a spiritual experience

Today was my second full day in Nosara, where, despite all manner of round-the-clock bird and monkey calls, it’s impossible for me not to sleep like the dead. I assumed like any other vacation away from the kids that I’d maintain the same 6am internal alarm clock my son has cursed me with for the last six years (notice how I specifically reference Kellan here – if it were up to Kathryn we’d all be sleeping until 9am every day…very soon I sense we’ll be taking many mother/daughter trips to all corners of the world and sleeping our faces off in every last damn one of them). But not here, not in this place that feels to me as if it’s producing actual joy from every leaf, wave and creature I encounter.

Not only do I sleep better than I can remember ever sleeping before, but I have none of my usual fear of all tropical creatures – remember the gecko in my room in Bali that caused me days of anxiety, albeit one of my more entertaining blog posts? That experience, along with last year’s girls’ trip to Tulum fraught with scorpions, snakes, lizards, behemoth moths and a bat in our room have taught me well.

Upon check-in:

Me: “Okay, Adrian, let’s have a serious conversation about what sort of things might scare me around here.”

Adrian: “Um, okay….”

Me: “What do you got? Snakes? Lizards?”

Adrian: “No, we don’t really have anything like that here. You know what a gecko is?”

Me: (fuuuuuuuuuck) “Mmmmmhmmmm”

Adrian: “They’re super tiny (makes hand gesture to show me something that is maybe 2 inches long).”

Me: (large wave of relief washes over) “Oh, okay, no problem”

Adrian: “Yeah, that’s about it.”

Well guess what? Adrian is a motherfucking liar. Yes, there are tiny geckos. There are also giant lizards, bright red poisonous crabs and an unnaturally fast-moving snake that nearly slithered right over my feet on my way to get a massage today. But here’s the crazy thing – I’ve barely flinched at the sight of any of them. My massage therapist nearly came out of her skin today (no pun intended) when I said, “oh, there’s a snake”, as casually as if I’d just noted the color of the sidewalk. For those of you who’ve been witness to my irrational fear of anything that lacks fur (exception: mice) and moves with what I would call reckless abandon, you know what a big deal this is. I have no explanation for this phenomenon other than to tell you that I feel like this is my other home. Every new sight is incredible, yes, but also strangely familiar. I cannot stop smiling. I am by no means fluent in Spanish, but I seem to have retained considerably more vocabulary and grammar than my peers who took the same number of classes in highschool and I’ve been told in multiple Spanish-speaking countries now that my accent sounds legit. Is this all just coincidence or is there really something more spiritual happening here for me in Costa Rica?

For now, I’m just going with the flow. I acknowledge that my experience here is very limited at this point and that I’m far from living the local life and the lack of Western amenities that must entail, but another thing I’ve learned is this: the extensive expat community that I read so much about when I was researching Nosara consists not just of Americans, which I originally assumed, but of people from all over the world – Europe, Australia, Canada, India, South America. Again, is this really a coincidence, or is there a more powerful force at work here – a unique gathering of seekers, perhaps?  I did learn that this particular area of Costa Rica is one of the world’s rare Blue Zones where people live considerably longer than in other parts of the world. If the spirit and joy I feel at the cellular level here isn’t fleeting after all, then I can’t say I’m surprised.

nosara, costa rica

Nosara. Also now known as my own personal slice of heaven. I arrived just over 24 hours ago and I am already seeking out realtors. You might be wondering how I even chose this place out of the infinite options available to me, seeing as most people who’ve been to Costa Rica on vacation have never even heard of it. It is not a resort town by any stretch of the imagination – it is essentially a coastal wildlife preserve on the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula with a bunch of surf shops and a few high-end hippie bungalows. It’s where jungle meets pristine beach. It’s an area where hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles come to nest. It’s a place where, in part due to the turtle migration, commercial development is banned within so many meters of the beach. Though I can’t quite recall my Google search terms, I discovered Nosara some year or so ago on the web. All I remember is reading about its focus on ecosystem preservation, its plethora of yoga schools and studios and its well-established expat community. It basically sounded like Boulder, Colorado with a Latin tropical flair, so after biting off more than I could chew with my poorly planned trip to Vietnam, it sounded just perfect.

