Fast & Fabulous: White Chicken Chili


I adore Lisa Leake’s cookbooks.

I always get a little nervous when I review new books  (in this case 100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous)  What if I hate it?  What if I find it just so-so?  I’m of course always 100% honest in my reviews, and as a writer myself, skewering someone’s work of art is not my favorite thing to do.  But thankfully that’s not an issue here.

I love this cookbook.

From a purely physical and aesthetic standpoint, it is big and substantial, with a sturdy hardback cover, and nice thick pages.  There is a gorgeous photo on every page.  (Am I the only one who gets sad when cookbooks don’t have pictures?  I need pictures.)  The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and use simple, whole food ingredients that you can find at a regular grocery store.

Last night, I made the white chicken chili, which is perfect for fall-like sweater weather – if you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the country where the end of October actually is fall-like sweater weather.   It was easy to make, and Oh. So. Delicious.  Comfort food at its finest.  I doubled the recipe to feed my crew of six, and there weren’t any leftovers when we were done.  Twelve enthusiastic thumbs up, and multiple requests to add it to our weekly repertoire.


White Chicken Chili

Difficulty: Easy
Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cook time: Less than 30 minutes
Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (no need to thaw)
Two 15-ounce cans white beans (such as Great Northern or cannellini), drained and rinsed
1 3/4 cups chicken broth, store bought or homemade (page 103)
1/4 cup heavy cream

TOPPINGS: Chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated Monterey Jack cheese, diced avocado, and/or corn tortilla strips

Whether you call this dish a chili or hearty chicken and bean stew, it’s definitely a winner. The first time I made it for my kids, they asked me so many times what it was called, but by the end of the meal they cared much more about getting second helpings than remembering the name! If you have time be sure to double the recipe and store in the fridge or freezer, because, like most soups and stews, the leftovers are amazing.

1. In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside (add more olive oil if the pot starts to dry out), 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Toss the minced garlic and spices into the pot and turn a few times to coat the chicken evenly. Add the corn, beans, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 20 minutes.

4. Break up some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon to help thicken the chili. Stir in the cream, garnish with the desired toppings, and serve!

100 Days of Real Food:  Fast and Fabulous is available TODAY, and you can grab your copy here.

This is Lisa Leake’s second cookbook, and her first – 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love – is just as wonderful, so check that one out while you’re at it!


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Filed under book reviews, recipe


Photo by Nadia, via Flickr

Photo by Nadia, via Flickr

7:56 AM

I can’t breathe.

I don’t mean that in a figurative sense (though clearly, I’m not taking a whole lot of figurative deep breaths either)

I mean I literally can’t breathe, thanks to the cold that took residence a week and a half ago and seems to have no plans to vacate.

I’m a mouth-breather.

With the chapped lips to prove it.

And there’s the cough and the runny nose and the coughing and snoring 8 year old who’s been sleeping beside me, and the coughing and snoring 42 year old who’s also been sleeping beside me.

And the dog with diarrhea – which really has nothing to do with a cold, and is a just another small part of the whole reason I am not sleeping again.

Or still.

Is “again” really the right word when I haven’t really slept for as long as I can remember?

I almost said in “forever”, but forever’s almost never a fair word, and I’m pretty sure I slept when I was a kid.

I’m not allowed to complain about the dog, because he’s not supposed to be here in the first place.

He was a stray, abandoned on a desert dirt road.  And I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed him, just as much as he needed me.

We didn’t choose him.  But he chose me.  I saved him from the harsh desert, but really…. he saved me.

And now he has diarrhea.

I’m tired, so very tired, and only partly because of the diarrhea.

And the cold.

And the lack of sleep.

And the lack of breathing.

It’s mostly because my brain Doesn’t.  Stop.  Thinking.

At all.  Ever.

My therapist tells me I shouldn’t expect an on/off switch (which is good, because I’m certain such a thing doesn’t exist, at least not for me)

He does say that I should be able to dial it down though.

I think he’s lying.

Or my dial is broken.

BROKEN, I tell you.

It’s forever stuck – except forever’s almost never a fair word – stuck on the highest setting.

Like the Vitamix, when you flip it up all the way up to that mega setting that shows it you mean business.

The one that makes your teeth rattle, and keep your hand on the cover for fear that your banana berry Jamba Juice smoothie knock-off is going to end up all over the damn kitchen ceiling.

Only instead of blending up a banana berry Jamba Juice smoothie knock-off, my brain is blending up a soup of regret, and hope, and worry, and problem solving, and wondering, and religion and politics and pop culture and the kids and the pets, and the thing I said to my best friend’s brother when I was seven, and the mistake I made when I was 22, and my to-do list for the next 24 hours and the next 24 years, and the question of whether or not I’ll even be given another 24 years, or hours.

I want to dial it down.

I do.  I DO.

But I don’t know how.

And so I do the only thing I know to do and I sit.

And I drink my coffee and I try to breathe.

Except I can’t breathe thanks to the cold that took residence a week and a half ago and seems to have no plans to vacate.

I’m a mouth-breather.

And I’m tired.

