Friday, September 15, 2017

Dancing in Gray

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: piano, swap, square dance, pardon, self-improvement
They were submitted by: 


Unless you're new to Climaxed or my life in general it won't come as a shock that I've spent 10+ years writing inmates. I started in 2007 diving headfirst into it with a death row inmate who claimed innocence and had spent more than half his lifetime behind bars. It wasn't an easy start; it hasn't been an easy friendship, and it started me on a path volunteering my time that I never really thought I would be on...

Since the first letter was sealed and mailed, I've written a couple dozen people and have managed to help them, legally or emotionally, in whatever way I can manage. Unfortunately what I can manage isn't always enough to save lives from a capital punishment system I passionately disagree with.

It wasn't always that way for me, that passionate disagreement. When I first wrote, I had been a supporter of harsh prison terms and capital punishment. Still reeling from someone I loved dearly being murdered at just 20 years old a few years before this, it was a shock to my system to be introduced in letters to a rather normal guy hellbent on self-improvement, insisting on his innocence, and who had a tragic backstory that would rival those in Lifetime movie specials. I expected a villian, a Black Hat sort of fellow, who would confirm my belief in monsters.

I had a lot of self-improvement and growing up to do myself.

I had to learn and have learned through writing that the world isn't black or white, good or evil. You can be good and still do an evil thing under specific circumstances. You can be good and be at the wrong place at the wrong time and get sentenced for life without parole for a murder committed while you slept, completely unaware. You can be convicted and sentenced for a murder that never even happened wholly undeserving of that sentence but not be by any means what the average person would define as "good." I've met all those people in my time writing. I've pushed for media attention on a case that ultimately got overturned through the efforts of a high-powered probono law firm, and a man waiting to die for a crime that was never committed got to go home to his family. I've helped get a sentence commutation on a felony murder case that started out as life without and ended (so far) with 25 years. And I've written and befriended 3 people who were varying mixes of good and evil who were killed already by the state with my long-time off and on pen pal facing an execution date again in October. There have been wins and losses over the last decade, but I don't know that they really balance each out. The wins never give back the time lost, and the losses...well...the losses are not easy for me. There is such a mixture of emotion facing each one knowing even if the person gets a stay, he'll never get a pardon. 99% of the time this legal square dance will end in state-sanctioned murder, and while I'd never swap my life for theirs or (in most cases) support anything but a lengthy prison term, I still grieve. I still miss them. I still carry a little part of them with me. And I rage about the sociopolitical landscape we live in that demonizes mental illness and addiction and values the dollar over vulnerable populations.

If monsters do exist, we create them.

The morality of this, my writing letters, can also be difficult. I absolutely understand in clear terms what was done or not done and the preciousness of lives lost. I don't *just* sympathize with those I write like some Mistress of Mayhem collecting Murderer edition baseball cards. It takes time and talking and learning about the person to be able to sort through and reconcile what they did with who they have become behind bars. Sometimes I help that process along. Sometimes I am the needed stability that fosters change. Sometimes they help me understand myself more than I help them. And sometimes, sadly, I have to admit it's a lost cause and move on.

Learning to play the piano might have been an easier pasttime than providing support to inmates. As I face this upcoming october execution with a mix of trepidation, grief, and relief tinged with guilt over that relief I'm left evaluating who I am and what I do once again. I'm still grieving from an execution in July and jaded over how badly a man with severe mental illness was failed and all the lives it cost including his own. And here I am again, unsure of what the next few weeks will bring.

Is it worth it?

Mostly that answer is yes. I feel like I am helping people that society has otherwise forgotten. I know the support I give is invaluable and leads to change. I've seen angry, racist misogynists turn it around. I've seen the levels of violence in a subculture that requires violent reactions almost completely stop. I've seen hope grow in a once barren field of fucks to give. It's work and love and understanding and empathy. And it's not all one sided. But there are times when the weight of it is absolutely too much to carry without wondering if I'm absolutely batshit crazy for pushing on. There are times when I think maybe I can't handle the dance anymore, so I stop the music, change the playlist, and find a new way to move.


