The End of an Era


When my little sister and I weren’t fighting, we were always playing. It didn’t matter where we were, or what toys we did or didn’t have. Our imaginations were so vivid, we could transport ourselves to any place, or any time. We even spent the entire day outside once, painting the tree in our front yard with mud, so that “if a robber came and tried to climb the tree he would slip off and we could catch him”.  When we were really small, our favorite toys were little plastic animals. My go-to was a wolf puppy (I think his name was Wolfy) and Anna’s was a lizard, who was definitely named Fatty because of his big round belly. It did not matter that Wolfy and Fatty would never be companions in the real world; little kids don’t see in terms of segregation, even when it comes to large carnivorous mammals and tiny reptiles. Sometimes we were given Barbie dolls as gifts, but we always preferred the animals, and if we did play with the dolls they were usually given evil characteristics, and ultimately would become the villains that the animals would have to thwart. The end result was Barbies with shaved heads or Sharpie tattoos, and our parents soon figured out not to buy them anymore.


Eventually we progressed to Beanie Babies. We grew with our toys, in that the issues they would deal with really began to mirror our own. Instead of two, we had a regular cast now of dozens of animals, and every day different soap-opera dramas would play out on our bedroom floor. The Beanie Babies all belonged to different cliques, they formed friendships and hobbies, and had crushes on one another. There were two different “bands” and with the help of my boom box, one band always performed country songs, while the other performed Backstreet Boys, Nsync, and Britney Spears. The animals all got along to some degree, but mostly the cats hung out with the cats, and the dogs with the dogs. The animals typically did not date outside their species. The cats were always up to something, the dogs were typically the kind, loyal friends and the most talented singers, and the other animals each had their own eccentric ways. One of the most devastating occurrences would be when Dotty and Sparky, the two Dalmatians and all-around most beloved couple, would fight and occasionally even break-up. Whenever this would happen, all other Beanie Baby drama would come to a halt and everyone would discuss the failing relationship in hushed whispers and speculate if Dotty and Sparky would ever truly find happiness. Whenever the celebrity couple inevitably reconciled, the entire kingdom would rejoice and usually celebrate with a rare adventure outside into the “wilderness” or by going to the amusement park (sliding down the stair banister).


The older we grew, the more our imaginations shrank, and the Beanie Baby dramas become further and fewer between. We progressed to more outdoor activities, which usually involved me and my best friend Jeri ganging up on Anna, or Anna and her friends ganging up on me. Sometimes we would play “Cowboys and Indians” which basically came about when my stepdad helped Jeri and I make tiny bows and arrows and we chased Anna around and shot at her (the Cowboys never got weapons). One time the three of us dragged every single item out of my garage and made a giant “pirate ship” in the front year. My parents weren’t too happy about that one. When we got old enough that using our imaginations seemed like a silly thing to do, we started riding around on our bikes or razor scooters, or playing tag or shooting hoops.


My little sister and I had bickered our whole lives, but whenever we would start playing together all the attitude would fall away and we would just focus on our toys. It was like escaping into an alternate reality.  So around middle school when we really began to be brats, we were really starting to lose touch with the barrier that kept us from killing each other.

One summer, not too long before it was time to go back to school, Anna paused outside my door. She looked at me with a slightly guarded, hesitant expression.

“Do you want to play with our Beanie Babies today? It’s been awhile since we have.”

I’d be lying if I said I remembered the exact circumstances leading up to that day. I’d be willing to bet, though, that we’d had a pretty brutal fight recently. And at that age I was  more stubborn and prideful than I am today. Whatever the case may be, I probably relished the opportunity to have the upper hand.

I turned up my nose and said, “Nah not today. Some other time.”

If you told me then that more than a decade later I’d still remember that exact moment, I probably wouldn’t believe you. But the slight flicker of disappointment that shone in my sister’s eyes because of me is something that has stuck with me. It was the last time she ever asked me to play with her. I don’t know how old I was. I don’t remember the drama that ensued during the actual last play session, because of course we didn’t know it would be the last. I don’t know if Dotty and Sparky ended up living happily ever after or not.  All I know is that we don’t ever know. We don’t know when it’s our last opportunity to be a child. We don’t know when it’s the last time our mom ever reads us a bedtime story or we sit in our grandfather’s lap.  And we won’t know when it’s the last time our own children ever ask us to play with them. The moments just pass and then they are gone. I’m not relating this memory to make anyone sad, or to preach to you to live every day as if it’s the last. This is just life, and for every last we experience there’s also a first. It’s unrealistic for me to tell you to cherish every moment. But maybe we can remember to let go of some of the pride, some of the stubbornness. Maybe we can just realize that there are plenty of happy moments in every day life, but they are fleeting and we often take them for granted.  My sister and I have become a lot closer as adults, but I know that days sticks with me for some reason, as some sort of lesson. And I know I’d give anything to go back and say yes, and end my childhood with the most badass Beanie Babies’ concert there ever was.




An Exercise in Happiness

There are probably a million blog posts about finding happiness. I know, I’ve read plenty of them. But the truth is, you don’t “find” happiness. What you have to do is accept happiness. You have the power already. You can be 100% happy, if only for a few minutes. All you need to do is exercise the muscle. Sounds a little crazy, I know. But it’s an exercise in perception. There might be a starving kid in a poverty-stricken country who is often more “happy” than you are because some days he gets a full meal and to him that’s everything while you sit and wallow in your quarter-million dollar house with a fully stocked pantry about the person you’re crushing on not calling or having to go to work at a job you hate. You might experience the same level of sorrow as that boy who can’t even fathom the life of luxury you live, because you cannot fathom his troubles. Happiness is relative and that’s why thinking is often the key to unlocking more of it. If you’re like me and automatically go into panic mode when you are advised to “meditate”, then there’s a simple exercise that you can practice often and we won’t label it with that scary “m” word.

The other day I went to one of those Meet Up groups that a friend of mine was hosting. This particular meeting topic was the Law of Attraction, a concept many of my business partners and I are fascinated by. My friend started off the meeting with a little group activity. He challenged each of us to think for three minutes, in silence, and recall the happiest day of our lives. We could then go around the room and share them, if we liked. I opted out of the sharing…despite the fact that I’m an award-winning salesperson and have spoken in front of hundreds of people before, when I’m the newbie in a group of peers I’m actually quite introverted. But the exercise was eye-opening for me. During those three minutes I quickly identified the happiest moment of my life, and then came up with my top 5. After only three minutes I felt a giant pillar of stress fall off of my shoulders, I felt lighter, more energized, happier. I started to think about how powerful our brains are. I’ve read all the books before, The Secret, The Power of Positive Thinking, As a Man Thinketh, etc. But it all really clicked after this one exercise. I could feel a difference– physically, mentally, spiritually. And thinking for one minute would not have accomplished this change. So try this. Close your eyes. Recall the memory, but take it a step further. Recall the exact feeling, the location, what the people around you looked like, what you touched and heard and smelled. Go back to that moment. And take that happiness and just embrace it. Don’t judge your own memory. On the outside it might have not seemed like an extraordinary moment, or occasion. But only you know what memory really makes you happy. For instance, one of my top 5 is a random day during the summer after my junior year of high school. I went with my friends to the beach. The weather was perfect all day, but the skies opened up during our drive back home and it was pouring down rain. I remember having to pee and we were nowhere near a gas station and the rain was only making my predicament worse. So my awesome friends pulled over on the side of the road, two of the guys went out in the rain and held a huge towel over me and I squatted, right on the side of the road. We were all laughing so hard we couldn’t differentiate the raindrops from the hysterical tears streaming down our faces. When we finally made it home we were soaked and cold and salty and we took turns taking showers at my house and I remember it being the best damn shower I’d ever had in my life. Then we changed into pajamas and spent the rest of the afternoon eating snacks and watching movies while the storm raged on. In my eyes, it was an absolutely perfect day. One that makes me happy just to recall again now. As I was typing the details, I could feel my heart swell and a smile come across my face.

So try it for yourself. It could be just your happiest memory, or a top 5. You can’t wear out this exercise, for me it’s now worked a few dozen times. But if you ever stop getting the same results as the first time, pick another memory. We are all blessed to have plenty to choose from, and if you doubt that then you are really in dire need of this assignment. For the record, my other top 4 memories:

  1. The day my mom told me she was getting married to someone who made her so incredibly happy. The look on her face is the only thing I need to remember from that moment.
  2.   The day Chris first said “I love you.” We were sitting at 54th street bar just talking about football and it was unexpected and perfect.
  3. Sitting on my Papa’s lap sharing a root beer, with my Grandma watching Days of Our Lives and Anna playing with toys on the floor. I was only four or five, but I remember that night my papa told me I was the protector of my family. I don’t know if I understood that night, but I definitely did later, and I’ve always held that close to my heart.
  4. A random 4th of July spent with family eating and playing board games and watching movies until it got dark outside and then my dad and uncle built a replica of some terrorist’s headquarters and we spent a small fortune on fireworks and blew it to smithereens. We laughed and laughed and it was one of the last times that whole side of my family was together for a holiday including my sister and my cousins.

I have plenty more, surrounded by friends and family and sometimes just by my dogs. So I’m making it a point, on those days I’m sad or angry or just don’t have the right perspective, to exercise. It’s definitely made a difference, and it’s much cheaper than therapy 🙂

So what was the happiest day of your life?