8:06 AM



Filed under about me, life, random

Why Trump’s Comments Are So Much More Than “Locker Room Banter”

Photo Credit: Matt A.J. via Flickr

Photo Credit: Matt A.J. via Flickr

A few quick, but important, disclaimers:

  • This is a post about Donald Trump – and about rape culture.  This isn’t a post about Hillary Clinton, or Bill Clinton, or any other Democrat (or any other Republican for that matter). This is about the actions of one individual.  When you lead your rebuttal with, “But Hillary…” or “What about Bill…” all it does is make me think you can’t articulate your own feelings about Trump well enough to discuss them without deflecting onto something/someone else.  This isn’t about Hillary Clinton.  That’s another discussion.
  • I hate talking about anything remotely political.  Hate it.  It makes my stomach hurt and my heart race and my mouth go dry.  I know that some people love a good political debate.  I do not.  So for me to write about something that can be deemed political, especially on my blog, it means I find it really, really important.  Important enough to ignore the impending urge to vomit.
  • I’m not sure what I’m doing in the upcoming election.  I may vote third party.  That shouldn’t matter, since this is a post about one candidate only (see point number one), but it gets really boring and redundant to answer to immediate assumptions that if you have a negative word to say about Donald Trump, you must be voting for/endorsing Hillary Clinton.  I am a registered Democrat.  I’m also a woman, and a mother, and thinker, and a person who can make informed, intelligent decisions all by herself.  Boxing people into narrow little definitions never helps anyone.
  • If you’re tempted to comment in the vein of, “He’s still better than Hillary,” please read point number one again.

In case you missed it, some audio from 2005 was recently released in which Donald Trump can be heard saying things like:

“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it…  I did try and f— her. She was married.”

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her.  You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything…  Grab them by the p—y…. You can do anything.”

Now to be fair, Trump says a lot of crass, juvenile, and/or vulgar things.  It’s sort of his modus operandi.  We all – including his supporters – know to expect this from him by now.  Insensitive, unfiltered comments are Trump’s calling card.

But that’s not what this is.

What Trump is describing (and indeed bragging about) is sexual assault.

Kissing/touching/grabbing a woman without her consent is sexual assault.

Using your power as an excuse to “do anything” to a woman is sexual assault.

This is not a conversation about some silly inconsequential words uttered by an arrogant egomaniac.  This is about a man who wants to be the leader of your country. This is about a man who is not only admitting to but boasting about sexual assault.

This is about a culture that supports Donald Trump, and others like him.  People who want to blame the victim.. for drinking too much, or dressing too provocatively, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  People who let rapists like Brock Turner walk away with a slap on the wrist.  People who excuse sexual aggression by saying “boys will be boys”, or excuse sexually aggressive language by calling it “locker room talk.”

This isn’t locker room talk.  Most men don’t talk about sexually assaulting women.  Most men don’t talk about grabbing women’s genitals.

This isn’t “boys being boys.”  To reduce it to such is like giving a big “F–k you” to the 1 in 5 women who have or will have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.  Excusing Trump for what he said and did is the same thing as telling these women that their stories don’t matter;  It’s the same thing as telling these women that THEY don’t matter.

Excusing, defending, or dismissing Trump’s words (because they were a decade ago, because he’s human, because he’s “sorry”) explicitly tells the world that you think it’s okay.  It’s okay to reduce women to sexual objects that are there for the taking.  It’s okay to joke and brag about touching them sexually without their consent.  It’s okay to vote someone who endorses assault into the most powerful position in the United States, just because you happen to agree with his policies.

None of this is okay. 

And it’s not about political parties, and it’s not about us vs them, and it’s not about “the lesser of two evils.”  It’s about right and wrong, plain and simple.

I see memes like this, and I feel sick to my stomach  (*Note:  The first couple of memes reference Hillary Clinton, because that’s the sort of thing that people like to post.  Per my own rules, I’m ignoring the parts about Clinton*):


What Trump has said is that it’s okay to sexually assault women.  That’s bothersome.  You should find that bothersome.  We should ALL find that bothersome.

Or this one:


He has said mean things, to be sure.  Mocking a disabled reporter was mean.  Mocking a woman – or all women – for menstruating was mean.  Mocking Miss Universe for gaining weight was mean.  Mocking people is a very big thing for Trump.  But endorsing sexual assault is not “mean.”  It’s in a whole different category than mean.  And reducing what a woman who’s been sexually assaulted feels when she hears his words to “hurt feelings” is minimizing and disgusting.

People who are bothered by Trump’s actions are not delicate little flowers who walk around with their fragile feelings hurt all the time.  They’re people who care about how others are treated.  They’re people who care that women, minorities, LGBTQ, children, disabled individuals all receive the same amount of care and respect and compassion as everyone else.  They’re people who care about not perpetuating misogyny and hate.  They’re people who care that this man – this person who wants to be the leader of our country – has so little regard for his fellow humans.

And finally:


I saved this one for last because it is the most ridiculous of the three.  I hardly want to dignify it with a response, but I have to.  If it wasn’t dealing with such a serious issue, this meme would be laughable.  Now I obviously can’t speak for any other women but myself, but I’m not the least bit “outraged at Donald Trump’s naughty words.”  Naughty words (and what are we, 8 years old?) don’t bother me.  Sexual assault bothers me.

Stop reducing me to a fragile little simpleton who wilts at the sight of a crass word.

As for 50 Shades:  I’ve read it, or part of it anyway.  I couldn’t really read the whole thing… not because I was offended by the “naughty words”, but because I was offended by the terrible writing.  I have very limited knowledge (and no personal experience) with BDSM, but I do know that it’s consensual.  And it should go without saying – except I’m having to say it – that these are fictional characters in a book.  It is make-believe.  Pretend.  Not real.  They are characters.  AND THEY’RE NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!  The comparison is illogical and gross.

