All white people are racist.


Sorry to break it to you.

My view of race changed when I accepted that we are all racist. All of us. Even me.

It doesn’t mean that we all want to be, or that we all act upon racism, but it’s as embedded in us as it is in the country we live in. As built into our system as our school systems. Pulsing through our blood.

Does that make you uncomfortable? Defensive, even? If so, please just take one second to tuck in your pride and hear me out.

Suppressing your racism is what gets people killed. Working on it is what will help combat systemic murder.

There are different types of racists. The “bad” ones — those who hate, kill, assault, harass, etc. based on race. The “it’s only a joke” ones — those who make offhanded, offensive comments in the privacy of their own homes. Even “subtle” ones — those who don’t think there’s anything wrong, or don’t even notice, their racist actions. Clerks checking IDs of POC but not white women. The police officer who stopped my friend and asked him to drop his weapon when we were walking in a white neighborhood one summer night in Chicago… his “weapon” being an umbrella. The teacher who pegs POC students as the “bad ones” before even getting to know them.

Then there’s the rest of us. The ones who don’t want to be racist. Who see the word as some “otherness” we don’t want to associate with. I was a child raised in an incredibly diverse neighborhood, with a diverse group of friends and liberal parents who did everything in their power to keep me from viewing the world through race. I still surround myself with diverse friends, volunteered for campaigns of progressive candidates, fought for rights, studied political science — did everything in my power to shake the racism of America from me — but still, I am racist.

Our problem is that we see racist as this big, bad label that inherently makes us bad people. For some people, that’s absolutely true. But for well meaning people, racism just means that you assign characteristics or stereotypes to someone based on their race. Make assumptions on someone’s experience, family makeup, upbringing, favorite music, favorite food, hobby, etc. etc. etc. just because of their race. Doesn’t mean you have to act on them, or that they’re from a place of hatred, but they’re there. They have to be. Because everything our country surrounds us with promotes this idea.

“Good” racists are the ones who talk about how eloquently Obama speaks. It’s one thing to enjoy the text of a speech, it’s another to think it’s notable that an ivy league graduate who was elected president could speak well. “Good” racists constantly ask their POC friends what they think about an issue of race instead of doing the research themselves. “Good” racists always mention the race of the person in their story, like it’s some important fact. “Good” racists LOVE to tell you how many POC friends they have. “Good” racists can never stop proving how not racist they are.

And because we’re so concentrated on how not racist we are, we close ourselves off to being called out. From being challenged. From learning. From creating the space to allow our friends to tell us why what we said, though not intentional, was from a place of racism.

It’s not your fault. I know you mean well. But society has been built off of racism – it’s in our schools, media, neighborhoods, grocery stores. It’s impossible not to be impacted by it. And if you really hate the label, open yourself up to the admission that racism is in you, too. Disassociating yourself from the label closes you off to the growth admission will bring.

We are all works in progress. The first step to that work is admitting we’re flawed, too.

Why I cried in my closet last week.


Losing weight is strange when you’ve decided to take away the power your scale or size held over you.

My entire life has been spent obsessing over my weight. If I were to guess, my body awareness started when I was like 7. Growing up with cheerleading as my main sport exposed me to kids who were half my size. At that age, you have no concept of how biology plays a role in your size and no way to understand that, even at my smallest, you would literally have had to saw my body in half to make me a flyer. I had an athletic build, the product of being a daughter of a NFL defensive lineman, but as a kid I just wanted to be a flyer because they were the stars of the mat.

Around 5th grade I started dieting. Consciously choosing to bring salads or grilled chicken to school instead of PB&J. I was a normal, healthy, athletic size but I wanted to be tiny. I went home and cried when my cheerleading coach called me buff because I thought she meant I was fat. Although my main sports (cheerleading and softball) relied heavily on lower body strength, I purposely avoided any exercise that would make my quads any bigger than they were. It didn’t stem from home. My mom provided healthy dinners without any problematic connotations to us needing to lose weight. My dad was the opposite – when it was his turn to feed us, we got the fun stuff like McDonald’s. My mom always took interest and supported if I wanted to eat healthy or exercise beyond my practices, but she never once made me feel like I had to. I had a great support system at home – it was everyone else (myself included) that made me feel like shit for the way I looked.

When I quit cheerleading, that issue of feeling like shit for being overweight didn’t go away. It decreased a bit, because I didn’t have the added pressure of being in enough shape to stay on the squad, but it was still lingering. My only sport was softball, which wasn’t competitive so never had things like hell weeks or conditioning practices. I was involved in musicals, and would take some dance classes here and there, but the constant high level physical activity was removed and I started gaining weight. Without much knowledge of how to maintain my weight in a healthy way through a normal exercise routine, I just stopped eating. I never ate breakfast, rarely ate lunch & always ate just enough at dinner to keep my family from getting suspicious. I grew used to headaches & dizziness. I weighed myself constantly. I was obsessed with my weight & all things weight loss. I watched the Biggest Loser religiously. I tried all the diets. I would even freeze yogurt cups to eat as “dessert”. Inevitably, after losing like 15 pounds in two weeks, I’d be starving enough to completely binge & then continue to eat too much (and all the wrong things) for about a month. I’d gain the weight I lost and then some.

This followed me into adulthood. I’d gain too much weight then do some fad diet to try and lose it. I’d lose 20 pounds, get sick of dieting, then gain 40. I went up and down and up and down & the only thing that stayed constant was I never liked the way I looked at any weight.

I was at my heaviest when I broke my knee. Breaking my knee put a sudden stop on my comedy career, which at the time was thriving, and launched me into one of the worst depressions I’ve ever faced. I completely lost my identity since I wasn’t performing or coaching anymore. On top of that, I lost the control over my body that I took for granted up until then. There was one particularly difficult day– I was relearning how to walk for the first in what would be four times and the walk from my bus stop to apartment, which usually took five minutes, was defeating me. It took me five minutes to go two blocks & I was still about four blocks away. I was exhausted, I was tired & I was depressed. I promised myself that I would never take my ability to walk for granted again. All I wanted to do was be able to walk a few blocks without crying from pure exhaustion.

My first mountain was walking. Then regaining the muscles in my leg, only to have them depleted recovering from my first surgery, then walking again, then building up my muscles again, then having them shrink to nothing with my second surgery. After my second surgery, I wasn’t allowed to touch my foot to the ground for over two months, which meant I was in a wheelchair and left to completely depend on my right leg (all while living alone & far away from family). I remember how going to my pantry to grab a few graham crackers felt like running a marathon. The sheer amount of energy it took to get to the bathroom left me dehydrating myself as much as I could. Everything was physically difficult. When I was finally allowed to start using crutches, there were still a million little mountains to overcome, but I knew the worst of it was over. I was in awe of how strong I was to have gone through the type of recovery I had.

I thought back to my initial promise at the start of my injury — I will never take the ability to walk for granted again. I realized that promise grew. I told myself I would never take my body for granted. That it is one fucking powerhouse of a vessel. Although I was the largest, most out of shape and damaged I have ever been in my life, I finally starting loving my physical body.

Instead of wearing old ass clothes that were cheap because I wanted to lose weight and didn’t want to spend money on clothing my size, I bought nice things that looked good on me. I donated all of my smaller jeans & rid my closet of any of those “skinny” items I wanted to badly to eventually fit in that only made me feel like shit. Through loving my body for getting me through everything it had thus far, I finally accepted and started loving my size. For the first time, literally ever, I was happy to live in the body I was given.

Because of all that self-love, I cared more about feeling good in general. I started eating well because I was sick of feeling lethargic. When my surgeon cleared me to join a gym again, I got lucky and ended up at one with a group of people who pushed and supported me as I continued to hit recovery milestones. Instead of dieting, I looked at food as nourishment. I picked stuff that I knew was full of nutrients and avoided things that made me feel sick. I didn’t make anything off limits and indulged when I wanted to. I just made sure to make the best decision I could in the moment. I started weighing myself daily – not as an obsession like I used to, but more of a measurement like height. I was also curious to see if my theory of throwing away diets, calorie counting & starving myself actually worked. Two things learned from weighing myself daily… 1- My weight fluctuated by 2-5lbs daily, so weighing myself every morning & taking an average for the week was much more accurate and healthy than picking a day of the week and letting whether or not I’m holding excess water have an impact on my mood. 2- The power that my weight held over me started diminishing by making it a daily habit. Removing the significance of “weigh ins” removed the power of the number. Also, for the first time in my life, I had a healthy relationship with a scale.

