Restricted access.

My husband and I have been burning up our Empire Pass this summer at New York State Parks. We have been hiking 1-2 parks per weekend, with the goal of hiking the gorge trails we missed when they were closed over the winter.

I don’t think much of this now, beyond making sure I wear comfortable shoes and clothes, that I have enough water and a snack if we will be gone for a few hours.

But there was a time in my life when I weighed 335 pounds. Going up one flight of stairs was a true challenge. Hiking an uphill trail, or a trail with hundreds of stairs, for any distance, would have been impossible. I tried. I have distinct memories of my more in shape friends dragging me along to hike with them. I’m sure they meant well, but I have a handful of memories that are some of the most humiliating experiences of my life.

Of course, I hated being obese. Every time I saw the condition listed on my medical chart, I died a little bit inside. I was ashamed of my size, of my inability to lose weight, my inability to blend into a crowd, and my inability to keep up with “normal” people.

What I didn’t know until I started hiking last year was how much I have been missing. I have literally stood on mountain tops and looked across valleys after challenging hikes that would have been impossible for me when I was carrying the weight of an adult male on my back with me. I have seen views that took my breath away after climbing over 200 stairs. I have literally walked circles up and down ravines on mountain tops. I have clambered up hillsides and stone stairs and steep, packed down trails.

And every time, I try to take a moment to remember: I never could have done this before. I almost always say it out loud. I never could have seen this before.

Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca, NY



My lucky day.

Today is Friday the 13th. Perhaps it’s my stubborn nature, but I have always refused to believe a date on the calendar can be unlucky – so I declared it lucky instead.

Tonight, I went to an opening reception of a gallery show called “The Rising” featuring my favorite artist, GC Myers. The first time I ever saw one of his paintings, I literally stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of a sidewalk because I saw myself. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone anymore. I was right there, behind glass, on a canvas, looking back at myself from a frame.

Tonight, I saw it again. I saw light that got caught in my throat, black teals that swept my breath out of my body, purple twisting trees that anchored me, and always, always, always, the sky that opened my eyes and made them swim in tears. And the red trees. I can’t describe what they mean to me, because they’re so vast. The trees tell me more about myself every time I see them. They’re solitary, but are they alone? They’re what I focus on first, but are they really the most important thing?

I love going to these shows because it’s like seeing an old friend and wondering if you remember them wrong, or if they’ve changed a bit since you last saw them. The work is familiar, but I have to look twice to be totally sure.

It seems that, in every show, I find one or two pieces that cut straight through to my soul – when I see them, I gasp, I feel exposed and found out, I see myself in a frame on a wall on Market Street in Corning, NY and wonder how I can be standing there in the art gallery having a conversation or holding my husband’s hand when I am stretched across canvas and bound in a frame.

This show, those pieces were “Idyllia” and “An Orderly Life.”

The last show, the pieces were “Revealed in Light” and “Empowered.”

Check out the show, either in person at West End Gallery or online here.  And definitely check out the site Redtree Times for more information about the work, straight from the artist.

I love this work, and I love this show, and I deeply appreciate this artist for his willingness to put it out there and do the work. All of the work. It reminds me how much more work I have to do.


I woke up today feeling mentally ragged. I was feeling confused and fuzzy. I couldn’t identify my mood, if there was anything wrong, I just felt off. Unable. My brain seemed to be shouting at me in static. I have come to recognize this static as the herald of a bad ADHD day. I was an hour late to my routine – I didn’t even get out of bed with intent until nearly 9 am, when I prefer to be seated and ready to roll, writing, by 8 am. Today, I knew it would be a battle to get to the keyboard.

So how did I get started today, when the static was deafening? I stuck to my routine, even though it was an hour late. I picked up The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. I opened it while sitting at my desk. Immediately, my computer seemed to be mocking me. It was just there outside of my left side field of vision, and I felt threatened by it and all of the unstarted and unfinished work I would find when I woke it up.

I moved my home base for reading. I took the book out to the love seat. I read 4 or 5 chapters today, just powering through until I could feel the static begin to clear and my thoughts begin to untangle from a knotted jumble to a gentle serpentine. I let the pressure to perform melt away. I let the idea of writing a book or finishing anything at all just float away. I decided to redefine my idea of successfully writing to just that – successfully writing. Sitting here, as I am doing now, dumping my brain out onto a page. That’s all I need to do. I say “I need to” but not in that harsh way that I used to say it. I used to try to flog myself to the page with “needs and shoulds” instead of just writing for the joy and clarity that it brings.

