This Too Shall Pass: Figuratively & Literally

14203089_10157310096840063_1061076551_oAt this moment in time, I am content. Not this day, not this hour. This moment at 8:42 am. The sun is streaming in from the floor-ceiling window with a gentle breeze causing my fly-away hairs to move. Despite the threats of terrible weather predicted all week, rain is nowhere to be found.

Sitting at my laptop with a large mocha iced latte beside me, I feel more at peace than I have in the last month. Maybe this sense of calmness will only last for the next few minutes. But being able to be in the moment, soaking in the slow introduction of fall and the realization that I infact made way through a rocky month of August, is a gift from the universe I am embracing with open arms.

Another reason I’m grateful for this moment in time is that my body finally feels like my own again. It only takes a short bit of time to know me until it becomes apparent that part of my sparkling personality involves a splash of hypochondria. Okay maybe a few liters or a gallon.

The night before making my First Holy Communion in the 2nd grade, I kept my parents up throughout the evening because I was positive that chicken poxs were going to appear and prevent me from finally getting to eat Jesus.

In college when my hands would begin to tremble, I had convinced myself that it was an early onset of Parkinson’s disease or ALS – at age 20. I totally ignored the fact that I was living off iced coffees and pop tarts, forgetting to eat several times a day while working on the student paper and juggling 20 credits.

13942217_10157160752825063_1537420903_nAnd I’ve lost track on how many times I have been convinced that my headaches were a warning signs of a brain tumor or impending aneurysm. Forget the fact that I was dehydrated/not wearing the glasses/forgot to take my medicine/was over tired.

So when my stomach began to feel increasingly bloated early last month with cramps, my anxiety began to skyrocket. My doctor listened to me as I rattled off potential diagnoses, which I then took a breath and asked her if I had ovarian cancer.  Why ovarian cancer? Because I read the preventive pamphlet in the waiting room lobby and took it as a premonition.

This was all before she had a chance to exam me, order or any tests, or get out any words besides ‘Hi there, so what brings you in today,’.

From being my primary doctor for over a year now, she smiled and knew that this was typical for me. After poking, prodding, a pelvic ultrasound and a blood test, I was given a clean bill of health with the caveat of keeping an eye on the pain as it could be an early sign of gallstones.

Basically the reason I was so uncomfortable was that I was full of shit. Literally. Of course knowing it was nothing more than a back up, my worry subsided. Ha….wishful thinking!

The next phase of my hypochondria was figuring out why I had this sudden back up in my plumbing. Of course, working in healthcare marketing does not help a hypochondriac manage fears. My job actually fuels my fears similar to the pumping a child with pixie sticks- it can get ugly fast.  Part of my work involves capturing patient stories, learning about their sudden onset of illness that caused them to almost lose their lives out of the blue. These diseases and diagnoses swirl through my mind, while I google despite being banned from it from both my primary doctor and my therapist, Dr. R. In the midst of this anxiety all while managing to work full time, I embarked on operation get my shit moving again.

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Things I learned during this unpleasant tasting discovery:

  • Prunes smell horrible, and taste just as bad
  • Prune juice now comes in a 6 pack
  • Miralax tastes best in apple juice
  • Kashi cereal has more fiber than prunes
  • It is never a good idea to take 6 stool softeners at one time
  • Anytime when buying laxatives, it is a rule of the universe that at least 2 people you know will magically appear in the checkout line, causing you to have to awkwardly hide the poop pills
  • An all natural colon cleanse supplement will make you cry out of horror of what is coming out of your body, and joy that shit is FINALLY coming out of your body.

While this ordeal was enough of a shit storm (pun totally intended) to derail a positive frame of mind, I also was alone in my apartment for 2 weeks while my roommate was traveling, and because of scheduling issues, I was unable to go to my weekly therapy sessions with Dr. R for 3 weeks.

Needless to say that this was the perfect setup for a spiral of self pity, worse case scenario planning, and a not-so-compassionate inner dialogue.

