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Monday, June 30, 2014

Five Great Shed Makeover Ideas - S Post

The humble wooden shed has gone through loads of different incarnations over the years. However this practical backyard classic still has a lot of innings ahead before it's retired. Here are some great ways to make the most of your trusty wooden shed.

1. The gardener's haven

Remove debris, clutter and cobwebs from the corners. This will immediately lift the feng shui in the room. A good gardener's shed should be replete with shelving, hooks and plenty of room for storage. Accumulating piles of stuff means that equipment rusts and wears out and succumbs to spiders and other nasty critters. Instead treat your shed like a secret power cell for recharing your batteries, with rakes, chemicals, spades, gloves, gumboots and other assorted bric-a-brac all in its place.

2. Outdoor gym

A large shed can be repurposed as a backyard gym. This certainly beats clogging up space indoors with sweaty and unpleasant gym equipment. Transforming your shed into an outdoor gym will mean some changes. Such as installing electricity out there and perhaps some makeshift carpeting over the top of concrete slab flooring. That is if you want to install a treadmill, exercise bike or anything else powered by electricity. However to really get the most out of your outdoor gym (and rather than simply having a weights room) it is better to invest in getting electrical wiring. 

3. The guest room

Renovating an outdoor shed to become a fully-functioning bungalow will require some spending to upgrade a humble wooden structure. Services such as plumbing, new bathroom fittings, soft furnishings, electrical wiring and water-proofing the structure against the weather are the basic additions for this type of job. Although the result will mean a boost in value for your property. The newly transformed room can become a convenient accommodation space in the home for visiting guests or teenage children.

4. A home cinema

This idea is a little out of left field and is purely for the sake of pleasure and indulgence. Who wouldn't want to transform a backyard shed into a home cinema? This obviously means that electrical work is required. Along with this you will need to consider the cost of hifi equipment, sound-proofing the room, furniture and security to make sure that the goods are locked up in the evening.

5. Solar panels on the roof

Another nifty idea is to add solar panels to your shed for added eco-friendly energy use. Making your shed self-sufficient and off-grid will mean that the solar panels pay for themselves in no time at all.

Although this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to backyard shed renovations. We hope that you've found ample inspiration. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pitching to a Publishing Company -- Guest Post

Have you dusted off that novel you've been working on during naptime yet? If not, you should. Today, I've got Kristen Duvall  from Fey Publishing talking about the largest obstacle to getting publishing...getting off a good pitch.

When people think about the publishing industry, they often think of the big guys. You know who I'm talking about – HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House, etc.

But there are smaller presses out there too, and many of them doing pretty well. Small presses are a nice middle-ground between the big houses, who are notoriously hard to get signed with, and self-publishing, which while I support, may not be everyone's cup of tea. Some writers want the editorial help that comes with working with a publishing house. They also want someone else to handle cover design, formatting and the hundreds of other little things that go into publishing a book. Not to mention that some writers like having the publishing credit, and the ability to say they were picked up by a publishing house, no matter how small.

I'll be honest, I don't make much doing this – but I love it. I acquired Fey Publishing with a few books in the catalog already, but I've also put out several books on my own now too.  And I've learned a lot about the publishing industry along the way which helps me as a writer. (Yes, I do both. No, I never have any time for myself, why do you ask?)

One of the biggest lessons I've learned though, is an important one - How to grab an editor's attention.

Sure, I may be small, but I see a lot of submissions. I've read query letter after query letter, learned what turned me (and my staff readers) off right away and what intrigued me enough to pull a manuscript from the pile for a closer look.

Yes, the first step is writing a great novel. But in order to get noticed in a pile filled with hundreds of great manuscripts, you need to make yourself stand out. Since I am a small press, I'm unable to publish a ton of books at a time, so I have to be extra picky, and I have to turn down good novels all the time simply because I don't have the time to publish all of them.

So what worked? How did a writer manage to capture my attention?

1)  They were confident and ambitious. For example, when Charlotte Pickering submitted her manuscript, she included plans for the book that included a short film/trailer, songs performed by a local band that referenced the book, and meetings with important figures in her area. Before I even read her manuscript, I knew this woman believed in her book. And guess what? It made me believe in it too. I pulled up her manuscript right away, and just like I thought it would be, Messiah of the Slums is a success. And a large part of that success is because the author isn't afraid to put herself out there. Many public figures have ignored her e-mails and calls, but other key political and religious figures have given her glowing reviews.

That's also how Mallory Evans-Coyne caught my attention as well. Paisley Sage and the Hole in the Sky comes out in October, and already, Mallory is thinking big and getting her name out there. Both of these ladies set their goals high, but are willing to work for it and take chances. Their ambition packaged with a great novel is ultimately what made me sign them. It's also what will lead them to great, and well earned success.

2) Pay attention to the editor's interests. Oftentimes you'll see specific details about what they're looking for, or sometimes they share their interests via social media (look at #mswl on Twitter). Knowing that an editor is looking for a specific theme, tailor your query letter to reflect that theme. For instance, KL Mabbs read that I was looking for LGBT characters and strong women. He submitted his YA fantasy novel, Spellsword, and made sure to draw my attention to the fact that his main characters fit both those criteria.  He nailed two of my biggest wants right away, meaning his novel went to the top of the pile.

Unfortunately, I have to reject more submissions than I accept. Believe me, this is something I hate to do. And because I receive a lot of submissions, I can't read through all of them and expect to get any work done. Most of the time, I at least try to read through the first three chapters of a manuscript that piques my interest. But there are ways to lose me in the query letter and never even make it that stage.

So what doesn't work for me?

1) Over-confidence. Yes, confidence is great – but don't be an asshat about it. I once had someone submit their first novel to me (the first one they'd ever written, mind you) with a letter stating they had more talent than all the indie writers in the world combined. I'm not kidding. From the sound of the letter, this person wasn't going to take criticism well at all. They went on and on about how talented and perfect they were as a writer.  While I leave much of the creative control to the author, there are times when critical feedback and editing are necessary evils. This one – well – just based on the query letter, it sounded like more trouble than it was worth. Especially for an idea that didn't sound that original or unique to begin with. So it was a no.

