Story Time: Music as Medicine

This is a longer post, but I invite you to please read on to learn more about how music and writing helped me cope with everything from childhood illness, to facial paralysis, brain surgery, joint replacements, broken dreams, grief, and more! At the end, you can also learn about my birthday fundraiser for Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which benefits sick and disabled musicians. Enjoy!

I basically came out of the womb being obsessed with music, fashion, pop culture, and movies. (Also? Karaoke. My toxic trait is doing karaoke almost any time there’s an opportunity despite not being any good, whatsoever.)

In the early ’90s, I was enamored by Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul. My first concert was Paula, my first cassette single that I ever bought was her song, Rush Rush, and I used to dress up and perform like Michael Jackson for my family. But, despite playing saxophone and growing up in a household that listened to a lot of country and pop, I was really into alternative rock, hard rock, and grunge music. One of the first albums I ever got (on CD) was Sixteen Stone by the band, Bush. I remember excitedly taking it to my cousin Jacquie’s house on Christmas Day where we holed up in her room and listened to it on repeat. She later reminded me that I would record videos from MTV and pause them so I could kiss Gavin Rossdale through the TV screen. (Embarrassing, but … yeah, that tracks.)

“My toxic trait is doing karaoke almost any time there’s an opportunity.”

Bush was my favorite band and still is. In fact, despite me just having seen them here in Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago, my husband bought me a ticket to go visit that same cousin Jacquie in North Carolina for my birthday next month … to see Bush together in person for their Raleigh show! Talk about full circle!

At any rate, I’ve been to over 100 concerts, and it never gets old. Ever! I know that for some, that may seem strange, obsessive, childish, or like a waste of money. But I want to offer some insight as to why it’s so meaningful to me.

When I was in elementary school, I was diagnosed with a musculoskeletal autoimmune condition called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (that later turned into adult rheumatoid arthritis.) I was forced to eventually give up sports. That was tough, because I played softball, and I LOVED it. Ate, slept, breathed softball. It’s bittersweet for me to say that was pretty damn good, too. I also played basketball and was a cheerleader, and was always outside doing something active, but, because of my condition, I was advised to give up sports and to take it easy. So, take it easy, I did.

When that happened, I started to cope with the feelings that came along with a chronic and painful illness by turning to writing and music. Those two things (and fashion!) kind of helped me to discover who I was — especially who I was outside of this medical condition. I became very focused on creative outlets: music, designing clothes, entering screenwriting contests, drama club, theatre arts, and more. I devoured MTV’s TRL every day, and even applied to be an MTV VJ! (*And did embarrassing things like enter Britney Spears lookalike contests. As a side note, I actually did place second!)

Anyway, I really, at that point, thought that my career path was going to be some kind of writing-related endeavor, perhaps something of that nature in the entertainment industry. I was specifically interested in music — definitely not as a performer myself, but behind the scenes. Maybe managing a band or doing concert reviews, writing for Rolling Stone, working for MTV, being an artist’s publicist, or even being a lyricist myself. Something. Anything!

I wanted music or showbiz to be a part of my every day on a professional level, and not just as a fan. So, I started off in college in marketing, then switched over to become an English major with a Music Business minor, and my favorite class was the History of Rock N’ Roll. In my free time, I wrote song lyrics, wrote for the entertainment section of the college newspaper, wrote poetry for a literary journal, was on the CampusFest concert committee, was on the Entertainment committee for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, wrote a Sex & the City style op-ed column, and took random road trips with my friends, like going to NYC to hang outside the MTV studios, or jaunting off to Cleveland for the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

However, as my luck would have it, before I could finish college (which I did eventually do, and then some!) I was unfortunately stricken by another medical condition. I woke up one day with the left side of my face paralyzed, lopsided, unmoving. Yeah — paralyzed! So, I had to take a temporary medical withdrawal from school.

It was scary, to say the least, and also did a number on my self-esteem. Plus, I was very tired, had to get all these medical tests done, and was truly sick for months, plus the medical leave — it sucked. The condition, called, Bell’s Palsy, did eventually improve, thank goodness, and my face went back to being fairly symmetrical. But by the time I was able to go back to college, guess what?!? The university had done away with the music business program. Womp, womp. Cue the sad trombone.

“Womp, womp. Cue the sad trombone.”

That minor was essentially why I even attended that school in the first place, and I was very upset. Between that and my illness, I felt like a was losing a piece of my identity. So I transferred closer to home, and focused on English Writing & Literature, Communications, and Psychology, in addition to working part-time, and doing spokesmodel and promo work. I also got an awesome internship at a radio station, which was so very much up my alley — and an opportunity for which I’ll forever be grateful. I worked on-air as an intern with DJ Bonics, (who is now Wiz Khalifa’s DJ,) at 96.1 kiss fm, which at the time was a ClearChannel station, and now is iHeartRadio. It’s Top 40, mostly pop. It was a lot of fun, but very challenging, because medically speaking, I still wasn’t exactly… great.

I sometimes had to miss shifts at the radio station, which no one ever understood because I “looked” fine, and sometimes was able to go out to dance clubs and frat parties, and behave like your average college student. But, I was finding it increasingly hard to be out so often, at nightclubs after the on-air shift, doing promotional duties, hosting, or recording commercials. Yet it was super-cool because I got to learn about the industry, go to concerts, interview celebrities and musicians, go on their tour buses, etc. Plus, I LOVED being on the radio! Sadly, though, I was realizing that, due to my medical issues, maybe the constant late nights and fast-paced lifestyle of the music industry wasn’t for me, at least not during that season of my life.

While I was navigating this uncertain and transitional time, I really dove into my fiction writing and blogging… and met my husband! Thank goodness that I did, because he’s been one of the biggest blessings to me. He’s my best friend, we are perfect for one another, and he’s so encouraging and supportive. I love him dearly and I couldn’t be more grateful to have found him. So, I remind myself that maybe had I pursued my entertainment industry career dreams, I would not have ended up with him! I do take solace in that: that things worked out just how they were meant to. But, it is still kind of sad sometimes that those aspirations had to take a backseat because of my health, and things didn’t really get much better in that area.

I was freelance writing and working full-time as a school secretary while figuring out what my next steps would be professionally. During that time, I began to get chronic migraines and was diagnosed with another autoimmune condition called celiac disease. Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune condition that can become quite serious. It’s more than just being gluten-free; the inability to absorb gluten proteins can actually cause literal malnutrition, among other complications.

By that time, I’d all but abandoned my dreams of working in the industry. But, I decided to reignite my passions at least somewhat and started a blog called Glitzburgh, which focused on music, celebrities, fashion, and the local movie industry, which is surprisingly thriving here in Pittsburgh. I also wrote for a fashion and pop culture magazine called Maniac. Through my work with Maniac Magazine and Glitzburgh, I got to fulfill that desire and fill that cup of attending concerts, interviewing artists, visiting movie sets, going to fashion shows, doing photo shoots, and more. I was really into all of it, but then 2011 rolled around, and guess what — I found out that I needed freaking brain surgery! I kid you not. Brain surgery.

I had a congenital condition called Chiari malformation, and needed what was essentially a combined brain and neck surgery, (a resection, duraplasty, and laminectomy) about 4.5 months before my wedding. It was pretty wild trying to recover from that, and have my hair grow back, and all that kind of stuff before getting married on the beach just months later.

So, the piece here that’s related to this musical thread throughout my life is that I had tickets to see Lady Gaga around the time of this new diagnosis, and I was so excited. But, naturally, because it was a brain surgery and all, I ended up not being able to go to the concert. However… that April, I got a call that I was invited to be in the audience for one of Oprah Winfrey’s last-ever shows! I had watched Oprah since I was in high school, so I was flabbergasted that I was able to go to Harpo Studios in Chicago with my mom that April. When we got there, there were all kinds of cool guests and fun segments. I mean, we even went to the movies with actor Johnny Depp! (But that’s another story for another day.)

