Category Archives: Boston

Anorexia, On Vacation

I wish this article was about my anorexia going on a permanent vacation, but it isn’t.  There aren’t two ways about it: recovery is hard on any average routine-filled day.  So when you throw in a two-week period of little sleep, constant activity, and strange, indulgent foods, one in recovery can feel like he or she is on an anorectic rollercoaster.

I went to Los Angeles for almost two weeks, to introduce my daughter to friends she hadn’t the opportunity to meet yet.  (Oh, and I forgot to mention above the fun of putting a Boston toddler on Los Angeles time.  Joyful 3am awakenings where SuperWhy MUST be watched.  But I digress.)  Now, I love LA for many reasons – it’s beautiful, the weather is almost perfect, the people are relaxed, and I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool to see celebrities alongside of you shopping for groceries.  But it’s image-obsessed.  Two years ago, I had gone to LA, and when I got off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan…wait…

No but really.  The first billboard I saw read:


I remember thinking how you’d never see that in Boston.

Also, the last time I went, I had gone out to a bar with my boyfriend and some of his friends.  I had excused myself to go to the bathroom, and when I entered it, immediately felt out of place.  The white hippie sundress and sandals I had previously thought were pretty attractive paled in comparison to the row of stiletto heels and skintight dresses I saw on the other women.  Now, I’ve never been one to follow trends, but I had to admit that my Boston-ness seemed glaringly apparent that day.

This time, I didn’t compare myself as much to other women, but I found the off-schedule eating pretty abhorrent.  Can you eat healthy on vacation?  Absolutely.  Is it harder when you’re dealing with low finances and a screaming toddler?  Yup.  So, long story short, I found myself eating more fast foods and sugar, and while you know I DEFINITELY don’t endorse abstinence from any of these foods, it was an imbalance for me.



The above picture was taken in this fabulous candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar, in the Grove.  Think candy you haven’t seen for years AND a chocolate fondue bar where you could dip strawberries and rice krispie treats in chocolate.  This is me, overenjoying one of those delectable treats:



The folly for me always lies in this common anorexic miscalculation: linking food intake with moral value.  Because I ate a ton of candy that day, I was immediately a disgusting person…not.  I may have had uncomfortable feelings of my body breaking down sugars it doesn’t usually, but that doesn’t translate into my moral value.  Separating the physical and the emotional are so very important, at times.  And also…one can’t maintain a perfect food intake 24/7.  We are humans, which means we err.  Which means it’s ok to get off the bandwagon for a bit if we know we have the ability to get back on safely.  And at this point, I do.  I just need to remind myself it’s ok to indulge in healthy substances.  Writing, friend time, nerds ropes, and my daughter.

I will say this trip was not a total anorectic mental slip, and is documented by the following:  I wore a bikini with little to no shame, for the first time in my life.



I had planned this photo mentally, because I needed to challenge the irrational idea in my head that I looked disgusting in a bathing suit and needed to hide my body.  For some, this might be triggering, but for me, it was one of the most liberating experiences I ever had.  Truthfully, I’ve still found ways to pick apart this photo since then, but, it’s a work in process, isn’t it?


How does being on vacation affect your self-care?  Does it improve it or throw it off?

Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya.

Yesterday, I was inspired to resurrect an old head scarf I used to wear all the time when I lived in Amherst.  One of my close friends, Devin, had started wearing head scarves and bandannas recently, and I wanted to look as cute as she did.  The fam and I were on our way to Boston’s trendy SoWa open market, and I wanted to dress up.  It’s a big deal, these days, you know.  Dressing up when you’re a Mama.

So I donned a long summer dress, drop earrings, and a paisley head scarf.  I indulgently took this ridiculous duckface selfie, complete with seat belt:



What’s important to note about the scarf, is that it was my Nana’s.  She passed away in 2003, and I gratefully received this after she died, along with a few other cherished jewelry pieces.  It got me thinking about what she, and my mother, and the women before them had to go through to let me be as strong as I am today about this whole body image thing.

A little backstory:

This is what I was told about my Nana: she was born in Ireland and came to the US when she was a baby.  She was adopted by a family over here, and worked fairly young, as her family was not, let’s say, the Kardashians.  One thing that always made me smile was the stories my mother would tell me about her trips into Boston as a teen.  She would take the train into Boston by herself, walk around the city, and buy a trinket with the little money she had.  She seemed fiercely tough and independent, and I identify with that.  Anywho, she married my Grampy, and worked tirelessly as a housekeeper while raising seven kids.  One of them being my mother.