And so far, it is. My problem with most beach destinations that Americans generally flock to is that they are flat. Think Florida, parts of Mexico and the majority of the islands in the Caribbean. Sure I love a nice clear, turquoise surf as much as the next person, but I also need terrain – rolling hills, mountains and valleys. That’s why for me Hawaii has always been the cat’s pajamas – lush, green volcanic mountains with dramatic cliffs overlooking the deep blue sea that is at times filled with what I believe is the animal kingdom’s most impressive member – the Humpback whale. There’s a reason they filmed Jurassic Park there. That’s exactly what Hawaii looks like and it is, without a doubt, nature perfected. On the other hand, it’s also one of the United States and in the middle of nowhere, making it one of the most expensive places on Earth. Looking over the Costa Rican landscape from my plane filled me with the same feeling I get flying into Maui except with the very real thought that, “this could be my home one day.” I landed at the relatively small Liberia airport and because this is the low tourist season, flew right through customs and quickly found my way to the Hertz rental location. My perma-grin took a temporary hiatus during the car rental process as I was firmly informed that my estimated $300 weekly rental was in fact going to cost me $600 due to vaguely-disclosed, mandatory insurance coverage, but it quickly returned on the 2+ hour drive to Nosara. Another reason Hawaii is so appealing when you compare it to other islands and 3rd world tropical destinations is that, because it is one of the 50 states, its standards for things like garbage collection and road maintenance are the same as they are in any of the other 49. Bali, on the other hand, while uniquely beautiful in so many ways, has poorly maintained roads, the sides of which you often find piled with trash. There are of course monkeys picking through it instead of rats and mice, but it’s still a mostly unpleasant scene. For the first hour of my drive through Costa Rica, I kept thinking to myself how beautiful the landscape is as I drove around one winding road after another, similar to at least a few places I’ve traveled to, but I couldn’t put my finger on what decidedly made this one different. Then it dawned on me – Costa Rica is clean. Not only are the ditches free of the trash you see in so many 3rd world countries, but even when you drive through the poorest of towns and villages with mostly aging buildings and infrastructure, the area around them is well-maintained. The homes, no matter how humble in stature, are extremely tidy and well-manicured. Of course I’m speaking only of the small portion of Costa Rica I’ve driven through so far, but I believe it’s enough to know that most “Ticos” take a great deal of pride in their own environment as well as the environment as a whole.

90% of the kilometers from Liberia to Nosara is newly paved two-lane highway. Ah, but there’s that last 10% – about 24km of gravel and potholes that takes about an hour to navigate. Once you get here, you don’t leave, unless it’s on a motorbike or a quad and it’s only a mile or two. But why would you want to? I am staying at the Harmony Hotel – one of the upscale, jars-of-local-organic-toasted-cashews-in-the-room places. I have a private outdoor shower and hammock. For when it rains (it definitely rains in October), I have a covered outdoor chaise lounge with its own ceiling fan in case I get a little too warm while reading my latest feminist memoir. There is a lovely pool and a yoga studio – excuse me, a “healing center” – and a juice bar. A real bar serving up blended homemade ginger-infused vodka concoctions (I’m on my third as I type this) and a sandy, jungle-y pathway to what is seriously the best beach I have ever seen. Which explains why two months ago you’d have found as many as 300 surfers in the water at any given time. But now that it’s low season, it belongs only to me and the 11 other people staying at the Harmony Hotel this week. I took my first surfing lesson today. It went about as expected – I fell and I fell and I fell and I fell. And I got up a few times. I’ll say this – there’s a reason you don’t see any overweight surfers. Runners, yes. Cyclists, yes. Baseball players, yes. Football players, yes (yeah, I’m talking to you Ben Roethlisberger). Surfers, no. In order to create the muscle memory needed to even get up on the board, you need a strict workout diet of burpees and chaturangas. That’s even before the art of balance and navigation of the board come into play. Because Playa Guiones (that’s the incredible beach I currently own) is so perfectly free of rocks, shells and coral, I still had a ton of fun. The water is warm and the waves are inviting.

I then took my first nap in years. Years.

Shortly after I woke up I was picked up by my tour guide, Alan (real name, Rio), to go see this whole turtle nesting process that everyone talks about down here. The arribada, it’s called in Spanish, or “the arrival.” Once a month on average, usually in line with the lunar cycle, hundreds upon hundreds of sea turtles come on shore here to nest and lay their eggs. Tonight I was witness to this incredible natural phenomenon. The beach where all of this hoopla takes place is maybe 5-10km north of where I’m at – it’s a black sand beach, which the turtles prefer because it makes it that much darker (they come onshore at night). Since white or bright light scares the mama turtles, the guides carry around special red lights so that we can see what’s going on without freaking them out. The female turtle comes onshore at high tide, usually at night, and digs and digs and digs with her back fins (fins?) until she has a hole that’s about a foot deep. She then props herself over the hole and starts dropping eggs that look like ping-pong balls. About 100 of them. As I watched one mama finish up this mass birthing ritual, I said to the all-male group, “Wow, she must feel SO GOOD now.” Especially since those eggs have been inside of her growing and growing for the last 4-5 months. About 100 of them. By the time we left, it had gotten considerably darker and the tide considerably higher so there were turtles everywhere- so many that it was important to stay very close to my guide with the red light so as not to step on one or, more importantly, get in the way of her getting 100 eggs out of her body.

Well, it’s late here and I don’t want to miss a minute of my second night’s sleep. All 10 blissful hours of it. Ah, la pura vida.



bad student

Soloventure 2016 is upon me. I skipped out on skipping out alone last year because of a not-so-shitty 2-week family trip to Italy instead, and as some of you may recall my 2014 journey to Vietnam didn’t quite feed my soul the way I’d hoped it would. Which brings us to now, and I’m sitting in the Houston airport waiting to board my flight to Liberia, Costa Rica, where 8 much-anticipated and well-planned days of enlightenment and joy await me. The lift on the language barrier alone should eliminate most of the anxiety that plagued me in Vietnam. If not, I have exactly 27 Xanax. This trip also feels about two years overdue in part because the last two weeks of work have felt like two years.

