digress.  One of my friends from church invited me to a Facebook group of people who were going today to form a line of love in front of Wilshire Baptist. The idea was to serve as a sort of anti-protest just in case the protesters from last week came back.

Luckily they did not, but something magical did happen.  At 8:30 on a Sunday morning a small group of about 20, most of us strangers to each other and with no ties to Wilshire Baptist, welcomed the church attendees with smiles and signs of encouragement and thanks.  It went so well that a bigger group of us came back at 10:30 to greet the next service.

How can you not smile when this is your greeting?!

And I can’t even begin to count the number of hugs I got today. I certainly can’t count the tears that were shed, a large portion of them admittedly by me.  All the pastors and church staff came out to thank us, most of them crying, to say how hard this time has been.  More than one person expressed to us that this showing of community support meant the world to them. I had one woman tell me that she had not been to the church in almost 40 years because she was not sure she was welcomed and that today was her first day coming back.  I think she picked a pretty good day for a homecoming.

My girls on the front steps of Wilshire Baptist making their love poster.

For the second service, I brought my kids and husband with me because I wanted them to see this outpouring of love for our community and the impact it was making on our neighbors who were hurting.  Standing out there chatting with strangers, hugging everyone, and covering these people with love was not only good for them, it was healing for my soul.

A part of me has had a wall built up around my heart recently.  Sometimes I feel like there is a battle inside me between my desire to love everyone well and my fear of what could happen when my heart is that open. The scary state of the world made me want to protect myself-to curl up in a little ball and just hope for it to get better.

Today I got to remember that the best part of life isn’t waiting for the world to get better, it’s doing what little bit you can to actually make it better.

Today love won.


I Am Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired

I’m over it.  I want to be able to write witty blog posts about the antics of my hilarious children. I want to complain about normal mom problems, like the Halloween Hangover (the struggle is real!) What I don’t want to be doing is writing yet another blog post about my ongoing health problems, and yet here I am.

It is easier for me to have a blog that people can read to keep up with my saga so I don’t have to explain it a thousand times.  I love talking to people, I just don’t love always talking about my crappy health.  And I know that the people who love me (and not to brag or anything, but there are a lot of you) are just worried and want to see how I am doing.  I wish the answer was that I am great, but the truth is a lot more complicated.

Some things are great- my girls are four and a half now, and although they have their moments, in general I am loving this age.  They are cute and funny and still think I am cool, but are old enough to entertain themselves sometimes. My husband is working hours that both of us hate, but there is never a moment I have any doubt that he is my perfect partner in this nutty life.  Our new apartment is great, and we are loving a break from the stress of home ownership (no more lawn maintenance and when something breaks we just call the building to fix it!!)

Mommies In Need is growing beautifully and we just accepted our 17th family, and are about to celebrate our 2 year anniversary, and I am loving my new part-time job at my dad’s company (I get to talk to adults! And go to the bathroom by myself!)

And yet I was hospitalized this week… that’s not so great.

Since I wrote Just Keep Swimming, a lot has happened.  My surgeon went ahead and cauterized all those bleeds, which seemed to be working…that is until I went to get my blood checked and found myself at a hemoglobin of 7 (which is almost to the point of needing a blood transfusion.) So we scheduled another scope (a colonoscopy for a person with no colon) and the surgeon found…nothing.  Everything was healed and my j-pouch (fake colon made out of my small intestines) looked good.

That would be good news except my hematologist (blood doctor, I have a specialist for everything) said that kind of a drop could only be explained by bleeding.  The problem then became figuring out where this mystery bleeding was coming from.

I went to my GI who had this theory about me having disappearing- reappearing ulcers in the scar tissue where they cut apart my small intestines to make my j-pouch.  That made sense to me and I was all set to follow his plan that we watch my blood and go in and cauterize the ulcers whenever they come back and just hope that the tissue will regenerate over time (with a possible trip to a hyperbaric chamber to speed up that process.)

Then on Tuesday I started bleeding ****TMI Warning, if you are offended easily by bodily functions please stop reading now****

Now, a certain small amount of rectal bleeding is normal for me-once again, stop envying my glamorous life.  But this was a whole different thing.  After four or five trips to the bathroom with nothing but large amounts of blood, I texted my internist and asked at what point I needed to go to the ER.  Her answer was, “NOW. Go Now.”

