A Case of the Fridays

Case of the Fridays

I used to love Fridays.

But lately, I’ve been dreading them. Like clockwork, since the beginning of our shelter-at-home order, I’ve been starting my weeks with lots of energy—and ending them completely and utterly exhausted. Sometimes, to the point of tears.

Case of the Mondays? Gone. Case of the Fridays? In full effect.

The past few weeks, I’ve recognized that this has become a pattern, and I knew I needed to change something. I wasn’t sure what, but I needed to dig deep and figure it out.

After talking it out with my husband, I sat down and made a list. Instead of traditional pros and cons, I wrote down the things that cause me stress and the things that make me happy. Let me tell you, it was not fun being brutally honest about some of my stressors. But on the other side of the coin, it was also therapeutic to recognize the things that genuinely bring me joy.

Here’s what I learned, thanks to this exercise.

First, there are plenty of things on my stressors list that I have zero control over (hello, shopping trips and paying our mortgage and the damn jungle that has overtaken our backyard due to record rain).

But there are plenty of things I can manage. Like my personal news and social media consumption.

I will admit I’ve been rather addicted to my phone since all of this mess started. Checking on news updates. Reading personal accounts of those who’ve battled COVID-19. Cringing at the terrible decisions being made socially, politically, globally. And let’s be honest, all the existing issues in our society haven’t disappeared in the face of coronavirus; if anything, this pandemic is emphasizing them and showing us how broken so many of our social and political systems are.

All this stuff, it stresses me out. The bad news just continues to pile up. And I’ve been feeding my anxiety with it.

You hungry, anxiety? Here, have a big bag of chips (aka – bad news). Still hungry? Oh, there’s so much more content in this pantry (dumpster fire) you can consume.

So, I made the choice to take a break. Last weekend, I left my phone on my bedside table while my husband and I watched movies, baked banana bread, played games, and napped on the couch. I turned off all my push notifications. I fought the impulse to constantly check in.

I didn’t go cold turkey. I still allowed myself a little phone time, but I limited those instances to a few minutes each. And then I walked away.

This week, I’ve been trying to continue this practice. I’m not perfect. I’ve succumbed to old habits (I mean, I’m human), but something in my brain has changed. When I see something that upsets me on the news or social media, I set my phone down rather than digging deeper into the issue and sitting in the stress it produces. I still post things. I still respond to both good and bad announcements. But I have new boundaries that are keeping my empath heart safe.

Now, let’s talk about the happy side of that list I made!

All those things that bring me joy—reading, baking, playing board games with my husband, exercising, taking baths, watching horror films and RuPaul’s Drag Race, cuddling with the pups, encouraging and helping those I love—I have so much more time to do them now that I’m not consumed by my phone.

I’m making a point to do at least one of these joyful practices every day. On days I’m feeling down, I look at the list and try to do them all. Bring on the joy, baby!

Today is Friday. And it’s the first Friday in a while that I don’t feel ridiculously overwhelmed. I actually have energy. Something has changed, thank goodness.

There’s a lot of talk going around right now about the importance of self-care. It’s incredibly critical, but it’s also easier said than done. Self-care is complex. Sometimes, self-care is taking a bath or drinking a glass of wine. In this particular case, I had to do some uncomfortable work and make significant personal changes to get some relief. It wasn’t easy, but I’m so happy I did it. I feel lighter.

Buh-bye, end-of-week exhaustion. Fridays? I’m reclaiming them, thanks.

A Jerk and a Joke: Shopping Adventures in the Time of COVID-19

Grocery Shopping

When we realized our supply of dog waste bags was dwindling, I knew it was coming. When our fresh veggies, Splenda, veggie stock, and coffee started to go, we began making a list. When my husband announced he needed to pick up an important prescription, well, it was time to face the music. We needed to go shopping. You know, during the deadly upswing of a global health crisis.

The last time we stocked up on groceries, we went to each store together. Oh, how things change in a matter of weeks. Now, it’s too risky. Not just for shopping, but for a lot of things.

Our local officials recommend wearing masks when out in public. We’re supposed to clean everything we bring into our home with sanitizer wipes. There are conflicting reports about social distancing; some say six feet is adequate; in others, it’s nowhere near enough. And COVID-19 has crept too close to home already. My husband and I both know people who are sick.

So yeah, we needed to re-evaluate how to go about grocery shopping. We decided the safest way for us to shop right now is to divide and conquer: my husband goes to the first store or two, picks up whatever he can from our list, and then I make a second trip out to look for the items he couldn’t find. We figure this strategy limits the amount of time we spend as individuals in the world that we once knew laid back, beautiful San Diego and has now morphed into a truly terrifying episode of The Twilight Zone.

After my husband brought home round one of our haul and we’d properly cleaned and stored our groceries, it was my turn. I took my Prozac, strapped on a homemade cloth mask, donned some plastic gloves, hiked up the hood of my hoodie, and drove to Von’s looking like I was planning to rob a bank.

Let me tell you, it was an adventure.

During my hour-and-a-half away from home, I experienced prime examples of both of the goodness and the baseness of humanity. Let’s start with the negatives so we can end on the positives, yeah?