One of the cooler things (to me, at least,) was this: we were about third row in Oprah’s studio audience, when they rolled out this ornate stiletto-shaped piano. Yes – a big high-heel piano! Once I saw that, I just knew in my gut that I was going to see Lady Gaga for the first time live, after all!

She came out and did a couple of songs, one of which was Born This Way. Given my medical conditions, that song had become somewhat of an anthem for me. She says the line in that songs about “whether life’s disabilities leave you outcast, bullied, or teased,” and yeah, I did face some isolation, loneliness, bullying, trolling, all of that because of my medical conditions, which are hard for people to believe or understand, especially because they are unpredictable and largely invisible.

Getting to see Lady Gaga perform Born This Way live, with my mom, just three rows away, only a couple months after recovering from brain surgery, in the Oprah audience, for one of Oprah’s last shows ever, was just an experience I’ll never forget. So, despite my illnesses, I do still have cool moments like that and others throughout my life, nonetheless.

And also, despite many accolades and what others may see as some cool accomplishments, there have been so many times that either my pain, or joint issues, or immune system problems would kind of ruin or change things for me. Some of those things have been more serious. For example, it’s all impacted my career path, family planning choices, etc. But, some of the things illness has screwed up has been more shallow or frivolous, like having to miss the Rolling Stones and Harry Styles concerts and Rocky Horror Picture Show last year because of surgery side effects after a thumb joint replacement and tonsillectomy. (Yup — thumb joint replacements are a thing!)

So, yeah, missing concerts isn’t major, but all of those little disappointments due tend to add up.

The reason I say all of that, is this: I know my excessive level of interest in all of this is not what some would consider to be “normal,” but I nonetheless will continue to try to go to as many concerts as I can.

I try to enjoy as many experiences in life as I can, because I know there will be times that I won’t be able to do the things I want to do and the things I love to do. I know there will be limitations and disappointments. And I know that as I get older, it might be even harder to do and enjoy those things fully or in the same way, especially given the fact that I still have the migraines, the celiac, and the RA that has wreaked havoc on all of my joints, and, so far, does not have a cure.

Music has been the through-line in and soundtrack to my life.”

And so, music has been the through-line in and soundtrack to my life. For me, it’s also just about clinging to what speaks to your soul despite any hardships you’re facing. When you’re constantly sidelined, or having to pivot, or having to take or create a detour for yourself because of your own body behaving in a way that is outside of your control, you look for what you can control. You find moments of joy and happiness where you can. For me, that’s nature, animals, fashion, travel, kayaking, birdwatching, writing, movies, music, and, yes, … going to shows and concerts.

Any little thing that I can find or do that allows me to enjoy life more fully or more joyfully, I’m ready to grasp onto it! It’s not me being obsessive or spoiled or a groupie, or whatever; it’s because I have such a profound love and respect for music, for art, for the craft and the industry, and more so because literally there is no other place or time that I feel more like myself than at a live concert.

When I am taking in live music … in that environment … those special moments counting down waiting for the artist or the band to take the stage … that electric feeling … or the feeling when there’s a slower song and thousands of people are singing together united as one … those moments in life are what I chase. That’s one of the things that bring me joy. It’s what gives me that spark of inspiration. Those moments are literally when I feel most like myself. That feeling. It fills my cup. I want to keep chasing it!

I don’t think I need to defend that, because that is what music and art is for. It’s for people to enjoy; it’s for people to find inspiration; it’s for people to come together. I think that’s the purpose, right? Yet, my birthday is next month, and I’m at this age where it’s almost seen as age-inappropriate or frowned upon to constantly go out to concerts and stuff. It seems frivolous; it seems silly or weird to people.

But, honestly – says who?

Who gets to say what’s weird or what other people should spend their own time and money on? My husband and I don’t have kids. We have three dogs; we have a parrot; we have a little betta fish. But we don’t have human children, so, we spend money on traveling; he spends money on races and competitions; I spend money on going to concerts.

And I kind of need all of that “silly” stuff. The concerts, the magazines, the podcasts, the videos from shows, the tunes blaring from my Alexa, the piano in my living room, the Queen songs on repeat. I need it, because it fills me up for the days where I’m not doing so hot. I need it for the days where maybe my mental health isn’t great, or my physical health is suffering, or I’m laying on my couch crying in extreme pain, or I have a migraine so bad that I can barely see and I’m nauseous.

Or for the days where I’m mourning my dreams.

Those are the grief-filled days that I scroll through and look at past concert pictures, or watch videos I took at a show, where I’ll just listen to my favorite artists, or watch a music documentary. On those days, all of it feels rather necessary. Music is more than a boost of serotonin or dopamine. It’s more than a hobby or an interest. It’s more than background noise. Music is survival.

“Music is survival.”

Concerts, fashion, music, art … these are things that some of us cling to when we’re having a rough go of it. It can be really disheartening to be sick or in pain, and scary to think about the future and know that some of your medical problems could likely get worse. It’s a very discouraging notion, so, having things to look forward to can feel very important. Those things don’t even have to cost money or be anything big. Just SOMETHING. Anything.

And – you only live once, so go to the concert if you can, even if you have to go alone. I recognize that while a lot of these cool opportunities came to me because I worked and hustled to make it happen, there’s also a definite level of privilege here. I do know that. I am deeply, endlessly thankful, grateful, and blessed, and feel lucky that so far I’ve been able to take in these wonderful experiences, because I would honestly feel pretty lost and broken without it.

I mean, even when I don’t feel well or have those lost and broken moments occurring in real time, going to a concert is still worth it to me, as crazy as that sounds. I mean, I’m the person with poor judgment who went to a Beyonce concert with a migraine, but that’s also another story for another day. I do tend to push myself and occasionally pay for it later. Sometimes, I think: I can be hurting and feeling like crap at home on my couch, or, I can be hurting and feeling like crap taking in a once-in-a-lifetime show. If I’m at all able — and sometimes I’m not — I’m gonna push myself do the latter by taking in the show. I’m not always able to do that, and I know not everyone has that choice, but if I do have that option, I’m usually taking it.

“Go to the concert if you can, even if you have to go alone.”

I once saw Ed Sheeran with my bestie Kristen, a day or two after one of my grandmothers, Eileen, died, which was also a day or two before my knee replacement surgery. And that concert with my friend, despite my bereavement and my worry, lifted me; it was a moment of respite from a very sad and stressful time. Looking around the sold-out arena during one of Ed’s ever-emotional songs, seeing all of the phones lighting up the space like stars in a night sky, everyone singing in harmony, was utterly beautiful and I felt like my Nana, Eileen, was with me. I debated even going to that concert in the first place, but it ended up being somewhat healing, at least for that moment in time. That was with my one grandma’s passing. My other Grandma, Joanie, lived in Vegas. In 2020, I was able to say goodbye to her before she passed away, in a sense because of music, since the reason I traveled to Vegas that time was to see a Bush concert at the House of Blues, Mandalay Bay. Given the start of the covid-19 pandemic and all that was going on in the world, had I not had that concert ticket already purchased, I may not have taken that trip, and might have missed my chance to say goodbye to my grandma. I treasure being able to do so!

So, music matters; it can bring you to where you’re meant to be or can bring you through difficult situations.

It can bring joy. And, really, who are we to judge anyone’s joy?

Especially if, for some, that joy is occasionally hard to come by. I, for one, just want to soak it up! Not just while I’m still physically able to, but also — who knows when the last time is you’ll get to see any given artist or band perform live, for whatever reason!

