One of the things I miss most about my 20’s is the self-centered naivety, the notion that I knew it all and whatever I decided was simply how it was, without question. I made no apologies for my spontaneous decision making, and I honestly never second guessed myself. Confidence preceded me (not necessarily a genuine self-assuredness but I certainly had myself fooled) and for the most part, I got what I wanted. As I close in on the end of my 30’s, the only thing I can say I’ve learned for sure is that nothing is black and white. The world is eternally polarized; “This is how it ought to be, This is how it is, Period.” This is what I believed for a number of years.


Silly me.

Nothing is actually as it seems. We exist in the grey area. Perceptions and ideals with not much solid data. A million varied opinions. Everyone thinks they know everything, and everyone thinks they need to educate one another. We are all blind mice stumbling around, attempting to find a clear cut path through the darkness. The path is there, but it’s anything but obvious. This is where I find myself at age 38, living in the grey, seeking out my path in a monochromatic world where the palette is recognizable only to the colorblind.

It’s so simple to distract ourselves from the truth that lies just under the surface of our presumptuous lives. I’ve written the book on how to busy myself to the point that issues are not just swept under the rug, but the rug is superglued, stapled, and permanently affixed to the floor, preventing so much as a glimpse of the truth from showing it’s ugly face. I’m a pro at telling myself “I'm good," and actually believing it. I think it’s a gift/curse many women have become proficient in to get through the day.

When my friend asked me to contribute to this blog, she had one request- to end each post on a positive note. I think I’ve done okay, but this is not that. I can’t continue to lead readers down a path believing every day holds a valuable lesson for me or that my children go to sleep content and confident in our family unit. They aren’t made privy to details, but children are tenaciously discerning, sensing dischord without hearing a word. It’s become increasingly difficult to focus on parenting, given the current state of my relationship. Over the course of several years, but most recently and most intensely the last few months, it’s come to my attention that things are not as they seem. I’ve always had those moments where things aren’t adding up, curiosities that get instantly shut down and flipped around, leaving me asking myself if I’m nuts. “Gaslighting,” as the professionals call it. So many professionals with so many solutions. So many books and so many authors. A myriad of self-help books to teach me who I am and teach me “self-care.” “Love is a choice,” they say. “It takes hard work on both ends,” they say.

And in the end, no real change.

People think they know, boy do people know what’s best for me and my children. With whole-hearted certainty. Do they? No one knows. I felt the same about my friends’ personal situations. I've made snap judgments. I was critical, only seeing the absolutes, the decisions that clearly needed to be made, not taking into account the trickle down effect on every life involved. I thought I knew the answers. They were glaringly obvious. I feel humbled now for being so self-righteous.

I know now that nothing is black or white, and I need to live in reality. I need to know who I married ten years ago. I need to feel connected and safe. And if I can’t, I’m perfectly okay to go it alone. I’m not fearful of what alone looks like. My self-care workbooks have taught me about boundaries. We can make requests of our partners, but demands and ultimatums hold little value. Requests and agreements are supposedly the healthiest forms of communicating our needs. If this is true, then I have a simple request, and I’m hoping God will oblige: “Please, God, when the truth is brought to light, show me a clear-cut path.  A vision for what you know my life and the lives of my kids should look like. Please, God, give me clarity.” This is all I can ask, my urgent prayer in the midst of chaos, hurt, and confusion.

I so desperately want to live in that black and white world of fact or fiction again. Where lines are crisp. Where the simple words “yes” and “no” are true to their meaning. A world where I can trust those who have committed to honesty, and transparency, and all of the other qualities a relationship should consist of.

For now, I’ll accept my warm welcome into the rawness of a world where the rug and the broom have been banished, where I'm left to sift through the dirt and fragments of what I once thought was best left undisturbed.




I remember in vivid detail the first time I succumbed to peer pressure. At the tender age of seven, I was told by a new “friend” that I was to march across the playground to my existing BFF, Emily, and inform her she would no longer be holding the position of my numero uno.  I recall feeling queasy, completely aware of and saddened by what this would do to sweet Emily. I desperately wanted out of the predicament.

I walked sheepishly over to the balance beam she played on, my schoolmate bully following, prodding me like a baby calf on the way to the slaughterhouse.  She hovered over us with a twinkle in her eye as I proceeded to rip the precious heart from my kindred spirit and smite out any remaining chance of reconciliation.  