My theories checked out & it all resulted in me losing a bunch of weight. Obviously I knew the combo of my crazy gym schedule and healthy eating would result in that. But it’s strange when your motivation wasn’t how you looked. I wanted to be athletic again, enjoyed the social life at my gym, and liked that I never really got nor felt sick anymore. I wanted to give my body everything I could after what it got me through. I wanted to be able to pay tribute to my ability to control it again. It was never about how I looked.

I don’t know how to teach that. People ask what I’m doing and I can tell you my logic. That I have an exceptional gym & friends who make working out the highlight of my day. That I try to pack in as many veggies in as possible, which resulted in me eating plant based most of the time, but allow myself to scarf down a cheesesteak during an Eagles game once a month. That my mom equipped me with a base of knowledge around nutrition so I don’t have to count calories to figure out how much I’m eating, I just know. That I love cooking & the food I make, so controlling what I eat isn’t too hard. That I realized I’d much rather eat ice cream than the crappy cookies at work, so I hold off on those & then don’t feel guilty about a Jennie’s trip every now and then. But the real game changer for me was finally being in a place of self-love. I don’t know how to teach you how to get there without breaking your knee for you. But I hope you can figure it out. Being there allowed me to be patient & approach healthy living from the point of view of wanting to pay homage to my body.

Which is why I started crying while cleaning my closet the other week. I no longer fit in my clothes. I was starting to get back in that place of “oh I’ll just wear whatever because I don’t want to spend money on clothing when it won’t fit soon anyways”. But after my pants wouldn’t stop falling down on a night out, my best friend finally told me I need to get over this shit and buy new jeans. Before buying new jeans, I needed to clear out the old.

I didn’t expect to get emotional at all. Everything about my weight loss was so against the norm that I didn’t think a cliché closet crying scene would be part of my journey. But I had a really hard time letting go of my stuff. So much so that two bags of it are still sitting in my closet, hoping to find a home with friends and family instead of a stranger because I love them so much. I fell in love with the body I have in these clothes. It was a powerful shift in my mindset & literally changed my life. I have such important memories and deep connections with those damn clothes. The pleather jacket my mom bought me for Christmas two years ago that made me feel like a badass when my confidence was at an all-time low. The two Calvin Klein shirts I bought in plus size when I finally let go of the stigma I felt about shopping in that section. The black pants I did my last show in. The boyfriend jeans that never dug into my stomach. All the workout clothes I bought so I would feel better about myself being one of the largest people at my gym. They were all so personal to me. But I have a habit of lingering too long in fear of closing chapters & I had to move on. Plus literally everything wouldn’t stop falling off my body.

After parting with my clothes, my first stop was Old Navy. I grabbed a bunch of jeans a size down & tried them on. They were all too big. I grabbed another size down & they were still too big. I went back to the jean section and literally stood there staring at the jeans, not knowing what to do. I couldn’t fathom that I lost three sizes. Some nice 55 year old Old Navy associate asked if I needed help, because I looked insane, and I told him that I had no idea what size I was. That all the sizes I thought I was were too big but there’s no way I’m a size smaller. That I lost a bunch of weight but I’m trying not to make a big deal about it because it wasn’t that I wasn’t happy with how I looked & diet culture is wrapped up in so much bullshit. Bless his soul, he simply looks at me and goes “I think we just need to find you jeans that fit. Also, you can be proud of yourself”.

I realized my aversion to diet culture & love I feel for who I was at the start of the journey was keeping me from fully giving into the love I should feel for who I am now. Being proud of my accomplishment isn’t taking away from the love and respect I have for who I was when I started it all. I can be proud of both. But by not fully serving and loving the person I am now, I’m keeping this whole recovery chapter open when it really ran its course. It’s more of a novel now, really. The first book in a trilogy. And while I have that part of my life to thank for where I am now, it’s over. Time to write some new shit.

I’ve been afraid of changing cause I’ve built my life around you.


Last night I took my guitar out for the first time in awhile. I have a black folk sized acoustic guitar that I wanted to name after Johnny Cash but found myself calling Stevie after Stevie Nicks. Like most nights, I started with “Landslide”. It’s fast and all finger picking, which I’m not great at. But I really want to master the song.

When my guitar teacher passed the song out last year, I was so excited. Earlier that year, during a rock bottom, “Landslide” make a surprise appearance into my life and became the song that defined where I was and where I wanted to go.

Like every 90’s baby, I though “Landslide” was originally sung by the Dixie Chicks. I knew every word and pretended to relate to how deep the lyrics were while watching the Dixie Chicks float around in clouds during their music video. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that it really struck my soul.

I was on medical leave and on month two of being in a wheelchair. Cabin fever would be a light way to describe how I felt in those months. It was more like deep depression meeting existential crisis. I played the Sims and watched old reality TV all day. I couldn’t get myself to write & I wouldn’t watch anything scripted on TV because it reminded me of the comedy world I took myself out of. So, with seasons 4-16 of the Amazing Race done, I turned to The Voice.

Some woman in an influencer hat appeared on my TV screen to talk about how much “Landslide” meant to her. She went into this explanation on how she spent all of her career moving around with her band, doing everything dependent on what they wanted to do, and how this show is her breaking away from that. She then sang this beautiful rendition of “Landslide” and it broke me. I had been numbed in my depression for weeks and weeks and weeks and some chick from Team Miley singing a song I’ve known my entire life is what broke me.

I sobbed. SOBBED. I got that hungry feeling in my stomach I usually only get on my last day of visits home where you miss something so much it starts to make your stomach turn. I associate it with homesickness – like I know this moment is so good but tomorrow I’ll have to say goodbye to everyone. It’s my absolute least favorite feeling in the world. And I got it that night because everything that was hurting was just articulated and I felt naked and exposed. And now that I understood what was wrong, I couldn’t just throw it back into some compartmentalized box and pretend it’s not there.

Well I’ve been afraid of changing cause I’ve built my life around you. Well, time makes you bolder, children get older & I’m getting older too.

I’ve built my life around you.

That’s what I had been doing. I built a life that was leaning so hard on other people that the second something shifts & I’m left alone with my raw self, I have no fucking idea who I am.

My comedy was never me. It was never without a strong dependence on someone else. When forced to create something authentic, I could stylize the shit out of something, I could write jokes and make it funny, I could direct it, package it, make it so damn interesting and consumable that I didn’t even get nervous about whether or not audiences would eat it up because I knew they would. But that was never without constant affirmation. From my director, from my writing partner, from close friends who went to everything. I never wrote something alone & then turned around to present it. I didn’t do stand-up. I found people who were aligned with me and ran with them. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – I consider myself so damn lucky to have both my writing partner & director, and to this day they are two of the most important people in my life – but I was unable to do my own thing. While we could create literal magic as a trio, I couldn’t do anything alone. They could — both of them constantly churned out supplemental, solo, stuff. But I never did. I didn’t know what the fuck my voice was without depending on someone else.

The root of that, I found, was an extreme lack of self-worth. I did not think I was good enough or worthy enough of being heard. I thought the best part of my voice was how it sang in harmony with my writing partner’s. I thought I was boring and basic alone. I didn’t think the things I had to say were worth paying for. Everyone struggles with self-worth issues, but mine were crippling enough to lead me in the direction of creating absolutely nothing in fear of losing the reputation I built with my partner because of my own solo stuff.

When I broke my knee, and my ability to work with them vanished & both (rightfully and with my full support) moved on without me, I didn’t know how to be creative anymore. Everything for the past few years was so heavily dependent on following their cues that I had no idea how to move forward alone. So I just stopped. And I distanced myself from that world more and more and more because all it did was remind me of how much I missed it and how much one wrong step I made during rehearsal took that from me.

It wasn’t just happening in my creative life, but my personal life as well.