Being at a concert can really inspire and uplift on a creative or artistic level, too. Just going to several live shows recently left me so creatively ignited. Despite having 3 books published already and two more, maybe three, in the works, I hadn’t been writing or creating for awhile. I was kind of stuck and stagnant, because, while I love it, my full-time day job is in people management for a health tech company and my part-time job is for a medical app. Both fantastic, both wonderful, both important work in the health tech space, and I do enjoy these jobs — but they are just not regularly engaging the part of my brain that seeks out music, imagination, creativity and beauty. And, yeah, I have those two fiction books in progress, but until recently, I was just stalled.

Yet, during these last couple weeks, the inspiration and creativity was refreshed and reignited for me, simply by seeing some great movies and being at some live shows, including a stand-up comedy show and a few concerts. There’s something to be said for the contagious energy and inspiration that comes from and goes on at a concert, or from meeting with or being surrounded by other like-minded creative folks who are as passionate as you.

Music does heal, and it does bring people together. It’s attached to some of my very best memories, and helped me get through difficult times, too.

So, ya know, maybe I wasn’t able to go on the professional career path that I wanted to in the industry, but me taking in live shows, buying albums, writing my own song lyrics, collecting music merch or memorabilia, hosting my entertainment and music podcasts, posting about my favs on social media, blasting Aerosmith and Bush, Britney and Lizzo, Gaga and Garbage, Metallica and Kings of Leon while I do my chores — that’s me staying connected to the industry and to music, in my own little way.

It’s me focusing on what I can do, instead of dwelling on what I cannot. It’s turning those proverbial lemons into lemonade, and, in some ways, living vicariously through others.

Illness can take things from you, for sure … but you don’t have to let it destroy you. Sometimes it’s just a matter of shifting perspective, and of finding new ways to adapt and adjust, and navigating how to best incorporate things into your life that make you happy. So that’s what I have been trying to do, and that’s what music has meant to me.

Listen to Badly Branded and/or Deconstructing Bush on Spotify, Anchor, Apple, Google, Stitcher, or Audacy! There’s even a spoken version of this blog posted on 8/22/22.

Read my poems on Instagram at @abshuck_writes or view my main IG at @ash_ambshuck. Follow me on Facebook, here, or connect with me on LinkedIn, here. And – please, check out my Linktree and/or my main site at

** For my birthday this year, instead of doing my usual fundraiser for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, I am hosting a fundraiser and gifting my own donation to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund which helps career musicians who are experiencing illness, disability or age-related problems.  Their mission is “healing musicians in need.” I chose this charity because it meres two of my great passions, health and music. You can donate here, or through my Facebook, Linktree, or Instagram. And any eventual proceeds from my Deconstructing Bush podcast specifically will also go to Sweet Relief!

Photos from ~2000 through 2022


My friend, Gavin Rossdale

A hug from Gavin Rossdale in 2019 (Pittsburgh)

Okay, so, to be clear, he’s not *really* my friend, but, we live in a ‘clickbait’ society, do we not?

This blog post is an open letter about a man who 1.) helped me get through both middle school and grief and the pandemic year and 2.) is one of THE MOST underrated frontmen of one of THE MOST awesome yet under-appreciated rock bands, like … ever.

Let me set the stage:

It’s 1995 or 1996; I’m probably wearing Umbro soccer shorts or JNCO Jeans, and an oversize Nike tee with some Airwalks. Maybe I have a butterfly clip in my hair and a daisy choker on my neck. I might be writing in bubble letters, playing with some ‘devil sticks,’ or trying my hand (foot?) at hackey-sack. I haven’t yet discovered highlights, straight teeth, or a hair straightener, but I rock my Laura Ashley glasses, awkward bangs, and lust after chain wallets, lava lamps, and bellybutton piercings as I hitch a ride on the ‘pegs’ of someone’s BMX bike. I’m a true nerd and very awkward, but I desperately want to fit in. Luckily, I can “pass” as a cool kid and that helps me, a lot.

But internally, I battle with major self-esteem and confidence issues. I’m a ‘gifted’ student who looks like a popular girl but isn’t really sure where I belong. I’m battling an illness no one really knows about; I live in pain every day.

I discover MTV and those mail-order music clubs: BMG, Columbia House, and so on.

I had always turned to books for comfort (Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, Fear Street, Sweet Valley High, the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew,) but this? CDs? MUSIC? It was like a light came on and lit up a dark world, especially because previously I’d only really listened to my Paula Abdul and Michael Jackson cassettes. (Which, no regrets. Still adore both of them!)

No Doubt – Nirvana – Smashing Pumpkins – the Spice Girls – Marilyn Manson – Garbage – Prodigy – Weezer – Alanis Morrissette – Cake – Nine Inch Nails – Oasis – Hole – Toad the Wet Sprocket – the Verve – Everclear – and then …

Gavin Rossdale.

He wasn’t my first celebrity crush (Jonathan Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement; Jason Priestly from Beverly Hills 90210; Devon Sawa and Leonardo DiCaprio; and Justin Timberlake from the Mickey Mouse Club preceded him,) but he was the first celebrity crush I had that felt like was about more than appearance.

I didn’t know it as a junior high kid, but … I liked his soul.

As early as, I don’t know – age 7 or 8, maybe? – I was writing stories, songs, poems, lyrics. I sketched fashion designs and wrote in my diary and devoured the written word. So, finding a rock star who was, in my teenybopper opinion, ALSO a true “poet” and wordsmith was more swoon-worthy than the boys I was hanging up posters of, from the pages of Teen Beat magazine.

I felt like Gavin Rossdale and others of that era gave me permission to lean into my truest self even when I, at times, tried to hide it to “fit in.”

And boy, do I regret trying to fit in! I had graduated from my plastic Flutophone recorder to a real, live saxophone and was pretty good at it. My music teacher and band instructor encouraged me to stick with music, but I quit because some boys made fun of me and I was too insecure to be seen as a band nerd.

It’s literally one of the biggest regrets of my life.

As an adult at age 37, I now wish I could revisit playing the saxophone. I wish I could play my acoustic guitar and my ukulele and my piano more, but, I’m facing hand surgery that could render that impossible.

It sucks. But, I digress. Back to Gavin.

For a time, I had my people: I rollerbladed; I blasted rock music; I wore the baggy jeans and the raver shirts and tried to skateboard and ski. I went through a rebellious phase, a goth phase, a ska phase, and music was my salvation. Bush’s Sixteen Stone and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill were the soundtrack to my life (along with the actual soundtrack from Bazz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juilet.)

Middle school & high school me .. from ‘skater’ to ‘pop girl’

I pretended I was cooler than I was.

But as happens in high school, friend groups changed, priorities changed. Boys (and grown men – yuck) began to notice and pay attention to me – sometimes too much attention, I can say in hindsight. I was still insecure but I thought I was hot stuff. People began telling me I looked like Britney Spears; I let myself believe it. After all, who in 1999 wouldn’t have wanted to be her?

Sixteen Stone remained (and still remains) one of my favorite albums and a Gavin Rossdale poster remained above my bed, but in true late-90s and early-aughts fashion (or, lack thereof, judging by some of my clothing choices,) I leaned into pop, hip-hop, bare-midriffs, short skirts, and skintight low-rise jeans. The Airwalks and Converse were replaced by Steve Madden platforms and chunky jelly wedges. No more black hair; I was Sun-In, bleached n’ bottled blonde. My life was consumed by NSync, Britney Spears, Nelly, Juvenile, DMX, Destiny’s Child, and Eminem … parties and football games and trips to the mall. Boys. Boys. And more Boys!

