School_Shooting_Florida.JPG_t1140Here’s the one impression I had about Parkland, Florida before the rampage that left seventeen dead – fifteen children and two adults who tried to protect them: it’s some sort of idyllic utopia in which to raise your children. I formed that impression from eavesdropping on two other moms during a Little League game. Yes, I know that eavesdropping is wrong, but as a writer, sometimes I can’t help it. Plus, we were all in close proximity on the bleachers – if they didn’t want anyone else to hear their conversation, they wouldn’t be having it.

One of the moms said that she and her family were moving to Parkland soon. The other mom said that she would be moving there, as well. They talked about the other families from our town who had moved there already. They both agreed that it was similar to our Long Island hamlet, except with lower taxes, abundant sunshine and a more laid back and affordable lifestyle. One of the moms said that it was a welcoming community with many Long Island ex-pats. Or at least that’s what I remember of the conversation. (Our town does indeed have connections with the community, according to an email from the superintendent of our school district. Our thousands strong local Facebook moms group even sent a banner of support to Parkland, to hang in the school when students return, and collected donations to help survivors.)

I’m sure I was envious as I listened to those two moms chat about their future sunshine-filled, warm and welcoming new home. A punishing winter had just wound down, and the spring was still quite chilly. I was wrapped in layers and a fleece blanket, and I remember thinking, “Hmm…maybe we should look into moving there.”

Of course, we never did. I’m probably just as likely to pick up and move to Florida, as I am to move to Bali, even though my husband travels to Florida often for business and could easily transfer. It’s just an amazing fantasy, especially in the cold, dark days of winter…but it won’t happen (especially now that my son is in college in Massachusetts). Still, as soon as I heard about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I immediately felt a connection, having mused about moving there and knowing that families from our town live there now. I’ve always felt that town (along with the surrounding area) is really like Long Island south.

Of course, being a mother to nineteen, seventeen and thirteen year old children automatically gives me a connection too. Watching the grieving parents on the news was gut-wrenching and left me in tears I couldn’t quite stem. And it left me angry, furious really. Why does this have to keep happening? Why do politicians place the National Rifle Association over our children’s lives? Why do I have to be scared sending my kids to school, not knowing if some monster with easy access to weapons of war will stride in guns blazing?

Two days after the Parkland shooting, the police came to my son’s high school – a student astutely reported an Instagram post by a classmate that featured the girl holding guns, along with a racist threat about using them. I didn’t see the post, but we were kept in the loop immediately by both the principal and the superintendent. It was a relief to know that the school was on top of it, and that a student was smart enough to report it. That’s all the information that was shared. (This is public knowledge and was reported in local newspapers, so I feel that I can share it, as well.)

I heard that the Instagram post was up for a while, and it wasn’t until the school shooting stoked fears that it was reported. My question: why didn’t Instagram report it to local law enforcement or to the FBI? Why isn’t there a safeguard in place that threatening posts, especially featuring guns, are flagged by Instagram internally and immediately referred to law enforcement? Nikolas Cruz posted violent, disturbing images on Instagram, featuring weapons and animals he killed. That should immediately have been flagged by Instagram and not left up to users to report.

Thankfully, someone was alarmed enough to anonymously report the disturbing, violent posts by the student at my son’s school, but if there hadn’t been a tragic school shooting, would it have gone under the radar? It did for some time before. No one knows the girl’s true intentions – if it was for shock value, or if she would have shown up at the school and brandished the guns in her post, and carried out her racist, evil agenda. There has to be some sort of filter on social media – not just Instagram, but all social media – to catch these threats, before they turn into tragedies.

