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Free Writes & Poems

Hey everyone!

Welcome back to another installment of writing prompts and the drafts they inspired. It’s a working title for this segment of the blog. : )

In March of 2022 I met a wonderful writer named Tammy Evans through a writing community called Stop Writing Alone. Tammy and I were assigned to be critique partners but quickly kicked up a friendship over writing, tarot cards, and general life overlaps.

I am constantly looking for writing communities to be a part of because community is the one aspect of teaching that I miss. Well, Tammy just so happened to be the facilitator of a writing group, and for the last several months, I have inconsistently been a part of Tammy’s PUSH Group on Monday nights.

It is a small group of writers from all over the country who share our wins and…well…write together.

If you’re a writer looking for community, I highly recommend Tammy’s group. You can click here and here to read more about Tammy’s work. (She’s an extremely talented writer and writing teacher, so I urge you to read her stuff!)

Back to the long titled point of this blog.

On the first Monday of the New Year, I decided to join PUSH group for the evening (my goal is to be a little more consistent in 2023) and was very pleased with my draft.

The writing prompt for the evening was a free write based off of Jim Gauer’s poem, “Will This Thought Do?” I’ve included a link to the poem, but The Paris Review requires a subscription to read the whole thing.

Writing Prompt: Choose a line from the poem, “Will This Thought Do?” and write for six minutes about whatever the poem brings up for you. There are no rules. Just free write.

This is what I wrote.

Lines that Stood Out to Me: What a relief to be wide awake / How sweet to be fully alive for just this morning.

We can put our things aside for now. As the plane lifts off. As the clouds become the world around us. As it all gets left behind.

Sometimes life gets too heavy to carry. Sometimes my muscles ache with the weight of holding space for other people’s happiness. Sometimes I get lost.

But then there’s quiet. And in the quiet there’s truth. There’s peace. There’s my voice.

What’s the truth today?

Today was good. And tonight I am tired. Ready to settle into my bed, surrounded by soft sheets and let the mattress and pillows cradle me to sleep.

I embrace tomorrow and whatever she brings. But now, the truth is silence. Of letting something else entertain me for a while. My thoughts spin and soak in all the what ifs and what could have beens. But there’s also the end.

When time ends.

When the night ends.

That’s it for now, folks. I hope you enjoyed this piece. Please feel free to use the prompt for your own writing, and I’d love for you to share what you’re working on and how your writing journey is going.

Like I said, I would love to have a big community of writer/reader friends! So, leave a comment or a like or share this if you feel so inclined.

Wishing you days filled will all the things you love! Until next week!

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My Favorite Way to Beat the Sunday Scaries

Rituals. Routines. Schedules.

For a long time I thought I could live without them. After more than a year out of teaching, it turns out that I thrive on routine.

And even though my routine has changed over time, there is one part of my week that has stuck around: SUNDAY. NIGHT. BATHS.

There’s a bit of a story here. So, please, indulge me as I tell it.

When my then boyfriend (now husband) and I moved in together, the house we were looking to rent had a jacuzzi tub. Being someone who lived in an apartment for seven years with the world’s smallest tub, the idea that I’d be able to bathe with all my parts covered by water sounded like luxury.

At the time we rented the house, I was still teaching. This was pre-pandemic. October 2019. My anxiety was bad. I hated my job. I needed a break. But there was no way to stop the train from moving forward. So, most nights, I’d fill up the tub and lay in the warm water and thought about the kind of life I wanted. There were also tears. Lots and lots of tears. And lots of watching old episodes of The Barefoot Contessa on my phone while envying the seemingly simple life of Ina Garten.

Then, in March 2020, the world shut down. I finally had a break at the expense of public safety. But at the same time, I finally learned what life could be like without the stress of being in a classroom everyday. I was hooked, and I had to find a way to make my work from home situation permanent.

I applied for writing jobs with tutoring centers because I wanted to be a writer and I knew my niche would be education, having been in the classroom for thirteen years. But we went back into the classroom in April of 2021. I had a new job at that point, but wanted to finish out the year before resigning. The energy it took to show up to teaching, the energy it took to be Ms. Neilsen, wrecked me.

I’d come home from school on Friday afternoon, put my pajamas on, and fall into bed until Sunday at 2 PM, when I’d say to myself, “You have to get up.”

I’d light the candles around my tub, fill her up with warm water and Dr. Teal’s Rose scented Epsom salt and lavender bubble bath, and soak while listening to Paul McCartney sing “It’s Just Another Day”.

“So sad/so sad/sometimes she feels so sad”

I’d sit in the tub with my Sunday scaries, surrounded by suds, and I’d sob. But at the end of it, I always felt better. Lighter. Ready for whatever came next.

When I finally left the classroom, I was hit by another wave of anxiety and depression that I hadn’t been anticipating. And during that time, I held onto my Sunday night baths. Light my candles. Fill the tub with warm water and bath salts and bubbles. Listen to Paul McCartney and classical music. Read What to Do When You’re Feeling Blue. In the winter, I’d time my baths for 4 PM, right as the sun was about to set. And I’d soak until the day went dark.

No matter the kind of week I’ve been having, my Sunday night soaks are one of my favorite parts. They are somehow healing, probably because they are something I do just for me. A small moment before dinner gets cooked and the week begins to just sit, surrounded by music and candlelight and the scent of lemon and lavender.

For a long time, I didn’t have rituals that were mine. I didn’t really have outlets for stress and anxiety. Mind you, I definitely thought I did. My panic disorder, however, would beg to differ.

But these baths are mine. A small, simple gesture of kindness to myself.

Because we all deserve kindness.

That’s it for now. Wishing you a week of peace and happiness filled with rituals and routines that feed your soul.

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How to Beat Your Writer’s Procrastination!

Hey everyone!

Writing is a tough job. Hear me out.

It may seem cushy since you get to live in your imagination, creating stories and worlds and characters that hopefully connect to an audience. AND you get to make your own hours.

Scratch that.

BUT you get to make your own hours.

For mood writers, like myself, it can be hard to get up every day and find time to write if you just don’t feel like it. I don’t know how Toni Morrison woke up every morning at 5 AM to write when she had kids and a day job. When I was teaching there was no room for writing fiction, but I digress. Kudos to Toni Morrison.

I have this tendency to work on something full throttle for months, and then burn out and not touch it for more months than I was working on it. I even took a course over the summer geared toward finishing a novel. Spoiler alert, I did not, in fact, finish my novel over the summer.

However, I did finish my novel, and it wasn’t because I was in the mood. Here’s what I did to combat my writer’s procrastination.

1. Open Your Lap Top

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Or whichever device you’re using to write (notebook, notes app on your phone, word processor, etc.)

The first step to going to the gym is to put on your workout clothes, right?

