Shiny Pretty Things

Once, when I was little and my grandfather was babysitting me, I picked up a beautiful shiny green stone off the sidewalk. At least I thought it was a beautiful shiny green stone, but of course it was a piece of glass. I was wearing a yellow and white poncho which quickly became sprinkled with blood, as I excitedly showed off my treasure to my grandfather. Poor Pop, (that’s what we called him), he was visiting from Hartford and he had been charged with picking me up from school which was just a few blocks away. He scrambled to stop the bleeding as he rushed me home.

My grandmother gave him serious Irish side-eye when we came zooming in looking for first aid supplies. I still have the scar on the palm of my hand and honestly I could not love this memory more – to me it’s the funniest metaphor for life.

I still love shiny pretty things, but now I look a little closer before picking them up.

Photo by Lisa Larsen, 1953. The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

May 2023 Mental Health Post

I thought having “boobs to pubes” cancer surgery, including the removal of several organs, followed by hot chemo being poured into my abdomen, was going to be the most difficult part of my life. Turns out I was wrong.

For the last year my personal relationship has been imploding and I no longer recognize myself. It’s as if I started off as a colorful, vibrant painting and have been reduced to a black and white sketch. I’m also not the partner that I would normally aspire to be and that makes me feel horrible.

To deal with the pressure I’ve developed two new coping strategies, though they’re not ones that you’ll find in self-help books:
compulsive cleaning/organizing and binge-eating.

By eating disorder standards my binges may appear small – think ten cookies eaten really fast while standing up. But since I don’t have a normal gastrointestinal tract, (due to the boobs to pubes surgery), this is equivalent to eating about 25 cookies. I don’t purge – I hate throwing up, it scares me – so I usually end up in bed with a horrible stomach ache, hugely bloated like someone filled me with helium. For me it’s not so much about eating to fill a void, as it is about eating to extinguish a raging fire. A fire whose accelerants have been self-abandonment, extreme passivity and fear. It’s self-harm, but with cookies instead of cutting.

The compulsive cleaning/organizing seems to be in part about exhausting myself so that I’m too tired to feel anything. At my parents’ house there are endless projects to be done, though they are projects that no one is asking me to do. I spent one whole day organizing their chaotic garage, forgetting to eat and only stopping to bring my dog Lexie out for her regular walks. Lexie watched me work for awhile: breaking down boxes, putting all the tools together, tossing out dead ferns. She gave me a pitying look before leaving me for her favorite couch to snooze. By the day’s end I was absolutely ragged – too wrecked to feel any of the emotions that I needed to feel in order to create change in my life.

Last week the cleaning lady came and there was virtually nothing for her to do except vacuum and mop the tiles. I explained that I’d gotten a “little compulsive” and I think she understood. I mean the house was immaculate, like it had just been professionally staged by a real estate team.

I intuitively knew to tell my loved ones right away about my behaviour, I wanted to avoid the vicious cycle of shame and secrecy. My close friends know what I’m doing and they put up with my dark humour: “if I don’t start purging soon I’m going to gain weight!” Obviously there is nothing funny about eating disorders, but we all deal with our emotions differently.

I’ve been through therapy before and I’ll do it again if I continue with these destructive behaviours. In the meantime I’m trying to give myself one break each day to just feel and not do anything.

Art by Ashley Blanton, 2018

Magic Wand

“Do you mind if I tag along to church with you this Sunday?”

“Umm, no of course not. Except what the fuck? Why are you suddenly interested in going to church?”

“Because like George Michael says, ‘I gotta have faith.’ And I have none. So I need to find some.”

Sipping her Bordeaux Carrie eyed her friend with suspicion.

“Are you microdosing? Are you on shrooms right now?” she asked.

“No I’m not on shrooms. I’m completely sober – other than this wine. I’m just feeling really lost and like the opposite of grounded. What’s the opposite of grounded? Flailing? I’m flailing. And I feel scared about everything. I need to believe that things are going to be okay. I need to have faith.”