Today while I was reading, I read about creative monsters. These are people who have stifled or even mocked or insulted my creativity. I started remembering the wounds to my creativity, wounds from the past. But at the same time I had those thoughts, I was so SO sick of thinking them. I am so tired of replaying my past hurts and I feel a ferocious desire to MOVE THE “F” ON. MTFO. There is no legitimate reason for me to let the misery of a person in the past define my future. To let some words that some careless person let fly 20 or more years ago continue to make me bleed. It’s craziness. And I just thought, I release that. I am finally sick of my own bullshit. I am so sick of all of my “reasons.”

Because the kicker is that they aren’t reasons at all. They are excuses. I really believe that reasons are few but excuses are plentiful. And in light of that, I’m just going to get to work.

i wrote a poem.

Poetry is my preferred mode of writing. What’s the draw? I can say a lot without having to say it all, which appeals to my desire to keep some things private. It also gives me a way to bleed my heart all over the place without getting overly sentimental or sappy, which is what happens when I try to explain feelings rather than interpret them into poems as they form from me… weird broken lines, combinations of sounds, rhythm (or not), and images. Also, poems just tumble out of me. Sometimes I can’t get to a pen or keyboard fast enough to catch the translation, and then it’s just gone.

At some point, I got embarrassed about writing poetry and I stopped. This was probably sometime between 2004 and 2007, when I lived in Nashville and became enmeshed in Churchland. Scratching out twisty little tortured poems wasn’t what all the nice little church girls were doing while they waited for their husbands to come along. I did always want to fit in so badly.

As soon as I say that I’m a writer, people want to know what I’m working on. I never figured out how to get comfortable in my identity as a poet. I don’t have the patience, drive, or attention span to write a novel for now. So I became a blogger instead. I blogged my little heart out and to me, this was good. This was writing.

But eventually, I even stopped that. How much can you really say about yourself when you’re not being yourself?

Lately I have been trying to wake up my lazy artist inside. I know she’s in there. But I’ve been clamoring around, banging pots and pans and slamming the doors and forgetting to turn off the alarm… hoping she would just wake up and realize that we are getting close to forty years old and there is art to make, work to be done. Damn it girl, there are words to write.

It came to my attention that beating the artist up with guilt trips and loud noises might not be the best way. So I decided to start over. I started listening to my vinyls again. I cleaned the area where I intended to work, made it more visually appealing and soothing. I burned candles and relaxed there. I started reading books, actual books with scritchy paper pages, not just devouring them on my kindle like I usually do.

And that was where my first poem in years was born. I was reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids and I got overwhelmed with emotion a couple of times. The first time, I stopped reading and didn’t touch the book for a week. The second time, I stopped reading and sat with my sadness. I let myself cry for something I couldn’t identify, while Elvis sang “Love Me Tender” from the turntable. Two hours later, I pulled out my laptop and puked out a poem.

And I love it.

I missed this. Missed me.

Seven Songs.

I have watched with no small amount of trepidation as my Facebook friends played the “7 songs in 7 days” challenge and tagged each other daily. “Don’t tag me, don’t tag me, don’t tag me,” I muttered.

But last night, my friend KK did tag me. I told her that I would try my best.

For as long as I can remember, music has been one of the only things I could really understand. I have issues. ADHD. Low self confidence. Depression. I struggle with social situations, depending on the day. I can’t always pay attention.

I missed a lot of real good conversations
But not for lack of time and place
My mouth participated but inside I was elsewhere
I was transfixed and drooling and lost in their face

-Kris Delmhorst, Janet the Pig

I can tell you exactly where I was, who I was with, that I was smoking, and that it was raining when I heard that song for the first time.

Music was and still is my language, my sanity, my peace. I can tell you the exact situation that led to me curled in a ball and playing Tori Amos’s cover of “Angie” on repeat for two days (stupid Dave). I can tell you the first time I ever heard The Weepies (live, Nashville, opening for The Indigo Girls, with Mandy, Katie, & Elizabeth) and that it was love at first strum. I can tell you pretty much the exact years I was into Snoop Dogg and Method Man and why (2000-2001, a boy, of course).

