Category Archives: nothing crafty here

Small Acts of Kindness

tiny flowers

After only a couple of days at school on crutches, N said to me, “I don’t like having to be helped everywhere. I just don’t like feeling like people need to do things for me.” I understood him perfectly. For whatever many reasons, I entered adulthood feeling like it was best not to have to rely on anybody, if I could help it. That relying on other people just meant they could let you down, and you were better off taking care of yourself all by yourself. That felt much safer. And in some respects, I guess it is. But it’s also tiring, and a bit lonely. And sometimes, like when you are on crutches in middle school and need to switch classes and get all your stuff from one room to the next, relying on other people is unavoidable.

I tried to explain some of this to N, about how I understood, and shared that it had taken me many, many years to be okay with asking for help–even though I am always willing to help other people. I told him that people like to help, for the most part. It gives them a good feeling. Thus, in a way, he was giving people a gift, because they could help him, and feel good. It’s a very human thing, but we forget it often, don’t we? It feels good to help other people. It fosters connection. We humans, we didn’t evolve to be lone units. We evolved in groups.

It’s been good, observing other sixth graders helping my kid. I chaperoned a field trip for his science class last week (I was basically his personal attendant, carrying all his stuff and making sure he didn’t tumble off a dock and infect his open wound with whoknowswhat from the Chesapeake). During the on-the-dock portion of the program, while I was quietly stressing out every time he moved (narrow dock! no railings! crutches!), N was fretting because it was so hard for him to participate in using the water quality testing equipment. Then another boy came up to him and said, “Let’s test the water together.” He handed N the monitor portion and dropped the sensor into the water while N looked for the readings. “Thank you,” I said, “for making sure to include him.” Thank you for noticing my boy. Isn’t that what these small acts of kindness are, really? Noticing, and then acting.

I picked him up from his after-school activity last week and found him waiting with two boys, one holding his backpack and the other holding his water bottle and sweatshirt. Yes, they’d been asked to do so by the teacher, but neither was complaining. I thanked them and was met with a large smile. It feels good to help.

The small acts of kindness require little more than paying attention. Am I paying attention? I try. To walk through the world mindful of where I am and what’s around me, rather than lost in my own head. To notice the person who may be struggling and remove the obstacle. Like the man backing out of the Whole Foods elevator (because parking is below the store) in his motorized shopping cart, but several carriages were just enough in his way. Simple enough to move the carriages so he could maneuver his way out. “Thank you,” he said, looking me in the eye, once he’d backed out and turned around. That look in the eye–I got the sense he felt noticed, and appreciated it. Perhaps this is the best most important thing any of us can do with our lives: notice our fellow humans and do our part to remove the small obstacles when we can.

I’m not sure if this space may evolve a bit. With a bit more time during the day for my own thoughts to quietly percolate, I find more things brewing that I may want to write up and share, along with the posts about making and creating. It’s all the art of life, after all.

Finding a New Rhythm

Walking to the bus stop with Daddy.

Walking to the bus stop with Daddy.

Ever since my first child was born almost 14 years ago, I’ve had at least one child (often two) at home during the school year. This year, all three are in school at the same time. Today is the last day of the first week of school, and we are all adjusting. I feel overall positive about the opportunities the kids have in this school district, and that’s all I’ll say about them. They have their own stories, and those stories are theirs to tell or not, not mine.

So what about me? School start and end times are staggered, with my elementary student leaving and returning first. This is great for sleepy middle schoolers in the morning, but harder in the afternoon, because it means I can’t rely on my oldest to meet my youngest’s bus, because he’s not home yet. The time in between is not long enough to, say, get a job, and I’m a bit pinched logistically with fitting in middle schoolers’ appointments after school (especially given I need to meet that elementary bus). This is scheduling stuff, and we’ll figure it out and get used to it eventually. But that time in between–what do I do all day? I’m figuring that out too. After this first week I mostly feel like I’d like to take some of those hours and shift them to after-school time, when I really need an extra two, at least. Ah well.

But seriously, this is time for me to figure out my big rocks–what goes into each day first–and figure out, for the first time ever, a rhythm that takes my own wants into account first, at least for a few hours. That’s kind of heady. And important. It deserves thought. I’m working on it.

