My 4-Minute Life Story

Per The New York Times’ 30-Day Well Challenge, here’s my 4-minute life story:

I was born on a Tuesday, shortly after my family’s house burnt down. The stress of the trauma put my mom into early labor, but we were both safe. In fact, the doctor told my mom it was probably pre-labor and encouraged her to have a glass of wine and relax. I came along shortly after.

Before I can remember, my parents divorced. I have no memories of my parents being married or living together. I remember being raised by my mother, with the help of my aunts and grandparents. And while I always thought myself a daddy’s girl, I think that was more a pipedream than anything else.

My favorite memories with my dad include watching and playing baseball and snuggling with our dog Sammy. Otherwise, most of my memories with him revolve around his joyriding through fatherhood with little consideration for his children.

As a kid, I spent my time writing. My grandma likes to tell me how before I could even write, I would scribble on page after page of my notebooks writing “stories.”

My brother and I fought like hell as kids. He was my idol but wanted nothing to do with me. In fact, that even lasted through high school. It wasn’t until college that we both finally figured out how to be friends. And, today, I consider him my best friend.

Anyway. My mom enrolled me in tap dance classes as a kid, which I loved. But I have one distinct memory of a photographer telling me to “suck in” my gut. I always knew I was chubby, but that was a real kicker. Enter a lifetime of self-hate.

By the time I was in 6th grade, I opted out of dance class and into sports. I was never very athletic but always very competitive. I played volleyball, basketball and softball through 8th grade, and while I was never very good I loved being apart of the teams (except when we were losing).

When I started high school, we moved out of Detroit and to the suburbs. Holy fuck was that a god damn nightmare. I went from classmates who were on food stamps to having a “friend” who received a Jaguar for her 16th birthday.

I can’t really say I have any good memories from high school. I spent most of my time listening to emo and punk music, sneaking off to shows solo and trying to forget things. But, really, nothing worked.

So when I got to college I immediately fell in love. I basically wasted 4 years on a trash human who did everything he could to control me. He broke up with me during our senior year when his family pressured him with questions about marriage over Thanksgiving break. We shortly got back together with a hell of a lot of rules and regulations. When I realized I was my own person and couldn’t deal with that shit, we broke up. Soon after, I ran away to Chicago.

During my freshman year of college, my stepmom died. She was the definition of a wicked stepmother, but I felt the need to gain some closure so I went to the funeral. It was then that my paternal grandfather told me he regretted not being a bigger part of my life as a child and asked for forgiveness. Of course, I forgave him.

That was an opportunity to reconnect with my father. It didn’t really go so well.

So, back to Chicago. I moved here in 2008, during the height of the recession. Getting a job sucked, so I spent the next few years freelance writing, walking dogs and waitressing. After a series of unfortunate events, I ended up working as a barista at Starbucks.

That job eventually led me to the Chicago Tribune. And while that job sucked, it dictated the future of my career. Gone were the plans to work at a publishing house and I found myself working in content marketing.

While working at the Tribune, I was in a really bad bicycling accident. I shattered my ribs, collapsed both lungs, fractured my pelvis and spine. I think that covers it? I spent a month at Northwestern and three months at my mom’s outside of Detroit recovering. As soon as I was strong enough to, I moved back to Chicago. In retrospect, I’m not sure what for.

It was then that I connected with who would be my future husband.

As part of my recovery, I got involved with different physical challenges. It started with Muderlla, a 5K obstacle course (in the mud). The proceeds went to the fight against violence against women, and I finished the race with three badass chicks.

Since then, I’ve finished two Tough Mudders, the Chicago Marathon, two half marathons and a boatload of other events. Currently, I’m training for my third marathon and after that, I’ve got my second triathlon to work on.

Today, I find myself focused on work and my career. My husband and I bought a house last year (in Chicago) and we’re making plans for the years to come. And while I don’t know exactly what the future will hold, I’m looking forward to the possibilities.

I’ve been through a lot of hardships and I’m at a point in my life where I feel happy, confident and comfortable. I’m thankful for that.

I Do it with a Purpose

traverse bay

Last month, I set out to accomplish a lot in 2019. Fourteen days in, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of sticking to my resolutions, and I have high hopes for what’s to come.