I always had one foot in and one foot out of Chicago. I never expected to stay here longer than college. But here I am, 11 years later, still living in this city. I think I was so afraid to admit to myself that I genuinely love my life, and am the best version of myself, here. I thought admitting that would be some sort of middle finger to my family and close friends. Like my love for them wasn’t enough to keep me home. I’ve struggled with that since the day I moved here. So I’ve been jumping back and forth in a capacity that is just making everyone dizzy.

In college, I wouldn’t commit to relationships because I thought I was moving home after graduation. Right out of college, I didn’t enter any because of the same reason. Professionally, I take jobs I don’t actually enjoy out of fear that if I found a good job I love, it’d only be harder for me to move. Everything is decided with that fear. If I fall in love out here, I can’t imagine raising a family away from my mom. If I find an apartment that feels like home, I’ll feel comfortable and consider Chicago home. Everything had the constant echo of: If I admit to myself that I love living here more than I’d love living back home, it means I don’t love my family.

Here is where I am crystal clear about the fact my family NEVER, EVER, made me feel guilty about moving far from home. They were in the trenches with me. They saw how I was before I moved & the person I became by leaving. It never had anything to do with them. If they wanted to relocate to the apartment next to me, I’d be through the moon. But I had just been through so much in my city and needed to move away from the trauma I suffered so I could find myself. So my family never once asked me to move back, no matter how much they may want me to.

When Nora was born, I thought I would move home. I even said I would. But here’s where Landslide comes back in. I had this realization one day that she can’t be the reason I move home. If I want to move back home, it has to be because it’s the right move for me. For my everyday happiness. Not because I miss my niece. That’s my brother’s family unit, not mine. And I can’t continue to make decisions off the life someone else already set up.

So last year, I told myself to live the next year like I’m never going to leave Chicago. Where will that bring me? What sort of professional & personal success may that bring? Believe me when I tell you it was one of the best years yet. Not only did I thrive here, but I went home to visit a lot more. I learned that I could live far from home but still be around for the smaller memories like bedtime stories, first baseball games and boardwalk weekends. It’s a little more difficult to plan, but it’s possible. And for the first time in a long time, I can envision how it may work out.

All because I decided to stop trying to build a life around someone else and instead figure out what my own life may look like.

So, with two feet in Chicago (for now…), I spent the last year learning who I am without being so heavily influenced by the people in my life. I started being unafraid in making my needs and opinions known, even if they differ from someone I love’s. I’m no longer afraid of changing and living an authentic life because it may not coincide with the individual lives my family members are building. And slowly, I’m finding my voice again. It took time, but it’s strong and unwavering.

Time made me bolder.

Fuck diet culture.


I hate diet culture. Few things get under my skin the way diet culture does. So when I listened to Chrissy King on Forever35 today, my heart burst with joy and I became incredibly unproductive at work because I hung on her every word. I felt seen and strong and affirmed.

Before I get all wound up, I find it important to establish one thing: diet culture and nutrition are not the same thing. Diet culture wants you to think it’s nutrition. Diet culture thrives off us not knowing the difference. But it’s not the same. I care very much about nutrition. I want to burn diet culture down.

Diet culture starves you. It thrives off preying on your self-worth. It tells you that your worth as a person in today’s society is determined by two numbers: your weight and your caloric intake. It wants to make you believe that if you buy its products, plan, formula, fast, whatever – you’ll finally unlock that secret to being a healthy and beautiful you. I’ve never been healthy on a diet. I’ve always been hungry.

Nutrition is a different beast. It’s food pyramids and Sesame Street telling you to eat the rainbow. It’s trusting your own logic and knowledge. Honestly, I learned a lot about nutrition from kids in my life. We feed them whole foods that will help them grow strong and healthy. Most five year olds understand nutrition better than most 30 year olds because they haven’t let the societal bullshit set in yet. Granted, there is a healthy dose of privilege that allows us to gain this knowledge. A family unit with enough time and resources to force veggies down your throat is a large part of what equips kids with the natural instinct to know what is healthy vs. not. I can go on a whole separate rant about how diet culture preys off marginalization but I’m currently trying to type this post discretely at work and we gotta stay in one lane.

I spent about twenty years obsessed with dieting. I had my go-to diets where I knew I could lose 20lbs in a single month. I had diets I leaned on when I wanted to lost 10lbs in a few weeks, and others were I could get under a certain weight by “xyz” trip. I even had this weird one my roommates and friends will remember that involved this weird witch’s brew of cinnamon tea & a daily basil-cucumber smoothie, which I was always too afraid to make at 5AM so I’d run my blender in my closet, while trying to smother the sound with towels so I didn’t wake my roommates up. It resulted in this weird drink that was basically crushed ice and chopped up veggies that I literally gagged down.

It doesn’t take an expert to predict what happened a few months after each “successful” diet. Obsessing over what I ate was as sustainable as keeping so many different foods “off-limit”. I always gained the weight back and then some. Always. On every diet.

About a year ago, I was at a crossroad due to injury and surgeries where I basically had to decide to either be someone who is no longer active, or bust my ass to recover in a short timeframe. As a former athlete, I wasn’t ready to throw the towel in at 27. I also hated every second of my years of limited mobility and couldn’t possibly see myself happy without the ability to play sports. I had to lose weight. Not only was my extra weight putting additional stress on my newly reformed knee, but I was unhealthy. Knowing what “worked” in the past, I turned to a diet. But after one bad day at the gym where I almost passed out because of not eating enough, I knew that I had to take a different approach. I decided to test what I knew in my gut was a balanced way to eat & I’ve been able to keep it up for a year.

As I grew stronger through my workouts, I gained a greater respect for what my body could do. Two years ago, I was in a wheelchair. The amount of energy it took to get off my couch often felt like the toughest day at the gym. I was proud and grateful for what I could accomplish now, even if it was as simple as being able to walk up the hill separating our cabin from the pool on vacation. When I was learning how to walk for the third time, I promised myself that I wouldn’t take the ability to walk without any assistance for granted again. I made a vow that I would do everything I could to celebrate and serve my body.

Once I got to that level of self-worth, I felt dirty when influenced by diet culture. Here I was, physically moving mountains, but I was depriving myself of both food and joy. The amount of energy I spent obsessing over calories and macros was exhausting. And the truth is that the amount of sugar and carbs in an apple was not what made me fat anyways.

Diet culture wants you to feel like an idiot. It wants you to think that losing weight is so hard, you need it’s special formula to accomplish it. If you want a quick fix, sure. There are ways of eating that will make you lose weight fast. But you’ll gain it back – whether in a few months or years. I’ve been down that road again and again and again.

My weight loss is slow. That’s fine with me because honestly I love the way I look. I feel better, never deprive myself, and when it’s family boardwalk time at the Jersey Shore, you better believe I choose both cheese fries AND Kohr’s and I don’t feel bad about not going to the gym to work it off that weekend. It took some rewiring, but I started with two simple steps. First, I promised myself I would stop tracking everything. Then I told myself to just try and choose a healthier option for each meal. I repeated “food is fuel” to myself for months to prevent myself from starving, but also to keep myself from choosing empty calories that would make me feel sluggish. By having a base of whole foods that helped my gut feel good and gave me energy, I was able to stop obsessing over what I ate. When I was out with friends, I ate what I wanted. I was never on a diet. And because I’m not starving myself, I’m losing fat, not muscle. Which means that over a span of a year, I’ve lost what I used to lose in a few months. But I’m healthy and love myself.

As much as I was excited to write this post, I also kept my mouth shut for a year about food for a reason. I think we, as women, obsess over what we’re eating. We have so many more things to talk about. You never have to justify what you eat to me. If you’re swearing off carbs for a month to practice discipline, fine — you do you. If you had a long week and need a skillet cookie tonight — I hope it makes you feel better. Your body is not my body, and what you want to eat or stay away from is up to you. I only care if you’re someone I love and you’re either filling yourself daily with artery clogging trash, or starving yourself, in a way that is shortening your lifespan.

But trust me when I tell you that cleanse will not change your life.

I don’t need to forgive myself.


Today marks 16 years since my dad died.