These trips out into the world alone are necessary in no small part so that I can take back control over what often feels like a life built solely on obligation and responsibilities. Now that I have a student in the house, there are even more responsibilities (i.e. more paperwork, more being on time, more remembering to put fucking snacks in the backpack) put on us, the parents and specifically on me, the mother – you know, the default parent. The one with not only the most guilt (or is it just the most anxiety?), but also the only one who gets the text from the school requesting an updated vaccination record. Despite being a very engaged and supportive father and husband (oh, hey babe! thanks again for taking over while I sit here blissfully alone and blogging con mi mimosa!), Sean would have to put out a local news bulletin announcing my sudden and confirmed death before anyone in a care-giving role ever called, texted or emailed him first about one of our kids. Therein lies both the empowerment and the burden that every mother tries to square on a daily basis. At some point the greatness in being “the one” stops feeling so great and it instead starts to feel like a tired and annoying sandwich on the wrong kind of bread with the crusts still on. WITH THE CRUSTS STILL ON – OH, THE OUTRAGE!!

Did I mention we are thinking about having another baby??? Wait, whaaat?!!! Motherhood makes me so strung out and wrung out that I need to go away for a minimum of one week each year and yet I want to add even more stress to my plate in the form of a literal shit storm? Well, three kids probably equates to two weeks away each year, right, honey? Who knows what will happen, my eggs aren’t spring chickens at the ripe old age of 38, and maybe we’ll just adopt seven Syrian orphans instead, but one thing is for sure – somehow amid the chaos of our lives, I long for those sweet, innocent days of infancy and I have a major case of the kindergarten blues.

We are about 6 weeks in and I just got my first (of many, I’m sure) email from Kellan’s teacher confirming once more his unfailing insistence on doing things his way, come hell or high water. In the way that most of us think of a “good student” as someone who listens attentively, takes instruction beautifully and, above all, conforms, Kellan is not one of those. But I was. When it came to student achie vement, I sought praise from every last one of my teachers and professors and while I may not have been the very smartest in the class, I maintained mostly A’s all through school and I never colored outside of the lines, unless of course the teacher told me to. I was a conformist. The interesting thing is that as I’ve gotten older, I become more and more like Kellan every day. I often think nowadays one of my strongest traits is my utter disregard for social and professional protocols. Maybe it’s because I spent the first quarter century of my life trying to live up to the expectations of authority that I now find real joy in doing the opposite of what is “expected.”

I go to foreign countries without my family because it makes me feel good about myself. I spend my remaining precious free time how, where and with whom I want and not how, where and with whom I am expected to. I say no to things, people and places all the time. Sometimes I say no to my favorite people because the timing is wrong for me. On the other hand, sometimes I speak up and push my opinions on controversial topics in or outside of the workplace because it suits me. Sometimes my peers and superiors would prefer I stay quiet. In this way, I have learned how to be a bad student. Perhaps my own modeling is teaching my son how to be a bad student. My way, not their way. Of course I want my children to thrive in all of life’s settings, but I am also more confident and centered at this point in my life, doing things mostly my way, than at any other point in my life. Yet another conundrum facing this mother.





As much as I sometimes think that I’ve been raised into a beautifully open-minded and non-judgmental human being, the truth is not as inspiring. The truth is that I pick and choose whose appearances, circumstances and actions to judge. If you ask one of my closest friends whether or not I’m judgmental, I would guess (and hope!) the response would be something like, “Marissa? Hell no, that woman will help me justify any and all choices and then ask me if I’d like her help burying the body.” The point is, if I’ve known you at all and decided that your intentions are good and that you are merely a victim of unfortunate circumstances, I will stand by you and help you see that you are simply doing the best you can in this life. Admittedly I used to gossip about people, including friends, family members, coworkers and acquaintances…a lot. I’m not saying I never talk about people behind their backs anymore, but I do it a lot less now. When I know I’m sharing information that isn’t mine to share or when I find myself criticizing someone who isn’t there to defend themselves, I feel shameful. It’s like I can literally feel the bad karma I just earned about to strike me at any moment. But again, this yucky feeling I get only applies when I feel that I’m betraying someone I know. I still find myself secretly or not-so-secretly judging and criticizing strangers all the time. This is a very dangerous habit of mine and I’d very much like to rid myself of it. Here’s one example why:

Last week I was killing some time at Target before an appointment I had. While I was checking out, there were two male coworkers talking within earshot of me and the cashier. They were clearly discussing the presidential election and the older of the two made some critical remark about the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obama Care) and how he couldn’t wait until it would be abolished by Donald Trump. Standing there, silently judging, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Colorado Springs has a reputation for its conservative populace, so criticisms and accusations toward our current Democratic President are rampant. The younger, millennial-looking guy with the tattoos he was talking to appeared to disagree. Again, no surprise. We’ve got our fair share of liberals here in Colorado as well, but, I thought, he’s probably from the West side (where we live – hippies, tattoos, piercings, art co-ops and street musicians galore). I looked toward the middle-aged, somewhat frumpy-looking checkout woman and she was shaking her head. Before the assumption that she too was an uneducated, irrational conservative could even fully formulate in my head, she looked at me and said, “I wish more people realized that these governmental policies are not made overnight. There are a lot of people who contribute to the decision-making that goes on in Washington. We have Congress and the Senate for a reason. It’s not just the President who makes the call.” I literally almost laughed out loud at what I saw was such a clear example of me being nothing more than an uneducated, irrational asshole. I told her that I couldn’t agree more, thanked her and left.