My mother often tells me, “When I was a kid, we didn’t think there was any other choice than marrying and raising kids.  That was just what you did.”  And she’s right.  Were there some women going to college in the mid-sixties?  Sure.  But not like there are today.  In 1965, Betty Friedan truly hadn’t reached everyone yet, and when there were financial stressors on a family, college was a completely ludicrous idea.  So, those women married, and followed the ideals of the fifties.  They pleased their husband by cooking and cleaning.  They tried to look pretty for them.


Someone I see on a weekly basis often likes to tell me, “You women are lucky today.”  And he’s right.  Choices for my Nana and mother were limited – and they, perhaps, didn’t have the time or energy to love their reflection because they were too busy cooking or working or cleaning.  Also, they didn’t know they even had a RIGHT to challenge old, patriarcal beliefs because they had been taught to not question things like that.

My mother, however, had a streak of hippie in her (even though she denies it).  She was an attachment mother before there were attachment mothers, she organized church food drives for the hungry, and she was a bleeding heart who took her patients home on weekends from the Fernald State School to get a respite from the horror.  Her compassion – despite ARDUOUS circumstances that I will keep private – inspired me to choose the career road I walk down today.  It spurred me to get an education that furthered my liberal, feminist beliefs, and challenged me to look beyond what I had been conditioned to believe about my body.  And I’m sure her mother had an effect on her character, in some way.  But that’s her story to tell.

What am I saying?

Even if we have a conflictual relationship with them – even if they hate their body and you learned that as a result of being around them –

Let’s thank the women who came before us.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to be the fantastic individuals we are today.  Maybe you’re completely different from your mother because you felt angry with her and wanted to rebel.  Well, your fabulous rebellious self?  Thank your mother for that.  Or maybe you’re a carbon copy of your mother, who spends half her time cooking organic food and the other half volunteering for the homeless.  Either way, they have an effect on our personalities – and our body image.  

All I know is, I feel absolutely gorgeous when I wear my Nana’s scarf.

How have the women in your life affected your body image?


(1950’s ad provided by Molly Treanor’s blog.  Check her out!)


An Open Letter to the Bomb That Didn’t Detonate.


You don’t know me.  You don’t care about me.  You wanted to maim and kill hundreds of my fellow Bostonians, but still, I am grateful to you.


Because you didn’t go off.  You were sitting exactly underneath where my boyfriend stood innocently, managing security for the Boston marathon.

Because you didn’t go off, I am not sitting here, trying to piece together how a thirty-two year old mental health counselor would financially support a one-year-old by herself.

Because you didn’t go off, I don’t have to worry if my daughter will ever know balance, because the one person who embodies calm and humor and fluidity in our family is still here.

Because you didn’t go off, I don’t have to explain to my child how her father used to swing her up in the air and tickle her until she was sick of laughing.  I also don’t have to explain to her how I used to hate it, how I would fear he was overstimulating her, and that now I miss it dearly.

Because you didn’t go off, I won’t have to feebly explain to my daughter her late father’s love of California, Hollywood, and all things L.A.  He’ll be there to show her around.

Because you didn’t go off, I don’t have to search for a second best replacement for a generous man who loves us and his family more than the stars in the sky.  A man who knows that if he keeps his lady happy, he’s happy.  A man who gives, and gives, and gives.

Because you didn’t go off, I don’t have to tell my daughter how her father used to sleep with her on his chest between the hours of nine and two so her mother could get some sleep when she was one month old.  He can do that.

Because you didn’t go off, my boyfriend is beside me sleeping peacefully.  Breathing in and out.

But because you didn’t go off, I have guilt.  Strange guilt, because there are four families out there who never again get to listen to the sound of their loved one’s breathing.  You mystify me.  Why did the others go off and you didn’t?  Was it part of some grand master plan?  Or was it just that you weren’t carefully made?  Because you failed, I feel guilty.  Guilty, because I was lucky.  They will not get to cuddle next to their little boy during his nighttime routine again.  They will not get to walk their daughter down the aisle.  They will not get to listen to their daughter’s dissertation.  He will not get to hold his baby when she turns seven months old.

Those bombs went off; but you didn’t.

Strange that I should be grateful to you, a weapon of mass destruction, a symbol of everything sad and hateful and ugly in our society.  But I am.

And, because you didn’t go off, here we sit, numb and angry and nightmare-ridden.  But at least we get to feel angry.  At least we get to dream.

The line between the here and not here is so very, very paper-thin, so very fragile.

And I have you to thank for helping me to see that.





I Love You, Boston

I’m taking a break from posting about ED recovery today, and sharing with you a piece I wrote about my beautiful city three or so years ago.  My boyfriend was at the marathon when it happened, so I am counting my lucky stars today. Love to all of you.