At that precise moment, I became (punch to every mother’s gut) a follower. This single event set the stage for the rest of my formative years. This bully, acting under the guise of friendship, remained in my life for far too long. As in any abusive relationship, my self-confidence was repeatedly shattered, convincing me that she was a necessity in my life, serving as the only link to the super cool clique every girl wanted to be a part of (or so I believed).  Her specialty was shaming me amongst our peers, as my parents had a relatively humble home and weren’t the owners of any luxury vehicles. My position on the bottom rung of that shiny ladder was solidified through high school.  I was 20 before I finally shook her like an old dirty coat.  

Flash forward to my mid-30s. I’m not known for a warm inviting smile. The fact that I keep a straight face most of the time has commonly led people to make negative assumptions about my personal character. My “resting bitch face” has proven to be very effective in the art of “how to not make new friends.”  I’ve sufficiently managed to keep prospective friends at arm’s length, maintaining the sentiment that I just don’t need them, they require more than I have to offer.

Well, my theory was just plain wrong. I became acutely aware of this a few years ago when my middle daughter started school. I would see other moms at pick up time (looking fabulous in their active wear) and feel instantly intimidated by the daily small talk they’d engage in. “They must all go way back,” I thought, “longtime friends with established play-groups.”  I instantly labeled myself an outsider and was resigned to waiting in the car until the moment before the bell rang.  I made assumptions, stereotyping these innocent, possibly kind-hearted women, all in the name of self-preservation. After all, what could we have in common? My kids eat frozen corn dogs and I don’t even have a Facebook account. I don’t remember connecting with anyone for most of that school year and, consequently, neither did my daughter.  I became aware that my social issues and standoff attitude were directly affecting her potential friendships. I knew I had to man up and force myself to dive headfirst into a cesspool brimming with every variety of female shark known to science, all sharp-toothed and anxious to rip me to shreds.

As it turns out, it wasn’t all bad, my daughter made a great friend and so did I, and that meeting has led me into contributing to this very website.

In hindsight, all these social struggles seem so unnecessary. I’ve done a lot of reflecting trying to figure out what about the seven-year-old me made a good candidate for being pushed around.  I had no obvious reason for having low self-worth. My mom had always modeled social  confidence and taught me, “it’s none of your business what anyone  thinks about you.”  Maybe it’s just a simple human tendency to desire to be part of a pack. But, some children simply lack the good judgement required to choose the right pack to run with. Unfortunately (as my father always reminded me), you are who you hang out with. And, I got myself into plenty of trouble throughout the years, along with my pack. Damnit, why didn’t I recognize my parents' wisdom sooner?

I want my daughter to decide for herself whom she will call “friend”.  I’m doing my best to help her grow in confidence while also humbly accepting personal failure. I also need for her to understand (in eight-year-old terms) that if a peer pushes her into something she’s uncomfortable with or makes her feel shameful, she is under no obligation to continue that relationship. Friends will no doubt disappoint at times, and that is okay, but there needs to be a threshold. More importantly, I’m trying to teach her to trust her instincts in determining the difference between genuine and phony. She doesn’t necessarily have to be a leader, but she also needn’t be a follower, she can just be exactly who she is. While insisting she be kind to everyone, she is given the right to decide what qualities are important in a friend and whether or not she will invest in that personal relationship because any worthwhile friendship requires a sizable investment on both ends.

It’s a learning curve for the both of us. I’ve met some pretty great women lately. As hard as it may be to trust they are women and not rabid coyotes, I am making investments. Some of these ladies are cynical and jaded, like me. We share a common perspective and love to hate the same things. I find comfort around them because I know I’m understood. And some are refreshingly positive and sweet, seeming never to have a sarcastic thought. This I find fascinating as my mind is proficient in all things negative and social assumptions are as natural, for me, as breathing air. I am learning from them how to assume the best of others, and I have yet to be disappointed. Finding good people has taken me far too long, but I do believe I’ve arrived. I’m hopeful that my daughter is observing what healthy relationships look like and will also choose to surround herself with authentic humans who have her best interests at heart.








My mom called yesterday to let me know my grandmother had officially stopped taking in fluids and hadn’t eaten in several days. I’d just finished brainstorming for this week's blog post, complete with witty bits I was anxious to put into form. I realize that the impending loss of a grandmother isn’t exactly a trending Google search, but, it’s what’s on my heart. My initial topic would have to wait, as my mind was now preparing itself for the inevitable events about to unfold.


As I made my final pilgrimage to the nursing facility, memories of past final farewells flooded my mind. The dim lighting, the soft soothing music, the heaviness of a stuffy room being heated to ensure comfort. I feel slightly anxious about what I may encounter. What do I say? Will she hear me? Does my presence even matter at this point? My adult daughter and I make our way down the wheelchair lined hall and into her room.