I figured opening my lap top was the first step to actually writing something. I’d update my GoodReads, check my email, and then see the little tab for my novel open at the bottom of my screen and think, “Hmmm…I can add a few words to this…” Which gets me to…

2. Don’t Give Yourself a Word Goal to Start

Word goals are great, but if you’re trying to beat procrastination, they can be intimidating. If you don’t meet your word goal for the day, it may even deter you from showing up to your writing the next day. So, whether you write 100 words or 1000 for that day, words on the page are a win and any amount gets you to your ultimate goal of finishing your project.

Eventually, with consistency and time, you can work up to a word goal. But to start, give yourself space just to write without parameters.

3. Start With a Very Small Time Limit

Photo by Shawn Stutzman on Pexels.com

Success starts with small wins amassed over time that lead to bigger goals being achieved later on. We need small wins in order to build the confidence necessary to keep showing up.

It’s like building a muscle. You’re not going to start with the heaviest weights. (I don’t know what it is with me and gym analogies today.) So, start small.

When I first reopened my projects to work on them, I started with 10 minutes, then built to 20, then 30 until I felt comfortable creating a word goal that I’d be able to hit in under an hour.

When it comes to giving yourself a time limit, consider things like your attention span, your schedule for the day and how much time you can allot to your project, and what you’re able to creatively give to something before you run out of steam.

4. Create a Sustainable Schedule.

Consistency is great. I am all for consistency. But if you are saying to yourself that you have to write 10000 words a day 7 days a week, you’re going to burn out. Especially if you start off with such lofty ambitions.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you’re trying to combat writing procrastination, not turn yourself off from your work. Start small and be honest with yourself.

What is a schedule you can set for yourself that you can actually show up to? Is it five days a week? Are you going to take it day by day and see what feels right?

Creating a sustainable schedule for yourself is key because sustainability breeds consistency. If you feel like you can do what you set out to do, you will. So, set yourself up for success, whether that’s one day a week of five.

5. Leave your phone in another room.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For my fellow scrollers, I know how tempting it can be to say, “Oh let me just take a quick break and scroll around on TikTok.” An hour later you’re watching fan page edits of celebrity before and after’s and videos of slow living enthusiasts showing off their 5-9 before their 9-5. Or is that just me?

Even if you’re not a scroller, the phone has all kinds of distractions. Text messages. Phone calls. Email. Instagram. The list goes on and on.

So, I suggest, if possible (I understand there are certain circumstances that require one’s phone for emergencies) leave your phone in another room. Not only will it keep you from being distracted, but when you are finished writing, going to get your phone will give you a reason to stretch your legs and move a bit. It might sound silly, but I’ve found that leaving my phone in my bedroom while I write downstairs, then gives me a good transition to the rest of my day when I go back upstairs to get it.

Final Thoughts

If writer’s procrastination or writer’s block has you questioning your worth as a writer or even has you questioning if you’re cut out to be a writer, well, let me tell you: MOST, IF NOT ALL, WRITERS GRAPPLE WITH THESE QUESTIONS AT SOME POINT IN THEIR WRITING LIFE.

You are absolutely not alone, and you are most definitely cut out to be a writer.

Personally, I’ve gotten myself to a place where my sweet spot seems to be Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 10 AM, and I’ve worked up to 1000 words in a sitting. However, if I don’t meet the 1000 words for the day, no harm. I just pick up the next day. It is this schedule that has helped me finish my second novel and begin the next novel in the series I’m writing. I’m currently at 11,000 words. Something I feel is worth celebrating.

Shout out to Pooja G. of Lifesfinewhine for writing her piece about struggling with writing procrastination that inspired this blog post.

I’d love to hear about your writing journey and tips for beating writing procrastination in the comments.

That’s it for now, friends. Wishing you a week filled with happiness and creativity. Until next Saturday!

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January TBR!

Hey everyone!

How was your holiday?

Truth be told, this one knocked me out. Between the migraines and the recuperating from my migraines, I had a rough go of things. However, I am grateful to have had time with family and friends to celebrate the season and some down time to rest.

My reading has been slow over the past month with all that’s been going on, but I have set my Good Reads reading goal for 100 books in 2023.

I have never made such an ambitious goal before, but after having read 70 books between June and December, I feel I am up for the challenge. So, let’s do this! *I say to myself and whoever else wants to join me* (You also DO NOT need to read 100 books.)

A while back I bought myself a three tiered library cart from Amazon to house my TBR pile. As you can imagine the pile keeps growing, especially since I joined Book of the Month. I have found the service is totally worth it. You get hard covered books for $9.99, and the novels they release are a great mix of genres from popular and new authors. Click here to check it out!

Back to the TBR.

If anyone is interested in reading any of these books, I’d love to do a buddy read, read-a-thon, book club, or any other co-reading experience. You can also leave your recommendations, TBR lists, and opinions of the books here in the comments!!

I’m pretty excited about the book list for January. It’s a little thriller, a little historical fiction, a little romance. What are the books, you say? I thought you’d never ask. : )

Thriller

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

I am currently in the middle of reading this book and am really enjoying it. It’s about a woman, Jules, who takes a job as a house sitter at the infamous Bartholomew luxury apartments in NYC after she loses her job and her boyfriend. But when her neighbor goes missing, Jules is on the hunt for the truth about the building. Is it haunted? Is it not? What’s the deal? It’s a fast-paced, ghost story akin to Rosemary’s Baby.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

I promise this is the last Riley Sager book on the list. This is a haunted house story about a family who flees from their home in the middle of the night. Twenty-five years later, the daughter of the family returns. I love a haunted house story, regardless of the season, and I enjoy the supernatural elements that Sager incorporates into their stories. So, I’m excited to get started on this one.

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

This was my Book of the Month pick for January. The story is about a girl who is the victim of a stabbing when she is a teenager. Her and her friends get the man who committed the crime convicted, but there is a secret they’ve been keeping about the event. I haven’t read anything by this author before, but I was intrigued by the concept. And, so far, I have been pleased with the Book of the Month thriller picks.

Historical Fiction

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

Over the summer I read The Lost Summers of Newport by this same set of authors and absolutely LOVED it! I am also obsessed with Newport, so that could have been another reason for my love of the novel. However, to their credit and not my bias, these three women are excellent writers who can weave a compelling tale. The Glass Ocean is about the past and present relationships of two women to the RMS Lusitania.

Fantasy

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I am a Silvia Moreno-Garcia fan after having read Mexican Gothic. And even though I am not really a fan of fantasy, this story is described as a mix of fairy-tale and mythology inspired by Mexican folklore set in Mexico during the 1920’s. This is literally a mix of all the things I love. Myth. Fairy-tale. History. The story is about Casiopea Tun, who is tasked by the Mayan god of death to help recover his throne from his brother. How good does that sound??

Romance

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

I started reading this book in June when I got Covid, but the slow burn was a little too slow for me. I love anything set in Spain, and I can also get behind an enemies to lovers trope. So, I’m thinking now is the time to finish this. The story is about Catalina Martin, who needs a date to her sister’s wedding in Spain, so she invites her work enemy, Aaron Blackford, and love ensues. This is not a spoiler. This is always what happens in these books.

Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

This novel is one of my all-time favorites. I read it when I was 20 and had such an emotional reaction to it that it still lives on in my memory. I haven’t read it in 17 years, but I am compelled to return to its pages to relive the feelings. It’s a “coming into one’s own” story about a woman named Cannie Shapiro who embarks on a path to make peace with herself after her ex-boyfriend writes a scathing article about her. I can’t wait to dive back into this story!

YA

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

Every Rebecca Serle book is a five star read in my opinion, I think because every one of her books has a little bit of magic in it. (If you haven’t already read One Italian Summer, go do that for yourself.) So, when I saw this on the YA table at Barnes and Noble over the summer, I immediately picked it up. It is a Romeo and Juliet retelling from the perspective of Rosaline. I’ve been saving this because I don’t want it to end…if that makes any sense. : )

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

I started reading this on my Disney World trip, but put it down. I loved Love and Gelato. I liked Love and Olives. I am feeling slightly lukewarm about Love and Luck. The story is about a girl named Addie who goes on a trip to Ireland with her family, but when she is supposed to go visit her friend in Italy, (our girl from Love and Gelato), things go awry. I’m halfway through the book and waiting for things to be revealed. It is a cute read.

Ok. Ok. I know. Nine books for January is a lot. But in my defense, January is a long, cold month.

Again, if anyone is interested in reading any of these books, I’d love to do a buddy read, read-a-thon, book club, or any other co-reading experience. You can also leave your recommendations, TBR lists, and opinions of the books here in the comments!!

And please feel free to share this list with anyone looking for book recs.

I’ll be reviewing these books for my first post of February, but in the mean time I’ll be back next week with a writing prompt post.

Happy New Year everyone! I wish you days of happiness, creativity, and many, many words!!

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A Note on New Year’s Resolutions

Well, hello everyone!

On the eve of New Years, I’ve got to thinking about resolutions.

How many years have you promised yourself that come January 1st you’ll stop eating poorly, start exercising, do a certain thing every single day until you — lose the weight, write the book, get the dream job — you get the jist.

I know, personally, I have spent many years making promises filled with hope that deep down I know I am never going to make good on. And all those promises end up doing is making me feel like crap at the end of the year when I didn’t do any of the things I set out to do.

So, as we march into 2023, I’d like to give up on the New Year’s Resolution and adopt a new way of looking at this next year.

I’m going to pick a word, and I resolve to make that word the thing I seek out every day of the year.

For 2023, the word is … celebrate.

I often think of celebrations as the party at the end of a long road. The graduation. The wedding reception. The birthday party. Markers of milestones. But how often do those milestones occur in our lives? And as we get older, the milestones become fewer and further between until we’ve relegated our celebrations to annual holidays.

Life happens every day. The reaching of milestones, big and small, happens every day. And I want to celebrate those.

There’s so much that I want to achieve in the coming year, but making my year about discipline or consistency isn’t necessarily part of my plan.

I want to enjoy. I want to find happiness in every day. And I want to celebrate the small stuff.

What are some of your goals or words for the New Year? I’d love to know in the comments!

Happy holidays, friends! I’ll see you next week.

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If You’re Struggling This Holiday Season…

Hey all.

I didn’t think I’d write a post this week, but I was reading something that really resonated with me and wanted to share.

Since the beginning of November, I’ve been dealing with near daily migraines. The pain is not the worst I’ve ever felt, but being in any sort of pain, big or small, for long stretches of time becomes exhausting.

With the pain has come nausea, aches in my neck and shoulder, and fatigue. By the end of the day, I don’t have much energy to do anything aside from read and doom scroll on TikTok.

And I have tried everything in my power (outside of going to the doctor) to get myself out of this migraine cycle, from CBD cream to medication to ice caps and electrode devices (Cefaly, to be exact). It’s all worked, to a degree, but I wake up in the morning back at square one.

I know this has something to do with the time of the year. The holiday season has historically been a chaotic period (as it is for most people), especially as I have never been the best at creating space for rest. But this migraine has made rest, not only essential. Rest is mandatory. My body is forcing me to say no, to take breaks, to lay down.

For anyone dealing with chronic pain, you may have dabbled in the world of TMS and the mind-body connection. For those who don’t know about this, the idea is that our stress and anxiety manifest themselves in many different ways, one of those ways being flare of ups of chronic conditions like IBS, migraine, thyroid issues, etc.

One of the ways to release the stress is to journal about the underlying emotions that are triggering the flare. (Nicole Sachs is a licensed therapist, who hosts a podcast and course about this called Journal Speak. You can find her on Instagram. I’ve found her prompts to be helpful.)

My issue is that, I couldn’t seem to get to the bottom of the well with this one. You know when you have the realization and something in your body pops to life? In all the journaling and meditating, I wasn’t having that moment. And the pain persisted.

Then, I started reading Don’t F*cking Panic by Kelsey Darragh, a podcaster, YouTuber, and self-proclaimed lifelong anxious person. And as I was reading, there was a quote in the book that popped out and made my pain suddenly make sense.

You must forgive yourself for doing whatever it took to survive.

It might sound wild, but migraines are a way that I survived. Counterintuitive, I know. How could pain help you survive? But pain was what my body created when I couldn’t enact boundaries for myself. And the holiday season is full of boundary-less landmines. From an early age my body decided, “If you’re not going to say no to the things you don’t want to do, then I am going to say no for you.”

*Migraine has now entered the chat*

You’d think that I’d feel relieved to have a reason to get out of plans. I’m an introvert after all. But some of those plans, I actually look forward to. And because of my migraine flares, I often times have to disappoint people last minute, which feels absolutely awful.

In realizing this, I’ve had to mourn a version of myself that doesn’t exist anymore because my body won’t allow her to. It means becoming the version of myself who is honest with everyone about how she’s feeling without fear of judgement.

Scary f**king stuff.

But also liberating. My friends and family can trust that what I’m telling them is the truth, instead of saying what everyone wants to hear. It means showing up and being completely present in the moment. Enjoying myself. That’s pretty wonderful, if you ask me. It’s a better version of me.

However, letting go of old, ingrained habits is hard. My body holds onto pain like a shield because it trusts that people understand pain, but it doesn’t trust that people understand the word no. I guess part of this then is that in teaching people to trust me, I have to learn to trust them. I have to learn to trust that just because I enact a boundary, doesn’t mean they are going to be angry with me, or worst of all, decide to never talk to me again.

Recovery is a slow road, and growth is not linear. But it’s worth it if it brings us peace.

This holiday season, I hope you enjoy all the good moments, whoever you decide to spend it with and however you decide to spend your time.

But for those who are struggling, I hope you also give yourself compassion and grace. Just because you didn’t show up to the holiday party at your friend’s house or didn’t jam pack the season with every single holiday activity that would make an elf at the North Pole jealous doesn’t make you boring or terrible.