When I am leaving the picturesque peninsula of Winthrop to meander into town, I often stop at the Dunky’s on Rt.  145 to pick up an iced coffee.  The best thing about this Dunky’s is the view from the drive-through window.  It gazes directly onto the Boston skyline in the South, and closer yet the Atlantic gently rocks sailboats into Winthrop Bay.  The tip of the Belle Isle Marsh frames the water with ocean roses and healthy green shrubs, and fishermen lazily cast their lines off of 145, chatting undoubtedly about the latest Boston sports debacle.  And the best thing about this sight is the “Entering Boston” sign that perches on the edge of 145.  It is perhaps miles away from the unassuming skyline, but plays a trick on your vision and seems to take its place amongst the Hancock Tower, the Prudential, and all the forgotten cow paths.


“This can be a cold place, Boston, and the weather is the least of it.  We’re often unwelcoming to outsiders.  We have a maddening trait of sniping at insiders.  We have equal parts determination and aloofness proudly bred into our native bones like the hunting instincts in a champion dog.”

– Brian McGrory, The Boston Globe, March 2002

So, taking that indisputable quote into question, how could one fall in love with a town such as this?


As with any love affair of mine, I scorned it at the start.  Starting in high school, I’d felt a pull towards the West Coast.  Who wouldn’t?  The weather was dry, the girls glamorous and the promise of success, especially in theater, was plentiful.  But I hadn’t the means or quite honestly, the guts, to leave my family and the friends I loved for this promise land.  And I despised myself for this.  Oh, how I hated myself for this trait.  Was something wrong with me, I questioned myself.  Was I addicted to the pain and misery of snow, old dysfunctional family patterns, and snobby intellectuals?

Despite this, I would spend my Saturdays as a 16-year-old in Boston.  I felt drawn to it.  I would drive the car into Alewife, and ride the Red Line to Harvard and Boylston and Lechmere.  I would escape into the city and play a rich girl on Newbury, pretend to be Bohemian in Harvard, and make-believe myself a tourist in Faneuil Hall.  It beat spending afternoons in a town I never felt safe in; I could get lost in Boston and no one was there to criticize the outfit I was wearing or the way I looked.  I was free.

Later, through stories my mother told me, I would learn my Nana Pearl would do the same thing as a teenager.  She rode the commuter rail to Boston by herself, spent what little money she had on some little trinket, and would explore the city.  It was then that the seed was planted; I knew both her and I possessed a trait that was so uniquely Boston: a gritty autonomy so stubborn that could not be swayed.

As time went on, I still yearned for California.  I had planned to move at the end of 2005, but illness got in the way.  As I healed myself, I healed my relationship with my city.  I realized that it was not a change of location I needed, but a change of attitude.

In December of 2005, my roommate and I decided to throw a Christmas party, which of course meant the worse ice storm of the decade would hit at 7pm that night.  As revelers called to cancel, I grumpily trudged through the snow and bitter winds to Demoulas to buy too many appetizers for guests who couldn’t come.  I blew my bangs out of my face dispiritedly as I passed a grinning man on Highland Ave shoveling heavy, wet snow.  I muttered a greeting to him, to which he yelled,

“Lovely night we have here, isn’t it?”

I smiled in spite of myself.  “Yeah, lovely night to throw a party too.”  I laughed and gestured towards my grocery bags.

The man stopped, wiped the snow out of his eyes, and put his shovel down.  “Oh no!  That’s too bad my dear.”

“Yeah well, what can you do.”

He looked at me for a minute, and then nodded towards the twinkling Christmas lights at the high school.  “But would you have it any other way? ”

And I knew right then that I was lucky.  Lucky to live in a town where snow fell during Christmastime, where adults could become kids again by making snow angels, and where history and legend was teeming out of every cobblestone.


Since then, I have spent lazy afternoons on the Common reading , chilly nights in the North End ice-skating, and mornings gabbing over fruit plates and Ole omelettes at Soundbites in Somerville.  I have played the scholar in Cambridge and have browsed art galleries in the South End.  This city has cradled me and allowed me to fall just far enough to find out who I really am.  For that, I will be forever grateful.

Two years ago, a close friend left Boston for a Southern state.  We had met for coffee one last time before she moved.  As we chatted, I noted that she seemed genuinely done with Boston men, sports and anything yankee.

“When will I be done?” I asked, almost plaintively.

“You’ll know when,” She had responded firmly.


Do all love stories come to an end?  I should hope not.  I believe this particular one will be timeless, no matter where I go or how embittered I become with rapidly-changing forecasts.  This town, with its liberal leanings and humble buildings, helped me to grow up, and nothing can replace that.  Not the bright lights of New York, the music of Austin, or the architecture in Chicago.

And until I am done, I will hold onto the secret that only I know.