As I moved through the grocery store, it became immediately apparent that either people are quite bad at judging six feet of distance…or fear wins over patience the majority of the time. Sadly, I think the latter is most likely.

With a safety-first mentality and a personal dedication to practicing legitimate social distancing, folks should wait a full six feet away for shoppers to vacate certain areas before reaching in to get the green bell pepper they so desperately need, right? But fear makes us take risks – and it’s way sexier than safety.

It’s human nature to want to get the hell out of a potentially threatening situation as soon as possible. So, despite the invisible elephant in the room that is COVID-19, we get close to each other. We reach around folks to scoop up groceries to lessen our time in the store. Ultimately, we’re risking our health, and the health of others, in order to obtain  things we think we need. Either consciously or subconsciously, we’re putting the sum of its parts ahead of the collective whole.

And while that was more of a philosophical observation, I also observed some straight-up nastiness.

Due to the large number of people shopping yesterday, their larger-than-usual hauls, and the social distancing measures put into place by Von’s, checkout lines cascaded down the vast majority of the aisles of the store. Entirely expected, right?

While wandering down the cereal aisle in search of bran flakes, I heard a male voice boom, “Do your damn job!”

I blinked, startled. But yeah, this was happening. A man in one of the checkout lines was berating the folks working at Von’s. (Who, by the way, were doing an absolutely incredible job. I watched them wipe down the conveyor belts, point-of-sale transaction stations, and all surfaces in between each customer. They were doing their best to keep people distanced. They were hustling. They were offering free bags to those who needed them. I can’t imagine how stressful their jobs are right now.)

Y’all, this man was loud. It was clear he wanted to be heard. But…did he seriously think his complaining would magically transport him to the front of the line? Oh sir, I’m so sorry, I see you’ve been waiting. Please, cut in front of all of these people who are being patient and waiting their turn, because you matter so much more than any of them.

A manager came over and told the man he needed to get himself under control and lower his voice. If he didn’t, they would kick him out. This guy was seething. I could feel the bad mojo pouring off him half an aisle’s length away. I honestly was afraid he’d start throwing punches. Luckily, that didn’t happen. Instead, he abandoned his basket and walked out.

To play devil’s advocate, maybe this guy was having a terrible day. Maybe this pandemic has touched him personally. Maybe this Von’s experience was a symptom of a larger issue.

But people who work in grocery stores are literally saving us right now. They are helping. They are putting themselves at risk. They are allowing us the privilege to stock up so we can stay home and hopefully never come into contact with this virus.

I know it’s stressful and scary, y’all. But don’t bite the hand that feeds you. If you do, someday that hand will turn up empty.

Blessedly, my shopping adventure concluded with a much-needed dose of positivity!

As I was loading groceries into my car, a white-haired woman in a RV rolled up next to me, leaned out her window, and asked if I wanted to hear the “ridiculous joke of the day.” Um, of course I did!

And here it is, ladies and gents, a truly corny joke delivered by this sweet stranger who just wanted to spread a little laughter during a crisis.

White-haired woman: Can you name the stinkiest pencil on the market?

Me (after a brow furrow and pause): You know, I don’t think I can.

Lady (after a dramatic pause): The number two!

Y’all, she sang that punchline with unmitigated glee in her voice. She was cracking herself up, and she certainly cracked me up, too! I applauded her as well as I could in my plastic-gloved hands and thanked her for the laugh. After that, she simply wished me a good day and drove off.

It was a brief interaction, a minute tops, but I needed it so badly. I wonder if she could tell. Or perhaps she’s just a woman with a hopeful spirit and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

But her kind gesture reminded me of why we’re staying home, despite how hard all of this has been and will continue to be. Humans can be great. Interactions with other people can make our days. We naturally crave community.

Don’t get me wrong, COVID-19 is making everything really hard. We’ve started losing people. Everyone’s mental health is compromised. Quite frankly, we’re all living with trauma right now. Our existence, individually and collectively, is a fragile thing.

But on the other side of this, I hope there are still sweet souls who approach complete strangers armed with Dad jokes. Because those people, they remind us that this life—this life together—is worth fighting for.

(Re)finding the Light


When I had a panic attack right before bed in mid-November 2019, I knew something had to change. Now, I’m no stranger to anxiety. It’s loomed over me for years like a dense fog, obscuring reason and making me feel panicked in a myriad of situations. But I’ve learned how to clear the fog. I take deep yoga breaths. I replace negative thoughts with positive ones. I distract myself with a game, favorite TV show, or puppy cuddles. I tell my husband I’m struggling so we can have a conversation about it.

But this anxiety attack was different for two reasons.

Reason number one: it was completely unprovoked. I was wearing fuzzy socks, book in hand, ready to climb into bed and relax. I probably had a freshly brewed mug of tea in hand. I had exactly zero reasons in that moment to panic. But my body decided it was time for either fight or flight. My heart started hammering. Adrenaline shot through me. I was suddenly massively uncomfortable. And I was really confused about it.

Reason number two: my usual coping mechanisms didn’t work. I focused on my breathing, willing my heartbeat to slow. I sat down and closed my eyes. I told my husband what was happening. And got no relief. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

It was as if my mind and body had gone completely rogue.