Which also means that it has been 16 years of trying to forgive myself for the way I treated him when I was an early teenager.

My dad died as the result of a car accident right after my 13th birthday.  I don’t know what you were like at 13, but I wasn’t an easy teen. My life read a lot like any low quality blockbuster about your typical 13 year old girl – angry at the world, more concerned with what my friends thought of me than anyone else, hung up in a messy “love life” and resenting any and everything my parents did. The fall I turned 13 was especially tough on me. I moved from my childhood home and had to start at a new school in 8th grade & then my cheerleading coach quit, taking half of our team with her. I was bitter, I was angry, and I took most of it out on my family.

When my dad was struck by another driver, at first he was ok. He was in the hospital because he had to get surgery on his leg, but he was fine. I remember being with him in his room the night before he was supposed to come home. As someone who never considered herself religious, I took to talking to God for the first time since my first communion. I promised that if my dad came home ok, I’d be the best daughter he could ask for. I apologized for the way I treated both him and my mom and told God that I got it — this was my wakeup call. I would be kinder and more patient. I would be less of an asshole. With my dad set to be released the next morning, I left the hospital full of optimism and with a renewed energy. Since the next day was Veteran’s Day, I’d be home from school and able to take care of him. I couldn’t wait for our new chapter to begin.

Then my mom woke me up in the middle of the night and asked for me to join her in my brother’s room. She told us my dad died. I asked her if she was joking because my brain couldn’t possibly catch up to what I just heard. He was fine. He was supposed to come home today. I was going to get my storybook second chance.

Every therapist, teacher, friend, family member, stranger – you name it – has tried to get me to forgive myself for how I treated him as a teenager. I’ve gotten to the point of forgiveness a few times. But I always, always, always slip back to being angry again. To wishing I had been more patient and kind. To wishing we had more time.

I finally decided to stop trying to forgive myself. It’s honestly draining.

Do I hate myself? No, of course not. I was a thirteen year old girl. OF COURSE I acted the way I did. OF COURSE I know he understood that. I don’t hold any of that against me, and it doesn’t impact my self-worth. But I don’t waste my time trying to be at peace with our fractured relationship.

Because I didn’t get the time to repair our own relationship, I’ve been able to have deep and earnest relationships with others I love. I don’t waste time being angry at the ones that are closest to me. I let people know, right there and then, how much I care for them. How much they mean to me, how much they taught me, how much they lifted me to be a better person. Because I spent so much energy being angry with my parents, I’ve learned to take a step back and ask myself if maybe I’m on the wrong side of an argument. If what I’m getting worked up about is a reflection of who I’m directing my anger toward, or if it’s circumstantial. I love hard and earnestly and all of that is because I still hold some resentment towards the thirteen year old who was an asshole to her parents.

When I learn to live with the parts of myself I’m not proud of, I find it much easier to love myself than trying to force forgiveness that isn’t genuine. It’s ok to admit when we were wrong. When we were the ones at fault. Those imperfections are where we learned our biggest lessons. They made us better. Coming to terms with the fact that I’ll never forgive myself completely makes me more powerful. It allows me to stop wasting my time forcing a feeling that just won’t come and instead lets me redirect it. I ask myself why I’m still angry at the decisions I made back then. I took my anger out on people I love? Great. I won’t do that again. I refused to open up about what really hurt me? Awesome. Let’s be honest. I was immature and my brain wasn’t developed enough? Wonderful. I’ll be more patient with the young teens in my life when they dismiss me.

I’ve found that letting go of the pressure of forgiveness lifts a huge weight from my shoulders. It lets me get angry and pissed off if I need to be. Feeling that anger lets me remember what caused it in the first place, and ensures that I set myself up to prevent it from happening again. It doesn’t rule me, but I don’t force it into hiding like a toddler behind a sheer curtain. Where we can all see it, but to make it feel better we just pretend it’s not there. It’s there — that version of me wasn’t my shining moment of life. And I didn’t get a clean slate no matter how much I prayed or bargained with a God I didn’t believe in that night. And I think it’s ok to not get over that. It makes me a better person, a more gentle, kind and loving version of myself. I feel freedom when I can look at parts of myself that I’m not proud of, yet still love myself through them.

We’re all imperfect. We make mistakes, we get things wrong. When we can learn to live alongside those parts we didn’t get quite right, and try to learn from them, we can move forward and progress. Don’t let your past rule you, but don’t pretend the ugly parts didn’t exist. It’s a disservice to sugarcoat your own reality. When we allow ourselves to remember the mess we created, we allow ourselves the ability to do better.

One single focus.


It has been a MINUTE since I’ve written anything. Not just on here, but like – anything. I’m a writer, and process everything through words, but the last thing I wrote was the last post on this blog & that was a year and a half ago.

It wasn’t because I was lazy, or unmotivated, or had nothing to say. I actually had a lot to say. I was consistently biting my tongue and sitting on my hands in an attempt to keep myself from writing.

Last fall, I went to one of my monthly appointments with my knee surgeon & y’all, it wasn’t great. I thought I was doing everything I possibly could to get myself up to speed, but he hit me with a heavy dose of hard reality. He told me that I could either choose to step up my game & get the reward of living a fully active life, or decide to go at the rate I’m going and never be able to be active in the capacity that I was used to again. Either way, I had to choose immediately.

When I went into my MACI implant, I had no idea how hard the recovery was. My surgeon never sugar coated it — I just couldn’t grasp the toll it would take on me and my mental health. In my mind, I was moving mountains. I did my physical therapy, I tried to eat well, I worked out a few times a week. But I wasn’t getting the results needed to get over the line separating me from being athletic again. On top of that, my metal health was in a rough place. I was depressed, unmotivated, and lost the fire in my belly I previously kept lit regardless of my situation.

After spending a good day being pissed off at my ortho, I did a lot of self reflection. I realized that the reason I was so upset over what he was saying was because it hit me to my core. I was exposed. Online, via phone, in face to face conversations, I was so good at selling that I was working as hard as I could to recover. But the reality was that I did the bare minimum. Did I eat well? Sure. If you count a healthy lunch as eating well & throw away the multiple nights per week that I ran to McDonald’s or Papa Ray’s. Did I exercise? Yup! Twice a week I went to my gym downstairs and hung out on an elliptical for about 45mins before lifting a few weights that I knew I could lift — never once actually pushing myself. Did I do my physical therapy? Yeah! (I mean, sometimes, maybe once a week, and because I wasn’t doing it enough, it always hurt too much for me to progress so it was like I was on one of those mall toddler trains that just keeps going in circles, not wanting to admit to myself that the ride kinda sucks and I might be too old for it because it was easier to sit on the train and pretend to be happy about the ride than come to terms with the fact that I should really be going on the larger, scarier, rollercoaster or something, ya know?).

I was good at two things: 1. Starving myself for a few weeks so I could lose a dozen pounds & then gain it all back because I was starving. 2. Lying to myself to the point where I was genuinely convinced I was pushing myself enough to make a full recovery because I didn’t know how to do it alone. But now my surgeon exposed me & I was so naked that even I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

So I decided the next year would have one singular focus: health. Mental and physical. No writing, no trying to balance my social life, no dating, no worrying about advancing my career or education. No shows, no feeling bad about not performing, no staying home to read or watch TV. Everything – every single project – was put on hold so I could focus on my health.

That’s not easy for me. I’m a creative and my impulse is to take on too much. I love being passionate about projects I abandon two months later. I love juggling multiple parts of my identity. I love writing and reading and going home after work to watching dumb shit on TV. But I wasn’t succeeding in handling multiple things at one – so why not just try switching it up?

Step one: Get back to the gym.

For the longest time, I wouldn’t join a gym because I have a BEAUTIFUL gym in my building. Like, three rooms complete with a pool and boxing ring, kind of beautiful. And I justified my rent because of the amenities, so why pay for a membership? It would be throwing money out the window, right? But why the hell does that matter if I’m not using it? For two years, I wasn’t able to get myself to exercise consistently enough to make progress, no matter how strong a burst of motivation was, so why would that change?

