The One I Couldn’t Write

As the music poured through the car speakers and the tears streamed down my face, I thought to myself, “This is it. I’m finally ready to write about her.”

And yet, here I am, seven hours later, still unable to put two sentences together without punching the “delete” key in utter frustration.

How do you write about the woman who both shaped and was an integral part of every facet of your being for 27 years? How do you squish all that into a neatly-worded blip on a blog?

Apparently you don’t.

So I’m going to try something else- I’m just going to tell you about my morning. We’ll start there and see how it goes.

Actually, wait. Let’s start with last Tuesday.

There I was, absent-mindedly rifling through the wreath section at Kohls, when I heard my phone beep.

My mind went right to the most-likely scenarios. Either Vince was puking on the playground or Grace was burning up and clutching her “bad” ear. It couldn’t possibly be anything else at 1pm on a Tuesday.

It couldn’t be my husband- it was way too early for the “what should I start for dinner?” text.

It couldn’t be my mother- we had literally just ended our daily lunchtime conversation.

It couldn’t be a job offer.

Wait. Wait…back up to that last one.

It was, in fact, a job offer.  Well, sort of.

I read the text, blinked, read it again, blinked…you get the idea.

The marketing director at my friend’s company wanted to hire a freelance writer. He wanted to talk to me.

He wanted to talk to me?!

“Sure!” I replied casually, dancing around the wreaths like I was doing some sort of sacred ritual and also had an uncontrollable urge to pee.

Fast-forward to later that afternoon, when the marketing director interviewed me over the phone and told me he had read my blog and really enjoyed my writing style.

“Oh, you’ve seen the blog? I’m so glad you enjoy it!” I replied casually, doing another sacred ritual/pee dance around my office.

Over the next few days, there was a lot of “Someone read my blog!” followed by “Someone wants to PAY me to WRITE!”- both of which were inevitably rounded out by the ritual/pee dance.

So now that you’re caught up, we can go back to this morning.  The morning of my in-person interview with the marketing director and the president of the company.

Oh, did I forget to mention that?

As you can imagine, I was a pillar of Zen.

So I was driving to work in my Zen-like state- and definitely not mentally rehearsing various disastrous scenarios that involved me walking into the conference room door, tripping over my boots, or choking on my gum- and she popped into my head.

She’s always there in some capacity, but she tends to float to the forefront whenever something big is happening in my life.

She, of course, is my grandmother. The original Gracie. The woman who took a piece of my heart with her when she left us almost 8 years ago.

She was my second mother. She was the woman who gently brushed my hair at night when my actual mother couldn’t get through my tangled mop. She was the woman who fed me fudge pops on her brand new couch while I waited for my parents to bring home my brand new baby sister.

She was the woman who smiled at me when I showed up at her door with my pillow once a week, invited me in, whipped up a ham and cheese on raisin bread (don’t you judge me), gave me her whole bed (“a queen-sized bed for the queen!” ) and let me stay up all night watching infomercials.

She was the woman who taught me how to make “bucking-egg toast” without the egg spilling over the side of the bread.

She was the first reader of my 1988 novel, a 1-page drama entitled, “The Chicken Who Couldn’t Lay Her Egg,” complete with illustrations.

She was the editor-in-chief of every 15-20 page paper I wrote throughout college; she hung my college diploma on her wall because, as I told her, “we did it together.”

She was my most devoted cheerleader, my strongest support system, and the best at keeping me in check (“Come over here so I can hop you in the ass!”)

She was everything to me.  She was always there when I needed her, even if it was just to give me one of her hugs- the ones that, even in the end when she was little and frail, were still so all-encompassing; and a kiss on the cheek; and a quick but heartfelt “Who loves you, Baby?”

And I needed her this morning. I needed her to tell me I could do this. I needed her to tell me I wouldn’t screw it up.

But she was gone.

So I did the only sane thing one could do- crawling through the morning traffic, I chatted with her.

“Gracie, please be here today. I know there’s no way you can let me know you’re hearing this, but please be here.”

And then, like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie, I heard the first chords of a once-familiar song streaming through my speakers.