Perhaps more importantly, there has to be a ban on both AR-15 semi-automatic weapons and gun sales to people under twenty-one years old. Nikolas Cruz could not legally buy a beer, but he could legally buy a weapon of war that allowed him to inflict the most possible carnage in the least amount of time, short of a banned automatic weapon. He was known to have received treatment for mental illness, and yet he could legally buy an AR-15, because he self-reported to the gun store owner that he was not mentally ill. What mentally ill person wanting to buy a gun would admit to having a mental illness? Why is self-reporting even allowed? By the way, I have two children who battle mental illness, and I HATE the stigma that the mentally ill are all capable of committing mass murders… It’s NOT true. BUT, I still believe that those with mental illness should not be allowed to buy guns. I also believe that Trump rolling back a still to be enacted Obama-era rule that made it harder for the mentally ill to buy guns leaves blood on his hands for any future shootings, whether or not it would have stopped this one.) Additionally (and unfathomably), Nikolas Cruz was known to have been expelled from school for violence, and yet he could legally buy an AR-15. There were forty-five calls made from his home to law enforcement about him and/or his brother. He pushed his mother into a wall when she took away his XBox. And yet, he was able to legally buy an AR-15. He was reported to the FBI more than once, and still he could legally buy an AR-15. What is wrong with all of this? Everything. It’s no coincidence that this is the longest paragraph in this essay – the one listing all the reasons that Nikolas Cruz should not have been able to legally buy an AR-15.

There has to be change. The survivors of the Parkland shooting are the catalysts, and they are doing an amazing job of trying to hold the adults who have failed them accountable. But, as was evidenced by the heartless – and heartbreaking – way the Florida legislators blocked even discussing and bringing to a vote a ban on the AR-15, with Parkland students in attendance, no less; it will take a tremendous and concentrated effort to pry politics loose from the death grip of the NRA. I believe in them – their awe-inspiring behavior and resilience in the aftermath of such a senseless tragedy speaks volumes about the type of town Parkland is and reinforces my first impression of it as an amazing place to raise children.

As an aside…the day that the Parkland students bravely descended on Tallahassee, demanding change, the Republican majority did pass a bill. It was one declaring porn a public health risk, because, you know, porn kills as many people as assault rifles. I’m guessing the porn industry doesn’t pay off politicians to do their bidding.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with a responsible gun owner owning a revolver or a pistol (with the emphasis on responsible). I shot a small handgun once. My college boyfriend had a legally owned gun, and he took me to field one sunny day to shoot cans off a fence – it was actually fun. The next guy I dated also legally owned a gun, but I found that more troubling, since he had possessive tendencies and a jealous streak, even as he professed his love for me. I broke it off after just a few months.

Now, if he had an AR-15, I wouldn’t have dated him at all. Because there is literally NO NEED to own an AR-15, unless of course you want to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School know this. They’ve lived this, and it will stay in them forever, a small broken place, no matter how much they heal. That’s what trauma does; it leaves a little (or big) scar that never goes away. But…it’s what that scar inspires you to do that really matters.

And these students, and others in their generation, are doing something amazing. They will be the ones to effect real change in the ongoing battle to wrest our country away from the NRA and enact common sense gun control laws that will save lives. They will be the ones who will lead us into a time where we can say, “Never again,” and mean it. And if the adults in charge keep ignoring them and keep letting them down…these students will be voting, if not in the next election, then in the ones after that. By 2022, most of this generation so determined to be the change we need will be voting. And they’re coming for every single politician whose pockets are stuffed with blood money.


If you wish to donate to donate to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Victims Fund, click here.



The Road Ahead

“He’s like a super hero who can’t use his super power. If you have a super power and can’t use it, it doesn’t do you any good.” These were the words of the neuropsychologist who had recently spent ten hours testing my youngest son, A, to try to unravel the mystery of his sudden downward spiral in behavior, school, and just coping with life in general. Most mornings, I find myself writing a note that A. is late (sometimes over an hour), because he’s battling mental illness issues or suffering from a stomachache. And after making high honor roll for every single quarter possible, my objectively brilliant son was failing most of his classes as last quarter wound down.

I say objectively brilliant, because the results of his evaluation showed that he’s got MENSA level smarts. His IQ is above the 98th percentile for his age. His working memory lands in the 99.9 percentile. And yet, to revisit the superhero metaphor, he’s like a superhero who’s been felled by Kryptonite, or some other substance that cripples super heroes. His intelligence is his super power and his Kryptonite is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), with a side order of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

In a massive stroke of coincidence, or perhaps serendipity, an essay I had written on my first blog eight years ago showed up in my Facebook memories yesterday, the day we met with the neuropsychologist to get the results of A’s testing. It wasn’t the anniversary of the day I had written it, only the day I had reshared it on Facebook six years ago in an effort to raise awareness of mental health issues. The essay, Twice Exceptional, was about my middle son, J, being both gifted and battling mental illness.