“I totally hear you and I support you. But, please know that you’re not going to suddenly feel a deep sense of faith from going to one Unitarian Church service. It’s not like the Minister waves a magic wand.”

“Wouldn’t it be cool if she did though?”

They both laughed.

“No confession booths in the Unitarian Church right? Which is too bad. I’ve always wanted to go into one of those.”

“Ya but it would take you too long to confess all your sins. The priest would probably cut you off and kick you out.”


“Having faith is kind of like having a garden, you need to tend to it regularly with love and intention, otherwise it withers away. At least that’s been my experience with it.”

“Do you think some people can have faith and others can’t? I’m worried I’m one of those people for whom faith will remain elusive. I feel like in order to have faith you kind of already have to believe that it’s possible and I’m not sure I do.”

“Well hello Miss Self-Sabotage, nice to meet you. Anyone is capable of having faith, but you need to be open to receiving it. And if you’ve never been to church before, then even my religiously liberal one is going to feel weird at first. But don’t reject it right away, give it a second date you know? First dates are always awkward.”

“How did you get so wise?”

“I’m not wise. I just spent a month’s rent on a pair of shoes. That’s the opposite of wise.”

Carrie and Jen fell into one of those fits of snorting laughter that was hard to stop. The people sitting next to them were seething with irritation, which only made them laugh more.

“What do I wear? Do I dress chaste?”

“You’re hilarious. Just wear what you’re comfortable in. Most people look sort of casual Friday-ish, but some get a little more dressed up. It’s totally up to you. I mean I wouldn’t show up in a body-con dress, but other than that…”

“I’ll wear that new floral midi-dress I bought, the one with poufy sleeves.”

“Unitarian-chic, love it. Let’s toast:
‘To you my dear precious flailing friend – may you find faith – one way or another. May you remember that you are beloved and if worse comes to worse, I can have faith for the both of us. Don’t worry.’”

“Thanks babe.”

The Last Dance

This is my last dance.
No more dressing to impress.
No more trying to please.
No more making an effort to keep things sparkly.

I am resigning from my post effective immediately.
I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to love and be loved.
For the chances to be vulnerable and grow.
For my mistakes and failures, of which there are many.

But I’m good now.
Think of me like a fully baked cake, I don’t need to be in the oven anymore.
I know you think I’ll be lonely and scared and you’re right, at times I will be.
But it’s okay. Things can be hard and still be okay.

I just want myself back.
I’m reclaiming what’s rightfully mine.
Like stolen land that must now be returned to its owner, I have come for myself.
Do not fight me, for I will win.

Photography by Marta Bevacqua

Clean & Green

“Can I help you find something?”

“Yes, thanks. Do you have a face cream that will give me back the last ten years of my life?”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh and I also need an eye cream to return the color under my eyes to a medium-ivory. This dark blue shade is not doing anything for me.”

“We have a lovely new certified organic, certified cruelty-free, certified clean facial beauty system called: “It’s All Happening.” Would you like to try some samples?”

“No. I like chemicals. Nothing too clean. Give me hardcore products that mad scientists have invented.”

“It’s not fair to our environment to fill it with hash chemicals, that’s why skincare companies are finally going clean and green.”

“I don’t care about the environment right now. I care about getting my face back. My face looks like I’ve given up on life.”

“Well have you?”

“Have I what?”

“Have you given up on life?”

“Not yet, but we’re only a few months into the new year. Please just show me the products that have all the chemicals.”

“Fine, but you’re ruining the planet just for vanity’s sake.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re young with flawless juicy skin. Get back to me when you’re my age.”

“I’m going to embrace aging. Aging is a privilege after all.”

“Oh my God, I can’t even…please, just point me to the lotions and potions aisle.”

“Over here. This is your section. It’s a new, highly toxic, chemical-y skincare line created by a former CIA weapons analyst.”

“Perfect. I appreciate your help. I promise to make a donation to Save The Planet to offset buying these evil products.”


Cake & Ice Cream

“We never talk about our dreams for the future.”

“That’s because I don’t dream about the future.”