You deserve to enjoy this time and all the days of your life however you choose without guilt. So, give yourself the gift of letting go of expectations. Rest when you need to. Say no when you want to. Give yourself space. And forgive yourself for doing whatever it took to survive.

Happy holidays, friends. I wish you days filled with happiness and creativity as we roll into the New Year! See you next week.

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Writing Prompt: Senses, Setting, & The Grocery Store

Hey everyone!

How have you all be faring this holiday season?

I gotta be honest, I haven’t been doing so great. Don’t get me wrong, my anxiety has been under control, but I’ve had a migraine since the beginning of November. There have been a few pain free days here and there, but the migraine symptoms like foggy headedness and fatigue follow me around like a stink. It’s awful and makes it impossible to get anything done.

I’m happy to report, though, that as of the day I am writing this post, I am on my second pain/migraine symptom free day! I feel human as opposed to a walking Zombie doing her best impression of “alive”.

It’s the holidays that do it for me. The drastic change in weather and temperature. The 4:30 PM sunset. My muscle memory associations with the season. In years past, there has always been so much to do and so little energy with which to do it. But as I continue therapy and actually enacting things like BOUNDARIES! And CONSISTENCY! And SAYING NO! I’ve found that there are parts of me I have to mourn, the parts of me that did everything, said yes to everything. But then, that version of me was resentful of the people who made demands of my time and energy when I had neither. So, this version of me is better. More consistent. She doesn’t show up to everything, but when she does she’s present. And it’s the presence that counts most.

Any way.

Being pain and migraine symptom free has inspired me to share some writing. In March 2020 when I threw myself back into writing, I started taking courses with The LA Writer’s Group. I had originally been looking for the Gotham Write-In’s I used to take in the city on Friday nights, figuring they’d be online since Covid had shut the world down. But I was pleasantly surprised to find Nicole Criona’s class.

LA Writer’s Group is a magical space. And Nicole does a fantastic job of nurturing her students and teaching practical application of writing strategies in a low stakes environment.

This group was where I found the inspiration for my first novel. It’s also where I met someone who would become one of my best friends.

If you are looking for a writing group, LA Writer’s Group is where it’s at. And since classes are offered via Zoom, it’s highly convenient, no matter where you are in the world.

Back to the scheduled program.

So, earlier this year (January 8th, 2022 to be exact), I logged into a class with Nicole and wrote a little something that I want to share here.

The Prompt: Describe a scene in which a character is in a noisy, busy place. The goal is to use sensory details and setting to create the scene.

This is what I wrote.

I sat in my car in the parking lot steeling myself for the impending chaos. I tried to get here for 9, but that was no guarantee of peace.

One breath. Two breaths. Close my eyes. Go.

I leave the safety of my Corolla and tread cautiously across the pavement, stopping short when a champagne colored Nissan Altima swings into the lot with a head of write curls at the wheel. Someone’s grandma fresh from the salon.

A woman with a screaming toddler gets to the carts before I do.

“I want to go home!” he yells.

“We just need to pick up a few things,” the mom says as she wipes down the sticky looking orange bar with a Lysol wipe. She hoists the grumpy kid into the basket, and me and the toddler make eye contact.

Me too, kid, me too.

I ride the wave of anxiety through the automatic doors.

Here we go.

FLOURESCENT LIGHTING! A Muzak station of Hall and Oates blasting from an invisible speaker! The produce section swarms with people, fat, thin, young, old, who all resolved to be better in the new year. They inspect organic lettuce and check tomatoes for bruises.

I get to the peppers, only to be cut off by a frat boy in a backwards cap and joggers. I look like a potato in my oversized hoodie and yoga pants. So, I smile awkwardly and vow to go back to the peppers later, when Mr. Abs is gone.

The dairy aisle is no better. The sea of patrons is thick. People hug in the middle of the aisle like a family reunion because that’s what people do in small towns.

But me? I’m just here for a brick of cheddar.

Well friends, that does it for this week. Let me know in the comments how you’re doing this holiday season, what you’re reading, what you’re writing!!

I’ll be off next week, but will be back with a post on December 31st. In the mean time, I wish you days of happiness and creativity.

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You HAVE to Read These Books!

Hey everyone!

2022 has been a big reading year for me. (Which sounds ridiculous considering I have been a life-long reader who majored in English and TAUGHT English for 13 years). But really, I didn’t have time to read voraciously until my life slowed down. Any way.

In the last six months, I’ve read around 70 books. Kinda crazy. I know.

And within those 70 books, I have read among a variety of different genres. Since it’s December, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past year and felt like talking about some of the books that I considered to be the best of the bunch.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you’ve read any of these or have recommendations! I’d love to discuss!!

Literary Fiction

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

It took me a minute to get into this book, but once I did I was hooked! The novel is about two friends who become video game creators, but it’s so much more than that. The story really dives deep into the world of creativity and creating, friendship, love…and there’s one line in the book that made me absolutely ugly cry. 10/10. Highly recommend.

Romance

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

I was almost embarrassed to admit how much I loved this book…but I loved this book. It’s about Olive and Adam, two scientists, who begin fake dating for their own personal reasons, only to end up falling in love. That’s not a spoiler. If you know the trope, then you know it was going to happen that way. And while the trope is done again and again in the same formulaic way, I found Hazelwood’s writing to be really compelling. Plus, I pictured Adam Driver as the Adam in this book…so…

Horror

I could not for the life of me choose between these two books. So horror gets two recommendations. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia and The Hacienda by Isabel Canas.

Both are gothic haunted house historical fiction stories with horror tropes set in Mexico. However, The Hacienda takes place in 1800’s while Mexican Gothic takes place in the 1950’s.

Both novels were fast paced with compelling narrative voices and terrifying descriptions of horror elements.

These books are both a 10/10 for me. You can’t go wrong with either. Trust me.

Non-Fiction

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA

I listened to this book via audible, and highly recommend the audio book. Sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski talk about the stress cycle, how society locks us in stress cycles, and give actionable steps for completing stress cycles. A super informational but digestible read that’s great for the New Year.

Chick-Lit with a Touch of Magic

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

I loved this book so much that I read it in one afternoon. I also love Rebecca Serle books in general because they all have a little element of magic to them. The writing makes you feel like you’re in Italy with the main character. But the story itself is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s about a woman who plans a trip to Italy with her mother, but after her mother passes, she decides to go on the trip and magic ensues. I’m doing a terrible job of summarizing this. Just trust me. It’s good.

What are you currently reading, or what are some stand outs from your reading year? I’d love to hear your recommendations and thoughts in the comments!

Until next week my friends, happy reading!

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24 Hour Read-A-Thon: What I Read

Happy Saturday everyone!

We’re half way through October, which I just can’t believe. How are you all doing?

I returned from a girl’s trip to Las Vegas last Sunday, and the next morning my husband left for a three day trip to Charlotte for a work conference, which meant that I was in the house alone overnight for the first time in three years.