This is a real issue, about a real person.  These are real women that Trump is talking about. If it was your daughter he was talking about, or your sister, or your mother, or your best friend…. if it was someone you loved… would you still be okay with it?

Would you be okay with someone saying they were just going to go ahead and “grab {your loved one}’s p—-y?”  Because these women he is talking about are someone’s loved ones.  They are someone’s daughters and sisters and mothers and best friends.  (**Editing after the fact to add, after it has been correctly pointed out to me by a few of my readers:  Even if the person is NOT your daughter, sister, mother, etc, she’s still a PERSON.  A woman’s life is valuable and important, no matter who she is.  Full stop.  Thank you for speaking up, and helping me write with better clarity**)

They are all of us, and they deserve better.

Our men deserve better too.  Every time you reduce Trump’s words to harmless locker room banter, you condemn all men to the lowest common denominator.  Not all men brag about sexual assault.  Not all men view women as objects rather than humans. Not all men hear Trump’s words and think they are normal, or okay, or in any way acceptable.  And honestly?  If the guys you’re hanging around do think what he said was okay, might I suggest you find some better friends, friends who actually respect women.

We can be better than this.  We have to be better than this.

I have three teenage boys, and one young daughter, and I want them to grow up to see a world that is kind, and gentle, and true.  A world where people are standing up for what is right, instead of rallying behind a man who represents everything that is wrong.



Filed under Uncategorized


Partying it up on New Years Eve.

My life is noisy.

Inside my own head is noisy.  With four kids and one husband and two dogs, my house is noisy.  A brief note to my neighbors:  Yes, sorry.  I have a barker.  Django is a barker.  I feel it’s important to note however that I do call him in when he barks, and that he is most definitely NOT the dog that is allowed to bark for hours in the middle of the night.  That’s the house behind us, and I am just as highly frustrated by it as you are.

Even when people are happily doing their own thing, there’s one person talking to a friend on Skype.  Another talking to himself.  Another watching TV.  Another playing a video game.  There’s the click click click of computer keys.  There’s singing.  There’s music.  There’s laughing.  There’s general merriment.

There are people across the street whose car alarm is constantly going off.

And have I mentioned we have a barker?

This past month has been insanely busy for us with these final conference preparations, and the 12 year old’s football starting, and the 8 year old’s theater starting, and dentist appointments, and car appointments, and my own personal… stuff… and all of the comings and goings from all of the above.

I have not been sleeping much – because that’s how my body tends to deal with stress – and when you’re not sleeping, noises are so very magnified.  You know how people talk about the horrifying sound of nails on a chalkboard?  When I’m not sleeping, everything sounds like nails on a chalkboard.  Except, if I’m being honest, I can think of much more objectionable sounds than nails on a chalkboard.  Like someone flossing their teeth.  Or eating a banana.

This is my life right now.  A million people flossing all their teeth and eating all the bananas.  Right in front of me.

And please don’t misunderstand.  A lot of the above are happy noises, and I’m grateful for them.  It’s just… I’m tired.  And when I’m tired, the noises make me more tired.

But right now, in this very moment, it is quiet.  I am alone in the living room.  Three of the four kids are sleeping, and the other is quietly watching something with headphones on his computer.  The dogs are sleeping.  There is no barking.  No car alarms.  No TVs.  No music.  There’s just… silence.  Silence so acute that I can hear my own breathing.

And I’m sitting here and I’m thinking, Has it really been this long since I’ve had a silent moment?  or Have I just been too busy and stressed out to take notice of them?  My heart tells me that it’s the latter, and I struggle against the feeling that I’ve somehow failed, again.

But I know I didn’t fail.  I’m just learning.  And for whatever reason, this lesson of being still in the moment is one I need to learn over and over.  And over and over and over until I really get it.

My brain wants to go to the next thing, to get ready to deal with the next noise.  The dog will start barking.  My phone will chirp at me.  UPS will show up at the door.  One of the kids will need me.  I fight with myself to stop anticipating everything that will come next, and instead appreciate the here and now… as I simultaneously realize that fighting is exactly the wrong thing to do, and that it’s a matter of leaning in, and surrendering, and allowing myself if even for a moment to just BE.

Right now, it’s quiet.

And I will breathe.



Filed under Uncategorized

Broken: How Therapy’s Destroying Me


I recently whined to a good friend about having to go to therapy.  It was the morning of my appointment, and I wanted – with every little fiber of my being – to stay home.  “I know it’s hard,” she said.  “But don’t you feel better afterwards?”

“No,”  I told her.  “Most of the time, I feel worse.”

Having no basis for comparison, I have no idea if it’s it normal or not, but I dread it.  I do.  I sort of leave one appointment, and immediately start stressing out about the following one.

And I mean, there are positives.  I like my therapist… he is warm and good at what he does.  There are those rare times I leave feeling good, having made some big breakthrough or something.   Sometimes I gain a deeper appreciation of the absurdity of it all.   Sometimes we laugh.  Sometimes I leave with a helpful new tool for dealing with worry or anxiety or any of the other perks that come with being me.  Sometimes I go home having learned something really huge about myself, or about life, or about how the mind works.

But… yeah, it’s still pretty much breaking me.  And even on the good days, it’s all just so MUCH.  So exhausting.  So emotionally and mentally draining.