I walked to my car with a new perspective about a lot of things. I frequently allow myself to have very strong opinions about things I literally know nothing about. Because I don’t personally associate myself with organized religion, I tend to criticize people who do. I say, they are blind, they don’t see the impossibility of their beliefs, they don’t acknowledge things like science, they don’t have enough self-esteem to get through life on their own and without the guidance of an intangible, antiquated belief system. Because I have no personal experience with the military and because I’m fundamentally opposed to war and violence as a means to resolving conflict, I judge people who see its value. I allow myself to believe that people who join our military are either pre-disposed to violence, are looking for an affordable education or simply have no direction and are perhaps following in the footsteps of a family member. Because I’ve never so much as talked with a homeless person or even volunteered at a homeless shelter, I choose to judge and fear this part of our community. I assume that they are all alcoholics, junkies or just plain lazy. Because I myself obsess so much about the way I look and how much I weigh, I frequently criticize people, especially other women, who are overweight. Again, I assume they are lazy and don’t care about themselves or their health.

I’ll be honest, it’s really hard for me to read all of that back to myself and even consider posting it for everyone I know to read (and of course, judge me for). It makes me look and feel like a horrible person, but I know I’m not alone and that is why it’s worth the risk to share my short-comings with the world. I am going to practice what my one West-side, hippie tattoo preaches and “be the change.” I can reframe my thoughts about religion – I can celebrate the freedoms we have in this country to believe whatever we want to believe. I can thank organized religion for all of its charitable contributions to our society and for all of the faith and love it’s brought into the lives of so many people, including many of my loved ones. I can stop being a jackass about people who risk their lives to serve our country and actually talk to some of them, find out what their thoughts are about the world we live in today and what inspires them to be a part of our military communities. I can stop fearing people who have nothing compared to what I have and I can instead choose to respect them for putting themselves out there and continuing to ask for help, day after day, while getting very little in return. Even if a homeless “scammer” on the streets of Chicago makes a hundred bucks a day, their quality of life still pales in comparison to what I’ve been blessed with, so who am I to judge?  I can also choose to stop criticizing people who don’t look a certain way because, guess what? I don’t know their circumstances, their beliefs, or their experiences any more than they know mine. Sometimes I’m fat and sometimes I’m not, but maybe if I was a little more forgiving of myself where appearances are concerned, maybe I can be a lot more forgiving of others.

So there it is, all of that ugliness spilled out in front of you to either judge for its outside appearance or to instead see through to the beauty that lies within – the possibility for personal growth and change. Join me in giving each other a break, won’t you?


i love you

Those three little words. Those three little words that are in fact, so big, that we yearn for them all of our lives. Or at least I do. The context may vary and we may take them for granted at times, but they never completely lose their luster. And here’s why: because hearing those words are a validation that we matter in this life to someone other than ourselves, and that is a powerful feeling to be gifted with.

I started thinking about this today because it occurred to me that I live in a near-make-believe land where the words “I love you” are nearly as abundant as the air I breathe. It started with my own childhood. My mom had a rule that you never said good night or good bye without an “I love you” no matter how upset you were with the other person because, she would argue, “I might get hit by a truck tomorrow.” So I said it then and I say it now. A lot. Even when I’m mad, sad, frustrated or all three. My husband and I say it so often to each other you might argue that it’s not as meaningful anymore. What I’ll tell you is that of course there are times when we say it out of habit, like when we’re hanging up the phone or going to bed at night or leaving for work. There are also times when one of us says it out of the blue when we are just sitting and talking (or not talking) with each other and certainly those times might seem more special. Then again, I am devastated when we are in a really huge fight and Sean hangs up without saying it. I literally feel sick to my stomach and will likely follow up with a text that says, “you might hate me right now, but I love you.” Because, you know what? He might just get hit by a truck. My best friend and I say it to each other every time we get off the phone. Why? Because we mean it!!! And why not say something that we feel?

Don’t even get me started on the love I spout for my wee ones:

“Kathryn, please go get dressed and brush your teeth. I love you.”

“Guys, I love you, please stop fighting in the backseat.”

“Thank you so much for helping me put the laundry away. I love you so much.”

“Kellan? (“What?”) I love you. (“I love you too, Mommy.”)

Kathryn being the love bug that she naturally is has taken to saying it almost as randomly as I do. There literally are no words to describe the fullness I feel when out of nowhere that girl tells me she loves me. No words. As far as I’m concerned, those two little people are going to hear me say I love them no less than ten times a day every day for the rest of their lives.