Baking In A Tornado

Friday, September 8, 2017

You Want a Toe? I'll get you a toe...

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 10 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.
My secret subject is: Do you have an all-time favorite movie? One that you love no matter how many times you see it?

It was submitted by: Karen @ Baking In a Tornado. Her link and swap post can be found below my answer.


I don’t know that I can tout myself as a film critic, but I do love visual stories as much as written ones. I have a list of favorite directors whose movies I will always see even if they don’t quite make it onto my favorites lists. I have favorite genres, favorite films, and lists of films based on arbitrary qualities like favorite films to watch when I’m sick or Top 5 favorite movies about the workplace/drugs/music/etc.

I like quantifying things. I do it with music, television, and books. I have fun making these lists, categorizing stories in this way. It adds a bit of depth to reflect on one particular aspect and how it affects the overall story good or bad, what it says about humanity in general or just the characters in the tale.

With films, I find it difficult to step away and disconnect from the emotions on screen, so most of my favorites aren’t tearjerkers. I want to feel those emotions, I do, but if a movie makes me sob, chances are, I’m only going to watch it the once at most. Life is tragic enough for me without falling in love with characters that will be ripped from me over and over and over again. And I’m not at all a fan of romances either. Love doesn’t work out the way it does in the movies, and I think it skews people’s expectations of how relationships are supposed to go. I know what I like and what I don’t like pretty well. I quantify those loves and hates based on whatever reasons I feel like at the time. 

But do I have a Greatest Of All Time selection, a goat, if you will—a film that transcends everything that calls to me every time it’s on, whenever I’m in a dark place and need a pick me up?

You bet your ass I do.

from my living room
The Big Lebowski came out in 1998 and was my first introduction to the Coen Brothers and really the first movie I remember Jeff Bridges from. That’s just, like, your opinion, man was my whole thing back in those days, and The Dude’s way of life, his abide lifestyle, has been an influence on the zen part of me that gives no shits what people think of me. Walter and his no chill having ass is that part of me that absolutely goes nuts on people about politics. The movie is quotable and quirky with strange drug fueled cut scenes and an amazing cast of actors and actresses that I have always and will always admire. It’s perfection.

I don’t know that it’s the first movie that ever made me really understand what a film could be or mean, but it’s one of the first that fed the weirdest little part of me and become something obsession-worth. Pulp Fiction, Dazed and Confused, Where the Buffalo Roam/Fear and Loathing, Snatch, Pan’s Labyrinth, THE Labyrinth, A Life Aquatic, High Fidelity, No Country for Old Men… they feed my inner weirdo with an artistic flair that can’t be matched, but it’s The Dude who hits just the right spot every time. It doesn't matter where or when I see it playing, I always want to watch it through and recite the lines along with the actors. And sometimes if I just need to get my Lebowski fix, I'll pop in the DVD because of course I own it.

I’ll leave off with a few top 5 lists though. The Dude may be a kindred spirit, but his is certainly not the only story I love.

Top 5 Favorite Directors
--the Coens, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Guy Ritchie, Tim Burton

Top 5 Favorite Sick Day movies

Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Home Alone, Elf, Scooby Doo on Zombie Island

Top 5 Will Ferrell Movies

Stepbrothers, Land of the Lost, Everything Must Go, Stranger Than Fiction, Elf (Superstar gets an honorable mention

Top 5 Bill Murray films
Rushmore, Ghostbusters, Kingpin, Broken Flowers, Groundhog Day

Top 5 dark and quirky

Beetlejuice, Addams Family, Rocky Horror, Young Frankenstein, The Nightmare Before Christmas

Top 5 80s Guilty Pleasures
Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Uncle Buck

And here is evidence of my film obsessions from my living room


Here are the links to the rest of this week's submissions:

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Never Ever Give Up Hope

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, August 11, 2017


Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

Camp ~ Heat ~ Dust ~ Chance ~ Mountain ~ Shopping

They were submitted by:


I have a chronic illness.