2) Starting out a query letter by saying “I know your guidelines say you're not accepting {genre I don't accept}, but I believe my novel is different than the rest.”  For example, I clearly state “no children's books” and I get children's books on a regular basis. And oftentimes, the writer knows I'm not accepting that genre and includes a note right there in the query letter – usually in the first line.  I'm sorry, but guidelines are there for a reason. Ignoring them and firing me off a query letter anyway is a waste of your time as well as my time. And I wouldn't be doing you any favors by accepting your work either because I know NOTHING about that genre.

3) Not reading the guidelines at all.  Even if the genre is what I'm looking for, I still have simple directions on how to submit. Don't find my personal e-mail address and submit the novel there. There's a good chance it'll got lost if you do that. Don't e-mail the company e-mail address if it says to submit via Submittable. Again, likely to get lost.

I know most of this is probably common sense for most people, but sadly, things like these happen all too frequently. No one wants to go through all the trouble of writing an excellent book, submitting it somewhere and then never getting it read. Of course, there's no guarantee that even if it was read that it would be published, but following the simple guidelines might help increase the odds, if only a bit. 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Parenting Tools for Internet Safety -- S Post

The internet is both a wonderful resource and a possible threat. Unfortunately, in world of instantaneous and readily accessible information, it is becoming increasingly important for parents to monitor their child’s internet activity.

Thankfully, there are plenty of parenting tools out there that allow parents to control how their children use the internet without impeding their curiosity and love of learning. Such tools allow you to block out certain inappropriate material while your child can still browse the internet safely and securely.

One of the easiest ways of managing accessible content is by using a content filter, which is essentially a safe web browser. You can choose which websites you deem unsafe for your child to visit, and the browser will block any violent or pornographic content. With your input, the browser can create a black list of sites that your child cannot access. If you’re unsure as to what child-safe websites are available, has put together a list of some great child-safe websites for your use.

Aside from content filters, you may also wish to monitor your child’s browsing history to see what they have been looking at – or attempting to look at. By using the parental controls provided by your internet company, or by installing a monitoring application on your child’s smartphone, you can view their history even if they delete it.

These network controls are available both on a computer and on a smartphone, allowing you to block unsavoury content at all times. Not only do such controls allow you to monitor web usage, but you can also use them to control your child’s internet usage, restrict phone calls and even prevent them from downloading unsuitable applications. All of this can help give you the peace of mind you crave while ensuring your child can enjoy the internet without risk.

Parental controls are a fantastic way of restricting your child’s access to certain applications and websites, and you can even restrict phone calls and texts from unwanted numbers in this way. Check what you can do with your network provider, and soon you’ll be on your way child-proofing the internet in your home.

The internet should be a fun learning environment where children can interact with their peers, research homework and enjoy their time online. By familiarising yourself with child-friendly websites and learning how to use parental controls, you can ensure that your child remains safe and secure online while learning to play, socialise with friends and have fun with learning resources. 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bonding with Newborns Across the Ocean -- Guest Post

Today, Rhyannon Morrigan from Welcoming a Heartbeat talks about bonding with your baby. Many of us want that first touch, hug, carry to magical. But what if your children are not being born near you? What do you do?


I can’t tell you how many pages were in the birth plan for my first child. To give you an idea, it had a table of contents and subheadings.

A huge percentage of the things in that plan were related to my fears about bonding. While I knew logically that the hospital wasn’t TRYING to sabotage the critical bond with my newborn, I was convinced that medical professionals were completely oblivious to the utterly catastrophic implications of interfering with me “naturally” bonding to my newborn. I was positive that if my son did not get an intervention free birth, skin to skin contact and exclusive breastfeeding that our ability to bond would be irrevocably damaged.

While I knew that being a parent would be a huge adjustment for my husband and myself, I confidently explained to people that by insuring that there were no impediments to bonding we’d make the transition to parenting and being a family with relative ease.

When post partum depression crashed into me with the force of a mach truck, I found myself worrying constantly about whether or not Z and I were bonded “enough” or if perhaps merely being in the hospital had interfered with the hormones necessary for the kind of blissful mothering I’d spent nine months reading about. This fear was a large factor in my subsequent decision to have a home birth. Unfortunately, home birth didn't protect me from postpartum depression, something that made me feel even more like a failure. What if there was something fundamentally wrong with me that made it impossible to feel the immediate rush of euphoria all my mommy friends assured me was guaranteed if you did things right.

The idea that instantaneous bond as the foundation of a healthy relationship with my children pervaded my understanding of parenting for almost twenty years. During that time, as my children grew, and my experience with them unfolded, I began to question those assumptions.

For something deemed so critical to human development, there isn’t an objective way to measure bonding. We know that children who have experienced extremes of neglect and abuse showed characteristic psychosocial problems- but extrapolating from those severe traumatic situations doesn't make a lot of sense to me. We don’t have a scale which says “You’ve are now bonded xyz. Way to go! You’ve unlocked the gold bonding achievement!"

The best part about spacing your kids out over a period of almost thirty years is that you get to see how parenting fads come and go. The more years that I had under my belt, the more I began to question my own thinking about mothering. I watched one friend bond with her adopted daughter… a child she didn’t meet until she was seven years old. I watched my own children and those of my friends and family grow from infants to children to teenagers and noticed that in the same way that you couldn’t tell who in the kindergarten class potty trained first, you also couldn't tell who had skin to skin contact with their moms in the first five minutes of life and who met their mom the next day.

One of my dearest friends did not meet her children until they were ten days old. She did not hold them until they were almost two weeks old…Her love for her children is no better or worse than the love I have for my children, two of whom were born at home and held against me until well after their umbilical cords stopped pulsing and were cut.

Theo and Cally are an ocean away from me. My body hasn’t changed one iota since the day I was informed that “we” were pregnant. Unlike their brothers and sister, when I first meet them, it’s not going to be after spending months feeling little jabs and kicks.

Despite the fact that I’m not carrying them in my belly, they are in my heart every moment of every day. They are my first thought as I roll out of bed and check my email before I make my first cup of coffee.

I didn’t fall in love with Drew immediately. We fell in love with a continent between us. It was emails and texts and messages and phone calls which stretched from minutes to hours. After eight years, I love him more than I did in that first infatuation stage, because we’ve spent thousands of moments learning about one another.

