“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Pt.1


Twenty years ago at this time, I was returning home from my first year of college as an utter failure. My plans to do a summer work-volunteer program and live in one of the “fun” houses on my Liberal Arts college campus, occasionally open-air camping with my housemates in “the Meadows” and probably experimenting with recreational drugs, never came to fruition. Technically speaking, I flunked out. All of those years of “Academically Gifted” programs, going to Duke’s TIP Summer Writing Workshop and being one of the select few 8th graders to take the SATs, way too many Advanced and AP high school classes, and hours of extracurricular time at school with theatre, Key Club, French Club, and Marching Band ended up doing…nothing. If I had a dollar every time I heard my dad say “you just don’t apply yourself” then I wouldn’t need a job at all. (Technically yes I would, because the market volatility of 2008 would have dashed my savings anyway, plus health insurance.)

Why did I burnout? Did I go too hard, too fast? Was it because I decided not to go to the uber-competitive high school in Raleigh and took the “out” when my parents bought a house in the suburbs? Did the bullying I faced (admittedly caused by my own actions) throughout my 8th grade year scar me for life? Nope. The answer is simple: I didn’t apply myself. I got lazy. I thought I was too smart for college. I wasn’t even a partier, I just stayed up too late listening to my hippie roommate sing with her band. It was some real kumbaya shit in my dorm. Seriously, not much has changed:


So I came home, tail between my legs, and started working. I became a lifeguard and a certified water safety and swim instructor. I taught swimming and canoeing at a day camp, often working the 4-hour 5AM shift at the pool before heading to camp, or working the early camp shift and then working 6-10PM in retail. By my estimates, I averaged about 70 hours a week for 2 summers. Between camp, I got my Early Childcare credentials and worked at a daycare, I taught private swim lessons, and eventually spent a summer as the Camp’s Director. I was 21 years old, getting my first experience in real leadership. I hired and trained a staff, gave evaluations, was responsible for the safety of 60+ children in an outdoor, wilderness-setting State Park every day. I had to worry about snakes, spiders, drowning, fighting, broken bones (or true story, broken teeth), field trips, and hydration (outdoor camp in NC is no joke). Thank God I didn’t have to worry about electronics.

When camp was over, I was asked to be the full-time assistant manager at the small private gift store I had been working in. Shortly thereafter, our Manager moved on and I was promoted. Once again, 23 years old, put in a position of responsibility. I would never think to label myself a “leader”, but over and over this is where I seem to fall. If you look at my work history, you can tell I’m definitely not a Millennial: 6 years at this location (3 promotions), 5 years here (promoted to Store Manager), 5.5 years here (3 promotions), and my shortest stint was 2 years in a miserable job where I despised my manager, yet still managed to become the team lead. Through all of that, I never thought to go back to school. I worked hard, and retail management jobs pay well. I took a pay cut to move to the financial industry and start fresh, but it was worth it for those bankers’ hours. (Actually, if I were just a single person with no kids, I would love to have retail hours again. I have always been a night owl, and I still hate waking up any time before 8AM.)

What changed? I came to work for a new company, a tiny little firm where I was employee #4. Where there are big plans for the future. Where I was hired because of my ability to not just manage an office, but to eventually hire and train a team. I work every day around discussions of market volatility, exchange rates, alternative investments, exchange-traded funds, and keeping the fiduciary interests of clients at the top of our process. I started reading articles on the gentrification happening in the poorest neighborhoods of Raleigh (the ones my parents and grandparents lived in as kids), and then found other articles about how New York and other urban centers are addressing the issue of adequate low-cost housing during rising real estate markets. I started reading about how blockchain technology will change literally everything eventually, and about the emerging cryptocurrency market and possible paths to regulating it. Basically, I decided that I want to understand these things better than I can by reading about them. And I want to offer a more well-rounded individual to provide the specific skills my firm will need in ten years. Or if that doesn’t work, you know, maybe go work for the UN or IMF (they have an opening in Fiji, although if I’m going that far off the grid I’d probably rather have Montana or Colorado).

And so at the age of 36, with a one year old and a 1st grader, I enrolled in Community College…

Thoughts on Paper

It’s been a minute.

Depression is a funny animal. You think you have it under control and then you just hit a period of self-destructive apathy. When that happens, I wonder if this is normal, do non-depressed people feel this way, too? Or is this symptomatic? If I were smart, I’d be seeing a damn therapist. But hey, ain’t nobody got time (or money) for that.

