Cuba – Part 1

It’s taken me awhile to get the courage up to write about my trip to Cuba.  A lot of traumatic things happened, but a lot of beautiful things happened, too.  At times my trip was complete bliss, and others I was completely terrified. Here’s my story, in parts, because it’s going to be one of the longest things I’ve written in awhile.  I gots a lots to says.

We arrived, exhausted.  The airport was…something else.  I remember landing in the Bahamas and thinking “how adorably small” about the airport.  This was not adorable. It was small, however.

I stepped off the plane and the humidity and heat hit me right away.  I can only liken it to swimming in water – that is how thick the air was.  It was so strong that I began sweating immediately.

We navigated the tarmac until we hit the airport.  Lots of very serious security and soldiers were patrolling the interior of the…very tiny…airport.  Maybe 30,000 square feet?  Maybe?

When I went through customs, I was worried that my U.S. passport would cause a problem.  Not sure if you’ve heard, but the U.S. and Cuba aren’t exactly on good terms. The only problem I experienced was trying to open the door to leave the customs office with a broken door knob.  I guess it was a fitting introduction for the things to come.

Finally, we found our transport bus (WITH AIR CONDITIONING!!!!) and headed to Holguin (hole-geen – g as in get).

It was pitch black for the most part, with only the occasional street light and the headlights from the bus.  The roads looked old, but they were in really great condition. That’s when I noticed something else – there wasn’t a car on the road except for us.  I stared out the front window for signs of life besides us. One or two cars passed by, but that was it for the entire hour ride.

The resort was beautiful, everything except our room was open air.  Quaint, but a little hot (a lot hot) (and good luck finding a breeze) (by the ocean no less – WHERE WAS THE BREEZE).  

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Our room was very clean and nice. But…the veranda door had no handle and the lock was troublesome. We called the front desk and asked for it to be repaired.  The lady, who spoke limited English, sent a maintenance worker over.

He showed us the trick to the lock.  He didn’t fix it…he basically did the whole “jiggle the toilet handle” maneuver.

When we asked him to replace the lock, he shrugged and shook his head. “No replace. No part.”

Oh. I guess that’s how 4 star resorts roll in Cuba.

The beach was beautiful, the resort was beautiful, the food sucked so hard, that we ended up eating salad and pizza most of the time.  Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a low key foodie. From chicken feet to caviar – I’ll eat it (minus brains and bugs…well maybe a deep fried cricket).  This food…was bland as all get out. Not even salt and pepper could save it. It was so bad that my friend and I were talking about all the places we wanted to eat when we got back home.

On day 2 or 3 of our trip, we decided to take a “taxi” into town.  We opted for the horse drawn carriage instead of an antique ’50s Ford Fairlane.  I know a lot of people are drawn to Cuba to see all these cars. And the antiques are in great condition.  But they’re the only cars on the road, until you get into Holguin, but I’ll touch on that later.

The very charming coachman took us into a very small town called Malilla (Ma-lee-ya).


I had never seen anything like it in person.  A lot of different emotions filled me. Sadness for the state the dirt roads and houses and apartments were in.  The hydro lines were few and far between. I imagine many brown or blackouts occur. I wondered if I had made a mistake by leaving the comfort of the resort to see raw, unfiltered Cuba.

“No, bitch.  You can’t ignore this.  You know you can’t. Now it’s time to open your eyes and experience a 3rd world communist country.”

My inner monologue is a jerk.

The roads were dirt, with the occasional outcropping of old remnants of pavement.  Potholes is an understatement. These roads had eroded severely in places and navigating them by car would be impossible.  It was barely possible for the carriage.

Homes and buildings were in disrepair.  Each apartment building sported fading colors that must have been bright at one time.  Red, blue, green…now just dingy dusty versions of their former self. I saw children leaving school, each one in a uniform.  Small carts filled with produce and pulled by bikes stopped near large groups of people to hopefully sell food.

