RECLAIMING MY TIME…and a Few Other Things, Too

One of my favorite things that has happened in the news recently was the whole Maxine Waters “reclaiming my time” thing. I’m dropping it below, in case you haven’t seen it. I watched the clip of the exchange between Maxine Waters and Mnuchin and I was so amused. I told several people that “reclaiming my time” would be my new motto because I was tired of it being wasted.


A couple weeks ago, I decided the pile of books on my nightstand was out of control. I used to have a strict rule about only reading one book at a time. But I like to read a lot of self improvement books and reading those all in one shot can be tedious sometimes. I need to break up my self improvement with something a little more captivating. So I have been actively trying to finish the pile of books on the nightstand. Brené Brown is one of my favorite self improvement authors. I love her so much. I listen to her TED Talk all the time and it never fails to make me cry. I had the honor of hearing her speak this past November. She’s just amazing and I tell everyone about her. It’s no surprise that one of the books on the nightstand is hers.

For a few weeks before I decided to finish Brown’s book, I had become aware that something was amiss with me. My anxiety was up and I didn’t really know why. I thought maybe writing for myself again was the cause. Writing is very therapeutic for me, but it also causes a lot of stuff about my childhood to surface. I still didn’t feel like that was the entire answer, but since I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, I had no choice but to soldier on until whatever it was made itself apparent.

I picked up Brown’s book and I started to read. The Gifts of Imperfection focuses on what the author refers to as “wholehearted living.” She talks about authenticity and being who you are, not who you think you’re supposed to be. She also talks about how we hide behind perfectionism and use it as a shield. I’m reading along and nodding, highlighting some stuff. Then, I get to the line in the book that stilled me. I read it again and again and again.

The opposite of joy is not pain or sorrow. The opposite of joy is fear.

In that moment, I finally knew what was wrong and I also knew when it began. For months, I had been slowly becoming more and more fearful. It started when I turned 40. I wrote about why that birthday was difficult for me. Daughters of women who die at a young age often feel like that forecasts something about their own life span. If my mother couldn’t escape her 40s, how would I? I began to obsess over every little thing that was wrong with me. I began catastrophizing on a regular basis. Everything was a portent of doom. Everything was cancer.

Once the fear of the health stuff had settled in, it became a snowball effect of fear replacing my joy. I began to tell myself on a regular basis that I couldn’t do things/handle things/things were too much for me. I’m one of the most capable and strong people around. But fear told me otherwise. Fear told me that everything was too much for me and I should climb into a hidey hole and never come out.

After that, I began placing other people’s needs ahead of my own. I let their opinions, desire/lack of desire for me, what they were going through, matter more than it ever should have. I wasted my time on people who were clearly not invested in me and then I let their lack of investment be a comment on my worth. I tipped my head back, opened my mouth, and I swallowed whole all of the anxiety and fear that these situations had to offer.

That evening, I closed Brown’s book. I sat on my bed for a long while tracing the path of what I had done and what I had allowed. It was then that Maxine Waters’s words played through my brain.

I decided that I, too, would reclaim my time, but not just my time. I wanted back the joy that I let fear steal. I wanted back my sense of gratitude for all of the opportunities and amazing people in my life. I wanted back my normal, sunny disposition, and I wanted to ditch the guarded spirit I had allowed in.

Going forward, I decided I would expand on Maxine Waters’s words and make them a mantra.

Reclaiming my time.
Reclaiming my optimism.
Reclaiming my gratitude.
Reclaiming my faith.
And most importantly…Reclaiming my joy.

P.S. I wrote this just before I saw Maxine Waters shout “I will not yield!” at some old, white racist on the House floor. Maxine Waters is becoming my own personal guru, because I’m taking that, too.

I will not yield to fear.