Speaking of animals, I suffered a tremendous loss at Christmas. My almost 11-year old baby girl, a spunky lab/collie mix that looked like a puppy until the day she died, had an internal bleed. I came home on Dec 23, kid-free, ready to blast gangsta rap while doing my baking and wrapping gifts (our strange Christmas Eve-eve tradition), and she was different. It was hard to tell at first, but I noticed. Usually when we come home without kids, she has a little running fit, a short burst of “boys aren’t here, they’re going to play with ME” excitement. But she was just lying at the top of the stairs, and it took her a moment to get up and come down to join us. She was just off all night. She would only take a few steps and then flop down. When we went upstairs she hobbled into the boys’ bathroom and just lied down. I knew then, she was telling us, “this ain’t right, people”. Long story short, I spent 1AM on Christmas Eve listening to an emergency vet explain how dog cancer is diagnosed, with a $5-7K surgery. The odds? 2/3 of tests come back as cancer, and they live days. For those that don’t have cancer, they typically survive another 5 months. It felt like the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but really it was easy. I could never leave her to sit in a cage at an animal hospital at Christmas, recovering from surgery that I can’t afford. Being that she was already becoming a senior dog, I knew that any option involving surgery just wasn’t viable, and so I said goodbye and held her while she crossed the rainbow bridge.

It’s been five months, and while it’s easier to experience day-to-day life without bursting into tears now, I still have moments where I can’t believe I’ll never see her again.

The other part of my life right now is just school. On the one hand, I feel really proud and empowered that I’m doing this. I have a 3.35 GPA (and that’s including my freshman year many moons ago when I just didn’t give AF). I took 9 credit hours last fall. NINE. I’m taking 4 credit hours in the accelerated summer session, and 3 of those are for mother-fucking algebra/trig. Some things never, ever change, like math being my nemesis. I have no problem with confidence when it comes to my perceived level of intelligence, but nothing will make me feel stupid like sitting down to take an in-person test and feeling like I have no idea what’s going on.

On the other hand, I want to cry every time I think about how much potential I had in 1998 when I dropped out. It would have been so much easier to do this without kids, without a demanding full-time job, without a mortgage and yard work to do, and without debt. I know that’s not how my life was supposed to turn out, because if I hadn’t taken the path I did (coming home to work at summer camp) I would have never met one of my greatest, lifelong friends. The one that introduced me to the man who would father my children. The one that I introduced to his wife. The one that we share so many inside jokes with, so many Thanksgivings, and all of those ups and downs from young twenty-somethings tailgating and celebrating Stanley Cup wins to late thirty-somethings with kids and businesses and rare shared vacations to the beach. Essentially, if I hadn’t dropped out of college, I wouldn’t have my boys. I would have a different family, different kids, different friends.

Maybe I would be happier. Maybe I would still have a gorgeous, voluptuous swimmer’s body. Maybe I would have more grey hair. Maybe I would be alone and bitter. Who knows? Rarely do I stress over decisions I made in the past. I have plenty of other shit to stress about without dwelling on what I did twenty years ago.

Just What the Dr. Ordered

In my last post, I talked about shutting people out because I feel sometimes like I’m unworthy of their time, like I don’t have anything to offer in return for their support, and like I’m just plain damn unlikeable. Well, a friend from my literal childhood (we’ve known each other since we were 15 and 17, or maybe earlier) called last week and said, “I really want to see you before I go back to the other side of the world”. This is not someone I’ve had regular contact with over the years, but she’s always held a special place in my heart, even though she went and got educated and moved away. I sat on her text for a couple of days, being the bad friend that I can be, unsure about taking a night off from parenting, a night off from studying, a night off from mature adult responsibilities. But then I said yes.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how it would go. As someone who thinks of myself as fairly intelligent, and someone who keeps my “bless his heart” disdain for stupid people pretty out in the open (it’s a flaw; I’m working on acceptance), I am intimidated by very few people, but this friend intimidates the hell out of me! She has always been one of the smartest people I know, and over the years she’s gained the credentials to back it up. On the other hand, college dropout over here, going to community college in my late 30’s trying to finally achieve the educational potential I know I’m meant for. In any case, it went fantastic. Better than I could have ever expected.