So I did.  Luckily Mike was home and my mom could take me so off we went.  After hours in the ER they decided that they needed to check me into the hospital overnight because if this type of bleeding kept up eventually I would need a transfusion.

Luckily, around 2 am I stopped having as much blood, but the on-call GI still decided to do another scope to see what was going on.  The good news- my pouch looked fine again! No re-occurrence of the ulcers, everything was normal.  He said the only thing he saw was some hemorrhoids.

Seriously?!!  I was hospitalized for HEMORRHOIDS?!!  I asked if it was even possible to loose that much blood from hemorrhoids and he said, “Oh, yeah.  I had a guy almost die because one was attached to a blood vessel.” Not helpful dude.

Now I am planning all my follow up appointments to deal with my hemorrhoids from hell and waiting to see if my surgeon thinks he can fix them.

So if you ask me how I’m doing, these days I will probably just respond, “Hanging In There,” or “Well, I’m Here.” But if I’m really in a mood I might say something like, “Bleeding out of my ass, how about you?”

If I do, please forgive my rudeness, I’m just really fucking tired.

As Always, Making the Hospital look GOOD!





I Learned It From Watching You

Tonight I decided that I will no longer participate in any conversations about weight- my own or anyone else’s. The big exception to that being with my doctors (and my therapist) of course.

I just wanted to take a moment to explain myself so you don’t find me rude if I change the subject or move into a different conversation when you bring up your new diet, or the 5 pounds you can’t seem to loose, or how the cheese that we are eating is going to go straight to your thighs.  It’s not that I don’t get it.  In fact, the reason I feel the need to draw this line is that I get it too much.

It is far too easy for me to look at the numbers on a scale or the way my clothes are bunching around my waist and think how much better, how much happier I would be if I could just make that little bit extra of me magically go away. I can go back through my blogs and read One Hundred and Thirty Pounds and see that being skinny was a far cry from being healthy, but that doesn’t mean that the impulse to blame everything that is wrong in my life on my weight has just disappeared (see One Hundred and Fifty Eight Pounds.)

So I am taking action.  I am not giving that seed room to grow. My beautiful girls will hear enough of that from the world around them.  I refuse to allow them to hear it from me.

And talking about what’s wrong with our bodies is like a competitive sport for moms.  And even if we think those conversations are just between us grown-ups and our mommy juice, our little ones see and hear much more than we realize.  I am going to step on out of that race. I don’t want to ask my daughters one day where they learned to hate their perfect bodies and have their answer be, “I learned it from watching YOU Mom!!” (Cue the 80s PSA music.)

So I’m not going to do it anymore.  I won’t judge you if you want to have these types of discussions, but I will do my best to bow out of the conversation.  I am writing this publicly so that if you hear me breaking this new rule for myself you will gently correct me.  “We don’t say bad things about our bodies,” will work just fine to help me remember my resolution.

I took a bath tonight.  I read a book.  And as I got out and I rubbed lotion on my much- scarred belly, my thighs dimpled by cellulite, and my breasts that will never look the same after nursing twins, I made an important decision.  I am going to really work to love this body- broken and imperfect as it is.  Because a healthy body-image is something I would be proud to have my girls learn from watching me.


Just Keep Swimming

My family went to see Finding Dory last weekend, and besides being an adorable film that all of us loved (and that made me sob like a baby being sleep-trained,) it was also a good reminder for me about where I am in my life right now.


I want to be able to say that everything is wonderful, that my health is great and that life is nothing but joy.  Sometimes I feel like that is what people want and expect from me.  I mean I am a Cancer Survivor!  I have lived through so much, it’s kind of time for me to be over all my health issues and emotional baggage. Now I realize that most of you probably don’t actually think this, but it’s what the not-so-nice voices in my head tell me. There’s also a lot of “Quit whining, at least you’re not dying,” and “Stop being so lazy,” that last one may be surprising to those of you that think that someone who runs a non-profit and has twin 4-year-olds has the right to relax every once in a while.  But anyone who also battles depression and/or a really harsh inner critic understands that those voices aren’t rational and that they are extremely hard to ignore.  Part of my well-developed coping mechanism system is that I keep myself busy doing things, I keep creating, I keep moving- because sitting still is dangerous for me.