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Best Friends Forever

If you hang around me long enough, you’ll find out, in bits and pieces, that my childhood wasn’t normal. It wasn’t normal in a variety of ways, but one of those ways was that we were never allowed to have any pets long term. Instead of bonding with a pet and getting to move through the stages of life with a furry friend, what we got was an exercise in brevity. In what was a typical pet cycle in my home, we’d obtain some kind of pet, usually a dog. It would live with us for weeks or months, but never longer than a year. These pets would exit our home at the point at which they began to annoy my mother. For pets and children, my mother had little patience. She was sort of forced to keep the children, though. But the pets would vanish. Gone to live on “a farm” and we’d never see them again. To this day, I have no idea what happened to all of them.

It was only when I was an adult that I got what I consider my first pet. I decided on a cat and beyond that, I had no idea what I was doing. I vaguely remember reading about Himalayan on the internet and somehow I wound up at a local breeder’s home. When she brought out the kittens that were ready for purchase, one caught my eye. She was way smaller than all the others and she came right to me. Have you ever been in the presence of multiple kittens at one time? They get each other all jacked up. It’s like watching a physical manifestation of A.D.D. in animal form. They were everywhere. But this kitten came to me and ignored whatever shenanigans were going on behind her. She was sitting in my hand and I was petting the top of her tiny head with my finger when the breeder lady rudely interrupted our bonding.

“Not that one. You don’t want that one.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“She’s smaller than all the others. She doesn’t even weight 2 lbs. She’s the runt. Plus, the mother’s begun to reject her. She probably won’t live.”

That was all she needed to say. I scooped up that kitten and handed over my money. I left her house and never looked back.

I ended up naming that kitten Phoebe, after the Friends character. It’s appropriate that I picked a name from a show entitled Friends because Phoebe and I were BFFs.

I had no way of knowing, at the time, but I had chosen one of the sweetest, smartest cats that ever lived. She had tons of what they call “dog behavior.” She was very social and loved attention and to be petted. She adored all humans and they were her friends instantly. Phoebe also did this incredibly human thing when I would talk to her. When I was looking right at her, speaking to her, she’d cock her head to one side, like she was listening and thinking about whatever I was saying. I nicknamed her Phoebe the Wonder Cat, because she was mazing. Phoebe and I had grand adventures. She traveled the United States with me. Wherever I went, Phoebe went. She was my little love bug. Phoebe was meant to be my cat and I was meant to be her human.

In April of 2017, something was wrong with Phoebe’s eye and I took her to the vet. I’ll spare you all the details but the condition deteriorated until there was so much pressure in her eye that she began to bleed from the interior corner on a constant basis. That eye was constantly weeping blood. The vet seemed to think she had a mass in her brain that was pushing on the area from the inside, causing all the pressure. The vet said there was nothing more to do. I threw all the money I had at the situation. But there was nothing I could do. It took me months to adjust to the idea of letting her go. I just couldn’t do it. It was only when the degree of her suffering became unbearable to watch that I made the decision to let her go.

On October 6, 2017, I held Phoebe in my arms while she crossed the rainbow bridge. It was the 2nd hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I have so much guilt over it. She trusted me and I took her somewhere to die. Yes, we can use all the nice words we want. I ended her suffering and on and on. But at the end of the day, I decided that she would die that day, and it fractures a piece of my soul. I prayed so hard that she would die in her sleep, so I wouldn’t have to decide anything. That wasn’t how it happened, though.

It’s been 7 months that she’s been gone and I cried the entire time I was writing this. I miss her constantly. Just like with people, it doesn’t truly get better. You just become numb to that particular crack in your heart and you learn how to carry on.

I have zero regrets, though. I wouldn’t trade a single day with Phoebe and each of those days with her makes the pain of missing her worth it. We were BFFs and there’s no emotional price tag too high for that kind of love. I swore that I wouldn’t get another pet after Phoebe died. I didn’t want to do any of that again.