You won’t be surprised to learn that this anxiety anomaly occurred during a particularly stressful season of my life.

My husband and I bought our first house together last year, and our financial situation changed significantly (homeowners, especially those in California, you’ll feel me on this one).

Our dog, Zen, was diagnosed with cancer in his foot after a routine vet appointment, which threw our lives into a tailspin of oncology appointments, impossible decisions, and difficult conversations.

My world as I knew it shifted when my best friend called and said four unimaginable words: “I have breast cancer.”

My dad fell and as a result, required shoulder surgery.

Another dear friend was dealing with important medical tests for her mother coming back inconclusive – multiple times.

There were far too many people I loved fighting battles for their health and the health of their loved ones. (Did I mention these all happened within a month of each other?)

Cherry on top, I had my own bizarre medical condition to investigate, a vein in my armpit that decided to painfully and visibly protrude like an alien ready to pop out of my skin. This required a barrage of tests since my GP took one look and went, “I don’t know what this is.” (Spoiler alert: I’m completely fine and the condition cleared up on its own, but damn, it was weird.)

It’s safe to say stress was wound tightly around me like bubble wrap encasing something fragile. It’s also safe to say I was that something fragile.

Perhaps my right-before-bedtime panic attack was cumulative stress and anxiety. Perhaps the fog had grown so dense and cold and pervasive, I couldn’t see anymore, even if the sun was trying to shine through.

Though I was relatively calm that night everything changed—my pajama pants warm and soft, my little family surrounding me, the comfort of a story in my hand—my body was raging.

Apparently, this was my new normal.


I was really nervous to talk to my doctor. I steeled myself and promised myself I wouldn’t cry. I vowed to keep it together.

I’ve never had anything against medication for mental health. I think it’s vital. It’s life-changing for many. It’s incredible science. So many people struggle with various issues, and personal happiness, executive function, the ability to get through a day without some sort of episode is…well, everything.

But for me, there was something pretty sinister about confronting the fact that I couldn’t control this anymore, even though I tried, and it was time to ask for help. Why is it so hard for us to do that? To ask for what we need without reservation or shame or fear?

Over the phone, I told my doctor about the stressers in my life and my newfound inability to keep my anxiety from swallowing me whole. I expressed my interest in treating my anxiety medically.

I can’t articulate how validating it was to hear the genuine compassion in my doctor’s voice. She quickly made recommendations, and her immediate willingness to help me felt like a warm hug. We talked about possible side effects, how I’d start on the lowest dosage possible and adjust, as needed. My prescription would be ready later than day. She’d call me the following week to check in and see how I was feeling. And if this one didn’t work, we’d find one that did.

When I hung up, I finally felt like I could breathe again.


Fluoxetine sounds like some sort of sexy element on a distant planet, but really, it’s just Prozac. And taking it has improved my life dramatically.

Fluoxetine is an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety combo and belongs to a group of medicines called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It gives me a daily kick of serotonin, a chemical that is known to transmit messages between nerve cells, is thought to be active in constricting smooth muscles, and (here’s the important part for me) contributes to wellbeing and happiness.

I can happily report that I don’t feel like I’ve been emotionally run over by a Mack truck anymore. I have no side effects. I feel much more like myself. I smile. I crack jokes. I take better care of myself. My executive function is vastly improved. I’m not living in the fear of unprovoked or unexplainable panic attacks.

The moment I knew the medicine was working? When I opened my mouth to sing along with the radio in my car, something I hadn’t done for months. It was this tiny, mundane, seemingly insignificant thing, but for me, it was incredibly profound. Because it was a little slice of joy.

Let’s call this a comeback.


Inevitably, someone (perhaps even a handful of people), will tell me I’m brave for telling my story. The social stigma surrounding mental health and the medications that help it, yeah, it sucks. I’m not sharing this because I have guts; I’m sharing it because, empath that I am, I want everyone to know it’s okay not to be okay. I want all of us to feel better. And I want everyone to know it’s okay to want that for yourself, too.


The fog isn’t gone entirely. To be honest, I wouldn’t want it to retreat completely, even if I had the choice. Why? I still want to feel things. Every day can’t be unicorns and rainbows, because the marrow of life is sticky and complicated and difficult at times. I’m okay with peaks and valleys as long as I know where I am, who I am, and that this life belongs to me, not some chemical imbalance or misfire in my brain.

And if the sunshine is trying to peek through the fog, you better believe I can see it now.

It’s mine.

And it’s priceless.

Anna and the Apocalypse is a Campy, On-Pitch, Zombie-Infested Christmas Delight

The premise of Anna and the Apocalypse is a simple one: right before Christmas, a little town in the UK called Little Haven (along with the rest of the world) succumbs to a viral epidemic that transforms humans into zombies. As a result, a ragtag group of misfits battle to remain alive and to save the people they love.

It’s not a new storyline. We’ve seen it before. But the three things that breathe (undead) life into this little-zombie-apocalypse-movie-that-could are toe-tapping musical numbers, dump trucks of teenage angst, and B horror movie realness.

Yes, my friends, Anna and the Apocalypse is a zombie Christmas musical!