Settling In

magnolia at

Magnolia tree in our yard. We’re not in Rhode Island anymore.

June was a very exhausting and yes, stressful month. Part of me wishes I’d had time to update here, but there’s no way. I was posting to Instagram throughout the month, but then my cell phone up and died mid delivery of all our household goods, if you can believe it. Let me try to catch you up a bit.

After all the doctor’s appointments and end-of-school stuff, the kids, cat, and I got into the car last Monday for the drive down to our new home. My husband stayed behind for the pack-out and to close on our house (I’d signed a power of attorney so that we didn’t both have to knock around with the kids and cat). The drive was fairly easy, even through New York City. The cat never made a peep; he mostly dozed. The kids did great with minimal rest stops (only two! and none in New Jersey, thank goodness; the turnpike bathrooms are disgusting) in order to keep the cat’s time in his carrier as short as possible. I’m actually still amazed at how well our very old cat handled the long car ride and a new house.

The hardest part of the drive for me was the Bay Bridge. It’s very long, high, and narrow, with no shoulders. Middle child informed me I was both panting and whimpering. Mind you, though I’m not a fan of bridges, I drove just fine over the many and various bridges between Rhode Island and Annapolis. That one, though. Ugh.

We had to wait a couple of days for our household goods to arrive on Wednesday morning. In the meantime, the kids slept on the floor in sleeping bags and I used the one mattress in the house. The first thing we did Tuesday was get ourselves library cards. After that we went to Target and Whole Foods. All of these places are within about ten minutes of our house, but it took me about three hours to do those three errands. It’s exhausting, not knowing where anything is. It’s just so darn hard to get anything done.

Closing wasn’t until Thursday, so I also got to handle delivery of all our household goods by myself on Wednesday. It was a little overwhelming. Even with all the decluttering I did, we have a lot of stuff. Nothing brings that home like watching a crew of guys bring your stuff in for five hours. The only time I came close to crying the whole week was when my phone quit working halfway through delivery. It had landed face down on pavement Monday evening when an exuberant middle child launched himself into me, cracking the screen, and I guess it took two days for it to fully give up the ghost. With my husband’s help I was actually able to find an old phone in a box and get switched over so I at least had GPS and texting and email capabilities (although, heaven help us, not all at the same time).

I’ve never moved like this before–that is, with someone other than myself packing the boxes. Unpacking is like a treasure hunt, because while boxes are labeled with rooms and generalities (some crew members being more specific than others), I don’t really know what’s in each box. In previous moves, I knew exactly what to unpack to get to what I wanted. I tackled the kitchen and bathrooms and kids’ rooms first. My art room still looks roughly like this:

art room in boxes at

The light through the window is going to be awesome, by the way. But I’m waiting for a floor covering before I unpack and set up, because I don’t want to ruin the hardwoods, obviously. I’m getting a bit tetchy without this room set up–I’m hoping it’ll be sorted by the end of the long weekend.

I have managed to get the living room looking like a living room, for the most part.

living room window.

And my husband showed up late last Thursday night, which was a relief. Despite some last-minute drama, the house was sold. (I won’t get into it here. Just, sometimes, both parties feel good coming out of a closing. And sometimes, one party feels a bit bludgeoned. We felt bludgeoned.)

We’re chipping away at unpacking and governmental details (both our cars have Maryland plates! which was no small task) and getting to know the area. The kids can just hop on their bikes and go; the neighborhood is wonderful, and full of kids. I’ve been finding some good running routes, including right over the Naval Academy Bridge. We’re meeting our new neighbors and getting settled. Soon, hopefully, this space will return to being about art adventures and creative endeavors. I can’t wait.


adventure talisman at

When I thought about 2015 last December, in terms of choosing a word to encapsulate the year ahead, I immediately thought Adventure. So much of how we experience life depends upon how we frame it. I knew this year would involve selling a house, packing it up, and moving out of state. Was I going to treat that as a trial to be slogged through? No. It’s an adventure. I made myself a word charm necklace as a reminder, and I’ve been wearing it a lot lately.

