Things I’ll Do When I’m an Old Lady

  1. Wear enormous necklaces
  2. Roll my eyes at people
  3. Get a discount at IHOP
  4. Wear clogs as dress shoes
  5. Say non sequiturs
  6. Wear slippers to the grocery store
  7. Swim during the safety break
  8. Swear even more
  9. Call whippersnappers “sonny” and “doll face”
  10. Day drink

Not One More Thing

There was a long night while my son was in a coma in the PICU at Children’s Hospital when I couldn’t stop crying. I paced the halls, I stared out the window. I cried. I needed to talk to someone who knew how I felt. I had the phone number of a mom whose son had died from DIPG the year before. I didn’t know her beyond email. She said if I ever needed to talk she’d be there for me. So I called her.

She knew immediately how to talk to me. She said I could ask her anything. My first and only question was why didn’t you kill yourself after your son died? She paused. Said it was a very important question, one she’d given a great deal of thought. She gave me such a simple, personal and honest answer that I’ve replayed it in my mind a thousand times since.

She said DIPG took so much from her family. She reached a point where she wasn’t going to let it take one more thing. Not One More Thing.


I’m thinking about this now because I’m a few days away from the anniversary of my son’s diagnosis. There are a handful of days that are tied for the worst day of my life — my son’s death and burial, but also the day he slipped into a coma and the day he was diagnosed. Diagnosis Day was the day that changed everything. Our life got divided into Before and After. Problems got divided between before and after, the after ones being problems we never thought we’d have to deal with. For us, Christmas is Diagnosis Day, which is particularly horrible for my husband. He used to love Christmas.

The list of things that were taken from our family after my son’s death is unmeasurable. But it has to end somewhere. It ends with Not One More Thing.

Instructions For Taking Care of My Dog

puppy-painterThank you for agreeing to take care of Pismo while we are on vacation. You are a wonderful friend. I know she’s in good hands with you. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Love her. Hug her. Scratch her. Play with her. Kiss her. Pet her. Talk to her.
  2. Pismo eats 2x a day. One cup of Iams mini-chunks in the green bag in the AM mixed with water. Again at 6pm. Give her fresh water at these times. Pismo gets dehydrated easily.
  3. Take Pismo out at least 3x a day. Once in the AM when she first wakes up (not when you first wake up), once in the afternoon and once more before bed. Pick a spot and keep taking her there. She will eventually catch on. Bring several poop bags with you on walks. She will make at least 3 poops per walk. The last one will be a bitch to pick up.
  4. If you choose to give Pismo additional food she can eat chicken (no skin), turkey sandwich meat, boiled white rice, cottage cheese, eggs (either boiled, scrambled or sunny-side up). It is ok to let her suck on an apple core if you hold it and don’t let her eat it, but be careful about the seeds. If you give her additional food put it in her bowl, I don’t want her to lose her manners. Except for the apple.
  5. Pismo will arrive with 1 ball, 1 rope bone, 2 socks that have been worn for several days so they carry my scent. Do not give her rawhide or hoofs. You will regret it. Play only with hard plastic toys, use the ball as an example. If she punctures a toy please remove it. Let her pull off your socks. She will then lick your toes. Let her do this. It makes her happy.
  6. If you take her in the car expect her to drool. Bring paper towels. Remove her leash, it could be a choking hazard. Put her on the seat next to you. She likes to look out the window. Don’t let her stick her head out too far. She doesn’t get carsick anymore but if she’s going to vomit she will warn you with a series of pre-vomit gags. That’s usually enough time to pull over or hold a bag to catch the puke. Also, take her to pee before a car ride just to be safe.
  7. Let her sleep in the bed with you.
  8. Don’t leave her alone in the backyard. She’s a digger and might try to escape. If you must leave her alone make sure it’s someplace safe with her toys around her. Beware of outlets, cords, wires or potential destruction projects she could accomplish.
  9. Never let go of the leash, even when she yanks super hard. Wrap it around your hand. Try to distract her from squirrels and bunnies.
  10. Her favorite shows are The Office and Friends. You might want to leave them on in the background at all times.
  11. Pismo hates baths. Don’t bother unless it’s absolutely necessary. Use baby shampoo, no conditioner or product. Brush thoroughly. Blow dry on low setting.
  12. Her favorite activities are to lick herself, lick feet, fetch (but she won’t give it back).
  13. Pismo doesn’t get along with other dogs. She doesn’t like being sniffed or humped and they always do that to her.
  14. If she gets icky poop feed her boiled white rice and cottage cheese, 1 cup each. Take her out more often. Even if she’s really sick she can still hold it. Should she have an accident, you can scold her but only if you catch her right away. If time passes she won’t remember why you are yelling at her and she will think you’re crazy. If she ruins anything just send me the bill.
  15. Consider yourself warned — her farts can clear a room.

