Some are the days when the deep blue sky seems vast and full of endless possibilities. You feel limitless in your potential, in your power. You are sure you could take off and soar over the city, if only given the provisions.

Not all are such days.

Our small group gathers weekly to drink coffee, eat day-old donuts, and pick up new ideas on how to further demoralize ourselves. Each other. We find the best ideas on how to reach rock bottom in this little room in the basement of an old AG church.

Rock bottom: The destination of choice for all around fuck-ups. Ours is a disease which can only be cured by a brief vacay on this deserted island.

I have this dog, a little cocker spaniel. When I took her in for a check up last month, the vet told me she had cataracts. She’s in a lot of pain, but I had no idea. Animals adapt to their pain, she told me. It’s survivial. Even though sometimes it ends up killing them.

That night I bought her the expensive dog food, from the refrigerated section, to ease my guilt a little. She puked on my couch and crapped all over the floor. Her system isn’t used to good things in life.

Thriving isn’t the same as surviving.

People can get used to anything. To cold weather,  to living alone, to war. To waking up in strange places, in cold sweats, in puddles of their own vomit. I got used to wearing long sleeves. I don’t even get hot anymore. The sleeves are like a shell. My second skin.

Rock bottom. A concept, referred to only in the past tense. Wrapped up in the tales and testimonials of sponsors before they relapse in your living room and you have to call their ex-wives to pick them up.

I don’t believe in hell, but only because I can’t fathom anything worse than this world. I don’t want to. That’s the shit nightmares are made from.

Tommy’s legs always shake up and down in the most unnatural way. His eyes are forcefully held open by his will, while his lids flutter under the weight of his relaxation. He picks at the scabs on his hands and face, mindlessly. He probably looks like shit, but under the yellow florescent basement lights, I think he looks like a Calvin Klien model. He’s lost weight.

I’ve lost perspective.

Last week he tried to tell us about his new job bussing tables, but he kept getting hung up on the word tables. His mouth refused to say that “bull” sound, so it came out more like tab-less. He was bussing tab-less, he told us with his eyes half-open.

Andrea gave up on him and began to talk about her son Victor. He’s up for parole. Again. We all know he’ll never make it, but we pretended. We always pretend for our friends. She’s been trying to set up a job at McDonalds for him.

Rock bottom. A grown man keeping a shitty job for two whole weeks.

It smells like vinegar and pinesol in that whole room. Some sort of weird disinfectant. Reminds me of the school cafeteria, which reminds me of dumpsters outside my apartment. I couldn’t stand it, so I walked out to the courtyard.

Janis stood, crying into Pedro’ s shoulder. He gave me the help me look. I smiled. Shook my head. Mouthed the words “not my turn”. She leaves trails of snot and mascara on his shoulder. That shit never comes out. It’s still on the arms of my best white blouse. Now I only wear black t-shirts to group. Janis is addicted to tears of self loathing and perpetual disappointment.

Rock bottom. When tears are the only thing left that can still get you off.

I sat on the bench next to Nadya–the one with the big hair not the one with the big butt. There are a lot of Nadyas and I think I know most of them.

Got a smoke? She asked. I told her I didn’t. She intentionally leaves her cigarettes behind when she goes out so she can bum some to save her cash. Like we don’t know. Like we aren’t all strapped for cash. Like we aren’t all bums.

You wanna beg? I pointed her in that direction of the street. Fuck you, she said. If you can find anyone to fuck your scrawny ass, she said. Bitch, she said. I gave her the finger. She and her poofy, 80’s hair walked off to find another sucker.

Rock bottom. Begging just to beg. Because you forget how not to. Because begging is your new full time job.

Simon sat down, winked at me. He hates Nadya for all the same reasons I hate her, plus she won’t give him the time of day. He hugged me and asked how I was doing. I shrugged–the universal sign for “same old shit.”