“Why not?”

“Dreaming just leads to disappointment.”

“Sometimes, but not always.”

“Spoken like someone who hasn’t experienced a lifetime of bitter pills.”

“But hopes and dreams fuel us, we need them.”

“Dreaming is a luxury. If you’re in survival mode all you’re looking for is a meal to fill your empty stomach. Even entertaining the idea of having a piece of cake and ice cream after your meal is insane. That’s what dreaming is to me – it’s like cake and ice cream when what I really need is just meat and potatoes.”

“So do you think I’m entitled because I believe in dreaming?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Wow. I never knew you felt that way about me.”

“I still love you though.”

“Gee, thanks. But what about our future together? I mean as a couple we’re supposed to have at least a few shared dreams, aren’t we?”

“That’s just what the capitalistic establishment pushes: dreams equal people spending more money. The whole system is rigged. Let’s just live our lives.”

“I feel like you just hit me.”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t touch you.”

“I know, I know. I said I feel like you just hit me. Like an emotional punch.”

“Well, it is what it is.”

“I hate that fucking expression.”

“What are you so upset about? Why are we arguing about dreaming?Real life is harsh.”

“Real life is harsh, but it can also be poetic and divine. You don’t allow yourself to be touched by its beauty. It’s your loss.”

“Whatever. I guess we just agree to disagree.”

“Yes, I guess we do.”

Photo from Free People

80’s Girl

You are cordially invited to
Mary Ellen’s
Dancing Down Memory Lane Party
Location: High School
Time: 1980’s
Attire: Goth, Punk, Mod, Preppy, New Romantic, Madonna, Jock, Hippie or Burnout
Please RSVP by calling 613-722-8181
Leave a message on the answering machine.

The first boy I ever loved in a truly, madly, deeply way was Luigi. He smelled like Ivory soap. I wanted to delay going to University for a variety of reasons, mostly because I didn’t want to leave him. But my parents were terrified that as the first born I would be setting a horrible example if I didn’t go directly – Do Not Pass Go – to school. So I spent weeks and weeks listening to Bryan Ferry’s “Slave To Love” while crying. And I mean crying. Luigi was the love of my life and my parents were tearing us apart. I mean true, we weren’t officially “a couple,” but still – he smelled like the love of my life. On the four hour drive to Toronto to drop me off at my dorm, I barely spoke two words to my parents; they were destroying my life after all.

I think it was Grade 11 when a few friends and I started a group called “The Glamorous Girls.” It was a tongue in cheek thing, there were no clique-y rules or mean girls. But, we did each wear an oversized faux gemstone ring, bought from those small coin-operated machines at the grocery stores. Our theme song was “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E. We danced and vogued – before we knew what vogueing was – and for a few months it was a wonderful bit of lightness, a salve to soothe the sting of high school’s cuts.

Nothing says teenage angst like a messy bedroom with mood lighting. I had a hanging lamp over my bed and if I was really in the depth of misery, I would swap out the regular lightbulb for a red one. Then I would put on my giant headphones and listen to The Cure’s “The Hanging Garden” or “How Soon is Now?” by The Smiths. I remember one night feeling so, so horrible but I didn’t understand exactly why; I just knew that one girl was making my life miserable. Looking back it’s very clear that I was being bullied, (a term not much used in the 80’s), by a schoolmate who was jealous of me. She was controlling and manipulating, undermining me every chance she had. That particular night ended poorly, with me attempting to dull my pain by dying my hair a hideous shade of drugstore burgundy.

Years later when I lived in Los Angeles, I ran into this girl (now woman) at a dog park. I remember saying to my husband: “we need to get out of here immediately!” and so he and I and our Corgi fled. Talk about triggering. The next day I received a friend request from her on FB which I quickly declined. HELL NO.