And while critics and viewers have been quick to compare it to High School Musical, I don’t think the comparison gives the film’s soundtrack the credit it’s due. Sure, the songs are cheesy. (I mean, would you expect any less?) But the harmonies are on point, the vocal performances eclipse those of Disney teens, and the lyrics have way more intention than I expected. They either foreshadow events to come (“No such thing as a Hollywood ending”), poke fun at dire situations (“As I wake half dead/In the same old bed” – sung by Anna about her humdrum life as virtually everyone in the town around her has become a zombie overnight), or serve to point out flaws in modern day society (the song “Human Voice” laments our obsession with technology and our lack of true human connection).

But don’t worry, the Anna and the Apocalypse soundtrack isn’t trying to be this intellectual, heady thing. There are moments when it’s laughable, pure-fluff fun. I mean, Nick, the gorgeous jock you love to hate in the movie definitely sings the line “When it comes to killing zombies, I’m the first in my class,” and theatre darling Lisa croons a truly inappropriate Christmas song about keeping Santa satisfied (which totally evokes Mean Girls vibes!). Which is just fun. 

Quite honestly, this is the kind of soundtrack I want to play on repeat in my car on the way to work, belting out all the madcap, crazy lyrics and trying to match the harmonies.

And then there’s all the teenage angst that, dare I say, just might be scarier than the flesh-eating zombies staggering through town.

Anna and the Apocalypse covers all the bases when it comes to high school drama. Anna dreams of getting out of town and exploring the world, but her father is adamant that she goes to college as soon as she graduates. Anna’s best friend, John, has the hots for her but can’t seem to make a move. Steph is a painfully awkward American girl who dreams of being taken seriously as a journalist and whose parents are partying it up in Mexico (without her) for Christmas. Savage is the future (and aptly named) headmaster of the school, who is obsessed with the position and won’t let anything get in his way, including a zombie apocalypse. Living up to parents’ expectations and slut shaming also come into play. 

At times, the characters in Anna and the Apocalypse look way more comfortable decapitating zombies than dealing with their emotions, which is oh so relatable and makes us care about their collective fate. 

Last but certainly not least, Anna and the Apocalypse is a gory good time, full of practical effects that are campy perfection.

And I love practical effects. Sure, CGI can be more realistic if done properly, but no one’s after realism in this movie. Instead, we’re treated to loads of blood spatter, oozy zombie bites, and lots of exploding body parts. The zombie kills are creative and pretty hilarious to watch. 

In short, this movie has the makings of a cult classic. This holiday season, if you’re an craving a Christmas movie with a little, ahem, bite, give Anna and the Apocalypse a try. 

And let me know when you buy the soundtrack. 

Measuring 2016 in Joy

So, 2016 wasn’t all bad. Yes, there were a lot of monumental tragedies – the loss of far too many pop culture icons who shaped and influenced us, numerous heartbreaking acts of violence and terrorism the world over, and don’t even get me started with the U.S. election – but for me personally, there were a lot of bright moments, too.

As we approach January 1, I wanted to reflect on all the GOOD things that happened in 2016 and concentrate on manifesting that goodness in 2017.

Here’s a recap of the things that made this year a great one for me:

  1. I tested for my first rank in Aikido, earned my hakama, and served as an uke for an Aikido master (Mary Heiny sensei). Training in martial arts has proven a big challenge for me, but the work ethic and perseverance required have made me stronger and more humble. Bonus – my mental health has improved and my anxiety has lessened drastically.
  2. I had a great publishing year! My short stories “We Share Everything,” “Catch and Release,” Bad Vibrations, “Now You See Me,” “Bad Moonlight,” and “It’s in Her Kiss” all made their way out into the world. And I’m heading into 2017 with a personal essay and two short stories queued up to be published – “Shapeless” in Under the Gum Tree, “Begin Again” in the kINKED anthology by Pen and Kink Publishing, and “He Smelled Like Smoke” in an Ink Stains anthology by Dark Alley Press. I’m also working on a trilogy of magical romance novellas for the Enchanted series by Pen and Kink Publishing, which has been both challenging and a blast.
  3. Kristy Velesko and I created photography magic together. While we were only able to do three shoots together this year (surrounded by flowers, on the beach, and underwater!), they were incredible. I’m so happy she calls me every time she’s in town, because it’s good for me to glam it up and get in front of the camera.
  4. I bought a wedding dress!
  5. I started working for Cognella, Inc., an independent academic publisher, as a content specialist. Not only am I working in my dream industry (publishing), I feel like my work is making a positive impact in the world of academia. Also, the company culture is ridiculously awesome.
  6. My fiance and I launched a website together, 2 Geeks Life, to document all our  nerdy life together.
  7. I rediscovered aerial yoga.
  8. I bought a llama holiday sweater that gives me life!
  9. I became a legit graphic novel collector.
  10. There were numerous cuddle sessions with our puppies.
  11. Bryan and I celebrated one year as San Diego residents.
  12. I attended my first San Diego Comicon!
  13. I SMASHED my Goodreads reading goal – 48 BOOKS (when my goal was 35)!

Not to mention all the food adventures, trips to new locales in San Diego, sweet, romantic moments, laughter with friends, celebrations with family, and the unexpected little joys that make this life wonderful.