What’s a book loving introvert to do with all that time?

A 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, of course!

I became obsessed with the idea of doing a 24 Hour Read-A-Thon after deep diving into the land of BookTok and BookTube and seeing all the creators making their cozy, read-a-thon content. However, I never seem to have an uninterrupted 24 hour span to engage…until this past week. And can I say, it was absolutely delightful.

A quick word on my read-a-thon however. I didn’t do a “pure” 24 hour read-a-thon. It turns out that, as much as my brain thinks I can sit and read for 24 hours straight without any sleep, my body (migraines and anxiety) needs breaks and sleep. So, my 24 hour read-a-thon spanned five days. But I did keep time on my phone’s stopwatch and only counted the time I spent reading. Whenever I was eating, watching tv, working, etc., I stopped the timer. And in that 24 hours I was able to finish 6 books. Some of the books I had already started (I’m generally a slow reader), but here are my reviews of the books I read during the read-a-thon!

1. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

This book was a bit of a departure from my spooky season tbr, but I didn’t feel like reading about witches and autumn when I was on vacation. Ya know what I mean? This book was the perfect vacation read, which feels redundant to say considering the title. But the story is about Poppy and her best friend, Alex, who vacation together every summer. They stop talking for two years after an incident on one of their trips and come together for another vacation like old times. The book alternates between past and present, which adds a lot of depth to Poppy and Alex’s relationship. I enjoyed this book so much and highly recommend. It’s a quick, easy read, especially if you’re looking for a good book to bring on vacation.

2. Invest in Death by Anne-Marie Sutton

Invest in Death is part of a cozy mystery series that takes place in Newport, Rhode Island. And if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I am a sucker for anything set in Newport, especially a cozy mystery. I want to love this series, but I’ve read two books from it now and would give both two stars. This particular book is about the death of investment broker, Althea Tanner. Amateur sleuth Caroline Kent and police detective Lt. Hank Nightingale are on the case to discover Althea’s killer and the shady dealings behind her investment business. The stories of this series always feel lost to me between being set in the present but using language that makes them feel as though they are set in the past. The books are less than 300 pages, so they read really fast, but the story just wasn’t that interesting, sadly. And there were certain points in the dialogue or character’s actions that felt unnecessary or out of the line with who the characters were.

3. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary’s Baby is a horror classic, but if this book is on your tbr for October, go in understanding that it is very much a product of it’s time and the language and themes of the novel reflect that period. The story is about Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband, Guy, an actor desperate for fame. They move into the Bramford in NYC, having been warned of the building’s reputation for housing members of the occult over the centuries and soon befriend their odd, old neighbors, the Castevet’s. Rosemary becomes pregnant and chaos ensues. Overall, the book was good. But I definitely got hung up on the writing because, like I said, it’s very much a product of the time in which it was written and published. And the way Rosemary is gaslit through the entire book coupled with the way the Castevet’s are all up in her business made me so angry. However, if you’re looking for classic horror, this one is worth a read.

4. Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Go read this book. I read it in a day. Fast paced, super interesting and atmospheric. It’s a mix between The Sixth Sense and And Then There Were None. On the eve of her 80th birthday, reclusive author, Beatrice Darker, invites her estranged family to her home for a reading of her will. That night, members of the family begin to die, but who is the killer? I love Alice Feeney’s writing, except for when she breaks out of the narration to give these little philosophical asides that kind of took me out of the story. However, it was not enough to pull me out completely. I loved how she set the house on a remote island on Halloween on a dark and stormy night. It was the perfect book for October. Highly, HIGHLY recommend.

5. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

I have been trying to finish this book for, what might have been, a year. It’s the story of the Eastwood sisters, living in New Salem, and trying to defeat the terrible, Gideon Hill, who has been terrorizing witches for centuries. I wanted to love this more than I did. It’s historical fiction. It’s witches. And magic. And the main narration is interspersed with fairy tales, and I LOVE fairy tales. (Can I get a woot woot for Faerie Tale Theatre with Shelley Duvall??) But I felt like the story was slow and that the action got lost in the words. Underneath all the nuance, I did enjoy the bones of this book. And this is definitely more literary than fluff, which is totally fine. I love a literary witch book. I also took issue with the fact that some of the dialogue felt out of place because it felt so modern. Overall, worth a read if you’re looking for a smart book about witchcraft, fairy tales, and magic.

6. The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

This book was cute. It was like Book Lovers by Emily Henry, but with ghosts and a touch of Six Feet Under if the show had been a comedy. Ghostwriter, Florence Day, goes to her hometown for her father’s funeral and is haunted by the ghost of her new editor, Benji Andor, who has recently passed away. What I enjoyed most about this book was, yes the romance between Ben and Florence, but more than that the relationship between Florence and her family. I loved the way Florence’s parents were written and the way each member of the family loved one another and their home. It made me want to be a part of the Day’s. And, for someone with death anxiety, it made death not so scary. It was actually really beautifully written. I did get frustrated that Florence’s narration repeated itself A LOT. So, her feelings were really driven home by the redundancy of her thoughts and dialogue. But, overall a cute read for any time in the Fall!

Did you read any of these books? What are you thoughts?

I’ll be back next week with a writing prompt and draft. But in the mean time, I hope you are reading some great books (and if you are, please send me your recommendations! I need more books for my ever growing tbr pile!)

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you next Saturday!

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Panic Attacks and Writing Prompts

Happy Saturday everyone!

Is anyone else having a most delightful autumn/October? It’s seriously my favorite time of year. I think I have reverse seasonal affective disorder, where I get sad in the summer and happy in the fall and winter. Maybe it’s the fact that summer feels so stressful. Like you have to be going out and doing things all the time or else “you’re wasting the good weather.” I don’t know when 900 degree heat in the blistering sun became good weather, but ok. You do you. Imma be in the air conditioning with my books and my bad attitude until the leaves start to turn.

Any way.

I just finished a micro fiction course with Sarah Freligh and wanted to share a prompt and some writing that it generated. If you have time or are interested in taking a writing course, I highly recommend Sarah Freligh. She gave lots of great prompts, and her feedback was super helpful.

One of the prompts was about writing a sort of “how to” guide in 300 words or less. I chose to write about my first panic attack at a cafe in Barcelona. A most memorable experience, if I may say so.

My thirties have been defined by this particular trip. I’ll go into detail in a later post, but for now, here’s a condensed version of that experience.

Prompt: The Why or How of It

Start with a how or why title – “How to Make Your Mother Cry,” “Why I Live at the Laundromat,” “Why I Don’t Date Men With Children,” “How to Lasso the Moon” – and on and on.

Now write a story that answers the question — or better yet, don’t! 300 words or fewer.

This is what I wrote.