If you’ve ever laid witness to a soul taking leave from the body, you know what I mean when I say it’s an experience that has no comparison. The first time I saw this I was 19, with no idea what to expect. I’d received the call while at night school, driving 30 minutes back home in just enough time to join my family as they ushered my grandfather from this life into the next. It’s a ritual I’ve now seen repeated many times, among my relatives, and can only be described as life-changing.

Over the course of days, and in the final hours, a transformation takes place. When the departure begins, you can almost see the life escaping in tiny, palpable increments. Where there was once a thriving human, face full of expression, there remains what appears to be a malfunctioning vehicle. Broken down and exhausted from the battle between the course of nature and the innate will of the body to continue doing what it’s always done.

This is the struggle I find taking place within my grandmother’s frail almost translucent skin. During these long hours, I can’t help but wonder what’s happening in her semi-conscious mind. Is she remembering life as a small child? Being young and in love? The countless hours we’d spent playing Chinese Checkers after school, while she’d cared for me, day after day?
Maybe she’s thinking on what lies just ahead- the promise of unimaginable beauty and eternal happiness. She seems to be attempting to focus on my face, through tiny slits and trying to articulate a thought. Intermittent twinges of pain occur, followed by restful countenance.

My mom is there, as she always is, reassuring her that she is loved and that we understand her love for us. She is able to translate what sounds like a foreign language to my daughter and me. While we stand around, uncertain of what we should be doing, she moves with distinct purpose, because this is her purpose.

All my life my mother has made a practice of being compassionate towards the elderly. Anywhere we may have been, she’d stop and engage in conversation with someone who she knew would otherwise go unnoticed. I would never refer to my mother as a social butterfly, but when she’s around old folks, her wings spread. She shines when making the forgotten feel remembered. And they remember her. So naturally, she knows exactly how to care for her dying mother.

My daughter is wrought with emotion at seeing this display of kindness. “Mom, I can’t. I can’t even think about this happening to you, what will I do?” I tell her that “we just do,” that it will be natural for her as well because, like me, she too has been learning by watching. We joke about sharing a room in our final years, since we are, after all, only 17 years apart. We decide my younger children will have to do the heavy lifting. The day wears on, and the time comes to say goodbye, as I must get home to pick up my kids from school. I hold her hand one last time, wondering how long she can continue fighting, and marvel at the strength of the human spirit. Her frustration with her earthly body seems to be subsiding, and acceptance is settling in for all parties present. I won’t get to be there for her last breath. I won’t get to see her spirit take flight. But, I take comfort in the certainty that she is ready to see the place she will make her eternal home.


ARE YOU AFRAID OF FEAR? How to be less afraid and more honest.

It’s November.

I have no idea how this happens; it just keeps happening.

Every year we arrive here and my head is left spinning at the speed with which time sprints past, leaving me staring out my windows at the blur of what I think may have been an entire year that escaped inside of one breath. I mean, I’m fairly certain I blinked and June became October and then… Here. We. Are. Waist deep in the colors (Vibrant reds! Fiery orange! Luscious purples!) and scents, (Fires burning! Freshly fallen rain on pavement!) and sights, (The leaves! Misty mornings followed by clear night skies riddled with stars!) and all the feels that are fall. Even writing the word makes me want to abandon all responsibility, escape to the coziest spot in my house, cuddle up with a book in front of a fire for hours on end, and drink tea (Or wine. Probably wine. In a mug.).


And of course, we are all listing off all the things we are grateful for one day at a time on whatever social media platform we find most affirming. (Or feeling guilty that we are now a full week behind on that #gratitudechallenge we swore we would do this year. Just me? Oh.) The relentless pursuit of authenticity is kinda my jam, so I am most sincere when I say I am deeply thankful for this beautiful/crazy/brutal/amazing life we live. I believe with my whole self that the practice of gratitude is essential to fully experience being alive. And without hesitation, I readily admit to “hater” status when it comes to all the things/peoples/corporations/consumer-obsessed-culture-vultures who insist on the practice of skipping Thanksgiving. I am still waiting for a response to the email I sent in 2015 demanding Starbucks create a Thanksgiving-themed cup. But amidst all the pumpkin spicing the shit out of, well, everything, I’m gonna pause here just one minute to call bullshit on myself while you watch. (Ahem. **clears throat** While you read.)