I don’t know if depression is something you ever really “get over.” For me, while I’m not in the dark hole of major depression that I have known, there is still a certain heaviness around my heart that feels frighteningly close.  When the tragedy in Orlando happened I spent days weeping.  Breaking down into sobs at unexpected moments. Because I have such close ties with the LGBTQ community. Because there were years of my life that I spent dancing my nights away in gay clubs and I understand how much of a safe space that is supposed to be.  For some people, especially in conservative areas, a club or bar is the ONLY place that they can truly be themselves.  Imagine how exhausting that would be.  To constantly be pretending, hiding yourself from the world and to have the one place that gave you relief from that pressure be violated in such a horrific way.

That same week I also got some test results that have left me in a pretty raw emotional state.  My anemia, which I have been dealing with ever since my colon surgeries in 2014 has been getting worse.  My numbers suddenly dropped alarmingly so the doctors decided to do an Endoscopy and Flex Sig (like a colonoscopy for a person with no colon) to check for bleeding.  I was hoping that they would find the bleeding and be able to zap it right then and there and the problem would be solved.  Unfortunately, they did find the bleeding, but the area was too large and too fragile to cauterize.  Basically my pouch is just fine but the area around where they reconnected my small intestine has large bleeding ulcers and the tissue is extremely sensitive, so trying to stop the bleeding could actually wind up making it worse.

My GI did some biopsies and said he would talk to my surgeon and get back to me. The biopsies came back negative for celiac (duh, the only thing I eat that doesn’t bother my body is gluten) and Chrons (thank God, because if I had my colon removed because of Ulcerative Colitis and then developed Chrons too I would have totally lost my mind!) So that’s good, but it still leaves me with significant internal bleeding that “has no medical solution.” The current plan is to keep dumping iron into my system, check my blood more regularly to see exactly how much I am loosing and hope that I eventually just get better on my own.

Um…yeah.  That doesn’t really sit too well with me.  Oh, and by the way when I asked about a time frame for my intestines just “healing themselves” the GI said maybe years.  Like 2-5 years or more.  So I’m just going to be bleeding internally, which leaves me feeling tired and kind of crappy, and have to go get iron by IV every 2-3 weeks potentially forever.

I have a pretty good amount of perspective, and what I am dealing with now is absolutely nothing compared to the kind of daily agony I was in a few years ago.  And I guess I know that my body does not, and will not ever function like that of someone with all their organs.  And I have to learn to deal with that- but I feel I have a right to be a little pissy about it now and then.

And sometimes it makes me really angry, or really sad. Last Tuesday, I had just talked to the doctor and started crying when we got off the phone.  I could not stop but I had to go get the kids from summer camp.  So I walked into their school crying, and signed them out crying, and buckled them into the car crying, and then got home and put on Annie and watched it with them until I cried myself out and passed out on the couch.

At least my girls are growing up knowing that mom has feelings too. When they asked why I was crying I just said “because I’m really sad. You know how when you are sad you cry?” And they accepted that answer and gave me hugs and cuddles and  didn’t fight while I slept next to them.

But through all this I do see how lucky I am.  Lucky that I have friends who call me and offer to watch my kids after they see me crying uncontrollably at school pick-up.  Lucky that my girls have amazing emotional intelligence for their young age and are able to be gentle with me when I need it.  Lucky that I have a husband who will let me sob in his arms even when I don’t have the words to explain what feels so deeply wrong.

So what does all this have to do with Finding Dory?  Her mantra, one that was present in the first movie but gets a meaningful explanation in the sequel is “Just Keep Swimming.”  Whenever things get bad for her, when she forgets and is terrified, she always goes back to a little song she sings to herself, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” And every time, if she can just calm down enough to keep swimming something will happen that will lead her to a better place.

I’m adopting this as my motto too.  Because I have been through a lot, like A LOT, and when people ask how I got through it I usually answer, “I just decided to keep going.” or “I got out of bed every day (well most days) and prayed that there would be another day and that it would be better.”  But Dory’s line is simple and effective.  The opposite of swimming is drowning and that is something I refuse to do.

So when I make myself so busy that I don’t have time to think, I’m swimming.  When my body is so fatigued that I can’t make it through a day without napping and yet I still decide to create an entire summer camp program in just a few weeks [seriously check out Camp Kindness, it is really cool!]- that’s me swimming.  And sometimes if I don’t return your call or email or text, it’s not because I don’t appreciate the love you are showing me, it’s because at that moment I am unable to discuss what is going on in my life without missing a few strokes.