I wrote it to shine a light on the fact that although giftedness and mental illness seem dichotomous, they coexist far more often than expected. I also wrote it to let other parents know that they are not alone if their children too embody the sometimes baffling, often frustrating double-sided coin of superior mental acuity and debilitating mental illness. I took it as a sign that I needed to finish up this post, which I started with the paragraph below over a week ago; a sign that I should again try to both raise awareness and comfort those going through a similar hell. I think part of me knew that I’d do a better job though, if I knew exactly what my son is up against. So I didn’t get back on here until I had read through the entire report from the neuropsychologist.

When I first put pen to paper (figuratively), I was focusing more on my shortcomings in missing A’s subtle clues that he may have been suffering silently, until those clues became louder than any of us could ever ignore. I focused on how hard it is to parent two children battling mental illness and somehow not feel as if you’re letting at least one of them down. So, I’ll let the following paragraph (the original opening of this essay) stand, because I think it’s just as important…

Parenting a child with mental illness is an arduous, sometimes soul crushing task. You don’t know what’s ahead of you on the road, and the journey is often littered with emotional minefields that can blow up at the slightest provocation.  Parenting two children battling mental illness is all of that, plus a constant feeling hanging over you, like an impending thunderstorm, that you’re not doing enough for either one.

It’s a tricky dance of administering triage…the squeaky wheel always gets the grease. I got that term – administering triage – from a friend in whom I confided my guilt that my son, A’s, issues simply slipped through the cracks until things got really, really bad, because I was dealing with my son, J’s, eating disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She has more than one child battling “alphabet” conditions, just like I do. She shared that you have to “do triage” and help the child with the most pressing issues first, confirming that I wasn’t completely wrong to deal with my middle son, and let my youngest slide a bit, until he became the squeaky wheel.

That was where I stopped, because I was waiting to get results. I didn’t know how bad it was that I let it slide, to tell you the truth. In fourth grade A. was evaluated. When I picked up the report to deliver to the doctor evaluating A. now, I was a bit horrified to discover that he had given him three tentative diagnoses: Anxiety Disorder, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD, formerly Asperger’s). They were all “rule out” diagnoses, meaning that he wasn’t certain, and only time and further examination would tell which would stick.

The only thing that the psychologist definitively diagnosed A. with in fourth grade was “Gifted and Bored.” In the absence of sending him to private school, there really wasn’t much more that I could do than I was already doing: sending A. to increasingly sophisticated science camps (the last one at the Cold Spring Harbor DNA lab where Watson and Crick conducted their Pulitzer Prize winning research, which he’ll be attending this summer, as well); buying him every science tome I could find; setting up a professional weather station in my front yard; and anything else I could do to encourage his insatiable curiosity about science in general, and weather in particular.

But, I didn’t do anything at all for the possible ASD. And beyond a month or two of therapy a few years ago, I didn’t do much for the Anxiety Disorder either. But, he seemed to be doing just fine, until he wasn’t. It was sudden – like a light switch turned off. It started during the lead-up to A’s Bar Mitzvah. He was stressed over writing his “parsha” (the essay about his bible portion that he would be sharing with the guests at his bar mitzvah service), along with the increased homework that comes with taking high school classes in eighth grade. I thought his sudden frustration, anger and emerging OCD symptoms (all related to banishing “contamination”) were due to the stress of his responsibilities. But, his OCD behaviors just kept getting more and more intricate and time-consuming (for example: over forty minutes washing his hands, leaving them cracked and bleeding past his wrists), and his grades plummeted, due to missed assignments. His test grades were still stellar, even though he never cracked open a book, but he was missing so many assignments, catching up turned into a Herculean task that sparked anger and frustration. His bar mitzvah came and went almost three months ago, but nothing got better, only worse.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t know during the last few months of hell if A’s symptoms were due to OCD or undiagnosed ASD, and I beat myself up endlessly over it. I pored over ASD websites searching for clues as to whether I did indeed mess up by not getting A. treatment for autism when he had been possibly diagnosed with it. Rereading my essay, The Puzzle, I was horrified to learn that I did plan on following up on the possible ASD diagnosis. But back then, and until recently, he seemed okay socially. While not having tons of friends, he does have a close group. And academically, his teachers referred to him as an “absent minded professor” or “the next Thomas Edison,” just an eccentric genius who didn’t seem to be paying attention, but obviously was, because he aced every test and got high honor roll worthy grades.