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On the outskirts of town were the farms.  Farms that were struggling due to a lack of rain on the island. We were taken to a fruit farm. It wasn’t what you’d expect. There were no rows of fruit trees.  Instead there were free growing mangoes, papayas, coconut, and other tropical fruits. It looked more like a forest – with a swamp beside it no less. An old couple ran the farm.  Their house was not much better than a shanty and they couldn’t speak a lick of English, but their warmth conveyed their intentions. The old man took a coconut and hacked off the top with a machete.  Then he carved a hole and dropped a straw in. Fresh coconut milk…amazing. We tried all the fruits they had sliced on the table. It was by far the best moment in Cuba. This is what I came to see: the people and the culture.

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I referred to them as abuelo (grandpa) and abuela (grandma).  They were so charming that I was able to relax surrounded by beautiful scenery.  I speak limited Spanish, so I was able to communicate a bit. A lot of communication was done through arm gestures.  

With many hugs all around, we bade them farewell and moved on to the “zoo”.  The zoo was just a house with exotic animals in cages around the perimeter. The woman who ran the zoo had hutias – if you crossed a guinea pig with a bever, you’d get a hutia.  The hutia are endemic to Cuba. There were other creatures and critters too. Alligator, hawks, pigs, etc. I didn’t like the small spaces they had to live in, but I realized quickly that Cuba doesn’t keep pets.  They keep mousers, guard dogs, or exotic animals to woo tourists.

The one major theme I noticed with the houses is that their kitchen was outside and most “appliances” are handmade.  One woman proudly showed us the coffee maker she made. I was impressed with her ingenuity.


After about two hours in Malilla, we were tired, hot and ready to go back to the resort.  I wouldn’t forget what I saw. Ever. It gave a whole new meaning to poverty. It confirmed that what we’ve seen on TV about 3rd world countries is right.  And it proves that communism doesn’t work. More on that later as well.

So far, I found the Cuban people to be welcoming and kind.  Maybe it was because of the proximity of the resort to the town.  Maybe it was because tourists like me who generously tipped everywhere I went.  When everyone, from doctors to sewage workers, make $24 per month, I’m pretty sure tipping is very welcomed and anyone can apply a smile.  But, there was more to their display of kindness. It wasn’t just an act.

To be continued…


Regarding My Kid:  I Choose “Quality” Time

Liam has his first book presentation next month.  

I’m not a Pinterest mom. My husband is more likely to get creative with making his lunches… (he made a bunch of hotdog octopuses once). I don’t hand sew. I’m not “organic.” My kid eats junk food. I let him play a contact sport. I encourage fart jokes. Right now I’m considering industrial strength ear plugs because I just can’t tune out the cartoon he’s watching over and over anymore…I could tell him to turn it off (because holy crap obnoxious), but it’s Saturday Morning, he’s a kid, and so what?

Where I fail at being Super Mom, I try to make up for in different ways and I hope my son sees that. I hope that someday he will understand why mom just doesn’t want to play right now because she needs her time too. It’s not that I don’t want to play, it’s that sometimes my body won’t let me. Or I just need 5 minutes before I explode over the next 3 hours of non-stop Pokémon trivia. I know a lot about Pokémon now.

Iwake up, and nearly everything I do for the rest of the day revolves around my son in some capacity. So when I say I don’t want to play Pokémon or Mario Kart, it’s not always because I don’t want to. It’s because I picked him up from school, made him a snack while he started on his homework. I answered questions and showed him how you can ask Siri a question if you are stumped. I explained that being resourceful will carry him far in life. A person doesn’t need to be a genius, they just need to be motivated and resourceful. So long as you know how to find an answer…to use the resources at your disposal…you’ll never be able to say you didn’t try your best – even if you don’t find the answer.

After dinner, while Anton was taking care of the dishes, Liam and I sat on the couch and started reading his book assignment together.  