He is cute, but quiet and prone to sobbing during sharing time. Women like sensitive men, but nobody wants their guy to cry like a teenaged girl over everything. Especially in public. It’s embarrassing. People start uncomfortably coughing and picking their cuticles.

Rock bottom. A bottomless pit of self-degrading possibilities.

I went home with Matt. The one with the glasses, not the beanie. We went to bed. I thought about a a pamphlet I saw in the vets waiting room. Picking up more dog food. Shampooing my shit-covered carpets. He probably thought about Nayda. One of them. Maybe both.

We watched tv until he passed out. I slipped out of the room and rummaged through his kitchen drawers looking for something. I wasn’t sure what. My self worth. Or a blade. Or hard candy like my grandmother used to keep in her kitchen. I found a picture of Doc Martins cut out of a magazine and glued to a piece of cardboard with the words “undead” written on the back. A half-empty book of matches. Some paperclips, pencils and post-it notes. One large pack of Happy Birthday balloons. $40. A pair of glasses with out lenses. Frames.

I pocketed the money. Put on the frames. I took the ballons back to the bathroom with me, sat on the toilet lid and blew them all up. I filled the bathtub with them and the closed the curtain. I wrote “Hi!” in soap on the bathroom mirror. I lit all of the matches left in the book and watched them extinguish one by one.

Then I called the other Matt, the one with the Beanie.

We went to breakfast. I told him to order the steak and eggs. It was on me. Then we left without paying.

Rock bottom: Hiding your messages in bottles and in the air inside birthday balloons. A game of hide and seek with yourself.



I remember the first time I held you, still warm and wet. I couldn’t stop saying how beautiful you were. Your curly, dark hair and olivey skin, your long fingers and lashes. I held you close and breathed you in. I said that if I could bottle that very moment up forever so that I could open and relive it again, I would. Because that was the smell of true love. Everyone laughed. But, I meant it.


You were only a month old when things started going wrong. Reflux, they said. So we started you on medications. You looked better and were able to eat again. By five months you were filling out, and growing well. You eyes danced when we made faces. You giggled when you’re little brother said silly little rhymes he made up for you. You bounced and cooed and smiled like a happy little baby.


By eight months, nearly overnight, everything began to change. You stopped looking us in the eye. The look of joy in your eyes was replaced with one of distance. Your smiles turn into wailing complaints. You stopped being happy. Stopped communicating. Stopped developing. And started regressing. Forgetting things you had  learned.


When you were 10 months and had spent yet another day crying–only crying–I took you back once more to the doctor and demanded they figure out what was wrong. Again, they checked you out. Again they shrugged. Again they suggested another reflux medication.


By 11 months we had an appointment at Johns Hopkins for more tests. I was so hopeful for you. For us. I was sure they would find the answer. They poked and prodded and tested. We met with the team of doctors in  small, dark room. I was shaking. I was tired but ready for whatever it was. But, I wasn’t ready for what they told me:


“We can’t find anything wrong. Everything looks normal. There is no reason for her reflux. Are you sure she isn’t just a little fussy? Some babies are fussy you know…”


And I started to cry. Because nobody believed me. Everyone kept trying to convince me nothing was wrong with you. It was in my head.  I was being overprotective. I just didn’t have enough experience as a mother.


Nobody else stayed awake with you all night as you screamed. Nobody else heard the little voice within those screams that said, “mommy! Please help me!” Nobody rocked you day and night, and put up with the tantrums that lasted hours and hours. Nobody saw how you would shriek when water touched you as if were burning your skin. They didn’t understand how the moment you ate anything, you puked it all back up. They didn’t see how the simple motor skills you once had were being quickly lost.  All they saw was a young, tired mom on medical assistance.


But, I kept looking for help, like I had promised you. I Googled your symptoms, talked to anyone who would listen, read every book and article and forum I could find on early development. A mom who had gone through much the same trial emailed me a number of this specialist and told me I had to talk to her.