How to Have a Panic Attack in a Cafe in Barcelona

It starts with a flight to Spain, where you’ll spend a month in a sixth floor walk-up in the heat of July with no fans or air conditioning. There’s no relief. It’s 100 degrees in the shade. You and your friend, who you are sharing the apartment with, walk the cobble stoned streets of the gothic quarter marveling at cathedrals and roman ruins between visits to coffee shops to cool off and use the Wifi. Because, did I mention, you and your friend, slightly homesick, use up all the Wifi within the first three days of arrival. Twenty-one days into the trip, it’s your 30th birthday. On a jaunt with your friend, you cry while sitting on the rim of a potted plant. Because you miss the person you went on this trip to get away from. So, you call him. But he’s not saying the things you want him to say. 

Your friend leaves a week later, giving you space. And silence. And a lot of time to write and think. You go shopping at H&M and buy clothes you can’t afford with a maxed out credit card. You write a bad story. You listen to the rain fall outside your apartment terrace and pack for your trip to Portugal. And then one morning you wake up with a migraine because you get those sometimes. You take two excedrin on an empty stomach and go to the cafe where you drink coffee and write emails and ignore your body’s need for breakfast. And that’s when the adrenaline hits. Head dizzy. Heart racing. Legs wobbly. You leave the cafe and stumble toward home. Up the stairs. Into bed. And you are absolutely positively certain that this is how you die.

That’s all for now, folks. I currently have a bit of a migraine and am two hours away from getting on a flight to Las Vegas to spend a few days with friends. I’ve packed a million books, so get ready for some recommendations next week!

In the mean time, wishing you a week filled with creativity and fun! And feel free to share about your experiences with writing, reading, anxiety, or travel. I’d love to hear from you.

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Let’s Talk about Anxiety

Hello all,

It’s raining here in my neck of New Jersey. I love rainy days no matter the season, but I especially love rainy days in Fall.

Anyway. We’re not here to talk about the weather.

I’ve teased at this topic in many of my blog posts, but I decided I finally wanted to talk about it today. Anxiety.

My experience with her spans 37 years, my entire life. For a time, she showed up as severe migraines. Still does sometimes. But for the last 7 years, she’s shown up as panic disorder. Those terrifying physical symptoms and ruminating thoughts that convince you you are going to die.

I’ve had three periods over the last 7 years where anxiety has shown up like a constant companion. The first time, she came with chest tightness and breathing issues, but I was able to defeat her with medication. The second time medication couldn’t beat her, but while she was scary she was manageable.

This third time though. Can I just say…wow. Anxiety did not come to play this third round. Beyond the physical symptoms, she came with terribly disturbing thought patterns and agoraphobia.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year stuck inside my body, unable to go long distances or else the bells and whistles would go off in my brain. There was a lot of crying. A lot of certainty that “something was really wrong this time.” I go to therapy weekly. I meditate and journal. I’ve completed anxiety workshops and courses, left my high stress career as a teacher, taken supplements. But there was no getting rid of her.

Part of me wanted to write this post because throughout all my cycles of anxiety, there’s a point where I find myself googling, “Can I live happily with anxiety?”

I remember one such moment back in 2019, crying hysterically on my couch as I waited for an uber to pick me up and bring me to the airport for a three week trip to Europe with a friend. But my anxiety made my chest tight. Made my heart race. Made me dizzy and my legs wonky. And that one thought that ruminated, “Will I be ok?”

So, as I waited for the Uber, I googled, “Can I live happily with anxiety?” And the hits were bleak. A lot of no’s. A lot of … well you can, but it’s a struggle.

I got on the plane that day feeling defeated. And doomed. But I was ok in the end. And the three week trip to Europe was great, anxiety and all.

You can live happily with anxiety.

The other reason I wanted to write this post was to talk about taking anxiety for medication. If you’re currently sitting with a bottle of anti-anxiety meds in your hand, scared because of all the what ifs…do it! Take the meds.

In my recent state of anxiety, I spent a lot of time not taking medication out of fear. What if I get sick? What if I have an adverse reaction? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t find a medication that works? All the what ifs.

But where I was in my brain and body was so bad that I took the risk. All the what ifs be damned. And the risk paid off. There are still anxious days, but they are nowhere near where I was in April, unable to stop crying, fear wracking my body, stealing my thoughts, and ultimately, my freedom.

I realize this blog post is probably all over the place. I’d love to hear your experiences with anxiety in the comments. It’s nice to not have to go this road alone.

And I’m sure I’ll write more about anxiety in the future. But for now, this is a start.

Happy Thursday.

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Part III: A Date in the Future

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

I said I was going to stay consistent. I said I was going to post on Saturdays. I said all of these things to myself. And it’s not that I lied. It’s that life happened. As it does. And then we as the responsible parent of ourselves is on the hook for making sure we do the thing we say we are going to do.

I am currently in my rebellious teenage phase of adulthood. Probably because I never got to have a rebellious teenage phase as a teenager when it was age appropriate. But I say all that to say that some of the things I am rebelling against are alarm clocks, saying yes to things I don’t want to do, and saying yes to things I know are good for me. Like writing. Like sitting down and doing the work that I know will help me mentally as much as a good long walk does. I’ve also been rebelling against mental health walks that I know will 100% help my anxiety. But apparently my rebellion doesn’t want to make any sense.

Next week, I’ll be writing a post about mental health and my anxiety. But for now, let’s chat about the final writing prompt of the Catapult class.

I think I failed the assignment. Because, again, my rebellion was like, “I don’t want to write about that.” Petulant child that she is. But I did write about it in a way. My writing piece became an ode to my former self. To my 13 year old self. Who feels as real to me now as when I was living in her body some 24 years ago. Or the 22 year old version of me who, during her first year of teaching, cried every day and wished for a life that felt entirely impossible.

Turns out the life that I wanted wasn’t impossible. But what it took to get here was hard. There were sacrifices and tough decisions that needed to be made. And then there was the nuclear fall out from those decisions that I never could have imagined. I wanted to tell her, that 22 year old me, that we did it. We’re on the other side.

So, the prompt was this: Choose a date in the future and write what happened up to that point.

This is what I wrote.

After the novel class ended, we wrote every day. It started with 10 minutes. Then 15. Half an hour. Until we hit the sweet spot. Until we wrote past the corner we’d painted ourselves into. And then we rewrote. And we edited. And we found our spark. Our sparkle. Because you spent so much time comparing yourself to others that you shut off your ability to tell stories.

You redefined success. And redefined what it meant to be a writer. And found the fun again. Because what you thought it could give you was never really what mattered. What mattered was that the 13 year old version of you who spent Friday nights writing stories on her typewriter got to live her dream. Because the 22 year old version of you who thought she’d never leave teaching, did. Once you dropped the pressure to perform, everything fell into place.

Remember that for if it happens again. Success is measured in units of happiness. And writing will always bring you joy.

Until next week friends. I hope you find happiness in the days to come.

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Part II: Punctuation?!

Hey everyone!

It’s time for another “Catapult Class Writing Prompt”!