It’s a song called “Fiction” by a band she never would have listened to, Avenged Sevenfold (she was more of a Patsy Cline fan).  Right after her passing, it was part of a playlist I blasted through my earphones on repeat while I ran.

Once she was gone, all I could do was run. Run from the empty feeling in my chest. Run from the ache of losing her. Run from the realization that she was forever out of my reach.

So that’s what I did.

I ran every day, sometimes for hours. I ran until I could feel nothing but pain and my lungs were about to burst. I remember my friend Athena calling to check on me and reminding me, “It’s ok to do this as long as you’re not hurting yourself.” I assured her that I would never do that. But I suppose that’s exactly what I was doing- running so that a different type of pain would take over.

And as I ran, the lyrics spurred me on.

“Gave you all I had to give, found a place for me to rest my head.”

“While I may be hard to find, heard there’s peace just on the other side.”

“Left this life to set me free; took a piece of you inside of me.”

“I know you’ll find your own way when I’m not with you.”

I hadn’t heard that song in years, and suddenly those lines were pouring from my speakers. But this time, I didn’t have any urge to take off in a sprint (not that I could, unless I wanted to go viral on YouTube as “Crazy woman running through traffic on Rt 46 this morning!”). Instead, I sat very still, allowed the tears to flow, and let the words wash over me.

She was right there. How she rigged up my radio is beyond me, but if you knew Gracie, you’d know it was possible.

So that was my morning.

And later, when I walked into that conference room (after getting rid of my gum and making sure my boots weren’t going to get stuck in any thresholds) I was actually pretty Zen-like. How could I not be?  I had the comfort of knowing that I will never have to do this alone.

The Squad

“I need a day.” Louis Litt

“I need a month.” Me

After the events of the past few weeks, I feel like I could spend a month in Bora Bora and still be wound tighter than a spring. Of course, after the events of the past few weeks, my getaway budget is less “one month in Bora Bora” and more “one hour alone in ShopRite.”

We all have a breaking point, and I hit mine at top speed around 9 o’clock this morning.

My endlessly patient husband was willing to bear the brunt of my panic-fueled, 31-text explosion from 9:15-10:15 (God. Bless. That. Man.) But even after that volcanic meltdown, I still couldn’t stop spinning. I settled into the realization that I’d be accompanied by my anxiety for the rest of the day, and began busying myself enough to take it from a head-splitting roar to a low hum.

And then…I got this.

“You know if you need me I’ll drop everything.”

Remember that scene from Frozen where Elsa stands there in that fabulous ice dress, raises her hands, turns a Winter Blizzard into Spring, and Olaf gets all excited? That was pretty much me reading that text message (just to be clear, I’m definitely Olaf…in any scenario. I could never pull off that dress, and my nose is pretty pronounced).

That’s all it took- one little sentence- and my world stopped spinning.

So who is this magical person with the power to halt a 2-hour, head-pounding, vision-blurring panic episode with one little sentence?

My friend. 🙂

She didn’t know how trying the last few weeks have been- nor did she have any idea that I was in the middle of what I like to call “an episode” (makes it sound fancy, no?) We were just texting about going to brunch, and she knew something wasn’t right. So she raised her arms, waved her hands, and stopped the blizzard swirling around in my head. I’m not sure if she was wearing a fabulous ice dress; it might have been a fabulous pants suit.

Pretty powerful, right?

Sometimes you need a month in Bora Bora, but more often than not, you just need a friend.

I believe we call them our squad? I prefer “circle of badass bitches,” but that’s just me. Whatever term you prefer (try mine, I think it’s really going to catch on), you may find yourself reaching out to them quite often once adulthood really sets in.

*Side Note- You might be one of those magical unicorn people who can handle any of life’s twists and turns with poise and grace, completely on your own. However, if you’re a high-maintenance, unconfident, needy little mess like myself, feel free to read on.*

You may need the friend who can sit on your couch on a Saturday night and help you fold laundry, and somehow make it fun; who gave your baby his very first nickname (I still call him “Cenzie” every now and then); who you can talk to about everything from hopes and dreams to favorite cupcake flavors to bowel movements in one conversation; and who can tell through a text message that life has you on a ledge, and know exactly what to say to pull you back.

