Redefining a Mother’s Love

Originally published on Huffington Post

Happy-Mothers-Day-716527Mother’s Day is a punch in the gut for anyone not celebrating with their mother. The ache doesn’t discriminate against the reason of absence. The social media feeds that will be saturated with Mother’s Day tributes will be downright painful for all of us coping with a void.

The feeling of motherlessness is overwhelming countless times throughout the year, but near Mother’s Day its intensity can be downright suffocating. As the days creep closer to that Sunday, my anxiety level continues to steadily increase to an agitated state. This will be the first Mother’s Day without my mom, since making the decision to cut off contact with her for my own sanity earlier this year. Conflicting feelings are battling inside my heart- dread of the actual day and anticipation of its passing until the next year. While traditional holidays celebrated on my own have been developed over the past several years, the awkwardness of establishing a new way to get through the day is fresh.

Not surprisingly, my past several weekly therapy sessions with Dr. R have centered on making sense of the emotional tornado brewing. While working through this, Dr. R has repeatedly encouraged me to really figure out what I needed in order to comfort myself. Pulling the covers over my head with the companionship of pinot noir and Grey’s Anatomy reruns was my first instinct. Or to abandon my smartphone for the weekend and seclude myself at a hotel. To not be reminded of what I am missing on Mother’s Day was the answer I continuously kept arriving at.

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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

How I’ve Spent My Summer Vacation- or Lack There Of

anigif_enhanced-12676-1424726950-5It’s mid-summer, more than halfway through 2016, and my perception of time has gone out the window. Within three months of the new year, I found myself being called to rise to the occasion at my new job. An unexpected life lesson and experience allowed me to foster a whole new level of professional abilities, however it completely abandoned my path to achieve the goal of a better work/life/personal project balance.

I began to feel a self-imposed sense of guilt for shafting my own writings , despite publishing three pieces for HuffPo, xoJane, and Bustle during that 4 month period. Like a AA member who has fallen off the bandwagon, I’m back to committing to the twelve steps of life balance- which includes:

  • Being mindful to not work from 7 am-6pm every night. 
  • 2gxofvoMaking an effort to spend time doing creative writing during the week.
  • Feeding myself with healthy meals instead of ingesting food that’s convenient and liquid. 
  • Stop holding myself to self-imposed schedules and rigid to-do lists that are only upsetting to me when their not achieved.

Between dealing with the aftermath of my mom’s latest stroke, turning 26 and trying to continue to acclimate myself with my job of less than a year, other fun stuff has been happening including: Continue reading

Finding My Voice, Baring My Soul, and Pissing People Off

baby-writingOver the past year or so I’ve grown as a writer. I’m learning that part of that means that at times tears will be running down my face as my fingers bang out the words that are pouring out of me. Other times, it leaves me unpopular with others as I refrain from wrapping each essay with a cookie cutter ending.

For years I’ve searched for articles and essays that ring true to my heart. And there have been times where I stumble across pieces of writing that make me feel less alone. That is what drives me to be a writer. My latest piece on Bustle took months working on with the amazing editor Rachel Krantz, but she pushed me to turn in into one of the proudest pieces I have ever written. Feel free to check it out! 

Salt On Old Wounds

a84f27de348513453296f11820784a38Many things go over my head. Good jokes, facial expressions, body language. However I am never one to miss an opportunity of when a good, rich case of irony appears. This recent situation has been a slice of irony pie that made me laugh a little too much this evening.

It was confirmed that my mom had her fourth major stroke last week, which wasn’t confirmed until yesterday when I was able to coax her into the car for a CT scan. This wasn’t so much as surprise, because as I mentioned in my HuffPo essay her condition has gotten out of whack in recent weeks. Her speech is more slurred all the time, not just when she’s tired. Balance is non existent and there is a noticeable delay in her thought process. And she sleeps more than usual- which is a like hibernation.

But the timing is the kicker. Her episode happened during Stroke Awareness Month, and I was working on the article when my gut was giving me warning signs something was out of sync. At the the same time, for my full-time job as a communications specialist at a local rehabilitation hospital, I was profiling the incredible recovery of a gentleman who was fighting like hell to regain his life.

thread-stitches-broken-red-heart-threaded-47044972Like a perfect storm, my personal HuffPo piece was published Thursday, my work-related coverage was handed in Friday, and my mom’s stroke was confirmed Monday. Ironic that my mind has been more focused on stroke awareness month than my own birthday, which is this Friday.

It sounds silly, but seeing the bars installed in my childhood home takes my breath away. Seeing the guard rails on the bottom of the steps makes it even more evident that thing are changing. Of course things are changing- looking at my mother, watching her reluctantly use her cane and walker. But those rails and bars hit a nerve.

Thank you to everyone who has been supportive of my HuffPo article: What it’s Like being the 25 year old and Dealing with a Mother who is a Stroke Victim. Now more than usual, the wounds that have scabbed over sting right now. They will go back to only a dull ache when prodded, but for now I’m letting them be aired. Because to be on a role with the healthcare kick, it’s better to heal the right way than to give it half ass care. Dealing with the anger, confusion, and fear now will help me continue to cope- rather than letting the emotions fester up and explode down the line.

Stroke Awareness Month Thoughts from the 25-Year-old Daughter of a Multiple Stroke Victim.

