Sensory Deprivation

flotation tank
Infinity Tank at The Float Shoppe


Overstimulation. You, me, we all know it too well.

I’ve always been sensitive to my physical surroundings. I don’t know if it’s the dancer in me, the Yogi in me, or the writer in me that makes me this way.

Bright lights, strong perfume, and big crowds have always been too much. On the other hand, I’ve lived in the city for the past decade or so.

Because this stimulation also provides inspiration. It teaches me about real life and real people. It shows me who I am as a survivor in the midst of all of this activity.

I get infatuated with the chaos. I think we all do in different ways.

How else can you explain why the world is like it is today? With so much chatter in our lives—the rushing, the busyness, the self-indulgence.

Those of you outside of the city, in your peaceful abodes, you participate too.

You’re online. The kingdom of overstimulation.

I started a new job last month—an amazing one. Through it all, more changes and stress were added to an already hectic year I’ve had since uprooting my life and moving across the country.

It had been an entire year since my last massage, back on my birthday of 2013 when I was still in Milwaukee. With the cross-country move came unemployment followed be a low-paying job.

The luxury of a massage was unspeakable. So, my birthday present this year wasn’t hard to pick out.

I was going to treat myself to not only a massage but a flotation tank as well.

Say what?

Floating is pretty popular here in Portland and I’ve been dying to try it. There’s a place right down the street from me, so I made my appointment.

I heard different things from different people. Some said it was like taking hallucinogenic drugs. Some said they were bored and restless, got out of their tanks after squirming for a half hour and left.

The thing that enticed me the most was the miraculous ability to float. I’ve never been able to. I’m an expert swimmer, but I sink like a damn rock.

See those legs up there? Boys in school used to say I had horse legs. And those horse legs ain’t light.

I was skeptical that it would work. But as soon as I laid back, I giggled as my body rose to the top of the heavily Epsom salted water.

The water is kept at skin temperature so that the body is comfortably cocooned. You want to float naked to avoid any swimsuit hassles. (Carrie Rubin, I know this sounds like an introvert’s biggest nightmare.)

flotation tank
Infinity Tank at The Float Shoppe


Being the claustrophobic gal that I am, I chose the open tank where the room is quaint and steamy. Turning off the light is optional by the push of a white button attached to the tank.

There is no music and the room—or enclosed tank pod if you go that route—is soundproofed. Earplugs are provided so you can connect with the cadence of your heartbeat and breath.

Like many others, I spent the first half hour of the 90-minute session getting situated, my mind racing about the domestic tasks I should have been completing that Sunday instead of “wasting” my day at the spa.

Naturally there were some awkward moments, like earplug mishaps and salt in the eyes.

I was reluctant to turn off the light, because when you do…it’s pitch effing black. Seriously, you can’t see your hand in front of your face.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to push that button to become fully immersed in the sensory deprivation experience that I was paying for.

When I was thrown into absolute darkness, I was reminded of a time Mr. H and I were in a cave in Texas, just outside of Austin. Part of the tour has a very special treat for us claustrophobic types.

Once deep inside, the lights are shut off. Darkness encompasses everything—your body and your mind.

A tingling on my neck, face, and shoulders caused me to splash/flail into an upright position in my flotation tank. I punched the button to turn on the light and my eyes darted around the room, searching for the Boogie Man.

Cut me some slack. I was a die-hard believer in the Closet Monster well into my teen years.

But, it was just me. It turns out I had surrendered to a state of complete relaxation.

So, I tried again. I turned off the light and to comfort myself, I covered my belly with my hands to feel the rise and fall of my own breath.

I don’t really have a way to describe what happened next, because I don’t remember. I was in the zone of weightlessness—perhaps I dozed off for a bit.

All I know is that I reconnected with myself in an entirely new way. What was complicated became simple. What was stressful became serene. What was loud became hushed.

This sense of calm stayed with me throughout the week, and my sleep was on a whole other level. I tried something new, something a little kooky and scary, and I took myself to a place we adults don’t like to visit.

Vulnerable territory, where our only duties are to be naked, quiet, and still.

