Emily M. DeArdo

Celebrating Ordinary Joy

Ordinary Joy

essaysEmily DeArdoComment

I have to start by saying: I am so humbled--and so surprised, honestly--at the reaction I received over my last piece. I am so honored to have received so many beautiful comments, both here and throughout social media, regarding it. Thank you for your lovely response! 

A lot of the writing I do here chronicles my daily life--ordinary joy. I write because that's what I do. It's my main creative act, the way I focus the lens of life. I write about books, and knitting, and travel, and theater, and my faith. And generally, my posts are pretty small. They go out into the world and a few people read them, and I get a few comments here and there. 

But Friday's post really clarifies why I write about the small. I write about the ordinary joy. I write about my constant use of the knit stitch and Jane Austen and sometimes I write about hospital stays and problems with insurance and IV woes. Because those tiny, ordinary things are what make up a life. It's a life I'm blessed to live, and to share with all of you. 

"Earth's crammed with Heaven", Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, " and every common bush afire with God; but only him who sees, takes off his shoes."   

I want to see, and I want to share those moments here in this space. I want us to take off our shoes. 

Ordinary joy, ordinary faith, ordinary life--and how extraordinary it is, that I get to live it at all. That any of us get to live it, at all. 



Sugarcoating Suicide: Me Before You (Or: Why you should not read this book or see this movie)

life issues, transplantEmily DeArdo10 Comments

I get really, really tired of defending my existence.

If it isn't people telling me that my transplant was immoral, it's people who think that assisted suicide for disabled people is a good idea, and a sign of love. 

Yes. Because, you know, nothing says I love you like KILLING YOU. 

Let's look at the cognitive dissonance, here: When someone--say, Robin Williams--commits suicide, social media is flooded with messages like, "suicide isn't the answer", "please get help-- don't be afraid of getting it", "I wish people knew that they could talk to me if they're ever feeling like this." Etcetera. You all know how this goes. People are sad, as they should be. People continually say that suicide is NOT a good option. And it's not. 

But: when it's a disabled person who kills himself, oh, well, that's love

And that's exactly what happens in the new movie Me Before You, based on the novel of the same name by JoJo Moyes. In it, a woman falls in love with a quadriplegic man she's taking care of--but, oh, he wants to kill himself. Because, you know, life in a wheelchair isn't worth living. And if she REALLY loved him, she'd go with him to Switzerland and be there when he kills himself. Because that's love: supporting you in all your bad choices! 

No. You know what love is? Love is what Mary Lenaburg and her family did for her daughter, Courtney. Love is what Kelly Mantoan and countless other parents do every day for their kids who need their help. Love is my mom washing my hair when I'm nineteen years old and her back hurts, or my dad staying up during countless ER runs with me, or my siblings learning how to reconstitute and push IV drugs. THAT is love. 

My life isn't perfect. Show me someone who says his life is perfect, and I'll say that this person is a liar. Did it suck, being twenty-three years old and not being able to brush my teeth without sitting down after? Does it suck now, when I have to ask people to repeat things because I don't always understand them, or when my CI malfunctions? Yeah. But I would never, ever say that that was worth being dead. Obviously, I like my life just fine, since I've been to the edge of death and come back from it five times. I must think that something is worth living for. 

When we start sugarcoating assisted suicide--like in The Sea Inside, Million Dollar Baby, and The English Patient--we are trying to make it morally acceptable. We're trying to tell people that suffering is bad and we should avoid it at all costs, even by killing people who are suffering. Guys. That's not love. That's not living boldly, as the movie's tagline execrably proclaims. 

Living boldly is living the way my friend Sage does, while she waits for a lung transplant.  It's what Andi's kids do every day, whether they're running crazily at a T-ball game or singing in show choir. Living boldly is embracing life in all its highs and lows and living anyway.  

I've had people tell me that they would've aborted me, if they'd been my mom. 

To my face, people. 

* * * 

In The Giver, a dystopian novel by Lois Lowry, Jonah, the main character, discovers that what everyone calls "release" is actually euthanasia. In his community, old people are killed, people who break the rules three times are killed, even one of a set of twins is killed. Babies that don't sleep through the night when they're a year old are killed. Why? Because they are inconvenient. Because they make life difficult for the community. Jonah can't live in a system like that, and runs away with Gabriel, a baby that is slated for "release." He risks his own life to save the baby's--because if you try to escape from the community and are caught, you are "released." 

The community's highest value is ease of life. No one experiences pain. No one, actually, experiences any emotions. People take a pill every day so that they don't have emotions. Parents don't have children--they are "given" children, who are born via artificial insemination. When Jonas asks his parents if they love him, they laugh at him and say it's a meaningless word. And thus, the community medicates away their humanity--and kills what is inconvenient. 