14182428_10157310096845063_1757199719_nBut the last week of August brought both cool weather to Philadelphia, and much needed relief to multiple areas of my life. My body finally has working plumbing again, meaning my pants and shirts finally fit again.

Rather than stressing about what my body is plotting against me, my energy can now be redirected to doing productive things like cooking dinner, writing and not being a miserable toad.

I finally went back to therapy, which was like an hour massage for the psyche. And after two weeks, my roommate is in route home from abroad. As much as I love Annie the cat as a roommate, she is not the best person to watch Jeopardy with after work.

Now it is 9:22 am and I am still enjoying the moment of the coffee shop calmness. And that I am breathing. Because the thing that continued to help me move through the hot mess of August was the phrase ‘this too shall pass’.  

Every moment is fleeting. The amazing moments of life surrounded by family members and friends. The terrible situations of grief and heartache that in the moment feel eternal. But no matter how joyus, how soul crushing a moment is, it shall pass.

The Reason Behind Millennial Summer Nostalgica

Originally published on Huffpost on 7/27/2016

IMG_7900_2 (1)Being an adult with unavoidable responsibilities, the majority of summertime is spent at work with occasional PTO sprinkled throughout the season. Whenever I pass a group of children riding their bicycles home from the local pool while driving home from work, pangs of nostalgia hit me harder than a Buzzfeed article recapping the best pop songs of summer 1999.

My childhood summers look drastically different compared to what today’s children will one day fondly reflect on when they reach the age to be plagued by nostalgia. While I am one of those widely frowned upon millennial who could operate a computer before being able to double knot her shoelaces, being born in May of 1989 allowed me to enjoy an entire decade of life without being tethered to mobile and social technology.  
My twin-home backyard, only 10 feet by 10 feet, was an incubator of my creativity. My
Fisher-Price red and yellow ‘Super Sandbox’ served as a sanctuary where I sat for hours with plastic buckets and old pasta strainers making up stories. After brushing off the grains of sand that could always be felt for hours afterwards, I would close the foldable sides of the sandbox to convert the lid into a personal stage where I belted out The Little Mermaid and Annie songs until my parents told me to give our neighbors a reprieve from live entertainment.

691313796_tpWhen the heat became too much, my Little Tykes Paddling Pool (identical to the one in my Fisher Price Doll House), was set up ready to provide sweet relief with ice cold hose water. Throughout the summer, my mother repurposed empty ketchup bottles and over worn plastic cups as pool toys, along with the specially designated pool Barbie dolls.

Other days, after a sufficient amount of soapy, bubble mix had drenched my clothes and coated my fingers while trying to fish out the thin, not-quite-tall-enough wand inside of the bottle, it was time to rinse off in the sprinkler, creating a whole new level of fun. Laying my belly on the wet grass, I would get eye level to the sprinkler then scream with delight as the water pressure tickled my freckle-kissed skin. I alternated between awkwardly jumping through the shooting water feeling like a ballerina and catching the shooting water in my mouth. After sunset, I spent that hour before bedtime collecting lighting bugs in a mayonnaise jar with holes poked through the lid. Catching the flickering lights was often a challenge, often inducing laughter brought from the tickling sensation of the fluttering bugs wiggling inside my cupped hands.

When I was old enough to cross the street without adult supervision, a good portion of summer days and nights were spent in taking part in constant activity with other kids on my block. It was during that time I learned about hand games and card games. I learned the pain that is inflicted when flinching prematurely during a game of slapises, and how much it hurt to be the table during the arm wrestling portion of a fierce game of Down By the Banks.

11223951_10155925962625063_5036220573801237829_n The soles of our flip flops were worn out from running during intense games of Freedom, and the only worry during a game of Red Rover was if our arm chain was strong enough as the biggest kid from the other team came charging forward. Head on collisions with each other to the point of needing ice packs were common while scrambling to catch a ball during a fierce game of Suey (or depending on your neighborhood, Wall Ball).


Every one of us has childhood summer memories that will be cherished long after growth spurts and puberty. And each generation can argue why their era was different and more preferred. Will the children of today one day reminisce about how summer of 2016 was spent searching for super imposed cartoons around their neighborhood while playing
Pokemon Go?