So when people ask me if I’m worried about “bonding” with the twins, I have to laugh. By the standards I had twenty years ago, I should be terrified. I will be lucky if I’m in the same hemisphere as they are when they are born. I’m quite sure that if I attempted kangaroo care in the nursery the nurses would very quickly explain to me that I am a mammal and that my babies speak hindi and have no need for me to pretend that I’m a marsupial. Our goal is that they meet Daddy before they turn six weeks old.

So this time as I await the births of my children, I’m not afraid about bonding with them immediately. I love my children already and we will have a lifetime to “bond” with one another. We’ll bond over midnight feedings and stories and moments of shared joy and tears.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fail Kitchen - Watermelon Cake SOOO CLOSE

Almost not a fail. And then. It is.


On Mayhem, Meltdowns and Mood Swings -- Guest Post

Jerry Kennedy, stepdude and writer at Choosing the Truth, is here talking about the inherent moodiness of the children, in a way in which we all can only nod our heads in resignation...and then joy. Thanks, Jerry!


Shortly after I first moved in with my then girlfriend (now fiancee) and her 4-year-old son, I told her that living with a child was an awful lot like living with a bipolar paranoid schizophrenic suffering from multiple personality disorder and delusions of grandeur; two and half years in, I still think that’s a pretty accurate comparison.

Don’t get me wrong: the Monkey is a delightful little human being, capable of melting your heart with his sweet smile and his infectious giggle. It’s just that he’s prone to the occasional sudden change of temperament. And by “sudden”, I mean he can change moods faster than Clark Kent can exit a grungy phone booth in blue tights and a cape.

Apparently, he’s not alone. When I’ve shared my observation with other parents, they always kind of nod and get the far-off look of a shell-shocked POW. It turns out that most children go through these periods of, shall we say, difficulty? Call me naive, but this was kind of a surprise to me. As a childless person (and therefore clearly an expert on parenting), I’d always assumed that kids who acted out were the result of bad parents; or if not “bad parents,” at best well-intentioned parents who lacked good parenting skills.

It’s okay; go ahead and laugh now. I deserve it. In my child-free cocoon, I would look at parents and say things like “If only they would say no to that child every now and then, they wouldn’t have this little monster on their hands.” Yeah...I was that guy. As I quickly learned, though, this parenting shit is hard. I mean really hard. Like “doing a Rubik’s Cube while juggling chainsaws on a tightrope suspended over a pit of hungry crocodiles” levels of hard. And that’s on a good day.

But they’re not all good days, are they? Sometimes, our days are not so good. Sometimes, our days are pretty freakin’ bad. And sometimes, when the Moon is in the seventh house and Mercury is in retrograde, we’re get the pleasure of the meltdowns. Jumping Jesus on a pogostick, the meltdowns.

I’ll never forget standing on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with the Monkey while his mom went to ride the Giant Dipper and having him screaming at the top of his lungs at me for literally five minutes. To the point that he was starting to hyperventilate and turn red in the face. To the point that I was starting to worry that people were going to call security to come and rescue this poor child who I was clearly torturing with hot irons. And all because I wouldn’t let him have a root beer...or something. I’m still not entirely clear on what it was all about. I finally ended up calling Cricket; she jumped out of line, rescued me from my stuttering and blundering, and that was the end of our day. We’d only been there an hour (Santa Cruz is a three hour drive from home) and we were going home.

Here’s the clincher, though: on the walk back to the car, the tiny demon immediately resumed human form and wanted to know if we’d be coming back to the Boardwalk later in the day so that he could ride some more of the rides, and also could he have some ice cream. W. T. F?

I’m learning, though. Where once I was a terrified, uncertain, semi-adult person, I’m now a slightly less terrified, almost not quite certain, bordering on being a grown up person; and I owe it all to Douglas Adams and the art, or rather knack, to flying. Adams says that the knack to flying is in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. The real trick, he says is in having your attention suddenly distracted at the exact moment you’re about to hit the ground.

When this bit of advice first popped into my head with regard to my parenting technique, I thought that it meant I needed to distract the Monkey immediately before the tantrum started. I tried that, and it worked spectacularly. I’d tell him no, he couldn’t conduct an experiment involving enriched plutonium, see the familiar twitch of an oncoming meltdown, and immediately burst into a silly song or ask him if the moon is really made from elephant boogers; if I timed it right, he’d completely forget about the plutonium and we’d be on the path to Crisis Averted City. Thank you Mr. Adams!

But as I get a little more comfortable in my parent skin, I think Douglas had a bigger, much more important message for me. I’m finding that as I travel the Step Dude Path, I often trip on one of the many obstacles along the way and, in a sense, throw myself at the ground. It’s not very often that I miss, and I spend a lot of time nursing those bruises. Every now and then, though, I get distracted just before the inevitable crash; a silly giggle, a toothless smile, or an unexpected Father’s Day present...and suddenly I’m flying.


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Week I Don't Remember -- Guest Post

Katrina Leno's inaugural book is coming out early next month through HarperCollins, and if you like thrillers, I cannot recommend it enough. The book is suitable for those over 13 which places it YA, but the twists, turns and dilemmas within can be fully appreciated by an adult audience. You will not want to put it down.

Today, I am lucky enough to have the author herself give a glimpse of some of the inner workings of The Half Life of Molly Pierce. And, you know, some of it? The important bits? Not made up.

Seriously, check her out, you will not regret it.

You take it for granted. Waking up. Going to school, talking to your friends. Watching a show on television or reading a book or going out to lunch.
You take for granted going to sleep at night, getting up the next day, and remembering everything that happened to you before you closed your eyes.
You live and you remember.
Me, I live and I forget.
But now—now I am remembering. 
For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she’s missed bits and pieces of her life. Now, she’s figuring out why. Now, she’s remembering her own secrets. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led…and the love that she can’t let go.
The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a suspenseful, evocative psychological mystery about uncovering the secrets of our pasts, facing the unknowns of our futures, and accepting our whole selves.


The Week I Don't Remember - Katrina Leno

This is how I remember it.

Everything got very dark, very quickly.

Sometimes I imagine my depression like a window. Just a plain window. A little older, maybe, so that sometimes it sticks when you try and open it. A single brass lock. A panel of clean, clear glass. White paint on the frame that’s been built up a little too thick over the years, so now it’s clammy and slick to the touch.

White curtains, but surprisingly thick. When closed, the sunlight is fully extinguished from the room. The window disappears entirely. It might as well be solid wall.

This is my depression.

