My Best Boy


Back in 2006, I was finishing up nursing school, planning my wedding, and living with a boy for the first time. It seemed like a month before our wedding was a great time to get our first pet together…a little black mutt who we named Otto Graham (that boy was a Cleveland Browns fan).

Fast forward almost twelve years, and that mutt and I had been through six years of marriage, my eventual divorce, a move into an apartment complex, the buying of my first house, and my entire (so far) nursing career. Sadly, Otto’s time on this earth came to an end two days ago, when I had to let my Best Boy go.

I could recount for you endless moments from his life that would illustrate this dog’s enormous personality. Back in the early days, he would eat anything…shoes, baseball caps, walls. He was never trustworthy off-leash. He loved people food and got the last bite of almost anything I ate in his presence. Most of those memories, however, I am going to hold close to my heart, which is just where Otto will always be.

Otto’s sudden decline over the weekend was both surprising and expected. I had long hoped that I would know when it was time to let him go and that I would not make him stick around this world for me when the quality of his life became less. I had struggled with the thought of staying with him as he crossed over to the other side. I wanted my face to be the last face he saw, but I wasn’t sure that I was strong enough to stay by his side. I didn’t know what I was going to do without him. He had been with me for so long, but it is never long enough. That’s the only downside I can see to sharing your life with a pet.

Otto’s vet has emergency Sunday hours, so we were able to go somewhere that was familiar to him and sit together and spend last moments together before it was time to say goodbye. An ultrasound showed an enormous tumor on his liver, untreatable and likely making him uncomfortable. I always knew that when his eyes no longer smiled at me, it would be time to do this. He looked at me, and I saw love in his eyes but no smile. He looked tired, and I knew it was time to make this impossible decision. I sat on the floor rubbing the soft fur around his ears as he very peacefully slipped from this life to the next. And although not having him by my side is more difficult that I could ever imagine, I am so thankful for the almost-twelve years we had together.

I will love and miss you forever, my Best Boy.


Otto Graham Casey
June 30, 2006, to May 13, 2018


But here’s what really happened…


The time after the holidays, at least for me, is always hard. The days are shorter and much, much colder than I prefer. The urge to hibernate is strong, and if I don’t have somewhere that I have to be, I often hunker down on the couch with a pillow and blanket and ride out the day. This usually involves some combination of TV, internet time, and reading, sometimes with something like coloring or sudoku puzzles thrown in. As you might imagine, these are not days that I am taking care of my mental health very well. Instead, everything that has been exhausting me or discouraging me or frustrating me since my last couch day settles itself heavily on my shoulders, where it keeps me down and out for as long as I can manage it. Most often, a Responsibility (school, work, doctor’s appointment, therapy) is what gets me off the couch, often at the last minute, and I find myself rushing around to make myself “presentable” so that I don’t have to let everyone outside know how I am feeling inside.

When I am feeling this way, some of the most important parts of self-care fly out the window. The first thing that often happens when I am having a depressive episode is that I stop taking my antidepressants…or at least stop taking them as often as I am supposed to. Sometimes, walking across the kitchen and opening the pill bottles feels like too much, and they aren’t working anyway, are they? I stop hydrating myself and feeding myself well. I drink a lot of diet soda and eat a lot of simple carbs. I don’t bother with much protein…it’s too hard to prepare it. I buy fruits and vegetables, but I don’t necessarily eat the fruits and vegetables. My meals consist of quick-grabs, like peanut butter crackers or cereal or yogurt with some granola in it. I fall back on my “uniform” of jeans, a black t-shirt (with a black tank top underneath), and a cardigan. Sometimes, I wear the same jeans and the same black tank top and t-shirt a couple of days in a row, figuring no one will notice, as long as I change my cardigan.

My sleep patterns become erratic. I fall asleep on the couch at 7PM but am awake a few hours later. I drag my pillow and blanket into my bedroom, crawl into bed, and…lie there staring at the ceiling for as long as it takes me to fall back to sleep. This could be a half hour, or it could be two hours. Often, I sleep in little spurts and am up for the day by 3:30AM. I try to stay in bed so I don’t wake anyone up (mostly because I don’t want my dogs to think that this is breakfast time).