I really don’t want to read a Goosebumps book (even if I loved me some RL Stine back in middle school). But I have to. I have to sit on this couch with him and read along with him and ask him questions about what he just read. I will be following him every step of the way, including being available when he needs help preparing his presentation. Because this is his first book presentation, I want to set a precedent for future presentations so he will be equipped with the resources he needs. So that he feels confident in his work.

So, no…I’m not a Pinterest mom. I wish I was. I have visions of being Donna Reed some days. But that probably will never happen. So I hope when Liam looks back on his childhood, he will realize that I spent quality time over quantity. That even if he wanted to play and I didn’t, I still stayed in the same general area as him so we could still spend time together, even if modified. That I loved him enough to read a really goofy book with him when I’d rather be reading my own.

Being a mom is hard. Especially when you realizing you’re starting to instill a work ethic and practical life applications. I question myself on everything because I am shaping a little human into what I hope will grow up to be good, happy, and successful.

TL;DR: kids, am I right?

Everyone Needs a Ladder


For those of you that may have been following along on Facebook, you know I had a really rough week.  In the past 9 years of being epileptic, this is the worst it’s ever been.  ‘Round the clock auras (feels a bit like falling, mixed with anxiety, and other things I can’t describe due to lack of actual definition).  Up to 9 seizures a day.  I have spent many days this week sleeping for 18 hours on average.  Get up.  Have a seizure.  Lay down.  Wake Up.  Eat.  Facebook.  Have a seizure.  Lay down.  Wake Up.  Get ready to pick up the kid from school.  Have a seizure.  Power through the postictal state.  Get him started on homework.  Snooze.  Wake Up.  Have a seizure.  Take the kid to MMA.  Have a seizure.  Try really hard to keep it together.  Go home.  Crash on the couch.  The rest of the night is much of the same as the morning once the husband gets home.

Living this…half life…is hard.  I am sure there are people out there that have it worse than I do, but that doesn’t mean that my epilepsy impacts me in any less of devastating way on an emotional level.

My seizures live in the part of the brain that deals with “fight or flight” – I bet they light up that area like Christmas.  When I come out of a seizure, I have heightened anxiety.  Later, once I’ve calmed down, I have an aura and my anxiety spikes in anticipation.  More often than not, the elevated stress seems to trigger a seizure.  It’s a big old circular mess.

I stand still like a deer in the headlights.  Everyone around me can see my demeanor has changed.  I may have stopped mid-sentence.  Or maybe I stood still suddenly while walking to the kitchen to get a drink.  When this happens, my husband and son are keyed in.  They are waiting like I am waiting.  Will this aura turn into a seizure?

But my thoughts continue past that…

Will this be the time that something really goes wrong?
Crap, look at my husband’s face…he’s already stressed.
Oh, kidlett…don’t look at me that way.  I already feel guilty that you have to worry.
Here we go…
I hate this. 
Did my husband just ask me a question?
I hate this so much.  Just breathe.
Please, someone get the pets away from me.
Close your eyes.  Everything won’t look weird if you can’t see it.
I wasn’t sitting here a few minutes ago…yay seizures.

As much as my seizures affect my anxiety, it affects my mood in other ways, too.

Namely, depression.

When I think of the amount of responsibilities I put on my husband’s shoulder, it breaks my heart.

When I see my 9 year old son jump to attention every time I sigh or make a small gesture that in most cases would be normal…but I’ve perhaps performed these gestures or movements during a seizure.  He’s hyper vigilant.  We all are.  But it hurts me to see my son on edge.  He is mine to worry for.  He is my satellite heart, living outside my body but always attached.  He’s not supposed to worry about me.  At least not this much.

When I can’t help out with my share of the housework, I feel guilty and worried.  It’s not fair to my husband that he should work full time and come home to cook dinner and clean up a bit because I’m out of commission.

When I have seizure after seizure, I feel so helpless and lost.  Will this be my life forever?

