Friday, February 20, 2015

Go ahead, ask me.

Looking back on the amount of time that has passed since I last wrote anything in this medium, it has occurred to me that the original intent of “Stroke of Genius” seems no longer applicable to my life.  I began this blog as my way to mentally and emotionally process the recovery of my stroke while coming to terms with all the demons I carried with me prior.  It’s been just over five years since I fell ill, and although I have been “well” for a long time, I still feel the need to write and share experiences.  But I no longer want this to be about me and my process.  I want it to be about yours.
I want to share my perspective on life and all the craziness that goes along with it.   Bring a little common sense, calm, objectiveness, and, most of all, truth to the table.  I spend a great deal of time online these days.  I am reading news online, seeing posts on social medial sites, and participating in group conversations about the world with my friends and colleagues.   In these exchanges, I can sometimes see simple resolution for life’s dilemmas.   People come to me and ask my view.  Wonder what I would do.  Sometimes just looking for a non-judgmental ear that will not force opinions or condemnation down their throats.  I believe, (and I say this with complete humility), I get it.   What I mean is that I see life for what it is.  Temporary.  Fleeting.  Frustrating.  Simple.  Amazing.   

2014 was an enormous year of change for me.  More so than almost dying.  Because I actually feel like I kinda did die and was reborn.  (No, I have not become some crazy snake toting church freak).  On the cusp of turning 40, I completely overhauled my life.  And am still immersed in the process.  I made some of the most difficult decisions of my life this past year.  I pressed the pause button HARD.  Then completely restarted the tape in a whole new direction.  Has it all been seamless?  Hell no.  Am I where I desire to be?  Not yet.  But in ending the most significant relationship in my life, picking up and leaving all that had come to be my security and norm behind, jumping ship on a secure job to pursue being closer to where home truly felt to me, and reconnecting with people who I wanted in my life, has taught me a whole hell of a lot about myself and others.  Of course I still worry.  My current bouts of freaking out are because I am two months deep into looking for a good job.  After returning to Pittsburgh with no job, I landed, (what I thought), was a great one.  It was challenging, the money was good, and it had a ton of future growth potential.  I settled into the work.  I bought a home of my own.  I was developing new relationships and rekindling old ones.  It was all falling into place.   Then after my very first mortgage payment, I lost that great job.  This added to the stress and woe of Briscoe, my beautiful sweet German shorthaired pointer, dying.  Being that I hate to be idle, (and I needed to stop crying about my dog), I refocused my mind to get by and grabbed a fun yet mindless retail job to get my ass through the holidays.   Since that has ended I have tirelessly applied for jobs and tried to leverage every contact I have to secure something promising.  It’s a work in progress.  I know something will break. At this point it’s a numbers game.

Lately I have become increasingly antsy.  Like I said, I don’t do idle well.  Starting the New Year unemployed was not my ideal. I clean my house and work out to stay even keeled but that only works so much.  I began thinking about what I could do that would keep me engaged and also be of some service to others while I continue my job search.  I looked into volunteer opportunities but it’s amazing how many hoops people who want help make you jump though to give it.  So I started thinking even further outside the proverbial box.  Reflecting on posts, news, and conversations, I had his overwhelming urge to share my thoughts with people in a constructive and applicable way. I am not quite sure why, but I feel the need to open up the floodgates of my mind and invite everyone in to pick through the contents.
So here it is.  Ask me.  ANYTHING.  I am here to provide advice, perspective, and an answer to ANY question for which you desire an answer no matter what the context or conundrum.  Privacy and/or anonymity will always be respected.  I hate to say it’s an “advice column” of sorts, but I guess it can be.  I am lucky.  I have a very unique perspective on life and what it means to be alive.  Again, I share this with no pompous or conceit.  I do not have any sense of over self-importance.  Nor am I searching for any monetary gain in this venue.   I simply want to engage and assist.  I was granted a great deal of sense in this life and almost losing it all has brought me even closer to appreciate the world and being able to reground myself in any situation.  These past five years I have grown immensely and have learned a great deal about the human condition.   It’s amazing what you see when you are forced to step back.  An objective honest view is the greatest thing you can give or receive.   The lessons learned are immeasurable.

 My biggest lesson?  I am stronger than I ever thought possible.  And so are you.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Thanks to a nasty viral infection, I am spending my first Thanksgiving divorced and in my new home, alone.   I am contagious so it is not a good idea to be around anyone or partake in holiday festivities.  I am exhausted from coughing and in general feel like hell.

But I am thankful. 

I haven't blogged in a long time.  The desire to write hasn't escaped me, its just that life seems to never stop throwing me curve balls.   My move back to Pittsburgh earlier this year came with all kinds of excitement and trepidation, but it happened.  Although it scared the shit out of me to move without a job or a home, I did it.  Allowing myself to accept the kindness and generosity of a dear friend, I lived in limbo, in someone else's space, for six months while I secured a new job then found my own home.  Shortly after I purchased my home, I lost my job.  See more curve balls. 