I've not really talked much about it publicly except a few mentions on facebook here and there, but the last year and a half has been tough physically following the year before being pretty tough mentally. I didn't quite expect my 30s to be so full of change. We're supposed to be more or less settled and maintaining by mid-adulthood, yeah? But I suppose that's the thing about life--rarely is it ever predictable.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a new lifetime partner of mine. There won't be a day when I'm without it, so living with it instead of in spite of it is a necessity. It started with a virus, something I mistook for a normal sinus infection. But I've had a year and a half of a constant fever, swollen glands, extreme joint and muscle pains and fatigue that words fail to describe. Some days I have to absolutely focus on breathing because I barely have the energy to do it.

What the fuck are you supposed to do when breathing is a chore?

I have yet to really figure out a rhythm. I overdo it some days, A LOT of days, and pay for it the next. I don't know how to admit I can't do something. It's never been in me to say "can't" when it comes to something I want done. I don't know how to redefine my parameters. I've always been the kind of person who had a million things going on each day rather than barely managing to dust and get the shopping done. Every activity, even basic shit like brushing my teeth, is a mountain to climb especially in the peak heat of the South Georgia summer. Mentally I know there are days when I should camp out on the couch or in bed. I know I need to take breaks. I know my energy level is limited in ways I don't even understand yet. But it's a constant battle not to succumb to depression from having to give up and let the cfs win more days than not.

Every day I wake up there's a chance my battery will already be at 5 or 10%. On my best days, it's at 50. I'm getting better at recognizing how good or bad it will be when I wake up--it's more the admitting I need a day to recuperate part that I struggle with especially since it's not easy to get people to understand that this is more than being tired. It's more than needing to rest. Rest doesn't help. It's a real and serious condition that I have enough trouble understanding myself. A little support would be nice and certainly goes a long way to helping me feel okay with the fact that this is my life now and forever.

Someone I absolutely adore with cfs herself sent me a spoon necklace recently. Spoon Theory (link here) is an attempt at explaining to others what it's like to have one of the extreme fatigue disorders, and it's one of the best explanations I have seen. Think of your energy levels in spoonfuls. A person without a fatigue disorder has an unlimited amount of spoons--a person without one can rest and recharge. A person with chronic fatigue syndrome, for example, may only wake up with 12 spoonfuls. Every activity uses up a spoon. Taking a shower, getting dressed for the day, making breakfast...each activity, even those that seem insignificant, takes a spoon from your total. How do you manage to do everything that needs done for the day? Every single action must be weighed in terms of importance, and anything outside of those 12 spoons for the day borrows from the next creating an endless cycle of depletion until a person barely has the energy to breathe.

Every life comes with battles and complications along with the good. I've faced my fair share of trials already and always managed to come out on top. I hope this newest battle won't be an exception to that norm. I may not always have the energy to complete everything I want to get done, but I make up for it in personal strength.

CFS won't be the thing that bests me.


Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

On the Border
The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, August 4, 2017

Perfect Mediocrity

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 11 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

If you were named a Nobel Peace Prize winner what would it be for?

It was submitted by:


I am perfectly aware that unless Nobel prizes are suddenly given out for mediocrity, I won't be winning one. That's not to say I have zero confidence in my ability to do things well. I have a pretty well rounded skillset and tend to do alright at anything I put my mind to except being a social creature. I know what I can do just as well as I know my limitations, and a Nobel prize just isn't in the cards for me nor would I want to taint its meaning by celebrating my lackluster performance in any of the given categories.

If you were to play gifted student burnout bingo, I would just about hit every square. All throughout school my dad pushed me ridiculously hard to make the grade. If I brought home a perfect score on a test, he said he would be proud when it was 110 instead of a 100. When, with bonus questions, I did bring home 110s, he wanted 120s. It set me on a path of pushing myself to make the grade, obsessing over it. I didn't make a B on a report card until 8th grade, never made a C, and graduated with honors. It took a toll on my motivation and sense of self. Other aspects of my personality took a backseat to me being a brainiac, and I ended up dropping out of college (even though i started college as a high school junior) a couple credits before earning my associate in criminal justice. Burnout was a big factor in that. Growing up poor was a big aspect of it too. College, for me, was never going to be about opportunities and growth and new friendships--it was always going to mean more work for someone already completely and thoroughly exhausted that never really got to be a kid and debt.