Before I know it I am stuck in a metaphorical pit.  It’s dark.  It’s lonely.  It’s scary.  All I have are my thoughts that like to drag me down until I have no hope left at all.

I want to stop existing.  But I can’t choose that option, because for better or for worse, I have to try for my husband that is trying so hard for me.  I have to try for my son, so that he can see that his mother was strong and persevered.  So he can see that he doesn’t have to worry anymore.

But how can I climb out of this pit?  I can see light when I look up, but I don’t know how to get there.  I can hear my family calling me, but I can’t reach them.  I try jumping.  Screaming.  Anything.  The depression has caught hold of me.

I realized some time along the way that the first thing I needed to do is stop punishing myself for things I cannot control.  I can’t control my seizures.  I can’t control that I can’t always carry my fair share of the responsibilities.  I can’t control that I struggle staying awake and functional after a seizure.

It’s hard.  When you carry around such a burden of guilt for those who are caring for you, it’s hard not to punish yourself and fall deeper into depression.  I still have my moments, but I realized I needed to get out of the pit, no matter how.

I build ladders.

In order to get out of the pit, I build myself a ladder everyday.

Get out of bed – one rung.
Get the kid dressed and ready for school – another rung.
Get out of the house – third rung.
Do a chore – fourth rung.

And so on.

Some days I only make it to one rung.  Most days I can at least get three rungs on my ladder.  And there are some days when I lay at the bottom of that pit, simply too exhausted to summon the courage to build my ladder at all.

I haven’t climbed out of the pit yet.  And I don’t know when I will.  But I know that some days I’m able to build my ladder half way.  I can feel the sun on my face and see my family clearly.

So long as I keep building my ladder, I’ll be okay.  And so long as I have my supportive family, I’ll have a reason to keep building until the pit is far behind me.

When you’re down and out – build a ladder.  One step at a time.  Slowly and gently.  You will climb out of whatever pit you may stumble into so long as you keep building.

My Journey With Epilepsy (Part 2)

I will not be using accurate names or initials for any neurologist I worked with.


I remember my initial meeting with Dr. A, my first of four neurologists.  First impressions really are everything and I was left with a bad one right off the bat.  Honestly, I didn’t feel like she really took me seriously.

When I explained my symptoms, Dr. A looked at me and thought it was “so very interesting” and “definitely not a typical case of Epilepsy.”  She “thought” from my description that I might have Simple Partial Seizures, but I wasn’t a “textbook case” so she sent me for an MRI.

Guess what?  My MRI came back completely normal.  No signs of damage or epilepsy anywhere.  Great.

My follow-up appointment was about as useful as tits on a mule, but I still remained hopeful as she explained that “maybe” it was epilepsy.  She prescribed Topamax and sent me on my way.

Oh the joys of Topamax.  Aside from turning into a bumbling idiot, I also experienced random bouts of my hands and feet falling asleep.  If I became hot, a ton of tiny water blisters would appear on my arms and stomach.  Summer was intolerable.  Working out was intolerable (at one point I tried Crossfit and the heat really made it unbearable).  Apparently Topamax causes weight loss.  Not for me.  What’s worse was that it didn’t slow down my seizures at all.

The next appointment, I explained all my NEW symptoms and she decided to up the dose of the Topamax, despite my complaints about the side effects.  She treated me as if I was a guinea pig and that was the last thing I needed.  I contacted my family doctor and asked for another referral.

A few months later I was sitting in Dr. B’s office.  She came highly recommended and apparently was an epilepsy specialist.  I had renewed hope.

And then the hope went right out the window.

I won’t deny it.  I weighed between 220 and 230 lbs.  But I don’t think the first words out of a Neurologist’s mouth should be “Hmm…you need to lose weight.”  Especially if the Dr. is a portly woman, not too far off from my (then) current weight.

I was too stunned to question her.