Yeah, it's a book--but are we that far off from that? Where do we stop? 

The abortion rate for Down Syndrome kids in the U.S. is 67% In Europe, it's 92%. We are killing babies because they are imperfect. Because they are inconvenient.  This Atlantic headline pretty much says it all--why on EARTH would you keep an imperfect baby? 

People sue for "wrongful birth"--saying that they wish their babies had never been born. Not all cases of CF are detectable in utero, because there are thousands of possible mutations. So if a kid with CF is born, and his parents don't like it, they sue. They can pretty it up all they want and say they need the money for the kid's care--but it's not about money. It's about having a kid who isn't perfect, and someone needs to pay for that. Someone made "a mistake."

Jesus had something to say about this: 


You know who made the "mistake", here? It was God. And no, it's not a mistake. God did all this for a purpose, and for a reason. My crazy genetic code exists to bring Glory to God. That's why I'm here.  

Suicide is not an answer for anyone, at any time. It's not romantic and it's not brave. In the case of assisted suicide, it's reprehensible. 

Life has value beyond its utility. We are not cogs in a machine. We are human beings created in the image and likeness of God. And to purposefully commit suicide is not brave. It's cowardly. It flies in the face of bravery. 

I'm not a hero. I'm not a saint. I screw up. But the answer to challenges isn't to give up. The answer is to live the best you can, in the circumstances you are in. Love is helping people find a way to live--not by helping them die. 


Writing Update: Sending queries and other notes

writing, memoirEmily DeArdoComment

I thought I'd update you on the status of my manuscript, since it's been awhile. I'm still shopping the memoir manuscript around to different houses and agents. Each one wants different things in the query, so I've been adapting each proposal per regulations, and then sending them off. I have also completely re-written the beginning of the manuscript, including adding a new preface. I'm really excited about that part!

As far as fiction goes, I've uncovered a really old manuscript that I abandoned, and I've set to work finishing it. My goal is three chapters a month until a final rough draft exists. That's not a lot, but I wanted a sort of easy goal. I definitely surpassed it in May, writing about seven new chapters, so I figure I'll do the same thing in June. It's very easy to write once I'm in the characters' heads again. 

That's all for now, but I'm excited about the way things are going! I hope to have good news to share with you soon!



Postcard: Duck, North Carolina

travelEmily DeArdoComment

I've been lucky enough to spend two weeks in Duck, North Carolina, twice in my life, and both times have been amazing vacations. Duck, which is part of the Outer Banks, has some of the best beaches in the country, and it's an amazing place to relax and enjoy life in a small island town. 

You can fly into the Outer Banks--the Richmond, VA airport is fairly close--but I recommend driving, because, if you're spending a week at the beach, you're going to need a lot of stuff. For me, it's a drive that can be done in one very long day, but both times I've gone, the drive has been split into two days on the way there, and done in one on the way back. 

So here are my recommendations for a great week in one of my favorite places on Earth. 


Both times, the house we stayed in was a Sun Realty NC rental. They have a HUGE variety of properties to fit every budget, are pet-friendly, and are fantastic to work with. (They also support the CF Foundation!) They have everything from tiny beach bungalows to multi-story houses with pool tables and inground pools. 


The food in the Outer Banks (Hereafter OBX) is fantastic, especially the seafood. Here are some of the places we've enjoyed eating: 

The Blue Point for a nice lunch or dinner. Located in the Waterfront Shops in Duck, you have a lovely view of the sound, and the crab cakes are to die for. Seriously.  1240 Duck Road. 

Duck Pizza Company: It's a Sunday evening tradition--don't go grocery shopping, get Duck pizza. They deliver, or you can eat at their shop in the Scarborough Lane shops. 1171 Duck Road. 

Duck Donuts: The one. The only. Incredibly good and incredibly famous. :) 1190 Duck Road. 

Sooey's BBQ and Rib Shack: Get some Carolina cue in the Scarborough Faire shops (right next to the Scarborough Lane shops). 

Big Al's: This is in Manteo--we ate here on our way to see The Lost Colony (More on that below). Fantastically fun retro diner. 716 S. Highway 64. 


Grocery Stores

Food Lion in Corolla is your big box grocery store. In Duck, you have two smaller choices: Tommy's, which is a gourmet market and sells a ton of fresh seafood as well as other gourmet eats, is in the waterfront shoppes. Your other option is Wee Winks, which is less pricey and has your general food/household stuff. TINY parking lot, though, which backs right out onto Duck Road, so be careful! 



That's right guys--book stores. Two fantastic independent bookstores!!!! Both have really friendly staffs and are heaven for book browsers. 