Will I ever float again? You bet your ass.

The Last of Every Little Thing

Milwaukee Art Museum
Milwaukee Art Museum

Tomorrow is my last day of work. This day, above probably anything else, is the finale of my life here. In this sweet little city of Milwaukee.

Although this is my third cross-country move, I’ll tell you something. It doesn’t make it any easier.

Excitement for a daring adventure veers sharply into bittersweet. Every place, every face, every little thing that I’ve known for the past handful of years molds reluctantly into a memory…the lasts.

The last time I will walk the familiar route to work, turning up my music to cover the traffic noise and glancing quickly down that one alley to avoid being run over by a delivery truck.

The last time I will smile at the security guard at work who says “Good Morning” in his sing-song voice like he’s part of a Barbershop Quartet. Maybe he is on the side. I don’t even know his name.

The last time I will buy a small latte from Carmen at the corner cafe. She’s always smiling, because she’s one of those rare people who enjoys her job and her life.

The last time I will walk the endless hallways of my office, passing people I know and will never see again, and those I don’t know and will never know.

The last time I will swipe my badge at an entrance before I surrender it forever. Even with that silly picture on it, I will miss it. It was the one accessory I always had to wear, my identification with a place I spent more time in than I did at home.

Each day has been filled with lasts. With amazing friends and family in some of our most beloved places in the city.

Nearly five years ago I moved to Milwaukee without ever having seen it before. What I will remember most about coming here was how lost I was at the time.

And through that confusion, I found myself.

I began teaching dance again, then later, through a life-changing emotional and physical test, I obtained my Yoga certification. And finally, after hiding from it all of those years, I had the courage to become a writer.

Even though I was a foreigner in a strange land, I always felt welcomed by the community here. That comfort allowed me to return to who I wanted to be at my core.

There are a few more days of lasts to endure, and they will be the most trying of them all as we say goodbye to those closest to our hearts.

But, the firsts will be coming very soon. And though they cannot replace the lasts, they will open our eyes to different experiences.

We will grow, we will love, and we will live through it all.

Sitting Across From You

two chairs

Sitting across from you last night healed me like nothing else.

I know that’s what we normally do on Friday nights. We listen to music, talk for hours, and laugh until it hurts. We drink and dance and live, because it’s the weekend.

But, last night was even more perfect than usual.

One week I found out about my mom. The next week I flew on a plane, far away from you to be closer to her. Last week I came back to work in a daze and handled each chaotic day as best as I could.

The last few weeks have been hard. Harder because I haven’t seen you the way I’m used to.

Yesterday when you got home I said that all I wanted to do was sit across from you. To look at you. To come back home to you.

And, so I did (along with this lap cat of ours).

lap cat

Damn, it was all so lovely.

The way your smile touches my insides. The way your voice soothes my mind. The way your thoughts speak to mine.

Sitting across from you was all that I needed. Thank you.


We Surpass the Tough

downtown dallas

Life threw me a curveball a little over a week ago, so I bought a last-minute ticket and flew on a crowded plane to be where I needed to be.

I went to a land of dust, where everything looked stranger than I remember. I lived there five years ago, and not much has changed.

Yet, it all seemed drastically different. Because I have changed.

The concrete soaring throughout downtown Dallas was foreign to my eyes. The sky was reflected in the mirrored facades, decorating each building with spongy clouds.

downtown dallas

Peculiar enhancements of the city confused me even more.

Bigger and better restaurants had popped up in a land where food reigns supreme. My skinny jeans already felt tighter just being there again.

Eating out is predominately what you do in Dallas, unless you’re into shopping. Then, you can lose your paycheck on any other number of lavish designer offerings.

Forever destined to battle brown in the harsh climate, additional green spaces are now perched here and there, sprinkled with questionable forms of art.

Like this…

downtown dallas eyeball

When I first landed the city was foggy and grey. Stark buildings were still visible, jutting out into the horizon like perky breasts.

Everything seemed hazy to me. The spontaneity of it all, fueled by an emotional impulse to be with my mom when she received her test results.