Perhaps my fellow millennials, especially those born around 1987-1992, and I experienced the gift of a unique hybrid summertime consisting of old-fashion fun along with technology available at the end of the 21st century. 10400480_43596165062_3566_nOur childhood summers felt endless with days blurring together because days were filled with every kind of activity imaginable. Outdoor freedom of hopping on bicycles without worrying about texting our parents to check in once arriving at our destination.

The ability to occasionally over-indulge on video games and cartoons, eventually boring ourselves to find another activity rather than having to be policed by screen time concerns. For a brief period in time in a pre-9/11 and texting world but post-dial up households and Gameboy systems, my generation was made of the children that straddle this brief time, truly providing the best of both worlds.




And Somehow It’s July 5th

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Somehow it’s July 5th and my desk calendar is still on April. This pretty much sums up my frame of mind while trying to figure out what the hell has been going on over the past few months. Winter felt as if it was going to be around forever and now Philadelphia is in the middle of a heat wave.

In between the madness of starting spring by moving into a new apartment, then trying to juggle filming for my freelance project on top of a full time job, capped off by the abrupt hospice/death of my grandmother at the end of the season, summer kind of just appeared.

Honestly, there hasn’t been any exciting plans so far besides the Weezer concert I’m attending tonight (my first concert in three years) and writing. Actually, the main priority for summer 2016 is getting the first draft of my book completed by the end of season. While I’ve been dabbling with writing the book for over a year and half now, over the past two months my commitment to seeing it through with a deadline is has materialized.

13621465_10157017988190063_1506263234_oMaybe it is because I am now closer to 30 than ever before, or that as a writer who has been fortunate enough to be published in a variety of places, there is something inside me that is craving to dive deeper into my storytelling ability. And the fact that I was at Barnes and Nobles the a few months ago and became unexplainably furious to see that Snookie had a book featured in the New York Times Best Sellers section, and I did not.

Despite my silly notion that my brain should be able to write and create quality content at least 17 hours each day, it cannot. Between growing in my abilities as the Digital Content Program Specialist at work, which has been exciting and rewarding, while working on my first (and highest paying) video project as a side hustle- writing for my book has been increasingly hard to manage.

But with the filming complete for the side hustle video (cannot wait to share it on here when it is live), my free time outside of the 9-5 has been redirected to sitting down with my Google Doc and typing. Some days my hands cannot keep up with the thoughts and emotions tumbling out of my head and it is a struggle to get it all down on paper.

Other days it is a struggle to lift up my fingers to write a complete sentence that has an ounce of redeemable quality. But recently, I have made myself slodge through the heaviness of my thoughts and the clumsiness of my fingers to get through the other side of writer’s block. At the moment, my manuscript has 60,000 words that will be become my first book- which is even bizarre to type.

In order to continue to gain momentum and to organize the mammoth of words that have been strung together in my Google Doc, I enlisted the help of Julie Lenard, from The Storyologist. When I attended as session Julie ran at the PHL Blogger Conference back in April, the notion of a writing coach become appealing.

13588799_10157017988140063_1651447305_oAfter several emails and a meeting, we decided to work together to help reach my goal. I’ll eventually go into more detail of how a writing coach has helped me organize my thoughts, and push myself to write topics that may not come as easily to me as others. Also, for the first time in my personal life since I was a kid, I am being held accountable for doing something.

With work, it is easy for me to not drop the ball since my accountability impacts others in the office as well as my potential paycheck. For my own personal work, the only person that is affected by my lack of action is myself which never really matters to me most of the time. But with Julie, there are multiple check ins each week to see if I actually did my writing during the times we talked about, which she can go in and read in our shared Google Doc folder. Knowing that her email will be coming and that she is expecting to be reading new content, there is a refreshed sense of urgency of me committing to writing.