You may need the friend who has been with you from the see-saw in 1st grade, to checking each other’s teeth for “gook” at the lunch table in 7th grade, to waiting at a Chili’s down the road to save each other from a first date if needed (it wasn’t needed- he’s awesome, she married him, they make stunningly adorable babies), to offering to watch your son when you go into labor- 1 month after having her own baby.

You may need the friend who grew up around the corner; who knew you when you had 1 very furry, caterpillar-like eyebrow, and never made fun of said eyebrow; who knows everything about your political views, your marital problems, your sex life, your career goals, and everything else that you’ve blurted out to them at all hours of the day; and who will always make time to listen.

You may need the ones who technically aren’t related to you, but who would definitely get custody of you in the event of a divorce; who can have lively conversations with you about dogs, Disney cartoons, and diet changes; who drive 30 minutes to have a 40-minute lunch with you, just so you can see each other; who sit in Long Island traffic after working all day just to hold your brand new baby; and who trek almost an hour, two weeks in a row, just to be at your dining room table for both of your children’s birthdays.

You may need the mom friends that you hardly ever see, but who know pretty much everything about you, because you’ve blurted out your life stories to one another while fighting the epic battle to get toddlers into carseats in the daycare parking lot. You will carry out very real relationships with these women via text messages and Facebook, and they will get you through some very trying times (and answer all of your homework questions when you have to deal with Common Core math).

You may need the work wives who show up at your door with bags of food and pantry staples, before you’ve even moved in; who gladly stop by your office to swap stories about whose family is loonier on any given day; and who have seen you speed-eat 4 tacos and a plate of chips and salsa during lunch and never judged you.

If you can find any of these types of people you’ll be unimaginably blessed. They will be your Elsas. They will form your circle. They will be there, many times, before you even realize you need them.

And when your time comes to be any of these people, don’t shy away from it. You may just know the one little sentence that will stop their world from spinning.


The Devil You Know

My husband and I were in the middle of a very dramatic, very intricate argument this morning when he sent me this text:

“Sorry to interrupt, but the school just called to say that after-school programs are cancelled because of the snow. Does that include YMCA? If it does, I’ll leave work early and get Vince.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. He actually paused our argument to offer to pick up our son from school. After 18 years together, we’ve become that versatile. Neither of us could ever have imagined just how much of a well-oiled machine this marriage would be when I said yes to a 20 year-old kid kneeling on his bad knee in front of a park bench (in the pouring rain- cue movie music) in 2003.

So what would I tell 22 year-old Cathy & Pat before she walked down that aisle, whispering with her father about how they both had to pee?

Probably something along these lines.

Marriage takes more than lust and heat and giggling over dessert at a candlelit table. Everyone knows that. But what those vows don’t really lay out is just how much work it requires, every single day (some days, every single goddamn hour).

Spoiler Alert- you won’t always like your spouse! You may, at times, even want to throw a salad plate at their stupid face. Please refrain from doing so, of course, but don’t feel like a terrible person for fantasizing about shredded carrots landing in their hair. It happens.

Marriage takes so much more than honoring, cherishing, and committing to another person. It takes LIVING with them without one of you ever actually being committed to an institution. It takes dealing with snoring, belching, coughing, sniffling…you have no IDEA how many variations of a sniffle there are until someone is lying next to you at 2am, trying them all out.

Marriage takes the patience to listen, with a smile on your face, to every aspect of their day- right down to the fact that they put too much dressing on their salad at lunch- because you know they’re so stressed that they need to let it all out (even the dressing disaster).

Marriage takes the flexibility to get to know all of the new things they’re falling in love with, and hopefully fall in love with them too (or at least know enough to follow along). Do you think Pat will really get as excited as you do when you perfect a new vegan cheese sauce? No. But will he declare with a straight face that he can really tell you added one more pinch of garlic, and that’s what made all the difference? Yes he will. Because he supports your vegan cheese sauce obsession, as any good spouse would.