Again, thank you so much for watching her. See you in two weeks!!


Your BFF

Outrage, Hope & Fear

It was announced that Ted Nugent is headlining my local county fair this summer. He’s an aging 70s rock star who spouts hatred, misogyny, prejudice and alternative facts. I wrote a letter to the fair committee and said that after a decade of enjoying the event I won’t be bringing my kids this year. I’m disgusted that my community is hosting this a-hole. I’m pissed off. I’m…playing right into Ted Nugent’s hands.

Ted Nugent issued a statement in response to the controversy that said, “Only liars and America hating scumbags have a problem with me.” WTF? This pissed me off more. Then I get pissed about letting Ted Nugent piss me off. Then I think about how our culture is addicted to outrage, and how the media feeds our outrage, and I get even more pissed off at the whole circle of outrage…F-you, Ted Nugent, for setting me off.

school-girl-using-computerThe whole thing makes me feel like I should do more yoga and meditation. Then I feel guilty for not doing enough yoga and meditation. It’s exhausting. And I’m tired of feeling exhausted all the time. And this pisses me off all over again. Is this ironic? Or merely Alanis Morissette-ironic?

But then there’s the flip side. Let me switch gears for a moment. I’m also hopeful about certain things. Like my kids. They calm me and ground me. They are my hope and joy. I’m excited to watch them navigate toward their goals despite the inevitable obstacles and frustrations they will face. I’m excited when my son talks about politics – he’s twelve and he’s into politics! He wants to make the world a better place. (He also wants to play Fortnite all the time, but oh well.)

The smile on my daughter’s face is brilliant. It fills my heart. I love watching her think. It’s like magic. The greatest thing about being a mom is the love. There’s nothing like it. The worst part is the worry. It never ends.

Which brings me to my fears. Loss is my biggest anguish. Although loss is a normal part of life — we lose our keys, hair, money, friends, jobs, our way — some of us lose our children and that’s irreparable. The loss of my oldest son keeps me up at night and it’s why I live in two worlds at once. But I would still do everything the same even if I knew having him would end with loss — I would still suffer the enormous heartbreak if I could be his mom again. And I would move time and space to make it happen.

Improbable Girl

If I were a superhero, I’d be “Improbable Girl” and my costume would be flannel pajama pants with a t-shirt. It’s not sexy or intimidating, and the name — Improbable Girl — doesn’t even have a nice ring to it.

superhero-girl-flyingBut it suits me.

I’m not your typical superhero that accomplishes the impossible. No, my superhero alter-ego achieves the improbable. I am armed with strength to face the unlikely events and circumstances of my life and keep going. Keeping going, aka, resilience, is Improbable Girl’s biggest superpower. That, and dressing comfortably.

Which brings me to writing.

For a long time I wrote mostly in journals. I filled volumes of unlined pages but couldn’t admit out loud that I wanted to be a “real” writer. Why? Success seemed impossible. Eventually, I let writing go.

Then something amazing happened – I finally realized what Popeye was talking about when he said, “I yam what I yam.” I also stopped caring about the wrong things, like fear of failure, and replaced it with a “fuck it, why not” attitude that is remarkably liberating.

Since adopting my new attitude toward writing (and life in general) I’ve been published, hired for jobs, and won awards as a blogger and screenwriter. I learned that being a writer isn’t impossible. It’s just merely improbable.

I write stories about ordinary people who summon the courage to make extraordinary changes in their lives, and illuminate how people navigate through smaller moments that are no less dramatic to them. I seek to express my character’s intimate moments, their vulnerability and flashes of insight that alter their choices.

My life experience taught me about love, loss, grief, reinvention and resilience and these are the themes I am most interested in exploring in my writing. And I hope to do it with humor and depth.

And comfortable clothes.