So much is going on this month that I’m struggling to even write about it. To say the schedule is hectic right now doesn’t even begin to describe my days and nights, or my husband’s. In the past two days I’ve napped in a waiting room once and the car (while various kids were in activities) twice. (Moms do what we have to do, you know?) But my overall feeling, along with excitement, is gratitude. My husband and I are handling all the various things coming our way as a team, and it’s good. We’re also reminding each other to do the things that keep us balanced–bike rides for him, runs for me. I’m grateful for running and the way it takes me out of my head and into my body. More than once I’ve been stressed about something related to selling this house (by far the most stressful part of this entire enterprise), and I left it on the road, coming back with my perspective restored. I am moving through these hectic days, not always with quiet and calm, but fairly capably and with huge amounts of positive attitude. This is a great adventure, and I’m excited to get down there.

Yesterday my kids and I all had ophthalmology appointments. These were originally scheduled for later in the month, after our move date, and they were able to reschedule on short notice and still get us all on the same day, although with two appointments in the morning and two in the afternoon. Since the office is 45 minutes from home, we packed a lunch and had a picnic in between, as well as updating my son’s glasses and going to the library and post office. It was a long day. We left the house at 8:15 and had been in the car but ten minutes when my middle child told my youngest, “There’s a spider directly above your head.”

Oldest child: “Wow, it’s huge, too.”

Youngest child: *Hysterical screams and cries.*

Me: “Thanks a lot, boys.”

You just have to laugh. They tracked that spider until it disappeared somewhere under my seat, while I maneuvered through rush-hour highway traffic, determined not to be distracted when I was notified it was right above you, Mama! It’s on your seatbelt! It’s legs are so spindly! Middle child felt it was a poisonous spider in disguise, which led Eldest child and I to muse on a spider in a trench coat and hat (and four pairs of sunglasses, as he pointed out). Adventure. Seriously, it’s everywhere, if you care to frame it as such, and I do.

The End of Limbo

Finally, I have specific, rather than vague, answers to the questions “Where are you moving to?” and “When?” We are moving to Annapolis the last week of June. Yay!!

This is a story of a whole lot of waiting followed by DO EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE AND FROM SEVERAL STATES AWAY. We went down to Maryland last week with the aim of coming home with an address. My husband needs to be down there, our house hasn’t sold, so we were looking for rentals. We identified 16 houses to see on Monday, and our realtor could only get us into four of them on Thursday. Some didn’t accept pets, but most were either closed to showings or already rented. That’s the state of the rental market there. By the end of the day, the grown-ups in the family were trying to figure out which qualities to prioritize, because we weren’t finding a house with good space in a good location for a good price. That night we identified four more houses and decided to drive by them on Friday (we also spent some time walking around downtown Annapolis, to add some fun to this work trip). We wanted to see two, but again, couldn’t get into them. A third house required 24-hour notice, and we were leaving the next day. We found a park with a playground and while the kids played, we parents assessed. My husband finagled his tech (phone, app, computer) to set up a little wifi spot for himself and tried to do some work and checked the rental sites, too. Something new had shown up. We decided to drive by.

Since it was vacant, we got out of the car to peek in. We drove through the neighborhood and saw three boys selling lemonade, so we pulled over and I bought five cups of lemonade and asked them if lots of kids lived there, and did they like the neighborhood? (Yes, and yes. Also, it’s good karma to buy lemonade from kids.) Our realtor met us there at 6:30.

Nothing like slipping in right under the wire! Our realtor called the listing realtor from the driveway. Meanwhile, our kids were playing with the next door neighbor, who’d invited them to bounce on his trampoline. We spent quite a while talking to his dad, and everything we learned about the neighborhood made us want to rent this house more. Husband and I filled out the rental application in the hotel room late that night so we could drop it all off in person Saturday morning before driving home again. It’s been a very long time since we had to go through a rental application process! Suffice to say the parents were a little overtired and strung out by the end of this trip.

But we have a house! We finally got word on Tuesday that our application had been approved and accepted–what a relief! (Nearly a year of uncertainty, I dealt with just fine. The final 72 hours of waiting? Were incredibly stressful.) The neighborhood is full of kids, so my kids will start school already knowing some classmates. Annapolis is full of things to do and see, and I won’t feel isolated at all. And the neighborhood sounds like a community. Everybody we met was so open and friendly. The next six weeks will be very very busy but by July we will all be together in the same house, enjoying our first Chesapeake Bay summer.