Once my little break is over and I have to rejoin the real world, I have varying degrees of success with starting out my day. Sometimes, I get up and shower and dry my hair and put on make up and go to work with my best face forward. Sometimes, I hit snooze a bunch of times, pull my hair back in a messy bun, wipe yesterday’s mascara out from under my eyes, and head out the door. Work always pulls me out of myself. For the hours that I am working as a nurse, I am often my best self. My patients matter to me. Their families matter to me. My coworkers matter to me. The hours I spend with the NICU team, all of us working toward a common goal, are often some of the most “me” hours of my week.

I think it’s really hard, when you are someone who is a caretaker, to take care of yourself. I know I struggle with it mightily. I want to give my time and energy toward service to others, whatever that may look like. But I have a really hard time remembering (or even thinking of) taking care of myself so that I can do that. And I don’t even mean exotic self-care like going to the spa or taking a vacation or lighting a bunch of candles and lying in a warm bath. I am talking about BASIC self-care. Keeping up with laundry and dirty dishes, washing my face every day, eating real meals that have some kind of balance. Staying up until a “normal” hour so I can sleep through until morning. Taking my meds. Being honest with my therapist about how I am doing.

And maybe faking it until I make it. That one is hard for me…REALLY hard. Changing thought patterns can create new pathways in the brain so that, if you think something often enough, you begin to believe it. That is what therapy can be about. Take the words that are keeping you down and challenge them. Tell yourself something new. And don’t let depression win because depression lies.

Sixteen years gone…still, we remember.


Every year since 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country, I have posted this tribute to Dennis O’Berg, a firefighter with Ladder 105 of the FDNY, as part of Project 2,996. A few years ago, I was in New York at the World Trade Center site, and my mom was there at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, so I was able to add new photos (found at the end of this post) to share of other ways that he is being remembered. I never met Dennis, but I think often of his sacrifice and also those who he left behind. I am sure that this day still brings them unspeakable pain…and I hope if they ever read these words, it brings them some comfort to know that he is not forgotten.

At 494 Dean Street in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn stands the building housing Engine Company 219 and Ladder Company 105. The two companies have shared that building since 1977. Prior to 1977, they were located in separate houses, about ½ mile away from each other. Ladder 105 has its roots in a volunteer company, Ladder 5, from the Greenport section of Brooklyn that was organized in the latter half of the 19th century. After spending time as Ladder 5 of the Brooklyn Fire Department, Ladder 5 of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and Ladder 55 of the FDNY, Ladder 105 was organized on January 1, 1913, as a part of the FDNY.

One member of Ladder 105 who was lost on September 11th after responding to the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center site was Dennis O’Berg. Dennis was 28 years old at the time of his death. He was a resident of Babylon, on Long Island, where he lived with his wife of less than one year, Christine. Their first wedding anniversary would have been September 28, 2001.

Dennis didn’t always plan to be a firefighter. He graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo with a degree in accounting and worked for the Big 4 accountancy firm Ernst & Young after graduation. However, he followed his father’s footsteps as a firefighter, entering the academy because he felt shackled to his accountant position. He graduated from the academy not long before the September 11th attacks and was assigned to Ladder 105. Being a firefighter changed him into a happy and smiling and easygoing person. On September 11th, he had been a firefighter for only seven and a half months.

Dennis’s remains were not found in the wreckage at Ground Zero, and his family held out hope that something would be found so that they could plan his funeral. After only his helmet, his jacket, and one of his boots was found, Dennis’s family held a memorial service for him on June 28, 2002, burying an empty casket. Dennis’s father, Lt. Dennis O’Berg, retired from the FDNY on September 11th to dedicate himself to finding his son. However, when all the wreckage had been cleared, it was not to be so.

Family and friends remember Dennis as someone who was young at heart. He was a fan of Harry Potter, Norman Rockwell, Star Wars, and the New York Rangers. He collected baseball cards and enjoyed all kinds of music. He was a romantic and often gave his wife roses for no particular reason, took her on long drives and picnics on the North Shore, and left her notes telling her that he loved her. She found one of those notes in her bed the evening before September 11th as she was preparing to retire for the night. His dream was to be there as a husband and father for his wife and kids and to raise a family on Long Island. He never got to fulfill that dream. Instead, his life was cut short by the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th.

Dennis P. O’Berg. Forever in the thoughts of his friends and family. And now, forever in my thoughts as well.

To learn more and pay tribute to other heroes lost to us on September 11, 2001, please visit Project 2996.

IMG_0968 IMG_0910

To whom do you give your power?