Some days I am barely keeping my head above water with a frantic doggie-paddle, and some times I am gliding gracefully and joyfully through the water with ease.  But no matter where I am on the about-to-loose it scale that day, I will trust that I am not alone, and that I am having a tough time right now, but there will be an easier season eventually if I just keep swimming.





One Hundred and Fifty-Eight Pounds

I was going through my old blog posts and came across One Hundred and Thirty Pounds.  It’s good timing for me because I just tried on a dress I was planning to wear and can no longer fit into, and was starting to feel a little bit down.  I have been wondering lately if most people notice and are annoyed by the way their stomachs roll up when they sit down.  Or if it is just something that has been foreign to me for so long that I have forgotten what it feels like to be a normal, healthy weight.

At my last doctors visit I weighed one hundred and fifty-eight pounds, which is pretty great considering that a year ago I was still at 130 with the doctors trying to make me drink Boost and Ensure just to get a few more pounds on my skeletal frame.

But I have those moments.  Those moments when my skinny clothes don’t fit, or I can feel my skin rolls and see the fleshy bits under my armpits again.  And in those times I think, well maybe I’ve put on enough weight now and should start trying to go back down again.  Not all the way to 130, but I felt pretty good 10 pounds ago.  Maybe if I just start eating a little less I will see those scale numbers drop again.

But then I catch myself and realize what a slippery slope that can be.  Because trying to loose 10 can turn to 15 or 20.  I know, because I have already been there and done that, and it’s no way to live. I don’t want my kids growing up with a mother who is always worried about her weight.  I want them to see me love and enjoy my body, broken and scarred as it is, and not measuring my worth on a scale.

Because I look at what else I have gained with those 28 pounds: energy and stamina to be able to get on the floor and roll around with my girls while they still think I’m the coolest person in the world (I have no doubt those days are numbered,) a sense of my purpose, and a love of myself that I would have never dreamed possible.

Every day I know that I am doing good.  In this messed-up, and broken, and combative world, my suffering allowed me to see people that needed help and then actually do something about it.  And no matter what my kids think, that is cool.

So yeah, I rocked a size 4 a year ago.  But my one hundred and fifty-eight pounds are pretty much made up of awesome.  And wine. And I think that I’m ok with that.



Kimmy Schmidt is My Spirit Animal

I got asked by another mom today how my time management was so good and I was like “hubby-wha? I am always 5 minutes late and run in like a hot mess!” She explained that she had read my recent Dallas Mom’s Blog post and didn’t know how I found time to write in the middle of mostly stay-at-home parenting of twin 4-year-olds and running Mommies In Need.  And the truth is that generally I don’t find time to write- every once in a while I just binge a little.  At the end of most days I am so exhausted that I grab a giant glass of Pinot Noir and head to the couch to watch a marathon of “Kimmy Schmidt” episodes.  But tonight I am writing, because as I started to watch I realized that I needed to share why I love this show so much-Kimmy Schmidt is my spirit animal!

For those of you who don’t know the plot, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” follows the title character as she navigates through New York after having been kidnapped and locked in a bunker as part of a religious cult for 15 years.  I know, sounds hilarious right?!

But it is, because in her over-the-top, 30 Rock-esque ridiculous way, Tina Fey lets us find laughter in the undefeated optimism of someone who has been through hell and back and decided that she’s unbreakable.  I love Kimmy for many reasons- like her awesome use of 90s references; “I haven’t had a clock since my Tamagotchi died.”

At one point Kimmy monologues “I still believe that the world is good, that bunnies are nice, and snakes are mean, and that one day Sandra Bullock will find someone who deserves her!” Despite everything she has been through, which when you step back from the technicolor world of the show is extremely dark, she has decided to keep on going.  If you have ever read this blog before you know that I have kind of been through the ringer myself.  But I pride myself most of all on the fact that despite my circumstances I am cheerful and hopeful and in constant awe of the amazing kindness and joy there is in this world. It may sound cliche but I can now see the gift that my suffering has been to me in that I know who I am and what I am capable of.  And that’s pretty cool.

As Kimmy says,” Life beats you up. You either curl up in a ball and die or you can stand up and say we’re different. We’re the strong ones and you cannot break us.” A pretty powerful message from a 28 year old woman wearing a JanSport backpack.

