How to Build a Survivor

Lyssa had tried everything. She’d worn manufactured composure underneath carefully applied makeup. She’d shoved terrifying memories down as soon as they sprung up. She’d tried to quiet even more terrifying thoughts with drugs. But they just waited for her until she sobered up. She’d tried to reclaim her sexuality with sex.

She thought she’d had it beat when it seemed she could control her life by controlling what she put in and how much. Who she let in and how much.

Now there was just her, living in what was left of the body that hadn’t wasted away yet.

The nurse’s words hung in the air long after the she had left the room. “You have a choice, girl. Live or die. That’s all you got. That’s all any of us got. Which one you gonna choose?”

Good question.

For anyone who’s been through It, whatever that It is for you—the It that brought you to your knees, there may be a person, a sentence or a song that helped you out of the mucky place you’d sunk into and gave you the strength to move just a couple inches out of it. The courage to imagine life outside of the muck.

If there is, share it. If not here in the comments section, then with someone you know who is living in her own It. Someone who can benefit from your story.

Because that’s how survivors are built. One shared story at a time. One encouraging word at a time. One hug at a time.

And in between the stories, words and hugs, there are songs that touch the heart and ignite the inner fire in a way nothing but music can.

Here are a few. They’re all by women who have stories of their own to share. You won’t find Eye of the Tiger here. This post celebrates beautiful women who celebrate survival their own way—with strength borne from personal experience and the courage it took to face down their own demons.

The Climb by Miley Cyrus

Courage – Celine Dion

Prayin’ by Kesha

Roar by Katy Perry

Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne

You Say Lauren Daigle

I Will Survive Gloria Gaynor

Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys

Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

Stronger by Kelly Clarkson

Fight Song by Rachel Platten

Have your own go-to song or survival story? Share it below.

We Don’t Care What You Have to Say. Just Shut Up and Play

Eric Clapton’s been in the hot seat for a couple of months now for defending anti-vaxxers in word and song. He’s not the first, and he probably won’t be the last, to feel the heat for entering the political arena with just a few words.

Regardless of which side of the COVID mask you prefer, this latest musician-meets-political debacle begs the question, do those with influence bestowed upon them have the privilege of sharing their political beliefs with the public or, should they, as athletes have been told, just shut up and play?

The musicians I mention below are FAR from the only ones who could be included in this post. So, please add your opinion below to add to the fabric of the conversation.

The Reluctant Troubadour?

Although Bob Dylan never shared his political views publicly, critics, media, and fans assumed his early music reflected his viewpoints and claimed songs like Blowin’ in the Wind, Masters of War and Talkin’ World War III Blues as their own critical commentary on social inequality and war.

Yet Dylan once said, “I define nothing. Not beauty, not patriotism. I take each thing as it is, without prior rules about what it should be.”

Maybe that’s why he chucked his acoustic guitar and solo career for an electric one in a band?

Regardless of which side of the COVID mask you prefer, this latest musician-meets-political debacle begs the question, do those with influence bestowed upon them have the privilege of sharing their political beliefs with the public or, should they, as athletes have been told, just shut up and play?

A More Global Approach

John Lennon and Yoko Ono took to bed, bags and acorns to plant seeds of peace, love, and social equality.

Their memorable Amsterdam bed-in on the couple’s honeymoon was expected to be racier than it was. The press expected live pornography but got pajamas instead. But the six days of press coverage while they languished under peace signs on the wall above their bed got their point across.

They followed that up with a press conference in Vienna wearing a full-body bag (not to be confused with a Law and Order body bag—their heads were sticking out).

They also sent bags of acorns to heads of state around the world to encourage them to plant trees as a sign of peace.

While the Establishment panned the couple’s efforts and Nixon tried to deport them, the kids dug it and continued their own protests until they arguably convinced the government to end the Vietnam War.

John remains a cultural icon.

Renegade Chicks in a Caustic Henhouse

It was the statement heard round the world.

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

After it left vocalist Natalie Maines’ mouth during a London concert nine days before the Iraq War launched in 2003, the Dixie Chicks’ stratospheric trajectory plummeted. The band got death threats, were dropped from radio playlists and lost fans and sponsors. Maines apologized—twice—saying her comment had been disrespectful, nobody wanted to hear it. Bush blithely accepted the second one.

Three years later, the band rose unapologetic. They released Not Ready to Make Nice, telling their side of the story.