The only time in my post-high school life that I ever did well with consistently loving to exercise was right out of college. I joined a gym & made great friends who made working out the biggest highlight of my day. I knew that I needed to get back into group fitness because I’m a former team sports athlete and nothing will push me more than a good leader and wanting to hold my own against my peers. My surgeon gave me the OK to do anything that wasn’t cardio (unless it was on a bike or in a pool). So I rejoined my old gym, made friends and everything was easy.

Just kidding. It was actually really fucking hard. The first class I took was a spin class, which I used to do all the time. I could barely get through the warmup. But by some collision of the universe, my former college professor (who knew everything I had been through over the past few years) was my instructor that night & I finished it. The second class I took was Bodypump – something I also used to take regularly – and I cried after it. I couldn’t do anything with my lower body. I didn’t account for how mentally difficult it is to go back to something you used to be able to do & not be able to do it like you used to. Everything that I lost in my accident came back to me and I was pissed as hell.

Plus, being at my old gym made me miss my friends. I was lonely. I wanted them back. I envied everyone who had gym friends. I envied everyone who could hold their own during class. Honestly, I was just jealous and angry all the time. But I decided to take that energy and transform it into motivation. My back was against the wall – what was my other option? Not being able to be physical again? Wasn’t the whole point of this crazy ass surgery so I could be physical again? So I showed up. And I asked for help. And I was vulnerable and honest and opened up about my injury. And that vulnerability and honesty led to people helping me, checking up on me, motivating me & being forced into my friendship because I love a good cult. I gave myself the space and freedom to be a beginner again. To not be hard on myself. To do as much as I could that day, feel proud of it, and not compare my journey with anyone else’s.

The second thing I needed to work on was losing weight. Not only did I put on weight in a way that felt uncomfortable to me, but my surgeon kept stressing how the rate of success, and longevity of my implant, would increase if I lost weight. So I decided to finally love myself and eat healthy without starving myself & the weight came off and you guys I’m so happy!

Just kidding. I starved myself. Not starve starve, just “starve”, ya know? I didn’t not eat, I just ate as little as I could while on a fad diet and counted E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Everything. Guys, I literally logged seltzer (WHICH IS NOTHING BUT WATER WITH THE ESSENCE OF FRUIT) in an app. I swore off bananas. I ate salads WITHOUT DRESSING. I didn’t eat beans because some book told me they were too inflammatory. Then one night, during a spin class, I pushed myself harder than I normally did because I was getting stronger, and I almost passed out. Like had to call my mom and stay on the phone with her until I got home because I was so scared of fainting and bashing my head on the sidewalk.

So I threw away the diet books, deleted my apps, and decided to take a different approach. I love healthy food. I was never someone you had to force to eat fruits or veggies – I just liked them. And my mom taught me enough about nutrition that I was already equipped with the knowledge of what food was nutritious & would give me energy. So here I am – someone who loves healthy food and is slowly but surely loving herself more and more. It seemed easy, right? Just eat the healthy shit you already like, the stuff that makes you body feel good, and stop eating the shit that doesn’t make you feel good. And it was that easy. Which is why I fucking hate diet culture. There’s an entire industry making money off convincing us it’s hard. They thrive and make money off our self hatred. They want us to think it’s so hard & that we need their secret formula to lose weight. It’s not. Eat things you know are good for you. I didn’t put anything “off limits” because that made it feel like something shiny to miss. Instead, each meal I prepared or ate out, I asked myself if there was a way to make it healthy. Usually there was. And if I really wanted fries instead of the side salad, I got the damn fries. And getting them that day usually got them out of my system enough to not make a run to McDonald’s out of impulse & instead limit them to that meal on that day. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, I just chose to make it healthy more often than not and stopped eating when I was full.

Which leads to painfully slow weight loss. I’m taking a pound a week maybe when I used to be able to lose five in a week. But my life wasn’t dictated by some dumb diet & here I am a year later, still able to eat healthy and continue losing weight. I got to know myself on a different level. It took a lot of reconditioning to not get disappointed by how slow it was, but I got there. I realized that the daughter of a defensive lineman for the NFL will never be skinny. It’s just not going to happen. And at the end of the day, that honestly wasn’t the type of body I was aiming for. I wanted to be strong – and knew I could be strong. That was always my advantage in sports. When I cheered, I could lift anyone. In softball, I was a power hitter and third baseman. I knew I could be strong. So I started caring less about the size of my waist and instead fell madly in love with the way I was able to master technique, push my endurance or up the amount of weight I could lift. And I fell madly in love with the way my inner strength was now being reflected in my muscle definition.  I just wanted to look as strong as I felt. Slowly but surely, I fell in love with my physical self for honestly the first time ever. And that shit’s powerful. And I didn’t have to count my calories to get there.

Traditionally, I’m someone who shouts my goals to the world. I thought it would keep me accountable. I wanted to be complimented on my journey. I wanted social media to think I’m cool. That I’m inspiring and motivating and DOING. IT. In an effort to try and keep away from old habits that never worked in the long term, I decided to be a little quieter this time. I posted maybe 1/10th of my journey. I instead put my focus on doing the work. I wanted to smash my goals first. And honestly, I’m so sick of diet culture that I wanted my life to be more interesting than showing progress shots. I showed what I was eating when I made a bomb ass vegan dish. I also showed myself shoving a cheesesteak in my mouth on my birthday. I showed gym selfies when I felt good or defeated but I also showed the days where I watched hours of the Masked Singer with no pants on. Because my days were no longer controlled by wanting to prove what I was accomplishing through social media posts or blog posts telling you all what “worked for me” when I only made the changes a few months ago. I wanted to weave my new way of living with all the other parts of me that are beautiful and worthy of praise as well.

There aren’t going to be before and after pictures. I hate before and after pictures. I’ve posted before and after pictures in the past. I hated myself during those years – big or small. The reason I posted them in the first place was to get approval through social media because I hated myself. They tell me that I’m supposed to be ashamed or embarrassed by who I was. That the person on the right who is smaller is somehow better because of her physical appearance alone. Fuck that. The person I was last year is a fucking beast. She was terrified but showed up. She learned how to walk three times. She decided to put aside everything to focus on her mental and physical health. She entered a space where she didn’t look like she belonged and made a home out of it. She proved she belonged and worked harder every single day to become who I am today.

And once I started doing what was physically good for my body, the mental health aspect fell back in line. My depression stopped ruling me. Was every single day great? Did I feel strong and capable all the time? Hell no. Honestly there were several times I left the gym in tears because I felt so broken. There were days where I couldn’t get out of my head. Days where I felt defeated and that I’d never be enough. Where I felt like an imposter or fraud. Those days still pop up every now and again — hell, I had one on Tuesday. But despite what my brain is trying to tell me, I always show up. And the good days start to outnumber the bad days so often that you can live with the bad day, knowing that it’s temporary.

So, I smashed last year’s goal. Smashed it so hard that it’s so intertwined in my daily life that it’s no longer a goal. What was my secret? That there’s no secret. Show up for yourself everyday. If you hate a type of exercise, then don’t do it and find something else that you like. Eat food that makes your body feel good and strong. Don’t deprive yourself of anything. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Be vulnerable and honest. Don’t lie to yourself. Ask for help. Fuck diet culture. Stop starving yourself and start fueling yourself.

Let me know if and how I can help. I wouldn’t have made it through this past year without the tribe of people lifting me up each day. I tried doing it alone. It didn’t work. It took being vulnerable & allowing myself to let the same people who motivate me be there for me on my bad days too. It took being patient and comfortable with fear.

With last year’s goal done, it’s time to focus on a new one for the upcoming year. And like last year, I’m going to let my actions speak for themselves.

But I can say that you’ll see a lot more writing from me.

Writing the worst day of my life.


I’m currently writing a book about the year my dad died. It’s geared towards young adults and is more of a love letter to my confused thirteen year old self more than anything. I’m trying to fill in the gaps and make sense of what happened with a mind matured by time and distance.

Last night I worked on a chapter that covers my dad’s accident and the first time I saw my dad in the hospital. Writing the details and figuring out the timeline leading up to that day was fairly difficult, as nothing significant enough had happened in my life to form concrete memories. I had to figure out the small moments of my life that filled in the space between the larger dates, like the day my cheerleading coach quit or my birthday, to help move the story along and introduce the people who colored my life that year.