I look forward to all the GOOD in 2017. I hope it finds you, too.

Wishing you all a happy New Year!

Giftmas Blog Tour Wrap-up – Last Chance to Donate!


Today is the last day of the Giftmas Blog Tour benefiting the Edmonton Food Bank, which means it’s your final chance to donate to make the season a little brighter for those in need! No amount is too small, because $1 equals = three meals. Three meals!


To thank you for giving, you can enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a custom crocheted throw knit by the fabulous Rhonda Parrish…


…AND read all of the amazing Giftmas blog posts that have been posted this week. On the following webpages you’ll find heartwarming stories, family recipes, and hilarious food anecdotes.

Thank you for your support of the Edmonton Food Bank!

Merry Giftmas! on Stephanie A. Cain’s blog

Christmas Roast and Other Traditions on Stephanie A. Cain’s blog

Giftmas Tourtiere with Rhonda Parrish on Stephanie A. Cain’s blog

Christmas Baking and Gingerbread Bloodshed with Stephanie A. Cain on my blog

A Place at the Table on Operation Awesome

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever on Diamante Lavendar’s blog

A Nontraditional Foodie Christmas on Unrepentant Scribbler

Snowed In: A Giftmas Guest Blog on Beth Cato’s website

Giftmas Bready or Not: Cake Batter White Chocolate Fudge (Microwave) on Beth Cato’s website

Food, Glorious Food on Eileen Bell’s website

Author Beth Cato: Apple Cinnamon Cake Recipe on Eileen Bell’s website

Fruitcake and Christmas Wishes on An Apple’s Mindspew




The Truth About Hauntings


Photo by flickr user “John Feinstein.”

We’ve all seen the movies and read the books. Perhaps we’ve even witnessed an apparition or two ourselves. Regardless of how the story is told, the underlying motivation for hauntings is, more or less, the same: lost souls are stuck in purgatory because their business on Earth is far from resolved. There’s often a lot of flickering lights and whispered words and bumps in the night.

But hauntings don’t have to be scary. In fact, I think we take ghosts a little too seriously. Perhaps they have a little more in common with the living than we’re led to believe, namely embarrassment.

Bad Vibrations

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into death—crafting a will, getting your finances and investments in order, signing up for a life insurance policy, specifying to family if you’d rather be buried or cremated—you know, just in case something happens. But no one tells you how imperative it is to hide your overwhelmingly large and kinky collection of sex toys somewhere your mother will never find them.

This should really be the number-one priority of the living, because−surprise!−you can experience deep and maddening embarrassment on the other side.

I watch my mother wander around my bedroom and flinch every time she nears the foot of my California King. Dammit, I think, I should’ve been more proactive. Taken out some sex-surance or something.

Yes. There should be an agent named Bob, who, upon hearing of my demise, rushed over to my sad, small apartment and disposed of the wooden chest that—dear God!—my mother is sitting on now. He’d also wash my sheets, trash my stained, holey underwear, and give all the surfaces a good once-over with a Clorox wipe. I would’ve tipped Bob really well.

My mother is crying and I feel like crap. In this moment, I should mourn with her. I should miss her. We should have a moment like in the movie Ghost—not one involving clay or romance, of course. That was probably a bad example. What I’m saying is, I should make my presence known and let her know I’ll always be with her. That’s what a good daughter would do.

But I’m paralyzed. Because any moment now, she’s going to wonder what’s in that wooden chest she’s sitting on and want to investigate. She’ll think the trunk holds some beautiful memory or artistic secret of her only daughter. Instead of deep and meaningful song lyrics or a collection of first editions by Hemingway, she’ll find the Nuts n’ Bolts 3000. And it will terrify her.

My mother stands, brushes her skirt with her palms, and moves away from the chest and toward my writing desk. I nearly dissipate, I’m so happy, so I have to actively concentrate on staying here, staying in this scene. If I’m not careful, I’ll slip away into the ether. Impermanence is one of the drawbacks of being deceased.

My mother goes through a few drawers, smiles when she finds pictures of me and my brother, and writes down something on a sticky note, which she folds and places in her pocket. She turns and looks about the room, a forlorn but dreamy expression on her face.

And then her eyes start to drop. They zero in on my stupidly out-in-the-open treasure trove of sex masquerading as something mundane. Riddled with anxiety, I desperately wonder if I gained any magical powers when I died. I try to snap my fingers—which I find damn near impossible since I’m vapor. I whisper “Abracadabra,” and it sounds like leaves rustling on the pavement outside. I do a silent tap dance with a raging flourish.

But to no avail. My mother continues to move like the shark from Jaws toward the wooden chest. I can hear the infamous theme song in my head, coupled with her inevitable scream and shrill commentary: Who needs this many sex toys? Why couldn’t you have found a good man instead, Gabby? What exactly is this for? Ooh, maybe I’ll keep that…

She’s fiddling with the silver padlock on the trunk. I guess I got that part right. The chest is very visible, but at least it’s locked. There’s some security, deterrence for people who want to look inside. Perhaps it’s enough. Perhaps she’ll give up and simply send the trunk off to storage.