When my dad was on his deathbed, I enrolled again, though, pushing to prove myself even harder. Full time student, new mom, wife, full time employee--I tried to do it all. I pushed and pushed even while my marriage fell apart (from a lack of support from him mostly) and earned my bachelor's as a single mom. It wasn't easy, but women are out there doing it every day. I'm not special for doing what needed to be done, and I certainly don't need an award for it. I am able to look back clearly now and see how burying myself in books kept me too busy to be anxious about my world crumbling or to pay attention to the world at large. It was a coping mechanism not a heroic effort.

Im hindsight, when I started grad school, my heart was never in it. It was just something I knew people expected of me. For a person like myself that has rebeled against social expectations my entire life, that could never quite fit into any box much less a traditional one, I don't know why I forced it. I had an idea about being able to help inmates, but the voluntary work I do on that front is more than I could have ever accomplished working for the system that imprisons them. I thought maybe people would take me more seriously if I went the proper course, fought within the system.

People take you seriously, though, when you're genuine and true to who you are. Dressing it up to get a job or a paycheck or a partner is always going to be seen as phony because that's exactly what it is. And when i realized that, I knew I was done. Finally. I won't ever stop learning, but I don't need my brain to be worth 200 grand to realize I have something to add to the world. And I'm getting okay with letting go of the idea that a degree determines worth and that I don't have to be defined by what I get paid to do.

I won't ever accomplish anything remotely worthy of a Nobel prize. Even if there were a sudden category for bucking social norms some person named Moonwillow with facial implants who feeds their cat a vegan diet, has their pubic hair tattooed on, and makes money by popping balloons with their ass cheeks on a livestream would certainly have me beat. And I would gladly let them have it.

I've made and continue to make my mark on this world my own way. And that's enough.


Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

Simply Shannon

Southern Belle Charm

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, July 14, 2017

Past, Present, and Fiction

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: mudpie, sunshine, party, windchimes, wet. They were submitted by:


I feel lost more often than ever before these days.

Politics and social issues have been something I poured myself into even when things in my own life were overwhelming (as they often are), but what exactly are you supposed to do when you’ve been bowled over by both?

A lot of people in my generation, folks around their late 20s to late 30s, turn to nostalgia to get them through. I don’t mean we pine for the days of mudpies on sunshine-filled afternoons in a diaper and nothing else while Mom’s windchimes twinkle out their soothing tune in the warm breeze, but we do tend to bury ourselves in the pop culture fandoms of our youth or at least act like kids with pop culture obsessions. I do it just as well and as thoroughly as anyone else when I can, but that’s also becoming problematic. One part of the problem is I’m also the kind of person who has to be doing, producing, or bettering themselves or those around them or I tend to slip into depression. Fictional worlds have always been so much easier to navigate than the one we live in now, but there’s so much in me screaming to help change the world, to leave a mark, to make this reality a better one for my child that I have always been almost obsessive about sociopolitical issues trying to at least reach others via social media about the topics that affect others the most.

But that aspect of our nation, even though it has always been hugely flawed and in need of change, has become a circus. And I don’t mean that in the Obama’s-gonna-take-our-guns hyperbolic way. I mean it in the every-other-civilized-nation-on-the-planet-is-laughing-at-us kind of way. We’re divided as a nation. We always have been split more or less along party lines, and those lines tend to divide how we view a presidency and creates the kind of panic that occurs when a Democrat takes office and gun sales go up just in case someone, somewhere takes guns from the average Joe for reasons unknown and unclear. But now we have a situation where there are some who can’t roll with a changing world and want things to be more “simple” like when women were more or less property and minorities weren’t asking for the things they deserve while the rest of us are fighting to exist or fighting for the right for ALL people to have the same rights and a level playing field. That fight becomes exhausting. People get burned out even in better conditions, but the 2016 election cycle and the following ridiculousness has been hugely destructive for a lot of people’s mental well-being.