When I was twelve, the window shut. No more breeze. No more air. And not long after that, the curtains shut. They shut a little bit at a time over the course of several months. It was hard to tell they were even moving. Just one day they were open and the next day I couldn’t see anything. It was all dark.

I went to the doctor for headaches. I said, before, this is how I remember it, because in truth—everything is faded. The doctor’s visit is like a story someone told me. It’s like it wasn’t even me.

The doctor referred me to a psychologist, who then referred me to a psychiatrist, who then diagnosed me with a smattering of illnesses—none of which I had. I had depression, fully. The rest were misdiagnoses.

I was swiftly medicated. This was the right decision, but it unfortunately led to THE WEEK I DON’T REMEMBER. That’s what I call it now, when I talk about it. THE WEEK I DON’T REMEMBER. I had an adverse reaction to the medication, had what might aptly be called a mental breakdown (at thirteen! I was a fast learner), and blacked out for the majority of a week.

It’s weird, when I look back. These holes in my memory stick out. What did I do? What can’t I remember?

Memory has always fascinated me because my own is so tenuous and unreliable. Because even when I finally managed to open the curtains, to crack the window, to raise it even higher—even now, when I am arguably better, able at least to control my depression so much better than the twelve- and thirteen-year-old version of myself, I still find it so hard to remember. To commit things to memory. I’ve just never learned how.

I knew, when I wrote my first book, it would be almost autobiographical in the way it dealt with depression and mental illness. It is also a wholly fictionalized story. Nothing that happens to Molly Pierce happened to me. It’s just the feelings that are identical. What she feels is what I felt. Her words are taken from my journals, from my experiences, from my life. It is the truest account of my struggle with depression that I will ever be able to write. And it’s also made up. It’s the best balance I could find.

I wrote THE HALF LIFE OF MOLLY PIERCE in three weeks—ten-hour days of writing that bled into each other and lost their borders and turned into one long, fuzzy day. I wrote a chronicle of my depression and gave it a plot, made up characters, inserted suspense.

I wanted to get it all down correctly. It felt important to record it. It felt important to show people—see? Do you feel like this, too? Do you sometimes have trouble even brushing your teeth, because the curtains are shut and there is no light and you are, essentially, blind?

Well you’re not alone. I’ve felt that way too. I’ve spent years feeling around in the dark for a window I know is there, but cannot see.

To normalize depression, to normalize mental illness—to identify and treat and erase the stigma so inherent in this process—that is what I want. That is why I talk about my depression. That is why I write about it. To make it okay. To open the window. To try and remember.


THE HALF LIFE OF MOLLY PIERCE will be released July 8, 2014, by HarperTeen. It is Katrina’s first novel, and it is suitable for ages 13+. You can find her in the following places:

Twitter// @katrinaleno


Friday, June 20, 2014

The Value of a Horse -- Guest Post

Today we're veering a bit away from parenting to talk about another important care-taking role. If you have horses or have ever enjoyed them, you know what I'm talking about. Last week, MaryAnne was asked if her horse was "valuable." But what does that even mean? And is it an insult?


I have a horse named O’Hadi. After I ride in the afternoons I tend to run errands in my riding clothes, because I’m already out of the house. Recently I stopped on my way home from the barn to grab a few last-minute groceries. An older woman casually asked me if I rode. I bit back my usual response (“Why, can you smell me?!”) because that seemed rude. I said yes. She said that she used to ride as a girl, and then asked a question that I completely didn’t expect. “Is your horse valuable?” I had no idea what to say to that. I hesitated, and she kept chattering about her horses from her youth, and how they were Walking horses, and were very expensive… ah. She meant money. I told her that it was nice that she had such a lovely childhood, excused myself, and left with my groceries.

The question bugged me all the way home. Valuable? Or worth money? O’Hadi is an Arabian, and a retired endurance race horse. He used to race for miles across open desert. He probably has more airline miles than I do (and that is saying a LOT). I’m positive that he was incredibly expensive when he was bred, raised, and raced. Now? Well, he’s retired and around 30 years old. If we had to sell him (which wouldn’t happen) he would probably just be given away. His worth and his value are so much more than those things though. Let me rewind.

I was the typical little girl who dreamed of horses. They were amazing to me. I read about them, I watched movies about horses, I stared at pictures of them, I drew pictures, collected model horses... the whole deal.  I learned how to ride from my Father’s girlfriend when I was 10. I rode more in my early 20’s, and took lessons for a while. Then I joined the Army, and horses were out of the question. I mean, I didn’t have the time, the energy, or the knowledge to have a horse and drag it around the country. And I didn’t have family who could keep a horse for me when I was away. So, the dream was set on the back burner to simmer gently.

Last Spring I got out of the Army (a HUGE transition that I still struggle with) and moved near a close friend who owns a horse. She invited me to ride with her, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. At first I rode a horse that was being boarded at the farm.  I groomed him, rode him, and even gave him baths. My husband noticed that when I came home from the barn (sweaty, dirty, tired, and sore) I was always in a better mood. I was calmer. More clear headed. Even I could see that there was a difference, and marveled at the changes. At the end of last summer that horse left the farm to live in a place closer to his owner’s house so I started to ride O’Hadi. It seemed to work out well. He was so old that he wasn’t really a great lesson horse anymore, but he was getting depressed at not having the attention and love that had clearly been given him for decades.  He was glad to have the attention I was giving him.

After Thanksgiving I was offered to take a care-lease on O’Hadi. I had never heard of such a thing, but it works like this: I pay for his monthly expenses, ride him whenever, groom him, baby him- but he still belongs to the farm owner, making her (an experienced horse owner) the overall person in charge of his care. Since I’ve never actually owned a horse before, this was totally a great option for me, because it’s less scary. I mean, how do I know when he needs to have a dentist come out? Or the farrier? How do I know what to put on his sores, or where to take broken tack? Yeah, this was a great arrangement.

Agreat benefit of having a horse of my own is that he’s a consistent reason to leave the house. While I love interacting with people, clinical depression gets a vote when it comes to what I do. Some days, making the bed and taking a shower are a HUGE accomplishment. Do I like this? No, not really. And while I do have meds that I can take, I feel like they numb me a little. While I’m less depressed, I also get less excited. All of my emotions are made… less. No good. Horse time doesn’t have these side effects though. There are days when I leave just to go put medicine on O’Hadi’s legs. Or sunblock on his nose. Or sometimes I just go give him treats. And when I really can’t tolerate talking to people, I can still be with him and not be alone. His worth in helping me tackle depression is beyond words.