They racked up seven Grammy awards.

In 2016, the NYT quoted Maines. “I look at how much more polarized and intolerant people have become now. With social media, opinions all start becoming noise, but at that point, people weren’t really supposed to have an opinion.” Her bandmate Emily Strayer said that the controversy “feels like another lifetime to me, it doesn’t even feel real—our country’s changed, we’ve changed, the fans definitely have.”

There are probably as many backlash stories as there are protest songs. But thank God that, at least for the time being, we have the right to speak out or sing out, whether others agree with us or not.

Do we have the maturity to listen with respect?

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Despite Myself

“Anthing that’s really great is gonna cost you, and you’re gonna have to fight for it. And the more you fight, the better it’s gonna be.”    Carla Morrison, from an NPR interview with Rachel Martin.

Meet Carla Morrison. I Just Did. And Now I’m in Love.

I admit that, for better or worse, this post started out as a way to connect my project to Hispanic Heritage Month 2021. My protagonist Lyssa Gabriel is of hispanic heritage. She lives with her Cuban grandmother after her White mother abandons her. Despite my arguably nefarious intent, my research uncovered a gem I’ll value long after this post or my book are forgotten.

I discovered a Latina artist named Carla Morrison, and now I’m a fan. Carla is a three-time Grammy winner with two Grammy nominations and three studio albums. Latin beats have always stirred my core, but Carla’s music stirs my soul. Her themes about relationship highs and lows and self discovery along the way resonate, not only from a personal perspective, but from an artistic one. I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit.

Latina Women Overcoming Obstacles

My protagonist, like Carla, is a musical artist. Lyssa struggles with inner voices that tell her she doesn’t belong, doesn’t deserve and is intrinsically worthless anyway in a mid-20th century culture that promoted that kind of thinking toward people of color. These feelings intensify after an horrific rape and it’s very public aftermath, turning up the volume on those self-sabotaging whispers to a screaming pitch.

Now, Carla hasn’t, thank God, had to go down a road nearly as rough as my protagonist. (A novel must have higher stakes.) But her music indicates that she has heard the same whispers.

Shunning any ugly inner dialogue, Carla’s strength refuses to play by the rules the music business or society set up long ago.

She protects her songs from labels that would make them unrecognizable to her. She embraces her full figure, which American culture still punishes, and her tatoos, for which her Mexican culture judges harshly when worn on a woman.


Survival Is Universal

Carla did suffer a mild breakdown after years of relentless work and touring, but was smart enough to take a break before she ended up on the floor in the fetal position. And that break lasted for as long as it needed to. She listened to her heart. Not some handler. And she emerged triumphant.

Carla shares her experiences using lyrics every bit as raw as the experiences themselves. Not to prostitute them in the music marketplace, but with a sincere open heartedness that allows other people to identify with them. She makes it okay to be vulnerable enough to face the unfaceable. 

Carla simply rocks. And I love her for it. I would like to think Lyssa would, too.

6 Songs for Both Sides of the Unrequited Love Equation

Lyssa lay on the floor, broken. Only this time, it wasn’t her body that was bloodied. It was her heart. And this time Adam wasn’t there to soothe her wounds. Although arguably innocent, he held the blade that sliced into her soul. And no amount of begging could stop the bleeding.

If you asked Adam about their breakup, he would say his heart was broken, too. He just wanted to keep it from fracturing any further. His life with an increasingly mercurial Lyssa had spun out, beyond his grasp. It was leave or end up doing something he’d regret.

Raise your hand if any of this resonates.

Yep. If you have a heart, it’s probably been broken before. That’s most likely why songs about unrequited love outsell those about happily ever after. Great art, like great growth, comes from pain. They’re axioms.

Songs for the Broken Hearted Left Behind

Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me If You Don’t is a primer guide to what succumbing to unrequited love feels like. You could listen to the music without the words and still feel the emptiness in the chords coming from the piano keys.

Sam Smith’s Not in that Way is another that starkly lays out unrequited love pain. His voice paints pain as artfully as Monet illustrates a day in the park.

How could we discuss unrequited love songs without Taylor? Teardrops on My Guitar is a classic song from a classic breakup songstress.

Songs for the Guilt-Ridden Heartbreakers

Apologize, by Timbaland, tells it from the other side. Adam could probably relate to this person who’s tried everything but just can’t.