About 11 years ago, whilst I voraciously pursued perfecting the art of parenting, at the potential expense of my first child, I came across a blog post about Halloween and FEAR. Written by a beautiful soul whose voice and perspective I deeply admired (and still do!), my world was rocked as I poured over her exquisitely articulated expression of her disdain for Halloween. “Why,” she implored, “would we choose to celebrate fear as a national holiday?” As I read, I could hear the voice in my head (one of many, perhaps) chanting a resounding, “Yes!” “Yes!” And again, “YEESSSSS.”  To most of what she had to say. I hated fear. Along with anger, and disappointment (and a few choice others). I was convinced that fear is a “bad” emotion. My only reference for fear was a long list of experiences that inextricably linked fear with pain. Pain was to be avoided at all costs. Soooo, I found it quite easy to whole-heartedly agree with the writer’s perspective. Halloween celebrates fear. Fear is linked to pain. Pain is bad. Therefore, Halloween is bad. We just stopped celebrating it.

These days, around here, we still have an interesting relationship with Halloween. We are basically 0 or 100 mph. It’s all or nothing. Over the years we have vacillated from one extreme to the other, occasionally pausing somewhere between the two. We have both skipped it all together and spent hours meticulously planning and creating elaborate homemade costumes our children don with pride (in full character, of course.)

At this juncture, I would venture to say that we have been released from the grip of our previous overly-ambitious parenting selves, lightened up a bit, and embraced trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, dressing up in costumes, all in the name of fun, rather than fear. If we were sitting at my favorite coffee shop having this conversation, I would probably say, “I’m done hating fear. I’m okay with pain. I think I have evolved.”

And here is where I have to call myself out.

Because my relentless pursuit of authenticity is actually really important to me.

And because deep down in the place where all the voices are quieted and stillness is actually possible- in my gut - I know the truth. The truth, my truth, is…the fear, of fear, is still very real.

I don’t want to be afraid. I want to be fearless. I want to face my fears with bravery and conquer them with intensive behavioral therapy (and perhaps the occasional liquid courage). I want to be who I know myself to be. Bold. Fierce. Free.

And sometimes I am.

Sometimes, I am not.

I am both/and. We are both/and.

We are not bold before we are timid.

We are not strong before we are weak.

We are not brave before we are unsure.

We are not fierce before we are fearful.

We are not free before we are able to recognize our chains.

We cannot conquer our demons before we know what they are; whence they came.

We can only truly know joy; deep down in our knower joy, to the depth of which we have met its predecessor. Pain.

I am afraid of pain. Especially the emotional variety. (For reasons we may explore another time.) Knowing that about myself, owning the painful pieces of my story gives me a sort of emotional permission, if you will, to experience the pain of life without being swallowed whole by it. I can be afraid of the thing. Then the thing happens. I am vulnerable and brave. And I survive.

We survive. Hell, we may even thrive.

But if we don’t see the fear, if we ignore it or worse, pretend it isn’t there, we miss out entirely on the invitation to walk through it to the other side. And what if? What if on the other side of that fear/pain/insecurity/weakness/anger/self-doubt/fill in the blank here_____, is a version of our life more beautiful than we can fathom?

So far, my survival rate of painful experiences is 100%.

Am I still afraid of pain (Especially the emotional variety)? Yep.

But I am also bold/brave/fierce/joyful/strong/self-loving/free/ Fill in your blank here_____.

It’s November, again. And I am afraid. But I am less afraid than I was before. Less afraid; more honest. More authentically me. More grateful. Most importantly, I am more alive.


LIVING UNDER A FALLING SKY- The toll of social anxiety.

It hit me like an anvil, without warning. I was a typical 15 year old, in the midst of enjoying football games and sleepovers, and playing on the JV soccer team. My high school years are both foggy and painfully sharp. Every hour of every school day was spent with my heart racing, one cheek to the desk at all times, in an effort to cool the heat radiating from within, alternating cheeks, depending upon who was sitting on either side of me, head down, in hopes of going unnoticed.


The fear of being called upon was more than enough to incite the blood flow. And then, when it actually would happen, the reaction was so extreme, everyone had to look, trying to reason how someone could turn that red without an implosion. It was so physically painful, by the end of the school day, my body was exhausted and my head throbbing, all I could muster was sleep. The stress my body and mind endured is now incomprehensible to me.  

Erythrophobia, also known as a “fear of blushing,” not to be mistaken with social anxiety, this is an actual extreme social phobia. The fear is self perpetuating- the more one anticipates blushing, the more it will manifest. Eventually, the relation of time between thought and physiological response becomes non existent. Every minute of each day, year after year, it occurred in all situations involving any other human who would witness the rush of blood and inherent shame that traveled together, like old war buddies.