At least he earned those grades until this year, or really rather just these past few months. Almost daily, it seems, I get a call from a teacher telling me that A. is falling far behind. His Earth Science teacher informed me that if he didn’t catch up on his labs, he’d have to take Earth Science again next year. He got a 97% on his Earth Science midterm, without even studying. It would be a tragic if he failed the class, because of OCD paralyzing him with fear (he is often afraid that his papers are contaminated, and therefore can’t touch them to turn them in). Of course, ADHD delivers the final gut punch of complete disorganization, so even if he was willing to touch his labs to hand them in, he couldn’t find them.

I went into school twice to clean out A’s locker with him. The second time his Earth Science teacher stayed late and went over every paper we pulled out of the locker too, looking for anything that was due to him. He sees A’s potential. He knows that he has a “scientist’s mind,” as we’ve been told. It’s just a matter of freeing A. from what imprisons him. We are hoping that a combination of intense therapy and medication can release him. And I am relieved that the diagnosis is OCD and not ASD, simply because the OCD symptoms got so much worse just in the past few months – two of which were spent waiting for insurance approval for the evaluation. So, I didn’t let something go for years that could have been treated sooner.

The doctor also recommended several accommodations for A. that, if the school approves them, should help a lot. My middle son, J, has made a lot of strides in school this year, eleventh grade. He still has some issues with attention, but he’s taking several very interesting classes that are more interactive and perfectly tailored to his learning style. He’s pulling in grades in the nineties for those. While he still has challenges in a couple of classes that rely on listening and heavy note taking, without a lot of hands-on activity (an ADHD sufferer’s nightmare), he’s not failing. His eating disorder still rears its ugly head, but an increase in medication has kept his weight stable, if not as high as it should be. But right now, he’s not the squeaky wheel, A. is and the pendulum of attention has swung to him. A. is the one in triage now.

But, you can’t stay in triage forever…it’s temporary until either you’re deemed okay or a plan of care is created, and you’re moved into the next phase of treatment. So, that’s where we are now, ready for A. to embark on a treatment journey. He needs to reclaim his super powers of intelligence intertwined with insatiable curiosity. The neurologist shared that his superior IQ really doesn’t matter, if he can’t use his formidable smarts, because OCD and ADHD are paralyzing him.

The road ahead won’t be easy…I know that from experience. There are storm clouds hanging over us, but I have to believe that with the right treatment, the sun will shine again.

Note: I took the photo above this essay as we drove into a thunderstorm in Arizona back in August. I snapped the photo below the next morning…sunrise after the rain cleared. I chose these particular photos to remind myself – and others – that the storm always clears and the sun comes back up, even if it takes some time…



Feel No Evil Sneak Peek


I posted a sneak peek of this novel in progress back in 2014. Since then, I’ve had five books published, and I’m almost done with a screenplay adaptation of Goddess of Suburbia. So, this book ended up on the back burner – but it’s my heart book and the hardest one to write. It’s no coincidence that it keeps getting pushed to the side by easier projects. It’s a different world now than when I first started writing this about nine years ago. It’s a different world now than it was even a few months ago. The floodgates have opened and women are coming forward, owning their stories of sexual assault , but there will always be women like Kate who push it down, until it nearly kills them. The journey of bringing it back to the surface is ardous, but necessary…

Warning – 16+ only. While the violence isn’t graphic, it can be harrowing…

2:21. 2:22. 2:23. All I could see were the digital numbers of the clock. All I could hear was his menacing voice, “Is it going to be hard or soft?” All I could say was, “Please stop. Please don’t.” See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. They forgot feel no evil. All I could feel were his hands pushing down on my shoulders and the searing pain ripping through my core.

I close the journal—the flowers on its cover faded; the paper almost silk-like from age. It has been over twenty years—twenty-one years, to be exact—since I wrote those words. I wish that they were fiction from a long ago college creative writing class, but they aren’t—they’re real and every year on the anniversary of my assault I pull out that journal and read that entry. After I read it, I put the journal back in my old leather briefcase on top of my closet and drink a glass of wine. It’s my way of marking the anniversary and moving forward. My husband, Alec, keeps our kids downstairs or even takes them out for a slice of pizza or ice cream, so I can read it alone, in peace. So I can shed a tear or two.