When I went to high school we had to do five years – FIVE! Grade 9-13. By grade thirteen I had just had it, I was so over school. I knew I had to keep my grades high, so I was strategic about how and when I skipped classes. But I would guestimate that I skipped 1/3 of my final year. My friend Ali – who I still talk with every few days – and I used to play hooky together. We hung out in her super cool bedroom, which she had covered in tin foil a la Andy Warhol’s Factory. Drinking her mom’s boxed Pinot Grigio, we would smoke cigarettes and complain about the boys in our lives, all while listening to The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” on repeat. David Bowie was also on heavy rotation and I remember us dancing to “The Jean Genie,” spinning faster and faster to release the pressure valves of our psyches.

I grew up in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, which is right across the river from Quebec. Back then the main clubbing area was in Hull Quebec and it was owned primarily by the mafia. The owners didn’t care that we were fifteen with fake ID, in fact the Hull police would let the bouncers know when they were going to raid their club and the bouncers would kick us all out before the cops arrived. It was a system that worked for everyone.

I remember dancing to Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax,” while wearing my Madonna style, pointy-toed buckled booties. The band’s original video for the song, which was pretty explicit, played on a giant screen. After twirling the night away, a friend and I went to a diner with a super sketchy dude who claimed to be in the mafia. Of course that became the story at school on Monday morning: we had met a real life mafioso.

Michelle wore long swirly skirts, armfuls of bangles, big turquoise rings and cowboy boots. She looked straight off of an album cover from the late sixties/early seventies. She had transferred from a different school so we only met in our final year. She introduced me to vegetarian food, herbal medicine, Isabel Allende’s books and Kate Bush. But she wasn’t just a granola-beauty, she had a bit of a tough vibe too. I felt like if anyone tried messing with me she would fend them off with her heavy silver jewelry – like a bohemian Wonder Woman.

Lying on the futon in her attic bedroom, we listened to Kate Bush’s song “Breathe:”
Out, in, out, in, out, in
Breathing my mother in
Breathing my beloved in

Dreaming about our futures and talking about guys and asking just how many rings was too many to wear? Laughing loudly as we crunched organic corn chips and salsa. Michelle was an only child and I had two crazy brothers, “the boys” I called them, so we imagined being sisters: two big haired girls, one blond, one brunette. Breathing life into each other. And thirty-five years later we still are.
Out, in. Out, in.


LOL. I think this was Grade 10 & I was wearing a 2-piece matching set ~ blouse & “trumpet skirt.” And of course teal eyeliner! I still have the skirt b/c I’m a fashion hoarder.

A few good tunes from my high school years:
1) Smooth Operator by Sade
2) A Blister In The Sun by The Violent Femmes
3) Borderline by Madonna
4) Raspberry Beret by Prince
5) The Tears of a Clown by The English Beat
6) Lips Like Sugar by Echo & the Bunnymen
7) In Between Days by The Cure
8) Town Called Malice by The Jam
9) What Difference Does It Make by The Smiths
10) Cloudbusting by Kate Bush

A Nicely-Dressed Woman

I feel nothing
I mean I feel cold, but that’s because it’s freezing outside
But I feel nothing inside
Like a Stepford Wife

I look normal, I even wore bronzer & mascara today
I fit right in with everyone else at the bakery
No one knew that the woman ahead of them in line buying cupcakes, was actually a creepy dead robot

They didn’t realize that I let you gut me
That I didn’t even put up a fight
And that now it’s too late
My psyche no longer glimmers psychedelically, it’s now dull – like Benjamin Moore’s paint color Cement Gray #2112-60

The other day a man tried flirting with me
But when I looked him straight in the eyes, he saw my shameful truth
He saw that I could no longer flirt, I’d lost the skill
I used to love flirting – the beautiful, innocent kind of flirting that makes a person feel good, that makes a person feel ALIVE
I wanted to tell him:
“I’m so sorry I can’t flirt with you, I’m dead inside, but I would if I could”

So I walk the streets, wearing my bronzer – just a Stepford Wife out for her daily constitutional
Imgine if people found out I was dead?
It would be mayhem
The police would be called, an ambulance too
But what would they do with a nicely-dresssed dead woman roaming the streets?
Is there a secret psych ward in the hospital for Stepford Wives?
Maybe I should go there, they’re my people after all
We could sit and drink tea and eat scones and chit chat
The doctors wouldn’t even need to medicate me since I’m already dead

Katharine Ross, star of “The Stepford Wives,” 1975. (Image is part of their promotional poster)

Witchy Vibes

Chapter One

“For the love of God, what is this music?” Jessica asked her daughter.