(And as for selling our house, things were happening on that end while we were down in Maryland–of course–but I’ve had enough real estate experience that I won’t say the house is sold until the papers are signed, the keys are handed over, and we have the check in hand. Just keep your fingers crossed.)

Adventure: Reconnaissance Trip to Maryland

house hunting

Tuesday we dug out from our blizzard (that took a while) and Wednesday we left as planned for a lightning-quick trip down to Maryland to do a little reconnaissance. We drove down on Wednesday–it’s about six hours of driving from here to Annapolis, where we stayed. I drove all the way down so my husband could field work calls, emails, and texts, which meant I drove over the George Washington Bridge and under the Baltimore Harbor. I wouldn’t have thought that driving under the harbor would rattle me more, but about halfway through I realized I was holding my breath. Ha! Since the car isn’t actually under water that wasn’t necessary. Luckily we have an Ezpass, which made going through all those tolls on 95 much quicker. It’s a straight shot down 95 from here to there but I don’t think I will ever enjoy the New Jersey Turnpike, nor their filthy bathrooms.

However, we got to the hotel by late afternoon, after taking a detour through a suburb of Baltimore (a house had come up there during our online searches) and determining it wasn’t for us. We went out to eat and then spent a very frustrating night all in one hotel room with the two younger kids absolutely refusing to settle down many many hours past their bedtimes. At that point I realized why so many people go house hunting without their kids along and simply move them to a new house as a fait accompli. Silly us, we thought it would be nice for the kids to have input.

Thursday morning we met our Realtor at the first house at 10 am and got going. We were connected with her via a Twitter friend who lives in Maryland. I asked her if she happened to have any recommendations, and I have to say that was the smartest real estate-related move I’ve made yet, because this Realtor is fantastic. We had one day in Maryland this time around, and we were with her for over five hours, driving down the edge of Chesapeake Bay, looking at both rentals and houses for sale. I am so impressed with the number of appointments she was able to set up. It works differently down there–up here, the selling Realtor has the key and both Realtors are there during a showing. Down there, there’s a lockbox, and the buyer’s Realtor is the only one present. We saw so many houses they’ve run together (I took notes in my trusty Moleskine), but we began to get a feel for areas and houses we like, and our Realtor did, too. We can’t make an offer to buy anything until our house sells, so this really was about getting a sense of place.

And the kids did great on that long march of a day. We kept saying we’d get lunch after “one more house,” but there wasn’t really anyplace to get lunch in the areas where we were looking. So I kept plying them with snacks from the back of the car–chips, fruit, granola bars–and we kept going to “one more house” and “one more house.” Finally we finished up around 3:30, drove past (but didn’t go in) yet another “one more house” while I Googled for food options, and we got to The Ruddy Duck at about 4, where the parents ordered coffee, then beer to go with the food. Lunch, afternoon coffee, and dinner, all at once. We’ve decided we need to live within easy distance of The Ruddy Duck, which has gluten-free pizza and other options and even brews their own celiac-safe gluten-free beer. It was a glorious place to end up at the end of a very long day.

Friday, we drove home, back up 95. This time I handed over the wheel at the last rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike, because my eyes hurt. So when we went back over the Great Gray Bridge he drove on the top level (I’d driven down on the lower level) and that was cool. Getting home was nice too. But we are getting anxious to be down in Maryland, at least we big people are–anxious for the selling and looking part to be over and to simply be where we’re going to be. It would certainly be easier for my husband work-wise, and those DC work trips coming up would just be longer work days rather than overnights. I’m glad we were able to get down there, even quickly, so the kids and I could actually see the area in which we’ll be living. It helps make it more real and for the kids, I hope, a little less unknown. Adventure!

October. October!

Issue Five Cover at

Coming soon–next week, in fact!