I just got home from my bi-weekly eating disorders group, and tonight’s topic was awesome and timely (because my therapist is apparently a mind reader). She asked us to think about to whom we have given our power. This was such an awesome and timely topic for me because I have been pondering this week a post shared by Melissa Fabello on her Instagram feed. It has to do with the scale. I give SO MUCH POWER to the scale, and what she shared was a little algorithm that basically showed that stepping on the scale is pointless because, no matter what the scale says, our behaviors are the same. If we lose weight, we either reward ourselves with food or we keep up what we are doing (likely restricting) in order to continue getting those results. If we gain weight, we either stop eating to punish ourselves or we say “Fuck it.” and punish ourselves by bingeing on food. The scale, in this case, has All. The. Power.

So the first thing that I have given a large amount of power to, as I just shared, is the scale. The second thing that I have given power to ever since my first serious college relationship is what men think of me. When my college relationship ended, I assumed it was because of my weight, so I took up running and starving myself and got myself down to a size that I thought would make him come running back. And he didn’t. After college, my first serious relationship ended, and I again assumed it was because of my weight, and I started dieting. And I lost a lot of weight. And the relationship stayed ended. My ex-husband and I had an on-again, off-again relationship for a long time, and any time it was off again, I went back to my familiar dieting behaviors and got myself “back into shape” so he could see what he was missing and come crawling back. This cycle was played out over and over again, until we eventually married, which eventually led to our divorce. And in the two years leading up to that divorce, I was on a new road to healthiness, dieting and spending multiple hours at the gym and shedding almost a third of my body weight. Because I felt him slipping away, and maybe I felt myself moving away from him, and of course, fixing my weight would fix all that, right?

So therapy eventually broke through the shell I had built around myself, and when I thawed out, I went back to my bingeing ways because that was one of the only ways I knew to keep myself from feeling my feelings. And I gained a bunch of weight, and I got diagnosed with an eating disorder, and I went back and forth between bingeing and restricting. I spent all my free time exercising, or I spent none of my free time exercising. I occasionally purged. I had a bad run with laxatives. And then I started thinking about what dating might look like for me, as one does when she has spent the “right” amount of time single after her divorce.

So I did what any introvert in this decade does when looking for a potential new partner and went to the internet to see what was out there. And when I was looking through profiles, instead of looking for stuff that I thought would be a good match for me, I found myself wondering if I was unobjectionable enough to have a chance with these men who were living in my computer. And that is clearly a sign of a problem. Instead of looking for someone who I found intriguing, I tried to guess if the men out there would be willing to overlook my weight or my messy house or my credit card debt or my innumerable other faults that I assumed were the reason things just had not worked out for me.

Several weeks ago, I had an ah-ha moment about these behaviors and started pondering why it was I cared so much what men thought of me. And I realized I had always thought of a relationship with a man as a necessary part of my life. If I was not in a relationship, I was trying to get myself into a state that would allow me to find someone who was willing to overlook what I was missing just to be my other half. I didn’t have a list of must-haves in a man. I just knew that I was not complete if I was not with someone else.

And now? I don’t care what men think of me. And I actually mean that. I have quit all those dating sites because I know that what I am looking for is not on those pages. If I eventually find myself in a relationship, I really think it is going to be because I looked across a room and saw my dreams reflected in the eyes of another person. It’s not going to be about shopping on a website and chatting online and spending hours on the phone just to meet in person and find out there is no chemistry. And if I don’t come across this person in any of the crowded rooms I am in throughout the rest of my days, I guess I will be happy with being without a significant other. I know that my single self right now feels better about herself than that girl in a relationship ever did.

So I am going to take my power back from the scale in my bathroom and the men in my past. At the end of the day, I only have to be able to live with myself. And I am learning to love myself, piece by piece, one day at a time.



From an early age, girls are exposed to images that help them formulate their beliefs on how they should be, how they should look, how they should behave. I remember being very aware that some people were fat, and fat was bad, but the long-legged blondes on TV were an ideal every woman should aim to emulate. Our moms talked about dieting…counting exchanges on whatever Weight Watchers plan was around at the time, attending Jazzercise classes, carefully measuring out every bite they put in their mouths.

I grew up thinking I was fat. I look back at pictures of myself and know that I was not, but by the time I got to middle school, my impression of my body was that it was bigger than everyone else’s, and that was bad. By high school, I was dieting. Also by high school, according to the criteria for Binge Eating Disorder in the DSM 5, I had an eating disorder. I would not be diagnosed with an eating disorder until I sought therapy after my divorce five years ago. By that time, I had had this unrecognized eating disorder for twenty years.

