We Can’t Control the Outcome


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I drove home alone Friday night. Sunset raged crimson, gold, and violent – flames  licking the sky – and mountains faded to silhouettes against the blazing horizon. In the back seat, the dog panted quietly. I gripped the wheel with both hands as if the car was sliding, but the road was straight and dry. There were no cars in front of me and none behind. Still, dread chewed at my insides. I wanted to pull over, scream at the world, and just once stop the incessant tick of time. Instead, I continued to drive.

The house was dark when I arrived. I turned on the lights, set the kettle to boil, and built a fire. The dog barked. Headlights lit the trees outside the window. The front door opened and my husband burst through it with a phone to his ear and a bag of groceries cradled to his side. A gust of wind followed him, chasing a few dead leaves across the tile floor. He looked at me and smiled.

I checked one worry off my list. There had been no horrible accident and he was fine. We made dinner, sipped tea, and threw the backgammon dice – all the while chatting about the small events that comprise our daily lives.

While we talked, the dread gnawed a hollow in my chest, would not be tamed by tea or touch or tenderness, and when the phone rang and I saw the caller ID I was not surprised. “This,” I thought, “is the day my son dies.”

The voice on the other end of the line informed me my son had been drinking, was contemplating suicide, and had not been seen or heard from in some time. I checked his phone log online and confirmed there had been no calls or texts for more than eight hours. The story, though familiar, left me terrified.

With police help, we found him – unharmed, but drunk out of his mind – and I breathed a sigh of relief. The inevitable wouldn’t come tonight. There would be more time.

Seven years ago, the disease stole my son and replaced him with someone I seldom recognize. Since then, I’ve wrestled with a demon named failure. I’ve argued, pleaded, and prayed. I’ve tried tough love and compromise. I have been furious, hopeful, determined, and desperate, but my will cannot combat my son’s lies. My nurture cannot make him sober. My love cannot force him to stay alive. According to all the standards by which society measures us, I have failed as a mother. I didn’t raise my son right. I can’t save him, make him better, or coax him to health. Shame and guilt still torture me in the wee hours of the night, but, according to popular mythology, they shouldn’t.

These days, failure is a prize. In conference rooms and universities across the country, inspirational speakers laud this demon as a necessary obstacle on the path to success. It is an essential part of the hero’s journey, the thing that teaches him what he needs to know, gives him courage, and makes him strong.

They glorify this demon and recount their battles with it like old soldiers. Rejection letters, divorce, money lost, and opportunities squandered are feathers in the cap, notches on the belt, stripes of paint on the belly of a plane. They are the marks of a warrior, the canonization of his struggle, the hallmark of wrong made right. Failure is the enemy, but it is also the process through which the warrior becomes a knight.

I have failed countless times – failed in marriage, failed to get the job I wanted, failed to keep a job I needed, failed to save, failed to spend wisely, failed to get the coveted publishing contract with one of the big guys. I have failed at keeping my skin youthful and my figure perfect because I failed to eat the right foods and exercise. If the inspiration gurus are right, I’m headed for a glorious future.

We all want to believe in a silver lining. There should be a purpose, a reason for the events that drop us to our knees and leave us screaming. At times, we want to control the outcome, make a difference, and be heard. At others, we just want to stop the bleeding. Crushed, broken, and powerless, we’ll believe almost anything that will get us through another day. That is why the statement, “Failure paves the way to success,” is so popular. Unfortunately, it is also a lie.

The root of the word failure is deficiency. It suggests that we are flawed and had we been good enough the terrible event would not have transpired. Though failure is our fault, we can use it to further our goals. The heroine on her journey is supposed to learn from her past failures, glean wisdom from the battles, and turn her weaknesses into strengths so the next time failure raises its ugly head she can slay it before real damage is done. Then, the writer will be published, the entrepreneur will make a fortune, the marriage will last forever, and the mother will never have to utter, “My remaining sons.”

I used to believe failure wasn’t an option. Then I believed failure was a necessary evil I would eventually overcome. In my writing, relationships, and business endeavors I tried to learn from the past so I could correct my deficiencies and avoid repeating mistakes. Then, despite all efforts, a circumstance outside my control would throw a wrench in my careful maneuvering and surface a new deficiency. This happened again and again.

Now, with a slew of successes and failures behind me, I am watching my son wrestle with a terrible disease. I desperately want him to live. I want this more than anything, but I cannot control what he does. Perhaps the real lesson lies here. It is his choice to live or die, not my failure.

In this instance, as in most, I must throw the whole concept of failure to the wind. The only thing I control is what I give. This is a brutal truth. I can’t run or hide. I can’t bury myself under my covers for days at a time. All I can do – all any of us can do, really – is show up, bear witness, and love.



The Romance Diet Took First Place in the 2016 Journey Awards!