I know that it might seem odd for a forty-one year old woman to still think about something that happened so long ago, but if you’ve ever been assaulted, you know that the fact of what happened never really goes away. It just sits like a rotten little bit of food in the back of the refrigerator. The smell will eventually take over the whole thing if you ignore it, so every year I pay attention to it—I take out that rotten bit of food, throw it in the symbolic garbage and try not to think about it, until it starts festering again a year later. It’s an odd ritual, to be sure, but one that works for me or at least it did work, until this year.

It’s a cruel joke being raped on tax day—for months before commercials remind me that the day is coming. “Don’t forget, April fifteenth is right around the corner,” a voice ominously intones. It’s everywhere, warning people of the day of doom. For me it’s the lead up to reading that passage. I know I’ll pull down the briefcase, I know I’ll open it to the same page and I know that I’ll put it back and lock down any thoughts of that April fifteenth so many years ago for another twelve months. But, as I put back the briefcase, I know that this year is different. This year I might not be able to lock it down. This year, the person who destroyed my life, Vin Merdone, just popped up on Facebook as “someone I might know” three days before April fifteenth and I realized that while he damn near ruined my life, his life just went on as happy as could be.

With morbid curiosity I had clicked through his profile pictures. There were pictures of him smiling on a beach; swimming with dolphins; lazing on a lounge; emerging from a pool and one of him holding up a beer, no doubt saying “cheers” to the person taking the picture. He looked happy and tan—and, quite honestly, had a slight menace about him, muscles bulging beneath the tattoos covering his arms—in all of them. The worst photo by far was the one of him kneeling next to a large shark lying in a pool of blood. The smile on his face was broad and satisfied, a cruel glint in his eye. I quickly moved on, the knot in my stomach tightening. One glance at his About told me that he now makes Miami his home. It didn’t look like he had a wife and kids, thankfully, but it did look like he was living a dream life, happy as could be.

The shock of seeing his face after all these years cut right through me—sure, he was older, but the set of his jaw remained, the curl of lip was the same. He still had a full head of hair—slicked back in most photos, giving him a look of smarmy intensity. When I clicked on our mutual friend, shock morphed into anger. The thought that my old friend, Sean, the friend who introduced us that fateful night, the friend who apologized so profusely and swore up and down that he didn’t know Vin was violent, the friend I thought I loved was still friends with this person, even on Facebook, filled me with a feeling I couldn’t quite name—rage, surprise, despair. Or perhaps it was all of those rolled into one.

I quickly “unfriended” Sean and started to block Vin. Only I couldn’t. It was like passing a car crash on the highway—I just had to look at it. I had to try to make sense of the man he is now, so maybe I could understand the boy he was then. Staring at his grinning face, once again I berated myself for only filing an anonymous police report—one that went on his record, but didn’t get him arrested.

Even worse, looking at those pictures, I spun back to that night. I had been drinking—I always admitted that, but I would never agree that drinking made me a victim, that anything other than violence made me a victim. Sean was hosting a party in his dorm room and Vin was there. After we talked for most of the party, Vin asked me to take a walk. Up until that point in my life, my sophomore year in college, I had only encountered people with good intentions. Even the drunk guys who hit on me at parties, took a “no” in stride and moved on to the next girl. If I did go home with someone, they too took my “no” in stride and were content to just fool around a bit, before I went back to my dorm room. I had never slept with anyone at college and I was proud of my ability to stand my ground. That all changed on an early spring night when I was twenty years old…


It’s Time

lvshooting.jpgAfter the Pulse night club shooting I wrote an essay, #Enough, about gun control. That was over a year ago and nothing has changed. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. If anything, we’re further away from sensible gun control than ever with Republicans in the NRA’s pocket in control of our government. They’re pushing a loosening of gun laws, when it should be the opposite. The blood of the Las Vegas massacre is on their hands.

Republicans, including Donald Trump, say that now is not the time to talk about gun control, that we’ll talk about gun laws “as time goes by.” Really? How many more mass shooting do there have to be? Though, this shouldn’t be surprising. If innocent children dying in the Sandy Hook massacre didn’t motivate politicians to act, nothing will. Prayers are not enough. Do something. Seriously, how many more people need to die?