It wasn’t long before I realized, though, that if I didn’t regret any of my time with Phoebe, it would be worth doing again. So, this past Sunday (April 29, 2018), I made a new friend. Her name is Lailah Blue (like the Clapton song “Layla” just spelled differently). We’re already on our way to being BFFs and she’s only been in my life 24 hours. But in that 24 hours, she’s helped heal a piece of my heart. I am super excited to see what adventures we will go on together. And Phoebe will be there, too, even if we can’t see her.

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Mental Illness is a Thief and a Liar

“I haven’t been seeing you at church lately. Is everything okay?”

“I’ve been depressed, so I was avoiding people. I didn’t want to answer any questions.”

I could say that to my friend because she’s familiar with this struggle. I knew there would only be empathy in her, so I could tell the truth instead of living the “everything is fine” lie for a few minutes. I mean, most of the time I am fine. I feel good. I’m generally happy. I have a good life. But there are times when my body and my brain betray me and I sink into The Bad Place, from which I have to claw my way back out.

This time wasn’t a full visit to The Bad Place. It was standing on the edge of it and looking in while firmly grasping the guard rail. Nevertheless, whether I’m fully immersed or teetering on the precipice, it sucks. Mental illness is a thief. It steals from me on a regular basis. It steals my joy and my happiness. It steals my desire to do pretty much anything. It replaces those precious feelings with emptiness, isolation, and misery. Mental illness is also a liar. It tells me I have no value; that I’ll always be alone; that I am unloveable; that I am not enough.

There’s a good chance that if you know me in real life and you’re reading this, you didn’t know that I am one of the 20% of Americans with mental health issues. I’m really good at hiding it. I can give an Oscar caliber performance in the Everything Is Fine role. There are people in my life that know about my struggle, but I generally don’t broadcast it for public consumption. People can be cruel, either on purpose or out of ignorance, so I am selective in whom I tell.

I’ve been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (or clinical depression),  Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder (I was also diagnosed with an eating disorder, but that is also a story for another day). My brain is sometimes a twisted landscape of wonky chemistry, poor genes, and the leftover effects of a really effed up childhood. There has been some talk about me possibly having PTSD from said effed up childhood. The jury is still out on that diagnosis. It’s been widely discussed, though, that I am remarkable sane and well-adjusted considering the extent of the effed up childhood. I’ve been called “resilient” more than once.

Aside from the actual physical and mental affects of depression and anxiety, the hardest part for me is other people. Not everyone wants to deal with another person’s baggage, so they’re dismissive. Other people genuinely mean well and want to help after I’ve told them about my mental health issues. The thing that is the most difficult for me and the other person is that there is really nothing anyone can do to help. I totally appreciate the desire to help me, especially when I am in The Bad Place. But asking me “what’s wrong?” over and over again isn’t helpful.

The terrible, cruel, answer is that nothing is wrong. This is just how my brain and body function (or malfunctions). There are no immediate circumstances that need fixing. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t still feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest, suffocating me. Just because nothing is wrong doesn’t mean that I don’t, sometimes, feel numb and empty inside.

When someone asks me “what’s wrong?” over and over again, I have no good answers. It also puts me in the position of feeling like I need to pretend I’m okay. I am in charge of managing the other person’s feelings about my mental state, and that can be very overwhelming. It would better for me if people said, “how’re you feeling?” verses “what’s wrong?” When I say “I am depressed,” a good response would be “is there anything I can do for you?” I will probably say “no.”

Be okay with that answer. Because you can’t fix me. You can also keep talking to me about normal stuff. Just because I’ve acknowledged my depression doesn’t mean I don’t want you to tell me good things that are happening to you or that I don’t want to hear about how you’re struggling. In fact, it helps me to focus on something else. So tell me about the baby shower/wedding/crappy boss/new hobby/great movie/the book you just read…tell me whatever you were going to say before I said that I was depressed. There’s no rule book for how to speak to someone with mental illness, and I certainly can’t speak for all of us. But this is how I would like to be spoken to. It’s what would help me.