Speaking of, I need to back track for a minute.  The time period between seeing Dr. A and Dr. B was difficult.  I wasn’t convinced I had simple partial seizures.  I did a lot of research.  Was it the pre-eclampsia?  When they performed the nerve block before my c-section, did that do something funky that affected my brain in some way?  Hundreds more questions filled my head over that time period.  Could my obesity have caused seizures?  Maybe.  But it’s not like I suddenly got fat when I was pregnant.  I was overweight long before that and never had a seizure.  So what exactly changed to make the seizures happen?

My husband and I kept a seizure diary.  We recorded the days I had the seizures and how often during each day.  We showed this to Dr. B and pointed out that my seizures increased significantly the week before my period.

“I don’t think that has anything to do with it.  Are you sure you aren’t having panic attacks?”

Lord, if I could have reached across her desk and smacked her upside the head, I would have.  I explained to her that I lived with anxiety for a very long time and that panic attacks were familiar to me.  This was not a panic attack.

“I guess they could be non-epileptic seizures.  Or complex partial seizures.”

So now “Simple Partial Seizures” was crossed off the list, and two different types of seizures were added.  Dr. B also upped my dose of Topamax again, completely ignoring the fact that I was experiencing well-known side effects.  Was this the ONLY drug on the market for seizures?

I also had developed a tremor in my left hand.  I showed it to Dr. B and her response was: “That’s not related to your issue.  It’s a red herring.”  That was it.  No attempt to investigate further or help resolve the issue.

There were a couple more visits with Dr. B that were fruitless.  Another MRI.  Lots of EEGs.  Bloodwork and so on.

Dr. B referred me to the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU).  I had no idea what that entailed, except that I would be monitored in the hospital for an extended period of time.  Dr. B said the EMU would contact me the moment a bed opened up and they would give me 1-3 days notice.  Lemme tell you how much my job liked that…

“Oh, by the way, I’m going to be needing some time off in the near future for an unspecified amount of days.”

They didn’t say much, but they certainly weren’t happy that I didn’t have any further information than that.  Trust me – this particular situation gets way worse as the story goes on.

Somewhere around this time, Dr. B finally relented and agreed that the Topamax wasn’t working.  She put me on Tegretol.  Holy crap – if I thought Topamax was bad, Tegretol was 10x worse.   It spiked my anxiety to such a degree that I couldn’t get out of bed without being terrified of everything and nothing at the same time.  My husband called Dr. B and advocated for me since she certainly didn’t take my word for anything.  You know what she put me on next?  Topamax.  Seriously.  I guess someone with seizures only has access to 2 types of drugs…but I am digressing.

To give you an idea of where we are in the timeline, it had been about 3-4 years at this point that I had been suffering from seizures.  I was frustrated and tired.  I had already lost one job due to my illness, and while I should have sued the shit out of them, my boss had wads of cash and could hold up the legal process indefinitely.  (Also, I did call quite a few lawyers from here to Toronto…none of them would even talk to me because of “conflict of interest” – seriously…leave some lawyers for the rest of us, you selfish, narcissistic piece of shit.  But really, I’m not bitter.)

The EMU call finally came.  I was settled into my “new” job for a year at that point.  They were aware of my seizures (and were witness to at least half) and I had provided lots of information from my doctor to protect myself.  I gave them 1 day’s notice.  The EMU called on a Friday and I had to be there on Monday.  There was no real scheduling for the EMU.  A bed would open when the team felt like they had enough data and would send a patient home.

Unfortunately, month end was coming up and anyone who has worked closely with a finance department knows that month end is when all hell breaks loose.  So they were one down and others would have to cover my work.  Not a single fuck was given by my employer or coworkers about my health.  They were too angry with *me* personally and not the situation.  I mean, it’s not as if I was doing this just to ruin their monotonous, petty lives.