There are those who think that talking about gun control is politicizing a tragedy. This is not politicizing a tragedy, this is simply trying to prevent more. Why in the world does an ordinary citizen need a weapon that can kill and gravely wound hundreds and hundreds of people at once? Why should a person intent on a mass killing be able to do it so fucking easily? I never curse on my blog – ever, ever, ever. But, I am angry. And while an f-bomb won’t change anything, it temporarily makes me feel just a smidge better. And then…it passes, and I’m angry again. I’m angry that I have to be terrified when my children go to a concert or sporting event. I’m angry that Stephen Paddock owned forty-three guns and that was perfectly legal. I’m angry that the semi-automatic gun he modified with “bump-stock” (a simple $100 tweak) to maximize the carnage and destroy so many promising lives was legal, as well. I’m angry that he could have literally walked down the street carrying that semi-automatic rifle and been well within his legal right in Las Vegas, because open carry is legal in Nevada  WITHOUT a permit. Let that sink in.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban that was enacted in 1994 expired in 2004 and though there have been multiple attempts to renew the ban, none have succeeded. Why? And again I ask…why does anyone need an assault rifle? To kill. That is the only possible reason for owning a gun that can reign down terror on the largest possible amount of people in the shortest amount of time. And make no mistake, this was a terrorist act. All the hand wringing over Muslims getting into our country intent on killing is so very myopic. It’s white men who commit most acts of domestic terrorism…lone wolf white men. White men with guns that are legally purchased and carried. Perhaps if we face this fact, if we realize that travel bans won’t keep us safe, but common-sense gun laws that keep weapons of mass destruction (literally) out of murderers’ hands will, something will change. But, I’m not holding my breath.

There will be another mass shooting, and there will be more prayers and positive thoughts and comforting hashtags and questions of, “How in the world did this happen?” How? It happened and will keep happening, because we as a country let it…


Sixteen years ago the sky was so crystal blue – sharp and almost breathtaking, much like today. It didn’t seem like something could slice through that beauty and destroy so much. I was pushing my kids on our new backyard swing set. First the oldest on his “rocket rider,” then the baby in his little bucket swing. One then the other, back and forth, a comforting rhythm. My oldest son had just turned three and started nursery school the day before. My younger son (my middle) was nine and a half months.

I remember their laughter and thinking that the day was perfect. I was grateful that my son only attended school three days a week, because I missed him those few hours he was gone. I was content, calm and happy, a serene moment in the usually tumultuous world of parenting very young children… Then, my husband, Jeff, called. He told me to turn on the news. He told me that my phobia of low flying planes wasn’t as crazy as he thought – a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. I said, “You see. I told you it could happen.” We decided that it must have been a small plane, a new pilot. And then there was a gasp on the other end of the line. I was watching the news in horror, Jeff still on the phone, as the second tower was hit. He had heard it on the radio and could see the black smoke billowing out from both towers in his rear view mirror as the city receded behind him.

We knew right then it wasn’t an accident…and from that moment, life on Long Island – life in all of the Metropolitan area – was never the same. My husband couldn’t come home for two days, because he was on the other side of New York City in New Jersey and all roads were closed. I kept my son home from school the next day, and when we went back two days later there was a brand new security guard to sign us in – a Jewish Community Center couldn’t take chances.

Our mood, our fear was matched by the weather. It rained, oh how it rained, in the days after…like tears were pouring down from Heaven. But, our family was so lucky. My brother-in-law, a New York City police officer, was home for a medical procedure on 9/11. My brother was close enough to witness the carnage, but not close enough to be a part of it.

We were all shaken, though. Everyone knew someone who lost a loved one. But, we were all in it together – our whole community, our whole state, even the rest of the country. I remember the days following so clearly. I bought a “United We Stand” t-shirt and wore it proudly. It felt like all of our differences fell away – in New York and everywhere else.

Things feel very divided now, two sides staring each other down. Hate-filled violent protests fill the news. Sometimes it feels like we will never be repaired, like the bubble of hate that has risen to the surface will just poison everything. But on this day, I hope everyone remembers how we came together once.