My mother’s eyebrows twitch. She stands slowly and I can see her brain churning. She turns around, goes to my desk, and wouldn’t you know it, on her first try pulls open the drawer that contains the key to the lock.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

Before I know what I’m doing, I float over to the light switch by my dresser and flip it on and off, creating an impromptu disco in my bedroom. Suddenly realizing I can, in fact, make contact with the living world, I bang on the wall as hard as I can with my other hand, creating a persistent and hollow thud, thud, thud.

My mother shrieks. She looks about the room in a panic, and I remember that look from when I was five and wandered away in a department store to hide in a round of women’s skirts. The key slips from her hand and clangs against the desktop. With a shrill scream, my mother runs from the room. A moment later, I hear the door to my apartment slam, and then the key in the lock.

I wait for a few minutes, listening, but she doesn’t come back. I sigh heavily, and it sounds like the wind. I float over to my bed and lie down. It’s strangely comforting somehow, being back in my room, alone.

I come up with a plan. I’ll wait until dark—the witching hour, perhaps—then I’ll carry that damn trunk out of here and have a bonfire somewhere far, far away from my apartment complex. Or maybe I’ll drop toys in random places throughout the city. Maybe I’ll leave the whole shebang on a politician’s doorstep.

I giggle. It sounds like a child’s laugh even though I’m in my twenties. Everything gets warped when you cross over into the afterlife.

And then I stop laughing, because I come to startling realization: Ghosts like me don’t haunt the living because we’re lost souls or need help crossing over or simply want to terrorize people. We do it to keep our secrets—especially the ones that vibrate.

I Spy…Something Shiny?


Photo by Flickr user “NIthI Anand.”

The first time my peripheral vision went blurry, I’d had a beer and it was way past my bedtime, so the occurrence kind of made sense. My eyes are just tired. Shit, I’m just tired. As I prepared for bed, it was like the surface of a pond was dancing way off to my right. No, more like a desert mirage. And what the hell was one of those doing in San Diego?

The next morning seemed to confirm my hypothesis. My vision was fine. I was still a little tired, but it was nothing a mocha and a trip to the theater to see Star Trek Beyond (and eat lots of buttered popcorn!) couldn’t fix.

That afternoon, as Bryan and I were watching “The Great British Bake-off,” it was back. That oozy, reflective jelly, completely reminiscent of the puddle Larisa Oleynik used to morph into in “The Secret World of Alex Mack.” And this time, a headache set it, so I stumbled to bed. An hour later, I woke up, my sight was normal, and my headache was gone.

On Monday morning at work, the Blob came to visit again, and he brought along his friend, Bright Light Between Your Eyes.

Now, before anyone gets too worried, none of these experiences affected my ability to do anything. I felt fine walking around and navigating my office. I could read my computer screen. I felt altogether…fine. Nothing was subtracted from my vision; I’m just the lucky girl who had things added to her sight.

So, nothing super worrying, but very random and disconcerting, because, you know, your eyes are important.

After a call to my fiancé, we decided it was time to visit an opthamologist. Of course, worst case scenarios are running through my head at this point: Are my retinas going rogue? Your vision can be impaired when you have a small stroke, right? Is there an alien in my brain? Because that would be bad.

After examining my eyes with all the whirligigs and magnifiers, the grand diagnoses is…ocular migraines. Like, my eyes are having migraines. They’re that pissed off.

I guess I have some dry eye and allergies going on, too, so I guess I’d be agitated…

Apparently, ocular migraines are harmless (from a neurological and greater health perspective – unless they get worse, of course). They are triggered by the same things that generally trigger migraines – caffeine, chocolate, MSG, stress, and the chemical makeup of birth control pills. The sight disturbances can manifest with or without a headache. They usually resolve within 20-30 minutes, and you can take ibuprofen, migraine meds, or a good dose of caffeine to banish them. Yes, caffeine is both a cause and a cure. Go figure.

I go through the checklist and realize…yeah, I need to change some things. I drink a cup of coffee every day, and I like it strong. Chocolate is one of my favorite things on this planet. MSG is sneaky and can creep into lots of foods. Stress – what’s that? There’s no stress here with a new job, a writing deadline, a wedding to plan, a dog who might have a UTI, California living expenses, and a slight cold as I plan to escape for a bachelorette party in Phoenix this weekend. No sir, no stress here. And the birth control? Well, some things you can’t eliminate.

Yesterday was my first caffeine-free, chocolate-free, trying to be super healthy day. Of course, it’s also the day our CEO, fresh back from a trip to Costa Rica, leaves out chocolate-covered coffee beans, coffee candies, and a bag of gorgeous whole beans next to our in-office, high-tech coffee machine. I may have drooled a bit, but I resisted.

Today is day two, and I’m trying to figure out if my slight headache this morning was random or perhaps caffeine withdrawal-related.

In any case, it’s worth it. As much as I loved “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” that puddle of sludge can’t stay far enough away from my eyeballs, thank you very much.

Go Ahead…Bite Somebody!


What happens when you mix an insecure, novice vampire, balmy Florida nights, a hunky ex-surfer with a penchant for Bob Marley, and a purple-haired, stuck-in-the-80s instigator? You get Sara Dobie Bauer’s novel, Bite Somebody, which has been lauded as the “Pretty in Pink of vampire stories.” Seriously, you need this novel in your life. It’s poignant, hilarious, sexy, and freaky.