And I love the outdoors. The woods are my favorite- they always have been. O’Hadi takes me exploring through woods, around fields, near streams, and we see all types of flora and fauna. It’s early summer now, so we’ve been watching the blackberries to see when they ripen, but we’ve also watched primroses, cherries, dogwoods, and tulips as they bloom in turn. We smell the soft perfume of the tulip poplars. We see cardinals, finches, bluebirds, woodpeckers, turkeys, and hawks, as well as rabbits, deer, squirrels, and even one little fox. It’s beautiful to begin to feel so much more connected with the natural world around me. And it’s damned hard to let myself slide back into the realm of “I don’t care” when I’m watching a sunset from the top of a hill, on horseback, and then ride back to the barn watching fireflies appear around us. It’s much too magical for that.

Not looking at the financial part of “value”, O’Hadi came into my life in a place where I really needed him. He filled a space in my heart that I didn’t know was empty, and brings joy, peace, and happiness back into my soul, where it follows into my home, my marriage, and even my relationships with friends. He brings value into my daily life. My husband calls him “the old man”, and has even come out to ride.  He has even been known to say things like “Do you want to go to the barn today? Your horse misses you!” (I’m sure that this is husband code for “Wife, you’re being a bitch and I want to play video games. Please go somewhere else and come home happier.” I prefer him saying it the first way!)

I think I’m more “O’Hadi’s human” than he is my horse. You can see the renewed happiness in his stride, in his body language, and in his expression (which he has a lot of!)  We spend hours together while I groom his coat, brush and braid his tail, treat his crazy old-horse skin to keep him from being itchy from Summer allergies, and even play stupid games. (His favorite? He walks behind me and nudges me with his nose. When I finally turn and look at him, he yawns in my face. Apparently I bore him.) He turns his ears to listen when I talk to him. Some days he’ll stare at me and stamp his foot to MAKE me talk to him. When I brush his face, he sometimes falls asleep. I love him entirely, and he is so much happier to know that he is loved.)

Since I’ve circled back to the “value” thing, we can also look at this from a financial standpoint. O’Hadi’s monthly board costs the same amount as a 90 minute session with a psychologist. I can go see him whenever I want, and stay as long as I want. I ALWAYS come home in a better mood, and have days where I tackle some of my own issues while I work with O’Hadi. I come home wanting to take part in the world’s activities. Yes, I get those same results from the doctor, but visiting her costs a LOT more over the course of a month.  So, in that way, he’s quite a bargain.  

All of that was went to my head as I drove home and tried to think about what I should have said to that woman who asked if my horse is “valuable”.  Lady at the Grocery Store, here is my response:

“Yes, he is valuable. He is worth a hundred good moods, a thousand smiles, dozens of hugs, hours of laughter, and days of quiet contemplation. He earns me beautiful views of the woods where we walk, of the animals in the woods and the many flowers that are blooming. He gives me a feeling of worth again, when I thought I had lost it with my identity after getting out of the Army. He is treasured beyond words, and that is where true value lies. His value is in the fact that I love him.”


Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Glimpse of the Happiest Place on Earth - Guest Post

Time for vacations, and where would a family go if not Disney?! Two amazing bloggers took the time to give you the best ever guide to the happiest place on Earth. Be prepared! Have fun!


Mickey Mouse surveys Buena Vista Street at DCA. Photo: Tejaswi Kasturi

Summer is here, which means it’s time to plan your vacation. For many vacationing people in the US, this means traveling to the ‘Happiest Place on Earth,’ Disneyland, or Walt Disney World.

Many will argue that one park is superior to the other, and refuse to give the other a visit. But what if both parks have their own strengths? Why should we quarrel? Why not get the most out of life, and see the awesomeness that lies in both places?

For this piece, I’ve teamed up with Floridian Kelly Verdeckto take a peek at what gives Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom their own unique sparkle. Both parks have their merits, and if you’re an avid Disney fan, perhaps this will psych you up for a day at the park.

Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and SoCal at a Glance

Disneyland opened its doors in July 1955. Walt was inspired by visits to places like Fairyland in Oakland, California, and Republic of Children in Argentina. He began drawing up plans for the park in the late 1940s. It is said that Walt Disney wanted to create a place that lookedlike ‘nothing else in the world.’ While smaller than its WDW counterpart, Disneyland features 58 attractions.

Walt spent plenty of time on the grounds with his family, even keeping an apartment above the fire station on Main Street. A light still shines out from a window from his apartment, signifying Walt’s presence on the premises. More, stars like Steve Martin, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Pixar’s John Lasseter all got their start at Disneyland. If you want to journey to a place where the magic of Disney began, this is the place to start.

Disney California Adventure opened its doors to the public in 2001, and expanded from 2007-2012. As you stroll through the gates, you are treated to a re-creationof 1920s-era Burbank and Hollywood, when Walt Disney landed in California with his brother, Roy. Like Disneyland, Disney California Adventure features eight different themed ‘lands’ in its 72-acre park. This includes Paradise Pier, a space that pays homage to boardwalks and piers that dot California’s coastline, and Cars Land, a 12-acre space devoted to the Cars franchise. I highly recommend a visit to DCA, particularly if you’re averse to crowds, or you have small children that don’t care for long lines.

If you desire a little bit of retail therapy after the parks close, or simply wish to catch a show and a meal, head over to the shops and eateries at Downtown Disney, or duck into Disney’s Grand Californian hotel, which feature several restaurants of their own. For a non-Disney day all-together, consider taking advantage of the many things the Greater Los Angeles area has to offer. California has 840 miles of glorious coastline, and some of the best beaches are only 30 minutes away. Hollywood is 40 minutes away; Griffith Park (where Walt Disney was inspired to create“Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” and home of the Hollywood sign) is just a few miles eastward. Fantastic history museums, art museums, amphitheaters and concert halls all beckon to resident and tourist alike. Observatories and mountains invite you to escape to the land beyond. Last, but not least, travelers are invited to immerse themselves in the rich, diverse culture that a metropolis of eighteen million people has to offer. You will need a car, but the world is your playground when you have wheels in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Photo: Kelly Verdeck

Walt Disney World and Orlando at a Glance

While Anaheim has the history of being first and the gift of Walt’s personal touch, The Florida Project, as WDW was known when it was just a glimmer in Walt’s eye, has what Walt couldn’t get in California: space. Where Disneyland is surrounded by an asphalt jungle of hotels and souvenir shops, Walt Disney World is practically a country unto itself, a San-Francisco-sized nature preserve that happens to contain four of the world’s most-visited theme parks.