My youngest son, who was not even alive on 9/11, wore a USA t-shirt emblazoned with a flag to school today. The school principal requested red, white and blue attire in honor of Patriots Day. I offered him a Rangers t-shirt, but he chose to wear the flag. His school has been designated a “No Place For Hate” school by the Anti-Defamation League. There are rainbow stickers on classroom doors letting LGBTQ students know that a safe space awaits. All of this gives me hope – much as remembering how we once came together gives me hope, as well. #NeverForget

Here is my interview with Stephanie Kepke

I sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Fiona McVie – the questions were so interesting and fun! Here it is…


Name: Stephanie Kepke

Age: 49 years old

Where are you from: Long Island, New York

A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc  

I am married with three boys and two rescue dogs. My boys are eighteen and a half, sixteen and a half and twelve and a half. My oldest just finished his freshman year at my alma mater, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and I couldn’t be more proud of how well he did. He’s in the College of Engineering, while I majored in English. He knows exactly what he wants to do, while I changed majors every year and graduated with a degree in English, because it was the only one in which I had enough credits to graduate. My favourite major: Independent Study in Creative Writing and Photojournalism. I still love telling stories with photos—good thing there’s Instagram! I also took writing workshops…

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The Decision



Joshua at my mom’s house celebrating his recent 16th birthday…

When my kids were little it felt like I made a million decisions a day for them…what to feed them, what to dress them in, whether to go to the park or stay home. That number slid down to a few a day as my kids got older. Now that my two oldest are teenagers, the decisions are fewer still. But, often those few decisions have an outsize impact. Some decisions are easy—like deciding my oldest son had to attend a public university which awarded him a partial scholarship, rather than one of the pricey private schools he got into. This was just fine with him. He’s getting an amazing education at University of Massachusetts, Amherst (my alma mater) and won’t be crushed by debt when he graduates (even though it’s still pricey, being out of state for us, it’s not $70,000). But sometimes, the decision is gut-wrenching. Sometimes as a parent you need to decide that your child’s battle is too big for you to handle—it’s out of the bounds of what you can solve with your child living at home. Then, you need to make the decision to send your  child away to get better. You need to say goodbye, even if it’s just for a short time, so you can give your child a chance to grow into a healthy and happy adult…

That’s where we are now. On New Year’s Eve day my son, Joshua, was lying on the couch, weak and lightheaded. He didn’t look right to me, so I made him weigh himself. If you read Hungry; Hungry Part 2; The Power of Kindness; and/or The Power of Kindness Part 2, you know why I made Joshua weigh himself. He’s been battling an eating disorder for more than half his life and has been in outpatient treatment for the past two years. He has Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), brought on by anxiety, rather than a desire to be thin. He knows he’s too thin. He wants to eat more, and he wants to weigh more, but he just can’t. If you read Hungry, you know that I’m intimately familiar with this type of disorder, as I battled the same thing when I was twenty-two to twenty-four years old.

Now that you have the background, back to my insistence that Joshua weigh himself. I panicked that he had lost weight and that’s why he was so listless and pale. I didn’t want to be right, I really didn’t, but I was. Joshua weighed ninety-six pounds at just over 5’8″. I immediately texted his nutritionist to ask if I should take him to the hospital. She said that if I couldn’t get him to eat within the hour, I should take him just to be safe. I got him to eat a small corned beef sandwich, so we narrowly avoided a trip to the emergency room. But, I spoke with his pediatrician as soon as she was back from the holiday weekend.

The pediatrician instructed me to scrap the nutritionist’s plan to wait until January 31st to enroll Joshua in an inpatient eating disorder treatment program and start investigating facilities. She referred us to a program in Virginia. Luckily, we don’t have to travel that far. Joshua’s nutritionist suggested a brand new facility in the Hamptons (about an hour away from us). When I visited the program’s website, I was filled with both relief and apprehension—an oxymoron if ever there was one.

The facility looked breathtakingly beautiful, a brick mansion up the street from the water with rooms that look like they leaped off the pages of a home magazine. The staff seemed kind and competent. But, and there always seems to be a but when you’re trying to help your child overcome the toughest of obstacles, I did not know if they’d take our insurance. When my husband called our insurance company to find in-network treatment programs, the person he spoke with gave him the names of two general hospitals and a mental health hospital. None were geared toward only adolescents. The center Joshua is attending only accepts eight residents at a time, aged ten to eighteen. I called the headquarters in California and was reassured by a very nice patient coordinator that they accept all major insurance plans. Somehow, I missed that broadcast on every page of their website. I guess I was so nervous that I had found the perfect place and we wouldn’t be able to afford it, that I saw only the beautiful spaces and kind faces.