By that point, Gavin Rossdale was a man and a bit off my radar. I still stanned Sixteen Stone. But, the rocker-skater-tomboy Ashley? She had vanished, or, at least been dulled by the bubblegum social norms of her formative years.

Quitting sports didn’t help – my musculoskeletal autoimmune disease put an end to softball (which was my world), basketball, and eventually cheerleading. No more skateboarding; efforts to snow ski and water ski and snowboard had passed and were, because of my ailments, not even a realistic possibility even as a teenager.

So the saxophone-playing Ashley of the alternative-grunge era faded into the bright lights of clubbing, rap music, and parties.

There were some people at school who saw me for who I still was at heart: the girl with the Bush CDs and the Gavin poster above my bed.

Once, my good friends BJ and Jessie got to go to a Bush concert – I believe at Pittsburgh’s Metropol or Rosebud in the Strip District? – which I was invited to go to, but wasn’t allowed to attend. It was one of my first true tastes of real disappointment! But my friend BJ brought me back a signed white t-shirt allegedly from Gavin Rossdale himself.

Now I say allegedly because we were in middle school, after all – so who knows if it was really signed or worn by Gavin? (Not that I doubt you, BJ, but … we were kids, so I’d forgive ya if it wasn’t actually Gavin’s! Haha.)

At any rate, it was an amazingly appreciated gesture, that made me feel so very special … and that shirt hung on my wall for many years until I went to college! Another kid, whose real name I won’t use but we’ll call him Jonathan, knew the real me so much that he put me on a ‘hit list’ and wrote nasty blog posts about me and said he wanted to kill me all because I was “a sheep trying to fit in with the pigs.” Which … trauma aside … was a fair observation. (And yes, I do mean trauma: that whole experience is where my anxiety began. Having to go to court as a 10th grader will do that to ya!)

>>>> Fast-forward

… through switching majors (marketing, music business, english) and colleges (Robert Morris, Clarion, PITT) a couple of times … through an internship at a radio station … through a partial completion of grad school … through a couple of medical withdrawals … through a few knee surgeries and a brain surgery and several jobs at tech companies and nonprofits and even a Catholic school… I would find Mr. Rossdale – and myself – again.

So, as my luck would have it, I missed Gavin in Pittsburgh again when he came for a solo tour on the Gateway Clipper. (Which, HELLO – boats and Gavin Rossdale? Damn it if that isn’t wholly and fully my jam!!!!)

Mike & me front row at the Bush/Chevelle Show in Pittsburgh, 2016.

When I saw that Bush was coming to Stage AE in Pittsburgh along with Chevelle in July of 2016, I knew I had to go.

At that point I’d been a fan for, what, like…20 years? … and had been to probably 100 concerts, but, had still never seen Bush live and in person. I dragged my husband Mike, and we stood front row for what up until that point was one of the best concert experiences I’d had (along with seeing Britney Spears twice from front row and Justin Timberlake from 3rd row then and first row a few times after. The poppy side of me never fully disappeared, after all.)

But I’d been so used to pop, top 40, and hip-hop shows – the big spectacles, the productions, the dancing, the dramatics, and lip-syncing – that I didn’t even realize what I’d been missing out on: rock shows were life.

And Gavin? He’s what a frontman should be.

He oozed sex appeal and raw talent. He was full of charisma and stage presence. You could tell that he FELT the music, that he SAW the audience. I even felt like he saw ME! … Yes, every artist is a performer and usually going off a memorized script or routine. I get that. But Bush? Gavin? They felt AUTHENTIC. Real. Not manufactured. Not phony.

I loved it.

The concert high lasted weeks, which I’ve learned happens with any good show. I would watch the videos on my phone over and over again and couldn’t wait to hopefully see them live again sometime.

It’s now 2019 and Bush is coming back to Stage AE, along with Live, another band who I liked back in the day. This time, I had no one to go with, so I sold my second ticket and went alone. Now, keep in mind, I’m not someone who, at that point, did NOT do a lot of things alone. I’d gone to see a movie by myself once, and traveled solo for a few work trips… but a concert? At night? By myself? This was big stuff.

The insecurities crept back: would people think I was a loser or take pity on me for being at a show by myself?

I realized I did not care, and this was the start of me doing what I wanted to do…. even if I had to go it alone.

I’d gotten VIP tickets for this 2019 show and had mega heart palpitations at the prospect of meeting Gavin Rossdale. Now, I’d met plenty of other celebrities before so I knew that it was likely that he’d barely say hello or acknowledge my existence. And because I have met kind of a lot of famous or semi-famous people, I also don’t get super starstruck and I know how to play it cool. USUALLY. Not so much with my favorite band, though! I felt like such a nerd and am more than sure that they all felt my awkwardness radiating off my body in nervous giddy waves.

“I’ve been your fan since middle school,” I shyly told Gavin, probably turning blotchy beet red, as I often do.

He smiled, and gave me a hug. Inwardly, I melted; outwardly, I made some more quick small talk and told him and Chris that I hope they liked Pittsburgh. It was lovely. I got a signed poster and some other merch. I don’t care much about the free swag but I do have the autograph hanging in my home office and I will treasure the photos forever.

I had front row at this show too and I swore that Gavin made eye contact with me. In my little fantasy-world he was singing to me. In reality I know it’s an act. But I’m okay with being in fantasy-land for a few hours.

Life is hard enough. It’s okay to escape now and then.

The story isn’t over. I enjoyed myself so much at that show and had begun to grow more confident in doing things alone: hiking, birdwatching, dining, etc. Mind you, I am very happily married! But, my husband and I support one another in our individual endeavors and we both value solo time and pursuing our unique interests and passions which rarely align with one another. (Me: music, concerts, nature, animals, fashion, books, pop culture, astronomy, travel … him: fitness fitness fitness fitness fitness fitness travel fitness.) So, no red flags here — in fact, I am grateful that Mike has helped to empower me to feel confident doing things on my own. And that he doesn’t get jealous or insecure about my little celebrity crushes!

Thus, when I saw that Bush was doing a show in Las Vegas for the 25th Anniversary of Sixteen Stone, I HAD TO GO. There was no discussion; no debate. I have two jobs and freelance; I’ve worked since I was 15; I don’t have kids; I budget for concerts and travel because those things are a priority to me.

I miss my grandparents…

And – my Grandma (Joan) who lived in Las Vegas? She was unfortunately dying.

I knew this concert – this trip to Vegas – would very likely be the last time I could ever see her. Little did I know that, because of a impending pandemic, it would ALSO be my last concert for … well … who knows how long.

So I booked the trip and began counting the days.

Thank goodness I did.

That night – February 28, 2020 – was not just one of THE BEST concerts of my life but also one of THE BEST nights of my life. It was an emotional day – I’d gotten to spend a lot of quality time with my Grandma, and saying goodbye that morning knowing it would likely be our last hug, was incredibly challenging and emotional. But having the concert to look forward to that night (and some quality alone time in the hot tub at the Paris with a delicious Bloody Mary,) helped put a salve on my hurting heart.

I got dolled up, blasted Bush in my hotel room, and took an Uber to the House of Blues. I’d gotten VIP again; we all were crammed in line, no one knowing that we were likely all being exposed to covid-19 for every second of it.

Hugging Gavin, Feb, 2020 Las Vegas

Finally – it was time for the meet-and-greet! Now, I’m sure that most bands hate doing meet-and-greets, and I get it. But, Bush does an awesome job of at least pretending they enjoy it!

I made my way up to the line. Chris complimented me on my leather jacket. He said he smelled popcorn. I said I promised it wasn’t me. He laughed. Gavin laughed. I told Gavin I’d seen them in Pittsburgh. He said he likes Pittsburgh. We hugged. We smiled. We took a photo. I floated away on a cloud of happiness (and I don’t wanna come back down from this cloud …)

Meeting Bush in 2020

Front row, again. I impatiently sat through 3 opening acts and then … those opening notes: Machinehead.