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I’m honored and thrilled to announce that The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage on Ourselves took first place in the 2016 Journey Awards competition for Narrative Non-fiction.

This competition attracts some excellent writers and I’m couldn’t be more excited.


Failure Doesn’t Lead to Success


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I am cold this morning. Outside my window, the sky spits snow that doesn’t stick. Wind screams. Trees dance. Ravens catch the air drifts. Inside, a chill numbs my hands and makes me long to be anywhere else, but Tuesdays are the days I write in spite of myself.

My most recent book, the one I’ve been writing for months, isn’t good. I tried a new format and failed. The editing feels onerous, like I’m forcing something that refuses to work, and I’m having a crisis of confidence.

Yet here I am, writing again, because showing up matters.

Despite popular conviction, failure does not lead to success.

Work leads to success.

Diligence keeps the creative juice flowing.

Commitment opens the door to possibility.

There are no shortcuts.

There are good days and bad days and days that plod slowly from sunrise to sunset. Days when everything I write gets erased, days when it flows like some greater being is speaking through me and I am just a conduit.

We cannot control an outcome or make a masterpiece from desire alone. We can only control what we give to the process.

Show up.

Do the work.

Eventually, the words we seek will make themselves known.

The Romance Diet Made the Short List


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Very proud to announce that The Romance Diet made the Chanticleer Book Awards short list. It’s now competing for first place. If you haven’t read it, the book deals with all the ways women beat themselves up, how culture impacts even the best relationships, and how we can heal from trauma. Check it out if you get a chance.


Shock and Awe


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Bombs fall on government buildings along the Tigris River in the heart of Baghdad, later referred to as the Green Zone.

Last night, feeling overwhelmed yet again by the constant barrage of OMG news coming out of Washington, I had an epiphany. The onslaught of executive orders, appalling cabinet picks, the gagging of Federal agencies, and the use of “alternative facts” to distort and destabilize an exhausted public are deliberate. We are under attack.

Shock and awe is a military tactic based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight. As Naomi Klien pointed out, shock and awe tactics have been applied by economists and politicians worldwide to overwhelm an unsuspecting public until it buckles, grasping at anything that promises stability and normalcy.

These tactics were used in South America, in Poland, in Africa, and even in the USA after Hurricane Katrina and they are effective. Very effective.

As I scan my Facebook feed, talk with customers in my store, and read the news, I am certain that these tactics are being used against the American people right now. Realizing it, I found myself able to think and to breathe.

Trump’s executive orders are not law. Most require congressional action and will take time to be implemented if, indeed, they are implemented at all. A gag order on the EPA is terrifying, but not fatal at this point. There is cause for deep concern, but we’re not drowning yet.

Shock and awe is designed to force a population to react. We don’t have to do that. We can, instead, respond. And respond we will, with discipline, commitment, and clear sighted, fact-checked reason.

If we allow ourselves to be victims of a tactic that is mostly bluster at this point, Trump and his crew will succeed in mounting the most successful, non-violent coup in history and our democracy will fail. If, however, we recognize the tactics and respond accordingly, democracy will prevail.

The Women’s March in DC


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Wednesday: On my way to work, suitcase packed and eager, a murder of crows descended on the frontage road – stopping traffic and waking smart phones. I scanned the asphalt, dull skies, and attending automobiles and found them bare of blood, carcass, garbage, or bones.

The crows strutted on the pavement and swooped low, their black bodies like pepper against clouds heavy, gray, and cold. Out of place, out of time, and orderly, they didn’t belong to the norm. What they were doing there? Why didn’t they go?

Thursday: A glimpse of dawn through burning eyes, then an airport, lines, and rules. I shuffled through them chugging cheap coffee and joined the detritus of sleep deprived passengers at the gate. Suitcases and backpacks littered the floor like a deluge of debris washed ashore after a storm.

Later, dressed in black lace and borrowed pink pearls, I attended the Peace Ball with my love. We danced, listened to heroes, and cheered with the crowd. Finally a man forced us up from our bold seats on the floor in front of the security tape and we went back to an Airbnb condo tastefully furnished and pleasantly warm.

At this point, still, I was numb.

Friday: Fried clams, cold beer, and talk of politics closer to home.

I woke early Saturday morning to a light drizzle. It had been days since I’d seen the sun. All the way across the nation, the skies reflected my despair as if they had been hand picked for a film. We were extras at a funeral unanticipated and heavily mourned.

We didn’t have pink hats. Instead, anticipating violence, our pockets bulged with swim goggles, filtered masks, rain gear, sharpies, tissues, gloves, and a little bit of cash. Anxiety made my legs heavy, my heart fast. I am terrified of crowds. I’m afraid to defy and resist. I have never been an activist. So that morning, driving to the Metro where we would catch a train to the Women’s March, I couldn’t help but think of those crows. What was I doing here? Why did I go?