There was no judgment, no looking-down-upon (not that I expected it, but still, we don’t exactly align politically so there’s always a fear that those conversations will be off-putting), just good, free-flowing conversation while we ate, drank, and walked our way among some downtown hotspots (seriously, we walked over 2 miles). During one point, we were “those girls”, the ones crying and hugging in a loud and noisy bar, because we were filling each other’s buckets with love and support (and lots of sarcasm). She told me that she had always looked up to me, something that surprised the hell out of me, frankly. Because even though I’m the older friend, I have always looked up to her. We shared secrets, and hopes, and crappy things from our past that we hope to move on from.

And she gave me the greatest gift: she told me that she knew she could talk about things with me that she didn’t discuss with other people, because I am “candid and honest without being an asshole”. What a wonderful, thrilling complement. What a great thing that I can take and hold on to as proof that I *do* have value to other people, that I *do* have good qualities, and that I *can* make a difference.

Sometimes it takes someone else to convince you that you are not a shitty person after all, and sometimes that can come from the most surprising source (even after years of other people trying to tell you that). Oh, and she also told me that I am one of the funniest people she has ever known. Chalk one up to my Jester archetype. I might give you terrible advice, but I will, without fail, make you laugh.

It was exactly what I needed after the past few months (years? a couple of decades?) of being mired in the dark sides of my psyche, trying to cling to any bits of light I could find. It’s a slow process, but I’m ready to feel “good” again. Or at least, “Good enough”.

So much to say…

And yet, I still struggle sometimes. With so much. How to put “pen” to “paper” (I’m still an old-fashioned writer…with a literal pen and paper the thoughts flow so freely). How to stop myself from snacking. How to not have a panic attack any time I meet with my doc. How to stop self-destructive behaviours.

Let’s pause there…that’s really the root of it all, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “who” I am…I hide behind sarcasm and humor way too much. I think I’m tough. I don’t like being called “sweet” or “a princess” (really, really detest that). I revel in the attention of others, which is something I’m not always proud of about myself. I get involved in other people’s drama way too easily. I’m nosy. I’m a notorious eavesdropper. And I proclaim loudly, to anyone who will listen, what a “fucking mess” I am. Why? Why do I do this? Is it so when I share the mistakes I’ve made and the regrets that I have, they aren’t as shocked or disgusted by my actions? Is it so that when they get to know the me below the surface, they’re so pleasantly surprised that I care about people?

I think I label myself as selfish so often, that I forget how deeply I really do care about people. In the past couple of months, I’ve been really having a hard time liking myself, and it’s caused me to shut people out that I shouldn’t. I left a group of friends that I’ve been a part of since we were pregnant with our first babies. I turned a very good friend down when she reached out because she recognized how much I was hurting and offered to come and spend the day with me. I’ve avoided calling my “person”, who lives halfway across the world and understands me almost better than I understand myself some days. I’ve shut out my family, just choosing not to discuss these feelings with anyone. I feel, a lot of times, like I am unworthy of their time, attention, or love.

But then I surprise myself. I have another friend who is really struggling with many things: new motherhood, adjusting to a new normal, having to shoulder more than she expected alone…and I stepped up. She hasn’t needed me yet, but she knows the offer is there, and I’m willing to help.

So I’m still here on this journey. I’ll probably always be a work in progress. But maybe I can let just a little more of the goodness that I recognize deep down inside to bubble up to the surface more often. And maybe I can tamp down a little more of the “proud bitch” shell. And maybe one day I’ll recognize that it’s okay to accept that other people love me, even when they know me, warts and all.


*This post brought to you by the bottom of the pool. I swam laps Wednesday for the first time in over a year. It was not easy. But it felt like home. I hope to make it a weekly occurrence. Also, I’ve lost 12 pounds and I’m carrying a 4.0 this semester. So other things are going OK, too.

Guys, can we not?


Everything old is new again.

My hair is a mess. It hasn’t been trimmed in way too long, and after this summer the ends are frizzy, it’s HEAVY (I have super thick, wavy hair), it’s coarse, and I’ve found more than a couple of gray hairs this summer. Not cool. I need change.

While searching for hairstyles, I came across not only several new iterations of “The Rachel”, but also discovered that mini buns, scrunchies, and even those tiny butterfly clips are also back in style. I know now exactly how my mom’s generation felt when we liked to wear our “flares”…a mix of jealousy that these silly hairstyles look semi-attractive on young females and also a little “oh, bless your heart”. Because…no.

It’s not as cute as you think it is, I promise.

I’m much less interested in hippie flower child style coming back. I want to see 40’s and 50’s style come back. Flare skirts and victory rolls. Trim dresses with low heels and structured handbags (Ladylike Taylor Swift had this going on until she did that weird platinum-blond, trashy choker goth lipstick look). This is the style I dream of, although of course I wear the loose flow-y crap because it’s comfortable.