Faith In Humanity Restored

We’ve all had those moments where the world feels dark, and it seems as if our human race has been overrun with evil and stupidity and ignorance. Those moments that chip away at our faith in our own species, when we start thinking maybe this is all meaningless and no matter how many steps forward we take we’ll always take one more step backwards. I’ve been very fortunate to say that every single time I’ve fallen back into this abyss, someone comes along and restores my faith in the whole freaking world. Here are just a few, I’ll start with the strangers:

My second year of college I was driving a vehicle my friends and I affectionately referred to as the Party Cruiser. Unfortunately as much as we all loved her and as good as she was for hauling us from party to party, she was a Chrysler and had a plethora of maintenance issues.    For one, she had a tendency of overheating, and being a broke college kid, I always went for the quick fix on this one instead of replacing whatever part would fix that–meaning even in the middle of the summer I’d roll down the windows and throw the heater on full blast until the little arrow came back down, then when I stopped I’d pour some coolant in the tank. One day I had done this pretty much every day for a week. It was already a tough week, work had been slow, I needed to buy some expensive books, and Biology and Latin were kicking my ass. Well I was driving around with the heater on feeling sorry for myself when all sorts of smoke started billowing up from the hood and a multitude of warning lights started blinking. Freaked out, I pulled over, willing myself not to break down and cry and I rested my head on the steering wheel and considered my options. My bout of self-pity was interrupted shortly by a knock on my car window, and I looked up to see a man and a tow-truck pulled up behind me. I rolled down my window, prepared to tell him I couldn’t afford his services. But a short conversation later and I was sitting in his truck as he towed me to his buddy’s place. He insisted he was already on his way and it was no inconvenience, but I assured him I couldn’t afford for his buddy to fix up my car the right way, I just needed some coolant. He said his buddy owed him a favor and could at least give me an opinion and a price. I drove out of the shop 3 hours later with a brand new thermostat and some other replaced car parts that I don’t even know. The tow truck driver refused to accept a penny from me or even give me any of his contact information. All he said was that I could thank him by someday helping someone when they needed it the most.

I encountered plenty of fascinating people and stories during the period in my life I sold timeshare, and there were many people who actually caused me to lose faith in humanity. But after a few bad days I would always encounter people like the couple with the craziest love story I ever heard, or people like this:

The elderly gentleman who pushed his wife into the meeting area in her wheelchair. She was completely immobile and didn’t speak a word, yet he treated her with absolute reverence. When he slid her chair up to the table he gently kissed her cheek and whispered into her ear. As I talked to him about his timeshare experience he shared memories of the two of them, looking over at her every few seconds and squeezing her hand with a smile. As soon as he felt comfortable, he confessed to me that his wife of 50 years had slipped a few years back in the shower. She was paralyzed from head to toe from the accident, even losing muscle function in her face that caused her speaking to be incomprehensible to most people. “Of course I can understand her,” he said, “but she’s embarrassed to try and speak in front of anyone else.” When her food came he ignored his own plate, immediately focusing on cutting up her food and feeding her. “Even though we can’t do everything the way we used to, I fall more in love with my wife every single day,” he told me, “I still have to pinch myself sometimes because I feel so lucky to have her.” Then came out the reason he had come to this meeting: “I made a promise to my wife,” he said, “and I’ve never broken it. I promised her we would watch the sunset on the beach every year, just the two of us. That’s why we bought the timeshare, and it’s been great for twenty years. But no matter who I talk to, they refuse to put an elevator in the resort. And I’ve done it for the past 4 years, but Elizabeth, I’m too old now. I can’t carry my wife up all those stairs any more. Our unit is on the fifth floor.” My heart broke wide open as he pleaded with me, with tears in his eyes, to help him keep his promise to his wife. Needless to say, I got them squared away with a new vacation package with plenty of handicap accessible resorts in that area, but they were one of those couples I wish I could’ve helped for free.

The lady who sat in front of me for an hour being a complete doormat for her husband, Every time she tried to speak he cut her off, he belittled her constantly during the conversation, he even insulted her fashion sense and said something about “the men always having to be the brains in the marriage”. After just 5 minutes I was thoroughly disgusted and about to give this guy a piece of my mind when she caught my eye and gave me a quick smile and shake of her head. When he eventually got up to go to the bathroom, she let it all spill; he had never acted like this until a few years back when his mother had passed away. “He just doesn’t know how to cope”, she told me. “He’s so full of grief and anger, I’m fine to just let him take it all out on me. I’m hoping this vacation you’re going to help us plan will finally help him find some happiness. But if not, that’s okay too. Because, remember this Elizabeth, no one is in charge of your happiness except you. People can walk all over you, insult you, take advantage of you. But you can allow none of that to hinder your joy, because ultimately none of it is your business. My husband might never be happy again, but if I stay faithful to him and continue to love him, I know I’ve done everything I can and that makes me happy. And hell, either way I finally get to go to Hawaii.”

And then the people who aren’t strangers:

My sister Mercadi, who one day during college when things were getting really bad  with my ex and my insomnia, drove up from Austin, packed up my clothes despite my protests, and pushed me into the backseat of her car and drove me all the way to Houston to mom’s house. When we got there, I finally broke down, releasing months worth of pent-up anguish and when I was able to speak again all I could get out was, “How did you know?” “You’re my sister,” she replied, “I’ll always know.”

My Sifu, relatively early into my Kung Fu training. On this particular day I was feeling very stressed about money. I had just made a career transition, and I knew that I’d need to cut back on a few things because I wouldn’t be bringing in the income I’d become accustomed to for awhile. I voiced none of this, of course, but still somehow the topic of money came up. I think I had made some offhand comment about how he could’ve charged much more than he did for his services. I’ll never forget his face, so completely genuine as he looked at me and said, “But I am already so rich.” I must have looked confused, thinking maybe he chose to live modestly but had received a huge inheritance or something. “Look at everything I have. I could practice kung fu under a bridge, that can never be taken from me. But I have a house, a car…I can buy any little material thing I really want, and still have my kung fu. I am so rich, really.” Talk about putting things in perspective.

My fiancé, Chris. He constantly reminds me that I’m the most stubborn person he’s ever met, yet somehow he has an endless supply of patience when it comes to me. He loves the crazy side of me just as much as he loves the sane side, and I had never experienced that kind of acceptance until we found each other. I’m still not always sure I deserve it, but I sure am grateful.

And finally, my mom, every single day of my life, restores my faith in humanity. I could fill a thousand blog posts with only instances she’s amazed me but I’ll summarize with this: There’s no one in this world I’ve met more selfless than my mom. She will put anyone ahead of herself. Maybe a lot of people feel this way about their moms. But I truly believe she has positively impacted every person she’s ever spoken to, and when I finally grow up she’s exactly who I want to be. I think that the happiest day of my life is when she told me she and Yoly were getting married, because she’s finally found someone who’s perfect for her, who’s worthy of her, and who treats her like a queen. And now I don’t just have one amazing mom, I have two.


I’ve been blessed to have many amazing family members, friends and strangers who positively impact my life, and I couldn’t possibly put them all in this blog. But some of these instances came exactly when I needed them, and I love how the universe always has a way of picking us back up.

I’d love to hear feedback on a time someone has restored your faith in humanity.



The Craziest Love Story I’ve Ever Heard

For a few years I traveled every week for work, meeting with timeshare owners to try to help them with their timeshare problems. My favorite aspect of this job, besides the fact that I was good at it, was getting to meet all kinds of interesting people. I could probably fill an entire blog with the stories I racked up during this three year period, but John and Violet take the cake.

I don’t recall the city or state we were in, some state close to New York, but I know the restaurant was an Olive Garden, and it was during my first year with Choice Vacations, LLC. I had just recently been promoted from sales rep to manager, so I was primarily in charge of closing tables, but we were a bit overrun on this particular day, and all my reps were already sitting with clients when a handsome couple strolled through the doors, probably in their early 70s. I decided to sit with them myself and try to gauge the situation and determine if we’d be able to offer any of our services to them. It took me almost no time at all to understand that they were very happy timeshare owners, they had a low maintenance fee, and frequently came to meetings such a this for a free meal and to chat with eager salespeople. Usually I might be a tad annoyed at the obvious mooching, but it was hard to be anything but amused by John and Violet. The way they held hands, occasionally pecked each others cheeks, and gazed at each other with such pure adoration and pride–it was like watching two lovestruck teenagers.

“So how long have you two been married?” I asked, thinking for sure that this had to be a second marriage, and a relatively new one at that.

“It’s funny you ask,” Violet said, “today is actually our 35th anniversary.”

I was surprised and responded with the obvious retort that I was honored they’d chosen to spend such a special day with me, in a cheap Italian food restaurant of all places. We shared a laugh and they said they were happy that I was such a good sport about the whole thing, and that they really hadn’t put too much thought into it because they treated every day like it was an anniversary.

How could I be mad? I told them it was rare enough to meet happy timeshare owners, not to mention a couple that was so happily married. Yeah, they got a meal on us, but I supposed it was worth it for my temporary restoration in faith of the human race.

“So what is your story?” I asked. “How did you meet?”

They looked at each other with twinkles in their eyes, grinning like a couple fools.