The other day, I realized something (In the shower, because that’s where I do my best thinking.  I also tend to do a lot of thinking in my car, but there are so many things to distract me when I’m driving.  There’s not much to distract me in the shower, unless I’m running out of conditioner, and have to keep reminding myself for the rest of my shower – conditioner, conditioner, conditioner – so I won’t forget to write it on the shopping list when I get out.)  I realized that my brokenness, my feeling raw and ripped open and vulnerable, no matter how unpleasant it is, serves a real purpose.  It’s a precursor – a necessary precursor – to healing.  Sort of like how doctors sometimes have to re-break a bone in order to set it so that it can heal correctly.  I’m the broken bone.

And I hate it.  I hate everything about it.  I hate uncovering more broken bits that need attention.  I hate talking about myself.  I hate worrying that I’m being too ______  (fill in the blank).  Too annoying, too crazy, too whiny, too narcissistic.  I console myself with the fact that maybe to a therapist it’s like I was when I was teaching yoga.  All the new people worry that they’re not flexible enough, or that they’re doing the poses wrong, or that they’re being judged.  And I – and every other teacher I’ve ever known – think they’re rock stars just for showing up.  Every single one.  Every single time.  It would make me feel a lot better if I could think of myself as a rock star, just for showing up.

But I’m not a rock star.  I’m a human.  A human who’s working and fighting but raw and bruised and bloody from the battle.  A human who’s broken.  And sweet baby Jesus, I didn’t think I could get more broken than I was when I first walked into his office three months ago.  I was wrong.

It’s a weird thing, therapy.  Did you ever think about it?  It’s just an odd, odd thing.  Baring the most shameful, embarrassing, painful parts of your psyche to … a stranger?  And there’s a professional rapport there I guess, and a certain amount of trust, but … you know NOTHING about this person.  And for all the sharing you do, for all the emotional gut-wrenching stripping, you might as well be completely naked.  Now that I think about it, because I’ve really never looked at it in that way before, I’m pretty sure that I’d find being physically naked preferable.  I’m not even kidding.

So this is me, naked.  Barenaked (anyone remember that song by Jennifer Love Hewitt in the early 2000’s??).  I’ll be okay.  I will.  I WILL.  But right now, I’m not too okay.  I’m naked and afraid and vulnerable and would legitimately be contemplating drinking right now – at nine in the morning – if I hadn’t given up drinking, one of my favorite things, in my quest to face my issues and finally be well.

This is hard you guys.

A dear friend recently, and aptly, described it like this:

It’s like cleaning my damn house

Every time I think “surely I’m almost there”

Some new closet of junk appears

The closets are killing me.  So very many closets.

I know my online presence has been a little scarce lately, but I’m still here.  Still plugging.  Still learning.  Still broken. And naked and…. in a closet, apparently?  (Sorry, way too many metaphors for one blog post.)  But I’m here.  And after all the hard work and time and tears I’ve invested in myself over the last three months, I feel confident in saying that I’ve no plans to go anywhere.



Filed under about me, anxiety, bipolar, depression, mania, mental health

Teens, Privacy, And Why The Only Text Messages I Read Are My Own


I’m a pretty private person.  Maybe that sounds weird coming from someone who has shared many intimate details about her life over the past several years, but I am.  Not just when it comes to my personal relationships (though certainly, I’m private about those too) but also regarding some of the things I have on my laptop, and in my phone, and in my desk.  And it’s not that I’m hiding anything or ashamed of anything, or feel I’m doing anything “bad”.  It’s just that some things are… well, private.  I keep journals, I’m constantly writing little notes and reminders to myself, I often write emails and potential blog posts that don’t ever make it out for public consumption.  Over the past three months, I’ve also been keeping a notebook for therapy.  I’ll carry it back and forth every week and jot down notes of things I want to remember, homework he’s given me, issues that come up for me during the week, and things I want to talk about next time.  Sometimes it’s in my purse or in the car, but most often it’s sitting right out on my desk, so it’s easily accessible throughout the week.  As personal as it is, I never worry that anyone’s going to open it.  Why?  Because we all respect each other’s privacy.  On those rare occasions that Mike needs something out of my purse, or from my desk, or to access something in my email, he’ll ask.  I trust and expect and appreciate that within the four walls of my own home, I have a modicum of privacy.

Why wouldn’t I give my teens the same consideration?   (I’ll get back to that later).

I remember being a teenager.  Quite well in fact.  It’s been 26 years since I was 16, but for as fresh as the memories are, it may as well have been two.  It was fun and exciting.  Difficult and hurtful.  Confusing and overwhelming.  I remember feeling like life was an emergency… like it was all just SO MUCH.  Such blindingly beautiful high highs, and such agonizingly painful low lows (In hindsight, I don’t know how much of that was normal teenage angst, and how much was the fact that I had an untreated mental illness.  But I digress.)

I don’t agree with all the decisions my parents made when it came to raising me – not because they weren’t good parents, but just because evaluating and re-evaluating and learning ways to improve on what was done before us is what evolved humans do.  But one area where I feel they absolutely got it right was how they parented me as a teen.  They gave me space.  They respected my privacy.  They respected my friendships.  They allowed me the room to have my own relationships, and my own conversations, and my own whispered late-night phone calls.  They trusted that they’d raised me with a good head on my shoulders.  They gave me the freedom I needed to learn what it meant to be independent, to make my own decisions, and yes, to make mistakes and ultimately grow from them.  They did all of that while still letting me know that they were there for me, that they loved me, and that when I had a problem… they’d have my back.