For years, it seemed the only logical answer was to never leave the safety of home. Or to die. Literally, two options. Then there is the rare and extremely irrational option that I elected- get knocked up and have a cute baby, so everyone will look at said baby instead of me. A distraction, a diversion- yes, that’s the answer. Never mind the stares and whispers I’d have to endure as a pregnant teen. This logic suggests just how desperate the situation was for me. Depression and anxiety had robbed me of clear thought processes and a level head. And, so it was, the answer to all my worries- Cassidy, born on the fourth of February, 1997, the second semester of my senior year.  

It was a lonely place, and social anxiety wasn’t yet the overused, common household term that it is today. Teenage depression was thought of as grunge era angst, trendy and fabricated. Flannel and sadness, for looks.  

I was semi comfortable in my skin when outdoors, free from the confines of my classroom/ pseudo jail cell. I lived for those few hours in the day I spent alone in my room, where I was safe from the endless pairs of eyes and the possibility that they may glance in my direction.   

Time passed and the nightmare of high school faded. Teenage love, that promised a lifetime of thrills, gave way to heartbreak and addiction. The hopes and dreams I didn’t know I had all came to life for me one day, hinged on a unheard of, brand new pharmaceutical entity, advertised and gobbled up by people looking for an escape from the angst that is anxiety. Paxil was fresh on the market. Until this point, how to give a voice to my struggles eluded me. But there he was, that red faced, sweaty, shaking little cartoon, hiding behind furniture, while the voice over asked viewers questions that shook my soul.

“Do you feel like everyone is looking at you when you walk into a room?”

“Do you search for the nearest exit?”

“Does the thought of speaking in public make you contemplate suicide?”

“Does your heart feel as though it may fall out of your ass?”

Undeniably, yes. How was it possible? All this time, I’d never spoken to anyone of what I’d experienced, and there he was, an animated oval, bouncing on the TV screen, spilling my innermost secrets, during the prime time viewing hour.  This was my answer. This was my new faith. This little pill would put to death every monster I’d been running from for the last six years. I was 21 now, armed with a prescription for synthetic confidence, and nothing was going to get in my way.

I could pen a generic autobiography about the life of a single mother party animal from this point. I will spare you the details of my parenting failures and just tell you that my daughter has grown to be an amazing young woman, in spite of my selfishness (thanks Gram and Pop). I will tell you I relied solely on a medication that I knew little about and consequently became indifferent to the poor choices I made. The only regrets I have are in relation to those I hurt.

I’ve been free of any anti anxiety/anti depressants for eight years. The withdrawals from an SSRI are a nightmare in and of itself, which speaks to how much of a mind altering effect they can have. I empathize with people who truly need them to function, but useage doesn’t come without a price. I can say discontinuing my daily dose, after nine years, was like waking up from a state of semi consciousness. I do okay without medication. I initiate friendships, I do lunch dates, preferably on a patio, and as of this last year, I let my clients face the mirror while styling their hair, so they could actually see me during our conversations. I’ll probably never opt to speak in public, but I’m okay with the that.   

I was recently chatting with my sister and teenage niece, while the kids played on the living room floor. The topic of feeling anxious in front of an audience came up, as she regularly sings on stage. I decided to briefly share my experience with her. For the first time ever, I told someone, face to face, that I had a very real, life altering, fear of blushing. Of course, the mere thought of it brought the fire. She chuckled nervously. I forced myself to sit through the discomfort and face the shame that once upended my life, aside from a quick glance in the mirror to see what I’d really been hiding from all this time.

To my surprise, it was just me, I was still me. Blood vessels inflamed, but still me.

We continued our conversation, and what once would’ve sent me into a tailspin, was just a fleeting moment. The shame of feeling ashamed was gone.  

I’ll never understand why I got stuck and fixated on the fear of a flushed face. I could do some more mental laps, lose more sleep, and probably never produce a solid conclusion. Or, maybe I’ll wave goodbye to the fear that once determined how I perceived myself, let it slip away in that rear view mirror and just be proud of the girl who’s had to figure out how to face the world.

With my cranium and sense of self intact, I walked out the door a little bit taller that day.  The sun shone bright, and for the first time in years, the warmth of my cheeks was a sensation I welcomed. My face was hot as it bared the sun, but I was no longer dodging fragmented pieces of a falling sky.