Here’s the point: Say the words. Say them with reckless abandon to the people you love – your friends, your parents, your siblings, your children, your spouses. Why wouldn’t you? I hear people who are clearly on the phone with their spouses and hang up without saying it and I feel so badly for them. Why aren’t they saying it??? Are they afraid to? Afraid of being too vulnerable? You’re sharing a life together – SAY I LOVE YOU!!! Say it all day, every day! Raise your children to say it all the time and feel comfortable and confident expressing their love so they can really, truly share themselves with the world. Teach them to say it even when they might not hear the words back. Lead by example. As the old saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

To my readers, I love you.





A good yoga teacher, in my opinion, will spend some time (gently) pushing her students’ thoughts as well as their bodies. Last week I was fortunate enough to stumble back into a studio I hadn’t practiced at in over a year. I noticed that my yoga practice, while consistent, was lacking creativity and progress, so I humbly walked my butt back into Playoga to spend some quality time with Becca. Why I haven’t been there in over a year is ever a mystery – the woman sings like an angel during savasana for crying out loud! Anyway, the point is, she got the group focused on what really motivates us each individually in life. Is it money? Is it creativity? Is it philanthropy? Is it family? Something else?

Before she even got the question out, I knew my answer. Freedom. And the crazy thing is I think if you asked me this question 5 years ago or even one year ago, I would have faltered. But now it’s just so crystal clear. So, so obvious.

For starters, my drug of choice, my passion for life as I know it, could not exist without travel. But perhaps not in the way that some people enjoy travel. I do not particularly enjoy cultural immersion or tourist attractions. What I do enjoy is the high I get (quite literally) when I’m jet bound to some far-reaching corner of our planet. As a self-affirmed experienced solo traveler, there’s also the freedom in waking up in a foreign country without a single responsibility, a single worry, a single itinerary item to tend to. Travel is freedom, but of course tied to it are financial freedom and the freedom of United States citizenship. I may have to seek out Canadian citizenship if Trump gets elected, but my personal income and my luck for having been born here are not lost on me – the ability I have to slap down my U.S. passport and my United Mileage Plus Explorer card and go anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice is one of my greatest treasures.

Freedom in my career – I’ve been able to fight for and succeed in achieving an almost impossibly liberating work from home situation. I have built a network of long-standing customers who trust me and who have consulted with me for years; backing that up, I have an employer who believes in my ability to keep these same customers happy from just about anywhere; currently from Colorado, but hopefully one day from Costa Rica. And I do, because when I’m happy, my customers are happy. And for me, happiness means having the freedom to set my schedule in a way that I can balance hard work with a demanding family life and a host of self-care practices like yoga and happy hour. Whiskey business, if you will. (Stole that one from New Girl – another one of my many self-care practices). “Working from home” also means I have the freedom to liven up my workspace by settling in for the day at any number of hipster coffee shops. Or there’s my breathtaking home office which overlooks the mountains. Or there’s my other office in charming Old Colorado City which I’ve decorated into a lovely zen-like sanctuary. I’m still trying to figure out how to get a Koi pond in there. So many choices…ah, freedom!

You can find evidence of freedom’s lure in the most mundane aspects of my life as well. I may be a planner, but I loathe routine. And rules. I endeavored to get eyelash extensions a few months ago and ultimately came to the conclusion that, not only am I likely allergic to them, but that they require me to not do certain things like rub my eyes, put my face directly in the shower water or sleep on my side. So many restrictions, so little freedom. Doctor’s orders? I never follow them. Diets or food restrictions? Ha! Go ahead, just tell me no. Tell me I can’t do something or can’t have something – I will unleash the fires of hell in order to take back my power and my free will. The circumstances and relationships I find most challenging are the ones in which I feel somehow trapped. I would be lying if I said this doesn’t make motherhood a challenge for me, especially in these early years. There are just some rules and responsibilities that every self-respecting mother must accept – like picking the kids up from school, feeding them, bathing them, playing with them, talking with them, answering their questions, answering more questions, reading to them, putting them to bed. Above all, loving them. That one is easy. Trading in personal time and freedom for the rest, though? It’s hard. My remedy for this assault on my free will is likely the same one my mother had – teach them independence and nurture their creativity. Give them every opportunity to learn from their own power to choose, within reasonable safety guidelines of course.

The point is, I encourage all of you to spend a few minutes thinking about what really, truly, in the depths of your soul, motivates you in this life? If you aren’t sure, look to people and circumstances that bring you joy and you will probably find some good clues there. When you finally identify it, sit with it for awhile. Stew on it. Are there areas of your life that are not serving your feeling of purpose? Can you alter them or maybe even let them go completely? Sometimes finding contentment in greater self-awareness is a gift in and of itself.

Peace and love from a free bird in Colorado.







karen o’malley, saint

If you’re a married woman there is at least a 90% chance that your mother-in-law drives you nuts. There’s maybe a 50% chance that you can tolerate her but prefer not to, and an even lower chance that you actually like her. I don’t think the same is necessarily true for married men, though, and it likely comes down to the stereotypical drama that women create with one another – the competition, the cattiness, and the fact that while most daughters tend to stay close to their mothers into adulthood, sons who get married eventually have to give into the whims and fancies of their wives. As they should! Not surprisingly, this fact can create turmoil within the wife/mother-in-law (not to mention grandchild) dynamic.