And…Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by yes, John Mayer, Top 10 Hollywood heartbreaker. But don’t judge the song by the singer. Just listen to the words. If you’re the one walking out, this one may resonate.

Lest this post appears sexist, let’s give a shout out to Carole King and It’s Too Late. This song’s been helping the walkers feel better since 1971.

Breaking up sucks. But it’s universal. So is music. Thank God we have it.

Do you have a song that got you through a bad breakup? Share it in the comments section.

In case you were wondering who Lyssa and Adam are…they’re the main characters in my novel.

A Reason to Believe

Adam grew up with an alcoholic uncle. His parents were dead, so it was just the two of them. He probably would have fared better if he’d lived in a more enlightened culture in another time. But he wasn’t that lucky. His was a small English village in the 1950s. 

It sucked to be Adam.

When he was old enough to leave England for the U.S., he joined a rock and roll band and its overindulgence in wet and dry goods. Adam didn’t mind. He and his bandmates were sharing the road to success during one of the most dynamic cultural rides of the 21st century – the 60s. He was a self-made man.

And then he met the love of his life, Lyssa. She came from a musical royalty, glittered with promise, and adored him as much as he idolized her.

It turns out she was dripping with demons, too, which reared up about a year into their relationship and roared like an uncontained forest fire, burning through everyone around her. But his love for her kept him at her side through shattering tantrums, suicide threats, night terrors, a gut-wrenching eating disorder.

It sucked to be Adam. But he put his faith in the power of love. 

A Reason to Believe

I thought about Adam when Rod Stewart’s cover of A Reason to Believe streamed through the speakers while I drove around town running errands. 

Someone like you makes it hard to live without 

Somebody else 

Someone like you makes it easy to give

And never think about myself

The song’s lyrics intrigue me. Always have. I’m never sure what Tim Hardin, its songwriter, was trying to say. Is the protagonist grateful, resentful, or resigned about being in the relationship? 

In Adam’s case, perhaps it’s all three. 

Some believe being in a dysfunctional relationship is better than none at all. And, of course, being neglected or outright abused—in his case emotionally—would cause even the most codependent person to resent the perpetrator. And, if Adam’s fear of being alone is strong enough, he could resign himself to living with the dysfunction and just having to deal with or repress the resentment, believing love will beat whatever comes their way.

But Is It Love or Codependency?

Codependency has become so much a part of our cultural lexicon, it’s hard to know anymore who is and isn’t codependent. And all the diagnostic nonsense associated with it is beyond the scope of this post, anyway. 

There is no doubt Adam loves Lyssa fiercely. But aren’t there limits? How could a self-made man who had the sense to leave the alcoholic who raised him at his first opportunity willingly allow himself to be swallowed whole by another human being? Can love conquer all? Or is he in a cycle he can’t—or refuses to—escape? 

Who knows? What I do know is that it sucks to be Adam. Perhaps Adam, and all of us who have found ourselves inside the belly of a beast, not of our own making, could use some gobbledygook.

Wake Me Up

to the power of grAttitude

I remember when I was a morose teenager I’d watch my retired grandmother living her best life and think, “I wish I could just skip to where she is.” Meaning, I wish I could bypass all the hard work and life lessons and just coast until the end. I’m reminded of that time and mindset every time I hear Avicii’s Wake Me Up and its chorus:

Wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older  

Thankfully, the next two verses remind me of how far I’ve come since then:

All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost.

The Avicii Code

I saw a Google Doodle celebrating what would have been Swedish DJ Avicii’s (aka Tim Bergling) 32nd birthday. Unfortunately, he died a few years ago from mental illness-fueled addiction.

In researching this post, I checked out one of the videos for the song. The one I chose features a young woman longing to escape her current reality for something better. Full of hope, she rides a horse across a vineyard, into a city and among a crowd at an Avicii concert, where she finally finds her bliss.

Ignorant of the Avicii culture, I couldn’t figure out why everyone in the video had double-arrow tattoos on their arms. So I looked it up. Turns out Bergling chose the design to represent “lowest levels of Buddhist hell”, or Avīci in Buddhist culture. What I love about its symbolism is that it is believed that the condemned can escape Buddhist hell through enlightenment.

So what sets the people who come through the horrifying with hope, faith and contentment from those who don’t get back up?

What Enlightenment?