Now that I think about it, that’s the way most of my friends were raised as well.  And I can’t but wonder:  When did we stop trusting our teens?

I see article after article warning parents to keep stricter tabs.  Know all their social media passwords (if you even let them have social media), read through their texts, monitor their photos.  In short:  Don’t let them have a private life at all.

And I get it (kind of.)  We all want to keep our kids – of all ages – safe.  We want them to be happy and healthy.  We want them to make good decisions.  But did you ever stop to think about the fact that in order to learn to make good decisions, they at some point have to be given the trust and the freedom to actually practice making those decisions in the first place?  Monitoring their every move actually robs them of the chance to grow, to mature, and to make healthy decisions in the absence of someone looking over their shoulder.

But it’s more than that.

Teens are human beings who are deserving of their own space, their own privacy, and their own right to have personal conversations and exchanges with their friends.  Full stop.  And when it comes to things like reading their text messages, you’re not just inserting yourself into your OWN teen’s private life, but into the private lives of their friends as well.  Even if you fully believe it’s your right as your teen’s parent (something I strongly disagree with, to be clear), is it right to read the private words of someone else’s teen?  Words that he or she believed would be for one person, and one person only?  Where does it stop?

Right before I started writing this post, I went for a run with my 12 year old.  As we were cooling down, we talked about the pros and cons of the different ways of keeping in touch online.  (He’s a Skype fan, and I pretty much avoid it at all costs) He told me about some new games he’s been playing, and which friends he’s been chatting with.  I told him about what I was about to go home and write about, and he was initially aghast at the idea of parents reading their kids’ private things.  He thought about it for a few seconds, and eventually asked me why anyone would do that.  I answered that they just want to keep their kids safe.  As usual, he responded more succinctly and with much fewer words than I could ever muster: “Or they could just raise them right so that they know how to keep themselves safe.”  Indeed.

You know what else helps keep your teens safe?  An open line of communication with their parents, one that’s born of trust, mutual respect, and genuine relationship.  Breaching that trust and snooping through private correspondence is pretty antithetical towards that end.

And listen, I know people are going to disagree.  That’s okay.  But for me and my teens:  I’m going to keep talking to them.   Keep being involved.   Keep listening.  Keep being a safe sounding board.  Keep loving them unconditionally.  But ultimately giving them the trust and the space and the freedom to have their own private lives;  lives I’ll occasionally be invited to visit, but that will otherwise grow and flourish and exist without me.



Filed under parenting, teens

Meat Sweats and 4,000 Miles


I just got back from a two-week road trip.  We went from Phoenix to Texas to Michigan to Wisconsin to Colorado to back to Phoenix.  We stayed with some dear friends who feel like family, we saw some new sights and new cities, we spent some time on the beaches in Michigan, and we bonded – Griswold style.

Most people I know seem to have very strong feelings about road trips.  They either hate them or love them.  I love them.  I find them completely and utterly and bone-crushingly exhausting… but I love them.  Watching the changing scenery, eating all the road trip junk food, collapsing gratefully in the hotel bed in some humid, obscure little town in the middle of Kentucky…

But the best part about road trips are the conversations in the car.  We talk about everything, from TV shows to music to religion to politics to a whole bunch of stuff I can’t mention in polite society.  And also?  My kids make me laugh.  A lot.  I got in the habit of making a list of some of their most memorable quotes several years ago, and road trips (and their resulting dozens of captive hours in the car) prove to be a veritable treasure trove of new ones.  This trip was no exception.

Here are some of their greatest hits from the past two weeks, with no attribution, no commentary, and no context.  I hope you enjoy.  🙂

Here come the meat sweats.

Don’t eat the baby!

Who farted?  (I said there would be no commentary, but I feel compelled to clarify that this question is asked not once, but many many many times any time our family is in the car for any extended period of time)

They’re like little pockets of love.

Meat farts!!!

I have great balls.

So if you chewed it really hard and aggressively, it would have negative calories.

So a tsunami could hit us any second?

The meat sweats come and go.

Screaming is somewhat hot.

You drink one, and you twist the other.

It’s like not hot, but I’m… wet.

There are sixteen ways to kill someone with tweezers.

I have a weird shaped face.

She’d look pretty funny if she didn’t have a mouth.

I feel a baby. GIVE ME THE BABY. But the babies taste better.

My pickle’s stuck.

Was that a joke, or was it just a happy coincidence?

They were talking about the size of their junk when they were in the morph suits.

This tastes like the smell of a urinal cake.

We started from the virgin.

I haven’t pooped since Illinois.

Please don’t peel my onion!

He has to have some alone time with his waffle maker.

It’s all part of the experience.



Filed under family, vacation

Bipolar Is A Football Game

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It’s been nearly three months since I began treatment for Bipolar Disorder.  Three months.  Which is …. a long time and also no time at all.  Most people, even those who were remarkably supportive in the beginning, have pretty much gone silent in my life by now.   And it’s not that I blame them.  I don’t.  I think that a general lack of understanding just makes them believe that I’d be “better” by now.  That I’d take a couple pills, go to a few therapy sessions, and voila.  All cured.  Or maybe it’s not that at all, and it’s the fact that life just goes on.  We’re all busy, we’re all involved in our own stuff.   We all have our own problems.  Truth be told, I think I’m a little jealous of those who’ve essentially stopped talking to me.  I wish that I could live in the oblivion, if even temporarily, of not having to think about it.  But I don’t get to take a break.  Bipolar is a cheap polyester Christmas sweater, permanently woven into every fiber of my being.