I’ve been spending this Saturday reading Love and Olives, which I’ve been enjoying very much after reading Love and Gelato. My anxiety has been high for the last week or so, and my current fixation is “books that take place in Greece”. I also read My Mamma Mia Summer. So, if you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun, I highly suggest these two titles. They’ve really helped me get out of my head for a little while.

What I really should be doing instead of reading is writing my flash fiction piece for NYC Midnight. But I still have another 24+ hours before that’s due right? *insert sly smile emoji*

So, this week’s writing prompt with Catapult had to do with punctuation. Now, before I give the prompt, I want to give fair warning – even though I was an English teacher for 13 years…I am not good with grammar conventions or punctuation.

It was always funny when I would tell people what I did for a living and their response would be, “I need to watch how I speak so you don’t judge my grammar!”

To which I’d smile politely and think, “If they only knew that I have no idea how to use a semicolon.”

I say all this to say: don’t come for my lack of punctuational understanding. Let’s just be friends, comma splices and all.

And, as always, feel free to use the prompt if it moves you and leave comments to tell me about your own writing journey!

This week’s class prompt was: Choose a single form of punctuation that’s not a period or comma. Then write a story where that’s THE ONLY punctuation you use for the entire story.

This is what I wrote.

Summer – she sits at the plastic table covered in a seashell print table cloth – relics of a sea she hasn’t seen in years – is it years – was it last year – when she went down the shore in November with an old friend she can still remember meeting for the first time – they played games on the empty boardwalk and ate slices of pizza the size of blue whales and sat in the sand on a turquoise sheet she’d brought from home – it was November – the end was only an imaginary game – health insurance – what will you do to make up your salary – I’ll find a way – she sits in the backyard watching the leaves shiver in a heatwave breeze dappled in sunlight and it doesn’t feel the way she thought it would – to be free but not – to have summer time – to have summer time but no sea – will she just have to wait for fall to feel the relief she’s still waiting for –

Until next week friends! May your week be filled with words and everything that gives you joy.

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Part I: Lemurs, Contradictions, and Synesthesia

Hello all,

I know it’s been a while. I’ve been busy trying to figure out my anxiety, which I will be talking about in a later post. Know that things are going pretty well and, hopefully, getting consistently better.

Last year, I wrote a post about leaving my career in teaching, which, like anxiety, will be another topic I discuss in later posts. But the point of leaving teaching was to give myself more time to write.

I say all this to say that I am currently taking a writing course with Catapult (check them out!) and have been generating some writing that I wanted to share somewhere. So why not share it here!

For the next five weeks of courses, and beyond, I am going to use this space to share what I generate each week through writing courses and workshops. Feel free to use any prompts for your own writing. And, of course, please comment about your own writing journey. I would love to hear from you!

This week’s class prompt was: write a piece that includes an element of synesthesia, contradict yourself at least twice, and include a lemur.

This is what I wrote.

Portugal tastes like tomatoes. Like the feira where men turn roast chickens on a spit. Clouds of smoke pluming into the hot heat of August. Rancho spinning wildly from tinny speakers that call you home. Or is that Spain?

I can’t remember. But I can because the lemons and oranges that sag the tree limbs outside Sao Bento’s hidden church on the river where the town flooded is alive like a memory.

Or is that England?

A cool night in July after a couple of Magner’s at the pub. It’s only 8 PM but the world of Boringwood…was that the name…shut down. Off we go to the Howard Johnson. Or was it the Holiday Inn? Singing songs in a voice that doesn’t know sadness yet. Jumping on your best friend’s back shouting, “I’m a lemur” because you’re 25 and the world tastes like freedom. And this is only the beginning of a shooting star scented life.

Until next week, friends. I wish you many days of words that flow and minutes filled with whatever brings you joy.

A Disney World Redemption

Hey everyone!

I was working on a post about an October reading wrap up, but then I went to Disney World for a week with my husband and our family and friends. And the October reading wrap up had to wait.

To give my enthusiasm for writing about my Disney World experience some context, we need to go back to February 2022.

My panic disorder had come back full force in August of 2021, and by December of 2021, the daily anxiety and near constant panic showed no signs of abating. Around Christmas time, I took an online class with Nicole Sachs called Freedom from Anxiety and was doing a meditation challenge through Gabby Bernstein’s website. I was journaling every day and attending weekly therapy, but I was living in a body that felt as though my raw emotions lived just underneath my skin. I’d wake up to the feeling of a racing heart, a tight chest, and pressure in my head and throat.

Did I forget to mention that I had a bachelorette weekend to Disney World planned with my sister-in-law and niece the first week of February 2022 and my wedding was scheduled for six weeks after that in March?

I was struggling, but I was too scared to take medication because of all the what if’s. I’d tried Lexapro in the past and had a bad experience. And with my wedding so close, I didn’t feel like journeying down the trial and error road of anti-depressants.

So, I kept meditating. And journaling. And going on walks. And around January 2022, my anxiety started feeling better. Not 100%, mind you. But a noticeable difference which gave me confidence that the Disney World bachelorette weekend would be a hit.

I think you can guess what happened next.

I had a panic attack the morning of the flight to Florida and ended up taking a small dose of as needed medication before leaving my house. Once on the plane, I couldn’t eat or drink anything because of my intrusive thoughts. “What if I have to go to the bathroom, but we’re landing?” “What if I have an adverse reaction to something I eat, but we’re still in flight?” I spent the entire plane ride holding onto my prescription bottle of anxiety meds while listening to “Lost” by Coldplay on repeat. Oh. And I almost forgot to mention the part where everyone was boarding and the door to the plane was still open and my intrusive thoughts yelled, “GET OFF THE PLANE! YOU HAVE TO GET OFF THE PLANE NOW!”

I did not, in fact, get off the plane. But the tiny troll that controls my anxious thoughts was doing the most to scare the snot out of me. I’d like to commend that troll for a job well done.

Once we landed in Orlando, we got our bags and took ourselves to the resort to drop off our belongings and get started on our vacation with a jaunt to Epcot.

I opted out of riding “Soaring”, sighting that the ride made me motion sick. Really, I was too afraid to stand on the line. This would be a theme that followed me throughout the trip. My anxiety would get caught in my throat as we walked through the parks, through walls of people, through searing heat. Trigger. Trigger. Trigger. I was up against all of my triggers with no working defenses aside from a bottle of prescription anxiety meds that I was too afraid to take a full dose of.

The second morning at Disney, we went to the restaurant in our hotel for breakfast, and while we sat waiting for the waitress to bring us pastries and water, my panic caught me. I asked where the bathroom was, but when I couldn’t find it, I started to cry. I excused myself and went back to the room where I ate oatmeal alone on my bed watching YouTube videos and sobbing.

I felt scared that this would be my normal state of emotions for the duration of the trip. I felt guilty for not being the best, most fun version of myself on an extremely special vacation. And I felt awful for wasting my family’s time and money. Disney is not cheap. Time off from work and school is not cheap. And I felt like I was letting everyone down.