New Year’s resolutions

We’re nearly at the halfway point of Whole 30. My body is feeling refreshed. When I completed the challenge last year, I spent the majority of the month with a cold. This made it easy to avoid temptations, as my cravings were completely diluted. This month, however, I’m getting by with a strict workout routine and meal prep.

Marathon training starts next week and I’m feeling a bit uncertain. My first “long run” is only 6 miles, but I’ve not run more than a 5K in a few months. Instead, I’ve been focusing on strength training rather than endurance. So I’m hoping the transition is smooth.

The relaunch of Chicago Beer Club has been successful to date. With just one blog due for the month, it’s been an easy accomplishment. Working with PorchDrinking.com has proven to be a huge asset, and I’m looking forward to future opportunities with that outlet.

Up next

As part of a healthier 2019, I signed up for The New York Times 30-day wellness challenge. Every day, there’s a new challenge in my inbox ranging from 6-minute workouts to planning healthy snacks to 4-minute meditation exercises. It’s proven to be a good motivator that requires minimal effort but sufficient reward.

With 23 days off this year, I’m hoping to dedicate more time and funds to travel. We’ll be taking trips to Pennslyvania for a family event and San Francisco for a wedding, but I’d like to squeeze in an adventure down to Florida or even the Bahamas to spend time with friends as well.

Work continues to be a lot of work with an uncertain future. I’ve been looking for the right company to maintain a career with and grow. And while my job shows signs of opportunity, I always feel like I’m playing catchup. 2008 was a rough year to enter the workforce and Tribune layoffs just added more momentum to the punch.

We always enter January inspired, ready to take on the year ahead. But something about 2019 feels different.

Story Stayed the Same

To say that writing saved me would be dramatic. I’ve had a strong, supportive network of humans to help along the way. But I won’t let that diminish the role writing has played in my healing, understanding and acceptance throughout the years.

Time and time again, I’ve turned to writing for support and guidance. I’ve told journals things I wouldn’t dare tell another sole. Putting pencil to paper allowed me to work through emotions, understand my internal struggles and come out at the end of a page with the ability to move forward, or at least an idea for how to get started.

Historically, I’ve done all this through the form of poetry. I spent my high school years pining over the tragic life of poets Sylvia Plath and her husband Ted Hughes. I romanticized the stereotypical emotionally sensitive lifestyle of a poetic personality and threw my childish words into prose poetry. And it made me feel good. It made me feel excited and understood, even if I never felt quite like I fit in.

As a creative writing major in college, I spent many roundtable sessions editing my peers’ work and also had my own put on the chopping block. And, somehow, I always felt as though I was coming up short. Either I wasn’t eloquent enough, profound enough or “deep” enough… whatever that means.

So, following college graduation, I didn’t head back for a master’s degree in creative writing. I was far too inferior for that. My best hope was to go into publishing, but 2008 Chicago had other things in mind.

Instead, I found myself writing and editing for a plumbing and piping consultation firm and a trivia company. Research became both as interesting and important to me as writing had always been. And as my career continued, research would be the driving force behind it as I dove into content marketing—a field where I must become an expert in whatever industry my client is focused.

And while this was never a career I saw in my future, it’s where I’ve found myself excel. I get to write, and sometimes I can even weave in a little creativity. It’s also helped me find my passion and expertise in editing. While this is something I always had an interest in, creative writing is a tricky form for the editor’s eye. How can you correct someone’s poetry? That shit comes from the soul.

But through all this, I find that I’ve lost my poetry. I think I started this blog with the intent to draft from that poet’s mindset. But, instead, I find myself focusing on research-driven topics or drafting in stream of conscious. The digital disconnect is easy to blame; there’s just something about putting pen to paper and scribbling until your hand hurts—capturing every error, rewrite or addition along the way.

I’ve toyed with the idea of poetry challenges. Signing myself up for readings, workshops or just about anything to get the creativity flowing again. The thing is, I only want to write for me.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” – Cyril Connolly

Day 7: Writing Retreat Wrapup

This afternoon I head back to Chicago. If there’s one thing I’ll take away from this week’s trip, it’s that I need to start making writing a part of my everyday life more consistently. Even when I haven’t had much to say, it’s been therapeutic to force the process. I sat for awhile this morning trying to debate what I should work on and decided to contribute to a new project I started yesterday, thanks to a friend.