On top of that, fictional worlds have become too close to reality. Dystopian futures in films and books no longer look like impossible nightmares. Even make-believe hits too close to home for comfort. The Handmaid’s Tale is an all too terrifying peak into the way capitalism abuses those who can do for those who can pay as well as what “traditional values” defined by religion can do to wreck a society and turn it into a terrifying extreme. Idiocracy with its look at an America lacking intelligence, focusing on brands, pushing capitalism over EVERYTHING, and having a celebrity President is just far too close to reality for most people. Corporations pushing their products to “save” the world lead to its impending destruction while the government plays along. Isn’t that where we are? We haven’t reached a point where our individuality is exactly punished as in 1984, but that dystopian landscape is still a little too close for comfort with Fake News being paraded by the President as a valid response to any criticism and so many folks blindly following that. And while dystopian science fiction doesn’t represent the only fandoms in the fictional universe, there’s no escaping commentary that relates in some form or fashion to the world we do live in…

My own personal life is a daily struggle with a chronic disease that leaves me exhausted and compromises my immune system. Sick, beyond exhausted, and often in pain are how I navigate my days, and it’s really no easier for other folks. This generation and the one after it are finding day to day life more difficult than generations before even while technology works to make everyday tasks easier. What we’ve lost in physical work to do things has been more than recovered in the difficulty paying for student loans, inability to buy a home or even save for the future, and a shrinking job market of positions that will actually cover the bills and not leave families absolutely wrecked.

The headlines scream out everyday: Trump Is Incompetent, The GOP Can’t Pass a Bill, Men Are Afraid of Strong Women, Water Is Wet and all you’ll find in the comments are memes and BUTHEREMAILS.

So where does a person turn when fiction is too close to reality, reality is to disturbing to deal with, and personal lives are increasingly harder to navigate?

I don’t really know the answer, so I’m treading water and trying to keep afloat one day at a time. It certainly helps to have a great support network online and in real life, but there’s not a lot of realities, fiction or otherwise, that I and people like me can bury themselves in even partially to help recover from the hard times of the present and attempt to form a positive outlook for the future.

One day at a time, one moment at a time is the best we can do. For now, the little things like puppy slobber, learning to sew (and succeeding), wine with friends, late nights with my favorite person, hot coffee, and sundried sheets are welcome distractions.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

Sparkly Poetic Weirdo

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

Simply Shannon

Southern Belle Charm

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, July 7, 2017

Two Words

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 13 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

Mad because of toothpaste and toilet seat lids? Think again.

You are volunteering for a women’s charity. Today one lady tells you about her exhaustion and frustration. She feels all the housework, social activities and kids care are on her shoulders, and all her husband ever does is hang out on the couch, play with his phone and expect her to take care of everything. What are you telling her?

It was submitted by: 

oh boy was I the right person for this one 


I am fairly certain if any woman comes to me describing a scenario in which their partner is pulling less than 50% of the labor, both physical and emotional, my brain will be in such a swirl of variations of the word fuck that I will at least be momentarily speechless trying to sort through to find just the right iteration for the extreme fuckery going down at their house

Two more words will probably filter through the f bombs.

Dump. Him.

To me, nothing else really needs to be said, but it’s a much more complex issue than those two words make it seem.