“It’s quite a long story,” John said.

I looked around the room. No one seemed to need my attention.

“Well, I need to get something out of this,” I said. “It looks like we have time, and I’m sure it’s a good story.”

“Oh, it is,” he said, “the best one you’ll ever hear.”

Here’s my best recollection of the way he told it:

It was over 50 years ago when I first laid eyes on Violet. She was the most beautiful women I had ever seen on this earth, she looked like a movie star. I was a young man, attending law school and I had just moved to the city and started working as a paralegal in a law firm. I wasn’t as handsome as I am now, still a bit awkward looking. I hadn’t grown into these big ears yet. I knew a girl like Violet wouldn’t give me a second look, but I was in love, you see? Love at first sight, it’s a real thing. So when I first saw her standing outside a restaurant with her friends, talking and laughing, it was like an alien had possessed my body. I went straight up and cut off her friends in the middle of their conversation. I grabbed her hands and told her I had to take her out on a date. Of course, she pulled her hands away and told me to get lost. Her friends laughed. I was even more in love. I pretended to leave with my tail between my legs but I really hid around the corner. I watched her talk for a few more minutes before she hailed a cab. I grabbed the next one and followed her to her house. The next morning I was there in a friend’s car before dawn, I had to know where she went during the day. An hour or so went by before she left the house on foot and I followed her inconspicuously for 10 blocks or so to an office building, where I later found out she was working as an office assistant. I decided that there was enough distance between her home and work that I could run into her the next day without appearing suspicious. So the next morning I was innocently sitting outside a coffee shop midway when she walked by. I jumped up. ‘Fancy seeing you again’, I said, and offered to walk with her. Again, Violet told me to get lost, and this time even less politely than before. This became our routine. Almost daily I’d find a way to run into her, and began to come up with more creative ways to ask her out. I brought her gifts. (This part of the story was actually more detailed, John told me all the different ways he was stalking Violet, and I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open by this point) She always turned me down, but eventually it got to where she’d actually let me walk a few blocks with her. One day she revealed to me that she was actually planning on becoming a nun, and this is one reason she never gave in to my pleas for a date. She was to leave for the seminary in three weeks. She also told me she didn’t like me anyway, but I didn’t listen to that part. I was crushed about her plans. I begged her to reconsider. I told her I’d make a fantastic husband for her and she’d never have to worry about anything. She reminded me that she didn’t even like me. So I leaned in to kiss her to show her what she’d be missing. She gave in for a few seconds and it was like the world stopped spinning. Then she pushed me away and punched me right in the face. She sure had a good right hook for a girl who was about to be a nun.  She screamed at me, told me to stop following her (I guess she had figured it out), and that she never wanted to see me again. She was adamant that the next time she saw me she’d call the police. Well she was still working at the office in the last few weeks before she was to leave, and I know I must sound crazy to you, but my love for her had only grown stronger. I knew without a doubt in my mind I was supposed to be with her. I wanted to respect her wishes though, so I still followed her but I kept my distance so she wouldn’t know. I tried to make it out of work early nearly every day so I could be waiting outside her office by the time she got off. I’m sure I was on the verge of getting fired from my job, but she was more important and I certainly didn’t like her walking alone in the city at night. Well one evening I was following her, maybe 30 yards or so behind, when I saw a figure come out of the shadows beside her and pull her into the alley. She screamed. I didn’t even think, I started running towards her as fast as I could. I turned into the alley and a man had her pushed against the wall. Maybe he was on drugs or something but he didn’t even hear me run up behind him and I didn’t stop to think about him having a weapon. I just hit him in the side of the head as hard as I could and beat him all the way to the ground, and I didn’t stop. I didn’t stop until I had beat him so badly you couldn’t even make out a face anymore and Violet finally succeeded in pulling me off.

“Elizabeth?” one of my reps interrupted, “Sorry to cut in, but I need your help.”

I glanced at my phone and was shocked to see it had already been about an hour. The representatives were all about to wrap up with their presentations.

“Ok, I’ll be there in just a second,” I told him, before turning desperately back to John. “Quickly, what happened? Just in case I don’t get a chance to come back before you have to leave.”

“Well,” John said, “they locked me up.”

“WHAT?! But it was self-defense! Who knows what he would’ve done to Violet–”

“I know,” he said, “and if I hadn’t beaten him to a pulp maybe it wouldn’t have looked so bad. Plus when the police were interviewing people one of Violet’s friends told them I was stalking her. So that didn’t look good. But I was only sentenced to 10 years and got off in 7. And it was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me, because Violet came to see me every single day that she could, wrote me constantly, and as soon as I was released we got married. Now we are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary. So you see, it was all meant to be. She’d be an old nun right now if it wasn’t for that night.”

I was really too shocked to know what to say to that, but it really was the best story I had ever heard, so I gave them a quick hug before I had to run off the table.

“Thank you,” was all I could think to say, “I’m so glad you ended up together.” And with the infatuated look they were sharing, I really meant it. Despite the rather disturbing facts that he had literally stalked her, and then killed a man, I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people who looked more in love.

Tears stung my eyes as I rushed off to help my teammates, and I was a little disappointed to see them get up to leave as I looked back over my shoulder. To this day I wish I had thought to at least get a picture since their story has been burned forever into my mind. But there was a scribbled note on a napkin when I returned later to the table to get my work supplies.

Elizabeth, never give up on the ones you love.

I don’t know if it was John or Violet who wrote it, but I took the advice to heart.





The Day The Chickens Died

So this is a rather bleak first blog entry but hear me out, it’s not all bad.

I return to this day in my head, a lot.

I was a kid, maybe 10 years old. It was summer and we were living in Houston. “We” meaning me, my younger sister, my mom, and my stepdad. One thing about my stepdad. He’s bipolar. When I say that, I’m not using the expression that’s annoyingly thrown around to describe someone who’s moody. No, he is utterly and severely a man suffering from bipolar disorder. What did this mean to me as a child? I can’t pretend like I fully comprehended it then. It meant that most of the time around him we walked on eggshells, never knowing what would alter his mood, never knowing if it was going to be one of those bad days, or one of those days we happily sang along to Cher in his truck and ate ice cream. Sometimes it was exciting, sometimes it was insightful. My stepdad is, after all, a brilliant man.

Most of the time, though, it was terrifying.

This day started off a good day. My stepdad was sleeping, deep into one of those cycles where he would stay in his room for days. These were the days when we were the most carefree. Usually, he would come out of hibernation in a good mood. It was hot this particular day, and I was running around the backyard with the animals while my little sister was hanging out next door with our neighbor. My mom was teaching summer school.

One thing about the animals.

An interesting and widely unknown symptom of bipolar disorder is extravagant purchasing. While we lived with my stepdad he randomly purchased all kinds of things, and in this particular phase he was into purchasing animals. Keep in mind, we lived in the city of Houston, surrounded by neighbors, but at this time we owned six dogs, a rabbit, fish, about 20 canaries, a parrot that hated everyone…

And chickens.

When I say chickens, I don’t just mean hens. We had those, and they laid eggs, which was awesome. But we also had roosters. And these roosters were probably just as confused about being kept in the backyard of an urban area as the rest of us were. So they would cock-a-doodle-do at ungodly hours. And our neighbors hated us at this time. But I was a huge animal lover, and I was on Cloud Nine. I would sit by the coops that we spent hours helping my stepdad make, and visit with the chickens. And that’s what I was doing on this particular day when my stepdad came out of hibernation.

“Hey, Tiger,” he said, as he stepped outside. “How are our birds doing?”

I immediately felt more at ease with his use of the nickname he had given me. Worst case scenario, he was about to give me some work to do, but it didn’t seem like I was in trouble. Whew.

“Good!” I replied in a sing-songy voice. “We have some new eggs!”

“Ok, we’ll get them out. In fact, why don’t you just open that coop door and let those hens roam around for a bit?” he said.

This was a weird request. Granted, we hadn’t had the chickens very long, but we had built them pretty big coops, and we had never let them just roam freely around the yard.

“Don’t worry”, he assured, “I already blocked the dogs in.”

Ok, so he must’ve been planning this. Seemed reasonable enough, and I was happy at the thought the chickens could enjoy a beautiful day with us in the big backyard. I complied, and opened the coop door that held three hens. They were reluctant to move at first, but with some coaxing and a few pecks at my hand, they finally came out of the coop.  They were clucking, and walking in circles, seeming uneasy. My dogs were barking like crazy inside. My stepdad was staring at the hens thoughtfully.

“You want to hear something interesting, Tiger?”

So today was going to be a teaching day. Great. Out of all the days with him, these were my favorites. It’s like his brilliant mind would open up and so much knowledge would pour out. I knew there would probably be a test at the end. I listened intently.

“Chickens are fascinating”, he said, “If you lay their heads down at a certain angle, they won’t move.” He went on into a scientific explanation that I don’t remember. Then he went up to a hen and grabbed it. Gently, he laid the hen’s head down, while she was standing on her feet. The image reminded me of an ostrich burying its head in the sand. The hen was quiet, calm. Even as my stepdad backed away, she didn’t move. My dad did the same to the other two hens. It was an amusing image, and I giggled as the three silent hens peered up at us, still as statues.

I didn’t even see him bring up the hatchet.

I don’t even know where it came from.