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Other Things That Have Happened So Far This Summer:

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Severing The Ties That Bind

Originally published on Huffington Post

Without a doubt, I am currently fumbling through the complicated, messy and overwhelming grieving process over the loss of my mother. The past three months have been filled with unexpected waves of emotions that continue to catapult both my heart and head in a million directions. Moments of denial, fueled by longing, sometimes try to creep into defuse logical with false hope that things will go back to normal, or at least as normal as my family could muster. That her voice would be able to be heard over the phone, rambling on about the characters encountered at the food store trip with my father and the latest antics of the family dog that only will eat dinner if someone sits on the floor beside her.

 

detail-of-left-mirror-car-while-driving-on-a-rainy-day-highway_e126zjuh__S0011Driving through the streets of Philadelphia, I sobbed alone in the car navigating rush hour on my way home from work last week, smearing mascara all over my sweater while navigating rush hour traffic as ‘Knock Three Times’ blared through the car. The song was one of her 70s favorites like Joy to the World and Bad Boy Leroy Brown that served as the soundtrack to summers of my childhood. To happier times spent floating in our above ground pool, playing gin rummy with Mickey Mouse playing cards and drinking our matching margaritas, mine sans tequila. Those summers took place so long ago, before either of us had the terms bypass surgery, stents, blood thinners, disability, cognitive impairments and brain damage in our vernacular.

 

At times, thoughts tangled in unfairness and pain tend to raise my blood pressure. I try to be mindful not to venture too far down the path where there are unturned stones of unproductive feelings that will only cause me to mentally stumble. Why didn’t she fight harder to mend herself physically and mentally? How can someone who has a daughter and a husband not care enough to be there for them- in all capacities. If these questions had logical resolutions that brought any comfort, then myself and others dealing with complex emotional wounds would be all over it faster than flies on a garbage heap. But questions that tend to haunt us in the middle of the night, when there are no distractions for the grief, are more elusive than Bigfoot.

 

51Zu5zbzWDLWithout a doubt there are ebbs and flows of peacefulness that accompanies not having to anticipate the illogical but certain chaos associated with my mother. No longer does my stomach churn while driving up the street I grew up on, because I longer go there. I removed myself from participating in the emotional version of Russian Roulette-not knowing what version of my mother would be waiting for me when walking into the door or picking up the phone. And the role that guilt has played through this experiences tends to flair up when coming across stories or posts on social media. Stories focused around the heartache losing someone who was actively participating in life until fate decided to be an asshole and cut their time short, impacting their loved ones. Because their grief is accompanied by literally burying a body into the ground. Exactly where my current journey with loss and grieving differs.

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5th Grade, Filming & Fancy Footwork

 

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A few hours each month I find myself transported back to a time warp, where the chairs are smaller, the voices squeaker and the smell much sweatier. The 5th grade has not changed much since I was in during the 1999-2000 school year. Except none of the kids are blasting Nsync, trading Pokemon card or watching As Told By Ginger.

12783571_10153937280828698_7589761860778496392_oThey may have iPads and texting- but never will they be able to bask in perfecting the ultimate AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) Away Message and profile.

Anyway- there is a reason I’m back in the classroom besides nostalgia. I have partnered with Dancing Classrooms Philly to create original video content to showcase the impact their programs has on middle school students.

As a non-profit organization, Dancing Classroom Philly brings dancing lessons into 5th and 8th grade classrooms through in-school residency programs twice a week for a duration of 2 1/2 months. And the students getting more great workout learning dances ranging from the waltz to the rumba. Social interactions including eye contact, emotional intelligence, body contact and teamwork are all part of the program’s educational experiencE. 

12768130_10153917210298698_4055273941892517245_o Through the grant funded by The Philadelphia Foundation, I have been able to capture the spring residencies of the students at four Philadelphia area schools. By creating exciting video projects, my goal is to show how Dancing Classrooms Philly helps build confidence and break down social barriers in our schools and communities- while spreading the word why #ArtEdWorks!

This has been such fun freelance project and really allows me to use a medium of storytelling that I haven’t been using lately. Here is a sneak peak of a bit of the footage I captured during the 1st week of lessons back in February!

 

 

Quarter Life Evolution

12837576_10156558722655063_725832271_oEverything has changed but nothing has changed.