I can sing all of the melodies, harmonies, bgvs, guitar parts, and penny whistle parts from most of the Indigo Girls’ albums. I get choked with emotion when I listen to the Sublime album “40oz. to freedom.” I dance the same way every time I hear “Cold Beverage” by G. Love and Special Sauce (like an idiot). I haven’t broken or thrown anything in a rage in many years, thanks to the band Hole.

Is my favorite song the one that made me realize my friend Anthony really was dying? The one I found completely accidentally and listened to on repeat the week after his funeral? Is it one of my best friend’s songs, that I know by heart after singing for decades? Is it a Tom Petty song? Paul Simon? Is it the song I listen to when I’m elated or the song I listen to when I’m in the gutter? The song that I play before I sit down to write?

I have always said that songs are like children to me. I love them all the same but differently, and I can’t pick a favorite. I’m about to pick seven, for fun on Facebook. I’ll keep you posted.


The terror of a fresh start.

The blank page has never been an enemy to me. My whole life I have had so much to write that I wrote in notebooks until my hand cramped, and later I poured out dated journals in Word files, wrote long “treatise on life” e-mails to my best friend, blog posts baring myself to strangers.

I had everything to get out about everything.

Yesterday and today I sat down with the intent of doing my work – writing.

Staring into that blank page felt like looking down the barrel of a cannon. Nothing here, seems like, but man if something comes it might just tear me apart.

Someone, at the height of my blog, when I felt like things were really getting rolling for me, asked me a question. She asked, “but what’s the point of a blog? Why are you writing all of this about yourself, and putting it out on the internet for strangers to read?”

For two years I had no answer for her. My answer at the time was, “I don’t put my whole life out there. I am not an open book. I choose what to share, and I don’t share anything that I’d be ashamed to talk to about to your face.” Because that makes it seem like I am sensible, like I know what I am doing, like I am not some little weirdo putting all of my guts out into the world.

I let her little question become a cloud, and eventually it became solid cloud cover. But today I realized, even cloud cover goes away if a good stiff wind blows through.

That wind is going to have to be me, this time. I do this because I can. Because when I don’t know what to do, and I feel weird and bad, the clacking of keys soothes me. Because I feel like I am sitting down with a good friend and hashing out my life questions. Because, when I sit down with this blank post window, I never, ever know what’s going to come out until it’s there in front of me.

And because it’s mine. It’s my thing, and if there is one lesson I hope I learn soon, it’s that if you have a thing, you HAVE to do it. Life doesn’t work right if you don’t.

For a lot of my life, I have let self-doubt and general weirdness and depression keep me silent. I felt like life was in the way, I felt like my dreams were too big and too nutty, I felt like the person I was becoming didn’t actually have a place in the world, so I needed to knock it off and pick a different path. I’m letting that all go now, in case you were wondering. I’m starting over.


Today is the special occasion.


A dear friend of mine brought these cards back as a souvenir from London in early 2006. I have packed and moved this deck of cards four times. I have kept them, in their original box and cellophane wrapping, in or near my desk for at least the past 5 years – but I never opened them.


I was saving them. I am a saver. Or, hopefully, I used to be a saver. Cool things, stickers, nice candles, cards, pretty paper. I save them for an upcoming special occasion. What that special occasion is, I don’t know. I haven’t encountered a special occasion in all of these years that requires my London Underground playing cards.

Until today. The special occasion could be the new year, but not really. I have a vague intention of learning to play poker this year. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Mostly, the special occasion is this: I was cleaning out my desk and thought it seemed pretty ridiculous that I’ve been hoarding a souvenir for a special occasion.

I remembered that life is short. I remembered that today is a special occasion because it’s here. Now.

I want to use up everything. It’s not a resolution, exactly, but hopefully a new mindset. I have so many lovely things in my life that sit in storage containers, drawers, and cabinets – all waiting for their special occasion.

It’s today. It’s tomorrow. It’s the next day. It’s March 12. September 27. Any day you can think of. Every day.


My plan for 2016…and beyond.

I plan to stop believing that “I haven’t” translates to “I can’t.”

I plan to start living like I have my whole life ahead of me.

I plan to give my dreams weight and importance and make decisions with those dreams in mind.