“Gloom-Core,” said Olive.

“Well it’s certainly not creating a happy vibe for the school commute.”

“Creating a happy vibe is toxic positivity Mom. I’m not going to pretend the world is not fucked. This music speaks to that reality but it’s also beautifully poetic.”

“Okay fine. Changing topics. Don’t forget – tonight we have dinner with your father and his new girlfriend. If you want to be morose that’s fine, but don’t say anything snarky. Last time you insulted his date.”

“No I didn’t. I just said that her dress was very Prairie-Chic Meets Forever 21. What a mortifying night that was. She was like college-age and kept styling our plates to post on Instagram.”

“I agree, that evening was brutal. But his new girlfriend is older – I think she might even be thirty – so let’s give her a chance.”

“You are way too understanding mom. And why aren’t you dating? I see men checking you out all the time at Whole Foods. You could have a fling with the man-bun guy who’s always near the Kombucha fridge.”

“I hate flings. Plus, I’m loving being single. I even signed up for a pottery class.”

“OMG MOM – you can’t take up pottery! That’s such a sad cliche of a middle-age woman giving up on life.”

“Olive, that’s very misogynistic. Plus, you know I love ceramics.”

“Whatever, you do you mom. But Tristan is coming to dinner tonight, I already invited him.”

“Who’s Tristan? What happened to Leila? I thought you liked Leila.”

“I thought I did too. But then we went thrifting together and she spent an hour getting ready. Like she put on a whole face just to go to The Goodwill. Can’t deal with that. AND she was using Kardashian makeup. As if I would ever date a Kardashian supporter.”

“You’ve got high standards Olive, I respect that. Okay hop out here, I don’t want to get stuck chatting with Mrs. Gotham, she scares me. Have a good day, love you sweetie.”

“Love you too mom. Oh and I forgot to tell you – Tristan’s dad is picking us up today.”

“Alright, but please text me his father’s number right away, otherwise you don’t have permission to go with him.”

“Will do. Now go cancel that pottery course and find the hot man-bun guy!” Olive yelled loudly as she got out of the car.

Chapter Two

“Olive, are you and Tristan ready? We need to leave now or we’ll be late!” Jessica called out.

“Hey Jessica – Olive told me to call you by your first name – thanks for having me to dinner tonight,” Tristan said as he sauntered down the hallway.”

“You’re welcome. I like your hair.”

“Thanks. I worked really hard on creating the perfect shade of florescent pink. I don’t know if Olive told you, but I’m an artist. Abstract expressionism but like abstract expressionism on acid; I’m not afraid of color.”

“Well as you can tell from our house, I’m not afraid of color either. In fact I hate neutrals. Where’s Olive?”

“I’m right here mom.”

“Honey, I’m not sure that outfit is appropriate for the restaurant we’re going to, it’s a very upscale Italian eatery.”

“Mom, this dress is everything. It’s a late 1990’s Betsy Johnson.”

“It’s a pretty dress and you look stunning. But you also look like you’re about to stir up a cauldron and cast spells. I mean can you take the witchy vibe down a bit?”

Tristan started laughing uncontrollably.

“Respectfully mom, this is my look tonight.”

“Jesus. Okay, okay, let’s just go kids.”

Chapter Three

“Olive, my dear beautiful witch!”

“Hi Dad. This is Tristan. Tristan this is my dad, Erik.”

“Tristan, that’s quite the hair. What year are you in? You look like a senior.”

“Nope. I’m a sophomore just like Olive.”