And now that I have squeezed in my writing for the week…I will get back to my regularly scheduled programing!

Wine, Chocolate Cake, and Kimmy Schmidt!





There are days when I look at the world, and see a place that has gone totally off the rails. A place where the blatant discrimination and racism and cruelty that we see every day makes me want to scream.  To give up.  To weep for the future that will be left to my children. To think that I can’t possibly make a difference when everything around me seems so broken.

When I wrote Survivor, I thought I was prepared for anything.  I felt confident enough in who I am that I believed I could handle any criticism that came my way.  What I did not expect though, was the overwhelming kindness with which I was met.  So many people, some of whom I hardly know, wrote, or messaged, or texted, or emailed, or commented about my post with words of encouragement, and solidarity, and support.  I had multiple women privately share with me that they too are rape survivors who had kept it to themselves for far too long.  I had friends and relatives I have not spoken to in years reach out to me to compliment my bravery and show me love.  And I did not have any negativity directed towards me.  None.

And that was truly a blessing for the scared little girl inside me who wrote those brave words but still worried about what people would think.  If I would be forever changed in the eyes of those who knew my secret.  I wish I could share the hundreds of messages of support that I received with every rape survivor who is afraid to tell her story or who feels alone.  That secret held a remarkable amount of power over me, and now that I am not clinging so tightly to it, trying to keep it in and stuff it down, I can actually let it go.

I feel so unbelievably free.  Light and joyful and full of hope.  And I feel this way in spite of the fact that this has been a tough week.

A few days ago I was sitting in the ICU waiting room with my mother waiting for my dad to get out of an emergency appendectomy.  He is doing great now, but at the time I was getting a little nervous because his surgery was taking much longer than the doctor said that it was going to.  Then we started flipping channels and Shawshank Redemption came on – this is the new Walnut Hill Medical Center place and there are flat screens everywhere and the biggest hospital rooms I have ever seen. I seriously had hospital room envy that my dad had a palace for his few hours there and I had to spend twelve days in a drab shoebox, but I digress…

So it was the part where Andy says, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”  And I was reminded just how incredibly important hope is.  I realized that the greatest gift I have ever been given is resiliency of spirit.  After everything I have been through I still have hope.

Thank you to everyone who helped me re-affirm my faith in humanity this week by going out of your way to reach out to me and offer a kind word or a message of support, or a hug. I know a lot of you are going through your own struggles, so tonight I spent a few moments in meditation and prayer for those I know who are having a tough time right now.

I have this little candle that I bought as part of a youth fundraiser at my church; it is a tea light covered in tissue paper with the word “Hope” written on it and I lit it for the first time tonight.


I wish for you that when everything is at it’s worst you can see the glimmer of that tiny scrappy little candle- held together with Elmer’s glue and tissue paper.  It may not be much, but just a little bit can change everything.  Hope.





I am a Survivor. I have learned this about myself the hard way. I have been put through more in my 36 years than many people experience in a lifetime.


And I am so angry right now. Furious and frustrated that we live in a world where the first assumption about a woman who comes forward as having lived through sexual assault or abuse is that she is a liar or somehow “deserved it.” Now I will admit I’m not very hip to pop culture, but I like the song where Kesha sings about brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack-I can get behind that. What I can’t get behind is a judge that rules that she is legally bound to work for the company of her rapist.

I don’t know all the details of the case, but I do know that coming forward as a victim of rape is difficult, and brave, and terrifying. And instead of surrounding these women with love and support we punish and doubt them. I felt this way when the Cosby allegations were surfacing and there were so many hateful comments about how no woman who was raped would wait 10 years to confront her rapist-so she must be lying, or trying to get money, or a whore.

I stayed quiet then because I was scared for myself, for people judging me. But now Kesha is being tormented in the same way so very publicly, and I have discovered my hidden super-power of not caring what people think of me, so here goes:

I love/hate therapy. Because part of the goal is to continually look at your life and assess it and figure out the ways to break some of your self-destructive patterns and bad habits. And that can be hard. Really hard.

I am in an upswing in my life; my health is finally stable, my energy is back to about what it should be for someone who runs around with 4-year old twins, my family is healthy and happy, and I have a good marriage to a man who can be a pain in the ass but is also my best friend and the best choice I could have ever made for a life partner. And yet I still have so much I have to work through, so much hurt that I never dealt with that comes back to the surface when I am overwhelmed.