I rocked out for the entire time. Devil horns in the air. Jumping up and down. Screaming, singing, taking photos and videos on my phone. I lived for the sense of togetherness that we were experiencing that night (and at any concert, really. Its one of my favorite feelings ever in life! Everyone singing along…it’s bliss…)

I flew back home to Pennsylvania the next day, emotionally exhausted from the fun and excitement of the show, and from the goodbyes with my grandma. And then, within a couple of weeks, life was on lockdown.

The pandemic had fully arrived and life, as we knew it, was about to change. It was hard. Everyone was isolated. Everyone was afraid. I was especially afraid given my immune system issues. But…

Gavin Rossdale and Bush guitarist Chris Traynor unbeknownst to them, brought me immense happiness via interactions on Instagram and Twitter. Chris regularly liked my photos from the show. Gavin put a picture I took from the concert on his Instagram page and gave me photo credit. (He shared that same photo again recently, in fact!) Gavin also began to do live chats on his Instagram Live. Once, he gave me a shout-out when I submitted a question, “hey! I know you!” and another time, he played a song I kept requesting, “All Night Doctors,” one of my fav yet most-underrated Bush songs (which also seemed fitting for the pandemic and some personal things I was going through!) In the summer, Gavin and Chris both also shared a video of my resuce pug Olive doing some head-tilts to their hit song, “Flowers on a Grave,” (which I actually go to hear live in Vegas before it was even released!)

These little interactions, seemingly stupid or silly, actually meant a lot to me.

From March 2020

My grandma passed away shortly after that show … one of my dogs passed away shortly after that .. not to mention, well.. covid. So, any and every bit of happiness I could take was welcomed. And I got that happiness through these little likes, follows, mentions, and shares: not because I need validation or followers on social media, but, because I need human connection.

And to feel “seen” by someone who inspired you to write song lyrics and poetry; someone you’ve admired for the last 20 or 25 years? Well … that’s a blessing and a gift.

I’m not a Groupie. (Well – I don’t think I am lol!)

But I’m a die-hard Bush fan. I respect Gavin and the band so much. Why they don’t get more credit and recognition is beyond me. Truly, Bush has some masterpieces. The albums Sixteen Stone and The Kingdom are flawless. But the entire discography is great. And the staying power? Come on! Not to mention, their music is timeless, ageless. Sixteen Stone sounds as good now as it did when I was listening to it on my Discman on the school bus. Some of the songs hit differently the older I get, but … dang it if Rossdale isn’t a phenomenal lyricist. (Yes, I love his vocals and guitar skills too but I’m a storytellers, so the words matter, too. Big time.)

In another life, had I not quit band, had I stuck with music, if I didn’t have medical issues, maybe I’d be a songwriter too.

But for now, I live vicariously through Gavin and others like him who can bring joy to others through words and music, who can be a soothing balm during any adversity, and who can make their mark on a world that isn’t always kind or easy.

THANK YOU, Gavin & Bush, for helping me through my tween years, loss, and a global pandemic. Thank you for not abandoning me when I detoured to the world of pop. Thank you for helping me find my way back home to my rocker soul.

Joint Decisions and the Analysis Paralysis of My Summer

I’ve had health problems for almost my entire life. I’ve even written two books and an award-winning blog about all of it! But, they never really “got to me” until recently.

The past year or so have been tough, to say the least. But — if I’m being honest, it’s the last decade, really. Sure, I dealt with RA & JIA, OA, Celiac, Bell’s Palsy, Dysplasias, Headaches, and Anxiety prior to 2011. But, the hits just kept coming after that year.

A brain surgery for Chiari. Hospitalizations for POTS. A bone marrow biopsy. PTSD. A lipoma excision surgery. Dystonia. Tendinitis. Reactions to medications. Ambulance rides. A total knee replacement. Worsening chronic migraines. A long-term relationship with steroid joint injections in my hands and feet; and Botox injections for migraines in my scalp. Possible covid and a chronic asthmatic cough. And, in the past year, a dog bite, my first broken bone, and several falls and sprains.

I have had more than one orthopedic surgeon at more than one practice say the following to me:

  • your foot is ‘too far gone’
  • your joints are the worst I’ve seen for someone your age
  • your wrist looks like an 80-year-old’s
  • usually we don’t do a thumb joint replacement on someone so young
  • you’re the second youngest patient I’ve done a total knee on
  • you will need a triple fusion (arthrodesis) of your foot; it may or may not work
  • we could amputate it
  • you need a reconstruction or replacement of both your CMC (thumb) joints
  • you will definitely need a wrist replacement or fusion at some point
  • your joints are too bad for stem cell
  • ‘end-stage’ osteoarthriits and joint degeneration
  • your left knee and right knee look like two different patients, one in their 30s, one in their 70s
  • it’s too bad you weren’t able to get on biologics sooner to save your joints

… and so on.

And a lot of that may not mean a whole lot to many of you, unless you’ve experienced RA and/or the excruciating pain of a joint replacement. But the TLDR is that it isn’t a pleasant prospect.

Unfortunately, sometimes surgeries are literally the only treatment option and only way to improve quality of life.

I had my first knee surgery around age 13 or so. I had my second when I was about 26 or 27. I then had it totally replaced when I was a day shy of turning 33.

Currently, I manage my thumbs, wrist, and foot with steroid injections every 90 days.

It’s very painful. It sucks.

I know the new surgeries that I face in my hands and foot are going to need to happen soon now, however, because, after like 6 years of getting them done, the injections are starting to lose efficacy. My joints are feeling worse.

It’s at times quite disabling.

Typing is hard — so is texting. Opening a can or a jar? Forget it. Driving? Eh sometimes pretty uncomfortable. Sleep? Some days it’s a lost cause. Doing my hair? I rarely can. Cleaning, chores? Difficult.

And it impacts my hobbies and interests, too. My entire summer and perhaps the rest of the calendar year (not to mention travels, work, etc.) are going to be impacted by the seemingly-impossible decisions I face about my joints and potential operations to fix them. Heck – my entire life could be impacted!

Pain and immobility is a b@#$%! And while there are worst things than living with an illness or disability, and I am so blessed in other ways, it is a challenge more often and in more ways than most people could know.

This video is lengthy — an hour long. But — it’s the same as listening to a podcast! Here, I talk about some of the decisions I face and share a little more about my sometimes-difficult journey. I’d love if you could watch, but I understand if you cannot.

In the meantime, I urge you to check out the new PsA Healthline App from Healthline. I’ve partnered with them to help share and promote this wonderful patient community of like-minded individuals and Psoriatic Arthritis patients and caregivers. It’s free to download, so, you should take a peek and see for yourself why I’m so excited to be an Ambassador! After all, when you deal with health nonsense, it’s nice to know you’re not alone!!

PsA Healthline - Apps on Google Play
Download the PsA Healthline and RA Healthline apps today!

🎥 Long video. But if you have an hour to listen to a podcast or binge-watch a show, or play a game on your phone, then you have an hour to listen, watch, and hear my #truth​! 😉 If you or someone you love live with RA, OA, chronic illness or disability, you may even relate. (And if any birdwatchers or musicians want to listen, or you’re just a friend or family member who wants a life update or to show support … here you go! You’re welcome! 😉)

🐞 ⚖️ ☯️ Life presents hard choices at times. Unique circumstances can make these decisions even harder. Whether it’s traveling… Whether to join a gym… Whether to have children… What type of career path to take or what kind of work to do… Whether or not to have a surgery, or take up a new hobby, or try a new med or a new style … Sometimes even basic choices can seem impossible and some decisions, very difficult.