Now I am in my home, working part time during the holidays to get me through until I can land another secure gig.  As the holidays approached, despite my less than ideal employment situation, I was excited to be in Pittsburgh and looking forward to a season full of fun.  Although the season has not begun in an ideal fashion, I know it will get better.  And I will be well soon.

I have seen all these posts online about people doing their annual gratitude lists. Perhaps to remind themselves, and each other, of all the good things in life. 

Since I have lots of time to think and reflect I decided to dust off  the old blog and write.  The past year has been a truly difficult one.  The gratitude I have for making it through without losing my mind is beyond measure.   So on this Thanksgiving eve, (as I type while coughing my head off), I present to you my gratitude list...

#1  Always, always, always My health.  Even though I have a virus and am "sick" today,  I am able bodied and alive.  No matter how shitty I feel physically on any given day for the rest of my life, I will be humbled and grateful for my body and its abilities.   I could never take my health and mobility granted again if I tried. 

#2 My amazing friends.  I turned 40 in May and never did I feel so much love as I did at that time.  My friends gathered for and around me to celebrate my life and birth.  It was one of the most fantastic and moving days I'd ever experienced.  My friends are the family I have chosen, and I have chosen well.  These people are in my life to stay and have never let me down.  They know who they are and they know how much I reciprocate their love. 

#3 My resolve.  I am thankful that I have the will to be strong when needed and am capable of bouncing back from almost anything.  Emotionally, mentally, physically I can be a rock.  I do not say this with conceit, but with the appreciation this resolve was instilled in me at a young age and I have finally learned to own it in a positive and productive way. 

#4 My home.  I am living in a home that is all mine.  This space I occupy is mine alone and I am the queen of my castle.  There is no one to answer to, consider, or obey.  (Well except maybe Linus, my dog LOL).  I have gotten to a point in my life where I can and am fully standing on my own two feet in every way.  I know that I did not make the journey alone to get here, but I have arrived.  Although scary some days, it feels amazing.

#5 Love.  Funny how a recent divorcee is thankful for love.  But I am.  Although love has not always turned out the way I'd believed or hoped, it has taught me much about the world and myself.   Because of love I am able to not give up on it or myself. 

There are many more things one can be grateful for, but as I lay in bed tomorrow sipping tea and hopefully not coughing as much as I am tonight, it will be these five things I think of.   

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Last Look

Four years have passed.   I am just about looking down the eye of forty and can't believe how
thirty-five feels like a lifetime ago. How quickly time goes on.

I have spent the last several months being ridiculously reflective.  With all my life changes in 2013, I have had a lot to think about.  I have had a great deal to look back on.  Now is the time for me to turn my head, my thoughts, and my life forward. 

Four years ago today I was dying.  I didn't know it, but I was playing with death. Disguised as an unbelievably debilitating headache, my brain was slowly dying.   I would have been suffering this pain for five days by now.  Only to succumb to the annoyance of being in pain and the desire to return to work, would I seek medical help in another day.  Why I didn't go now, or days before, I have no idea.  Why I went the day I did, not really sure either.  But the decision saved my life.  It was not divine intervention.  It was not a knowledge based decision.  It was luck. Nothing more.

Its funny when I think back to the stroke, really think back, I remember the pain and not much else.  I am so far removed from that ordeal I don't even feel like it happened to me.  Like it was a dream I had or something I heard about from someone else.  But it is not.  It did happen to me.  And although I do not remember it all in great detail, I am living the effects of it every day I breathe.  As each day passes I embrace more and more of myself, finding gratitude and acceptance where my path has led and continues to lead me.

Tomorrow marks fours years since my stroke.  My thirties are over in May.  I begin a new a decade, a new chapter.  Leaving my thirties and all that those years encompassed behind me.  This will be the last year I commemorate my stroke.  I triumph over death every day.  We all do in one way or another.  I do not want to hang on to this experience and have it define me.  Will I reflect on it down the road?  Of course.  Yet it is no longer something I need to recognize as a milestone.  Everyday is a milestone. 

I got a fortune cookie that said, "Remember yesterday, but live for today". An all too appropriate sentiment for me.  Not to mention damn good advice.

So tomorrow I would be four years dead.  I am not dead.  I am very much alive and plan on being around for a long time to come. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013


As the holiday approaches I am filled with emotion.  Excitement, wonder, love, and sadness all fill my heart.  But the one thing I feel above all else is gratitude.

