Welcome! What's this human’s life like? Just like yours: too much to handle gracefully. Here you’ll find writing on the epic theme: What now? I post weekly-ish. Except when I don’t.



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What's In A Name?

Acrobat Monkey Paper Doll - Print Your Own!I’ve wanted to rename this blog for a long time. Shrink Unwrapped referenced my day job, which I’m not writing about here. Does being a shrink inform these posts enough to justify the title? Is being a shrink essential to who I am?

Who am I? I can’t seem to find the sweet spot answer. The Me That Knows says, What’s the dif? The Me That Craves keeps falling for cons conflating form with function. 

Being a psychiatrist is not neutral, like say, a librarian or plumber.  Along with the competence that results from life and death responsibility, the role carries a heady perfume of Answering The Call and Doing Good. I do valuable work; therefore, I am valuable. Very seductive. 

There’s the momentum of thirty years, my adulthood. 

The work is consuming. As residents working hundred-hour weeks, we joked: The longer you stay, the longer you stay. As if that would change when the residency ended.

The more you know, the more there is to know.  The more people you help, the more there are to help. To be a healer is to be given access to infinity. 

My mind wonders, Should I ground in that? Merge with that? My body shudders: Moth to flame! Danger! Danger! Guess not. 

Though I wish I could go deep in one thing for a lifetime, like Donald Westlake wrote or Georgia O’Keefe painted, it’s not my way. I am given to enthusiasms. Decades long enthusiasms. So I don’t flit. But I do keep adding. And with each addition, I ask anew: Is this It? Is this Me? 

Something in me remains persistently befuddled. Doctor: Who, me? Writer: Really? And just last week: “You’re a dancer!” I am?

This started in kindergarten. It’s the teacher’s fault. She handed me a sheet of paper and said, like she was giving me a present, “This is your name!” I got all excited. I decoded the squiggles into individual letters: D a n i e l a…??? Dismay swamped me. The letters floated blackly on the whiteness of the page. This is Me???

Before, my name and I were one. After, two. There was no going back. I became, for better and worse, self conscious.

Loss of innocence aside (It had to happen. Oh, well.), names are useful. As a symbol of a thing’s essence, names specify, speed and smooth social transactions. When picking up a pizza, going through airport security, or hearing Hubby bellow for me from outside the house, Daniela gets my attention far better than Hey You! And like clothes, names shield from weather, and drop hints about the values and agenda of the wearer.

Which brings me back to the blog rename. As a title, Shrink Unwrapped was dressy. I admit to a pang letting it go. But it would be easier to get up from the floor and dust off my butt wearing something loose and comfortable. So, for now, Plan Be. 

"Flowing water never stagnates, and the hinges of an active door never rust."   ~Confucius

PHOTO CREDIT: Dr. Ignatius M. Skinny


Ode to Reading And Six Book Reviews

So many books, so little time. Frank Zappa 

Summer, fall, winter, spring, the season makes no difference: I read daily year round. If anything, more in the winter, when short days, long nights and weather help push back the world’s demands.

When asked why he kept his home stocked floor to ceiling with cases of liquor, W.C. Fields said, “Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.” Substitute books for booze, and you’ve got me. 

But I have it better than Fields. Because a drink— no matter how good— is used up once drunk.

While a book, if it’s great, just begins to dish up its treats on first read.  Alas, great books are rare; that’s why they’re great. I hoard those, not to collect, but to re-read, again and again and again.

Which do I love more, the first read, or a re-read? Are they comparable? Does it even matter? There’s so much to love about reading. 

Click to read more ...


Dear ShrinkU

For Debbie: This is her fault. 

Want balanced advice from ShrinkU?  Too bad. You get lame jokes only. 


Dear ShrinkU, I woke up blue this morning. What should I do? Yours bluely

Dear Blue,  Shower. 


Dear ShrinkU,  I’m always right and yet, a colleague calls me "The Claw.” What’s wrong with him? Wronged 

Dear Wrong Question,  Consult a vet. Declawing is affordable.   


Dear ShrinkU,  This North Country weather makes me crazy. Cold yesterday, warm today. What next? South of the Border

Dear SOB, The weatherman says: Hot tamale.


Dear ShrinkU,  Every time I have a guest over, my poodle humps her Pooh bear. I’m so embarrassed. How do I stop them?  Blushing

Dear Blush,  Tell them to take it to the bedroom. Unless that’s where you’re entertaining. 


Dear ShrinkU,  What do belly dancers and roller derby dames have in common? Richard 

Dear Dick,  Estrogen. You’re welcome. 


