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Last week the fire alarm went off at midnight.

I don’t mean that it started doing the battery chirping thing or whatever.

I mean that last week, while The Mr was fast asleep and snoring upstairs, and Binky the Wonder Dog and I were downstairs grabbing a little quiet TV binge time in the wee small hours, a deafening shriek ripped the silence followed by a robotic voice shouting “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!!!”

I threw my bowl of late night pistachios all over the family room in my startled haste to get upstairs and make sure The Mr was up (he is a shockingly heavy sleeper) and as he messed with the main alarm it started shouting “C.O.! C.O.!” instead and the next thing you know we are out on the front lawn waiting for the fire department, pacing back and forth with Binky who is, as it turns out, not deaf enough in his old age to miss being totally freaked out by that noise.

Jr, blessedly, was up in the mountains with my parents at the condo – the “divided bubble model” as I like to call it when we split off into sections of our tight little pod. So he missed the excitement.

It was a faulty alarm, and the very nice fireman got it off the ceiling and told us to replace it and tootled off with his sleepy jr officer in tow.

I would love to say that was the end of it – but we all know that isn’t how late night fire alarm shit goes down now, don’t we?

10 minutes later – the battery chirp DID kick in, and of course we didn’t have enough batteries to go around, and around 3 a.m., I finally concocted a plan, cut the power at the breaker and disconnected the batteries and the whole addled house “settled” for the last few hours before dawn.

I was kinda messed up and couldn’t bring myself to ever do anything that would make the noise again, so Binky and I hid out in the back yard while Zach the Awesome Electrician got us set right the next day, (seriously, if you are on the CO front range and need an electrician, HMU, I have got your dude.)

Normally I actually think I could have done it – even after the night of NO sleep, even after snuggling a totally freaked out geriatric dog for hours, even knowing that loud noises are at the top of my “crap Keri hates” list.

But that is the thing. Nothing is normal now. Nothing is even close. And in that moment I couldn’t handle one more damn thing.

Because my poor sweet kid being up in the mountains with his grandparents wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment thing, but instead a product of an ongoing plan to carefully make sacrifices and choices to allow for us to be physically close to my parents.

And because when I called the non-emergency number and stood out on the lawn waiting for the fire department to show up, I looked at The Mr and realized we didn’t have our masks – and we stood way back as they came, N95s firmly affixed, to clear our house and explain the issue. I wanted them to know that we want to keep them safe too, as they protect us and do their already difficult job in this impossible time.

And because I sat, snuggling that dog, waiting for the sun to start to creep through the blinds in our finally precariously silent family room, ordering batteries and junk food from Amazon fresh for a 6 a.m. delivery, thankful for the option, but at the same time mourning the quick trip to 7/11 I would have made to remedy the situation back in February.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was because every decision I have to make at this point feels like I’m the protagonist in a YA dystopian novel trying to decide which potentially life-ruining (or ending) cliff to run off of – or if I should just stop running and wait to see what the ominous, menacing presence will do to us.


I feel like for the past 5 months an alarm has been sounding FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! in my head at loud and quiet intervals depending – but unending.

I have learned never to dare the universe and say, or even think, that I can’t take even one more thing.

Because each day – each hour – each blink sometimes it seems – is GOING to bring something else.

There are moments, maybe not whole “good days,” but moments, where we thrive.

In between, and often, it seems, we endure.

Today – the alarm is quiet.

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Dr Sissy & BIL

This is my sister.


I talk about her a lot – It might be a twin thing, but I am fairly obsessed with her.When we were younger we argued and went through all of the silly crap that competitive halves of a single egg will go through, but the very day that I moved out of the house the summer before college we were like “oh hello, I miss you most – let’s talk on the phone for 800 hours a day and visit each other back-and-forth across the country and basically be attached at the hip from 100s of miles away, never leave me again, kthxbai.”

And then, she started bringing my future brother-in-law around. He is that handsome fella next to her in the pic up above. I was WICKED picky about who Sis went around with in those days, but BIL? BIL is the GOAT.  Like really – he is THE BEST brother-in-law. We fell right into all kinds of ridiculous family shenanigans that drove my sister crazy… like the summer that they came to stay with me during undergrad, and (future) BIL and I had a disagreement about what exactly a ho-ho was. So we spent the whole summer bringing home every snack cake we could find that was NOT a ho-ho to do “process of elimination research.”

Annnd there we would be when she woke up late in the morning (she worked the night shift at a popular coffee shop,) stuffing our faces with another “not a ho-ho” for 2nd breakfast as she got ready to go for a run. Or when he sat on the sofa drinking with me because we were both secretly afraid of what would happen on NYE Y2k. Or when I was newly DXed with M.S. and I went to visit them in med school and their a/c broke, and he went all over to find a new one. Or how he makes THE BEST dirty martinis… or if he hears me on the phone with sissy because I have had a bad day, I will get a text with Baymax giving someone a hug or something.

Because he is the best, just like Sissy is the best. I know a lot of good people. They are the goodest.