Marriage takes the strength to look at the other person during the throes of an argument, acknowledge that in that moment you are seriously questioning what you ever saw in them, and decide to stay and hash it out anyway.

Marriage takes the resolve to not just stand by someone who is suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder, but to willingly hurl yourself into the line of fire, over and over again, because you know the only way to help them navigate the episode is to really hold onto them…and that means getting pummeled a little bit harder the closer you get.

Marriage takes the emotional fortitude to shower your spouse with affection and kindness at the exact moment they’re using all of their energy to convince you that 1.) They’re not worthy of companionship and 2.) You should pack a bag and never look back (and believe me, sometimes you will want to).

Marriage takes the kind of selective memory needed to watch your spouse expel a human, and several bodily fluids, while sweating buckets and growling like a dog, and still want to be intimate with her.

Marriage takes the kind of equally selective memory needed to hear your spouse, in the heat of battle, expel a single seething sentence that brings you to your knees…and still decide to get up, brush off those knees, and spend the rest of your life with him.

Marriage requires a well-rehearsed game face and non-confrontational, supportive tone for any situation, including but not limited to:

  1. You look GREAT in that…but you know, I really love you in this other one…
  2. I love this! Is that ginger and peanut butter, together? It’s such a great, unique combo. I never would have thought of it.
  3. Of course I can take the kids to the ::insert event here:: by myself! Go ahead and take the overtime…we could really use it. (Cathy, you will never be good at delivering this line)
  4. I prefer you just like this- you were way too thin before. (You will both say it and, honestly, you’ll mean it)
  5. No, I didn’t want the last taco. Ugh, I’m so full. It’s all you.

It’s not all struggle- if it is, you may actually want to pack that bag and run (still don’t throw the salad plate…really. Deep breaths). No, on the contrary, it’s, dare I say, pretty awesome. Because on the other side of all the patience, emotional (and intestinal) fortitude, and forgiveness it requires- you get all of this:

  1. Someone who will at some point catch you picking your nose, and still want to kiss you.
  2. Someone who will be able to sense your pain and exhaustion through a quickly texted “I’m fine…,” and who will be waiting at the door with a glass of wine, a brownie, and a bath towel that was just warmed in the dryer.
  3. Someone who will see you naked when you feel like a Victoria’s Secret model and when you feel like Chris Farley in that scene with the little coat…and will desire you just as much both times.
  4. Someone who will know exactly how much milk you want in your cereal, and your preferred ratio of veggies to mashed potatoes. These things are paramount- trust me.
  5. Someone who will know instinctively when you need a hug- every damn time. It’s remarkable.
  6. Someone who will share a bed with you when you’re snorting with congestion, doubled over in pain because you ate cheese sauce that wasn’t vegan, or throwing up in a bucket because the kids brought home ANOTHER stomach bug.
  7. Someone who will, in a drunken haze, look at you with the gratitude of a puppy saved from a ditch when you wipe his face with a cool washcloth, kiss his forehead, and tell him that you’ll sleep on the floor with him until the room stops spinning. (this one typically stops after kids come into the picture…after that the room is spinning enough when you’re sober).
  8. Someone who you know damn well has wanted to throw a salad plate at your head…but never has.

Sure, it’s not all candy and roses. Honestly, 34 year-old Pat is prone to dental issues and Cathy prefers the $5 bouquets from Trader Joe’s. But you’re getting someone who will always give you the “good” seat on the couch, hold you when you insist you don’t need to be held, and always, ALWAYS, give you an equal number of tater tots.

That, my friends, is worth the “work.”


“Mommy, there’s poop…on my foot. There is poop…on…my foot. Mommy, there’s poop-“

“It looks like Rocco poop, Mommy. It’s small like Rocco poop- it’s kind of dry but she stepped on it and it got smushy. It’s very small…it’s definitely Rocco poop. Marty poop is a lot bigger. Can you bring some wipes in here? Grace has poop-“

“Yeah it’s on my foot! It’s small, Mommy. Rocco poop. It’s brown. We need the wipes, Mommy. I have the poop.”