I wish I could say that having a diagnosis made things better. I am a nurse. I believe in medicine. I believe that the treatment following a diagnosis can lead to a cure. Therefore, when my therapist first suggested I might have an eating disorder, I was relieved. I was not just fat and lazy. I had an actual illness. And if I had an illness, I was sure it could be treated.

So it has been five years. I have binged. I have restricted. I have purged. I have exercised compulsively. I have stayed in bed for three days at a time. I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and OCD is also on the table. And during this time, I have tried to use the experiences of others to help me make peace with my body. I have read every book that Geneen Roth has written. I have read Jenni Shaefer and Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton. I have read scientific journal articles about the relationship between compulsive shopping and binge eating and shame. I have read about hoarding and chronic disorganization and shopping addictions. I have racked up over $40,000 of credit card debt (and have paid off over half of it so far). I have been searching for something…I don’t know exactly what it is, but I certainly haven’t found it yet.

Here’s the thing…when does weight loss stop being about how you look and start being about how you feel? This is where I can’t get on board the body positivity train. Do I like the way I look right now? No. But more importantly, I don’t feel well with this body size. My knees hurt, and the foods I eat don’t always agree with me. I get heartburn, and I sometimes lack energy. I don’t sleep well. And my brain is always on, reviewing what I ate that day, deciding if it was a good day or a bad one, resolving to do better tomorrow.

For most of my adult life, I dieted whenever a relationship went south because I always thought it was because of my weight. When I was rejected, I would decide to become my best (thinnest) self so that I could show him what he was missing. I did this in college. I did this in my first serious relationship after college. I did this with the man who became my husband and then my ex-husband. I am happily single now…I don’t know that there will ever be a man in that role in my life again. I don’t have anyone to stick it to. So where is my motivation to come from?

In my ideal world, it would come from a place where I want to take care of me. A place where how I feel is more important than how I look. A place where my eating disorder would STFU and stop messing with my head and take all the power away from food and restore it to me. I would eat vegetables because I liked the way they made me feel, not because they were a trade for some later “sin.” I would avoid processed food because they make me bloated and give me heartburn, instead of having them make up the bulk of my diet because that is all I am worth, anyway.

The body positive activists are trying to help. I get that. They are trying to normalize all body sizes and teach women (and men) that diets don’t work, and how we feel inside our bodies is more important than what we look like on the outside. And so many of these body positive activists are not the women who look like me. They don’t feel pain every time they stand up from a chair (some do, I am sure…there are plenty of overweight body positivity activists who are living in larger bodies and seem to practice what they preach). It’s all well and good to say it is not about weight. But don’t we all deserve to feel our best every day? Shouldn’t self-care be motivation enough for eating in a way that makes you feel good and healthy and strong?

I continue fighting this monster. But I can’t say that weight loss will not continue to be a goal. I want to participate in life and do big things and go to bed at night feeling like every day has been a good day. And the way I feel is getting in the way with that. My health is important…but my eating disorder keeps trying to make me forget that.


The Indigo Girls and my search for enlightenment…


The first real notice I took of people fighting for social justice occurred right around the time that the first Lilith Fair occurred. I started listening to the Indigo Girls as a camp counselor at Camp Mosey Wood in the summer of 1995, and I never looked back. The words, the music…like Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail, who can reply to anything with a quote from The Godfather, I pride myself on being able to pull an Indigo Girls quote out of thin air to encourage in any situation. They were on the main stage at Lilith, and while I did not get to see them perform, I started to pay some attention to what was happening behind the scenes. I realized that people were doing work to fight against injustice and raising money for causes I had never even considered. I was a white female in my early twenties attending a conservative Christian school, complete with a chapel requirement and strict “intervisitation” policies. I was about as far from an activist as I would ever be. It just never occurred to me to challenge the status quo.

That summer started a longtime love affair with the words and music of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. I had never been much of a music lover, but these days I tend to be pretty all-Indigo-Girls-all-the-time with my music choices. I have seen them numerous times in concert and hope to see them many more times. And I finally get what they were talking about when they were singing on the Honor the Earth Tour and raising money for PETA and leading some of the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. If I don’t do something, who is going to? If we all, as a collective group, refuse to show up, how can things change?