They are also doctors. Which I have ALWAYS been so proud of. Dr Sissy has known since SECOND GRADE that she wanted to be a doctor. And she is one. When I was in second grade I think I wanted to be a tree when I grew up or something.

But these two very good people have known their whole lives – and they have worked tirelessly in their profession.  So here we are – on National Doctors Day. On a day when the gravity and the gratitude of that are felt so deeply that words fail.Here is what I know.

I love these two people FIERCELY. I am proud of them and scared for them and grateful to them and I will do whatever I can to make sure the incredibly difficult job that they and their fellow healthcare workers have to do can be done as safely and successfully as possible. Because every one of those people have sisters and brothers and moms and dads and kiddos and friends and pets and WHOEVER who love them fiercely – and they are doing what they do because they take care of us for the people who love us too.

Dr. Sissy – you are the other half of my egg. I have known you since conception. You are my instant and always best friend.

And BIL – There are not enough ho-hos and dirty martinis and Baymax GIFs in the world to say how much you mean.

I love you both so much – thank you for all you are doing.

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Darkness and light

2 weeks before Jr’s birthday he announced he wanted a Chainsmokers hat.  After much bickering and back-and-forth about what we would listen to in the car, electronic music had become our common ground of choice the summer before – so this was not TOO shocking….

That being said, I gave him a hard no on that particular band name, as a 7 year old wearing a hat that says “Chainsmokers” was sure to earn us some heavy sideeye at the supermarket.  So I told him to name his current favorite songs, and ordered the hat of the artist with the heaviest representation.

His birthday came and went, with the hat on back order.  A month later my son’s prized Avicii hat arrived – 4 days after Tim Bergling passed away.  When we talked about it, Jr sat on my lap and said “I guess we are lucky he left his songs so we can keep him forever.”  Oh my heart…  yes my sweet doodle, we are lucky for that.

Still, I thought – oh I won’t write about that… Maybe it was ok to write about my experiences with generalized anxiety disorder, but  I am no mental health expert, after all.   I am so far from having my shit together, who am I to say anything about this man and his impossible decision?

Of course we talked about it, my friends and I, and said how our hearts hurt, and “oh how young” and nodded silently with eyes closed tight when someone commented about the importance of destigmatizing mental illness.  Like you do.  Because we all kind of know, don’t we?

And then the news came of Kate Spade, and we all shared pictures of our first KS bags on social media, and told the stories about how she was kind of everything to so many women looking so intently for SOMEONE to look up to – to show us how it was fucking done.  And her husband was eloquent and honest and raw and perfect in his truth about her and it was far more than we were entitled, I think.  But it meant something to so many – and again we nodded with closed eyes, like you do.  Because we all kind of know, don’t we?

Then as we were marinating in the news of that truth, Anthony Bourdain was gone.

ANTHONY FUCKING BOURDAIN.  This cannot be.  (If it seems like my use of the f-word is increasing as I keep writing, it is exactly because my use of it has increased with each news story as well.)

Chef Bourdain was…  he was a lot to me when I was very young, very lost, and VERY angry.

A friend shared his first piece in the New Yorker with me because of my love of all things culinary  – and early 20’s me soaked it up like a sponge.  At the time I told myself it was just the whole “kitchen thing” of it all – and I hung a copy of the essay above my desk in my single-girl condo and read it over and over again. (If you haven’t read it – read it here.  He was such a gifted storyteller.) He was talking about a world I felt locked out of by doctors and diagnosis…. But he was doing it in a voice that was almost my own, and OH how I ate up everything he did after that.

TV Shows and cookbooks and essays and interviews – his connection to all things human was a magnet.  His driven desire to embrace  the entirety of humanity, using the tools he understood – it was all a substantial gift.

Which could be said about them all.

It couldn’t hold them here. It couldn’t keep them from that action.

And then we are quiet and we nod our heads knowingly, with closed or downward eyes, so we don’t accidently make eye contact.


We are all thinking of the family member who lost the fight, leaving us all shocked and sad in their absence. The friend from college or high school who tried and failed and everyone knew it, but it’s ok now because they are on facebook looking oh-so-perfect, so we can pretend that we know they are fine.

Or maybe we are thinking of ourselves.  No one wants to say that – no one wants to give voice to an intimate understanding of those thoughts. Maybe because they have clawed their way beyond that enveloping darkness and they fear that if they even glance back towards it, they will be sucked in once again.  Maybe because admitting it might mean confessing that is still very much where they are, and the true bitch of being in that space is that you really don’t think you want anyone to come into your darkness and try to connect with you – though that connection is the very thing that might save your life.

When I read that New Yorker piece – I was 23, and drowning in the sadness and anger and hopelessness that surround a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. I lashed out at those who tried to help with my (now I see) obvious and profound depression.   Everything was a scary and painful unknown.  The only truth I knew in my heart was that everyone EVER would better if I was not there. I was not able bodied, I could not take care of myself, I was costing everyone near me in time and money and energy and I was the least deserving and worthy of all they spent.   I was a horrific and total failure, at every single thing I tried to do. Knowing that I was such a failure that any attempt to leave this life would probably just be something else I fucked up, making me even more of a disappointment to the world, was the only thing that stole my thoughts from that most painful and permanent of choices.