“Grace, stand still! I’ll be there as soon as I finish cleaning Marty’s pee off the dining room rug!”

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, and this is why.

I usually don’t have the wherewithal to set specific plans to create a new and improved version of my life when I spend most of my time just trying to survive the current version.

I’m certainly not saying that I don’t like the current version- it’s an adventure I wouldn’t step away from for anything.

I’m also not saying that I don’t want to grow and evolve- I just don’t necessarily agree with the whole “Ok, it’s January 1st. BOOM! New Me! New Life! Right Now!”

Especially since I’m so preoccupied with scrubbing the digestive habits of 2 dogs from my carpets and, occasionally (gag) my daughter’s left foot.  That’s all the room I have in my “right now!” list of things to do these days.

But for whatever reason, I got swept up in Resolution Madness this year- I had some pretty ambitious ones, if I do say so myself. This was the gist of my mental pep-talk on New Year’s Eve:

“In 2018, I’m going to write my first book! I’m going to go back to a mostly vegan, low sugar diet! I’m not wasting any more money on soy lattes! I’m going to get up at 5:30am and do a 20-minute yoga routine, and another one each night before bed! I’m going to lose 10lbs! I’m going to cut out alcohol and tortilla chips! Wait, not that last one, let’s not go crazy.”

But the thing about resolutions (which is, once again, why I don’t normally make any) is that you have to somehow accomplish them while walking this little tightrope called LIFE.

Let’s illustrate a few examples, shall we?

For example…when a Lincoln Towncar consummated its relationship with my back bumper during the evening rush last Wednesday night, I needed to wait for the police report. I needed to get to my chiropractor, because smacking your face into your steering wheel makes your neck do all sorts of fun, twisty things. I didn’t get home until 8:30 at night; so the PM workout wasn’t happening.

When Marty tore a hole in my last pair of pajamas doing her “Good Morning Mommy!” flash dance on Friday, I had to go out after work in 10-degree weather searching for clearance-priced, dog-proof sweatpants. It was late. I was cold. There was a Starbucks…ok, I bought a soy latte. And a cake pop…

When Grace threw up 4 times from 1:30-4:30am on Sunday, I was NOT getting up at 5:30am to do 20 minutes of yoga. I got up at 7am and walked into a wall.

When I strolled into the basement last night and found the washing machine making a noise that sounded strangely like my chain-smoking great-uncles trying to clear their throats, I had to shelve my plans to transform my sunroom into a reflective space for literature and poetry. Instead, I read the washer/dryer combo descriptions on and reflected on what my monthly payments would be for the front-loaders.

See what I mean? Life takes a lot of adjustment. That’s why they made a whole board game about it.

I think a better idea than a hard and fast resolution is this- understand that life will happen. Steer it in the right direction and take new paths whenever possible. But if you get stuck on one monotonous road for a while, enjoy that ride too.

In the past week, I have purchased 2 lattes. I have eaten 6 Trader Joe’s sea salt brownie bites, 1 cake pop, and 2 dark chocolate truffles. I have enjoyed my homemade, very non-vegan turkey casserole 3 times. I’ve skipped a couple of workouts. I have lost 0 pounds (actually, I gained 3…). My sunroom is still just a sunroom, not an epic writing retreat.

So I have some news for you, 2018 Resolutions.

  1. Running up the stairs after I coaxed the washer back to life, screaming, “We are draining and spinning, people! We are Draining and Spinning!!!” and dancing my out-of-shape butt off with Gracie in the kitchen was, in fact, a pre-bed workout.
  2. I like soy lattes. They are off the list.
  3. I will get up to do yoga if and only if both children sleep for a continuous 5 hours the previous night.
  4. Grace and I had a very competitive “who can crunch like a bunny” contest with carrots and hummus while the police checked out my cracked bumper. I ate potato and leek soup for dinner last night. I am having quinoa salad for lunch. But if I want one of Vince’s chicken nuggets tonight, it-is-on.
  5. This body is strong. This body is active. This body is healthy. This body is currently having some issues fitting into jeans. This body jiggles when I stir soup. This body crackles in various places when I ease into downward dog. Ok we’re going in the wrong direction. The point is- I will try my best. Maybe this is the year I’ll go back to looking like I did when I was 22. But if not, I will crackle and jiggle proudly into next year- in a bikini! So THERE.
  6. I may not write a book this year. But I will write. I’ll write when I’m happy and when I’m sad. I’ll write in the sunroom and on the living room floor. I’ll write at the dining room table while the tornado of children and dogs swirls around me. I’ll write when I’m hiding in the bathroom pretending to pee.