I didn’t intend to be quiet here for so long. But since I last posted, my days have consisted of driving, homeschooling, all the other mama things, and cleaning and decluttering. Most of that doesn’t lend itself to terribly interesting blogging, and even when I thought about sharing something (like that workshop I went to on executive functioning), it stayed a thought, because I’ve really been using all the spare time to clean. Let’s just say that while I am very good at keeping up with the daily necessities–cooking, dishes, bathrooms, laundry, snow shoveling, and so on–that the condition of the house is proof that I’d rather create something or get outside than deal with clutter and deep cleaning. And so it is that I’ve not drawn or painted or sewn or created or even written much more than grocery lists for much of the past month, while I deal with the fall-out of all that time spent at the beach or reading on the deck or carving a stamp. And while I don’t regret those past choices, I’m feeling a little prickly at the lack of creative time right now!

However, I am on track to publish the fifth issue of Art Together next week. A printed-out hard copy is coming with me tomorrow because I have some wait time and I like to proofread and copy edit on paper, not a screen. Making use of that time! It’ll be good to have this one out in the world.

A Foot in Two Worlds

G first day of school

This child was very excited on her first day of kindergarten.

In the Venn Diagram of schooling options, the overlap between school and homeschool is probably the most difficult spot to be in. I’m technically part of both groups but not really fully part of either. I am a homeschooling mom, and I also have two kids in school. This is a difficult situation, to have a foot in both worlds. Some of the best benefits of homeschooling—freedom from the school calendar and daily routine—don’t apply here. We can’t take vacations whenever we want; we have to keep the school calendar in mind. We can’t sleep until our bodies say; I need to get all three kids in the car to drive two of them to school, and then N and I get back in the car in the afternoon to pick them up. The school decided everybody would get “depot” stops this year, so I’m either driving them to a bus stop because it’s too far to walk, or driving all the way to school. For now, I’m choosing to forego the new busing, which seems inefficient, with stops in unsafe areas as well.

I’ve seen two homeschool classes that N might enjoy and that would get him some time with other homeschoolers, but both run from 1 to 4 in the afternoon, over the state line in CT, and I can’t have him there and also get my other kids home from school. I’d thought, when our 5yo wanted to try kindergarten, that at least with her seventh-grade brother on the bus, if they beat us home by a few minutes, he was capable of escorting her off the bus and into the house, getting her snack and so on. But now I need to be there to pick them up or meet the bus with the car, so those homeschooling classes are beyond our reach.

Then, there’s school. My heart is in homeschooling. Much about school in general pains me. Yet I need to honor my children’s wishes to go, and so I do my best to provide what I feel school does not. I think they both have good teachers this year, and that helps. But there’s no hiding that I feel out of place at school. I never know how to respond when parents comment that they can’t wait for summer to be over, or what on earth will they do with their kids over school vacation week. I can’t wait for summer, to have all my kids together, to be free of adhering to an external schedule, for them to have the time to pursue interests not handed down by a teacher. I often feel like I don’t speak the right language when I’m at school. Over the years I’ve learned mostly to keep to myself, because I feel I’m always in danger of saying the exact wrong thing. And I obviously don’t think the school is wonderful for everybody, or we wouldn’t have withdrawn our middle child. I think the school is okay for many kids, and really good for some, and really bad for some, too. Writing that, I realize it describes a bell curve, which is probably about right for any school.

It’s hard to be very involved at school, too, because I homeschool. I’ve never regularly volunteered in classrooms. (Even when both boys were in school, I had a baby at home.) I try to attend at least one field trip, which involves my husband taking the day off to hang out with our homeschooled kid. Early on I did try to be more involved, but let’s say that decreased as my middle child’s difficulties there increased, and finally I mostly gave up.

It’s unproductive—but sometimes tempting—to think about what it would be like, all one way or the other. There’s no point in wishing it were different; this is the reality I have, trying to honor each individual child’s wants and needs. I’d probably identify myself as a homeschooling parent first, and I wonder if that’s even legitimate, given two of three children are in school this year. But it’s where my heart is, even as I go through the daily routine of packing school lunches, sitting in the pick-up line, checking folders for notes and following up on homework. It chafes, a constant friction between what feels most right to me versus what I’m actually doing. I know I’m not the only parent negotiating both homeschooling and school, but I don’t see it talked about much. And so I write about it, to perhaps begin a conversation.