I plan to write as often as I can.

I plan to practice radical self-care.

I plan to read library books.

I plan to look forward and only glance back once in awhile.

I plan to stop rehearsing old hurts. I plan to let it go.

I plan to teach myself about the history of my nation and other nations.

I plan to respect myself and my talents.

I plan to exercise, to work my way back to biking and yoga.

I plan to say I love you and mean it.

I plan to recognize happiness and acknowledge its healing power in my soul.

I plan to take every single compliment.

I plan to make my past my past.

a thousand tiny lines

FeatherFriday afternoon, I sat in a shop for four hours and got my first tattoo since 2006. It was my fourth tattoo. I knew it would hurt. I was surprised, however, that I was ready to stop immediately after the artist began. Right before he started, I said, “I’m nervous.” He looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “Of course!” Like, why wouldn’t you be nervous?

Before this I got small-ish, black-only tattoos that took about an hour. This tattoo took just about 3.5 hours straight, no breaks.

At one point, I looked down after he finished the outline and I thought, “oh good, he’s almost done! That’s an hour and a half down, we should be done in no time.”

But, here’s the funny thing. I missed a bunch of stuff. When I handed the artist the photo I wanted on my body forever, I hadn’t noticed all of the complex lines and shading. When I looked down at that outline, I thought, “that looks about right.”

I was so wrong. Two grueling hours of shading and filling and coloring wrong. But I wasn’t struggling, not visibly. I wasn’t grimacing or crying or anything. Most of the time, I sat there with a smile on my face, zoning out to whatever music was playing, maybe humming along during the parts that hurt the worst.

I did cry at one point, but it was when I let myself consider that the artist had seen so much more than I did. I had a kind of a realization then – that’s his job, he’s the artist. He’s the one who will see what underpins the design and makes it something moving and inspiring. And I got emotional. I got choked up with gratitude that he approached his work with the intent of getting it right in that way.

I’ve always felt kind of weird about the way I notice every little detail of life. Inflections, expressions, tones, hidden meanings, even intent, in some cases. But I realized, sitting in that chair – that’s my job as an artist, as a writer. So I’m going to get back to work. I’m going to notice the details and fill them in no matter how much it hurts. Nobody sees the world with my perspective, and I’m going to do my best and then put my art out there in any way possible.

My gardening “failure”

Over the past few weeks, I have been watching facebook glumly as everyone else harvested and ate what they were growing in their gardens.

I was happy for them! I was.


I miscalculated how sunny the spot was where I planted my second garden bed.

Something got into my beds right after I planted – and rearranged the seeds that I had painstakingly gridded out on paper.

Beetles have made a feast of my dino kale, leaving me with nothing but skeletized stalks.

Something dug holes in my garden, costing me a cucumber plant, a tomato plant, a sage plant, and at least a dozen rainbow carrots.

For weeks it seemed like the only thing thriving was spaghetti squash…I mean really. It has taken over most of the bed it is in.

I mean, sure. We harvested and ate lettuce and spinach! But I told myself that didn’t really count. It’s easy. It’s just a leaf! No fruit of any kind.

Watching things grow from seeds is grueling. Watching something rearrange my carefully drawn garden grids was heart-wrenching… Because then I knew perfection was out of reach.

And we all know that that something is only worth doing if you can get it perfect the first time!

Oh…that’s right. Did I mention that this is my first garden? The first time I have planned and selected seeds and planned the soil mix and built beds with my husband and kept up with the watering and the weeding?

But I was so worried about perfection that I almost overlooked the awesomeness of the process. That on Memorial Day weekend, I had two boxes of dirt. And now I have two boxes of dirt with food and almost-food popping out of it. Blossoms everywhere.

Today, I wandered out to judge myself a little more while Eric watered the garden. Imagine my surprise when I was practically accosted by beans! They were everywhere. I started picking them as fast as I could, muttering, “I can’t believe it! We did it. We really did it!”

And you know what? It was really satisfying. And I had to stop myself from saying it didn’t count because it wasn’t a tomato or a cucumber.

Because even if nothing bears fruit, it’s worth it for the practice. For the discipline and the quiet satisfaction of doing the nightly watering, of digging fingers in the dirt, of watching the sun in the sky. It’s worth it to try something new, even when you don’t know what the heck you’re doing.