“Well any friend of Olive’s is a friend of mine, my daughter has impeccable taste. Speaking of impeccable taste, this is Annabelle, she owns a wellness boutique in Silverlake. Annabelle, this is my daughter Olive, her friend Tristan and my ex-wife Jessica.”

“It’s a pleasure meeting you all. I brought you a few goodies from my shop, just little things to help you relax, meditate, center yourself…you know, to help you on your journey.”

“Good evening, my name is Paul and I’ll be your server tonight. What can I get you to drink?”

“Oh hello Paul – thank god for you. I’d like a Negroni please,” Jessica said.

“Perfect. And what can I get for the rest of you?”

“We’ll have a bottle of Castiglioni Giramonte. Olive?”

“A limonata please.”

“Same,” said Tristan poking Olive in the ribs.

Chapter Four

“Jessica, I’ve heard so many lovely things about you. I’m very impressed that you and Erik are on such good terms, so often divorce become toxic. Erik told me you two consciously uncoupled like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.”

“Umm…I’m not quite sure that’s us. But we both love Olive and we still care about each other and respect one another.”

“Well, I want you to know that I included something very special in your gift bag, it’s called Essence of Rose Quartz Serum – hand-made in Santa Fe. It’s not for your face, it’s for your heart. Every night you rub a few drops of it on your chest and the rose quart activates your heart, making it more open to receiving love.”

“Here’s your Negroni, I sensed you needed it right away.”

“Oh Paul you’re a life saver, thank you.”

“My mom’s heart does not need activating – not that that’s even a thing.” Olive said, glaring at Annabelle.

“It was very kind of you to bring us gifts. How did you get into the wellness industry?” Jessica asked, sneaking a sip while quietly kicking Olive’s platform boots under the table.

“It’s actually a really trippy story: three years ago while I was hiking in Griffith Park, I had a vision – I saw myself as a Wellness Curator: healing women by finding the most beautiful wellness products and selling them in the most beautiful space. And I’ve just started offering workshops too. Next week I’m teaching my customers – actually I prefer calling them my Goddesses – how to make their own smudge sticks – really pretty ones that you can display in your home for that earthy boho vibe.”

“The wellness industry is an elitist billion dollar empire. It steals ancient traditions from indigenous cultures, repackaging them for rich white customers,” Olive said.

“And here are the rest of your drinks. Let me just open the wine for you.”

“Actually Paul, if you don’t mind I think I’ll open it myself. We’re having a bit of a moment here,” Erik explained, his forehead glistening with sweat.

“Not a problem Sir.”

“Olive, I see it more as being inspired by ancient traditions. I have a deep reverence for their original creators and I want to share their wisdom with people who might not otherwise know about it.”

“Do you donate a percentage of your profits to organizations that help the cultures you are stealing from?” Olive asked.

Jessica kicked Olive under the table again, a little harder this time.

“Olive, enough with the interrogation,” said Erik. “I propose a toast:
‘To new friends and to a beautiful evening together,’” he said a little too loudly.

“Cheers!” Tristan bellowed theatrically, kissing Olive’s neck with a flourish.

Despite twice kicking Olive under the table, Jessica was proud of her daughter for speaking her mind. And how cute was she in her goth-y dress with her pink-haired companion?! What an incredible young woman she was. What a privilege to be her mother.

“This is the best Negroni I’ve ever had! Thank you Erik for putting together this lovely dinner,” Jessica said smiling, as she raised her glass and winked at Olive.

The End

Image: Pinterest


If you fall I will catch you.
Like last time?
Yes, like last time.
But last time was painful.
It would have been more painful had I not been there to catch you.
I’m not so sure.
Don’t be ridiculous.

I was expecting you would catch me in a soft embrace, but it felt more like I was falling into a blanket of steel wool.
Well, it would have hurt more if you had fallen to the ground.
I don’t think so. In fact if I fall again, please do not catch me.

Don’t be foolish. Who says “no” to help?
I’m saying “no” to help, the cost is too high.
I’m helping you for free.
No you are not. Nothing in life is free, including your steel wool blanket.

Photo: Pretty Pink Moon on Pinterest