After the Magic Kingdom, in1982 came EPCOT Center (now just Epcot), which is a sort of permanent World’s Fair: half the park is dedicated to corporate-sponsored showcases of mankind’s technological achievement, and the other half is an assortment of pavilions intended to give a taste of the culture of the eleven countries they represent–perhaps the only place on Earth where one can walk from Mexico to the United Kingdom and pass through Japan and France along the way. The Disney/MGM Studios Park followed Epcot in 1989, now simply called Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park opened in 1998. Hollywood Studios is a mix of thrill rides and movie magic, while Disney’s Animal Kingdom is essentially a zoo, with added Disney-style rides and attractions. The 40 square miles of Walt Disney World also contain two water parks, two championship golf courses plus a couple mini-golf courses, lots of hotels, a campground, and the Downtown Disney complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment. Each of WDW’s four parks has their must-see attractions and their filler, and volumes can be and have been written about each.

While Disney World strives to be an all-encompassing vacation destination, the Orlando area offers plenty outside Disney’s gates. In addition to the various world-class theme parks, there is International Drive (known to locals as I-Drive), a thoroughfare lined with tourist attractions, amusement parks, shops and outlet malls. Further afield there’s the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center on the east coast and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay to the west, each about an hour’s drive from Walt Disney World. If nature is your thing, you can find it in spades as well, from a variety of Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico beaches, to quiet forest hikes, to natural spring-fed pools and rivers.

Magic Kingdom delight.
Photo: Kelly Verdeck.

Getting to the Heart of Magic: Magic Kingdom versus Disneyland

Since they invite the most direct comparison, let us take a closer look at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and the original Disneyland Park. If you want to experience the magic that Walt Disney imagined in the beginning, these two parks are where it all began. While Walt died years before Magic Kingdom opened, he still had high aspirations for the planned resort.

The design of Magic Kingdom isn’t much different from Disneyland: Main Street USA leads up to the central Castle, with the themed lands arrayed in the classic spoke-and-hub pattern Disneyland pioneered. In other words, there’s not much difference navigating the two parks. There is a good deal of overlap between the attractions at Disneyland and those at the Magic Kingdom, which might lead some to think the parks are somehow carbon copies–but each park has attractions not found at the other, and even the rides which appear at both parks offer an interesting degree of variety.

First time visitors to Disneyland should check out the following unique attractions:

Main Street, USA

Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln is a stage show featuring audio-animatronic feature that made its debut at the 1964 World’s Fair.

Main Street Cinema plays Disney shorts on six separate screens.


Big Thunder Ranch features a petting zoo, and walk through cabins and a restaurant. Two turkeys that were given the presidential pardon in 2008 make this place their home. You might even get to meet Woody from Toy Story here
Golden Horseshoe Saloon has a restaurant and variety show. This was Walt’s favorite spot in all of Disneyland.

Sailing Ship Columbia is a full-scale replica of Columbia Rediviva, the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. You can stand on deck, listen to the tale as you sail the Rivers of America, or head below to tour the nautical museum.


Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is one of the original 1955 rides. It is based on the story, “The Wind in the Willows,” by Kenneth Grahame, which was adapted in the Disney feature, “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.”

Alice in Wonderland is a dark ride based on Disney’s classic animated feature from 1951.

Matterhorn Bobsleds debuted in 1959. It’s the very first tubular steel coaster, which means that if you’re a thrill seeking steel coaster fan, riding the Matterhorn Bobsleds is a must.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was originally Submarine Voyage, a ride that opened in 1959. Marlin and Dory search once again for Nemo, who is lost. This ride is currently undergoing refurbishment and will open again in September.

First time visitors to Magic Kingdom should check out the following unique attractions:

Magic Carpets of Aladdin is a spinner ride similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

Space Mountain photo: Kelly Verdeck


Carousel of Progress offers a dated but still fascinating rotating theater featuring an audio-animatronic family progressing through generations of technological progress. It shows its age, but it still has a magic—and good luck getting the theme song out of your head!

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor is a comic show featuring the characters from the Pixar film. Kids may get a kick out of it, but the jokes tend to be real groaners for adults.

Stitch’s Great Escape may quite possibly too intense for kids. Featuring the adorable blue alien, this attraction began its life as the more frightening ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, and it still shows.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover offers a sedate and serene elevated journey through Tomorrowland, including a darkened turn around the perimeter of Space Mountain. It’s a great way to cool off and relax for some quieter moments.

Liberty Square

The Hall of Presidents This is Magic Kingdom’s answer to Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. An animatronic show, the Hall of Presidents showcases lifelike figures of all 44 American Presidents and is updated with each new officeholder.

Fantasyland/Storybook Circus

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is Magic Kingdom’s newest feature in the recently expanded Fantasyland. This summer try out this thrilling dark ride, but don’t forget your fastpass.

Barnstormer Recently renovated, the Barnstormer is a short roller coaster suitable for kids as well as adults.

After you’ve had the chance to visit these unique attractions, why not compare and contrast some of the others? You might find distinct differences between rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain. Try out the more docile version of Snow White’s Scary Adventures (Magic Kingdom’s was too scary to remain open), or watch the Country Bear Jamboree, which now only runs at Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disney. International travelers may spot differences from their overseas counterparts as well.

The lobby of Disney’s Grand Californian Resort.
Photo: Tejaswi Kasturi

Tips for travel
If you’ve made the decision to take yourself or your family to either Disneyland or Walt Disney World, we recommend a few things to make your visit a fun one.

Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World experience high traffic in the summer months, so be prepared. If you have young children, consider bringing (or renting) a stroller, because there is a lot of walking, and a lot of waiting during high season. Wear comfortable shoes, because blisters on your feet in the “Happiest Place” suck.

Consider downloading an app for your phone to monitor wait times on rides. There are several decent apps for Disneyland and DCA available for Android and iPhone users. The best part is that they are free.