In some ways, it’s easier to write about the weekend my dad died. Time was frozen yet spiraling out of control at the same time. I replayed a lot of the memories before physically sitting down to write the book. Child psychologists would ask me to play back the day as if saying the words out loud would get me to accept what had happened or forgive myself for the mistakes I made. The three days were etched into pages of diaries that I abandoned after striking a memory too raw to compose. Moments spilled out to the few people I confided in because the sickness I felt in the pit of my stomach from holding onto them became too much to bear. At night I would replay the final days we spent together. Those days always felt more like movie clips than my history.

From a writing standpoint, it’s easy. I remember how I felt in every moment of those days. Emotionally, it can be tough. While I’ve become numb to most of the pain and guilt I feel recalling the days, I still get a craving to see my dad again. It makes me miss him as a person more than any other memory has. Which is both haunting and sweet at the same time.

Certain parts of those days have come up again and again over the years, but others I haven’t thought much about since the day they happened. It’s interesting to look at the days with a wiser pair of eyes. Small things that were so normal to me proved to be crucial to my survival.

Last night I finished a section about finding out my dad was in an accident while at my best friend’s house. Their house was one where everyone slept in, and when her mom woke me up with the morning dew fresh outside and a hint of a sunrise still lingering around, I knew something was wrong. Writing this section reminded me of their home and how comfortable I felt in it. I used to go over without an invitation so often that her mom made extra food for dinner in case I came through. The year before my dad died, my brother and I went over every day after school. Our school bus didn’t take us to our new apartment because we moved halfway between the school year, so we took their bus home and hung out until our parents got out of work. So in addition to earning my frequent flyer miles on weekends, I spent every afternoon there. This house became as important to me as my own childhood home.

I used to resent finding out about my dad’s accident over the phone at my best friend’s house, but as I wrote about that moment last night, I realized I was fortunate. By not being at home, I was able to avoid the anticipation surrounding what actually happened. I didn’t have to see my mom fresh from finding out that my dad was hurt and didn’t have to worry as she grew more and more concerned about why he wasn’t home from his gig yet. Instead, I got to hear the details from my mom once the facts were gathered in a home I was comfortable in. My best friend’s family got to pour all of their support and focus onto me and me alone.

Not only did I find out about my dad’s accident in their house, but they hosted the party after my dad’s funeral. Our apartment wasn’t even big enough for the 3-4 visitors that would pour through in rotation the week after my dad’s death, let alone the fifty or so family members and friends that were planning on sticking around after the funeral. When I started feeling overwhelmed at the stories of my dad or well wishes, I knew the best spaces to get away and hide for a bit to catch my breath. I knew the path to the bathroom and where they kept their old toys so I could play with my little cousins to distract myself for a while. Since it was at my friend’s house, other friends felt comfortable joining in and parts of the party were able to feel like a normal middle school hang out.

Growing up, I don’t think my parents set out to create a second home for me where I felt comfortable. It just happened. But they never resisted it. They always believed that it took a village to raise a kid because they were raised by villages themselves. My dad’s mom was so sick most of his childhood and he was raised by different family members at different times. My mom was one of eight children, and she looked to her friend’s families to get a little extra quiet and care. So they never grew jealous of how close we were to our friends. If they did, they never let us catch onto it. They couldn’t have predicted what happened to us, and how beneficial it would be to have a home away from home, but I’m glad they laid down that foundation for when shit did hit the fan and I needed something familiar, yet not filled with memories of my dad, to sit back into.

After hearing about my dad’s accident, my mom came to pick me up and told me that she and my brother were going to visit my dad in the hospital. She asked if I wanted to go with them. I only had a few hours until my gymnastics lesson, which I didn’t want to miss, and was still processing what was happening so I asked my mom to drop me off at home while she and my brother went ahead. For years after my dad died, I regretted this decision. I still wish I would have gone with them. Had I known what was waiting around the corner, I would have spent every second of the next two days by his side. I don’t necessarily live in the regret of the decision anymore though. Last night when I was writing, I realized how important the few hours that I had alone proved to be. For starters, they were the only hours I’d have to myself for weeks to come. But beyond that, it gave me time to come to terms with what happened before being thrown into it. At the time, my dad was fine. A little banged up, but there was no reason to think he was in jeopardy of losing his life. Yet I was a breathing morsel of exposed nerves. I thought he was dying, even though I was told that he was fine. I often wonder if it was me thinking worst case scenario, or if that feeling I couldn’t shake was my instincts being so in tune with his life that I knew things weren’t going to end with him coming home. Either way, I needed an hour or two to be alone in my guilt and fear before having to face my dad. After letting myself sob and scream then nap, I went to my gymnastics class where I got my last hour of being a normal teenager. During practice, I was able to forget about everything that was going on and just worry about whether or not I’d get my back handspring before the end of the season (I wouldn’t.)

I’ll always be grateful that my mom gave me autonomy. She didn’t force me to go straight from finding out about my dad to seeing him in the hospital. She gave me the freedom to choose my own path and delay seeing him until later that night. While I wish I had gone that afternoon, it did help to have been able to make a decision on my own when I would soon lose control over everything around me. I admire my parents’ ability to let me choose my own actions instead of pushing me to do what I may not be comfortable doing.

I also will never take being active in sports for granted. Should I have kids on my own, some sort of physical activity is a must for me. Whatever that may be. Whether a team sport, solo sport, or just an affinity for hiking and walks, I find having the body and mind connected to an outside goal incredibly useful in navigating tough waters. While I’m a huge arts person, the arts are invariably linked to exposing your emotions. Physical activity allows you to let that part of your brain rest while you work on creating a healthier, stronger body.

In the years after my dad’s death, the only time I ever felt remotely normal was on the cheerleading mat or softball field. I could focus my attention on the sport and performing well. Plus, it provided me a sense of self that wasn’t linked to my dad’s death. It was a bridge to the version of myself that existed before November 11th. It almost felt like I was cheating time – traveling back to before everything happened for just an hour or so.

While challenging, writing this book gives me the ability to trace back over my steps and gain some closure. It gives me faith that even when everything feels horrible, there are small plants there to sustain you. The ability to look back and understand why certain things happened and what it would mean for me in the future helps enrich my life and understanding of my own story.

Even if I sometimes can’t wait to get to the end.

November 7th, 2003

Grief, Uncategorized

It has been quite some time since I wrote a post about grief.

I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it’s that I’ve had so many things happen recently that I’m too distracted to think about my dad. Maybe it’s because I typically write during downtime at work and am unwilling to go there. Maybe it’s part of getting older and distancing myself from my dad’s death. Don’t get me wrong – I miss him often. The Eagles Super Bowl, my brother having a baby, my nephew’s music career taking off… but it has been awhile since I’ve felt true grief.

Today I’m breaking that streak.

I’m writing a book about the year my dad died. All of the time I’ve spent on the book so far has been on the events leading up to his accident. The weight of replaying his death was pushed aside as I reveled in taking a walk down the path that led me to my 8th grade friends. It stung a bit when I talked about the ways my dad and I didn’t quite see eye to eye but I’ve made peace with a lot of that.

Maybe I’m more of an optimist than I give myself credit for because I didn’t think it’d be hard to replay the days right before his accident. I thought that since I replayed them in my mind hundreds of times, writing them down would be no different. Oh, how naive I was mere hours ago. Because as I started to write about the last time my dad picked me up from school, I had to choke back tears and fight to keep myself together until I got to a good enough stopping point to grab my stuff and head back to my apartment.

I know writing this book is ultimately good for me. It’s helping me realize things about myself that I truly didn’t know existed. It helps me process my thoughts and gives me some sort of control over such a horrific part of my life. But sometimes it reveals parts of me that I wish didn’t exist.