My mind didn’t even register what was happening as it came down quickly on the first hen’s neck. It wasn’t until the blood started pouring out of the hen’s now headless body that I started screaming. My screams didn’t even faze my stepdad, they didn’t even scare the other two into running for their lives. They just sat there, blinking up at us as I cried and pleaded, until the hatchet came back down, and their eyes remained open, frozen in time.

“I should’ve left one for you to do, ” he muttered then, as if the thought never even occurred to him that I would sooner die.

I hardly remember the aftermath. Sometime after the chickens lost their heads, those heads were strung up with twine on the side of the house, right by where we hung the dog leashes, the bodies were thrown into trash bags, and my stepdad went back to bed. I was afraid to remove the heads, but I didn’t want my sister to see them so I wiped away my tears and resolved to not let her in the backyard whenever she came home. I needn’t have worried, she went upstairs to read and was spared the horrors of that day. By the time my mom came home I had calmed down. I get my strength from her, it would have traumatized most people but we put it behind us.

The point of this story is not to show my stepdad as a cruel or crazy person. What happened that day made complete sense to him at the time, with his disease; for some reason he thought it had to be done and he wanted to educate me at the same time. He loves animals, and even the way they died was probably as painless as possible. We never spoke about it after that day. He continued to be unpredictable but I have never doubted that he is a good person.

Here’s the point of my story: We can’t predict tragedy. We can’t even prepare, as much as we like to think we can. What we can prepare for is how we let tragedies affect us. In all actuality, the chicken day was the worst day of my life. I’ve always had more compassion for animals than I have for humans, I’m definitely one of those. And so I witnessed three murders. You could say I was even an accomplice. But I made a very clear decision that day as I worked to slow down my breaths and I wiped away the tears from my face. I would not let this change me.

And it didn’t. True, I feel like my childhood effectively ended that day. I saw the world more for what it was, saw how screwed up and nonsensical things could really be. But the loving, trusting–often to the point of naivety–, and empathetic side of me did not get buried. I still see the good in people first, almost to a fault. I learned how to compartmentalize. I learned to search for what was happening inside people to make them do bad things. These are gifts I now understand that not everyone has. And as crazy as the world is today, I value this ability over any other, and I’m able to look back on the chicken day and see that good can come from any bad day.

Easter Antics

Just a short and sweet little anecdote to brighten your day:

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and I was fortunate enough to spend a beautiful day with my husband’s family out at his cousin’s awesome ranch. It’s a kid’s wonderland; there’s all kinds of playground equipment, toys, animals, a lake. As per usual, I ended up spending the majority of the day with the kids, because let’s face it, I want to play too.

This year was even more exciting, because there was a new trampoline.

I’m pretty sure the last time I jumped on a trampoline was over 15 years ago, so I was pretty stoked to jump around with the kids. So we play a few typical trampoline games like “Crack the Egg” and I’ve almost reached my cardio limit for round 1 so the kids start showing off doing front flips. It’s fun just to watch them and I’m relishing a small break but after they’ve all flipped they stand still and look at me expectedly.

“Your turn!”, they announce.

I’m already shaking my head because I’ve never done an unassisted front flip in my life and really have somewhat of an aversion to my head plunging forward towards the ground in general, but the kids are just watching me and I have to say something.

“Umm, I don’t know if I can do a front flip, but you guys are doing great!”

There’s a moment of silence as five kids continue to stare at me. Finally, the youngest kid just shakes his head and says,

“Of course you can do one, you’re old!”

Well who can argue with that logic, right? Especially with these kids doing them so effortlessly. And honestly, at that moment it felt a little bit pathetic to be afraid in front of these kids. They already accepted me as the cool adult so…

I did a front flip.

I can’t say I enjoyed it, the whole three seconds I was imagining breaking my neck in front of a bunch of kids, but damn, when I landed I was kind of proud of myself. But the best part? There was no fanfare, no clapping or congratulations. The kids just looked at me like, see, we told you, and continued taking turns. I ended up doing a few more flips. each slightly less terrifying than the last, and had a blast.

The whole way home I was thinking about this though, and the limitations we put on ourselves. And the next time I think, there’s no way I can do that, I’m just going to remember these kids just looking at me like I’m stupid, and remind myself, of course I can 🙂

Hopefully this inspires you to do the same.





Dear George,

I’ve written and erased at least 10 different starts to this letter because it’s so hard to know what to say. I knew it was only a matter of time before the inevitable phone call came, we all did. But what I always hoped I would immediately feel was a little bit of sorrow, a little bit of relief that your struggle was finally over, and finally maybe some acceptance and peace. Maybe I should have anticipated the anger, the resentment, but I guess I just hoped that I was a stronger person than this.

What I need you to understand is that these feelings I have towards you right now don’t stem from the memories of a fucked-up childhood. I’ve long forgiven you for all the pain your bipolar disorder caused us when we were young, tucked those memories away in a nice little compartment of empathy and understanding, shrouded in a they-made-me-a-stronger-person veil. Though occasionally a reminder of one of the many hard “lessons” you taught us when you were in a depressive state slips through, accompanied by a twinge of resentment, I’ve always been pretty quick at tucking it back in its neat little box and calling to mind a happier memory of us. Because those memories too, are plentiful.

No, I’m angry because you didn’t give me a chance to say any of these things. I never got an opportunity for closure, to tell you I forgave you and appreciated many things you did for me. You were almost like a “normal” father figure for a few years, occasionally checking in on me, and offering bits of advice here and there, even telling me that you were proud every once and awhile. You even got to meet Chris, and I was happy to see the two of you bond over your shared military experience and sense of patriotism. You told me that you could tell Chris was a great father, and would make an amazing husband, and I was happy to know you approved. Then about a year and a half ago, only months before I expected you to show up to my wedding, we had what I never guessed would be our last conversation.

You called me in a clearly manic state, rambling excitedly about an upcoming reunion with your family that you wanted me to attend. I was happy to hear from you, because the last time you had texted you had been pretty sick. But everything flipped when I asked about Anna, made sure you were including her in these plans. “She has a phone too,” you said, “she can reach out to me.” I reminded you that she in fact had, several times, reached out to you with no response. You immediately got defensive and grumbled something about her not finishing school. All my knowledge about how to placate you when you were in this state of mind went out of my head at that moment, and I vehemently defended my little sister, reminding you that she was happy and actually made more money than all of us, and that college is in fact overrated and definitely not for everyone.

I should have guessed that my retort was as good as an excommunication sentence, and sure enough,  not only did you not show up for my wedding, but I never heard so much as a congratulations, or I’m sick again, or hey Elizabeth I’m about to leave this Earth, maybe you should come say goodbye. The texts and emails I sent bounced back, and before long I heard that you had actually gotten remarried and had new step kids. It sucks to admit now that when I heard, I felt nothing but pity for your new family, because they had no idea what they were getting into, there’s no way that they could. In light of your death, I carry a lot of guilt for thinking that at least your new family probably wouldn’t have you around long enough to experience some of the things my mom and sister and I had to endure. I’m angry too, that you left me with this guilt. If you had just reached back out to me one more time, maybe these wouldn’t have been the last thoughts I had about you when you were alive, and that’s something I’ll never be able to change.

Because deep down I know, and have to remind myself yet again, that you were not a bad man. You were sick. And as much pain as your disorder caused me and my mom and little sister, there are many things about you that I admired, and was grateful for. Set aside the fact that without you, I might never have had the opportunity to grow up in Houston, the best city in the world, and live across the street from my best friend, and make all the memories I hold most dear to this day. Even set aside that with you, as a more pleasant side-effect of your bipolar disorder, not only did I finally get to have pet dogs, but I was one of the few kids lucky enough to also enjoy a plethora of birds, rabbits, and even a few horses and cows.


No, what I’m most grateful for were those far and few between instances where you did act like a stepfather. Those late nights you spent working on school projects with us, telling us stories, and those long-winded teaching moments you loved to have. As a preteen, I may have acted annoyed or ungrateful during some of those lessons, I’m not sure, but I retained more knowledge from you than you probably thought I did. I’m grateful for the summer you took us on a month-long RV trip, as much as you yelled at me for having my nose in a book the entire trip and not appreciating the scenery, it was an experience most kids my age never had, and I cherish it.


I’m grateful, maybe most of all, for the night you made me yell at you. You sensed somehow, that every single time you pushed me, every time you made my mom or my sister cry, I was compartmentalizing my resentment, and that one day I would explode. So, in a rare moment of true selflessness, you helped me trigger that explosion.  You did some weird Native American ritual with sand and showed me that my spirit animal was a tiger, and then you got in my face and demanded I let the tiger show. I refused at first, because 10 year-old me wanted to believe this was dumb, because it was easier to lock away my emotions than bring them to the surface, but you kept pushing me. You got in my face and demanded, until finally I caved, and screamed at you in wordless fury, screamed and screamed at you for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes, until all my anger was spent and I collapsed crying into a ball. Then you hugged me and we never spoke of it again, except that from then on you referred to me as Tiger, and I stood up for myself a lot more when it came to you. I don’t know what would have happened if you had never made me do that, but I’d probably be a lot more fucked up if I never had. So, thank you.