🌟 While this vlog starts out on the more lighthearted side, it gets deep, personal, raw & real.

I do promise that it has a point. ♥️

You may even learn something! 🤗

And I truly THANK you all for your love and support, always.

Be kind and have a great day! ☀️ You never know what struggles someone battles – big or small – behind closed doors! 💖


💪🏼 🙏🏼

Some thoughts on race, culture, mental illness, and ignorance. Yeah – this should go well.

Okay, this post might be controversial to some, but if you’re already feeling uncomfortable, I urge you to read the whole thing. Basically, I’m sharing a few Facebook posts I made recently because — well, because it’s my blog and I wanna.


In all honesty – it’s because I do have a modest platform and readership. Thus, I feel I called and compelled to use that platform to share my thoughts about things that I deem important or interesting, (whether that is Britney Spears and makeup, or cancel culture and racial bias.)

Before I proceed, I also wish to add that none of these posts are/were calling out any one individual. (And, listen, if I cut ties with every friend or family member who held differing beliefs from my own, well, I might be a very lonely person.)

If you feel bad or take it personally, that is honestly on you and I say that from a loving place. I urge you (in the friendliest and least judgmental of ways,) to sit with that discomfort and soul-search as to why you feel called out. Oftentimes we (myself included) take things personally or feel defensive because a mirror has been held up to an ugly or inconvenient truth we don’t want to recognize about ourselves.

But my goal(s) are to educate, to vent, to spread awareness, to journal my thoughts, etc. and not to offend! So, pretty please do not come at me with any bitterness, trolling, avoidance, or aggression!

So, anyway…some soapboxy, stream-of-consciousness thoughts for ya:


On White Privilege + “Colorblind” Racism

white privilege

I just saw white privilege explained in such a simple but effective way: white privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been a struggle; it means that struggle WASN’T BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF YOUR SKIN. Of course, it’s more nuanced than that, but this is a basic explanation that hopefully people can begin to grasp.

Furthermore, the onus is on us to educate ourselves and be allies. It isn’t up to people of color do that for us.

Thinking white privilege doesn’t exist is … an example of white privilege.

Being “color blind” erases real issues — and differences — relating to race.

Different isn’t bad. Acknowledging race isn’t bad.

Even if you aren’t “racist,” you likely possess unconscious racial bias.

Just because you don’t see, feel, or acknowledge racism, or bias, or privilege, doesn’t invalidate people’s feelings about those things, and doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

You think our culture and education system aren’t whitewashed? When’s the last time your kids or you learned about history or culture that *wasn’t* American or European? If they did learn about it, how much time was devoted to that versus “white history?”

You can’t erase or ignore the experiences or the pain of others because of your own guilt, pride, or ignorance.

And here’s the thing, fellow white folks: no reasonable person is shaming or blaming or guilting your for being white. But imagine if we were; imagine how awful it would feel to be judged solely based on the color of your skin. Imagine how awful it would feel to be judged based on the actions and beliefs of every other person of your entire race, or simply based on (outdated, unproven) stereotypes. Then think about the potential of maybe feeling that every day for your entire life.

What toll would it take on you, on your children, or anyone else who is your same color, in part or in whole?

It’s not easy to change our ways of thinking and pointing out race and racism can feel uncomfortable. But it shouldn’t — it should not be uncomfortable. The fact that it is just shows we have a long way to go!

Also…I am not speaking for any BIPOC, just my own opinions and experiences. I am intelligent and self-aware enough to admit I don’t know everything and that stories about racism are not mine to tell. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong or speaking out of turn! I welcome knowledge and want to learn & do better 🖤

PS: A *wonderful* resource that we’ve used at work before is Harvard’s Implicit Bias Test to see how much implicit/unconscious (i.e. unintentional or inadvertent) racial bias you have.


On Willful Ignorance + Not Taking Accountability

long rant

Something (among many things) that really annoys me about our culture nowadays is that everybody thinks things they don’t like or don’t understand are “fake” or a “scam.” Just because you don’t quite “get” something, or it isn’t your cup of tea, or you felt duped because you didn’t do any research going into it, does not mean it is fake or a scam. 🤷🏼‍♀️

– a multi-level marketing company isn’t inherently a “scam” because of the sales or payment structure. Additionally, just because some thing requires AutoShip or a membership does not innately mean it’s a “pyramid scheme.” Furthermore, not all direct sales companies are typical “MLMs,” and not all MLMs are bad. Yes they can be annoying but that’s not the same as a “scam.”

a timeshare or vacation club isn’t a “scam” just because you (gasp!) have to sit there through a presentation to get your free trip or iPad or gift card or whatever. *Of course* they’re going to try to sell you a membership. That’s their job! –

you forgetting to cancel your free trial and being charged does not mean the app or company is scamming you.

– science isn’t fake because you don’t understand it.

– not everything is a conspiracy.

– you *giving permission* (intentionally or not) for websites and apps to “track” you or have access to private information and data is not their fault.

– medicine isn’t inherently bad because it’s not natural. In fact, nothing is inherently bad solely because it’s not natural. I cannot stress this enough.

– people deserve to be paid for their time. Someone charging you their worth to do something for you or provide a service to you is not a ripoff because you don’t want to pay. Furthermore, depending on the industry and your contract, sometimes you’re paying for someone’s time and not necessarily a guaranteed result or outcome. (I see this a lot doing work in public relations and weight loss.)

– did I mention that science isn’t fake or harmful just because you don’t understand it? I feel like I need to say that one again.

– also, just because someone is trying to sell you something does not mean it is a scam or a ripoff. 🤷🏼‍♀️

– just because something hasn’t happened to you personally or you don’t see it in your everyday life does not mean it isn’t a problem that greatly affects other people on a regular basis. You not seeing or believing something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist

– you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own fact. 👏🏼 Facts are facts are facts.

– unless it is satire or a conspiracy-based or opinion-based site, *actual news* isn’t “fake” just because you don’t agree with it or it doesn’t align with your views. Of course news can be biased, but that doesn’t mean fake.

– some folks don’t seem to understand what cancel culture is. Things changing with the times in the sake of equality, progress, evolution, modernity, or even just plain market research does not equal “cancel culture.” some of it is ridiculous, I agree. (For example – Pepe LePew. Stupid, in my opinion.) Some of it, though, is more than warranted. (Those certain Seuss works being pulled, for example.) And some, it’s like…who cares? (Who gives a flying you-know-what if the brand is now Potato Head? It’s a plastic potato.) I’m seeing the phrase cancel culture be way overused by people who never once said it a year or two ago, and don’t even seem to fully grasp *what it truly is and is not.*

The entitlement, whining, finger-pointing, blame-shifting, shaming, and intolerance are rampant online these days. I feel that our society has been oddly infantilized to the point that it’s nearly crippling for some (no accountability or personal responsibility, zero intellectual curiosity,) addicted to rage, always feeling attacked, take everything personally even when it isn’t, and looking for ways to vent — but it’s sometimes misdirected, towards the wrong causes or the wrong people. (*And trust me — I do understand that this post is kinda complaining, sort of shaming, possibly snobby, and semi-ragey as well … but at least I have the self-awareness to admit that, which is something that many people lack. There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable and admitting where your flaws or blind spots are. [one of my biggest flaws is being judgmental about willful ignorance.]

And, I do think that, despite my opinions on all of the above, we can and should each use our own social media pages and profiles however we see fit. Now, granted, I don’t believe that gives folks a license to go troll or slander others, or go on a rant on *someone else’s* page or post.)