But I’m still here, still working this all out, still finding my way through a mysterious world that is revealing more and more to me as I go.

About a week ago, I started getting sick.  And then I got really sick… with something I’m pretty sure is the plague.  Or at the very least, dysentery.  So, so sick.  Sickness of any sort, of any duration, tends to throw me completely off my game.  My mind immediately bends toward what my therapist calls, “Catastrophic thinking.”  I’ll never feel well again.  I’ll never catch up on the housework.  I’ll never be able to do anything fun again.  I’ll lose all the momentum I’ve gained with exercise.

This time though, the thing that most plagued me was the fact that I missed a concert (and meet & greet) that I was, so, SO looking forward.  The concert was A Great Big World and Matt Nathanson, two of my absolute all time favorites, but the part that I was looking forward to the  most was meeting Chad and Ian from GBW, so that I could see them in person, and put a face with my “won’t stop running” story.  (If you’re wondering what the heck that means, skim this post) I was looking forward to it so, so much.  So much.  The day of the concert, I woke up nauseous and light-headed, as I had for the last week.  I prayed I’d rally though, and for a little while I did.  I took a shower, got dressed, put on some makeup, started doing my hair…. and just the act of being up and about made me feel sicker and sicker as I went.  In hindsight, I could have made it through the concert – probably – and just felt 0ff while I was there.  But in the end, I couldn’t in good conscience risk having to leave early and ruining it for Tegan, (who’s eight at the time of this writing, rivals me as their biggest fan, and was looking forward to it every bit as much as I was)  So I stayed home, sent her off on a Daddy/daughter date, and nursed both my sickness and my bitter disappointment, curled up in a ball on the couch.


Do you see how freaking HAPPY she is?? I couldn’t forgive myself if I was the cause of her missing this. I’m so thrilled she got to meet them. And hearing her and Mike’s story of what they were like in person…. I just love them. I’ve never met them, but I love them.

The next day, Sunday, saw me sliding, or SLAMMING as the case may be, into a deep depression.  The combination of being sick for a week; the forced and abrupt halt of the momentum I’d gathered with exercise, sleeping right, and faithfully taking my supplements; the house arrest; me being me; and the final nail of missing the concert just smashed me right into a Very Bad Place.    I knew I was feeling better physically – not good by any stretch, but better – while mentally I was withering.  Seeing this, Mike (mostly gently) made me get up, get out and go to the store with him.  After that he (again, mostly gently) convinced me to go the arena football game with him and the kids.   He would tell me later that what he was seeing in me scared him, and he didn’t want me to be alone.  Which scared me too.   Ordinarily I love Rattlers games, and look forward to going every week…. but yesterday, I didn’t want to be there.  Didn’t want to be here.  Didn’t want to be anywhere.  But I made myself do it, and I put on my blinged-out Rattlers shirt and my Mardi Gras beads, took a bunch of ibuprofen for my headache, and steeled myself for the trip.

Now, a lot of people compare bipolar to a roller coaster.  And I mean, sure, it’s an apt enough (if grossly overused) description.  Ups, downs, twists, turns.  Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Last night I realized that what it really is is a football game, one that starts before you even get there.

We usually take the light rail when we’re going to any sort of sporting event downtown.  I hate the light rail.  It’s crowded, it smells funny, and it always makes me nauseous.  Which is apropos in its own right, but it’s not the way we traveled last night.  Last night we drove in and parked in the parking garage.

And that’s where I first realized it, the moment I stepped out of the car.

The parking garage is the depression.  It’s dark and spooky.  It’s the depths of hell, or at the very least, it’s Satan’s armpit.  It’s hot.  It’s steamy.  Like the light rail, it too smells funny.   But not ha-ha funny.  More like car exhaust and Mexican food farts and death.  It’s dirty, but not regular dirty.  There are stains on the floors (and the walls and in the corners and on all of civilization that managed to survive) that make you wonder if someone was recently murdered.  The stairwell seemingly takes you up and up and up, but its oppression is so heavy, so stifling, that it makes you doubt if you’re ever going to see the light of day again.

Then suddenly you’re out, and there’s the burst of sun, so strong it takes your eyes a minute to adjust. You’re in the real world.  Those are the days in between the mania and depression, the days when you get a feeling for what it must be like to be a “normal” person.  They’re not particularly exciting, but they’re not particularly depressing either.  You exist in a state of sort of homeostasis.  A state of just being for a few minutes.  It’s a nice place to visit, but it’s a very short walk to the stadium.  Those days of normal are short lived.  Soon you’re at your destination.

The stadium is the mania.  There is just So. Much. Going. On.  Your senses are all heightened, by sixty jillion percent.  There are the people, and the sounds, and the smells, and the relentlessly constantly whirling, swirling energy.  It’s exciting.  It’s exhilarating.  Unfortunately, what starts off as exciting and exhilarating eventually descends into overwhelming and scary.  You look for a corner to hide in, but no such corner exists.  The only option – if you can really call it that, since you have no other options – is to keep walking, right through the fray.