Still, I didn’t know for sure if our insurance would cover it (less a sizable deductible, but one we’d end up paying over the course of the year anyway), nor did I know if Joshua would even be accepted into the program. I spent close to six hours filling out intake forms and then waited nervously for the call (full disclosure—it would take a “normal” person a fraction of the time to fill out the forms; as a writer I provided more detail than they likely ever wanted or needed…). This all while my sister was in the hospital for ten days recovering from emergency surgery. To say the 2016 holiday season sucked would be an understatement…

But then, a ray of hope… Our insurance was approved and Joshua was accepted into the in-patient program. Apprehension turned to pure relief after touring the facility. Due to obvious privacy concerns for the current residents, I can share neither what I saw during the tour nor what we were told—in fact, I decided to remove even the name of the facility from this essay on my final read-through. I will only say that as we got into the car, Joshua confided that his whole perspective about in-patient treatment had changed. He said that he felt much more comfortable. The kindness of the clinicians and the tranquil, stunningly gorgeous setting really eased his fear…and mine too.

It is still hard knowing that he’ll be away for about six weeks. We’ll see him during that stretch for therapy sessions, family meals and visiting time, but it will be hard not having him at home. It doesn’t help that we’ll be dropping him off the day after we drop my oldest son, Drew, off at school for the spring semester. If you read Letting Go Part 2, you know how hard it was for me to endure the sudden quiet after dropping Drew off in September. Now it will be magnified with only one child at home. And knowing that I couldn’t help Joshua and now have to send him away is harder still. But, if I need to send him somewhere to get help, at least I know that he’s in the best possible place for him.

It also helps that the decision isn’t mine to make, not really. Once Joshua’s doctor said that he needs to be in an inpatient setting, I knew I had no choice. Of course, I could say, “No, I want him at home. I want to keep trying.” But, why would I ever do that? Why would I risk the harm that could come to my child if he doesn’t get the help he needs? So, I agreed and started researching programs as soon as I hung up the phone. It was scary, to be sure. The possibility of sending Joshua to an inpatient treatment program has been hanging over our heads since I took him to his nutritionist for the first time in 2015. Back then, we were told that if he didn’t gain weight in five weeks he would be sent to a boys’ eating disorder treatment center in Wisconsin. That was all the spark he needed to gain weight. Our New York Rangers announcer friend, John Giannone, gave Joshua a boost when he told him that hockey players get through even tougher stuff and he could do it no problem. Joshua loved hearing that and gained over twenty pounds during the course of the next year. When he finally got medical clearance to hit the ice and play hockey at just over one hundred pounds last February, we thought we were home free…no inpatient treatment in his future.

But then…he slipped. It happens, of course. His weight dipped to the ninety-six pounds I mentioned, and he had grown about two inches. He has become skin and bones. I feel awful that one part of me is relieved that he’ll be out of the house and in an inpatient setting with round-the-clock care. I feel like I should want to keep him here with us no matter what, but there have been moments that I really was afraid I’d lose him. The stress of thinking that your child could starve himself to death while you simply stood idly by is far worse than sending him away for six weeks. So, I’ll pack him up and we’ll drive him the hour out to the Hamptons. I’ll send him with a stack of sweatpants and t-shirts; some jeans and polos; his favorite shampoo and body wash and C.O. Bigelow Elixir Blue body spray; the Axe hair putty he can’t live without; maybe a framed photo of our dogs—all the things that will remind him of home while he gets better.

And I know that someday, we’ll all look back on this and say, “This was the turning point. This was when things got better.” He’s at sixty percent of his body weight now. One of the benchmarks of success for the program is when he climbs over eighty-five percent of his body weight. I can imagine him filled out and healthy, the color returned to his cheeks. It’s that thought that keeps me going; that will let me hug Joshua goodbye and not burst into tears the moment we get in the car to leave. This is a good thing, and I just need to remember that…

Postscript: I made sure that it was okay with Joshua for me to publish this—he hasn’t told many friends why he’ll be out of school, and I haven’t told many people either. But now, anyone who reads this will find out. He and I both have the same reason for wanting to share this—to help others who may be going through the same thing. If you need advice or wish to know the name of the facility Joshua will be attending, please feel free to reach out to me on Facebook.


Joshua on my lap as a happy, chubby-cheeked baby…