Do you know what it’s like to work in a place where your health issues are treated as an inconvenience?  Where you can just see your employer chomping at the bit to find a legit way to fire you?  Where you actually round the corner and hear your ENTIRE department talking about you under semi- hushed tones?  Most of you probably do – the workplace sucks more often than not.

I try my best to maintain a solid work ethic.  I felt as if I wasn’t being fair to my employer and coworkers by being sick.  So, I’d work late hours and on the weekend to keep up with my work load and be less of a burden on my peers.  Didn’t matter.

Anyhow, I carried my anxiety and guilt with me as I packed my bags and checked myself into the hospital.

The following 8 days would provide me with a glimmer of hope.  Some justification.  And, because you can’t have the good without the bad, confusion and division among the EMU’s team of neurologists.

-To Be Continued

My Journey With Epilepsy (Part 1)

October 10, 2008 marks the day that my life changed.  For better and worse.

At 2:11 in the afternoon, I performed my greatest achievement.  The best thing I will ever do in my life.  My “pièce de résistance.”

I gave birth to my son.

My near magical female body grew and nurtured this tiny little being and then, with the help of a c-section, a little dude entered the world that provides me with so much joy.  (Shout out to my husband who contributed…and for being really awesome while I was pregnant.)

Then my near magical body decided that it wasn’t so magical anymore…it broke.

My pre-eclampsia resulted in a surprise induction at 36 weeks.  Luckily, the gestational diabetes I was diagnosed with during the 3rd trimester disappeared within hours of my son being born.  My high blood pressure; however, wouldn’t go down.  Thus began the litany of doctors and nurses…

“Your blood pressure should come down in a day or two.”

“We can’t bring your blood pressure down.”

“We can’t let you go home until your blood pressure goes down.”

“I’m not comfortable with you leaving the hospital when we still can’t control your blood pressure.”

“I understand you’ve been here for 5 days and you want to be with your family on Thanksgiving.”

“You’re being discharged against our wishes.  Return to the ER if your blood pressure goes any higher.”

So I left the hospital with my husband and my newborn.  I had prepared myself mentally to accept this would be a hard year as we learn to be parents by losing sleep and being exhausted all the time.  I was officially a mom.

I remember 3 days after I was released from the hospital laying as still as possible because my blood pressure was 200/117.  On medication.  I was afraid if I moved a muscle, I would have a stroke.  So I laid there, on the couch at my in-laws, too afraid to be alone, looking at my baby and praying that I wouldn’t die.  I had a few trips to the ER and a couple to my doctor, but around the end of the first month, my blood pressure normalized with the proper medication.

It was around that time that I had my first “spell”.  I remember sitting in the passenger’s seat of our old Sentra while my better half was driving.  I had this awful sensation come over me. I was afraid to look at my arms because they felt like they were melting into my lap.  I was certain that I would look down and see my lap and lower arms tangled into a saggy mess like that of a Dali painting.  My mouth watered.  My anxiety spiked.  I had a memory so vibrant that it could have been in my field of vision, but once it passed, I couldn’t recall anything.  When the spell ended, I immediately had a headache and wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.

Despite the confusion, I shrugged off the incident.  Maybe it was just some weird postpartum thing.  My body was doing weird things on the regular, so I thought maybe that was normal for weird?

A week passed and it happened again.  What the hell was going on?

I tried to explain to my husband what happened, but it was so damn hard just to liken the experience to something human.  Something anyone – including myself – could relate to.

A few more spells and we were fairly sure this wasn’t supposed to be a “thing” that went with all the other weirdness of postpartum life.  I went to see my family doctor.  By my description of the events, I’m fairly sure he must have considered “bat shit crazy” as one of the potential diagnoses.  The exploration began with blood tests and continued on with this test, that test, and the other tests.

We were all stumped. The spells kept continuing.  None of us could pin point what was going on.  That’s when I turned to the mysterious wonder that is the internet.