American-Stroke-Month-2-The irony that Stroke Awareness Month takes place during the same month as Mother’s Day is not lost on me. For the past ten years, the words ‘stroke’ and ‘mother’ has become intertwined. Both have played a substantial role in shaping the adult I have become. Coming to terms with my relationship with both is an ongoing struggle. This is not a Stroke Awareness Month essay to bring awareness to the importance of healthy habits and early detection to lower stroke risk. Nor is this an inspirational essay about life after stroke and the lessons it taught has my family. What I write is about the reality of being a 25-years-old daughter of a multiple stroke victim, and how the it can make the future a bit terrifying

Unpredictable. That sums up what I have learned from the decade long experience of being the daughter of a multiple stroke and heart attack survivor. The other day, the news segment on the car radio reminded me that May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Ironically, it was the moment I pulling into the driveway of my childhood home for my weekly visit. The place where my family and I were unwillingly indoctrinated into the world of stroke in 2004 when I was 15 years old. In this household, every month is Stroke Awareness Month.

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The Privilege of Sharing Weston’s Story

1185909_10153899978620063_58327903_nIn honor of the 2 year transplant anniversary of my buddy Weston Keeton, here are the links of articles and videos that I have been fortunate enough to cover since 2012. When I first met Julie Keeton in 2012, little did I know that a life long friendship would take place. He loved playing with my cameras, touching the buttons on the microphone and watching himself back on the screen

Thank you for everyone that has followed Weston’s story over the years. Although he is now an angel, I will to cover his legacy that continues to impact the lives of so many.

A Legacy of Life: Miracle on 34th Street Remembered 

Paying it Forward for Weston’s 9th birthday

102 Firefighters are Fed for Feed the Fire

The Miracle on 34th Street- One Year Later 

How a Little Boy with a Broken Heart Taught Me How to Feel 

The Real Miracle on 34th Street 

18246_10151202133918598_1753656347_nThe Moving Story of the Real-Life Miracle on 34th Street 

Happy Holidays Story Time- Miracle on 34 Street 

Meet Chickie and Pete’s Newest Employee

Faces of Organ Donation- Weston Keeton

Philadelphia Mummers Raise Awareness for Transplant Family 

Faces of the Family House- The Keeton Family 

Dedicating a Day of Thanks 

Faces of the Family House- Weston Keeton 

New Publication: Skirt Collective

SC-icon-5I’m thrilled to have my first essay published on Skirt Collective!  Per their website ‘Skirt Collective aims to be the modern woman’s compass for navigating culture, fashion, and the real world. Nestled between street smarts and book smarts, SC connects readers with practical information and opinions from a diverse array of voices in an honest, virtual space.’

You can read my latest article on their website. 

Hopefully this will be the first of many pieces that will be shared on their website! Make sure to follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

Generations Of Dysfunctional Body Image Ends With Me

Originally Published on Bustle in 2/2015

When you think of the phrase “eating disorder,” who do you picture? Young girls with visible ribs poking out of their barely-there pubescent bodies? Teenagers with their heads dangling in a toilet bowl?

Most likely, you don’t picture someone who looks like me. From a young age, I was praised for being a “good eater,” meaning I was open to all different types of foods, and my weight was always “healthy”.

Eating was a popular pastime in my family growing up, but cooking was left out of the equation. My mother’s goal each night was to serve a meal without using the oven, because she thought it made the house too hot. We ate packaged food covered in butter or cheese. Our proteins consisted of any meat my father could put on the grill, which oscillated between cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and pork loin.

At some point during my childhood, food became the reward. When my parents would have a major fight, or when my mom was sick in the hospital, my dad would bring me to a fast food place to eat. Over a Taco Bell Mexican pizza, he would promise me that things would get better, and that we would be a happy family one day. For a brief moment over that cheesy meal, I felt safe.

My mom had her first heart attack when I was twelve years old, and required an emergency quadruple bypass at age 43. That was the catalyst for other health issues, including several strokes, severe depression, and anxiety. It was a rare moment when my parents weren’t fighting over her health, the inability to pay bills, or even how I was being raised.

My self-image, like most young girls, became skewed around the fifth grade. Not only did I want to look like the models on my WB shows or in my CosmoGirl magazine —  I wanted to look good enough for my family to be happy. During fall semester of my junior year, I began restricting myself to eating only kidney beans. My college roommates would beg me to eat something else. When I called home to lament to my mother about their negative overreactions, she only fueled the fire. “They’re just bitter you’re losing weight. Keep it up,” she reassured me over the phone.

My mother’s weight yo-yo’ed throughout my childhood, and my father would belittle her for not being the size 8 she had once been. At night, I would sit at the kitchen table, watching her pop diet pills; each month, she’d try try a different brand that promised even better results. Sometimes, she would skip meals, but then, late at night, I would come down to find her binge-eating a container of cookies.

My mother never talked about exercise or eating in moderation. She never once considered signing up for a gym, or even walking around our neighborhood. After she became chronically ill when I was entering my teen years, she pushed her own looks to the side — and began to zone in on my appearance instead.

“We need to get you thinner, without that horrible stomach,” she’d say to me as a 17-year old. “You’re just not that kind of thin girl like [insert skinny friend’s name],” she’d point out.

For years, every time I left the house, I would ask her, ”Do I look pretty, do I look skinny?”

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