Let’s be honest, I dream of the real 90’s: yoga pants and sports bras. First thing that happens when I get home!

BTW, I’m going for a lob. Basically the same haircut I always get with some minor variation. (I’m not as cool/edgy as these girls. Mine will probably be more like “low maintenance mom lob”.)wavy-lob-hairstyles-with-highlights

I’ll update with before/afters when I’m done, maybe. Mostly I’m just happy for a scalp massage, a glass of wine, and no more frizzy ends.

Hopefully it will motivate me to do what I really need to be setting appointments for: a new anti-depressant with my Primary Doc and an eye appt. But those are boring, and they don’t give me scalp massages. Or wine.

What the do what now?


I must take a moment to address something that has frankly been bugging the mess out of me for the past couple of weeks.

It’s the sudden influx of Veganism on my Facebook page, by several friends who have recently watched the Netflix documentary “What the Health”. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. If not, can I join you under the rock?

Now, I’m not arguing against going Vegan, or introducing more plant-based foods into your diet. That is not an issue. You do you, and I will be the first to admit that my family needs to eat more plants. We’re working on it. (In fact, dinner tonight is a vegan roasted veggie, chickpea, and turmeric rice bowl!) My favorite article that I read in my research advocates a more plant-heavy diet for health reasons. However, I am shocked at the sheer number of my friends-list (and their friends) that use both this film and the team’s previous film “Cowspiracy” to back up their veganism. As I watched it (with my admittedly cynical eyes), red flags went shooting up everywhere. I was on my phone looking for their sources within minutes of the credits, and again the next day.

So, if you are interested, I’ve gathered some interesting pieces debunking some of the claims made in both films below. I was careful to find sources with expertise in the area of food health and environmentalism, with sources that run the gamut from a Vegan Liberal Socialist to Registered Dietician to NGO Scientist to Paleo expert biologist. I just want you to be aware that if a film is using scare tactics and incendiary claims to support it’s theories, then it is probably too good (or too damning) to be true. And that lobbyists and propaganda exist in EVERY corner of life, and their job is to influence your decision making to align with their agenda. Go vegan because you truly feel it’s the best route for your health. Go vegan if YOU feel better eating a plant-based diet. Just don’t go vegan because 5 vegans made a movie that claim the world is ending because “cows”.

Danny Chivers, Socialist nutjob, but still.

Greenpeace’s response to Cowspiracy’s Insinuations

Union of Concerned Scientists (Actual Science NGO)

Robb Wolf, Paleo Advocate and Research Biologist

Stacey Mattinson, BS and MS Nutrition, RDN, LD (My fave)

As a native North Carolinian, I also feel that I need to address a particularly flameworthy claim made by What the Health regarding pig farmers in NC. The claim is that pig farmers intentionally targeted poor and primarily African American neighborhoods in Eastern NC so as to prevent literal “hogwash” from our cushy white people’s yards. Now, while I don’t discredit the research that shows that the waste lagoons in NC are harmful to humans and the environment, I want to point out a few things that the film leaves out.

First, the 4000 open waste lagoons still in operation are from before 1997. No new waste lagoons have been permitted since 20 years ago the state passed a law disallowing new construction for any hog farm using this as a form of waste disposal. Do we all wish the hog farmers would start using new methods at the farms with existing lagoons? Of course. But the fact of the matter is that Eastern NC is one of the poorest areas of the country. The extra expense in converting their methods would both put the few smaller family farms we have in NC out of business, eliminating much-needed jobs (especially migrant worker program jobs) as well as make the price of pork products skyrocket in an area where families depend on cheap proteins to feed their families. I’m not saying there aren’t solutions, but I am saying that we all have to research and weigh all of the facts in an issue instead of blindly accepting the first opinion that seems plausible enough.

Second, I want to point out a missing timeline about the growth of the Hog Farm industry in NC. Hog farming is a fairly new, replacement industry in Eastern NC. In the 80’s and 90’s, as tobacco farming became no longer financially viable, former tobacco farmers either turned to raising livestock themselves or rented their unused land out to local hog farmers who were outgrowing their own space. So, while I fully agree that the practice disparagingly affects African Americans, I bristle at the filmmakers’ claims that this was an intentional positioning to target African American communities. That is a huge leap, and a socially irresponsible one to make. But, this is the same guy who insinuated that Greenpeace was being paid off by animal producer lobbyists with literally ZERO proof, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising.