My guiding light is to be as truthful as humanly possible when writing about events that happened fourteen years ago. The whole reason I’m writing this book, aside from my own selfish desire to record my life and prove that I went through it for something greater than pure pain, is that I want other kids going through similar situations to know they’re not alone. I would have given anything to know a story like my own when I was a teenager. I would have loved to be told by someone who has been through it that it’s okay not to be okay. That I’ll never fully have it all figured out but the good days will eventually outweigh the bad and at the end of the day, the worst year of my life would also hold some of the best days of my life. So I’m not masking how I feel, which I’m coming to find is hard as fuck.

The chapter that got me today is called November 7th, 2003 and is about the last time my dad picked me up from middle school. He called me out on wearing a skirt that my mom told me I couldn’t wear to school and I was irritable. He took me out for ice cream and our conversation was forced. He was trying to reach me and I just wasn’t there. I didn’t want to be reached. I was a pissed off teenage girl who just wanted to be anywhere but with her parents.

I told him that he needed a new car. I was embarrassed because we had an old car and I was now going to a school where a lot of my friends were more well off than we were. He told me the only way he could afford one would be if someone crashed into him. I secretly hoped it would happen. I didn’t want him to be hurt, or anything like that, I just wanted the car to be banged up a bit so we could get a new one. That’s not what I’m having a hard time with. I understand and accept that it was an uncanny remark that ironically foreshadowed what was to come. While I was convinced at first that those words caused my dad’s death, I didn’t live in that ridiculous theory for more than a day or two.

The part that haunts me the most is what came next. My dad parked in our driveway and sat for a few seconds in the driver’s seat. I wondered why he wasn’t getting out. I followed suit and allowed the awkward silence to float over the car. After a few more seconds he looked at me and said the sentence that I wish I could erase from my brain.

“Sometimes I feel like you don’t love me.” 

“Of course I do!” I shot back. But despite my best attempt, I don’t think I convinced either of us. He smiled at me, got out of the car and headed into our apartment. I remained there and felt like I had just been punched in the gut. Because the truth was, I couldn’t find it within myself in that moment to love him. I wanted to. I knew my dad was one of the best around and that even our recent inability to see eye to eye couldn’t erase that.

I sat in the car for a few minutes eating my ice cream between sobs. I wanted so badly to be able to tell my dad that I loved him and mean it. I searched and searched for the love I knew he deserved but kept on coming up empty. I wanted so badly to be able to run up to him, throw my arms around him, and tell him that I loved him but my broken thirteen year old heart had been through too many changes in too short of a time and I blamed him for all of it. In the moment, I couldn’t tell him that I loved him. And I knew I couldn’t fool either of us.

I felt like the worst daughter in the world. I knew my dad was a good man and that I was lucky to have him as a father. I wanted so badly to say that I loved him, I knew deep down I did, but I didn’t feel it in my heart. I couldn’t help but wonder – What was wrong with me? Why was I so broken?

After calming myself down, I made my way up to our apartment. My dad, resilient as ever, already outwardly moved past what must have been one of the most heartbreaking exchanges of his life. He was all smiles when I walked in, as if nothing had happened. Looking back, I’m sure I hurt him. Every parent fears the day their child resents them. While they recognize that it’s the natural way of things, and that it’ll pass, no one enjoys the moment it knocks on their door.

And I know every teenager goes through a period like that. But not every teenager’s dad gets in a car accident the next night that would eventually end in his unexpected death.

That’s what’s so cruel about losing a parent at thirteen. You don’t get to grow up and apologize for how selfish you were as a teenager. On the day you finally realize everything your parent did for you, they’ll be long in their grave. You don’t get to look back and laugh at the way you acted and you don’t get to make up for your mistakes.

With my mom, I was able to have that conversation where I tell her I see how much she sacrificed for us and she tells me it’s a mother’s job. Where I tell her that I’m sorry for the way I treated her and she reassures me that every teen is like that. I didn’t get to do that with my dad.

And yes, I know he knew. I’ve been told every single comforting phrase from every single person in my life. He’s watching over me and knows. Everyone is like that as a teenager. He would never want to see you beat yourself up. He loves you and you love him and that’s what matters. I’m a good person.

But there’s a difference between the closure you get when you can have that physical conversation with someone and trying to read the mind of a ghost.

No matter how much I’ve tried to forgive myself, or how many times I’ve been told that he knew I loved him, I’m sitting here fourteen years later with the same pit in my stomach and hole in my heart. And honestly I don’t think it can be repaired. The only way I could ever patch it is if I had been able to have a conversation with my dad about that day. That opportunity is just something that can’t happen.

And that’s okay.

We all have sharp, broken pieces. We can smooth out as much as possible, but there will always be some holes. It’s part of being human. We try to ease our suffering as much as possible but there will always be some things that hurt as bad as they did on the day we got those wounds. And we will spend so much time trying to twist them and pretend they’re not there. We’ll search for any words from friends, family, therapists, teachers, books… anything to try and fix it. Our loved ones will try and patch it up for us because it hurts them to see us hurt. But at the end of the day, we can’t fix everything. And that’s one of the most beautifully human things about us.

I don’t hate myself and don’t live every day regretting what happened on November 7th. It’s one unfortunately timed day out of a million wonderful moments that made up my relationship with my dad. It wasn’t the defining moment. My worth isn’t defined by that single exchange and I can live with what happened. Most days I forget it even happened.

But sometimes it creeps up, or you decide to rip it wide open by writing a book about your life, and you want to crawl back into your thirteen year old body and hide away in you reading teacher’s classroom or group therapy room or behind your stack of books. Those nights are hard, lonely, and unable to be smoothed over with good intentions or reassurance.

I’ve been down this road before, and know that at this point in my life, it ends with waking up tomorrow feeling fine. But tonight I’m sad. And that’s okay. Because my dad died as the result of car crash when I was thirteen and that really fucking sucks.

That’s what grief is.

It’s ugly, it’s uninvited. But it’s real, and it’s the truth.

Aunt Bird, part 2.


I get to be an aunt again!

This time I won’t look like a teen mom whenever I take my future niece/nephew out.

I was thirteen when my nephew was born. It may seem young, but I was begging my sister for one since I was about four so I was ready. It’s a strange but pretty great age to gain a niece or nephew. Side note: the gender neutral term is nibling, but it never caught on. The great thing about becoming an aunt at 13 is that you’re old enough to not be a playmate, but young enough to have a more relaxed relationship. My sister has four siblings around my age, so the shorter age gap is relatively normal for my nephew.

I started babysitting when I was twelve, so by the time my nephew was around, I was comfortable with taking care of babies. I liked having authority over someone and was proud of my ability to calm him down or not give in when he was upset that his mom left the room. I felt special – I was the only one out of my friends to be an aunt and it made me feel more mature than the rest of the group. I loved having a baby in the family, especially one that I felt like was mine. While my little cousins, only a few years older than him, were split evenly among so many other family members, I felt like I got to be first in line when my nephew came into the room because I was his only aunt.

Being a young aunt and uncle was good for my brother and me. When we went on vacations, we would always have a special outing with my nephew with just the three of us. My brother would drive us to mini-golf, or to grab pizza, and we always had a blast. Besides loving the fun of the outings, it taught us responsibility. We were responsible for making sure my nephew behaved in public settings and had authority to take him wherever we wanted, which helped us practice restraint. Though my nephew definitely benefited from our young age as well. Our version of “a little treat” was making a mud pie with every candy we could find on it, or grabbing a waffle cone after an already indulgent dinner, because we were still kind of kids too and wanted to go a little crazy. We behaved more like grandparents – unable to say no because… well, why say no? I remember my nephew on vacation looking at me after finishing a slice of a mud pie that had to have been 10,000 calories per slice and saying, “Aunt Bird… I don’t feel too good. This was too much.” In my defense, my nephew was skinny as hell and chose to eat healthy things so the mud pie seemed harmless. As my nephew grew, I enjoyed the age gap even more. I understood his language (to a certain extent) and felt like we can communicate on a closer level because he’s like “Oh, she’s with it. She gets it.” Especially when I worked at Apple. That gave me a sort of golden ticket to “getting it” because his world revolved around iPod Touches. As he became a preteen, I tended to enjoy pushing my sister to allow my nephew to do certain things we were allowed to do at that age, like watch South Park, to earn some brownie points. Now, I just name drop comedians that I saw to earn them.