Of course I knew. Knew in the way old bones know there’s going to be rain, knew in the way a mother knows her child is hungry or in pain. I had no words beyond the slapdash propaganda of which I read too much. Instead, I had a gnawing that nuzzled against my numb and occasionally caught my breath.

At the entrance to the Metro, small clusters of women carrying signs and wearing pink colored the drab morning with hope. As we moved toward them, my eyes filled and a ball of something warm and alive welled solid in my throat. The clusters of people became a stream. The stream became a river. The river became a flood.

The Metro station was packed. So packed that security opened the gates and let us through without charging our cards. The flood surged in waves as trains cleared platforms. Everywhere, the press of people and pink and cheering hordes.

Afraid of being separated, my love and I held hands. Trains passed, car after car crammed with smiling people. They waved to us as they went by and rallying cries of solidarity rang loud off curved, concrete walls.

Bundled in coats and hats, the crowd grew warm. The air, heavy with rain and sweat and breath, hung thick and wet in the tunnel. It was worse on the train, but instead of complaining, the crowd told jokes and laughed.

Outside, the crowds thinned for an instant and our hearts leapt with the freedom of movement, the excitement of the moment, the love we shared not just with each other but with all the people present. Two beaming women thrust hastily sewn, pink felt hats towards us and we donned them – he over matted hair, me over a Bourbon Street baseball cap. The sky lifted, though it remained overcast, and we joined the throng.


Signs humorous and serious bobbed through the crowd. It grew bigger, rivulets and streams feeding the flood from every direction until everywhere I looked there were people in pink hats, people of every color, people young and old, in wheelchairs and pushing strollers, and with babies strapped to their backs. Massive video screens loomed over us, the feed from the stage sometimes blurred and at odds with the sound stream that bellowed through speaker towers erected in the streets. Like Moses parting the red sea, a line of police cruisers parted the crowd. One of the officers sported his own pink hat and the crowd roared as he passed.

“Medic,” someone cried and the call was bounced like a life raft until it reached its destination and a team of nurses weaved past us like fish through a shoal – calm and steadfast.

We moved, compelled to get as close to the stage as possible, and found ourselves stuck about three blocks away. Close to a speaker and video screen, we planted ourselves and stayed. For three hours we remained in one place. My legs cramped. My back ached. Yet, riveted by the people on stage, these were scarcely worthy of complaint.

The signs bobbed, rising in unison as a presenter made a poignant point, then sank again like buoys on waves. RISE. WOMEN ARE THE WALL. NORMALIZE THIS! LOVE TRUMPS HATE!


My fear of crowds forgotten, despair dissipated and I came awake. “Yes!” my heart screamed. “Yes!”

As I chanted and whooped and cheered, the numbness fell away and I felt the stir of possibility where dread had set up shop and would have remained. But here was humanity on full display. Here was hope riding dreams and hurtling through loudspeakers and conversations in the streets. The voices of the marginalized, the empowered, and everyone in between cried together and cried for change. Yes. Yes. Yes. We are not beaten. We are no longer ashamed! Yes. Yes. Yes. We have come here to claim our rightful place. We are the crows in the road. We are the rivers rising above the flood plain. We are trees rooted deep and dancing in the wind. We are women. We are united and we will never be silenced again.

Everywhere I looked, as far as I could see, down every street and across every intersection, people in pink.

After awhile, a too long while, the presentation began to drone. Impatient, little trickles of people pushed backward through the crowd. The crowd began to chant, “March! March! March!” The mood shifted. Joy floated away like a balloon untethered. In its place, a surge of discontent. Bodies pressed too close, shifting and shuffling without anywhere to go. I couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t quell the sudden shaking in my limbs, couldn’t focus my eyes as panic set in. “March! March! March!”

There was no room to move in any direction. A woman sat small in a wheelchair that bumped continuously against my husband’s shin. He held my gaze. Talked me down. “Look at me. You’re okay. We’re okay.” The crowd surged, wobbled, surged again. He fought his way sideways, pulling me along, until he got my back against a solid sign that would withstand a stampede if there was one. “March! March! March” Louder and louder, the chant drowned out the speakers. The air filled with complaints. The stage seemed to spontaneously birth a new non-profit that needed representation every two minutes and inspiring speeches morphed into anger and hate. “March! March! March!”

“You have the power!” someone proclaimed over the loud speaker and we laughed in spite of ourselves because they had the power. We could not march until they released us. We waited for that permission for over an hour until finally they rerouted us and we slowly scattered. Down every side street, through parking lots, and over walls we poured with relief. Someone caught the balloon. Hope again was in our grasp. We were free.