For the longest time, marriage was more or less a business arrangement. Wealthier people arranged marriages that benefited each family. Kings and queens rarely loved one another taking a spouse that would create a needed relationship with another kingdom/country or arranging marriages for their children which would do the same. Average folks needed one person to work and one person to tend to the home and children, and in the vast majority of societies, the responsibilities were split with men working outside farming, or, after industrialization, outside the home and women tending the home. It made sense with women needing time to recover after children and being responsible for breastfeeding children. Women’s labor was never as valued as men’s nor were women treated as equals. But that proved to be a mistake in wars that sent increasing numbers of men off to fight and in need of a larger labor force to supply demand for both soldiers abroad and civilians at home. It was women that worked the factories to meet those needs—the same women still at home taking care of everything that needed doing. Women have fought for the right to vote, the right to own property and work, to study whatever they chose wherever they chose to do it, to exist in this world as more than homemakers and objects to be owned and used. The idea of equality between genders has caused a lot of bloodshed with women powering through anyway knowing how worthy we were of those rights.

We’re still fighting for the ability to exist in spaces without being paid less, to get where we need to go without being hounded on the street, to be believed instead of seen as hysterical, to be partners not caretakers for our partners, and to be appreciated for everything we do, and this situation is still far too common in families today. Women are doing 40% more of the household chores, are less likely to be able to engage in sports or hobbies on any given day, and spend twice as much time physically caring for children on any given day. And, at least in American, most people still feel like that’s the way it should be regardless of who works and how much. Even if both partners are working full time, even though more and more women are the breadwinners for their families, people still generally believe that chores, children, and emotional labor belongs almost solely to women. But why?

Splitting household chores is one of the top factors in whether a couple rates their marriage or relationship a happy one or not. Top 3. More than half of people rate splitting chores as very important to succeeding in a relationship. The less balance there is when it comes to responsibilities the more problematic a person might rate their marriage.

Women run households. They make budgets, plan meals, notice the things the family needs, make schedules, learn, delegate. Women are almost always working to better their households or at least maintain them far more than their male counterparts *even when household chores are evenly split.

I would tell this woman that she does even more than either of them realize, and that if she wants her marriage to work long-term, if she can still envision her happily ever after with this person through the haze of resentment and stress this imbalance has caused, then the first step is counseling. They’re in a pattern, a cycle of sorts. They’re locked in, and it won’t be easy to break through it without help to deconstruct the pattern and take out the parts that don’t work anymore. Simply delegating chores more often without discussing why they’re locked in this pattern in the first place could create more resentment on his side and is honestly where the “nag” trope comes in for women—asking repeatedly for the help they need while their male counterparts feel entitled to more free time and freedom from the workload.

I would absolutely tell her everything she is feeling is valid, that there is absolutely no reason why she should shoulder the brunt of the work while her husband lounges even if he is the sole income earner. Sure, that means the workload is trickier to evenly divide, but that division should still be equal. Child care should always be equal. The emotional, invisible labor should be equal.

And if he refuses counseling?

Boy, bye.

Fucking dump him.

Here are some resources on some of these issues:


Here are the rest of the submissions. Enjoy!

Baking In A Tornado

Cognitive Script

The Blogging 911

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

Simply Shannon

Southern Belle Charm

Never Ever Give Up Hope

The Angrivated Mom

Not That Sarah Michelle

Bookworm in the Kitchen

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Food and Life

All people are emotional eaters to some extent. We eat to celebrate new beginnings, to lament break ups, to get over one of the many hiccups of life. We bring food to families who have lost a loved one and eat together to rejoice in the coming birth of a little one. Dinners with new lovers, brunches with friends to relax on lazy Sundays, and power lunches with the boss to work on that ever increasing network are all par for the course for human beings, social creatures that we are. Even alone, we tie food to emotion. Late night Netflix-and-stress-eat sessions and binging to cure boredom are just as intricately woven into our relationships with food as our social eating. Food has come to represent a kaleidoscope of emotions, of life itself.

It’s no different for me. Candy is usually my go-to when I’m feeling a little down. A gummy bear has never let me down, and taffy is a close friend of mine. But comfort food is something else entirely. To need comfort is to be more than a little down. It’s not just a stressful day with the kids or a bad day on the job or a fight with a partner. To reach for comfort food is a bad week, a bad month, a bad year…it’s wanting to feel alive in a way that the day to day routine tends to dampen. When you reach for food in comfort, you want the combination of flavors on your tongue and the fullness of your belly to take you home, to let you time travel, or maybe to let you remember that life doesn’t have to be all aches and pains. Finding the goodness in the world isn’t ever as simple as eating a crab cake, but fuck if that crab cake doesn’t help remind you that in little moments life can be spectacular.

For me, it’s more than eating, though. To find comfort in food, it has to be something I get in the kitchen and make myself--a recipe of my own perfected over time or even something I’m trying for the first time that brings together just the right combination of textures and flavors. I love to cook, to create, to take an idea I’ve found online, in a show, or in a book and make it mine. Cheesecakes are my go-to dessert specialty, and I fucking excel at it. There’s absolutely no reason for me to even pretend to be modest about it either. Haha. But, those aren’t necessarily what I would consider comfort food. Something savory that is a little on the simple side and definitely has a more than healthy portion of carbs and cheese aligns more closely with what I would call comforting, and the first thing I think of when I hear the phrase or feel the need for something particular to soothe my rough spots is shepherd’s pie.

Typically sheperd’s pie is some kind of veggie mixed with ground beef and mashed potatoes. And when my mom fixed it for my brother and I as kids, it was ground beef, mashed potatoes, and cheese on top. But, of course, like everything else, I do things a little differently. We rarely eat beef around here, but it works with this recipe as does ground turkey or ground chicken if you prefer. The key is to use what you love when it comes to both the meat, the type of potato, and the style of cheese, but the goal is to create an umami bomb in your mouth which is what this recipe does 110%.

What you’ll need:

1 rotisserie chicken preferably garlic butter but any will work as will 2 lbs of ground beef, turkey, or chicken.

1 can cream of mushroom

About a cup and ½ of mushrooms (this can be skipped and still be delicious)

1 can of French onion soup

5 lb bag of red potatoes

1 block of extra sharp cheddar (adding some havarti to this is also so good and colby jack also makes a good sub)

2 cloves of garlic or a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic (what I use)

Onion powder


Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp butter

1 large can or 2 small cans of French style green beans (or any canned or frozen vegetable)

I have picky eaters at my house, but fresh onions and peppers are also a good addition if you don’t have to worry about that.

Milk, cream, or sour cream for mashing potatoes


Preheat oven to 350 F

To prepare, peel your potatoes and add them to a large pot of water. Add 2 chicken bouillon cubes to the water or use half and half broth and water. You can also add extra garlic to the water. Turn the potatoes on high heat and boil until basically falling apart.

Grate the entire block of cheese (or used shredded if that’s easier).

Add your butter to a large pan on medium heat. When pan is coated well, add mushrooms and garlic to sautee.

Before mushrooms are done add onion powder, rosemary, Worcestershire, salt and pepper to taste. Begin pulling chicken from bones and adding to the mushrooms. Add your green beans Sautee until mushrooms are done, the green beans are getting soft, and flavors are mixed well. If you’re using ground beef, turkey, or chicken you will need to strain the grease from the meat. With rotisserie chicken, this isn’t necessary. (if you are using fresh onions and peppers you would add them in this step)

Add the entire can of cream of mushroom (fat free can be used without affecting the flavor). Add French onion soup to taste (I add the whole thing) and turn heat down to low.

Mash your potatoes. I aways use butter and milk like my mom did, but this is a personal preference. Do whatever works for you. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Coat the bottom of a large clear glass pan with the chicken and vegetable mixture. Add a layer of potatoes on top of this.

Put the pan in the oven and heat until your potatoes are getting stiff. You don’t want them browning just yet, but close. It takes not quite 10 minutes in my oven, but I’m terrible about remembering to preheat and my oven is wonky. Everyone’s is different right?

Add your cheese and put it back in the oven until melted and enjoy.


This is part of Sunday Confessions hosted by the gorgeous More Than Cheese and Beer. Sunday Confessions is a weekly blog challenge. We get a simple prompt and each post our take on it on Sunday (or during the week if need be). There's no need to sign up early. Just join in the fun by linking up below! Thanks for reading. Oh and this week our prompt was Comfort Food.