If I had a definitive answer, I’d be bald and wearing an orange toga. I can only share my personal journey toward it. And I’m by no means there. I’m just willing put one foot in front of the other one day at a time.

I didn’t ask for the tough times I feared watching my grandmother serenely sipping her afternoon wine. I resented them. I cursed them. I cursed those who I believed were responsible for them. I had no idea how responsible I was for many of those rollercoaster rides.

Now hear me out. There are plenty of people who have gone through plenty of horrific things with no choice but to endure them. Things I couldn’t begin to imagine living through. Some survive mentally and emotionally. Others don’t. Many don’t survive at all.

So what sets the people who come through the horrifying with hope, faith and contentment from those who don’t get back up?

I’d argue attitude and gratitude (grAttitude). I’ve had both a shitty attitude and a shiny one; I’ve cursed and I’ve blessed. And I’m telling you that a great attitude and humble gratitude generate hope and happiness–with a good dose of expectation for even better in the future.

The Universe just seems to reward positive energy. Isn’t it some axiom that says like attracts like? I think I remember reading that somewhere. So it makes sense that positive attracts positive and negative attracts negative, right?

Those very hardships I dreaded as a teen have shaped me into a person I can be proud of today. I wouldn’t have traded one minute of my journey for what I have now. Today I truly Wish that I could stay forever this young and I’m Not afraid to close my eyes because I have no longer have regrets.

Once I discovered the power grAttitude, I certainly woke up. And started living.

If you’re struggling to get back up from mental illness and/or drug addiction or alcoholism, don’t try to go it alone. Ask for help. Here are some resources:

Speaking of life lessons and hardships, I’m working on a novel that follows a young girl’s own redemptive journey. Here’s a teaser:

It’s Only Words

Or is it?

My husband and I have very different takes on music. He pays absolutely no attention to the lyrics. I, on the other hand, am all about the lyrics. It’s the words that draw me into a song. And it’s the message those words form that keep me connected to the song long after it fades away from the mainstream.

As a defenseless romantic, I’m a sucker for melancholy songs. And the song Words by the Brothers Gibb is one of my go-to’s when I’m feeling sad and lonely.

Words is short on words but dynamic in meaning. No surprise. The Bee Gees are legendary musical storytellers.

One of my current projects takes place in the midst of the late 1960s music scene. So it correlates that I chose this song to write about. It was written in 1967.

And when I was a moody tween, I listened to this song over and over again. My parents didn’t get me (of course), so I fantasized that he was singing that song just for me. And, if you check out the YouTube video below, it doesn’t hurt that Barry Gibb was sizzling back in the day. So my hunch is that there are plenty of female Bee Gees fans out there who yearned with the same ache when Words came on the radio.

Words is short on words but dynamic in meaning.. No surprise. The Bee Gees are legendary musical storytellers. Two of them have passed on. But their musical messages continue to resonate.


For this listener, the words in the song create a portrait of what soulmate connection looks like. And not necessarily in the romantic sense. It could just as easily be about magnetic connection between parent and child, sibling and sibling, or between two friends:

Smile, an everlasting smile, a smile can bring you near to me.

Don’t ever let me find you down, ‘cause that would bring a tear to me.

Right now, there’ll be no other time, and I can show you how, my love.

Talk in everlasting words, and dedicate them all to me.

And I will give you all my life,

I’m here if you should call on me.

You think that I don’t even mean, a single word I say.

It’s only words.

And words are all I have

To take your heart away.

copyright Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb

According to Barry Gibb in VH1 Storytellers, it was written for Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood. Barry’s brother Robin said the song was written after an argument he described as “about nothing”—“only words.”

That may be true. But for some of us, those meaningless words pack a powerful punch. Maybe that’s why Words continues to resonate. It’s been covered in the U.S. by everyone from Rita Coolidge, Glen Campbell and Engelbert Humperdinck to Roy Orbison, Shawn Colvin and Elvis. International covers include artists Sweden’s Lill Lindfors, Italy’s Loredana Maiuri and Ireland’s Daniel O’Donnell and Boyzone to England’s Cliff Richard and Cilla Black. Barry Gibb and Dolly Parton revised it in duet this past January. And who can forget Andy Gibb‘s cover?

At any rate, thank you, Brothers Gibb, for your music and the messages it carried.


I’m currently working on a novel. (I know, isn’t every blogger?) Here’s a little bit about it:

Follow Missy.