If there’s a ride that you really want to ride with a long wait time at Disneyland and DCA, consider using the Fastpass option. For more info, read about it here. Disney World has recently launched their Fastpass+ program, which allows for advance reservations on some rides.

Keep hydrated. If you have young children, sippy cups can be brought into the parks. Adults can request a cup for water at any of the restaurants, and should you have your own bottle, there are refilling stations throughout both parks.

Consider layers. Orlando tends to be very humid, and subject to sudden afternoon thunderstorms in the summer months. Anaheim is very dry, and can get very cool at night. If you aren’t used to either climate, you can find yourself running very hot or very cold by the end of the day. If you don’t like carrying a jacket with you, lockers are available for rental in all parks. That extra jacket may also prove useful in the event you get soaked on rides like Splash Mountain.

If you’re averse to crowds, consider ducking in for a show. Or if you have a Park Hopper pass, head over to a less crowded park for a while. Need downtime for a nap or refresher at a hotel? Get a stamp on the way out for easy re-entry later in the day.

Speaking of hotels, is it worth it to complete the Disney experience by staying at a hotel?

At Walt Disney World, Disney guests are highly encouraged to spend their entire visit on-property, and for the most part they make it worthwhile to do so. For efficient access to Magic Kingdom, consider staying at the Contemporary Resort, which is within easy walking distance of the park. Grand Floridian or Polynesian resort hotels have dedicated monorail stops, which will take you to the Magic Kingdom. Otherwise, prepare to drive to the Transportation and Ticket Center and catch the monorail or ferry to the Magic Kingdom. The latter will take approximately 30 minutes.

While this may seem arduous, the intention was to enhance the separation of the park from the “real” world. That’s fine—for the first visit or two. After that it can definitely feel like a chore. The silver lining is that the other Walt Disney World parks are much simpler to reach by car.

Meanwhile at Disneyland, there are three official Disney hotels to choose from. Each hotel features one restaurant with “Character Dining,” resort pools, arcades, shops, and lounges. Everything here is exquisitely detailed, from the décor to the waffles served at breakfast. All Disney Resort hotels are within walking distance of parks, Downtown Disney, and the monorail. While staying there offers a fantastic experience, it isn’t light on the pocketbook.

If you’re looking for a no-frills more affordable place to stay nearby, consider booking a night at one of the designated “Good Neighbor” hotels. Good Neighbor hotels are near the resort that have partnered with Disneyland to make your stay a good one.

In conclusion, we hope that regardless of which park you will visit that this mini guide was helpful to you. You can’t go wrong with either coast, but hopefully we’ve helped to show that they most definitely are not interchangeable. Now grab your mouse ears and go!

Sleeping Beauty Castle
Photo by Tejaswi Kasturi.


Kelly was born and raised in Central Florida, on the doorstep of Walt Disney World, and has spent a fair amount of time there over the years. In fact, he considers himself something of a geek when it comes to WDW, fascinated by the design and history of the place. He finally made it out to the left coast to check out Disneyland earlier this year. His favorite rides are the Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror. A part-time professional photographer, Kelly’s website is here.

Jill lived in Colorado until moving to California in 2003, but she experienced the magic of Disneyland for the first time years before at Disneyland’s Magic Music Days. Now a card carrying Disney pass holder, her favorite Disney rides are Space Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, and any ride that makes her daughter smile. She anticipates a multi day excursion to Walt Disney World in the not too distant future. Jill maintains PianissAmma.

Photo credits: Kelly Verdeck, and Tejaswi Kasturi.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fish Bottoms and Four Year Olds -- Guest Post

Today, fellow twin mom, Donnelle, gives us a glimpse into the wild world of a family with twins...AND another kid. Phew. Check her out at Neverending Laundry.


Life with four-year-old boy/girl twins and their older brother has been exhausting for years, a never-ending battle of interrupted sleep, laundry and self-replicating messes. It's only in the last six months that it's started to become enjoyable. Their developing sense of humour is particularly fun, when it's not endless "Knock Knock Mr Potato-head" jokes.

Recently we sat down to a mid-week-exhaustion dinner of crumbed fish fillets and oven chips. “What kind of fish is this?” our eldest asked. “Hoki,” I said, at the same moment that hubby said “Fartfish.” This is what passes for humour around here. The kids laughed and laughed. 

Vieve said “Fartfish? Do fish fart?” 

Straight-faced, her big brother replied “All fish fart. It’s how they communicate.”* 

As Finn and Vieve laughed, I quietly high-fived him. 

“Do fishes have bottoms?” Vieve asked. 

“Of course they do.” 

“No, they don’t! They don’t have a straight line and two funny cheeks!” 

“Our bottoms only look like that because that’s where our legs join on. Fish just have a sort of a hole.” 

“What does a fish bottom look like?” At this point I had to tell Finn to sit down, as he was enthusiastically trying to demonstrate what our bottoms look like. 

Hubby whipped out his phone and started a verbal Google search. “Find me pictures of a fish anus.” 

“NO!” I shouted. 

“Wha- oh. No, we probably don’t want to do that.” He thought for a moment. “Find me pictures of a fish’s bottom.” He was rewarded with pictures of the back of Wedgwood and Spode plates. He sighed and tried again. “Find me pictures of the bottom of a fish.” At least it was fishes this time, not dishes, but it wasn’t really what we were after. 

I snaffled the phone off him and typed in “fish cloaca”. That got us what we needed to know. The kids duly admired and discussed the picture of a fish’s cloaca. 

“Do fish pee?” Vieve asked. And this is why I will never take my family out to eat in public.

*So it turns out some fish actually do communicate by farting. I thought he was mimicking his father's trollish sense of humour, but no.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gearing Up for How to Train Your Dragon II -- Guest Post

Today I've got a guest post and movie review from Catherine. Can't wait to see this one!

If you loved How to Train your Dragon (2010), you’ll be glad to know that the sequel to the blockbuster Vikings-and-dragons saga is here. Now you can once again accompany Hiccup and Toothless as they take off on another round of airborne adventures, this time into faraway unexplored lands peopled by villains and vigilantes and captive dragons in secret caves. The first installment narrated the trials and exploits of a scrawny unpopular kid who must win the respect of his clan by killing a dragon, and how he manages to turn the tables by brokering peace between the warring species. Here’s a quick How to Train your Dragon 2 review for those of you who need to be in the know.