The food is the mania and the depression. Sometimes, those over priced, fast food, ball park chicken tenders are the most juicy, succulent morsels of food you could ever put in your mouth, better than any meal you’d choose to order at a 5 star restaurant.  Other times, those very same chicken tenders taste like fried moist cardboard, sit like a rock in your stomach, and make you spend the rest of the game praying you’re not going to suddenly and violently have to vomit and have diarrhea.

I never know which one I’m going to get.

Your family and friends sitting beside you, they’re (and I kind of hesitate to say this, because I feel like it minimizes the huge role they actually play), but they’re the mood stabilizers.  They’re the right diet.  They’re regular exercise.  They’re 8 hours of sleep.  In other words, they don’t cure you.  They don’t make the ups and downs go away.  But they soften them.  They make them less intense.  They smooth out the edges.  They remind you to breathe when you’re anxious.  They hold your hand when you’re scared.  They give you light on the journey, and they make you laugh along the way.  Your friends and your family are the safe spot in the middle of the chaos around you.

The game itself is the actual work of reaching, and maintaining, wellness.  It’s the therapy.  It’s the day-to-day changes you make to control your illness instead of letting it control you.  Of course you’re not actually watching the game… you’re playing, in every position.  Sometimes you’re the quarter back, calling the plays.  Sometimes you’re a receiver.  Sometimes you’re on defense.   And you’ve got a whole team of people ready to back you up.  There’s a defined set of plays, but you have to be able to read what’s going on, and adjust and tweak as you go.  You have to stay flexible, and think on your feet.  (And just as a football game often – usually, always – veers off from its best laid plans, so do medication, therapy, and all other aspects related to treatment.  You have to roll with it)  Sometimes the game is exciting.  It’s not just the touchdowns, but it’s the little moments – that are really big moments – along the way.  The thrill of an interception.  A sacked quarterback.  A recovered fumble.

Sometimes it’s frustrating.  The missed PAT.   The tackles and fumbles and penalties…  sometimes a lot of penalties.    Sometimes there are fist fights (although if you’ve got good, classy teammates, they gently pull you away from the fight, use their bodies to block you from the heat, and make sure everyone stays safe).  Sometimes there are injuries.   Sometimes you need to call a time out.   Sometimes the game makes you sublimely happy, but half the time it just pisses you right the heck off.   Sometimes you’re down by 4 touchdowns, and you’re really discouraged and demoralized.  You can hear the taunts from the crowd.

But wait.

Sometimes there are cheers from the crowd too.  Sometimes the stadium is just FILLED with cheers.  Sometimes there’s an opening, and you manage to perfectly execute a really long pass, resulting in an epically beautiful touchdown.  It’s those kind of plays that make the entire game worth it.

Win or lose, it is all So.  Much. Work.  At the end of the game you are spent, you are sweaty, and you are exhausted.  But no matter the final score, you learned something.  You gained something.  You got better, and stronger, and more experienced. You took another step toward the Arena Bowl.

As for me, personally?  I’m still in the first quarter.  I have a lot of work ahead of me.  I’m continually trying to find that balance of giving 100% without burning myself out before I even get to half-time.

And then, it’s over.  That brief visit to the land of normalcy, then you’re once again in the pits of hell.  AKA the parking garage.  AKA depression.




On an endless loop, every day, forever.

And the thing is, just like me on Sunday night, you don’t necessarily choose to go the football game.  But since you have to be there, you learn not to just make the most of it, but to embrace it.   You learn to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of every little moment that you can.  You learn to appreciate the color and the joy and beauty that exist both in the middle of the game, and in the stillness between the plays.

You learn to grab that football game by its balls (see what I did there?), you hold on for all you’re worth, and you tell your teammates, and you tell the crowd, and you tell the WORLD:

“My game.  My rules.  And dammit, I’m gonna play to win.”



Filed under about me, anxiety, bipolar, depression, health

Learning From That Health Club Shower Picture


I’m sitting propped up in bed as I write this, my eight-year-old daughter sound asleep beside me.  As always, she’s a charming mix of rough & tumble and feminine grace, even when she sleeps.  She’s sleeping in the same running shorts and black t-shirt she had on yesterday.  Her arms and legs are golden brown, thanks to the Arizona sun and hours in her cousin’s pool.  The pixie cut she’s been growing out since January is now long enough to be flopping across her face, completely obscuring one of her eyes.  Her breathing is deep and even, her mind no doubt dreaming up adventures that she’ll likely recount to me when she wakes up.

She’s perfect.

Like her three brothers before her, her very existence has made me grow, made me question, and made me think – about so very many things – in a whole new light.  One issue that’s become increasingly important to me since I’ve had a daughter is that of positive body image.   I feel like it’s one of my jobs as her mother to make sure she feels good about her own body, so that she can then go out into the world and accept other people’s bodies, exactly as they are, and truly recognize that beauty really isn’t one-size-fits-all.  And it’s not that it’s not important for boys too, because of course, it is.  It’s just that there’s such a disturbingly high amount of girl-on-girl judgment and shame and ridicule out there when it comes to our bodies.  Everything from fat shaming, to “feed that girl a sandwich” thin shaming, to taking covert pictures of unsuspecting naked women in a health club shower, for the sole purpose of making fun of them and posting them on social media.  

Dani Mathers, a model whose name I’d never heard of until a few days ago, was in an LA Fitness locker room recently, when she decided to take a picture of a naked woman in the shower, paired it side-by-side with a selfie with her hand over her mouth, captioned it “If I can’t unsee this, you can’t either,” and then posted it to all of her followers on Snapchat.  Her defense was that she didn’t understand how Snapchat worked, and that she thought she was sharing the picture in a private conversation, as if that somehow made it better.