Within 15 minutes of our phone call I was crying. She believed me. And not only that, she wanted to see you. So we took you in to a team of specialists to be evaluated. There they sized you up, jotted down notes, asked many questions, and listened intently to all my concerns.


Not long after you were diagnosed as having Sensory Processing Disorder. Treatments and therapies were designed just for you and with a few months we all saw a big difference in you. At 18 months you communication skills had been around the 6-9 month level. By 24 months you were really catching up. You were keeping down solid foods and playing with toys. Sometimes you even looked at us and smiled.


Unfortunately, our insurance would only cover a small series of therapies and after that we were left on our own to carry out the therapies as we had been taught. Your OT reminding me often to remember to always educate myself so that I can be your best advocate.


But, you still weren’t sleeping. And you still screamed most of the day. Eventually, you began regressing again. I asked the team to see you again but was told they can’t re-enroll any child which had already graduated their program. They suggested I pay out of pocket for your treatments–something that no matter how I saved I could never begin to afford.


Your dad and I worked so hard with you. He quit his job and started working part time from home. We stayed with your grandparents in a tiny apartment so we could spend all of our time and resources on you. He took day shift, I took night. We rarely saw each other except to pass you off before we crashed for a few hours and tried to block out your wails and sobs from the other room.


I did my best by you, my daughter. I really gave it my all. And I wish that had been enough. But, my exhaustion got the better of me and depression started to take over my weary mind. As very, very much as I loved you, all of the sleepless hours of tantrums and crying all day wore on me. I could no longer think clearly enough to be able to advocate for you. I gave up on doctors. I stopped calling the school system. I stopped trying so hard. I cut off anyone who said anything unkind about you. It was just us, our family, alone doing our best and waiting for better days. I never trusted another person with you again. I kept you all to myself because I was too tired to fight and too scared to let you go.


You are nine now. Today you came home from your second day in public school and tears poured out of the sides of your long lashes. As big as you are, you climbed up into my lap and cried into my shoulder. The kids think you’re stupid. The teacher doesn’t explain anything. You can’t spell like the other kids. They don’t want to play with you. You feel so dumb and never want to go back. You asked me to keep you home forever.


And I want to. I want to more than I can tell you, my sweet little girl. I want to hold you in my arms and never let anything ever happen to you. Because you have gone through more in your short life than anyone ever should. You have overcome so many challenges that most people never have to face. When people look at you they can’t see any of that like I can.


My little girl, who wears only cotton with no tags, and skirts because pants make you itch. My girl who can’t wear socks because they feel like fire on her feet. My darling little lamb who would rather poke herself in the eye than ever feel the cold of winter on her face. My baby, with the hazel eyes and olivey skin, who has written a very extensive plan on how to make a time machine because you want more than any other thing in this world to be the first one to travel through time.


I love you more than anything in this world. That’s why I have kept you home this long. I wanted to keep you safe and give you a chance to grow in a safe environment before letting you out on your own. Because, I know the world can be so confusing and hard to navigate even when you don’t have any special needs to consider.


But, I have to stop being scared. We have to be brave, together. We have to give this a try.


Your mommy knows that you deserve much more than she can give you. She is tired and worn out and you need fresh energy. You need people in your life who can show you the way. Who can teach you the things your mommy doesn’t know. You need to learn to stand up for yourself and make friends and deal with hardships that we all face. You can do this, you just need to figure that out.


And I need to let you.


I want nothing more than to protect you from every bad thing in this world. But, my sweet girl, this is the best way I know how. Please, understand. Please give it your best. I promise, my shoulder will be here for you to cry on whenever you need it, for the rest of my days on this earth.


I will help you through this.


I love you, Eve.

What I wish I could tell my younger self.

When I was a kid I had no idea there was any music genre except rap. I was just a product of my environment like that. I memorized all the lyrics to various Tupac and Snoop Dog songs and sang along with the radio. My favorite being the one about a guy who gets around, in which he vividly describes his various sexual encounters–none of which my 11 year old ears understood a word of. I mean I thought I knew, but I so didn’t.Thank God.

I heard this song recently and shook my head at the idea of my pre-teen self singing these rather vulgar lyrics with my friends on the playground and of the dances we made up go along. If only I had known then what I know now! Eek.

Then again, there are so many things I wish I could tell that young girl. So much advice I have for the earlier versions of myself. Though I realize we can’t really know these things until we experience them, I often think about what I’d tell my younger self if I ever had the chance. And lucky you, because I’m sharing a list I compiled of just that!

Learn to depend on yourself because friends come and go, but you will always be stuck with you.

Learn to cook at least one full meal before you get married.

Stay away from people who suck the life out of you.

Try not to suck the life out of other people.

13 is too young to get involved with boys, even if all of your friends are.

If older guys give you attention it isn’t because you’re mature, it’s because you’re an easy target.

Pay attention in history class. It’s with more than all the others combined.

Never keep a shitty friend just because you’re lonely.

Learn to say “fuck you” sooner.

Learn to say “no” sooner.

Learn to speak louder.

Don’t believe you can’t have a good life, regardless of where you came from.

It’s not selfish to put yourself first some of the time.

Being needed is not the same thing as being loved.

There is no fucking way you can possibly understand love. Sorry.

There is no such thing as love at first sight. It’s lust. And that’s fun too. Enjoy it for what it is.

Don’t worry about getting good grades, worry about learning. But try to get good grades too, because for some reason they are really important to other people.

Graduate. Fuck everyone who tries to stand in your way, who eats up your time, who makes feel responsible for them,  and who puts themselves ahead of your right to an education. Make it work. You’re just a kid.

You matter, even if nobody ever tells you that.

You look bad with short bangs.

And with blonde hair.

Your thighs are not fat. Get over yourself.

There’s is plenty of time to be an adult, be a kid while you can.

No guy will ever replace your dad. Don’t waste your time looking.

You only can see how beautiful a person really is after you get know them.

When you get older, you will still have a thing for Italian guys. And tattoos. And Dic van Dyke.  Some things never change.

You will not still have a thing for Syd Vicious, cherry ices, or jeeps. Many things do change.

Jeep guys suck. Stay away from them.

Never compromise your core values. Not for religion. Not for love. Not for anything.

The big boobs you hate because they get you too much attention will feed four babies. They will also look a lot better after you after put on a few pounds. (In the mean time, minimizer bras are fucking awesome.)

You will never stop feeling like you’re 17.

Compromising isn’t the same as giving in.

I want to tell you not to be afraid to love, but I’m still working on that one. Try, though.

You will be surprised how having children will change you. And how passionately you will love them.

You will not be able to do everything you want in life, but you can do some it. Don’t give up on your dreams.

Keep writing. You’ll get better.

Don’t burn all your journals in some emotional break down. You’ll regret it.

Keep skating. You’ll wish you hadn’t stopped. You’re good at it, moron.

Don’t trust people just because you want to see the good in them. Trust is earned.

Everyone sucks. The ones who own it are the best kind of people. Don’t waste time on the other ones.

Be brave, not stupid. But, if you find yourself on a bad situation, never look scared.

Look everyone in the eye. Especially if they intimidate you.

People will judge you no matter what, so you might as well just be yourself.

Everyone is scared of something. Figure it out, but never use it against them. (Unless you absolutely have to.)

If you learn to understand people, you can figure everything else out pretty easily. Except math. That shit is hard!

Chocolate is what makes your face break out. You’re welcome.

It’s okay if not everyone likes you.

It’s okay if you don’t like everyone.

For the love of God, don’t waste so much time cleaning. Nobody but you cares if they can eat off of your floor.

Your babies will be really shitty sleepers, so enjoy your rest now.

Don’t be afraid of getting older. You’ll look better at 34 than 24.

Enjoy gluten while you still can.

Never count calories. It’s bullshit.

You will spend the first part of your life wishing you were fatter and the second wishing were skinnier. Just be happy with who you are.

Don’t try to pick out friends, just be on the look out for good people you click with and let things grow as they will.

Throwing away your bathroom scale will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.

Wear comfortable shoes. But, not Crocs. Jesus!

Antidepressants don’t make your life better.

Good times rarely last long, so make sure to enjoy them instead worrying about them ending.

Sex doesn’t have to be about love. Love doesn’t have to be about sex. But, it’s definitely better when it is.

Don’t over complicate everything. (You will anyhow.)

There is only one first kiss. It’s always bad. If someone says it wasn’t, they are lying.

You’ll be a better person than you thought you ever could be. And also a lot shittier.

You’ll be surprised how often you will make the same mistakes. Sorry about that.

Don’t try to be happy, just live.

Don’t eat Skittles and Mountain Dew for breakfast. Seriously. Wtf is wrong with you?!

You will always fucking suck at guitar. But you will keep trying for some asinine reason.

You’ll still write a lot of songs which nobody but you will ever hear. It’s not that big of a deal.

Sometimes you will care about everything and sometimes nothing at all. The moments between are the reality.

Occasionally giving up is okay, but not usually.

If something seems too good be true, you probably just haven’t given enough time yet.

Bad habits are hard to break. You’ll develop them anyhow. So, just deal with it.

Everyone will disappoint you sometimes.

You will disappoint everyone sometimes.

You’re not as fucked up as you fear that you might end up,  but definitely not who you wish you were. Just come to terms with it.

Escaping works. Use it cautiously.

Always keep bottled water in the car. You have terrible luck with radiators.

Remember that some kids are just little assholes. But, they might have older asshole siblings. So, watch your mouth.

You will always talk too much, speak too fast, and think far too quickly, no matter how hard you try to slow down for the sake others. And you will always feel impatient about how slow everyone else is.

Newborn babies smell like absolute heaven. Beware. Even looking at them seems to get you knocked up.

Cherish your alone time. You will never have it again without feeling guilty.

Never pretend to be something you’re not, even for a really good reason.

Sometimes your big mouth will get you into trouble. It will also be what keeps you out of it.

Some people will mistake your passion for anger and your straightforwardness for impetuousness. But the important people will understand the difference.

When someone asks you to dance, just say yes. Don’t always be standoffish to nice people.

Hardcore punk guys always like the soft preppy girls. It’s really fucked up, but you get used it.

Never pick a fight if you aren’t ready to kick ass or get your ass kicked. Literally or figuratively.

You’re not going to turn out just like your dad. But, you will always worry about it.

Never do something you don’t want to because you’re to afraid of what will happen if you say no. Saying yes to something you don’t want has worse consequences.

You can only really hate someone who you loved first.

Don’t sell your dirt bike for $40. I know it seems like a lot of money, but it isn’t.

Paint your nails even though they are short. Wear a bathing suit even though you aren’t skinny. Sing along to songs even though you sound like a duck. Have fun!

You will always be really scared of zombies. I don’t know why. But it doesn’t really affect your ability function the real world.

You will always be a night person and nobody will understand, unless they are a night person.

You will always have a bad sense of direction. But there will be something called GPS and it out will keep you from ending up in Dundalk every time you drive.

It’s okay that writing is a selfish pursuit. Do it anyhow.

Don’t assume everyone will hurt you. But don’t assume they won’t.

You can’t let people in without some risk. Some people are worth the risk.

Despite your childhood dreams, you will never actually own a matching set of sheets and pillowcases, no matter how much you want one. It’s not that big of a deal though.

And hey, listen, when you leave envelopes of things for your future self, like some sort time capsule, could you leave some kinda explanation with it? Because I can’t figure out Wtf that green and white striped material is from. So, it’s kinda pointless.

I’m sure I’ll think of many more, but I think that this about covers the big stuff.

soooo tiny.

When I was a kid, one of my best friends was also my cousin. One of few girl friends I’ve ever had (you know, I recall writing those very words before. Like a writing deja vu.) Anyhow, she was two years younger than I was, so when I got married she was 17. She was in her last year of high school and I was getting married. Yes, yes, I know I was young. But, that’s another topic.

Anyhow, as any experienced person can tell you, your friends change as you get older. People fall away. You grow and change. Yadda yadda. Whatever. Point is, you just don’t usually stay besties from childhood on. We aren’t all DJ and Kimmys. So, though she liked my husband-to-be a lot, we started to drift apart the closer I got to my wedding day. By the time I had my first son, we were like strangers.

I’m going off on a tangent here, because I really just felt like writing this funny conversation out. When we were kids we had been all into the punk scene–well, as much as two teenagers can be. Shows and Chelsea cuts and Docs and five inch pins–you know, all the things anarchy is made up of.  But, she started changing and got into the whole clubbing scene. And along with it came new friends and new clothes and new food. By new food, I mean lack of it. It was some fad of looking so skinny that you have to wear toddler clothing held up with diaper pins. So, they didn’t eat anything but thoughts of pizza and water. They were all obsessively talking about weight and sizes and jumping on the scale and cursing their “fat” thighs. All the things people who are size -4 say and do.

When I got there they were all getting ready to go out. I hold up the baby and show him off.

Cousin: awww he’s so sweet! Let me hold him. Look at his little feet!
Cousin’s stupid friend 1: awww how tiny
CSF2: omg he is tiny!
CSF3:  He is soooo tiny! How much does he weigh?
Me: when he was born he was 9lbs 3oz.
CSF1: Ohmigawd! That’s so tiny!
CSF2: That is tiny! Awww! I wish I were that tiny!
CSF1: I know right? I’m so fat! Hes so lucky!
CSF3: yeah! He’s so lucky.
Me: Um. K. [thinking: what the fucking fuck?]

Then CSF1 couldn’t find the pastie she was getting ready to put on so she could pretend she had boobs, and she was hopping all around the room trying to find it. I had to tell her that it was stuck to her butt the whole time because she had sat on it. Then my brother dated her for four years. And it turns out I liked really her for some reason, so I never brought up the pastie incident.

There is no point to this story. I was just in the mood to write and this is what I came up with.


We used to have this beautiful snake when I was a kid. Baby ball python. It was kind–as much as a snake can be. I mean snakes are pretty much either docile or they are fierce. They aren’t a snuggly, cuddly type of pet.

He was pretty awesome and we walked around with him around or necks. Watched TV while he slithered around at our feet. Scared the shit out of visitors with him. But, everyday his novelty wore off a little more,  and my brother found he had less and less spare change to buy him a rat every week to feed on–especially since I kept saving them, naming them after Speed Racer characters, and keeping them in my closet.

For longer and longer stretches the snake would go between meals and slowly he became more aggressive when the cage door was opened. He would lunge at your hand or face, blinded with hunger.  It got so bad that even my brother, the toughest kid I knew was too scared to open it.

As the days went on, the snake became less and less appealing. We were young and unsure how to handle a creature so wild and vicious. He went from being a pet to being nothing more than the rat snakes we had in the woods that would wrap their body around your leg and slap at you with their tails if you stepped on their head.

The pet store wouldn’t take him back and nobody wanted to buy an aggressive snake. They wouldn’t even take him for free. Apparently once a snake adapts to being hungry,  there is no going back. The aggression just becomes who he is.

He wasn’t a pet anymore. He was a nuisance. And we resented him for it, even though it was us who created him.

Eventually the snake died of hunger. We all felt like shit about it, but nobody took responsibility. We told each other it was the snake’s fault. If only he had let us love him. Had let us feed him. Hadn’t tried to bite us…

But we all knew it was really our fault. We were just cowards.