I think some expect me to be melancholy and humbugish about the whole season, (being as I am alone waiting for the finality of my divorce and I am not overtly close with my family), but I am not.  I am hopeful.  There are little things this year I will miss.  Going to the farm and picking out a tree, attending holiday parties, throwing holiday parties, decorating my home, and the like.   But alas I am only missing those things this one year.  For next I will be in a more permanent dwelling and will be surrounded by friends and some family who I can enjoy the holiday with all season long.

Although I am missing those few things at the moment, I am still going to have an excellent holiday.  I am going home to see people who love me and will embrace me, welcoming me into their homes for great conversation, excellent food, and tons of fun, relaxed company.  I will not be alone.  And for that I am grateful.

I have been seeing these gratitude lists all over the place this year.  I am not normally a fan of such lists, as I believe people should express gratitude for life everyday not just during the holidays.  But in the spirit of the season that so many seem to be in, I will share my brief and concise list here.

I am grateful I can control my body.  I am mobile and can do everything from feed myself, tie my shoes, bathe myself, drive my truck, and so on.  I remind myself everyday to be triumphant in these silly mundane things as they are more precious that we realize.

I am grateful for my friends.  I have a select few that I love to the core.  My friends are my family and have always shown me kindness, love, humor, and acceptance no matter where I was in my life.  Those who I speak of know who they are.  They offer me strength, support, guidance, and a kick in the ass when needed.  My world would be a very dark place without them.

I am grateful for love.  Yes, this might be a head scratcher coming from a woman in the midst of divorce, but it is true.   Love has saved me on more than one occasion.  Love helped me grow.  Love tended to me when I was ill.  Love sat at my feet and brought me comfort in fear and grief.  Love gave me courage. Love gave me hope.  I am lucky to know what its like to be loved.  Love has introduced me to myself.  More now than ever.  And that is a wonderful thing.  Love has taught me lessons I never thought I could learn.  So for it, I am grateful and believe I will know love all of my life, even if its just continuing to cultivate it within myself.

In looking at this next chapter, I am grateful.  For what I have lived and for the experiences to come.

And I am grateful for the time others give to me. So, to all of you who read this, thank you.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Its been eight months since I last blogged.  A great deal has happened in those eight months and I feel like I am ready to open myself again.

After the stroke, I spent tons of time thinking about my life and the direction I want it to go.  I've lamented long and hard on the life I had lived thus far, coming to the painstaking conclusion that my wants, my desires, and my happiness are mine and only mine to claim.  As much as I wanted to force myself to stay the course I was on, I simply could not.  I wanted to want to keep the status quo of my life and want the same things my husband, Keane wanted.  But I did not. I do not. 

I moved out of our home April 29th.  I filed for divorce September 30th.  I cried uncontrollably from September 30th until October 3rd. I broke down in the attorney's office in front of Keane and I was emotional toast.  I literally didn't stop crying.  I felt as if I never would.  I cried so hard I vomited twice in those four days.  I cried so hard my abdomen and back ached for a week after.  I had realized although I loved Keane and was grieving the end of our life together, I was also permitting myself to grieve every loss I had ever suffered.  The divorce was the emotional straw that broke the camel's back.  I grieved my father, my mother, my heinous relationship with my sister, every pet I'd ever lost, the years I lost not loving myself because I didn't know how, my stroke, and my divorce.  It was a painful and wretched four days.  But I survived it. 

Keane and I still talk regularly and share the responsibility of our four legged "children".  We have always maintained civility, amicability, and general kindness to one another despite any pain we may have caused.  Although I can not speak for him, nor would I try to, I am grateful that I am able to do my part in keeping things copacetic between us during all this.  It doesn't make it easier per se, but it does make it a little less awful.

Living alone again after fourteen years has been an interesting journey in and of itself.  When you are in a marriage you foster and maintain accountability to another person in all things.  For me, that is no more.  And it was a change that felt weird to embrace. I've been alone for six months now.  I am discovering more in my day to day while fostering relationships with others in my life, and most importantly myself. 

I still often wonder if there is a "why" I am here.  What am I to do with the second chapter at life?  I have set goals for myself and intend to live life as an adventure full of experiences, be them euphoric or hellish.  I look forward to the next season in my life and moving away from Harrisburg back to where my friends and family are, surrounding myself with people who love and are connected with me. 

It is important for me to acknowledge that I love Keane.  I respect Keane.  The fifteen years I spent with him helped shape the woman I have become.  The care and generosity of self he has given to me, especially during my recovery, are more than anyone could have ever asked of another person.  And I do have immense sadness, and even guilt, in leaving someone who has given me so much.  Yet my life is a gift to me and I chose to honor that gift by living truly and wholly for myself in the desire of finding peace and happiness.  It may seem selfish and obtuse to someone reading this who does not truly know me, but it is how I feel and the road in which I choose to follow.  Even as I know not where it may take me.