I sat at my computer, my son asleep in the baby swing behind me.  I pulled up Google and typed:

“postpartum spells dizzy tired headache pregnant mouth water spaced out”

Obviously that’s not verbatim, but I’m sure I typed something similar to that.

Let me tell you, if you google any word and “postpartum” together, you will find that you most likely have cancer.  (Okay, not really, but how many of us have fell down the WebMD hole and wound up with cancer as a possible diagnosis?)  Honestly, I couldn’t find anything that resonated with my experience.  I decided to add “pre-eclampsia” to the search.


Apparently people who suffer from pre-eclampsia could also have seizures depending on whether or not the pre-eclampsia turned into eclampsia.

Seizures?  Is that what I was having?  Seizures??  My childhood dog had epilepsy when I was a kid, but I certainly didn’t look like he did.  I wasn’t falling over, eyes rolling into the back of my head and tongue hanging out.  I wasn’t convulsing.  But, I had nothing better to go with, so I printed off some material and headed back to my doctor.

I’m really fortunate.  My family doctor takes patient input into account.  I think his willingness to consider my thoughts to be one of the reasons why I was able to keep the faith that I would find an answer.  I could have had a doctor that wasn’t interested in the amount of work it would take to find a diagnosis.  I could have had an egotistical doctor that made snide remarks if I tried to suggest an idea.

I tried my best to explain what I found online and how it “might” correlate to my current condition.  He agreed that we had nothing to lose and he referred me to, what would be, the first of several neurologists.

-To Be Continued

Culture Shock!


I’m adopted.

Mom is full Italian.

Dad is full Polish.

I mean, we haven’t had one of those fancy pants DNA tests to know for sure, but both sets of grandparents were the same respective culture, so I’m sticking with full Italian/Polish for the sake of this blog post and because I’m stubborn when I’m trying to make a point.

Growing up in my house meant antipasto, pasta, sauce that takes all day to cook, mushroom stew, manicotti, prosciutto…and then kapusta, bigos, kielbasa, pierogi, golabki…well you get the idea.  And then there are the cultural influences from both sides.  Maybe the occasional Italian/Polish swear word.  Sometimes dropping a vowel off the end of words. Hearing a stern “capisci” after being lectured.

My parents look extremely European with brown eyes, dark brown hair, olive skin…

And then there was me – blue eyes, brown hair, fair skin, freckles…

I knew I was different by virtue of knowing I was adopted and the clear divide between the way I looked compared to my parents.  I’ve heard people say that I look so much like my mom, but I’ve never seen it at all.  Sometimes I think people say that to have something to say when they find out I’m adopted.  “Oh my goodness!  I never would have guessed!  Your daughter looks like you!”  Meanwhile, my cousin looks like she could be my dad’s daughter and I stand out like Wilt Chamberlain at an Abstinence Convention. (Is that really a thing?)

I never felt truly connected to Italian or Polish culture.  It felt like a skill I learned, as if I learned a new language.  Just because I could speak the language, didn’t mean it was in my DNA.  I was a welcomed spectator, but never really Italian or Polish.

Earlier this year, I had the joy of meeting my biological family.  My background is English and Scottish.  I never grew up around those cultures, so I don’t feel connected to that culture either.

What do I know about Scotland?  Kilts and haggis?  William Wallace?

What do I know about England?  The Queen?  Big Ben?  The Beatles?  Bangers and Mash?

This morning I told my husband about my thoughts.  “Considering all of this, do I even have the right to claim any culture?  What category do I fit into?”

My husband stood with his arms crossed, contemplating for a moment.  “Southern.”


“America has so many different cultures.  If you feel like you can’t claim the cultures you know, then yours is Southern American.”

I sat on that for a minute while he continued.  “Think about it…its a culture you were raised in.  It affects your beliefs.  It colors your views on things.  Everything you do and think, for the most part, uses your Southern culture as framework.   For example, you cook lots of Southern delicacies.  You teach our son to say Mr./Ms., Sir, Ma’am, pardon and other forms of politeness.  When your accent comes out…  You have a strong opinion on Civil Rights.  These are all things that came from your background…your culture.”