That’s how my best friend, now roommate, has chosen to sum up all of the shifting variables in both of our lives over the past month.

Initially those string of words felt on target, but the more I adopted the phrase during my explanation to others, a particular word kept tripping me up: change.


12422356_10156558722690063_919887838_oLooking around at each aspect of my life, change is bluntly apparent. The new apartment that I now call home, although only .6 miles from my former place, is a change that comes with a new roommate, although rather instead of three Craigslist strangers, it is my best friend since preschool.  

Annie the cat now has more room to roam, despite of her main priorities still being a prime seat on a windowsill for bird watching and the foot of my bed.

My roommate and I still send each other politically incorrect memes via Facebook Messenger throughout the day, but rather than coming home to watch Jeopardy solo after work there is now someone else there to yell criticism at the contestants through the screen.

12596592_10156558718450063_1844387073_o (1)Monday through Friday still consists of me spending most of my days managing digital marketing for a healthcare system, but will soon be doing so in an office space around the corner from the space that had been my dwelling since starting nearly a year and a half ago.

With it, a new title now sits under my email signature which has brought a bit a welcomed padding to the bi-weekly paycheck that has thankfully be consistently deposited into my bank account since late 2011.

12422356_10156558722690063_919887838_oDad still calls daily each morning during his commute to work, but when we talk about health ailments his newly developed symptoms  are the ones that take center stage rather than the chronic decline of my mother.

Still sitting on the same couch of my childhood home, my mother’s routine has not varied from fighting with dog over the blanket, becoming preoccupied with morning talk shows and smoking True Blue cigarettes like they are going out of style. Of course this is all speculation- because for the last several weeks I have removed her from my own routine.

The actual definition of change, according to Google ,is ‘to make or become different’. Despite all of moving the parts that have been settling into my life this month- I believe all of them (minus my father’s debacle) have stemmed from the foundation of finding myself that began almost 2 years ago.


12837301_10156558718410063_116564018_oEvolution.
The definition, according to Google, reads ‘
the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form’.

Am I more complex form of myself? Perhaps if that includes finally implementing consistent practices of self-care, respecting self-imposed boundaries and strengthening an overall sense of self-awareness in everyday life. 

Maybe evolution is why after almost 27 years on this Earth, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin, no longer searching for some sense of relief.

Evolution may just be the relief of no longer being a stranger to myself.

Untangling Myself from an Emotional Rock Bottom

Originally published on Elephant Journal on 1/28/2016.

 

RG-Mermaid-2Not being able to see instant gratification from a newly-incorporated healthier lifestyle can snuff out any enthusiasm for sticking with it.

But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where there is no other choice but to stick it out for the long haul, clinging to the promise of an elusive “one day.” The alternative is to continue down a path of self destruction, whether it be emotional, physical or often times both.

A person does not suddenly wake up one morning and find themselves unexpectedly at rock bottom. The trail is paved by half-hearted attempts to integrate new routines that always seem to be sidelined by discouragement, before being forgotten for tried and true habits. The cycle repeats itself indefinitely until the build up of poor choices leads to a derailment of everyday life, serving as a gut-punching S.O.S.

Hitting rock-bottom is similar to sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool and looking straight up to the surface. At the bottom of the swimming pool, there is an awareness of sound and movement whirling above, but nothing is clear enough to be understood. Although a person may be able to avoid the wave-making commotion and chaos transpiring above, it comes at the price of never being able to experience the direct warmth of the sun.

Two years ago, I had realized that years of unresolved feelings and continuous unhealthy choices had navigated me to an emotional rock-bottom. Continue reading

2016: The Year of The Highly Intelligent Cat

Of course I may be bias, but the cutest cat alive is the orange tabby cat that will forever be known as ‘the highly intelligent cat’. To capitalize on her cuteness, I started of 2016 by launching her own website, thatanniecat.com as well as her own Instagram that_anniecat.