Emotional time is an understatement.

This was our second round with breast cancer, but the familiarity of the process wasn’t comforting. Recognizing the tough times lurking in the shadows, ready to charge our lives once more, seemed so scary and unfair.

Five of us showed up at the doctor’s office with my mom and surprised the nursing staff with our sizable support group. We jokingly called ourselves her posse.

Hey, whatever it takes.


Being back here again at this point in my life is different than the time before, almost twelve years ago when I was a lost and confused college kid.

This time I thought…show her how much you love her, do everything you possibly can to give her strength. So, I wrote a tribute to her last week and I showed up on her doorstep.

That was all I could do. So I gave it my all.

There was an exquisite outpouring of kindness from many of you readers out there. Thank you.

Several of you are part of my blogging family and it seems like we go through a lot together in this thing called life. Many of you have been through similar experiences, and either supported a loved one or even lost one.

And though this is a personal time for me, I felt compelled to not only write a piece for my mom, but to share the results with you all as well.

We received the best news we possibly could have. She has Stage 1A.

There is still a long road to travel, but my mom is beautifully brave. For the time being the haze has lifted and those blue skies are a welcoming sight.

My mom will totally kick cancer’s ass once again. I just know it.

sis, mom, and me

This one’s for you, Mom

2nd birthday

I’m sitting here in my robe with puffy eyes and a heavy heart. I have to go to work soon, though I’m not sure how I’ll pull it off.

So, I pick up my laptop and unleash these words. To say all of the things I’m never good at saying aloud, those I certainly couldn’t begin to say last night.

Mom, you know more than anyone that I’m not much of a speaker. But, I’ve been known to write a thing or two.

I remember the dedication in my second book quite clearly in this moment. Between the special thanks and table of contents of Everything’s Not Bigger, it sits in bold letters:


She smiled bravely and kicked cancer’s ass.

When the phone rang last night, I just knew. You never call on weeknights, you call on the weekends, always bright and early as you like to do.

I sat down slowly. I covered my face. I began to cry even though I was trying to stay strong for you.

And just like that, after all those years…it’s back again.

I couldn’t fall asleep. I stared at the dark ceiling with my eyes open, drying my stinging tears every so often with the edge of the sheet and trying not to scream.

I knew I had to turn my energy around for you. To bring some light into the darkness, because that is what we do when we have the courage to love fully.

We surpass the tough with beauty and happiness.

I thought about my favorite picture of all time. This one of beautiful you with the sassy shades and the flamingos.

mom and the flamingos

I thought about the good times, Mom.

Here are just a few that came to mind right before I fell into a dreamless sleep.

  • The way you used to comb my hair as soon as I came out of the shower. We talked about nothing and everything and it was so very perfect.
  • The way you often said “to hell with cooking!” and we’d order a big pizza and watch old movies all night.
  • The way you’d talk me into playing hooky from college, so we could go to lunch and a museum.
  • The way you always had a secret stash of chocolate handy for those drama days of mine.
  • The way you obsessively loved your dogs. Because at the end of the day, pets will always be there for us when we need it most.
  • The way you lived for books. They were everywhere: the living room, the dining room, the bathroom, the bedroom, the hallway, the kitchen, the backseat of the car, the garage.
  • The way you taught me that it was good to be strong, but even more good to be soft.
  • The way you bought me a big ass stuffed animal cow (who everyone on this blog knows as Ken Follett the cow), when I was much too old for it.
  • The way you hugged me closely on the hospital bed the last time you were sick, comforting me for something I was going through when I should have been comforting you.
  • The way you were brave enough to make a joke last night when you shared the news and said: “I’ll keep you abreast of the situation.” That was beyond amazing.

Mom, there are a million more lovely things like these…I could go on forever.

You are the most magical woman I have ever known. Hands down, I would not be the person I am today without your generous love and encouragement.

Please know that you are very much loved.

You are loved, you are loved, you are loved, you are loved, you are loved, you are loved.


For those of you reading this, I kindly ask that you put some positive vibes out there for my mom. She needs them very much right now. With all of my heart, thank you.