*the TLDR? -> Stop yelling at people because YOU didn’t read the fine print* 🥸😉

On Mental Health

The stigma against taking care of mental health is ridiculous. Mental illness is illness; your brain and your mind are a part of your body and a part of what makes you, you. Oftentimes, people avoid addressing their mental-emotional wellbeing because, for some toxic reason or other, American society has positioned it as a weakness to admit to having any kind of mental health issue. Or, even worse, there are some people who blame or ‘demonize’ folks with mental illness.

Mental illness is not a joke and it isn’t weak to address and take care of mental health. My personal belief is that everyone should have a therapist, just like everyone should have a primary care doctor. Even if it is just for talk therapy and there is nothing you need to fix, taking a heart-centered behavioral health approach to managing mental-emotional wellness is only going to benefit you and those around you.

Not everyone needs medicated or “committed”– I think sometimes that’s the fear.

There are talk therapists; psychiatrists who prescribe medications, and some who take a holistic approach; there are counselors (some of whom are Christian counselors, or specialize in kids or family counseling, LGBTQIA or disability specialties, etc,); and even health coaches who can help you whether you are just wanting to vent and unload, or, if it’s something that requires medication or treatment.

One of the biggest things I see every day in my line of work is unaddressed depression and/or anxiety, which leads to a whole other array of problems ranging from weight problems, job loss, financial illiteracy, and even, at times, misdirected anger, or, even more worrisome, violence or suicidal ideation.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also address the elephant in the room which is toxic masculinity. There is another largely-American ideal of “manliness” and somehow that (archaic, misogynistic) notion is closely associated with power, violence, and “toughness” — toughness meaning that “boys don’t cry,” and that the emotional health of men and boys goes unaddressed.

That saddens me.

Mental health is a social justice issue. 

Mental health affects not just you but also your family, friends, and loved ones. If you aren’t doing it for yourself, do it for them. Whether it’s simply just coping with stress, or working on anger issues, or, it’s a diagnosis like PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or, even addiction, help is available for those who want or need it — and it’s often affordable or, in some cases, free. There are lots of nonprofit organizations that can direct people to low-cost or free services. And there’s zero shame in taking advantage of that!

In my personal opinion, (as someone who works in behavioral health but isn’t a medical professional,) a lot of hatred and division, even broken relationships, stem from not only ignorance but also from, sometimes, unaddressed mental health issues, big or small.

To be clear, however, mental illness should also not be a scapegoat for violence, racism, or just being a crappy human being. Being mental ill or dealing with any kind of mental health concern does not mean you’re a bad person — nor does it give you an ‘excuse’ to be.

One of the strongest, bravest, and most compassionate and loving things you can do for or toward yourself is to TAKE CARE OF YOU: mind, body, spirit, and soul — regardless of what others might think about it.

(And for what it’s worth; I’m here to listen if anyone needs me to, as well!)

Neuroplasticity + Liberal vs. Conservative Brains

Recently I’ve come across some scientific articles in my Mensa group about how the brains of liberals and conservatives LITERALLY differ on a measurable, structural, physiological, and sometimes chemical level. Now, that doesn’t mean that people can’t change, or evolve, or have a malleable approach to things — growth mindset vs. fixed mindset, nature vs. nurture, etc. (i.e. some of our views, values, and preferences are environmental or based on personality or unique personal experiences, sometimes we can change if we want to and work at it,) but it is interesting to see that we are *truly* wired differently. It also goes to show that you can’t always change people— sometimes, it just comes down to biology and how we were each created. 💜

After posting the above status on Facebook, it led to more conversation, so I’ll share those threads here, edited for clarity or cohesion, as well as the source material:

The TLDR is primarily variations in the amygdala and how we perceive threats & process fear. Conservative brains have larger amygdalas and are more likely to act out of fear or in response to perceived threats, and are also more likely to view new things as threats. Liberal brains have smaller amygdalas but larger emotion processing and empathy. They are more likely to be accepting of change and other people outside of their immediate circle. 

Both brains show capacity for large levels of compassion, but, to whom that compassion extends will differ: those with conservative brains will have compassion towards themselves and their kids and maybe immediate family — the less ‘close’ a person is, the less compassion they will receive. A person with a liberal brain of course has self-compassion and large levels of compassion for their loved ones, but, they are more likely to also have compassion on a more general and global scale, for example, compassion for a stranger or a group of people even if they do not belong to that group. A person with a conservative brain is more likely to view strangers or acquaintances as “others” and a person with a liberal brain is more likely to view acquaintances or strangers as “us.” (A Biblical-and-biological anatomy would be that the conservative brain sees themself and their family as a finger but the liberal brain thinks about the whole hand, not just the fingers.) 

A good way to think of it is this: essentially, conservative brains are more wired for survival, stability, compassion for family and self, and avoiding threats; liberal brains are more wired for change, universal compassion beyond family and self, and processing nuance. A “liberal brain” is more likely to be attached to someone more open with feelings or affection, whereas a “conservative brain” is more likely to be attached to someone a little more guarded or closed-off. It also found liberals tend to appreciate art, beauty, and diversity of thought and circumstance more than conservatives, but that conservative brains value honor, religion, and tradition more than liberal counterparts.

Again, the conservative brain has a bigger amygdala (“The amygdala is commonly thought to form the core of a neural system for processing fearful and threatening stimuli, including detection of threat and activation of appropriate fear-related behaviors in response to threatening or dangerous stimuli,” whereas the liberal brain has more processing of emotional intelligence and empathy. So none of it is really about intelligence per se, just which group values what & which group is better at what! While international scientific studies and self-reporting indicate that those with a higher IQ tended to hold more liberal political views, being a conservative by no means indicates that someone is stupid. Less tolerant, maybe – but, again, that could come down to biology. (One study showed that liberals were more tolerant and kind towards conservative counterparts, than vice versa. BUT – and here’s something interesting — people with higher intelligence or higher levels of political savvy and sophistication are more likely to be ideologically intolerant towards less intelligent, less politically-sophisticated people than vice versa. Eek!) That all being said, I personally don’t think intelligence or education is the question so much as empathy and tolerance, to be honest. I know very smart and loving people from “both sides of the aisle,” and successful people from all walks of life, too.

Now, the question remains if these differences in the brain are what causes someone’s sociopolitical views and values, or are a result of those views and values. (Nature vs nurture.)

I use the phrases “conservative brain” and “liberal brain” or “person with a ____ brain,” because — and here’s another interesting part — depending on personality, education, and how they were raised, etc., a person with a brain that presents as conservative can identify politically as a liberal and vice versa (which, to me, indicates, we can overcome our ‘wiring’ for this type of thing if we so choose.)

Where I think this comes in handy is thinking about racism and racial bias: a conservative brain may possess more racist thoughts and ideations because they perceive others and ‘differences’ as a threat. A person (democrat or republican!) who has a more ‘conservative brain’ can  work to overcome and change this, to move past those tendencies towards fear-based racism or what some refer to as “othering.” So, as with mental illness, differences in brain structure are not an ‘excuse’ to be racist, or, to otherwise just be a selfish jerk. Haha.

Brain structure might not change too much BUT — the mind is a malleable thing!

If any of you are familiar with neuroplasticity, this is all really interesting to think of in terms of that & also fixed mindset vs. growth mindset — oftentimes people are “wired” for one or the other so I would be curious to see how that correlates to all these findings.
The one article says conservatives report being happier or more satisfied in life but only if life is the same as it always was, meaning not a lot of changes, new things, progress, or surprises (i.e. happier with the “status quo” and the “way things have always been done.”) They desire comfort, security, familiarity, tradition. Whereas liberals report less satisfaction possibly because they are more likely to have worries and concern about the world or our society as a whole/outside their household. But, they are often able to overcome that because as a whole (and this is just based on studies) they are also more likely to easily adapt to and accept progress and change.
It is fascinating! As with most thing,s a combo or a happy medium is probably the best. Too bad we generally have no say in how our brains operate lol.
I think it’s cool how brain scans can show what regions of the brain are most active and how different shapes or sizing of different parts of the brain can play a role in personality, emotion, and even how we view the world, for better or for worse. (Of course there’s a lot of other factors at play though than just physiology of the brain.)