Lastly, I’m so grateful to you for finally leaving. I don’t mean that in a dickish way. It showed real compassion for you to leave when you did, and reminding myself of this helps me let go of any residual anger I felt from last night. After 9/11, things got really bad. You were depressed all the time, and we all got so used to walking on eggshells that it’s a miracle we don’t float. I probably blocked out a lot of memories, and I’m sure I have no idea about many of the things my mom went through, but I remember one day you were gone, and mom said you weren’t coming back. The sense of relief was overwhelming. And I didn’t consider the magnitude of this at the time, but you let us keep the house. The thought of where we might have had to live with only my mom’s abysmal teacher’s salary is a scary one, and you spared us from that.

I would have loved a chance to tell you these things in person, and I know Anna would have appreciated some closure as well, but you left our world as unpredictably as you came into it. And I suppose that’s fitting. Sorry for all the anger in the beginning of this letter, but if anyone understands, it’s you. I believe that one day I’ll get a chance to meet the real George David Hawkins, the man I’d only ever known in fleeting instances, and that’s a much happier ending. Until that time, give Papa and Eddie and Gran Gran big hugs for me– your Tiger.



The War of No Art

Sometimes I feel like I’d give anything to be creative.

When I was a kid, I had imagination for days. I even wrote a short series of tales about a dog named Spot Cool, who went on all kinds of crazy adventures. A few years ago I found one of these stories, and sat reading in awe, jealous of my 8 year old self for having the ability to create so unconsciously. Twenty years later, here I sit, willing myself to just write something, ANYTHING, even if I don’t know where I’m going with it.

It’s only three months into 2018, and I’ve had four very trusted individuals approach me this year about helping them write something. They believe in me, and admire the way I express myself, and it’s flattering and heartbreaking at the same time. I love editing, it comes easily and naturally for me, and still I’d trade this ability to be able to conceptualize just one complete story of my own.

I lament this issue occasionally to close friends and family, most of whom have creativity pouring out of their ears, and the response is usually that “it’s in there somewhere” and to “just keep trying”. While these responses are no doubt well-intentioned, I sometimes want to reply that if I had even a sliver of their natural creative talent, I’d be rich and famous by now. Follow-through I possess in abundance; imagination not so much. Sometimes I’ll finish a fantastic book, and rush to my computer, inspired and ready to write. Then, I’ll stare at my computer screen for an hour, completely void of any ideas and invariably disheartened, and have to remind myself, again, that maybe I’m just not meant to be a writer.

One solution is to continue to blog, and instead of trying to force fiction, just “write what I know”.  Yet even this solution has become increasingly problematic. In the case of writing what I know, the dilemma is no longer lack of material, but rather too much. My writing style is annoyingly perfectionistic, and I spend more time trying to figure out what topic/theme/style would be most desired or appreciated by anyone bothering to read my blog than actually writing anything. I don’t know how to “write for myself” because in my mind I can’t fathom putting myself through this process without caring what a reader might think of it.

So do I write more about my childhood? It would certainly make for the most compelling reading to reveal more memories of life with a bipolar stepfather, but as cathartic as these stories might be for me to write, they are also emotionally draining, both to me and the reader. Do I write about the impact that film, and co-founding my own production company, has had on my life? I could, but I feel like this topic, along with my love of poker, is one that would be appreciated by very few readers. Do I write about kung fu, and my journey over the last three years? I’d love to, but I’m still so new and have so much left to learn that I almost feel like it would be a disservice to my art and my teacher to try and write about something that I cannot yet adequately explain.  Or do I write about my journey in the sales industry; how I went from the mediocre college graduate with no clear direction, the person who inevitably bought from every mall kiosk, door-to-door, and telemarketing salesperson I crossed to making six-figures my first year in sales, winning multiple awards, and running a successful business for three years before finally accepting the offer of a lifetime from a company I loved? I’ve thought about it, but really that story is short: I know how to listen to people, work hard, and I still buy from mall kiosk people all the time 🙂

So here I remain, a wannabe writer with no idea what to write. I never intended to start a blog to be one of those people who just vented to strangers or asked rhetorical questions, but I’m desperate. I want to write, so tell me what YOU want to read. Or continue to send me things to edit, because at least that tides me over for awhile.

In the meantime, my uncle, Peter Wilkins, who I’m very proud (and jealous) of, does NOT have a creativity problem and has just published his first novel. You can, and should, buy it here. If you are reading my blog then it’s safe to assume you either enjoy reading or just love me, and in either case have no reason not to buy and read this book unless you don’t have $2.99 to spare. If that’s the case, shoot me your email address and I’ll buy it for you, in exchange for you reading it and leaving a review on Amazon afterwards.




Thank you in advance for supporting art and non-art, like this blog entry 😀

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


What is there to say about 2017?

It was the year I got married to the love of my life, in a wedding I had dreamed of as a little girl, down to the yellow bridesmaids dresses and flowers. We spent a few days in a cabin just hanging out with our best friends before the wedding, eating, and drinking, and playing games, and dancing, and laughing until tears streamed from our eyes. The morning of the wedding I woke up calm and happy, and I knew without a doubt that I would not regret marrying such an amazing man. I walked down the aisle with my dad to my favorite Beatles song, Here Comes the Sun, holding a bouquet made painstakingly perfect of Harry Potter pages by the best Matron of Honor a girl could ever hope for.  There were a few beloved friends and family who were unable to make it, but as I looked out in the crowd at all the people who loved us so much, my heart was filled with joy. After the ceremony, the night passed much too quickly as we danced foolishly, laughed and cried at the amazing toasts from our best friends, and tried to squeeze in as many hugs, photos, and bites of dinner as we could manage. The skies blessed our wedding by opening up into a downpour, but we just laughed and kept dancing as the lights and music flickered off and back on. We ended our perfect wedding with a perfect 4 days in paradise, and I thought, this is going to be the best year of my life so far.


17 has always been a paradox for me though, as I’ve considered it my “lucky” number for as long as I can remember, but it has brought me as much pain throughout the years as it has joy. This year was no different, and the elation from our nuptials turned soon to anguish when we heard the news that my 15 year-old cousin, who I had laughed and danced with at my wedding only months prior, had tragically and unexpectedly taken his own life. I have lost loved ones before, but nothing I had ever been through had prepared me for this. Eddie lit up every room he ever walked into, his smile was infectious, and he had always seemed wise beyond his years. He was so happy and proud when I asked him and his brother to be ushers at the wedding, and he took his duty very seriously. Nearly everyone from my wedding remembered how charming and friendly he was, never acting too shy or too cool to engage anyone around him in conversation.  The utter shock and disbelief I experienced when I received that phone call from my mom telling me what had happened will be forever burned into my brain. There’s always a level of guilt I believe we experience when someone we love passes, but this time for me it was nearly unbearable. How had we not known something was wrong? What could we have done differently? Why didn’t I take more time to talk to him at my wedding, or call him more often? These questions haunted me over the next few weeks as I cried myself to sleep, feeling not only guilty but distraught for my aunt and uncle, Eddie’s brother, and my Grandma, who surely walked past Eddie’s room every day with the same relentless thoughts I was having.


Tragedy always has that funny way of bringing people together though, and since Eddie’s death my family, though we’ve always been close, is closer than ever. I flew down for the memorial service, and although many tears were shed, many laughs were shared as well. No one would have blamed my aunt and uncle if they had completely crumbled, but they remained incredibly strong despite the circumstances, and ultimately reminded the rest of us that during his life, Eddie had been nurtured, supported, and surrounded by unconditional love, and that some souls are simply too pure for this world. There is no doubt Eddie would only want the best for all of us, and slowly but surely we all gave ourselves permission to start healing. In December, my family came down to San Antonio for a weekend of honoring my beloved cousin. My Grandma and I each got memorial tattoos, and then my husband, uncle, cousin, grandma, moms, and I all went to watch a performance by one of Eddie’s favorite bands, Alter Bridge. As they closed the show with a song that they said they didn’t usually play live, “In Loving Memory”, we could feel Eddie with us distinctly, and there was not a dry eye in our row.

image1image1 (1)

“I carry the things that remind me of you
In loving memory of the one that was so true
You were as kind as you could be
And even though you’re gone
You still mean the world to me”

2017 had the ups and downs of normal years as well. It was my first full year at Partners In Building, and despite the anxiety that accompanied walking away from a product that brought me security and prosperity over the past 7 years and entering into the whole new world of luxury real estate, I had a very successful and fulfilling professional year, as did Chris with his new company. But on the flip side, there was also a giant hurricane that ripped through my home city and brought devastation and destruction. Houston, however,  never one to be brought down for long, went on to secure its first World Series win, and bounce back stronger than ever.


There were many great films that came out in 2017 (Dunkirk, The Disaster Artist, Blade Runner 2049, Lady Bird, Get Out, Three Billboards, John Wick 2, Logan Lucky, Star Wars, just to name a few), as well as a long-awaited album from my all-time favorite artist, Eminem.

It was also the year my favorite actor in the entire world was outed as a sexual predator.

BUT it was a great year for Kung Fu, and I passed my red sash test, gained some awesome new brothers, and got the training bag I really wanted for Christmas.

It was also the year my beloved New England Patriots won their 5th Superbowl, and I cried tears of joy.

Yet, it was also the most violently opposing political year I had ever witnessed, and we all watched in horror as friends and families became divided over issues that were so much less important than their love for each other.