If you want to see some terrific investigative work on the rise of hog farming in NC and the damage it’s causing, this is a fantastic article. Whole Hog – Pulled Apart

I guess I just want anyone who reads this to go into their future documentary-viewing with both eyes wide open. Like the internet, you can’t trust everything you read or see. There is a big difference between cherry-picking “facts” from studies that support the theories you’ve already developed, which is what a documentary filmmaker being funded by a Vegan activism group would do…or producing an actual research-based study with a control group, and drawing conclusions after the data has been complied, which is what Scientists do.

Trust the Scientists. Unless you still believe that Jenny McCarthy was right about vaccines causing autism. Because clearly if you haven’t debunked that for yourself yet, then you are an idiot and actual science doesn’t matter.


Recipe Tuesday: Italian Sausage, Bean, and Egg Bake


This recipe came to me just yesterday, so it’s hot off the press! Sitting at my desk at work at 2PM, trying to think of what to cook to get back into the swing of meal planning and Weight Watchers after vacations and busy summer funtime, and I thought about the can of garbanzo beans sitting in my pantry and what I could possibly do with it. Funny that I ended up not even using it, which goes to show the incredible versatility of this dish. Experiment with what you have, and make it to your family’s preference. (For instance, I meant to include diced onion but found I didn’t have any when I arrived home.)

I knew I wouldn’t be home until almost 6:30PM, and I knew I wanted to go have a porch-sit with my best friend, who is leaving to go back to Japan tomorrow. So I knew the kids need to be fed and in bed by 8PM! Luckily, we had some leftover Italian sausage from a recipe we made this weekend. I decided this would make a great “almost meatless” Monday dinner for my family. It was a HUGE hit (and even better for lunch the next day). I’m so full from the hearty meal, which clocks in at only 7 WW SmartPoints. I included nutrition info at the bottom.*

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped or minced depending on preference)

1/2 lb bulk Italian pork sausage

1 can Great Northern Beans (also called cannellini or white kidney), rinsed and drained

1 cup roughly chopped Spinach, kale, arugula, or combo of greens

1 cup crushed tomatoes

5 eggs (reserve one for your leftovers)

Optional: warm crusty bread! (Adds 2 Smart Points) Grated parmesan (adds 2 SP as well)

Begin by heating a little oil in your pan on medium heat. Normally I would recommend a trusty Lodge Cast Iron skillet for this meal, but the acid in the tomatoes creates a bad reaction with cast iron, so I used my large saute` pan.

Add your garlic to the pan, stir, and let it simmer for a few minutes (add onions too if you are using them, or any other aromatic veggies). Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Add the sausage and break it up with your spoon/spatula so that it cooks evenly. Once it’s almost completely browned (about 3-5 minutes), add the greenery. Stir and let cook for 1-2 minutes as greens begin to wilt.

Add tomato sauce, stir, and let simmer to cook down about 5 minutes.

Add beans, stir. I like to break the beans up as I stir just a bit, but that’s personal preference. Some people like to try to keep their beans whole. Since they’re already cooked, if you want to keep them whole, wait until just before you are ready to stick the pan in the oven to add and stir.

Crack your eggs one at the time over your dish, spacing evenly. If you feel uncomfortable with this, you can also poach them separately to top your dish with later. I personally completely screwed up my eggs last night, so I’ll keep trying to get my perfectly pan-poached eggs right in this dish. Put the whole pan in the oven, and it should take about 7 minutes for your eggs to set. Hopefully you still have some runny yolk!

After this, it’s easy. You should have a delicious ragu-like texture in your pan…use a large spoon to dish up 4 servings. The eggs make a terrific guide of how “big” a serving you need. Serve with crusty bread. Top with grated parmesan. Eat and enjoy! You should have just enough bean leftovers to dish yourself up a lunch for tomorrow. I just topped mine with the egg in the morning, microwaved it at lunch, and it was possibly even better than the night before. I cannot wait to experiment with this dish and try other veggies and combos.

All that filling flavor, and it only clocks in at the following per serving:

258 Calories, 14g Fat (3g Sat), 14g Carbs, 4g Fiber, 18g Protein, 614mg Sodium, and 211mg Cholesterol

*I am no dietician or nutrition expert. I cannot vouch for my numbers here except to say that I used a calculator to the best of my abilities. Here is the link if you want to learn how, or do it with your own ingredients. Tufts Meal Calculator Guide