I caught up with Sara to talk vampires, rum punch, and writing.

First of all, this is your first published novel. Congratulations! How does it feel? And how are you celebrating?

It feels exciting and terrifying in equal measure. I don’t think it’s quite hit me that my book is a Real Thing. It’s kind of like waking from a dream, disoriented and tangled in my sheets. It’s also a lot of work. When releasing your first book, there’s very little time for bon-bon consumption—but plenty of time for beer, trust me. Speaking of celebrating, I will mark the occasion with a rum punch (or two) since that’s what my characters drink in the beach world of Bite Somebody.

Give me your elevator pitch for Bite Somebody. What’s it about, and why should we add it to our bookshelves?

Celia Merkin is a chubby, insecure newbie vamp in love with the smell of her neighbor. What she needs to do—according to her moody vampire friend Imogene—is just bite somebody. But Celia wants her first bite to be special, and she has yet to meet Mr. Right Bite. Then, Ian moves in next door. Could he be the first bite she’s been waiting for to complete her vampire transformation?

Add Bite Somebody to your bookshelves because not only is it hilarious (think dark comedy), but also it’s sexy and adventurous and, although it’s a vampire book, it sort of pokes fun at the whole genre.

Tell me something funny/freaky/interesting about the process of writing this book that no one else knows.

I wrote the first page at 6 AM while lying in bed in Phoenix, covered in dogs. Call it an epiphany.

Did your characters behave themselves while you were writing Bite Somebody? Or did they go rogue and make decisions you didn’t see coming?

A little of both. I knew where the characters needed to go eventually—they just took some roundabout ways to get there. My characters always do that, but they’re supposed to. If you’ve created a character of depth, he or she will practically become a real person, and real people are unpredictable, yes?

When you think of the setting of your novel, what do you see, smell, taste, hear, and feel?

I think Gulf Coast beach. I see a moonlit ocean. I smell salt water and fruit-juicy rum punches. I hear laughter and waves. I feel happy, because I’d like to live in this place.

There’s a lot of vampire lit out there and thus, a lot of vampire archetypes. Do you have a favorite flavor of vampire?

Vampires with a sick sense of humor. I don’t like moody, pouty vampires. I don’t like angst. I adore characters like Lestat, who’ll giggle while he kills you, or Spike from Buffy with his sly, British sense of humor. I guess my flavor of vampire fits my flavor of friend, too. If you don’t make me laugh, you probably won’t be spending too many happy hours with me. Life’s too short to be taken seriously.


Okay, how the heck did you get your dentist to make you vampire teeth in celebration of Bite Somebody? I mean, seriously, how did that conversation even begin?

Ha. Well, she had a picture of Bela Lugosi in her office, and I was amused but, like, “Why?” She explained she made vampire teeth for one of her clients once, to which I replied, “Hmmm?” She knew about my novel and immediately offered to make some for me as a gift for my launch party. Now, I wear them randomly around the house and at bars. Some guys get freaked out; other guys want to buy me a drink. I should probably steer clear of the guys who want to buy me a drink.

If you had to describe Bite Somebody in five words, what would they be?

Insecure immortal learns to love.

(And not just other people.)

Who would play the main characters in a film adaptation of Bite Somebody?

Well, the leads would be Felicia Day and Benedict Cumberbatch, but I actually have a blog post with the entire list HERE.

Fast forward. The film is wildly successful and nominated for an Oscar! What would you wear to the award ceremony?

A skin-tight gothic-inspired Dior gown or maybe even something completely insane by Hirooka Naota. Black patent leather Louboutin stilettos, my lucky skull ring, and my hot husband on my arm in a black Spencer Hart suit.

Bite Somebody has received great reviews from first readers. Any comments that have surprised, delighted, or affected you in a big way?

Well, one of my favorite writers, Christopher Buehlman called it “the Pretty in Pink of vampire stories.” Another reviewer said, imagine “going for midnight swims with Benedict Cumberbatch while listening to David Bowie.” Does it get any better?

Anything else you’d like to add?

You can buy the book now on Amazon or directly from World Weaver Press. If you’d like to chat, visit my website. Feel free to stalk!

About Sara:


Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model, and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. She spends most days at home in her pajamas as a book nerd and sex-pert for SheKnows.com. Her short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is also the author of Wolf Among Sheep, Life Without Harry, and Forever Dead. Read more at SaraDobieBauer.com or find her on Twitter @SaraDobie.

Hello Homesickness


When Bryan and I moved to San Diego, California, this summer, the transition was strangely easy for me. I’d lived in Phoenix, Arizona, for 30 years, my whole life. I was ready for change, ready to escape my roots and experience something new. That desire coupled with the promises of urban, downtown living, beaches mere minutes away, a smorgasbord of incredible food, craft beer culture, June Gloom (which I love), and the beauty of Balboa Park equaled unbridled excitement for me—a new adventure. I was happy to leave my desert hometown in the dust. When we pulled our U-Haul truck out onto the I-10, I didn’t look back.