It was also the year that one of our best friends gave birth to a perfect new baby boy, and seeing the look on her face as she looked at him washed away all of the ugliness in the world at that very moment.

image1 (2)

2017 somehow felt like a landmark year for blessings and tragedy, love and loss. Even with the pain, I am grateful for the journey, and I look forward to seeing what the new year will bring.

Happy New Year’s Eve, I love you all.



My Grandma Betty


Last week I got married to an amazing man.


Really, everything was so perfect, it was like a dream. There were a few friends and family members who were unable to make it, and we were definitely disappointed by that, but such things are expected of weddings, and so many loved ones did come show us support that it was easy to focus on the positive.  Over the course of the weekend there were countless laughs, a few tears of joy, and memories made that will last a lifetime. On Sunday we danced the night away, and as Chris and I walked out to the car in the drizzling rain after the final song, I couldn’t help the smile that came to my face as I thought that our wedding must have been an exception to the rule– not a single thing had gone wrong.

It wasn’t until we were on a plane the next day bound for our honeymoon to Mexico that I realized I had forgotten something. It came to me in a flash and the thought hit my gut like a boulder. I had forgotten to take a photo at the wedding with one of the most important people in my life, my Grandma. Not only that, I had neglected a photo opportunity with that whole table. My aunt, uncle, and cousins who were also ushers in my wedding were absent from the list of people I remembered posing with. The latter were easier for me to swallow since I’ve been pretty good about taking pictures with them in the past, but the absence of a photograph with my Grandma definitely put a damper on my good mood, as we are notoriously bad at taking pictures together for some reason and I had made a mental note several times throughout the weekend to remedy that.  But before I knew it the opportunity had once again passed us by, and the possibility that I had missed it absolutely crushed me. Not wanting to ruin the honeymoon, I pushed the thought aside and told myself that I was probably mistaken and I’d figure it out when we got home.


Even Chris is better at taking pictures with Grandma than I am.


Five days later my mom verified my suspicion and I was overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. It wasn’t the thought of the picture itself necessarily, but the fear that my Grandma, my friend and my hero, might doubt how important she was to me because I had forgotten it. My mom tried to comfort me by telling me that experiences are more important than pictures.

As with most motherly wisdom, this simple sentence hit me in waves. At first it just passed over me, and I took no comfort and continued to wallow in guilt and self-pity. But as I got ready for the day, the sentiment continued to crash over and over into my mind, bringing along with it memories with my Grandma, experiences we had shared. And I realized that, of course and as usual, my mom was right. There’s nothing to be done about a missed photo opportunity, but I had memories that I knew would never fade.

One of the first memories I have with my Grandma is an unusual thing to remember. This morning I realized I had just brought this up to Chris the other day. We were talking about kids today not respecting their elders, and I told him that no matter how much our Grandma spoiled us when we were kids, we definitely knew better than to act up on her watch. All it took was one time, my little sister was throwing a temper tantrum (and I was egging her on I’m sure) and Grandma gave one warning and then thumped Anna right in the head with the loudest thump I’ve ever heard to this day. I remember Anna gazing at her, stunned, and stopping her tantrum immediately.  In typical Grandma fashion, she didn’t linger on the incident, and we were all laughing a few minutes later.

I remember going to Grandma’s house when we were little and sitting in her big chair and watching Days of Our Lives with her. Endlessly patient, Grandma would fill us in on the years of backstory, and the three of us sat entranced, wondering if Stefano was really still alive, or what tricks Sami had up her sleeve that week. Anna and I felt like little adults, and like the three of us had our own marvelous alliance, and thinking on these lazy summer afternoons with Grandma fills me with so much joy.

Days Of Our Lives with Grandma, Anna, and Molly.


Then there were memories that I shared with my Grandma alone. When I was 8 or 9, before my beloved Papa passed away, we went on a family camping trip one summer. My Grandma and I got up early one morning and crossed a small creek to go into the woods. We found a huge tree and dug a hole, then together we buried one of my Grandma’s rings. The details are fuzzy, I’m not sure if one day we intended to go find it again, or if we just hoped maybe someone else would. The intent doesn’t matter so much as the ritual itself. For us it was a secret, something we alone shared, and that makes it one of the most special experiences of my life. It makes me smile to think that somewhere in the woods on the Naches Trace, there’s a big tree with our initials carved a few feet above the ground, and beneath it is a piece of our hearts.

There are precious memories of long nights of card games. It is well-known among my family that I inherited my competitive nature from my Grandma. Any game she could teach me I learned eagerly, and the two of us are always ready to continue long after everyone else is ready to quit. Unlike me, however, my Grandma doesn’t get upset or angry if she loses; she’s always just ready to shuffle up and play a new game. Actually, when I think about it, over the last 27 years I can’t recall a single time my Grandma has dwelled in anger or sadness. I’m sure it’s happened, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t recall a day with my Grandma where her smile was absent, or she didn’t crack a joke. My Grandma is quick to speak her mind about everything, and she’s stubborn too (another trait she passed on), but she also gives the best advice, and she’s never met a stranger. She’s also one of the toughest people I know, not just mentally but physically too. Over the years I’ve seen her with bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes and bone breaks, but she doesn’t dwell on them beyond an occasional comment poking fun at her own clumsiness.


None of these little anecdotes paint as accurate a picture as I’d like to share. Between tricking me into letting her pull my baby teeth, telling me and my friends scary stories in the dark at my first slumber party, giving me my first car of my very own, taking me on my first trip to NYC when I was sixteen, giving me advice on how to have a marriage as happy as she and my Papa had…there are thousands of little moments and I can’t even scratch the surface. I just want my Grandma to know how much I love her, how much I admire her, and even though I didn’t get a photo to capture the moment, when I close my eyes I know I’ll always be able to recall how I felt when she squeezed my hand and told me how happy I looked with Chris, what a beautiful bride I made, and that she knew Papa was right there with us.

How to Help: Why Saying You’ll Pray About It Is Not Enough.

A man is marooned on a deserted island. There is no help in sight. However, this is a man of faith, and he is confident that his God will save him. He cries out in prayer, “Lord, save me! Get me off this island!”

In the distance, the man finally sees that a boat is approaching. The captain calls out to him, offering to pick him up.

“No thanks,” the man replied, “God is going to save me. I will continue to pray.”

Over the next week, another two boats pass by, but the man does not get aboard, insisting that the Lord will save him from inevitable demise.

The man prays every day and every night to be saved. Then he dies of starvation.

At the Pearly Gates he cries to God, “Why did you forsake me, your faithful and devoted servant?!”

God said, “I sent you three freaking boats, what did you want from me?”


Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with saying that you’ll pray for someone. Plenty of people pair this sentiment with action. Everyone relays this message with good intentions in his or her heart. But anyone can see that it’s become a very common crutch for us to lean on when we don’t know what else to do. When we feel helpless, when we want to offer some comfort, saying we’ll pray for someone makes US feel better, and we tell ourselves that it is making them feel better as well. As good intentioned as we may all be though, I’m willing to bet not even half of us, every single time we’ve uttered this promise, actually stop what we’re doing in that moment and even pray.


I’m not debating the power of prayer, either. The truth is, I don’t know. Although it’s been a tumultuous year for me, faith-wise, I still continue to pray- I always have. But if praying was enough, I can’t wrap my mind around the reason for humanity at all. If our Creator intended for us to just be able to pray all our problems away, what would be the point of you and me? And it has to be FAIR too, right? Because John Doe has cancer and a million of his social media followers and his wife’s prayer group gets the entire city he lives in to pray for him all hours of the day, is his cancer more LIKELY to be cured than the little girl’s cancer in a foreign country, that no one knows about and no one prays to be healed, herself included, because she doesn’t even know how to pray, because no one was around to even tell her there was a God?

I don’t think so.

What if ALL Mother Teresa did was pray? What if she wasn’t there holding the sick people’s hands and bathing them and talking to them? What if MLK Jr. only prayed? If they didn’t also take action we’d have very different history books than we do today. Even the Bible would look much different, if all Jesus did was pray. It would be a very short book.


Today we have more resources at the tips of our fingers than we can even comprehend. If we don’t know how to help, we can just google it. That’s what I did this morning.


Venezuela is in a state of crisis. This hits home especially  hard for me because my mom married an amazing woman from Venezuela, and all of her family still lives over there, and they are suffering. And it’s nearly impossible for them to leave. So when she took to Facebook yesterday to spread awareness to this crisis, her post was inevitably flooded with promises of prayer and well wishes. I wanted to write the same thing, to let her know I read it, to let her know I was thinking of her, to let her and everyone else know how much I loved her. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t enough. I always pray for her and her family. What ELSE could I do? I read every comment, hoping someone was feeling the same way I did, hoping that there would be some constructive link that was shared.

There wasn’t, so I did the leg work myself. It took less than 5 minutes for me to find this article: 6 Easy Ways You Can Help the Crisis in Venezuela.

Then I said a prayer for good measure.

And if you’re cynical like me and don’t trust that all charities have the best of intentions, you can also read the comments in the article. Plenty of people who have family in Venezuela are also posting ideas, and what has worked for them and what hasn’t.

Then there’s Aleppo. This situation in Syria has fortunately received more media attention, and therefore it’s even easier to find ways to help. I figured Time Magazine is one of the more reputable sources, so check out this article.