I was lucky.  Because in that blackest, deepest, loudest, longest night trying to consume my soul, the people who loved me did not shut their eyes or nod knowingly and turn away in silence.  They fought.  They fought like hell, and they did not let me push them away – they grabbed on and clung to me and dragged my ass kicking and screaming away from that darkness, and tied me very unwillingly in the light. They unflinchingly reminded me of the truth of who I was, shouting over the demons of the darkness telling me I was the reason for all of their shame and pain.

I am lucky, because for me – it eventually worked.   That is not the case for everyone.  Not every battle waged is won, not every lifeboat offered is boarded.  It can be impossibly hard and feel like the dawn will never break.   It can be uncomfortable, it can be scary, and it can force us to face our own truths when we may not want to.

But never again will I nod knowingly, eyes cast downward, speaking in whispers, succumbing to the stigma that makes the already hard job of reaching those who are hurting even more difficult.

It may not be music, or fabulous shoes, or cookbooks and conscientious travel, but EVERYONE is a substantial gift to SOMEONE.  Everyone deserves to be seen, to know that the darkness tells lies, and that they can escape for the light of the truth.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255


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Aunt Carol’s Pie

Impossible Pie.

My Aunt Carol loved Impossible Pie.

I can’t remember exactly when she first made it for us – growing up it was just always kind of one of her things: if Aunt Carol was around, chances were good that there might be an Impossible Pie involved too.

Making this particular pie is easy, and fun, and no-fuss.   You stir together some ingredients: eggs, sugar, butter, milk, flour, and coconut, mainly… then you dump it into a baking dish and TAH DAH, out of the oven comes a fully made pie, having formed its own crust as it baked.

All the hard work goes on inside of the pie, and everything just kind of comes out like it should.

Aunt Carol was a lot like Impossible Pie.

Other pies are precise, with a carefully-made crust, and a finicky filling, maybe even an ornate top crust all layered up perfect and just-so.

But life isn’t like that, really, is it?  Your best-laid plans are always getting rerouted and mixed up and whirled all together.   And for a lot of people that can really throw you way off track.

Aunt Carol wasn’t one of those people.   Around her the joy and the pain and the hope and the trials and the EVERYTHING of real life swirled and swirled.   And she settled all the layers into a life full of the people she loved.

It was the same as she bravely battled cancer – the bowl was stirred, and inside of her body and soul so much work was going on to re-form the layers of her life…  things shifted and mixed and she moved forward, knowing they would settle again.

She was strong, and loving, and SO very funny – and all the layers of her combined perfectly.

This week my Aunt Carol’s battle with cancer ended .  Looking at pictures and thinking back on countless memories of her, I found myself in the kitchen, gathering together the ingredients to make Impossible Pie.

A simple recipe that I can make with Jr the way she used to make it with us, a way to share my memories of her, and let him share his –and a reminder from Aunt Carol that, in pie, and in life,  some of the sweetest rewards come from trusting in the impossible.

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Aunt Loretta’s Laugh Line

I grew a new wrinkle overnight.

This was not a phenomenon I actually knew could happen THAT FAST until I was about 5 months pregnant with Jr and I looked in the mirror one morning while washing the pregnant-lady sleep drool off my face and, BOOM –WTF!?   Brand new, super deep, never there at all before wrinkle above my mouth.

I attributed it to my dry-yet-zitty hormonal skin, but alas, it was here to stay.

Now I have a good handful of wrinkles that have names – along with the aforementioned “pregnant mouth wrinkle,” off my left eye there is the “Jr’s first really scary barfing illness” wrinkle…. The patch of lines in between my brows is the “are we actually going to get to buy this house constellation” (they all appeared about three years ago, as we lost then won the bidding war for The Casa.)

This newest one? It is a deep smile line on my left cheek.

It’s the Aunt Loretta line.

Yesterday evening my Aunt’s battle with cancer ended. Putting death into words is far more delicate and complex than I have tools to express – and I find myself writing and deleting additional sentences here, because it all sounds trite or somehow far too small for all that the topic means.

But noticing a line – a smile line, deep and pronounced and suddenly permanent, on this day of all days, was a gift.

My Aunt had laugh lines – from years and years of freely and easily sharing her amazing, infectious laugh with the large group of friends and family she loved so fully. That laugh lit her from within and spilled over, radiating out of her like a lighthouse, drawing people to her and enveloping everyone she encountered with joy. She was a fireball of joy… of energy, of love and giving and compassion and honesty and passion for living and doing and experiencing EVERYTHING.

Thank you for the line, Aunt Loretta.

Thank you for showing me how to live a life in which it, and all the others, are well and joyfully earned.


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