I’ve traveled back to Phoenix a few times since our initial move—for weddings, baby showers, quick trips to see family and friends—and I’ve always driven or flown back to California alight with the feeling that I’m returning home. And why shouldn’t I? I’m a California girl now. And San Diego is an exceptionally easy city to fall in love with and to call home.

But this last trip, this one was different.

Bryan had to travel back to Phoenix for work this past weekend/week, and I asked him to extend his trip so I could tag along, burn up existing vacation time, and we could visit with friends and family for the holidays. I was excited for five days of fun!

The first night, we met up with a small group of friends for authentic, beautiful Moroccan food at Couscous Express. This little establishment, on McDowell near the 51 entrance/exit ramps, is the most unassuming gem of a restaurant. The owner is friendly and welcoming, and all he wants to do is to feed you; it’s the most honest hospitality I’ve ever experienced. Together with friends, we ate lentil soup, garbanzo beans, tagine, and date shakes while French jazz music played in the background. And there wasn’t a quiet moment as we caught up, discussed the latent poignancy of Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series Master of None, talked through the algorithms of Pandora radio, geeked out, and shared the love. At the end of the meal, the owner of Couscous gave me a headdress traditionally worn by belly dancers and everyone at the table received argon oil soap. It was the perfect, eccentric end to a perfect, eccentric meal.

GameThe next morning, we went to church at City Square, which never feels like a religious gathering and instead feels like a family gathering. Immediately, we were pulled into hugs and asked how our lives are in California. Later, as our guest pastor drew a connection between joy and pain, the beauty and volatility of nature, and the happiness and sadness of the season, I teared up—both because her message was true and beautiful and because, surrounded by so many wonderful people, I was feeling that joy she was speaking of.

After church, we played Betrayal at the House on the Hill with the Kemp-Schlemmers, the family we were staying with. We dramatically read horrifying cards and joked about creepy kids and enjoyed chile-infused beer—ever mindful there was a traitor among us! (Play the game; it’s awesome.)

Mom and meThat night, we had an early Christmas dinner with my mom. She completely spoiled us with incredible food (including homemade crème brulee, which is my favorite dessert ever!) and truly thoughtful presents. It’s very apparent your boyfriend has become a part of the family when your mom buys you both socks, heat-building undershirts (for outdoor archery, of course), and Amazon gift cards to quell our ordering addictions. My mom got a little emotional when she opened the scarf I’d knit for her, and we helped her put her new wine lovers case on her phone. We took lots of pictures, and of course, like moms do, she sent leftovers home with us.

On Monday, I had to work from home. I dropped Bryan off at work, swung by one of my old coffee haunts, Lola, and ran into a good friend I haven’t seen in many, many months. Over mugs of coffee, we talked about writing, relationships, and impending adventures before I had to head back to the house and log on to my laptop.

Mid-morning, there was a knock on the door and an invitation to go downstairs and do mommy and me yoga with Summer and Josie. And I can’t even begin to describe how fantastic an experience it is to down dog with a two-year-old who smiles and giggles and always wants to hand you your water bottle (gotta stay hydrated, after all!).

That night, we invited basically all of our Phoenix-based friends out for a group dinner. Despite some crazy restaurant mix-ups, our friends showed up in droves. What we thought would be a group of 10-15 people quickly turned into a group of 20-25. We virtually took over NYPD Pizza. And it was overwhelming to see everyone come out to see us. I uploaded a collage of pictures to social media with the simplest hashtag: #joy—because that tiny word captures everything going on in that room.


On Tuesday, I surprised my ex-coworkers at Nationwide with an unannounced visit. And you should’ve seen the looks on their faces! Again, the hugs. Again, the inquiries about California. A few hopeful questions about whether I was back for good. “Just for vacation,” I said.

After the visit, I met up with my friend Rachel, who is basically my chosen older sister. We lunched the way we used to, discussing the Phoenix dance community, our goals and successes, and the goings on our favorite TV shows.

When Bryan got off work that night, we went to Cherryblossom Noodle Café, our go-to for Japanese food in Phoenix. We drank sake and green tea, and I had some killer Pad Thai.

We got home to find Brian watching The Voice on Hulu, so we sat down to watch and talk music and unwind for the night.

Yesterday afternoon, we arrived home in San Diego after a grueling and tiring car ride. We unpacked the car and went upstairs to find a very naughty dog on the furniture—and yes, she knows she’s not allowed there (bad, Biscuit!). We straightened up, fed the dogs, took them on a walk, and then Bryan went to Aikido as I settled in for a relaxing night at home.

I reheated my leftover Pad Thai, turned on Mad Men, cracked open a beer—and felt terribly, terribly alone. That’s when I realized that for the first time ever, I was homesick.

But not for Phoenix. Not the city itself or the desert or anything tied to a specific geographical place. I was homesick for the people who live in Phoenix. The people who are the very definition of community. The people who show up in overwhelming numbers when we say we’re going to be in town. The people who accept us as family, even when we’re gone for a long time. The people who open their homes and their hearts to us. The people that make Phoenix my home.

If you’re one of those people in Phoenix and I saw you this trip, know that you gave me the very best Christmas present this past weekend—you. I love you and I miss you. Always.