Not everything is great with a shorter age gap. When you’re a college student, you’re not the most in touch person in the world. I can count on one hand the amount of times I sent my nephew a birthday gift and would usually compensate with a more generous Christmas gift. I always took pride in being his aunt, but it wasn’t until recent years that I really started to understand that I really was his aunt. Not an older cousin, or babysitter, but aunt. I’m starting to look more toward the excellent example my own aunts set on how to be a more mature and thoughtful aunt. I no longer have the excuse of being young and selfish for being absent half of the time. The two of us have a really special bond, but I tend to be better in person than long distance. And seeing as how there’s a small chance we’ll ever live less than four hours apart, it’s something that I need to work on.

So now, 15 years after I became an aunt the first time around, I’ll be an aunt again. This time at a socially “normal” age. With the announcement of my sister in law’s pregnancy last night came some reflection around what I’ll do differently this time around. The answer is… nothing really.

With high school and college out of the way, and my family being more central to my life than my friends, I’m sure I’ll be able to spend more time with my future nibling than I was with my nephew as a teenager. I know that I won’t forget birthdays. My nephew taught me how to be an aunt, and the combination of my age back then, and my age now, seems to round out the role. I’m still going to feed this child a mud pie so sweet they will choose to stop eating it themselves, but will also understand the nutritional importance of not doing it every chance I get. When the kid gets to the ripe preteen age, I will initiate them into the Taylor family by watching South Park, even if it is against the will of their parents and grandparents. I’m sure my sister and nephew will join – though my nephew will be in his mid-twenties and probably touring with his band.

One big difference is that I now know the things that I love sharing with the younger Taylor generation. I can’t wait to read this kid to sleep when we go to Cooperstown each year. I’ll try and hijack my brother and sister in law’s Red Sox/Yankees feud and convince my nibling that cubbies are too cute to not be their favorite baseball team. I failed with my nephew, but my sister worked for the Orioles and the two of them have too much Baltimore pride to veer off the tracks, but I’ll succeed this time around. I look forward to the days mom and dad want a night out in Cooperstown and Aunt Bird gets to take this kid on some sort of adventure.

Most of all, I’m excited that this kid gets to call my brother and sister in law their parents. My brother is one of my favorite people in the world, and as his sister, I can say that I’ve seen the best of him and have been on the receiving end of the worst of him. And the worst of him is basically that he’s a Red Sox fan, so it’s not all that bad. I know that he and my sister in law are going to be incredible parents, and that this kid is going to have one hell of an extended family.

Aunt Bird, part 2 coming in late October.

Marching for our lives.


I had all intentions of going to the March for our Lives.

I rescheduled brunch with my friends to dinner the Friday before so I could go. I grabbed poster board, thought of signs in my head, planned what I was going to wear. I went to bed at a reasonable hour and woke up early enough to make a good breakfast and fill up on coffee before heading down Saturday morning.

But when I woke up, I knew I couldn’t go.

I thought back on the morning of 12/14/2012 when I found out about the shooting at Sandy Hook. Two kids that were in my group at the camp I worked at were fourth graders and I immediately thought of them. I thought back on being thankful I had a half day at work because my brother was visiting. I remember the bus ride home feeling extra-long and finding out via Facebook that my previous vice principal was the current principal at Sandy Hook Elementary. I thought back to patiently waiting for a list to come out with my brother before we even thought of going out for the day. I remembered how relieved I was that none of my kids were listed. We kept the news on like it was going to give us some sort of fresh information or closure, only to find it was a horrific field day. We mutually decided that we would turn it off for good after President Obama’s speech. I was able to talk to him about my guilt surrounding my relationship with my vice principle. For so many years, I villainized her only to have her give her life for her students. A few nights later we went to a vigil held in the West Loop and stood with our mayor, Jesse Jackson Jr. and fellow Chicagoans. We heard mothers speak about the children they lost to Chicago’s gun violence and met a man who was awkwardly standing alone, noticeably not from here. I asked him where he was from, and he said he was from Ridgefield, the town next to our hometown of Danbury, CT. He mentioned that he was traveling for business and heard of the small vigil online. In a sea of Chicagoans who knew about the dangers of gun violence, the three of us stood there to represent our little part of the nation.

I couldn’t sleep for weeks after the event. I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids I knew who had their innocence stripped from them. My heart hurt for the families who weren’t as lucky, and for the grieving town. I thought about my rough relationship with my vice principle and felt horrible for her husband, a kind and adored teacher at my second middle school. Christmas was quiet that year. The streets were filled with memorials and wreathes were filled with angel ornaments and green ribbons. Green ribbons were worn everywhere – whether we were out at our local bar or at church for Christmas Eve mass. Everyone was a lot quieter and more aware of the people around them. The East Coast felt a lot more like the Midwest, everyone was slowing their pace and holding longer conversations.

All of this came back to me rather surprisingly Saturday morning. I wanted to go out and walk for my vice principal and my sister in law’s community but I couldn’t put myself there. While I had people I could go with, I felt like I would be alone. I couldn’t motivate myself to go to the march and be the only person I knew with a more intimate relationship with the issue at hand. It was different than any other march – with the other ones I felt like part of a community, but this one I felt like I was going to be alone. There aren’t many people from Fairfield County in Chicago, and while I knew there would be others impacted by violence there, I just couldn’t bring myself to march alongside my friends who didn’t fully understand how I felt. It wasn’t their fault, and I would never wish the feeling upon anyone else, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go. If I had a family member or friend from my hometown, I’d go in a heartbeat. If the march were in Hartford instead of Chicago, I could even go alone. But I couldn’t even muster up enough strength to see everyone’s Facebook and Instagram posts. I stayed off social media for the day. I just couldn’t go there on Saturday. As a person who is already walking down memory lane in writing about how I treated my dad at that age, I couldn’t revisit the words I said to and about my vice principal. I just couldn’t open that box. So I stayed home, worked out, watched a lot of dumb TV and went to the grocery store.

I’m not proud of not marching. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the individuals impacted by gun violence who spoke, went to DC and showed up in their own cities. I know that it’s not easy. It’s exhausting. After five years of demanding action, we’re still fighting the same fight with little progress and more victims. I do feel like it’s different this time. I think the energy of the teens who are coming to the forefront, both in Florida and Chicago, is going to be a steady and resilient force. Instead of sinking back into their everyday, they make this their number one priority. Without jobs or families to juggle, they can focus their time not spent at school on this issue and get a lot more done than adults can.

While I feel shitty about not going, I’ve made peace with it. I understand that sometimes our best intentions are met with reality and that we need to take care of ourselves. That there will be people to stand in for me. After spending the weekend thinking about it, I decided that I needed to find a different way to help. For me, it usually comes in the form of writing. It’s my way to get my message out to my community. To hopefully make them think a little about what they can do. And I realized that by speaking about it, I’ve inspired others to be actionable where I couldn’t bring myself to. And at the end of the day, that’s something.

We all need to find out where we fit within the issues that are important to us. Where can I actually help? Maybe it wasn’t marching. Maybe if I went downtown, I would have found myself a helpless mess and hopped right back on the El to head back home. So instead I spent the weekend thinking, listening to podcasts outlining the teens talking about gun violence in Chicago, and figuring out a way to help within my new community. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there is a young person killed every week within blocks of my apartment. It’s mostly senseless gun violence. Kids killing kids over territories, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Looking too much like someone with a hit on them. So many of the victims are between the ages of 16 and 21. They’re children. But their deaths go unnoticed because of their race. If they ever make the news, they’re labeled as thugs instead of children with lives ahead of them. It’s horrific, disgusting and just unfair. Kids shouldn’t be afraid to walk home from school.

This morning The Daily had an episode interviewing Chicago teens who are working against gun violence in their neighborhoods. One of the kids said that he was angry that no one cared before kids in affluent neighborhoods starting getting killed. They met with the Parkland kids, who heard their grievances, and committed themselves to working to ensure the kids of Chicago are heard. I recommend listening to it. It made me realize that instead of feeling so far from home when these things come around, I can find a way to help prevent the gun violence happening in my own backyard.

And when all else fails, we just really need to fucking listen to these teenagers.