I’m feeling a bit better now. I’m not quite at 100% but I feel better. This post isn’t a cry for help. I’m no longer gripping the guard rail, looking into The Bad Place. I’ve returned to higher ground and will stay there for awhile. But everyone who struggles with mental illness knows that eventually they will return to The Bad Place. It could be better or worse than the last visit, and we really have no control over any of it. But for today, I am victorious and that is enough.


If you suffer from depression and anxiety, you are not alone. I’ve dropped some links below. You are loved. You have value. You are enough.

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Days are What You Make of Them


My birthday is a weird day. That’s truly the only way to describe it. I wish I were being melodramatic, but I’m not. My birthday has a lot of stuff attached to it. Some of the stuff is good and some of the stuff is a downright tragedy. My birthday reminds me of when you clean out the cushions on your couch. It’s this weird amalgamation of things that gross you out (“ewww! Hair and a moldy french fry!”) and things that make you ecstatic (“sweet! I found a twenty!”). It’s all of that.

I’ll start with something good. I was born. I’m a pretty cool person. I try to make the world a better place. If nothing else, I try to impact the people in my life in a positive way. I’ll give you another good thing that’s connected to my birthday. Four years ago, I moved to Los Angeles. I arrived in this amazing city and started a new chapter in my life, on my birthday.

But there are some bad things attached to my birthday. One of them almost swallowed me whole. My mother died on my 23rd birthday. She was only 49 years old. It was expected but unexpected. I could see that it was coming but was simultaneously blind to the collision course her health was on. After a lifetime battle with morbid obesity and weight-induced diabetes, she slipped out of this world at on my birthday and forever added a mourning requirement to what should have been a celebration day.

After my mother died, I was lost for many years. One of the ways I coped with her loss, and feeling lost in general, was with food. I had been overweight since puberty. After my mother died, I let that situation spiral out of control. I was overweight, but not just overweight like I am now. I was overweight to the point that my body could no longer function. I weighed over 400 lbs. Right around the time I was turning 30, whether I would make it to 40 was in question. As I turned 30, my doctor was beginning to make some pretty alarming statements about the state of my organs and what blood tests were revealing. One day, my doctor said to me, “if you don’t do something about your weight, I’m afraid you won’t live to see your 40th birthday. Your body cannot continue to function in your current situation.”

Through a series of unfortunate events that eventually ended up being amazing, God led me to a job in Denver with an employer that covered weight loss surgery. It took a full year for me to meet all the requirements, but the summer after I turned 33, I had gastric bypass. One year later, I had lost 150 lbs. It wasn’t easy and anyone that says that weight loss surgery is the “easy way out” doesn’t truly understand what a person who has that surgery endures. Within a few months of having surgery and losing weight, my blood pressure returned to normal. I went from taking 138 units of insulin for weight-induced diabetes to being considered “diet controlled”. It stopped hurting to simply walk. I could breathe. Two years after surgery, I ran for the first time in my adult life. On a treadmill and because I could, I ran and ran and ran.

It’s no small miracle that I made it to my 40th birthday and I know that. Looking back to where I was when I entered my 30s, it’s an act of God that I am here. I was all set to follow my mother down the same path to an early grave. I am not exactly where I expected to be when I turned 40, though. I never imagined that I would be single and I wouldn’t have children at this age. That being said, my life is 100% different that it was a decade ago, and for that I am thankful.

One final weird thing about my birthday. This year, I am entering the age decade that my mother did not make it out of. And that feels like it means something. I’ve read many articles by daughters of mothers that died young. Most of them recount feeling like approaching the age at which their mother died feels like it means something about their own mortality. How can I make it passed a point that she did not? It adds a tiny amount of trepidation to my feelings.

I do believe that each day is what we make of it, though. Days, dates, ages, milestones…all of those things can have a variety of emotions attached, but it’s ultimately up to us to determine what what those things mean. Today, as I turn 40, they mean I am grateful to be alive, I am excited to see what the future holds, and I am hopeful that my 40s will be so amazing that my awesome 30s will be left in the dust.

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