While there is a part of me that has visions of feline internet superstardom, mainly the reason why I am so willing to share her with the world is to share the love. Yes, that sounds incredibly corny but it is true. Her ginger fur and endless expressions have healed my heart in ways that I may never be able to verbalize. And if someone can crack a smile or share in some of that warm & fuzziness through the world wide web, that is awesome.

According to the guidelines posted on BuzzFeed: 

“The pets with the most “Cute” votes will rise to the top of our Cute or Not Top 10 and eventually CONQUER THE WORLD.* The coolest submissions may even be featured in exclusive editorial posts on BuzzFeed Animals dot com, the website!

*BuzzFeed cannot guarantee world domination for your pet.”

Help me spread my pawsitivity to others through social media. Click on the links below for all 3 of the submissions to vote!

Cute of Not Buzzfeed Submission  #1

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Cute or Not BuzzFeed Submission #2Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 4.37.20 PM

Cute or Not: BuzzFeed Submission # 2Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 4.37.10 PM

Why I Choose To Celebrate Christmas Without My Family

Originally posted on Bustle on 12/24/2015

bcd95f70-8be4-0133-9fe4-0e7c926a42afListening to all the Christmas songs that were impossible to escape on the radio this past month, I realized something for the first time in my 26 years: about 95 percent of holiday songs focus on home. “Baby please come home,” “I’ll be home for Christmas,” “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” yada, yada yada. But what happens when there’s no longer a home to return to? How do you deal with that, during a holiday that is supposed to serve as a magnet for families to reunite?

The rented roof over my head is a sanctuary for me and my ginger tabby cat, Annie (who was a Christmas present from a friend two years ago). And about 30 minutes away from my rental, the brick twin-home where I spent my entire childhood still stands. My parents still live in it. But over the past two years, the walls and people inside them have continually become more foreign to me.

Physical and mental illness have turned the mother I grew up with into someone more unpredictable than a roulette wheel. When I return for a visit, acid reflux, rather than a sense of familiarity and peace, tends to be the main feeling I experience. However, it’s more painful to see the ways that the unhappiness and unhealthiness have taken a toll on my father, who never gets an opportunity to jump off my mother’s roller coaster.

For years, I felt that as their only child, it was my responsibility to drag my parents, kicking and screaming, towards happiness. But two years ago, after hitting my own breaking point, I made the conscious decision to stop trying. Doing this required setting new, healthier boundaries that pushed me to figure out new ways to approach many different situations and relationships — including the holiday season.

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 6.31.36 PMLast year marked the first holiday season in 25 years that I spent without my parents. Though the logical part of me knew that I was better off spending Christmas away from two people who were completely miserable, the emotional side felt my heart strings tighten with every mention of family during the month of December. Truthfully, the entire ordeal felt as if I was wearing a new sweater that wasn’t yet worn in.

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Syndication, Thanksgiving and Dino

Somehow it’s the the week of Thanksgiving. Maybe between the flurry of wedding activities for two close friends, the dizzying amount of projects at work the unseasonably warm weather knocked my concept of timing off kilter.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.28.24 PMEarlier this month, I was dumbfounded to find out that my article was syndicated by Yahoo, thanks to YourTango. Over the past year, my writing has been able to be experienced by a whole new audience because of the syndication from YourTango, Yahoo, Thought Catalog and Psych Central. No matter how many times an article of mind gets published, the surge of joy and excitement is still as strong as it was the first time it happened on in my high school paper back in 2006.

IMG_7280 (1)Don’t worry, in the middle of the fall chaos of a full social calendar, Annie still celebrated Halloween. Yes, it was emotionally painful for her and physically painful for my hands, but now I can say that my orange tabby cat was Dino the Dinosaur from The Flintstones. It boggles my mind that this Christmas will mark two years since I’ve had my furry partner in crime.

In addition to everything else, I’ve finally taken the plunge and began writing my book. And to be quite honest- it’s freaking hard. But the words are slowly coming to life and forming some sort of embodiment of what will eventually become my first book. When discouragement creeps into my head, all I have to do is remind myself that Snooki is a New York Times Best Selling Author. That is motivation enough to bang my fingertips against the keyboard until carpal tunnel syndrome sets in.