But every so often an angel drops down from the heavens into the lap of that unsuspecting bride-to-be. Let’s call her Karen O’Malley, the example by which all mothers-in-law should measure themselves. Not only do I like this woman, but I would go to the ends of the earth to defend, support and protect her. Today is her birthday and on this special day I want as many members of my social media circle (and hers) to know what a gift she has been to my life. From the very early days of my relationship with her son, Karen has been a beacon of warmth, light and love. She welcomed me into her world without hesitation and without judgment, despite some of our differences. Even at wedding time, as we were making the unpopular choice to have an out of town event, she remained an expert of graciousness, respect and support.

A few years into my relationship with Karen, we both found ourselves on the brink of losing our own mothers to the same type of cancer. While we’d been close to that point, I do believe that an unspoken shift took place in our relationship that would bind us together forever, come hell or high water. And I’m pretty sure both hell and high water did come a few years later when Sean and I uprooted our family to Colorado. Our marriage suffered a very dark phase during that time – a time in which any other mother-in-law might have abandoned me. But not Karen – she was no longer a mother-in-law, but the mother I no longer had. I was her fourth child and there was no way she was ever going to let me suffer alone. The sheer number of tears I have cried to this woman in our years together could flood the Chicago River.

Turns out, we are actually a lot alike. We both work hard at everything we do – careers, child-rearing, cleaning, you name it. My offer to have her live with us will always stand because having her visit is like cloning myself – neither of us can stand to sit still so we are always getting something accomplished wherever we are. When business is done, though, we can both chill out, be funny and have a great time. Again, when business is done, and not a second before.

Sean once told me that he realized he was in love with me when he met my family. And to his credit, between all my moms, dads, siblings and grandparents I have one of the most incredibly supportive, dynamic, and hilarious families you’ve ever met. But Karen brought a truly unique warmth and love to my life that I never knew before I met her. At my most vulnerable moments I long for her company. I can’t imagine not having spent the weeks after my babies were born with her. I can’t imagine not having someone in my life calling me “doll.” I can’t imagine not having her love in my life.

To one of the loveliest, most beautiful, most selfless people I know, happy birthday from your eternally grateful daughter, Marissa. XOXO.

they get me


Today I find myself completely awash with gratitude for many of the people in my life and I have no choice but to shout my adoration from the rooftops. The danger for me in not doing so is that I’ll fall into the trap of actively despising the rest of them. You know who you (they) are – the haters. The ones who read this and everyone else’s posts on social  media and lurk with judgment, jealousy and negativity. The ones who, instead of participating in a conversation on- or offline, wallow in the misery of their own self-hatred. So rather than tumble down that rabbit hole of despair, I choose love. And as Mother Teresa famously said, “It was never between you and them anyway.”

Thank you to my husband. Thank you for quietly and patiently allowing me to spread my wings and fly to every corner of the world (and the internet) on a whim. Thank you for actively supporting my need to express myself in different ways and for keeping your eye rolls and fears of backlash from your own network of friends and family to yourself. Thank you for letting nearly all of my daily neuroses roll off your back. Thank you for knowing and respecting how fragile I can be even when I am still trying to be a tough bitch. Thank you for doing your best to bring joy to my life every day. You get me.

Thank you to my family. Moms, dads, siblings, grandparents, and now children – you have all shaped me into the woman I am today. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin, unafraid to take risks and to be vulnerable. To be able to live life with little to no fear is such a gift. To truly believe, with all my heart, in the words “this too shall pass” is a blessing. This optimism comes only from being brought up in homes full of unconditional love and support. Your encouragement has never waned and for that I am eternally grateful. You get me.

Thank you to my vast, yet blissfully intimate, group of friends. You know exactly who you are. I love you like I’ve known you my whole life, even if I’ve only known you a short while, even if we only talk during a crisis or on Facebook. Thank you for trusting me with your secrets, your fears and your wildest dreams. Thank you for protecting mine like they are your own. Thank you for your wisdom, your music, your teachings, your food, your sanity, your insanity and your unconditional love. You get me.

Lastly, thank you to the haters. Thank you for giving me the perspective I need to cherish the lovers. Thank you for helping to blur the lines between family and friends. My friends are my family and my family are my friends. You are just the outliers that contribute to the diversity of my environment, providing the fodder that continues to strengthen the bonds I hold dear. You don’t get me, I don’t get you, but we can still celebrate our differences.







a love letter

This year I’m dedicating Valentine’s Day to a different type of lover, not a man of flesh and blood, but another who has taught me the art of self-love and acceptance. A lover who has healed my mind and body in ways I never expected. My one true soulmate.


This dedication has been in my heart for such a long time, and yet I (still) struggle to find the words to convey the impact that yoga, in all of its beautiful variations, its dynamic pathways to spiritual and physical freedom, has had on my one humble life. My journey thus far has been brief, having only committed myself to a near-daily practice for just over a year, but my passion grows stronger with every practice and I often wonder what life was like before I knew such joy.