So I have found myself,  yet again, feeling the need to be open.  Which is why I write today.  I want to be an open soul to the world and embrace all the world cares to send me.  I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life and all the change it will bring.

Friday, March 15, 2013


We are the only species that isn't born with some natural adornment.  No spots, stripes, patterns, feathers, or plumage of any kind.  Yes we have skin and hair, and some of us have freckles or birthmarks, but it not really the same. 

Tattooing has become pretty mainstream over the last twenty years, but I've always has a fascination with body art.  When I was very little (when only bikers or whores has tats – as my old aunt used to say), I would stop and stare intently at the old guy at the diner that my dad used to take me to, who had a sleeve.  I would look at all the colors and lines trying to decipher the story he was telling on his skin.  As a little girl of five or six, It was a wonder to me how it all got there.

I began asking my mother if I could get a tattoo around the age of ten.  I asked her every year from ten until I was seventeen.  The answer was always the same; “You can get a tattoo on three conditions; you earn the money to pay for it yourself, you are eighteen years old, and you are no longer living under my roof”.  Every year I asked and every year mom gave me that standard line.  So when I turned eighteen, I had moved out and went off to college.  And for my eighteenth birthday my mom gave me money.  She looked me square in they eye and said, “I know where this money is going.  Please just tell me you bought clothes with it.”  Then she smiled and shook her head, knowing what a stubborn headstrong daughter she had raised.  I kissed her and replied, “Hey, two outta three ain't bad”. 

I had already scoped out the place I wanted to go.  Back then you didn't need appointments, consultations or all the booking that goes on today to get inked.  You just walked in and they put your ass in the chair and gave you what you wanted. 

I took the fifty bucks my mom gave me for my birthday (yes tattoos were much less expensive back then too) and went to the shop.  I knew what I wanted and where I wanted it; I just had to get a proper visual.

Here I sit almost 21 years later and I still have that little red devil with an “A” on its ass on my left hip.  Thankfully still in the same spot it was originally placed. Not the most distinguished piece ever inked but it still represents the young girl I was.  And how part of her stays with me as I have grown. 

My body has been adorned with ink three more times since then.  All my pieces are relatively concealed and have important significance to me.

As I approach my 39th year of life, I am going through a great deal of personal, emotional, financial, and physical changes.  My life since the stroke has reintroduced me to the person I sometimes forgot I was or was ashamed to be.  In the past few years I have embraced some things that have allowed me to try, I stress the word TRY, to become ok with myself.  I am still a work in serious progress, but as long as the progress continues I think I will be ok.

I decided for my 39th birthday I wanted to gift myself the expression of my continued evolution and strength.  I commissioned another piece, which will be, by far, my largest (and most expensive) to date.  It embodies a representation of what I strive for as a human being while embracing my love of certain things.  With that my desire for body art continues.  I look forward to nothing more than sitting in the chair and feeling the sting of the needle adorning me with color and pristine design, only to come away with an amazing representation of the mental and physical journey that is my life. 

For me, getting a tattoo is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.  This leg of my journey will have one hell of a reminder when it is all said and done.

Monday, February 4, 2013


I find that in this journey of self-discovery I am doing more things for me.  It often feels quite wrong and selfish, but I am trying to explore myself in ways I never have before. It has been a very difficult thing to not only face the things I perceive as wrong with myself and my life, but it also sometimes hard to embrace what is right for me.  What I want, desire, feel that I need.  My goals for myself are not always necessarily in line with what others think they should be or even in tune with goals of other important people in my life.  Everyone is an individual.  Everyone has to do and know what is best for them.  I am still trying to figure that out.  I know what I WANT but I often question if my wants are in line with what I really need.  I don’t care to be, consciously or subconsciously, self destructive in any way.  I want to evolve.  Elevate.  Blossom.  Flourish.  I have no idea how to do that other than to continue this journey of honestly and self exploration through this blog.

I look back at the young woman I was when I was a college student.  I was wild, a ridiculously free spirit.  I had a ton of grown up responsibility but with that came immense freedom to do as I damn well pleased.   I didn't have the guidance and structure most kids my age did.  Now, I didn't go off to college and go on a hedonistic free for all.  I just made my day-to-day decisions as I wanted and committed myself to things that were of importance to me.  And I smoked a lot of pot LOL 

As an adult approaching middle age, I want to get back to that sense of freedom.  I do not desire a carefree life free of struggle and responsibility, but I desire the autonomy to be the only person affected by my decisions.  Of course I know that is hardly ever the case but it was for me at one time.  There are days I long for that again.  With that complete autonomy comes lots of fun, but also immeasurable loneliness. And trust me, I have experienced both.  It would be nice to find a balance. 

Balance.  That word keeps haunting me a lot. 

I am alive, among the living.  I want to start experiencing the gift of my life.  I am tired of planning, waiting.  My time is now.