Dear ShrinkU,  I used to be round-shouldered and organized. Exercise straightened the slump, but now I'm all discombobulated. What the—?

Dear What The,  You’re bent out of shape. 


Dear ShrinkU,  Here’s a toughie for you. I’ve lost 200 pounds. How did I do it? Weight Of World Off

Dear WOW,  Easy. You got a divorce. 


Admit it, you want to know how low we'll go. Send us a Dear ShrinkU via the Comment link below. When the groaners pile up like a multi-car crash, we’ll post them. 

ShrinkU:  Visit our campus in Wry, corner of Ham and Cheese.



When I realize: Eighteen years living in this house with Hubby and Son, and only I don’t have a room of my own, I make up my mind to take back two.

I survey the smaller one. That desk? Straight to the curb. Those ugly file cabinets holding must-save paper? In the closet? I slide open the door.

Boxes and boxes, every which way, lids scattered, Son’s middle school comic book collection. (He’s twenty now.) Clothes crumpled on the floor, fallen hangers, a dusty duffel bag, unzipped and stuffed with— guy gym clothes, soiled. (From when? My lip curls.) A grimy window fan. And much more. I don’t need my glasses to see what I’m up against.

My eyes close. My shoulders slump. I sigh. This closet is nothing. I consider the acres I must reclaim from Nature to make just one room my own, much less two. How bad do I want it?


Overnight forsythias yellow, crab apples pink, windshields green. Rain. Fog capped mountains, silver lake, gray bright sky, water-dark tree trunks. Colors— yellow-greens, blue-greens, whites, golds, fushias, purples— burn through my eyeballs straight into my brain, and explode—


If I do the following passive ilio-psoas stretch every day, my alignment should correct and dance posture improve. It’d better. I lie on the floor, one leg elevated on an end table, the one getting stretched straight on the floor, arms out with palms up, for fifteen minutes. Per leg.  

It’s torture, just lying there, doing nothing, still and unmoving, releasing into the ground. I tense. I twitch. I crave a shortcut. Something, anything to make it go faster, get it over, I have things to do. As if I wasn’t doing something. Monkey mind, the Buddhists call it, that false urgency. Reality check: fifteen minutes take fifteen minutes. No more, no less. Ditto, the second fifteen.

Today, I actually dozed off. Progress?


As I slip into sleep— thunder booms. Rain rushes. Cicadas saw, the metallic whine swelling and receding. A growling-yowling-snarling rips through.  At least two…. What? Cats? No. Dogs? Definitely not. Next to me, Poodle Oodle lifts her head, lifts her ears. We wait.  It comes again. Again, I don’t know. One more time. We wait. Rain shush shush-es, the cicadas silent.


Poodle Oodle rides shotgun, unbelted. She’s just a dog. I’m late, speeding a little, admiring the view, calculating my e.t.a. when the black Honda far ahead is suddenly much too close, flashing red brake lights.

I slam the brake to the floor. Poodle Oodle crashes into the foot well. The Honda turns left into a driveway. I glance down. She’s not moving. I pull over.

Heart racing, I lean over, she’s lying on her right side.  She lifts her head and looks at me— What happened?— unfolds one limb at a time, rises slowly to her feet, hops gingerly up onto the seat and settles, one limb at a time, onto her left side. She’s eleven. She had knee surgery six months ago. She’s eleven.

I stroke her. Gently, I palpate her joints, especially the right shoulder, which took the blow, and the bad knee. No yips or jerks-away.  She’s OK.  She gazes at me with only love.  My eyes burn, my throat swells. Just a dog.


When I shimmy-walk out with the troupe, the sun blinds me, spotlighting in through windows above the bleachers. It’s half time at a home bout of the local women’s roller derby club. We are the entertainment.

The derby dames in their crash helmets and roller skates, ripped fishnets and knee pads, short shorts (plain, ruffled, skirted), tagged tanks (Khaos, SuffoKate, Bam-B), elbow pads and tats, grin as we goddess by.  

Our sleek belly dance costumes— low slung mermaid skirts below bared abs of steel, one-strap tops above, glittering strands of faceted beads— assert the same seditious message theirs do: We are female. We own our bodies. We own our prowess. Estrogen rocks! Enjoy.

The crowd oh-s and wow-s, woops and claps. Smiling, I surrender to the sun in my eyes and the music, and nail the next move. First time, ever.


When the music shifts, so do we, from two rows into a circling wagon wheel, backs to each other, facing out, in time to the music. “How did you do that?” my friend asks after. Days later, the answer comes: One step at a time.


Open window—

sun-warm breeze and