So, was this writing retreat a success? I think so. I wish I had done more actual writing for my novel. However, I did complete two weeks worth of planning in just one week. So that’s something. I also got to spend time exploring a new city, taking in the culture, and listening to the locals on advice for where to eat, drink and people watch. It was inspiring and rewarding.

I also learned a bit about myself. Aside from work, I’ve never traveled alone. Not like this. I was a little anxious at the start of the trip. But, it turns out, traveling alone is pretty great. Don’t get me wrong, I love exploring places with friends and family, but a solo trip is something very different. You’re on your own schedule. If a shop looks cute, you can just walk in. If you’re ready for bed at 7 p.m., you go to bed. You can wake up 5:30 a.m., turn all of the lights on and start writing, without worrying you’ll wake someone up. I think I gained a bit of independence and confidence in myself this week, and I’m pretty proud of that.

Today, I spent time writing the first post for Chicago Beer Club, my new project. Head over to ChiBeerClub to check it out!

Day 5: Writing Retreat Thoughts

Today, I literally have nothing to say. I spent the morning working on writing exercises that challenged my creativity and frustrated me. Character building is hard. In the afternoon, I read short stories and a book on the practice of writing. I read about the struggle of forcing oneself to write when the moment isn’t right; and now I’m feeling that pain. So, unfortunately, today I have nothing to say. Tomorrow, I’ll dedicate two hours to putting words on the page, regardless of a block, to see what comes out. Tomorrow, I’ll have something to say.

Day 1: Writing Retreat

I came to San Diego this week for a writing retreat. One of my goals while I’m here is to write something every day. Ultimately, I’d like to (at least) get started on a novel. Today, this will have to suffice for my writing – lame, I know. But it’s closing in on 1 a.m. Chicago time (11 p.m. local) and I’ve got a busy day planned for tomorrow!

I’ll be soliciting the assistance of a number of resources on my quest, including:

  • Content and exercises from “The Writer” magazine
  • Poetry and fiction writing packet from a college course with Professor Peter Ramos
  • “The Paris Review” – a dive into the art of the short story
  • “The Ode Less Travelled” by Stephen Fry – a sort of how to to “unlocking” your inner poet
  • “Thunder and Lightning” by Natalie Goldberg – a guide to turning inspiration into a product
  • “Ready. Set. Novel!” – a writer’s workbook

There are a number of online resources I have on a list to investigate, but those might just have to wait until next time. Like I read in an article on the flight today, you don’t know the direction of your story until you finish the first draft. So, there will be plenty of time to improve.

Looking for Something to Say

It’s been more than a year since my last post; and I’m truly ashamed of that. It says on my wrist, “I’d rather write than speak,” but I haven’t been putting pen to paper much that often. However, here I am just more than a year later in flight to Phoenix writing to you again. I never take the time to do what I love.

Growing up, I wrote before I could. I made up stories on paper, retold my dreams and jotted down memories. All my life I’ve leaned on the power of the word to get me through. Whether times have been happy or sad, I’ve found comfort in the genuine attachment to the written word.

I don’t do it much now, but I prefer writing in pencil. It’s something about the feel of graphite on paper. But pencil smears, it smudges and disappears over time. And now, it’s so much easier to open a laptop than track down my notebook. Still, I wish I wrote in it more.


It seems kind of worthless, doesn’t it – writing for the first time in more than 365 days about the idea of writing. Is it that I have nothing to say? No, we all know that’s not true. I do think there’s something to be said about the accessibility to writing online. I’ve never written for others, only myself.

Better to write for yourself and no have no public, thank to write for the public and have no self. – Cyril Connolly

So while I want to write and share my thoughts, opinions, emotions and feelings with the World Wide Web, I’m also terrified to do so. Scared to be judged, worried I’ll be misunderstood. Yet still I don’t put pencil to paper and write for myself.


As scary as it may be, I do like to share my writing with others. In college, we had writing workshops where we’d share our stories, poetry and samples with others. The feedback was thoughtful, never hurtful and inspiring. I took to creative assignments without fear, and often surprised even myself with the end result.