We got back to the beach last week.

At the salt pond behind the barrier beach.

At the salt pond behind the barrier beach.

Last summer I didn’t take my kids to the beach at all. If you know me you know how strange this is; I was working on some other things last summer, mainly, getting myself back on track from PTSD. (This post has more information if you’re new here and curious.) It’s now been about 13 months since I began a low daily dose of Zoloft and, to be succinct, I am grateful a medicine choice exists that I can take and that works for me without side-effects. Zoloft doesn’t change who I am; it allows me to be who I am. Part of that is the mom who packs up the kids and a lunch and towels and sunscreen and toys and books and heads to the beach for six hours. Last summer, even though I knew I’d done that for years, I couldn’t quite fathom how. It all sounded exhausting and too much, just too much.

It’s nice to be back.

Spider crab

Spider crab

The pond was full of spider crabs last week. We never know what we might see there, but it’s always interesting. The pond is shallow (no more than about 4.5 feet throughout) and calm and warmer than the ocean, especially at this time of year. The kids can paddle, and we can get close up with the critters that live there. It’s a different experience from the beach-beach, and we like to mix it up and do some of both each summer.

Last weekend we headed to Beavertail State Park for some tidepooling.



We mostly saw very tiny invasive crabs–Asian Shore Crabs–and periwinkles. Beavertail is a beautiful place, with lots of rocks for scampering over.

Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, RI.

Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, RI.

Being near and in salt water is a very happy thing for me. Spending much of last summer sitting on my deck with a book while my kids happily played in the yard (they didn’t have a bad summer, trust me) was the right thing to do. But I’m glad we’re back to spending more time in the sea and sun.

On Turning Forty

Setting a firm intention with the horses earlier this month in Montana.

This is a more personal (and longer) bit of writing than I usually post here, but I decided to share for two reasons. Firstly, as a reminder that we never know what other people are dealing with, and secondly, to do my small part in chipping away at the stigma of mental illness. If you know someone who you think would feel better for reading this, I hope you share it.

When I turned 39 a year ago, I thought it would be interesting to document my fortieth year in some way. It didn’t have to be public, and I didn’t want it to be so challenging as to be stressful (so, no posting a photo a day, in other words). I settled on simply writing a sentence or two each day in a notebook, in a documenting type of way. It’s been a long while since I journaled, and this wasn’t that. It was just a record of my days, 365 of them, the days of my fortieth year on this earth.

For a long while, if I mentioned this to anyone, I added that I picked a really miserable year to document, full of sadness and heartache. But, now that I’m at the end of it, having turned 40 one week ago today, I no longer think this is true. After all, this is the year I opened an Etsy shop, arranged to teach classes, and launched an e-zine; all of these support my goals of working on my own creative pursuits but also sharing my passion with others, to inspire and create confidence. This is the year I went away by myself twice, once to Florida and again to Montana. This is the year I began running again and entered two 5Ks (one was the day after my birthday, but we’ll count it anyway). These are things to celebrate, even more so because I worked on all this while so much else was going sideways in my life.

Because this is also the year that began with a sadness so substantial I could feel it on me like a heavy cloak, always. In late winter I lost my appetite and, ultimately, 13 pounds, dropping me back into underweight status (I’d finally reached a healthy weight after being diagnosed with celiac and cutting out gluten). I lost the ability to sleep; I simply forgot the trick of it. I started to feel like my mind was a moth trapped in a jar, banging against the sides, never finding a good solution on how to escape itself. After several months of this, I finally got myself to a competent therapist (after first seeing a really flaky unhelpful one). During a very thorough intake, which made me begin to trust her abilities fairly quickly, she identified symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in my past. At our next appointment I asked her to discuss that more thoroughly with me.