I certainly benefit from white privilege every day. My parents provided to me a comfortable (more than comfortable) upbringing. I was able to go to college, and when my first career didn’t work out, I was able to go back to college and then to grad school and am now in a post-Masters program. I am not food insecure. I have my own car and a full-time job. I can go most places without worrying about someone acting out against me in hate. And back in my college days, I didn’t really think beyond that. I belonged to service clubs, and I went on a missions trip in my senior year of college, and I thought I was doing a lot of good in the world. My world was just really small.

I have gone from being Roman Catholic to a nondenominational Christian to identifying myself as spiritual but not particularly religious. I have felt a shift in myself, especially since this most recent Presidential campaign, and I am no longer okay with riding the wave of my white privilege and ignoring all that is wrong in this world. I am a baby feminist, but I am a feminist. I believe love is love, and if I find love again, I will hold on to it for all it is worth. I believe I am here to make a difference in the world and speak out and be seen. I am here to fight for you and for me and for anyone else out there that needs my voice. I will show up.




What do I like?


This is the time of day that I would usually be sitting in front of Facebook, staring at my laptop screen, maybe with my mouth hanging open a little. And then I would blink and three or four hours would have gone by. So now that I have logged off of Facebook and deleted the app off my devices, I find myself with an active brain and nothing to dull that with. I do a lot of things that kind of seem like leisurely activities but are actually ways to kind of check out for a while. The internet is a big one. Eating is another one. Online shopping is a third. All of those things are not, in and of themselves, bad. You can practice self-care and do all three of those things. But that is not what I do. Instead, I numb out and escape from my feelings and whatever hard things are going on, and all of those activities have little zaps of high points (winning a game on Facebook, eating something yummy, having a package show up on my front porch), followed by either a return to blah or a dive into shame. Someone who purports to care about herself would not do these things, right?

The problem I am facing right now is this…what else is there that I would like to do? In The Runaway Bride, Julia Roberts’ character has gone through her life changing the kind of eggs she likes depending on what type is preferred by the man she is dating. I have done some things that I have really enjoyed in the past that were introduced to me by someone I was dating (or married to). And those things were fun, and I am glad that I engaged in them, but I also don’t feel like they are of interest to me anymore. I no longer follow baseball or football. I don’t spend a lot of time with large groups of people. I don’t go to anyone’s house for a Sunday dinner. And I don’t have a partner in my life right now, so I don’t have a need to change my interests to better suit someone else. It’s me, myself, and I. But what do I enjoy?


I have long been a hobby jumper. I have tried out knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, jewelry making, sewing, yoga, working out at the gym, running, walking, biking, blogging, journaling, art journaling, reading, watching TV…that is just a partial list. I usually get really excited about my new hobby and buy All The Things related to it, and then I realize that I don’t really enjoy crocheting or I don’t really have anyone to make jewelry for or there are only so many scrapbook pages you can do for the best dog ever. But I don’t know what I actually DO enjoy. I like watching TV…that one can stay, but in a more deliberate manner. When I spend the day streaming episodes of Air Emergency from YouTube, that is not deliberate. That is six to eight hours of traumatic events on my TV screen, with me sitting there and watching. When I decide to watch the two latest episodes of Grey’s Anatomy before I go to bed one night, that is some deliberate TV-watching.

I love reading. I am reading a great book right now. I have a couple of books in my queue that I am excited about. I especially love lying in my hammock and reading. I feel better after writing out a good journal entry (or sometimes sharing something on this here blog, but not all my writing is meant for public eyes). I enjoy knitting sometimes. I made my first little stuffed animal last month and enjoyed the process. I don’t think I am ever going to become a master knitter. Yoga is something that always makes me feel better after I have done it. My schedule does not always allow for regular attendance in my usual class, but I can get there once in a while. I run hot and cold with some of the other things…I sometimes feel like I want to be a runner, but I don’t really like running. I have enjoyed working out at the gym in the past, but my usual gym is closer to my old apartment than to my new house, and I can’t imagine going that far out of my way just to spend an hour on a treadmill. I have been walking the dog in our new neighborhood, and the entire area is pretty pedestrian-friendly (except for the fact that a walk that starts out comfortable downhill eventually has to turn around and head back up the hill to go home). But what do I really LOVE? What ignites a fire of passion in me?

I have been on my own for five years now. And I have been getting by. But I don’t want just to get by. I want to live. I want to remember who I was before the world told me I should be something else. And I guess giving up Facebook to make room for those pursuits is my good start.