There were only four calls to police during the event. All were medical emergencies. More than half a million people converged on one place, stayed for more than seven hours, put up with overflowing port-a-potties, chilling temperatures, an over programmed presentation, and a barrage of noise, emotion, and desire without any violence.

At sunset, we left. Long lines stood in front of food trucks, hungry for sausage, pretzels, any form of sustenance. The air was jubilant. Stomachs rumbling, we headed for the nearest Metro and found it near Trump Tower where thousands were dropping their protest signs as a concrete message to our new president.

On the flight home, reading the news and learning about “alternative facts,” the vanishing White House web pages, and more, we wondered if the Women’s March would be able to help cement lasting change. Would people go home to their lives and return to complacency, or would they continue to rise and contribute loudly to our democracy?

That remains to be seen, but witnessing what I did in Washington DC, I now believe. Yes, we can. Yes, we will. Yes, women, rise. It’s our time and we are the change.

Mr. Trump, welcome to my outrage



Yesterday, the Presidential Inauguration committee tried to silence hundreds of thousands of women by blocking their ability to march and assemble at all public parks in Washington, D.C. The move is unprecedented in American history and I wonder if the protesters were people of color or veterans or any other group willing to riot, would they have done the same thing.

Listen up, Predator-elect and misogynist team.

You will not silence me.

You will not take the voice I have finally claimed.


You will not find me compliant

Easily manipulated

Or afraid.


Do you think, really, that the lack of a permit is enough to quell my rage?

Do you think I fear your rubber bullets, water cannons, or percussion grenades?

Women are not so easy to dissuade.

Perhaps we will march anyway.


Can you see the headlines?

The news clips?

The horror of women beaten in the streets?


I am not afraid of your violence. I have felt it already and am no stranger to pain.

You will not rape this country.

Not without a fight from millions upon millions of women like me.


We will rise. We will dream our dream and make it a reality. You will see us unleashed and feel the full fury of our outrage.

Just wait, Mr. Trump. Just wait.








Protests are Great, but They Won’t Stop Hate


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I spent the morning in solidarity with One Billion Rising and Love Trumps Hate. The day started cold, uncomfortable, awkward. People brought signs, wore ribbons and pins, and crossed their arms against the chill of November and the coming four years. They sought some kind of connection, peace or a sense of direction, a new way of being in a changed world.

Through all the speeches, impassioned pleas, and heartfelt promises, I felt torn. On one hand, Trump will never be my president. Instead, he is my Predator in Chief. Like it was for so many survivors of sexual violence, his election was a sucker punch, a blow of profound effect. He, and those who elected him, made my agony a joke, reduced me to an object, and denied my humanity and hope.

On the other hand, I want to understand. I want to know the hearts and minds of those who voted for him. I want to build bridges and end the divide. I want fear to stop ruling this country. I want there to be no “other” that rises like a bogeyman and sends us scurrying to our insulated social media bubbles so that we may, for a time, feel safe.

I have no idea how to move forward because I am conflicted at core. Love Trumps hate is at odds with my deep rage and desire for war. This is new. It’s real. It’s not going away.

I love my country and my community, but maybe it’s time for me and all women to finally love ourselves more.  It is my prayer that we rise strong and finally achieve the equality and respect we deserve.





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Like most, I’m looking for a path forward, a way out, a different way of doing things. I want hope to be sturdy, love simple, peace possible, and change easy. I hunger for thunderclouds, a storm surge that might wash the muddied plains of despair momentarily clean.

I hope for revolution.

Pray for justice.

Read the news and weep.

Democrats have nominated a woman to be President, but Brock Turner got six months.

The statement of his 23-year-old victim went viral for its brutal, beautiful humanity, yet she remains anonymous – a figurehead, an ideal, a faceless poster child for what some consider a lost cause.

We hide her to protect her, to save her from additional shame, but I want her to be a hero.

I want her face plastered across my Facebook feed.

I want to celebrate her resilience and free her from the stigma of rape.

Rape happens. It’s awful. But it’s not something of which we should be ashamed.

If we’re going to challenge rape culture, if we are really going to make concrete change, then the victims of rape need to be seen, stand straight, and reject shame.

Can you imagine #Iwasraped? Can you imagine a flood of photographs accompanied by #yesmetoo? Can you imagine a world where the reality of rape and the faces of its victims become that surging storm that wash clean the muddied plains?

I wish every woman who has experienced rape or sexual assault would come forward and inundate the media with their humanity.

We are not abstract statistics. We are not faceless victims. We are not damaged irreparably or victims in perpetuity.


We are strong.

They would deny us our dignity, but it is not theirs to deny. Today, in solidarity with the faceless victim in the Stanford case, I share my face. Maybe you will, too. #yesmetoo #Iwasraped #nomoreshame