Lights Out, Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts died today. It’s sad when a member of a rock royal family dies. It’s another reminder that some of us are closer to remembering history (if we’re able) than making it.

I didn’t get to my first Stones concert until I was 27 years old. It was their 1994 Voodoo Lounge tour. But I am immensely thankful I did. I’m a 60’s girl. Not in the miniskirt way. I was too late for that. But I was born in ’67 and my heart never left.

At the concert, I admit my binocular-clad eyes had a hard time drifting away from dynamo Mick and his slouching sidekick Keith. But when Keith turned to the drum kit to check in, I followed. I just wish I’d better appreciated the master working behind it. The more I read about Mr. Watts, the bigger the picture emerges of not only a gifted artist, but a remarkable man.

Obits and memorial pieces fill airwaves and cram cyberspace as I write this. Rolling Stone magazine quotes a 2012 review of a Rolling Stones concert [that] reads in part: “For all of Mick and Keith’s supremacy, there’s no question that the heart of this band is and will always be Watts: At 71, his whipcrack snare and preternatural sense of swing drive the songs with peerless authority, and define the contradictory uptight-laid-back-ness that’s at the heart of the Stones’ rhythm.” Watts was never a flashy drummer, but driving the beat for “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” for a two-hour set — in a stadium, no less — is an act of great physical endurance that Watts performed until he was 78.”


Aside from keeping the Stones’ iconic beat steady for more than fifty years, Charlie survived throat cancer, kicked a heroin habit and remained faithful to the same woman, his wife Shirley Ann Shepherd, for 57 years. He’s also survived by his daughter, Seraphina, and granddaughter Charlotte.

It seems Charlie lived a life steeped in satisfaction. He will definitely be missed.

Follow Missy.


I’m currently working on a novel. (I know, isn’t every blogger?) Here’s a little bit about it:

Surrender the Yips

When Simone Biles left the floor at the 2020 Summer Olympics with a case of the twisties, my own heart twisted like a wrung washcloth. I know that helpless feeling.  I also know from experience that trying to control the yips by force is like trying to hold down a wet cat to take a stool sample.

Yips, or twisties in gymnastics-ese, is technically defined as an athlete’s loss of ability to perform a skill that used to come easily. Think of an all-star hitter suffering through a painful summer of swings and misses or a pro golfer chasing the ball around a simple putt.

I would argue that yips aren’t just for athletes. I’ve spent more than a few moments with my own case of them. Early in my career, despite my history of A-game triumphs, my confidence suddenly crashed. For no good reason. At first, I denied it, tried working above it and overcompensated by bluffing. But things unraveled anyway. I began getting lesser work assignments. I looked at everyone around me as a threat. I recoiled into my cubicle. I blamed my mother. I cried in the bathroom stall with my head between my knees. I had no idea what to do to keep from freefalling.

So, I let go.

Just sharing my suffering out loud seemed to send my yips scurrying like roaches in a spotlight.

I admitted to myself that 1. Something was happening. This wasn’t my imagination. 2. Sheer will was powerless over it. 3. I had to come clean.

So, I talked to my boss. Surprisingly, she had her own yips yarn to share. And she thanked me for admitting to what she had already suspected. But instead of chastising me for my poor work performance, she encouraged me to hold on for better. She knew my yips didn’t define me.

Just sharing my suffering out loud seemed to send my yips scurrying like roaches in a spotlight. Having someone listen and empathize gave me hope. I left her office feeling stronger. It wasn’t long before I was back in the flow.

This lesson in letting go extends to other areas of my life. My need to control others has diminished, which makes everyone’s lives easier. I’ve realized that others have their own path, and it’s not mine. Surrender has made me a better parent, spouse and co-worker. Even my neighbors come out and say hi instead of scurrying into their house to avoid my mentioning for the fortieth time in as many days the hedge on their side of the property that needs trimming. The job got done. Eventually.

Do I still get the yips? Of course. They just don’t last as long because I know the remedy. I pry my fingernails from the surface of my insecurity and let go. I may not always stick the landing, but I always land where I’m supposed to land.

If you think you’re immune to the yips, think again. Like COVID, they don’t discriminate. They don’t care who you are, how much money you make or what team you root for. But yips are little cowards once exposed to the light. You just need to shine on and let ‘em run. Because they will.


I’m currently working on a novel. (I know, isn’t every blogger?) Here’s a little bit about it:

%d bloggers like this: