One Word Week: Overwhelmed

This week(ish) I'm blogging based on single word suggestions people have made to my Facebook or Twitter. I asked for a single word, and then I'll see where the blog takes me. Today, it's



Last September, I knew that I was feeling pretty overwhelmed when I started burping a lot. I was burping because I felt like there was a knot in my throat, like a big old shipping-knot made out frayed rope stuck right in my throat. And I was pretty sure that knot was cancer. I didn’t have time to slow down and check it out, though. My husband was still looking for a job so supporting the family (and our mortgages and our car payment and student loans and groceries) rested squarely on me. I felt like I was carrying a Sumo Wrestler on my shoulders, like he was playing chicken with God or something, and it all pissed me off.

I’d teach my writing classes at the college, drive an hour or so to the studio, narrate, drive home, cook, take care of the kiddos, obsess, grade papers, lesson plan, prep the next book, all the while carrying a Sumo Wrestler and burping burping burping. I couldn’t sleep at night and when I did sleep, my legs twitched.


Then I found a lump on my clavicle. I’ve always liked my clavicles. I think that slender bone at the base of the neck is sexy, and I’ve always liked my neck. I also like my ankles and sometimes wish I was born in another century. My ankles would’ve been a Centerfold.

So I took some time out of my schedule to go to the doctor (even though it cost $195) and tell him about the cancer growing in my throat and the bump on my clavicle, all while carrying the weight of my family’s future with me. I couldn’t be sick! We didn’t have insurance! How would I handle chemo? We would lose the house. The kids would have to live with their dad full time. I’d be in a wheelchair and bald and puffy and my husband would have to take care of me and I’d tell him to please have an affair because I couldn’t love him anymore and the whole thing just broke me. Into a bunch of little shards. I tried so hard not to cry that I was choking. Myself.

The doctor listened to my symptoms. Then he told me to feel his clavicles. “What?” I asked. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top two buttons and said: “Here. Feel.” Well, I thought that was a little weird and intimate but I reached out with my cold fingers and felt his clavicles. (It wasn’t sexy.) Sure enough, he had a bump just like mine. He smiled, kindly, albeit with a little fatigue, and said: “Is there any chance you might be stressed?”

I said, “Hello! See the Sumo Wrestler. The dude is straddling me and wearing a diaper. YES! I’m STRESSED!!!”

I got a prescription for anti-anxiety meds and then something else I could take when I felt like I couldn’t breathe or couldn’t swallow.

It was enough to get me through the short term.

When things settled, I had the conversation with my husband when I told him I couldn’t handle the pressure anymore and I needed him to find a job. My health needed him to. My sanity. Our relationship. There were lots of reasons why he couldn’t get work and hadn’t found anything, and I understood that, but I needed something to change.

And then it did.

I gave up teaching. I focused just on narrating. Hubby found a job. We sold his house and reduced our expenses to one mortgage. We paid off his car. And that stinky Sumo Wrestler finally left my shoulders.

And I stopped burping.

Overwhelmed? Yes. But eventually, I got out from under all of that stress. I don’t take the meds anymore. I don’t need them. I have time to exercise and do yoga classes now.

I’m reading this book called “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed and she says in there “How do you get out of a hole? You climb.” Simple advice, but it resonates with me.

You can always change your life. It sucks sometimes and it’s really hard, and it takes being honest and vulnerable to other people, but you can climb out of that hole. And you can bitch slap that Sumo Wrestler. I know because I did.

Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed To Grocery Shop

It’s a blustery Sunday morning and I just got back from walking two miles to the grocery store. I love walking because I get to calm my brain without the pressure of parking or hitting people on bikes. I meander the aisles in the grocery store slowly and then I call my hubby and he comes and picks me up. After this morning, though, I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to shop. Or if I do, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

Grocery Shopping

First, I looked at Benadryl. I wanted kids’ size, and in a pill form. I read that if you go on a flight and give your kids Benadryl they’ll sleep the whole way. Then after I couldn’t find it, I rationalized that drugging the kids to get them to sleep on the flight may not be the best parenting. A BETTER parenting strategy is for me to call my doctor, get a prescription for a couple of Valium, and then Mommy can be relaxed and gentle and well-adjusted all the way to Disney.

I found an end-cap display of single serving bottles of wine. I got twelve. I rationalized this because they’re great for cooking and then I can use the crap wine in the food instead of my good wine. Plus, when I open my GOOD wine, I end up drinking it all. Not all at once, I’m not like guzzling it. I drink one glass a day. If it were the fifties, I’d have two martinis, a Valium, a glass of sherry, a pack of smokes, and then one glass of wine. This is progress then.

Since I got all the wine, I texted hubby to come inside and get me. I forgot my license and while I wasn’t wearing makeup and probably looked like I was pushing menopause, I didn’t want to get carded and then have to go “Come on. Really? Do you see how far my boobs hang? These are not twenty-year-old boobs” to the cashier. I didn’t want to put either one of us through that.

Kealoha (hubby) came to get me. I handed him his mocha and sipped on my cappuccino from Starbucks, which I paid for with my credit card but then couldn’t leave a tip because I’d forgotten my wallet along with my license.

In the checkout lane, a giant helium dinosaur ass bobbed in my face. “What the…?” I exclaimed. And then I saw a stack of round papers that were for sale for $1. They were signs to Save Our Herpes. “What? They’ve got a ribbon for everything! Who wants to save herpes?” I cried. I couldn’t believe it.

Kealoha looked at the sign I was pointing at. “Heroes. It says Save Our Heroes.”

Oh. Guess I should’ve worn my glasses.

Then the cashier asked if we were doing anything else exciting for the weekend. “This is it,” I said, nodding to the cupcake mix and twelve mini bottles of wine.

“No football games or anything?”

“God, no. We don’t believe in that sort of thing.”

The cashier’s face flushed red, either because of the herpes or my being a football-atheist.

Kealoha grabbed the bags and while he put them in the back of the car, I crawled into the passenger seat and smiled, content with the world. Still, I probably shouldn’t be allowed to shop unsupervised.

What Happens When I Try To Sign Up For Yoga

After years of wearing yoga pants, I thought it was time to finally take a yoga class. A friend and I walk around Reed’s Lake (4.5 miles) every weekend, but the winds are a blowing and winter is coming. A nice, relaxing yoga class indoors sounded perfect. Plus, I can be a teeny, tiny bit high strung, so finding my Zen might be really nice. I called to sign up. Here is the conversation: (Yes. That is Elvis.)

ME: So, I’m looking for an intro-level yoga class either on Saturday or Sunday that me and a friend could take. Do you have anything like that?


ME: Uhhhh…

REYMA: We have one on Saturdays at 9 AM.

ME: Okay. Sure. Okay. Sounds good. How do I sign up?

REYMA: Oh, there’s no need for that. Just stop on by and you can join the class. It’s for all levels.

ME: But what if it’s full?

REYMA: We’ll work you in. No worries.

ME: No. But wait. What if…like…the class is FULL. Shouldn’t I, like, sign up to make sure it’s not full? I don’t want it to be full and be all ready to do yoga and then have you tell me I can’t do it.

REYMA: No worries. It’ll be fine. You can just stop on by. Or not. Whatever. However you want to work it.

ME: Well, I want to sign up for the yoga class and I’ll plan on being there next Saturday at 9AM with my friend.

REYMA: Sure. Maybe we’ll see you then.

ME: No. No! Uhm, no. It’s on my calendar. I’ll be there. I’m signed up. This is me, signing me up.

(Pause. Sound of the guy doing deep breathing techniques.) ME: Okay. Thanks. See you then. Thanks.



I think this dialogue pretty much shows why I need to take a yoga class and why I’m probably going to be really horrible at it. I just felt know...there are RULES, and you have to follow rules. Plus there was that one time when I was seven or eight and got up to the movie theater to get the tickets to see The Muppet Movie and they sold out. The kid right before me got the last ticket. And I just don't want to feel that way again.

I wish I could take a yoga class with the Muppets. *sigh*



Kealoha and I stayed in Grand Haven last night. I’m narrating all week long and I thought it would be nice to A) Not have to drive for two hours (round trip) and B) Stay at a hotel. Instead of a 50-minute drive home, I had a ten minute drive to the hotel and Kealoha met me at our room. I’d envisioned a conversation with the desk clerk. Here’s what happened in my brain:

ME: I’m here for the night. Last minute idea.

CLERK: But you don’t have any luggage!

ME (nervously): That’s because, ehm, my, er, husband is coming and he’ll bring the luggage. Yeah. My husband. That’s right.

(In my head I sounded suspicious even to myself.)

CLERK: Oh. Okay. I got you. Your ‘husband’. (wink wink wink)

ME: No! Really! My husband is meeting me at this hotel! With my luggage! I’m not that kind of woman to have a tawdry affair. I’m only tawdry with my husband!


I guess I like drama. Or at least I like envisioning drama. The real conversation went like this:

ME: I’m here for the night. Last minute idea.

CLERK: Credit card, please.

Then Kealoha and I had average burgers in the restaurant and then used the whirpool where my swimsuit immediately filled with air and farted along to the beat of the bubbles in the water. I was afraid that my boobs looked so big that random hungry babies would run after me crying for milk and my soul, but no babies chased me. We saw one baby, but he was more interested in chewing on his fist than my enormous tatas.

I fell asleep at 9, while Kealoha giggled to “Hot Tub Time Machine”. In the morning, we had breakfast and then walked along the pier. It was all foggy and moody and slight creepy. Then out of the darkness we saw something truly horrifying! A sump truck pumping sewage! The smell hit me in the face like an old-timey boxer. Rat bastard. And I noticed that the guy doing the pumping (ahem. Sump-pumping) did this WHILE SMOKING A CIGARETTE. Again, my brain took over as I imagined gigantic green fireballs and me screaming to Kealoha RUNNNNN!!!!

We didn’t run. We turned around and crossed the street.

Then we made our way back down to the water and SPLOOSH!

Merman fish tail I saw a merman! A MERMAN! That fucker was huge, jumping out of the water like Greg Louganis in reverse. At least I think it was a Merman. I sorta only saw it out of the corner of my eye.

ME: Jeez! Did you see that Merman?

KEALOHA: (sigh)

ME: Maybe it was a fish.

KEALOHA: Yes. That was a fish.

SPLOOSH! Another ‘fish’ took a leap and splash.

ME: Nature is freaky.

Kealoha held my hand to calm me down and then drove me back to the car. Then I was back in the studio and falling in love and doing naughty things in a cabin, and then winning second place in a holiday window competition.

Just another day of narrating and life in general.

My Inner Neurotic Surfaces AKA Release The Kraken!!!

I know many of you will be totally surprised by this, but I am a slightly, wee-bit of an anxious person. Shocking, right? Yeah. Okay. Not at all shocking.

Usually, I keep my anxiety in check by making complicated To Do Lists, blogging, and every once in a while standing in front of the refrigerator and gnawing on frozen cookie dough like it’s an ear of corn.


But when I travel…yeah…that Beast pretty much breaks free of its chains and goes all “Roooaaaar” and then stomps on miniature cities. (I think I might be mixing metaphors here, like splicing Godzilla and the Kraken, but that’s what my Anxiety is: a mutherfucking MONSTER.) Actually, here's a scene from the classic film SINBAD that captures how I'm feeling. (I'm the Cyclops.)


We leave tomorrow and I’m so anxious right now that I’m THRUMMING. And not in a Fifty Shades of Grey way. No.

It’s like I have not just PMS but Super PMS, like my bitch-factor is wearing boots, a cape, and carrying a trident. (I’ve always wanted to carry a trident.)



I’ve tried to gently warn Kealoha. In my mind I said: “My love, I’m feeling a little bit anxious about the flight and travel and being surrounded by French people and possibly eating offal without my knowledge. Please just help me through this and let’s find me some anxiety meds.”

What I said in actuality, out loud in a snarky voice “You know they drink wine in France.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“So just, you know, don’t order a rum based drink like you do without the banana flavors or blue color or whatever. Please, for god’s sake, just order WINE.”

Kealoha: blink blink blink.


I need to chill out. I already finished off the wine in the fridge yesterday. I may have to have Kealoha take me out for mojitos on an empty stomach.

He says he still loves me. Let’s hope that’s true after the honeymoon.

I can do this. I can totally do this.


Breathe breathe (choke on a gnat, spit it out, do shot of a tequila and) BREATHE.

Balancing My Brain Through TO DO Lists

I’ve started reading this great book recommended by my super-smart Aunt who’s also a therapist. It’s called “The Whole Brain Child” and it talks about parenting techniques, but also gives insight into how the brain grows and develops, and what you need to have a ‘balanced’ brain. That is, a well-adjusted personality.

There was this great quote where it talked about storytelling and that storytelling allows the logical left-brain to organize the creative right-brain’s emotions. Hence, telling a story actually has a healing effect because you’re BALANCING YOUR BRAIN.




I have taken the next leap and now have justified my need to write To Do Lists. It is my super logical left-side of my brain trying to organize my overly-sensitive/neurotic/anxious right-brain into some kind of order. I’ve always made lists, but now I can rejoice in the fact that I’m not just being neurotic, I’m actually BALANCING MY BRAIN.


Here is my To Do list for today. Before I wrote it, I felt all disjointed and anxious. After I wrote it, I felt amazing rejuvenated with a defined purpose. I now know that I’m super stressed out and anxious and I need to clean my entire house, and possibly take a Valium. See? Before I wrote the list, I was just a mess of feeling. Now I have purpose.


Here is my list:


I probably should add on there: Read More of That Brain Book…you know…in case I’m jumping ahead and applying theories to my own behavior that don’t actually make sense.

In Search Of The Perfect Font (warning: mildly offensive)

Along with working like mad, writing, exercising, and wrangling children, I’m also planning a wedding. Now, I’ve done plenty of event planning in my day (I have a background in fundraising) so I didn’t think any of this would be a big deal.  

I totally underestimated that. There are a million ridiculous decisions to make AND THEY’RE ALL EXPENSIVE. I never thought I was a cheapskate, but apparently I am. I just can’t pay $3,000 for a photographer. Now, I know it’s an important day and all but I can barely look at myself in the mirror in my underwear and I don’t really want a photographer to capture me in my undies pulling a dress over my hips while I repeat “Dear Jeevus, let this bastard fit me”.  Nor do I want pictures of jumping bridesmaids, high-fiving grannies, or a picture of my aging hand over Kealoha’s hairy one in an awkward embrace signifying our future together. It just makes me uncomfortable. (Not that Kealoha is hairy. He’s not. That’s just an example.)


We’re pretty much behind on everything….but we’re getting there. I ordered my dresses, planned a menu, we’ve got the venue, fixed a glitch at the hotel so our peeps can actually reserve rooms, and the invitations go out tonight. My mom and future Mother-in-Law are coming over to help me. If we drink enough wine, we’ll all be real relaxed.


I wanted to address the invitations by hand, but Kealoha was hesitant. He very delicately said maybe he could find a cool computer font that would make the invitations look really professional. In my mind, I quickly used my Star-Trek-like Universal Translator to understand the following: “Tanya, please don’t address the invitations. Your writing is just shy of looking like you’re entirely nuts and possibly have palsy.” Kealoha has a point.


So he’s been looking for fonts while I’ve been throwing a hissy fit about a photographer. (Finally found a great one.)


I was on the couch last night watching “Chopped” and then “So You Think You Can Dance” while Kealoha researched fonts. There are a million fonts. Seriously. And each one says something slightly different about you and your wedding and who you are as people. Arrrgggh! Why does it have to be so hard?


This one says we’re more sophisticated than we are:


This one says we drink champagne and are skinny:


This one is disturbing but also makes me laugh:


And then these…THESE are just so wrong, I can’t even describe it!

But they’re also intensely funny. I'm not sure what the 1st and 3rd fonts spell out, but it certainly is, uhm, educational. What is wrong with me? I actually want to write a letter in these fonts! I mean, take a good look at “Cocksure”. This will send a message that we’re kinky and/or looking to procreate. But the idea of sending out invitations like this also makes me laugh. Maybe for my bachelorette party…Hmm.


No. Kealoha assures me he’s found a good font that says we’re stable, fun-loving, non-kinky people and that our wedding will be relaxed and fun and a celebration.


That’s what I keep reminding myself.


Now, back to my To Do List. It involves calling my doctor for some anti-anxiety medication. Ah, wedding planning.

Painting & My Ghost Self

So..what’s been happening here as I begin the new novel in my life…anxiety. Yep that about covers it. ANXIETY. I probably should take Valium, or at least give up coffee. Giving up coffee would be a good start, but I have this sneaky suspicion that if I give up caffeine, I may spontaneously combust and/or take uncontrollable naps. Narcolepsy, people. That’s what I mean.