After my sister-in-law and niece came back from breakfast, I got myself on the Friendship Boat to Hollywood Studios. The further we walked into the park away from the exit, the more anxious I became. We walked into Toy Story Land and were greeted by a flood of people. The sun battered down on us. I had to get out. I waited for my sister-in-law and niece to get off a ride before calling an Uber and going back to the hotel. I couldn’t even make it an hour at the park.

That trip, I spent a lot of time in the room by myself napping and crying and waiting for my medicine to kick in and make the anxiety manageable. Bearable. We were in Disney for five days and I went on two rides the whole time and had a minor anxiety attack in the Tiki Room at Magic Kingdom. I left parks early. But we had a fabulous night at the California Grille which still sticks out in my memory as a peak event of the trip.

I went home with my tail between my legs, ashamed of how bad my anxiety had gotten, and wondering how I was going to get through the subsequent six weeks of wedding planning.

Another spoiler: my anxiety manifested itself in every physical way it could, to the point that I was ready to see a doctor if my physical pain didn’t subside after the wedding day. But I woke up the day after the wedding and felt absolutely fine as if all of the serious issues I’d been having had never happened. Riddle me that.

I finally started taking Zoloft in April, after the anxiety got worse. After my therapist said I needed a break. After I sat in my doctor’s office and sobbed about a fear of my body that I couldn’t make sense of in words.

When I started feeling better, I made some plans for trips throughout the Fall. Newport in September. Vegas in October. And a Disney World redemption trip in November.

I upped my dose in July after a round of Covid brought back my anxiety and I started to exhibit avoidant behaviors again. And then, around the end of August, as though a light switch cut on, I started feeling better. Not the false better I’d felt in January. This was real better. My husband and I went on our trip to Newport and I actually had fun. I was excited. I wanted to see and try new things. I wanted to be out and about in the world. We had such a good time that I was actually looking forward to my girl’s trip to Vegas in October. And that trip ended up being phenomenal, too.

But there was one last trip we had planned. A trip to Disney World at the beginning of November.

5 days. 4 parks. And my trusty bottle of Zoloft. Would I make it through? Would I have a good time? Would I get on rides? Or would I end up a ball of anxious tears in our hotel room for a week?

I HAD THE BEST TIME!

I did take extra as needed meds every day to make my anxiety manageable. But they worked. They actually worked!

And this time around I got on Soaring and enjoyed it. I did have a bit of an anxious moment on line for The Little Mermaid at Magic Kingdom. But my husband reminded me, we could always get off the line if we needed to and that nothing bad was going to happen. Our week in Disney was spent park hopping, eating Mickey pretzels, and trying to get on as many rides as was possible given the amount of people there. There also was a tropical storm that passed through and kept us in our rooms from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday evening. We spent time watching Disney movies and taking naps. (Ratatouille and Encanto are BOPS!)

But my big take away from the trip was that I felt like my full self again. One of the many things that my anxiety took away was my ability to feel excitement. And as we walked through the parks, I found myself marveling at the decorations and checking the times for each ride to see what we could get on next. I couldn’t do that in February. I was too afraid. Too stuck in my body.

So, this is why the October reading wrap up had to wait. Because I was too excited about my trip to Disney and needed to tell someone. This felt like a good place. Oh, and my therapist. I told my therapist. She was pretty excited that I had such a successful trip, too.

And, of course, if you struggle with anxiety or travel, I’d love to chat with you!

Thanks for going on this journey with me. See you next week.

Taking the Leap

My first blog post! I guess the polite thing would be to start by saying hello and welcome. In my head I’m waving to you like the gif of Forrest Gump waving excitedly from his boat to Lieutenant Dan. That’s how excited I am that you’re here.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about leaps of faith. This blog, for me, is a leap of faith. The whole website, in fact, is a leap of faith. Maybe I should back track a bit. Humor me as we go all the way back to 2002. A seventeen year old version of myself applying to college knowing two things: that I wanted to major in English, and that I wanted to be a writer.

I am from a relatively pragmatic family. My father is an old school, Jersey Italian who believes in financial independence and the importance of a job with benefits. So when I told him I was going to major in English, his response was, “English? What are you going to do with a degree in English?” And out of absolute fear, I said, “Teach.” He nodded in approval because he understood teaching. It was a good job with a pension! Benefits! A noble profession that needs no explanation and required a college degree! But secretly I had made plans with the universe. I would minor in education, all the while charting my escape route into my post college life as a writer.

But then teaching got me. Sunk her talons into my flesh and pulled me up into the sky like a hawk. My first day of observations, I sat in the back of a classroom and heard the whisper. You know the one that Oprah talks about? That one. Like a breeze passing by my ear and on the breeze was a voice that said, “You’re meant to be doing this for the rest of your life.” I was nineteen. There was a lot of life left. There’s still a lot of life left, but we’ll get to that later.

I answered the call. Not that I completely lost myself to teaching. I still wrote a lot. I still planned on being a writer, but as college graduation loomed before me like a lighthouse I realized that my Plan B, teaching, had taken a lot of work. I figured there’d be no harm in making it my plan A. Teachers have great schedules, right? Off at three. Summers and breaks. Plenty of time for writing.

Except it took all of my creativity. Every. Last. Drop. And I was happy to do it for a long time. Teaching has given me some of the best and worst moments of my life. There is nothing like the high of when a lesson goes well. When the kids are into the activity that took you eight hours on a Sunday to research, prep, and plan. Or when they get it. When they learn the thing you’re teaching. But the lows in teaching are looooow. Classroom management issues. Apathetic students. That’s part of the game, too.

I carried on for thirteen years, and every once in a while when I found a free moment not filled with exhaustion, I’d write. It was never much. A few hundred words here. A thousand words there. An abandoned novel. Then quarantine happened, and I saw my opportunity. We were a world in survival mode forced by government mandates to stay at home. And I wrote. It poured out of me. Just a bottomless well of stories and essays that flowed through my caffeinated fingers. Gone were the Sunday scaries and the manic Monday anxiety that came with the commute. It was freedom.

For the first time since I was twenty one I started to wonder, “What if?” What if I went all the way with this? What if I actually put myself out there and started to be the thing that had been living inside me since I was a kid? What if I kicked my raft away from shore without another island in sight?

Teaching has been my entire adult identity, but we humans are not made of one thing. It’s foolish to put yourself in a box when you’re seventeen and think that same box will fit you at thirty-five. I still love teaching, but I’m realizing the type of teaching I want to do is changing because I am changing. And that realization is both terrifying and exhilarating.

So, I’m putting it all out there. The truth. I’m on a journey for my next act, which includes my Plan A that became my Plan B. And I thank teaching for teaching me so much about myself. For giving me stability and opportunity and independence and thick skin. For the relationships I’ve made with incredible people. For all of the laughs with students who kept me humble.

I was a thin skinned girl from the suburbs of New Jersey who shouldn’t have succeeded in Newark. But I did. And now, it’s time to leap.

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