So if you, like me, have had a bit of a backfire to start your year, try this Resolution- change what you want, if you can, when it’s right. But no matter what, love what you have.  Poop and all.


“This is ridiculous. I have so much to do at home. Vince needs to do his 30 minutes of reading; Grace needs a bath. I could be using this $100 to pay the electric bill, for Christ’s sake.”

That right there? That’s the sweet sound of me relaxing.

As you can see, I’m very, very good at it.

I’ve heard it’s a woman thing, or a mom thing- this inability to shut out the world and shut off the mind. I personally think it’s just an adult thing- although I’m still baffled by the way my husband can fall asleep while sitting at the dinner table.

Anyway, this particular episode of “relaxation” was during my last massage appointment.  Picture it- dim lights, soothing music, scented oils, warm lotion…and me:

“Ok, time to stretch out and rela- oh! Oh my God I almost kicked him. Do I say something? No. Don’t say anything. Just be still. Relax. Be still. Relax…I kind of have to pee. But I just peed…maybe I have a nervous bladder. A bladder that’s afraid of massages. That could be a cartoon.”

“I can’t believe I’m wasting so much money on this. I bought this stupid membership for Pat. I should’ve known he wouldn’t use it- I’m cancelling it. On my way out, I’m cancelling it. I’ll be firm. I won’t let them talk me into staying! Hehehe…it’s like that episode of Friends where Ross tries to quit the gym…”

“Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. I said Swedish, not deep tissuuuueeeouch!….hurts so good…..come on massage guy make it hurt-so-good…sometimes my neck don’t feel like it should….oh for the love of God.”

“I wonder why he massaged my feet so quickly…maybe he has a thing against chipped polish. Or maybe he hates feet. No. You can’t be a masseuse if you hate feet. Masseuse? Masseur? Massage person?”

“The kids were both healthy for Erin’s housewarming party, and Christmas Eve, AND Christmas Day. What a perfect Christmas…snow outside, Muppet Family Christmas on the TV, the kids opening their gifts with the dogs at their feet, Pat and I drinking our coffee out of our snowman mugs…that’s too perfect. They’re definitely going to be sick for New Year’s. I should just cancel dinner with my parents now and buy soup and ginger ale. We’ll all be puking this weekend. Puking with fevers…oh my GOD why can’t I shut off?! Massage. Massage. FOCUS on the MASSAGE. Everything is going to be alright….hmm, hmm, don’t worry…lalala…about a thing…’cause every little ting…every little ting? Every little thing. Ting?…Every little thing, gonna be alright…hmm hmmm…”

“I’m like a living Mrs. Dalloway. All stream of consciousness. I can’t shut it off. Oh well…I bet me and Virginia Wolfe would have gotten along. She would have liked that little walk-in closet I turned into a “Room of One’s Own” in high school…yeah, I was a dork. I am a dork. God, I’m a dork. I’m ok with it though.”

“Ok, turning over, turning over, careful the boobs don’t fall out to the siiiidessss…..yes! Both boobs are successfully smashed under me…are my underwear even? Ugh. I have ½ a muffin top going on.”

“Why are my shoulders crunching? Should shoulders sound like cornflakes??? Ok. Ok, you’re here to RELAX, Cathy. Shut up already and breathe…breathe….ooohhh the crunching is going to make me vomit….”

“Oh ok so I guess we’re just going for the glutes there, Mister. Don’t clench your butt cheeks. Don’t clench your butt cheeks.”

“Mmmmm….ok this is nice…I could totally fall asleep right-“

“Ok, that concludes our session.”


I cancelled the membership this morning. Honestly, all that relaxation is too damn stressful.