Prior to moving to Colorado from Chicago four years ago, I viewed yoga as glorified stretching that only hippies and celebrities did. Because, after all, I was in the middle of the urban rat race. When it came to physical endeavors, unless you were training for a marathon or logging mad hours at the gym, you were a pussy. And spirituality? Who had time for that nonsense? Ah, but God bless Colorado. I don’t know if it’s the blue skies, or the clean air, or the majesty of these mountains, but something about this place (and I’ve said it before) just makes you want to live a better life, be a better human being. Finding myself on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the spring of 2013, I turned to yoga (and Bali) as a way to find mental stability. I would go to classes every now and again, and though I enjoyed them immensely, I didn’t get the physical benefits I do now until I joined CorePower Yoga in November of 2014 and took my first hot yoga class. If you’ve ever taken a Bikram class, it’s like that. HOT. 105 degrees hot. Sweating from places you didn’t know you could sweat from hot. I almost didn’t survive my first class, but my teacher Robert guided me through. His voice was so calming as he explained that yoga is a uniquely personal experience that our bodies and minds experience differently every day (code: there is no shame in staying in a mostly horizontal position if it ever gets to be too much). I still have days when my body or my mind (or both) shows up for class all fucked up and I question how I’ve kept this practice up for as long as I have. And yet I’ve never, EVER regretted showing up at the end.

And here’s why:

Yoga makes me love my body. What?! Love your body? No woman in her late 30’s, post-CSection loves her body. Oh but I do, maybe not every minute of every day, because unfortunately I still have a late 30’s, post-CSection body. But for the duration of every yoga class I show up to, I love it. Even in yoga pants; especially in yoga pants. I love the bend of my back in camel pose, the muscles in my shoulders and arms in chatarunga and even the curve in my butt during a belly rest. And I feel like a goddamned ballerina in dancer pose. Sometimes I even put my hair in a bun on top of my head so I can really fulfill that childhood fantasy. Truth be told, I have always been vain and have always had reasonably frustrating body image issues. I don’t think I’ll ever not look at myself in every mirror, window or barely reflective surface I pass, and yes, I love it when my yoga classes have mirrors on every wall and I always choose a spot in a corner where I can see myself from as many angles as possible. But I almost never set foot on the scale anymore, and it’s not because I’m going through a binge eating phase and I’m scared to know the truth. A large part of me has actually stopped caring what it says. Yoga has given me a body confidence I’ve never had before, even when I was a borderline anorexic in 2001 or on my wedding day (after months of two-a-day workouts at the gym and a 2-week Master Cleanse). I’m never not going to be on the curvier side, and I really couldn’t be happier about that. Curves are feminine and hot! Watching my muscles change and my flexibility grow, seeing old injuries and pains disappear, has been life-changing. My self-consciousness will likely always rear it’s ugly head (I even had a tummy consult with a plastic surgeon as recently as December. He told me to start swimming laps. Ugh.), but for me yoga has been a giant step in a positive direction.

Inner peace. Need I go on? Actually, yes I do because it’s imperative that you know, if you don’t know already, that I am an emotional basket case 40-50% of the time. I may pull off a good, if not great facade, but not very deep down I am coming apart at the seams. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been described as strong, resilient or even graceful (ha!) and been like, “what? who? you got the wrong chick, dude.” And yet I can begin a class in a complete emotional blur and come out feeling refreshed and invigorated with the wind at my back. I think and see clearly again. There is something especially effective about a hot or Bikram-style class – the heat is so intense and your body is working so hard to keep its shit together that your mind has no choice but to succumb to the most basic of brain functions, like reminding your hand to pick up the towel and wipe the sweat that’s pouring off your face. When was the last time, even in sleep, that you can honestly say you didn’t think or feel for a full hour? Yoga is like a deep tissue massage for your brain.

Lastly, as with any great love affair, it feels fucking amazing. Yep, I’ve decided to stop not saying fuck on my blog (see: http://www.scarymommy.com/why-i-use-the-f-word/). Some poses feel better than others depending on the day but at least once a class I find myself in some contortion going “oooohhhhhhh yeah, that feels goooooooood.” In others I simply feel beautiful and open. In yet others my body is aligning exactly as it should and that feels good. No matter what I come out feeling wrung out and cleansed. And undeniably addicted.

Do not view this as my way of trying to convince you to practice yoga. Remember: this blog, more than anything, is meant to act as a witness to my life. A future gift to my children. Children, even adult children, are naturally drawn to the experiences of their parents. If my kids read this one day and, having also witnessed what will have been my decades long practice, and it inspires them to start one of their own, that too would be a gift. If it merely gets them to embrace the word fuck, that’s okay with me too.






I am at a breaking point. I find myself at the end of a long (who knows how long this time) stretch of biting off more than I can chew and now I am simply spent. Emotionally and physically spent. I have this pattern of piling things on and piling things on, convinced that I can tackle an infinite number of projects and relationships simultaneously. I am the world’s greatest multi-tasker, after all. The cycle always starts innocently enough, but with each perfectly executed task my confidence grows and grows until I lose sight of myself and my most basic needs…sleep, exercise, food, emotional stability. Instead my need to be challenged and be creative becomes an addiction and before I know it, I’m at O’Hare airport’s security checkpoint being asked to place my purse inside of my suitcase so as not to exceed the 2-carry on limit. It is at this point that I don’t know whether I should punch her right in her asshole face or find the closest bathroom stall so I can have a much needed emotional meltdown. What goddamn difference does it make if I have an extra carry on when it’s going under my seat? Truly, I ask you, what difference does it make???