How to Train your Dragon 2 Review

The second chapter of the planned trilogy starts five years from where the first one ends. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, son and heir of the Viking chief, has achieved everything he set out do – he has won the respect and admiration of his clan, the love of his father and has even managed to win over Astrid, the spunky girl Viking he was pining for. Hiccup has indeed come of age.

Now bosom buddies Hiccup and Toothless must brave new challenges and explore new worlds where they will meet the crazed vigilante Valka who prefers dragons to humans; arch-villain Drago Bludvist who wants to conquer the world; the slow-witted Eret, dragon trapper and henchman to Drago; and many other fascinating characters, old and new.

There are plenty of surprises in store for the intrepid duo as they try and save the Viking world from the machinations of Drago. This evil being has vast resources of money and power at his disposal. He dreams of building an army of fearsome dragons to make people believe only he can keep them safe and thus gain control over the world. He is thwarted in his designs by an army of dragon riders, headed by Valka. (The dragon lady eventually turns out to be none other than Hiccup’s long lost mother, but that’s another story.) The dragon riders seek to remove the fear of dragons among humans and establish cross-species harmony.
Can the dragons and the Vikings put aside their differences to stop Drago? Or will peace be the casualty of one man’s ambition? Watch the movie to know!

An exhilarating, epic journey that mixes both comical and touching moments with some of the best animated 3D action sequences ever created certainly makes How To Train Your Dragon 2 one of the biggest releases of this year.

Author Bio:

Catherine Ross is a full-time stay-at-home-mum who believes learning should be enjoyable for young minds. An erstwhile elementary school teacher, Catherine loves coming up with creative ways through which kids can grasp the seemingly difficult concepts of learning easily. She believes that a ‘fun factor’ can go a long way in enhancing kids’ understanding and blogs at




Monday, June 16, 2014

Recipe Monday - Lemon Feta Chicken

This was a great recipe. The original used drumsticks, but we prefer white meat around here, so I used breasts and it was fantastic.


8 skinless chicken drumsticks, (about 30 oz total)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup feta cheese, grated


Preheat oven to 375°. Season chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and lemon juice.

Place in a roasting pan and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in the center near the bone. When chicken is cooked through, remove from the oven and sprinkle with feta.

Broil on low for about 2-3 minutes, until cheese is golden brown (careful not to burn).


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Growing Up, Coming Out - Guest Post

Today we have a powerful post on how to live your truth and the benefits of it, no matter how hard it may be at the time. We all have cliffs off which we must jump. Take courage, take heart. You will be understood.


Once you have kids, every time you blink you’re certain they grew while your eyes were shut. Infant to baby, baby to toddler, toddler to kindergartner. They grow out of clothes over night, seeming to shoot up like weeds when your back is turned. Clichés spout from your lips, “Wasn’t he just crawling? Didn’t she just learn to talk? Wasn’t it just yesterday…” You’re practically humming “Sunrise Sunset”. You go to rock your kindergartner at night and his long legs dangle over your lap almost to the floor. Your arms still remember cradling him to your breast, when his whole body fit on your lap. Even the younger one is always running away and ‘do{ing} it myself!’ It’s to be expected. Needless to say, it’s better than the alternative. But what you never expected… what I never expected was my own growing up, keeping pace with theirs.

As I’ve watched them grow, my kids have taught me things that prompted my own growth. My son, T, has taught me to move past my default introversion. From the time he was a baby he was a social kid. He loved meeting people, being out and about, in the middle of things. I pushed myself to join a mom’s group where both he and I made friends. I didn’t want him to be afraid of the world, as I had been so often when I was a child.

Even though she’s only two, my daughter, M, is teaching me to speak up for myself and for what I need. To be discerning with my attention. She doesn’t just smile and talk to someone because they talk to her. She checks them out, considers them. She is not afraid to let me know when she wants, or doesn’t want, something.

So the changes in myself have taken me aback. After all, I wasn’t a kid when I had my son, my firstborn. Not like my mom who had me at seventeen. I was, ostensibly, an adult – thirty-two. I’d gone to college, to grad school, had jobs, gotten married. I thought I knew who I was, had it summed up in a handful of words – thirty-something woman, stay-at-home mom, writer, feminist, spiritual-seeker, polyamorous, bisexual, fangirl, wife. But as T and M got older, I found myself surprised as I walk past windows and mirrors. Who is this woman? Where did she come from? Where has she been hiding?

Even as I smiled my way through my life, there were cracks in my mask. I burned out during my internship as a grief counselor, I drank a little too much, I ate a little too much. There was a year of digestive issues that the doctors couldn’t diagnose, some depression, some anxiety. But over all a pervading feeling that I was not really living. I had responsibilities, a family, and I wanted to do it right – have the 2.5 kids, the perfect home, the perfect husband; not rock the boat – but I had the nagging sense that I wasn’t. Doing it right was doing it wrong.

I was drifting in this limbo when suddenly life slapped me upside the head. A friend had a serious health scare; a family member nearly died; a friend of the family lost her son who was T’s age; a neighborhood mom my age with a daughter M’s age was killed, randomly. I was drowning in wave after wave of knowledge – this life is fragile, short. Whatever comes next, we have this one chance. How could I keep living in fear? I closed my eyes and leaped.

I came out as a lesbian, to myself, to my mom, to my husband. Slowly, I am beginning to live. I still don’t know what that means, or if I’m doing it right. I have been immeasurably lucky – my ex, B, and I are committed to becoming friends and remaining a family. Mostly for the kids, but also for us. We were together for twenty-one years. We grew up together. We don’t live together, but we are just a few blocks away from each other. We share custody 50-50. We are determined to create something new, to not be constrained by the way divorce usually is done.

Sometimes I can’t believe I’m just figuring out who I am at nearly forty. I can’t believe that I’m just growing up. I feel guilty for changing my kids’ family out from under them. For hurting them, and hurting B. But I also want to teach the kids that it’s necessary to live one’s truth. Even when it’s hard, even when it’s painful. Even when it’s a mistake. Because otherwise you aren’t living. And that is a lesson that I don’t want to teach them. I want them to avoid the masks and the limbo, and to remember who they are. To stay true to themselves.

You can see more of her journey here, at World Split Open.



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