Praying and donating money are perhaps the easiest ways to try and help the world, but there are thousands of other possibilities, things you can do to help the people around you. When I went through a bad breakup years ago, all the well wishes were very appreciated and always will be, but one of my best friends stocked my pantry full of junk food and sat around with me and watched cheesy girl movies, and another made me a thoughtful playlist full of great breakup songs. When someone you know gets diagnosed with an illness, the best thing you can do for them is go see them. Be with them, make them laugh. When your friend gets sent to prison (don’t scoff, with our justice system it’ll happen more often than not), taking 20 minutes out of your day to write and send a letter makes all the difference in the whole world. Same thing goes for your loved ones serving in the military, although now it’s even easier, you could actually email them in most cases.

The point is, there are a plethora of constructive ways to start to heal the world, and it all starts with our willingness to step outside of our comfort zones and dig just a little deeper. Please feel free to comment on this post with links, ideas, or things you’ve personally experienced that have helped you in a time of crisis.



Guest Post: Caleb Baccus

As you might have noticed, I have been plagued with writer’s block lately. Luckily, one of my best buds Caleb never runs out of things to say 🙂 He kindly volunteered to share one of his fondest memories on my blog, and, knowing the world needs something happy to read, I gladly took him up on his kind offer. I also really like the message he is sharing with the world in this post. So without further ado:

Meeting a Hero by Caleb Baccus


I believe everybody has someone they admire. Most of the people I admire I will never get to meet. Shakespeare, Dumas, Thomas Jefferson, Tolkien, and many more. However, one of these people I admire I did get to meet. At the time, it was a decision that I reluctant to make.

It all started on a random Monday in June, over two years ago. During this period in my life, I worked mostly nights, and not for much money. I was supposed to be working that night. However, through a weird scheduling screw up I had the night off, and I had no idea what to do with it. I kept calling friends seeing if anybody wanted to hang out. One was on a date, another was out of town, most of them were at work. So, it was just Caleb, Netflix and chilling by myself.

Bored out of my mind, I started to do what most of us do, I begin scrolling through Facebook. Among all the usual funny memes, pissed off people, and cat videos, I saw a post by my favorite living author, Patrick Rothfuss. He was asking the good people of Texas where the best place to eat barbecue was, because he was in Austin tonight at a reading and signing.

At reading this news, I was immediately filled with excitement, followed quickly by dread. You see, the job I had did not make me a lot of money. So, I had a decision to make. Was I to use the last of my money to meet one of my heroes? Or do the responsibility adult thing and stay at home? Naturally, I reached out to my best friends to get some much-needed advice.

The first friend I talked with was one of my two best friends, Jess. He was the one who introduced me to The Name of the Wind, Rothfuss’ first novel. Jess’s response was well thought out. He asked questions, got info, and in the end told me that I may never have this chance again. He was right, which is why he is my best friend.

The other friend I talk to was my roommate Carlos. I gave him the same info I gave Jess. Waited patiently for his response. Finally, he replied, “Yeah, sure… whatever.” And that is why he is my other best friend.

After all this I decided to go see my hero in Austin. I had $45 left to my name. I put $20 in my car and drove to the bookstore where the signing was to be held. I got there just in time to hear him read a kid’s book he had once read to his son. It was a Roald Dahl book called Esio Trot. Like most of Dahl’s books, it wasn’t very good. I won’t go into it. Rothfuss already gave a great review of it that you can read yourself:

However, what Rothfuss did was change the ending of the book for his son. His change that made the book much better. It amazes me what a small change can do to a story. The man blows me away.

Rothfuss then said he will begin his signing. It was one of those wrist band signings, and since I hadn’t gotten one yet I knew I was going to be there for a while. Also, I didn’t have anything for him to sign. I went downstairs to spend my last $25 to buy Name of the Wind.

Standing in the long line gave me time to observe the family in front of me. The little girl standing with her mother and father was the most adorable girl I’d seen in a long time. I wish I had the words to describe her. I do not. Suffice it to say I spent the better part of three hours watching this girl with a mountain of books, adorably fitting as many as possible in her tiny arms to re-stack every time the line moved, reading as much as she could, and discussing what she was reading with her mother.

The closer I got to the room where Rothfuss was signing, the more of the conversations with the author I could hear, and they were interesting. One of my favorites of the night occurred when one fan wanted him to sign a saxophone. Rothfuss said he would, but only if the fan played something for him.

It’s important to note that Rothfuss has a huge musical theme running through his Kingkiller Chronicles, the series in which Name of the Wind is the first novel, and so there are a lot of musicians who feel a strong connection to the books. The musical influence isn’t just from the main character being a bard, or all the talk of music in the book, but also from the way Rothfuss structures his sentences. There is a certain flow and beauty to his words that feel like music. Consider my favorite passage from his second book A Wise Man’s Fear:

 “I hear what poets write about women. They rhyme and rhapsodize and lie. I have watched sailors on the shore stare mutely at the slow-rolling swell of the sea. I watched old soldiers with hearts like leather grow teary-eyed at their king’s colors stretched against the wind.

Listen to me: these men know nothing of love.

You will not find it in the words of poets or the longing eyes of sailors. If you want to know love, look to a trouper’s hands as he makes his music. A trouper knows.”

Another theme in these novels is names. The main character, Kvothe, has many names. At the beginning of the series he is going by Kote. Later, in a flashback, someone speaks in a foreign language. In the sentence he utters, he says the word ‘kote’. Working the sentence around I believe ‘kote’ means disaster. I became incredibly interested in finding out if my theory was correct. Standing in line, I knew this is what I wanted to ask him. As I got closer to him I nervously ran the question around in my mind over and over.

The family I had been behind the entire time finally reached Rothfuss. Just like I had been, the author was completely taken with the little girl. He took longer with them than any other person I’d seen. He even gave the little girl a children’s book he had written. It was so cool to watch the tired man become reinvigorated when conversing with this special girl.

Finally, it was my turn. I walked up and before I could say anything the author began to talk about the little girl. I knew that child had brightened his heart on a long hard day, and I lost my hope to ask the question I wanted to. It no longer felt right. Instead, I had him sign my book while we talked about the little girl, then I turned and left.

Even though I decided not to ask my question, the trip was absolutely worth it. To this day it is one of the happiest memories I cherish. I tell this story to advise, never let minute barriers get in the way of doing something like meeting a hero, or finishing a project, or any dreams you have. The biggest regrets we often have are the things we did not do, not how much money we saved at the end of the day by staying home.



Side note: Patrick Rothfuss also helps one of my favorite charities. They are raising money right now and you can check it out at:

It Could Always Be Worse

When I was a little kid, I was plagued with nightmares nearly every night.  I have no idea how these came about since my mom was extremely protective about the things we were exposed to; we never watched violent movies or television, and video games were strictly forbidden. Yet insane clowns, creatures without faces, demons, murderers, and ever-constant spiders chased me endlessly. I began a ritualistic obsession of repeating a prayer 100 times before trying to sleep, hoping this display of faith would keep the monsters at bay. When my mom told me that I was old enough for my own room, I insisted on continuing to sleep with my little sister; it made me feel safer. Of course I had to protect my reputation, so I told Anna that I was staying with her in case she had nightmares. I’m not sure if she or my mom actually believed me, but we stayed in the same room for years and the nightmares were something I just learned to deal with.

When I was 8 my mom remarried and we packed up and moved to Houston, and I entered into a blissful 12 year period where, exhausted from full days of school, sports,  and eventually work, I would fall quickly into an easy, dreamless sleep. In fact I entered into debates with friends occasionally when the subject of dreams was brought up, everyone had a hard time believing I didn’t dream at all. But every morning when I rubbed my eyes open, all I could recall from the past eight hours was perfect, black nothingness.  I never took these nights for granted, and every night and morning I thanked the Lord for keeping the monsters away.

Fast forward to college, and all of the sudden sleep is stolen from me. You’ve seen plenty of details about my insomnia in my last entry so I won’t go into it again, except to reiterate-it was hell. When you lie in a bed for eight hours trying to sleep, your mind starts playing tricks on you. Especially if you don’t dream. I started to think, surely I slept. That black nothingness that was the back of my eyelids had to have been sleep at some point, right? But the dark blue circles under my eyes in the mornings told me, no, I didn’t sleep. And so the ritualistic praying came back, but this time I begged Dear Lord bring the nightmares back. I don’t care, I’ll run from monsters all night long just please let me sleep. Eventually, that’s exactly what happened. I got on some meds that came with night terrors, but they were nothing I wasn’t used to. The most epically fucked-up, violent things could occur in my nightmares, but every morning I wake up after having them, I am overcome with gratitude that at least I slept.

My point is this: I cringe inwardly whenever somebody says, “well at least things can’t get any worse”. Yes they can. They always can. I’m a personal testament that you could find yourself in the situation of praying for your worst nightmares. I sat with a recently widowed lady one time at work, trying to help her figure out how to manage her timeshare after her husband’s death. We talked about her long marriage and she told me, “he got on my nerves so much. We would bicker over the stupidest things. Some days I felt like wringing his neck. But then he passed, and I find myself wishing every day he was still with me. I’d relish every fight.”