I have an analogy I like to use about all of my past traumas being like little (or giant) boxes stuffed on a shelf. One of my well-developed coping mechanisms is the ability to put things that happen to me into a little box, seal it up tight, and stick it on the shelf. This works great until that shelf gets over-crowded and trying to put one more box up there causes everything to topple down on me. That is how I ended up in a place that I was having panic attacks and severe depression.

Now that I am feeling good, I am trying to take down and unpack those boxes one at a time so that the next time something happens (which it will, life is never perfect) I have the room to cope with it.

That being said, I really hate unpacking those boxes. It is difficult, and painful, and I generally just don’t wanna. And I am unpacking a big box right now. One of the biggest on my shelf and the only one I have sealed up so tight that I have almost never spoken of it. Which is saying something because I am a major over-sharer.

I have used this blog in the past to be honest in a way that I just can’t be other places, and I feel the need to do that again.

I am a Survivor. I am a Cancer Survivor. I am an Eating-Disorder Survivor. I am a Depression and Anxiety Survivor. I am a Miscarriage Survivor. And I am a Rape Survivor.

That last one was a bitch to write. Because admitting that is really f-ing hard. It was a very long time ago and I am not going to share the details of my rape other than that it happened. There was no knife and no gun, but my rapist (only now can I call him that out loud) had sex with me without my consent. That is rape. I was raped.

If I am using that word a lot it is because it is totally foreign to me. I pushed it so far back onto my shelf that I did not tell anyone for more than 5 years. Five years. Before I told anyone. And to this day I have only told one friend and my husband what happened to me (and now the entire world who has any interest in reading my blog!)

I can’t give a real answer yet as to why I didn’t tell anyone. I know that I was ashamed. And that I felt it was my fault. And that on some level I knew that if I told anyone they would encourage me to report it, which terrified me. Because what if no one believed me? What if I went to trial and they used the short skirt I was wearing as evidence against me? What if I went through having to relive my rape over and over and over again only to find no justice at all? To have people taunt me and accuse me of lying? To have to hear someone say out loud the things I said to myself, that I shouldn’t have put myself in a vulnerable situation, that I shouldn’t have had so much to drink.

I was young and I was not nearly as brave as I am now and so I chose to shove it down and pretend it never happened. But it did happen. And I am a grown woman now. And I am stronger than I ever believed possible. So I finally have the courage to say it. I was raped.

This is obviously extremely personal, so why talk about it in such a public way? First of all, because I now know that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I did not do anything to deserve what happened to me, and if the person who raped me had any strength of character at all he would not had sex with an unconscious woman. I am “lucky” enough that I do have memories of telling him no and trying to push him off of me before the blackness came over me again.  But I want to make this very clear to everyone reading this.  Even if I had not woken up enough to try to make my rapist stop, it still would have been rape.

And it was not my fault.  I did drink a lot, and I now wonder if I wasn’t drugged, but the truth is it doesn’t matter.  Drugged or not, drunk or not.  I was raped and no part of that is my fault.  It is not a reflection of me or who I am. And if people comment with any sort of nastiness in response to this post, then that has nothing to do with me, they need to find their own therapist and unpack their own boxes.

But the main reason I felt compelled to write this is because I was at my therapist today and she asked me if I knew any other women who had been through something similar that I could talk to, and I said no. And then I thought about the statistics, some of which say that close to 1 in 3 women have been raped or sexually violated. So I must know people this has happened to. People just like me who feel scared and damaged and alone.

But you aren’t alone. Maybe you are in the crisis period of dealing with your rape immediately after it happened, or maybe, like me, you are coming to terms with it a lifetime later.

So this is for you. For Kesha, and for anyone who has been raped or brutalized. And this is for me. By giving a name to what happened to me and coming forward with it so publicly I am declaring that I am not ashamed. I am not embarrassed. I was raped and I should feel no more shame in saying that than saying that I had a miscarriage. Both are private and something I don’t want to talk about every day, but neither was my fault. Secrets have power, and this secret has had power over me for far too long. Not anymore.

I am a rape survivor. And I am working on all the crap that goes with that. But I am proud to say the rape doesn’t define me. Survivor does.