The good news is I had the smarts to open up my laptop and write this post instead of jabbing the woman. The good ole cry will still happen, though I’m saving it for my two hour drive home from DIA. Sometimes, under the right circumstances, I love to cry. In this case I actually look forward to it, puffy red face and all. I have about a million more feelings than any man (and a lot of women) I know, so for them I can compare it to what it’s like when you are either really sick or really hungover and the best thing you can do is sweat it out in a steam room. Crying is the cure for a feelings hangover. It gets rid of the nasty emotional toxins that are clouding up my otherwise powerful, rational brain. It’s not a sign of weakness, but just my mind’s natural way of cleaning house and making room for fresher, brighter and happier thoughts once more. This all being said, it’s a pretty shitty cycle to repeat over. and over. and over again. So how do I stop it from starting up again?

Right at the start of 2016 I read a blog by Mark Manson, who some of you may recognize as the author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck,” (Google it, I’m too tired to figure out how the hell to insert a hyperlink right now) one of the most brilliant pieces of writing I’ve ever experienced. This time his topic was the inevitable futility of New Year’s goals and resolutions. He basically says they’re all shit and what we should really be focusing on if we want a path to betterment is creating better habits, not on setting ourselves up for utter failure and disappointment through a series of singularly defined accomplishments (or lack thereof). He then goes on to list off what he perceives as the top habits to cultivate for anyone looking to be better at life – not surprisingly they are things like exercising, meditating, reading, writing, cooking. He also believes in the power of the 30-day challenge. You’ll recall I am already a 30-day expert what with my Iphone detox last year. I also did 30 days of yoga last June, though I never did get around to writing about that experience. (Side note: I am incredibly overdue for a tribute to yoga and all that it has done for my quality of life. Stay tuned for that one soon.) Clearly, Mark Manson and I are geniuses of a like mind. So since I read his latest musings about habit development, I’ve been thinking about how I can apply his theory to my own life. What habits would I see the most benefit from and where do I begin? Reaching the tragic end of my self-inflicted cycle of doom today may very well present the very opportunity I have been looking for. The pattern I am trying to end is actually the result of compounded bad habits, though, and what I’ve read about trying to kick any bad habit is that it sometimes helps to replace bad habits with good habits (i.e. replacing happy hour bad decisions with CrossFit workouts). It’s not to say I don’t already have some good ones. Yoga is my mainstay and I am relatively conscious about what I put into my body, vacations and girls weekends notwithstanding. What I need to identify are some simple changes or habits that can help prevent these manic, emotional downward spirals from ever growing legs. I am increasingly anxious about work-related matters and to be perfectly honest, I need to be doing more with my career. But you can only have so much energy to spread across all areas of your life and despite having my best year ever in sales last year, I still put energy into things that are so much less important. Like cleaning. The older I get, the more and more OCD I become about cleaning. To the point where I own 3 Shark uprights, a Roomba and a Dyson handheld. My vacuum collection is nearly as impressive as my handbag collection at this point. It’s utter madness. My obsession with keeping every inch of our house (the one I share with 3 people and 2 dogs) is really unhealthy and it takes away from the time I spend with my family. It drives Sean absolutely nuts because watching me clean makes him feel unnecessarily guilty and it takes my attention away from him and the kids. So I’ve decided to try something really scary. I’m going to give myself one night a week to clean and that’s all. Beyond normal kitchen clean up, that’s all I get. No obsessing about the crumbs inside the heat vents or the grease that managed to get inside the panes of glass of the oven door (yes, I had Sean unhinge and take apart all twelve parts of our oven door the other week so I could get it off). One night, that’s it. Plus the twice monthly professional cleans. I would give up my handbags for those in a New York minute.

My hope is that freeing up not just the time, but the head space I have been giving to order and perfection in my home will allow me to put back some quality effort into my career and quality time toward my husband. A 30-day challenge is coming in February where the hubs is concerned, and maybe he’ll let me write about it. His mom reads this blog, though, so I’m guessing no. As a lot of us know, marriage is hard, even when you’ve been blessed with a really incredible partner who looks like Tom Cruise if Tom Cruise were cool enough to grow facial hair. Keeping things interesting doesn’t come naturally like it did when we were 27 and partying all the time (and yet somehow were never tired). It’s so cliche, but oh so true: a partnership is work and I need to do a better job of working the partnership if you get what I mean. We will be reaching our 7-year wedding anniversary next month and I want to honor that milestone appropriately…and maybe just a little bit inappropriately.

These are just, well, things I’ve been ruminating on and only time will tell how successful I am, but I recently heard a quote in one of my yoga classes that I can’t get out of my head. Saying it to myself brings me peace and encouragement in equal measure:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”

-Maya Angelou