Maybe it’s just that I had more to say at 20, or maybe it’s time to open those old workshop assignments to get the words flowing again.

In Flight Entertainment

En route from Philly back to Chicago, I got up to use the bathroom – something I hate doing, peeing on airplanes. While walking back down the aisle of the fully-loaded plane, I realized that about 90 percent of the travelers were using some type of electronic device. Most were on tablets of some sort, a lot on their smart phones and few from the stone age (like myself, now) were on laptops. One thing that I did see, and was (sadly) surprised by, there were a couple reading books! And no, I’m not just talking from Kindles, Nooks and iPads, I mean real paperback novels. Some were even flipping their way through magazines.

This brings me to something my aunt said last (Saturday) night: Autism is survival of the fittest. Actually, I shouldn’t quote her on that, I think she said that one of her co-workers made the comment – forgive me, I don’t remember specifically. Anyways, as I did when I first heard the statement, you may be wondering where this assumption/belief/thinking comes from. My aunt explained that as we get more wrapped up and involved with electronics, there becomes less of a need for face-to-face communication. Funny how things all tie together, as the (paperback) book I was reading pre-bathroom trip discussed how those who are autistic are not able to look others in the eye, which leads to difficulties communicating.

Whether or not there’s any truth in the statement above, I have no idea. I do not know enough about autism or the true effects that electronics have on communication skills. However, I do have my own perspective of the issue of electronics, which I think take away from real conversation. In fact, it takes away from a lot of other interaction as well, at least in my opinion. Take for example when you first discovered the Internet. If you are around my age, it was when you were in your preteens. My friends and I used AIM to chat with each other, so we were still communicating. Now, that somehow seems less.

With the birth of social media, it seems as though the actual conversations have slowed. This may seem to counter today’s teens who spend their hours staring at tiny smartphone screens texting their friends, checking their Twitter feeds and the like – often simply reposting a “friend’s” post. But when I was just getting to explore the world wide web, it was something I used when at home with nothing else to do. It was something that I did when I couldn’t be hanging out with my friends. From what I’ve seen, kids today are more interested in what’s on their electronics than what’s happening right in front of them. And to be completely honest, they aren’t the only ones. I’ve been guilty of it myself, as have a number of my friends, colleagues and family members.

Not having a child, I could be wrong with my perceptions. But the use of electronics is changing the way we operate in more than just the realm of communication. I’ve seen video clips of small children unable to flip the pages of a magazine, because they are more familiar with their parents’ tablets. My brother and I have discussed children’s inabilities to write well, because they no longer have to put pen to paper. At some point, won’t they even be unable to spell correctly, as speak to type and other applications become more commonplace? Well, that’s a frightening thought.

I do think that there are a number of benefits for going electronic, especially in the classroom. Isn’t it easier for children to carry around their iPads with all of the books they’ll need for every class in one light-weight place, rather than on their shoulders in backpacks that are too heavy? The Internet is a wonderful outlet for researching, especially when writing papers. So, yes it is a good thing that kids these days have access to all of these things – but what’s the limit?

I, for one, will find it a sad day in the future if we are no longer talking with one another face-to-face. As will I be disappointed if my children aren’t taught to write the alphabet – in both print and cursive! While I recognize the fading age of the paperback novel, I mourn its death. I propose that kids are encouraged to continue passing hand-written notes in class. I hope little girls keep writing in their journals, hiding the keys to these locked dreams away from their big brothers. Electronics are great, but there’s something to be said for the written word and face-to-face communication.

Social Content Marketing

As an editor and writer in content marketing, it’s important to stay updated with social trends of the field. I, for one, am fascinated over the information available with services such as Google Analytics and, recently discovered, Google Media Tools. To say the least, I’m a big Google fan.

I think the information available with these two Google goodies can do a lot more than just increase SEO performance. These provide the keys to actually developing quality content that’s worth reading. Knowing what people are looking for makes it a lot easier to create it.

So, why aren’t writers doing this? Does there need to be more focus on SEO performance along with quality? Rather than simply focusing on the keywords, grammar, regularity of posts, linking and getting the actual writing done, there needs to be a focus on the research. This shouldn’t be left to the SEO specialists or client-facing roles, it needs to be a central focus of the writers and editors.