Turns out I’ve had flashes of PTSD for thirty years, but this winter/spring it was severe and prolonged. It’s related to childhood trauma and was triggered by a confluence of present-day events; because both of those stories overlap with other people’s stories, I won’t share details. PTSD is like a constant fight-or-flight response. From what I understand, it’s not going to get cured or go away, but I can learn to manage it. My brain can learn that it doesn’t have to fight or escape triggering situations, because I’m no longer a trapped and powerless child. However, at the worst of it, I absolutely felt trapped and powerless. It’s hard to explain my mind’s chaos from this vantage point, and if you saw me in daily life you probably wouldn’t have guessed how I was struggling. You might have wondered if something was up—I looked so thin, and tired, always—but my kids were getting to their activities, my homeschooled kids were getting schooled, my schooled kid was always on time, with a healthy packed lunch, and I showed up when and where I was supposed to. I taught my co-op classes; I continued working towards my own personal goals, albeit in very, very small increments. In short, I earned my superhero cape every single day. My kids, especially the two at home, knew I was sad. They saw me cry. I wasn’t very present much of the time—I kind of detached and disassociated, but I still cooked the meals (even if I wasn’t eating them), did the laundry, and kept everything running, while my husband was away on business trip after trip after trip. I did all this, and I often did it alone, and underneath, that moth just kept banging against smooth glass walls, finding no purchase at all.

I have a complicated relationship to medicines—I think most people do—and I resisted any talk of antidepressants. However, when the best plan my brain could come up with was to head off into the woods with no ID or cell phone (I didn’t do that, I just thought about it), a couple of friends convinced me that meds were a good idea. I agreed to a low dose of Zoloft at the beginning of June, and I’ve never upped it; the low dose has been enough. On the third day, my appetite began to come back.

The adjustment to meds, however, wasn’t easy and lasted 5-6 challenging weeks. A few weeks after I began Zoloft, I began running, and I believe it’s been just as important to me in feeling better. When I run, I feel strong, powerful, and in control. I can track measurable progress, as my ability to run both farther and faster improves. For a while, running was the only part of my life where I felt in charge. When I ran, I was reminded of my strength. I love running, and I’m so thankful for how it’s helped me. As an added bonus, it definitely helped increase my appetite, too.

Six months before my fortieth birthday, before the therapist, before the meds, before reaching any personal goals, I swore that one way or another, things would be different by the time I turned 40, and they are. So the story of my fortieth year is also one of getting myself out of the depths. I reached out and found a core group of women, many online, who checked in on me, shared their experiences, and cared for me. This is enormous. Saying I’m grateful doesn’t begin to cover it. I reached out for help locally, too, thankful for the friend who watched all three of my kids so I could get to therapy while my husband was away, who listened to what I was going through without judgment, without the need to “fix” me—just with patient, attentive ears. What a gift. My therapist (who, sadly, retired in August) had such helpful insights regarding that childhood trauma. I began to see the ways in which I’d allowed the members of my family of origin to define me, and how I could take charge of my own narrative. (It was about this time that I came across the description of the Haven Writing Retreat and felt so strongly that I needed to get far away so I could get in touch with the truth of my story.) This is the year I’ve worked on letting go—of the need to control, the need to know what’s next, the need for certainty. My childhood left me hesitant to trust, scared of separation and abandonment. Paradoxically, the way through that is to let go, open up, and chance.

So how do I feel about turning 40?

Strong in body and mind. Confident, once again. Beautiful. Grateful. And I feel like I can breathe again, most of the time, anyway.

So that is a peek behind the curtain of my life. More has been going on, all along, than I could possibly let on in this space. I would assume that is true of everyone we know online or in our day-to-day life. More is always going on, and we go on, too.


It took about three months from the time I requested mental health referrals to my first appointment with someone competent and helpful. I somehow found the ability to be tenacious and continue trying, but this is very hard to do while struggling. Presently, we’re appealing with our insurance company, who has taken brand-name liquid Zoloft (the only version of this drug that doesn’t contain gluten and thus is safe for me, a diagnosed celiac) completely out of their formulary, refusing to cover any of the cost. The mental health care system in this country is even more broken than the regular health care system. Those of us who need care need to overcome stigma (and thus our own shame) to first reach out, and while that’s hurdle enough, it’s usually just the beginning of a long, difficult road towards getting the correct help. Stigma needs to be replaced with compassion, scorn with support, and the insurance companies’ focus on the bottom line with common sense.

I found this pamphlet by NAMI helpful in beginning to understand PTSD, especially as it includes PTSD beyond the military instances with which most people associate it.