I know that many people feel this way, especially after losing a loved one. I know my fiancé’s father was hard on him, but he’d give anything for one more day with him. I know the men and women in our military who sustain injuries and lose limbs would happily go back to boot camp in a second and suffer through the exhaustion and what they thought then was pain.   The worst times don’t only make you appreciate the good times that much more, but the times you used to think were the worst.

I use this thought to cope with unideal situations every day. Something happens, and I think, how could things be worse? And then I take my current situation and embrace it because it’s surmountable and really not that bad. It’s hard to do this sometimes. Sometimes you really just feel the need to wallow. But I’ve had too many loved ones who have suffered from actual depression to let myself wallow long. It’s cliché, but life is really too short. So instead, I abstractly evaluate every situation.

Running low on money? At least I live in a country where I have endless opportunities to make more.

Got screwed over by a “friend”? At least I have a few who’d do anything for me.

Have a horrible, ear-splitting migraine? Imagine if I was somewhere with no access to Excedrin.

Feel like the country is going to shit, and people are more hateful than ever? For every person with hate in their heart, there’s another with love. The only way I can change anything is by loving everyone as much as possible, and showing them how to do the same. Maybe we have corrupt politicians, healthcare is a disaster, women still aren’t paid as much, etc. But look at a few videos of Venezuela, where my mom’s family still lives, and tell me you aren’t suddenly filled with gratitude for our home, with all of its injustices and broken people.  As you sit in front of your flat screen tv tonight and watch the Olympics after working a full day at a job that pays you more in a month than some people make in a year, let go of the annoyance with your boss or whatever is currently bruising your delicate ego and allow yourself to really think about how much worse everything could be, and how happy you are with everything you have.

Having nightmares? At least you can sleep.

Step 1: Admitting You Have a Problem

I hadn’t slept in 3 days when my mom took me to the hospital. I was hysterical; I thought I was going to die.

Please, I begged the doctor. Just give me a tranquilizer, knock me out.

We can’t do that, he told me. But I am going to admit you into an overnight program.

What he meant was basically a mental institution. But I was too exhausted to be scared, at first. It wasn’t until my mom dropped me off, and I looked around, that the fear set in. White walls, guards at the doors, and people who looked worse off than I did. The first boy to speak to me had bandages around his wrists. What are you in for, he asked me. I told him I couldn’t sleep. Oh yeah, he said, I never can either. I closed my eyes to stop the tears from spilling over, and told myself I didn’t belong here. They would just find me a cure, and I’d be gone.

The nurse listened to me ramble patiently that night as we all formed a line to take meds. Ambien, Lunesta, Xanax, Klonopin, Temazepam, Sonata, if you’re going to give me any of those drugs you’re wasting both of our time, I informed her as calmly as I could. I’ll never forget the smirk.

Ms. Wilkins, she told me, this is something you haven’t tried before, and I assure you, you will sleep tonight.

Even though my assigned roommate was sobbing into her sheets that night as I closed my eyes, I wasn’t bothered as I slipped into the best night’s sleep I’d had in three months. The next morning I found the doctor in charge straight away. I don’t need to stay another night, I told him, all I need is a prescription for what you gave me last night. He argued, telling me they wanted to keep me another night, that I would have to sign an AMA form if I insisted on leaving. I don’t belong here, I told him, and I’m extremely grateful you found me the right medicine.

Five years later, and I’ve taken 50 mg of Seroquel every single night to fall asleep. Every time I get a new doctor and have to explain to him/her what kind of prescription I need, I get the same look. Seroquel… they always trail off. But that’s an antipsychotic. Typically used to treat schizophrenia. I know it is, I say. And I’ve been tested to make sure I’m not bipolar, schizophrenic, or otherwise mentally disturbed. It’s just the only thing that lets me sleep, I explain for the umpteenth time.  And always it’s the same response, they give a little shrug, half-heartedly ask if I’ve tried Ambien, and write me a prescription. The extensive research I’ve done on the drug is probably as much as they know anyway. I don’t have many people to compare to. Some people take Seroquel to sleep, but usually only stay on it a few months at most before getting medicine actually meant for insomnia. Those who do take it for a mental disorder take 100s of mgs a day, doctors have guessed that maybe it’s not habit forming at the dosage I take. So I could take it forever, I once asked a psychiatrist. He literally shrugged. If the side effects don’t bother you, he said.

Side effects were something I never even thought about. Every night I closed my eyes, I thanked God and Seroquel I’d never lose a night of sleep again. It wasn’t until the night I let Chris try my pill that my perception started to waver a bit. He was worried about work, something we were both stressing about a lot at the time, and he was having some trouble sleeping. Take half of one of my pills, I offered, you’ll sleep like a baby.

The next day, my fiancé seemed furious at me. How can you do that every night, he demanded, his eyes bloodshot and his face puffy. I was confused, didn’t you sleep? I asked. Oh yeah, I slept, he’d said, but those dreams…

Oh, the night terrors, I said, shrugging. Yeah I only get them like once a week maybe.


I got used to them, I assured him. I don’t care. I’m just happy to sleep.

He pulled me into a hug. Elizabeth, last night had to be one of the worst nights of my life. If you go through that shit regularly, it cannot be good for you. Even now, I feel horrible. Like the worst hangover ever. We’ve got to get you off of this pill.

I returned his embrace, nodding, ok baby. But in my head I had no intention of changing a thing. Night terrors or not, I was able to sleep.

It was only a few weeks later I was sitting on my couch talking to a friend. The discussion of my upcoming wedding had transcended into other things. Are you going to have kids? She asked. Maybe, I answered without thinking, but maybe not because I don’t think I could take my sleeping pill if I was pregnant. The incredulous look she gave me made me feel a little guilty. That’s the big deciding factor, she asked, have you at least tried to get off of it?? Plenty of times! I lied. It’s impossible.

The truth is, talking about getting off Seroquel always gets me extremely defensive. Why should I get off it? It works right? Who am I hurting? I guess the answer to that is I don’t know. Maybe I’m hurting myself. They say the first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting you have a problem. This is the step I’m still working on. Chris recently went out and bought a bunch of Melatonin and Valerian Root for me. I know you’ve tried these things before, he interrupted my protests. But please try them again, and let’s start by cutting your pill in half. The next morning as he looked at me eagerly and asked if I’d slept ok, I couldn’t bear to tell him I’d chickened out and taken my normal dosage. I slept fine, I said, thank you.

Later, I sat across from my therapist and told her about my lie. Think about it this way, she said, are you planning on lying forever? Of course not, I admitted. Then you might as well try tonight, she said, you don’t work until noon tomorrow. But why should I? I pleaded. He’s trying to help but he doesn’t understand. This medicine saved me! I sleep like a baby on it. Why should I give that up?

She thought about my questions for a long pause before she spoke again. Ok, it’s like this, she finally said. It’s like if you came in with chronic pain and they prescribed you cocaine. Guaranteed you wouldn’t feel the pain anymore, but…

But at what price… I finished. Okay. I get it. I’ll try.


Today is day three of only taking half of my pill. The past three nights I have slept, which surprises me. But I feel like total shit. The sleep I’ve had has been light, uncomfortable. Each morning my alarm goes off, I am exhausted. Headaches, nausea, and emotional instability has plagued my past few days. It’ll get better, Chris reminds me, but it will get worse first. Every night I’ve thought about giving up, but only the fear of having to start the withdrawal process over again keeps me in line. I wish he could just Johnny Cash me…basically lock my in a room for weeks and occasionally bring me soup until the whole mess is out of my system. But I have responsibilities, so I have to handle this process like an adult. Ironically, how hard this is is actually what’s helped to convince me it really IS a problem. If Seroquel wasn’t a hardcore drug that was really hooking me, it wouldn’t be so miserable to stop taking it.

Here’s the craziest thing no one tells you though: when you’re trying to quit an addiction, it speaks to you. Seroquel is in my ear every night, reminding me that it saved me, gently crooning that it would never hurt me, reminding me how much better I’ll feel if I just take the other half of my pill. It flares up in anger when anyone puts it down, and the poison spills out of my own mouth as I remind the accuser that they just don’t understand. Addiction has a way of making its victim feel so alone, so misunderstood, when really millions of us have been through the exact same thing.


This isn’t going to turn into one of those blogs. I’m not going to give my readers daily updates of my trials and symptoms and progress and regressions. I’m not writing this to elicit sympathy, God knows many people have it worse than I do. No, I’m sharing this with you because I understand now that it’s this first step that’s so crucial. It doesn’t just apply to our addictions, but our relationships, our dreams, our fears, our world. As a nation we are hurting right now. We’ve become wrapped up in politics, skin color, sexual orientation, agendas that the media shove down our throats. We’ve gone from silently disagreeing with our friend’s opinions to refusing to stay friends with them because they oppose our views. We are being played like fiddles against our brothers and sisters and we could be on the brink of a civil war right now, and why? It’s because so many of us are stuck on step one, and I believe that it’s the hardest step there is. But until we can admit that we have a problem, there is never going to be a possibility of solution. We have to start with the man in the mirror before we even start to blame this person or that person. Then we have to forgive ourselves before we can begin to forgive others. We have to love ourselves before we can truly love others. The journey is long, and it will be hard and uncomfortable and we will want to give up every single day, and it’s not one that we will be able to navigate without support from each other, but it’s on us to take the first step.