What she did was horrific.  I don’t think that’s even up for debate.  She took a naked picture of an unsuspecting stranger who was just trying to use the locker room, and she publicly shared it to ridicule her.   I don’t know anyone who doesn’t find what she did completely deplorable.  She’s been (rightly) banned for life from all of LA Fitness’s locations.  The situation is (rightly) being investigated by authorities.    I hope there are pressed charges.  I hope she genuinely feels remorse.

But here’s the thing.

I think it’s far too easy to hear things like this and get too comfortable in our moral high ground.  We get self-righteous, and sort of… smug. “That’s horrible!  I’d never do something like that!”  And absolutely, I can tell you with confidence and certainty that I’d never take a naked picture of a stranger and post it on my Snapchat.  But am I any better than she is because of it?  Of course not.  We’re all humans here, making our human mistakes.

And when it comes to body shaming, am I completely blameless?  I wish I could tell you that I was.  I wish I could tell you that I’ve never ever disparaged my own body,  or that I’ve never ever made a catty comment about someone else to a friend, or that I’ve never ever made a judgmental double-take at someone’s choice of clothing (or lack thereof), or that I’ve never ever laughed at a photo on People of Walmart.  But I can’t.   I’m guilty too.

I think that most of us know the right thing to do, and the right things not to do, but that there’s sometimes a disconnect between the knowing and the actually putting it into practice…. for all kinds of reasons, but often just because we’re fallible and we make bad decisions.

The fact is, I’m still learning too.  And things like this never fail to remind me that I could do better.  That I have to do better.   For myself, for the people around me,

and most especially for the innocent 8 year old by my side.



Filed under headlines

Pokemon Go: Saving The World One Charmander At A Time


I was coming home from downtown yesterday, and I was ahead of schedule.  The kids weren’t expecting me for another 20 minutes, and I knew they were all involved in their own projects and wouldn’t miss me regardless.  So it was an easy decision to swing into the park (I had to pass it to get to my street anyway).  I was running low on Poke balls, and this particular park has five different Poke Stops.  A quick little 10 minute loop and I’d hit them all.

I hadn’t even parked my car yet when I saw them:  Pairs and groups and people on their own, walking around, chatting, staring at their phones, and occasionally stopping to flick their fingers to capture whatever imaginary Pokemon they’d stumbled upon.  All of this in the 110 degree heat mind you.  The first guy I passed – a man I’m guessing to be in his 50’s – gave me a friendly greeting.  “Out hunting?”  he asked me.  When I answered in the affirmative, he said,  “Can you believe there wasn’t anything on the top of the mountain?   I thought for sure there’d be something good up there.”  We chatted for a couple more minutes until his daughter, a teenager, yelled at him to come join her where she was standing, several yards away.  “Oh what’d you find?” he asked as he trotted over.  “A Poke Stop!”

I visited all the Poke stops, gathered some balls, and captured some more Pokemon.  As I walked to my car, I heard the spirited conversations behind me.

Stranger #1 – “Oh I just got a Zubat!”

Stranger #2 – “Hey I hatched one of those.”

Stranger #3 – “My son and I just found one in the Walgreens on the corner!”

And on and on the discussions swirled… happy, friendly, upbeat dialogue between total strangers of all ages, united in playing a simple and free game on their smart phones.

In case you somehow missed all the hoopla over the past week or so, here’s a quick little Pokemon Go primer:

It’s sort of like geocaching, but instead of looking for physical caches, you hunt virtual Pokemon.  It uses something similar to Google maps to plot your location, but when you spot a Pokemon, it switches to camera view, so you literally see the Pokemon on the sidewalk, in the trees, on your friend’s head, on your counter, on the edge of the bathtub.


When you find one, you use your finger to flick a Poke ball at them to capture them.  You can stop at Poke Stops (at malls, stores, churches, parks, etc) to gather items like more balls.  There are also eggs that you can hatch by walking a certain distance, and Poke Gyms where you can battle with other Pokemons … but I haven’t gotten into all of that yet.  My 12 year is a little bit ahead of the curve, so he’s giving me pointers as we go.

It’s just a really fun, addicting, happy little game.  But that’s not why like it.  Or it’s not the only reason anyway.  This game, as silly as it may seem to some people, is getting kids and parents and teens and strangers uniting in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time.  It is helping people with social anxieties come out of their shells.  It is lifting the spirits of people with depression.  It is providing a conduit for a new way for parents to bond with their kids, and siblings to bond with each other.  It’s getting people out and exercising, running around their parks, and their neighborhoods and their city streets.  It’s getting people excited about something.

It’s not for everyone, and that’s cool.  Truly.  We don’t all enjoy the same things.  But in this internet day and age of the “I must find something negative to say about everything” crowd,  I’m seeing a large number of naysayers.  And why?  Because it makes people happy in a way you don’t understand or approve of?  With all that’s going on in the world around us, is a little bit of happiness such a terrible thing?

Anything that’s good harmless fun that gives people joy, that gives them a connection with others – heck, that gives them a connection with themselves – is always going to have my vote


So do I really think a game is going to save the world?  Well, no, not exactly.  But I do believe that people can change the world.  And who better equipped for the job than the people who are happy, passionate, and engaged… no matter what it happens to be that makes them that way.



Filed under Uncategorized