I suppose that’s true.  I am a Southerner that has personal experience with other cultures.  I can relate to Italians and Polish because I learned aspects of those cultures from my parents.  But I was raised in the South and that’s where I planted my roots without even realizing it way back when.  Even though I’m in Canada now, my roots will always be in Tennessee.

And I’m okay with that. 🙂


When it feels bad to lose weight.


I received the largest dose of fat shaming reality ever yesterday.  And, ironically I was the culprit and the victim.

If you didn’t know, I’m on a Ketogenic diet.  It’s been successful and I’ve lost over 50 lbs since February.   With that said…

Yesterday I walked into a convenience store and the, admittedly, attractive guy behind the counter starting flirting and joking in a very innocent way with me, despite the long line.  I, per usual, dropped my gaze and gave my obligatory chuckle when I feel like a situation is awkward.

Real talk:  It felt great.

Realest talk:  It felt horrible.

Obviously, being complimented in such a way feels good.

But in that moment, I realized that since my weight loss, I’ve been getting more attention from people of both sexes.  People come up and compliment me, they’re kinder to me, the looks on their faces isn’t one of disdain.

It broke my heart.

Was I not worthy of attention before?  Were my words not good enough because of the way I looked?  Was my obesity so offensive that people naturally just kept me at arms length?  (I’m not including any friends or family – y’all are the best, always).

To come to that realization really hurt.  Was it just me all this time?  Was it society’s perception of fat people?  Was it both?

I was always the “not quite pretty enough or thin enough” in my group of friends back in High School and University.  Maybe that was just my own perception of myself.  I guess even pessimists can also be narcissists…

If we went out on a Friday night, all of my other friends would get “the guys” – I would get “the guys” too…but in that way where they like talking to me as a pal.  If you’re stigmatized by your appearance, you learn to make up for it in different ways.  You either shut yourself off from the world, or build up a skill to make people interested in you as a human.  For example, I learn a little bit about everything.  I admit that some nights I find myself on Wikipedia for hours.  I try to be as eclectic as possible.  Because of this, I can be a good conversationalist.  People enjoy engaging with me and eventually they sort-of see me and not the fat…  I had as many guy friends as I did girl friends…but I didn’t have many boyfriends during that time.

As some may have seen, I posted a photo of myself that clearly displayed my freckles.  I try my best to hide them in photos, but after yesterday, and some self reflection on my relationship with obesity, I’ve decided to own my body from this point forward.  Take me as I am or leave me.  If my appearance or personality offends you, then you’re more than welcome to bounce out of my life before I throw you out. ^_^

To try to bring it back to my original statement about fat shaming…

Every last judgement I ever experienced because of my obesity came crashing down on me at one time.  In a lot of ways, it was like watching my life flashing before my eyes.  I saw memories of being told I was fat in high school, that I needed to lose weight to continue pointe ballet (I wasn’t fat – I just think my body was suited more towards athletics).  How I would be treated at jobs – I was the resourceful, go-to idea girl, but all the praise went to the slimmer coworkers instead and eventually I noticed that pattern.  I wasn’t asked to certain functions with high level executives – even though I knew my shit up and down.  A cuter rep from our department would be chosen.  Nevermind that I was the one in charge of it all.

No one has to find fat people attractive.  I’m not saying you have to become super PC around the obese.  Not everything is fat shaming.  The word fat exists.  The actual fat exists.  The health risks exist.  No one can deny that.  But, when it comes to social interaction if you see the fat first and catch yourself making a mental judgement, take note.  Condition yourself to see the average Joe or Jane first – not their fat.  And if you think that’s impossible…at least be cognizant of it.

I feel like I’m rambling at this point and I probably am.  TL;DR:  Fat.