It’s so difficult when things that people say, do, or post make us uncomfortable or hurt us, but it *is* helpful to remember that that may not be their intention, that we literally perceive life and the world in a different way, and we’re all just wired differently! But it is very empowering to know that we can work to overcome our wiring and break those cycles if we so wish!  


If you need a break from these heavy topics, take a peek at my recent beauty & wellness product guide, videos of my bird talking and playing basketball, some #FreeBritney drama (heavy in its own way), and/or stay tuned for my next blog post about MUSIC!!!!!!

Some Sources I Referenced

(Y’all Know I Love to Fact-Check!! w00t!)

Political Orientations Correlated with Brain Structure 

Liberals Tend to be More Empathetic than Conservatives Says New Scientific Research

Key Psychological Differences Can Determine if You’re a Liberal or Conservative 

Conservative and Liberal Brains Might Have Some Key Differences 

Psychological Differences and the Political Atlas of the World 

Ideological and Intellectual Intolerance: Study

White parents teach their kids to be colorblind; here’s why that’s bad for everyone.

Psychology Today: Colorblind Ideology and Racism

Understanding White Privilege Through Everyday Examples 

What Is White Privilege?

White Privilege Memes & Graphics 

Mental Health Stigma 

Toxic Masculinity and Men’s Mental Health

Harvard Implicit Bias Test


(*Did you know? You’re reading my personal blog. To view the home page of my main website, navigate from the menu above or click here.)

The Art of Procrastinating

I don’t intentionally procrastinate, but … it does happen. A lot.

I’m off work today as a part of a staycation that began on Friday. In addition to our little getaway to Seven Springs Mountain Resort, my goal was to get some ‘housekeeping’ stuff done with my websites and other things relating to my writing and ‘side hustles’ outside of my full-time day job. The primary focus was to be on doing some edits/rewriters for an upper-YA fiction novel I wrote, like, three years ago, and, to keep on writing the first draft of another fiction book I have in the works.

I’ve done everything but. I’ve cleaned and organized my home office. I did a 30-minute Instagram Live where I mostly talked about #FreeBritney. I added custom covers to all of my IG Story Highlights. I updated my Arthritis Ashley blog, and this website. I worked on PR for Buffalo Bill’s House. (!)

I scheduled doctor’s appointments. I put in some hours with my current diamond painting work-in-progress. I actively avoided exercise. I tended to my ever-growing collection of houseplants.

I made docs and spreadsheets — boy, did I ever! I have a “Notes” doc for each of 4 books that I’m either currently working on or daydreaming about. I updated a spreadsheet with 20+ past and present book ideas. I, for no reason at all, created a spreadsheet with ALL of my DNA & genealogy testing results: Everlywell, Orig3n, 23andMe, Ancestry, you name it! I have a doc solely devoted to notes and research for an eventual podcast.

I got stuff together for our taxes. I uploaded birdwatching photos to my desktop computer. I updated the software on my laptop. I donated books and clothes and practiced my guitar. I wrote and sent out Valentine’s cards to friends and family. I did stuff for my part-time contract gig with Healthline.

I am currently writing this blog.

And lots more that I’m likely forgetting.


The answer? No.

Yes – the main purpose of me taking 3 days off work was, in fact, to work on my books.

I just didn’t. Not yet.

It’s only 1:30 on Tuesday. I don’t have to be back at work until 8am tomorrow, or, if I want, as late as noon tomorrow. So — there’s still plenty of time to get in some edits and/or some writing.

I just feel overwhelmed, and as per usual, I’m psyching myself out. For example, I had been putting off organizing our hallway linen closet for 2 years. I did it the other day; it took 20 minutes. All that procrastination and stressing over it because it felt like some big, daunting task and … it was super-easy, super-quick, and I felt a LOT better after getting it done.

I need to continually recall that experience, and actually learn something from it, and then apply it to my writing.

One one hand, getting alllll of those mostly-unrelated things done clears up some mental space and clutter for me to focus on my books (outside of working hours) from here on out. So, it’s good — getting all of that done in recent days has given me some extra bandwidth, which is a plus.

But, on the other hand, I can feel the self-sabotage kicking in. The thought distortions. “It’s too late now. I may as well binge-watch something on Netflix. Or take a nap.”

I just have to remind myself that something is better than nothing. If I can even get a few pages in or a few chapters edited, it’s farther along than I was a day or a week or even a month ago. And, in the world of writing, that is something.

People don’t often realize how much is involved in being a novelist and getting books published. If you’re like me and live with some anxiety… and low self-esteem/confidence…and imposter syndrome… and some obsessive tendencies, it’s even harder!

You have to write the thing. Then you have to whittle the thing down. Then you have to get an editor. Then you have to, like, actually DO all the edits, which often takes longer than the writing. My upper-YA novel was completed a couple of years ago. It was nearly 140,000 words which is fairly ridiculous for any novel that isn’t sci-fi/fantasy … and, especially ridiculous for YA. I needed – and still need – to get it down to closer in the 60,000-80,000-word range. That’s on top of some major rewrites and edits that I need to complete. Then, I’ll likely need an editor to look at it again. This will be the … 3rd? 4th? time an editor has taken a peek. Then… maybe some more edits. Finally, I have to put together a query letter and begin pitching agents.

That will mostly result in rejection.

But — if there’s even a slight chance I get picked up by an agent, and said agent gets my book picked up by a publisher, then … yay! All of the torment was worth it. Probably. And, if not … there’s always self-publishing.

Yet, here I am, still procrastinating, because all of that just seems too daunting. At least, I’m in my home office right now, instead of, say, in my sunroom diamond painting and watching a true crime documentary like I was an hour ago.

I’m listening to Vitamin String Quartet, surrounded by some of my healing crystals, all-things-Rae-Dunn, a Kyle Skin candle that smells like beautiful gardenia (and please don’t judge because Kylie Jenner makeup and skincare — and, apparently, candles – is all pretty amazing), my space heater, and piles and piles of books.

I’m cozy. I’m wearing Crocs. My dogs are being quiet. (My parrot, not so much.) I have a Starbucks chai tea latte in a Jonathan Van Ness mug on a coaster with a quote from Shakespeare. Watercolor portraits of some of my favs look on: Gavin Rossdale, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Freddy Mercury.

It’s time to write.

Wish me luck, and have a great day.


(*Did you know? You’re reading my personal blog. To view the home page of my main website, navigate from the menu above or click here.)

I’m Not a Cat.

The title of this blog is a fleeting Internet reference that may or may not be relevant in coming days, weeks, months, or years. But, that’s okay, because it’s based on something that made me laugh out loud, for real!

Anyway — hi.

It’s me. I’m here live. I — I’m not a cat.

I am, however, blogging for the first time in, quite literally, years.

I don’t know what exactly this space will be, but, I suspect it will be where my rants and ramblings live, instead of within lengthy Instagram and Facebook captions.

Eventually, I want to start blogging more regularly … and may even start a podcast!

For now, I just wanted to say hi and ‘reintroduce’ myself.

So, sign up for my newsletter, follow me on Instagram, connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook, and I’ll be chatting with you soon! You can learn more random stuff about me here.

(*Did you know? You’re reading my personal blog. To view the home page of my main website, navigate from the menu above or click here.)