Duck's Cottage: My true love. I go there almost every day when I'm in Duck. Not only books--coffee and pastries, too, that you can eat in the shop or on the adorable porch outside. Treats and water for pups, too! Small, but an incredibly diverse collection, and they'll order books for you. 1240 Duck Road. (In the Waterfront Shops) This is my favorite bookstore in the country, guys. I love it even more than The Strand in NYC! 

Island Bookstore: Scarborough Faire shops. Packed to the rafters with all sorts of books, including ones that are crazy hard to find. A great place to dig around and browse. 



Duck is known as a shopper's paradise, and there's a lot of great places to check out. The Scarborough Lane and Scarborough Faire shops are a good place to go when it's raining since they're more covered; the Waterfront Shops overlook the sound. The Fudgery at the Scarborough Lane shops is to die for, and the Christmas Mouse shop there is really cute. I love just about every shop in the Waterfront Shops. 



The Beaches are divine. If you rent from Sun, you'll have private access routes to the beaches. You can also rent beach items--chairs, noodles, floats, even bikes--from various companies around town. The beaches all have lifeguards and boards noting the weather conditions, water temperature, and other things. Be aware of riptides and how to get out of them before you go, though--every house that Sun rents has information sheets about these in the main room. 



The Lost Colony is one of America's first outdoor drama performances, and it's one of the good ones. The performance features really cool sets and music, and is located in an outdoor amphitheater that overlooks the water. Wear bug spray and bring a jacket, because it gets chilly! But it's a great performance that details what might have happened to the "lost colony" of Roanoke. 1409 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC. 


If you want to see where the Wright Brothers took their first flight, head to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. (Even though the first flight was in Kitty Hawk, the museum is located in Kill Devil Hills. Go figure.) 


The OBX is a great place to learn to surf, SUP (Stand up Paddleboard), body surf, kayak--all sorts of things are available. There's fishing off the research pier, kite flying, and a lot more. North Beach Outfitters at the Waterfront shops sells sports gear and also has kayak and Jeep adventures. 

Getting around/miscellaneous

Everything in Duck is off the main road--route 12, or the "Duck Road." It's easy to get around via car or even bike--and to get to the other towns, you either go north or south. Corolla, the city north of Duck, is pretty remote, and some of the sites are only accessible via a 4X4. 

Sundays are crazy, because that's the biggest day for people leaving and arriving in the Outer Banks. Be prepared for slow traffic on the bridges and once you're on the island. It gradually clears up as you get closer to Duck. To avoid the traffic when you're heading home, leave really early in the morning. I haven't figured out how to avoid it when you're arriving, yet. : ) Also be sure to study the hurricane information sheets in your hotel/rental. 

Your rental company will tell you what you need to bring in terms of cooking/household gear. If you're like me and you like to cook, you might want to bring a decent knife and cutting board, since those can be hard to find in rental houses. 

I really want to get back to Duck soon--writing this has made me miss it!! If you're looking for a great vacation spot, I highly recommend the Outer Banks, and Duck in general. 



Catholic 101: The Trinity

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

Since yesterday was Trinity Sunday, I thought it was a propos to talk about the Trinity for today's Catholic 101. 

Every time a Catholic makes the Sign of the Cross, she's praying to the Holy Trinity. Every time a baby is baptized in a Christian church, it's done in the name of the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is one of the things that all Christians agree on--and if a denomination doesn't, it probably can't properly be called Christian. It's all over the creed and the bible.  (This is one reason that some Christians say Mormons aren't Christian--they don't believe in the Trinity in the same way most Christians do.) 

(Side note about the creed: The creed begins with "I believe"--so you really should believe everything you're saying, here. It's not something you should just mumble through, although I know I've been guilty of that. You really need to consent to believing the things you say you're believing!) 

Andre Rublev, Trinity

Andre Rublev, Trinity

The Trinity is The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--three Divine Persons, One God. Christians aren't polytheists. They are all one God, but three different Persons. St. Patrick famously used the image of a three-leaf clover to explain the Trinity to the Irish, and it's still a good example today, and one I've used in my classes. 

Biblical evidence for the Trinity abounds, beginning in Genesis, when God says "Let us make man in our own image"--note the plural, there. Jesus tells his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We pray to the Trinity throughout Mass--every time we make the Sign of the Cross, for example. 

The Trinity is easy to explain, but it can be hard to understand. A former professor of mine once said, "There are times when we must bend back the wings of our intellect, and bow before the mystery." The Trinity is a good place to do that. There's a story about St. Augustine, who once came upon a boy digging a hole on the beach.

"What are you doing?" he asked the child.

"I'm trying to bring the entire sea into this hole."

"That's impossible," St. Augustine said.

"It's no more impossible than you trying to fully understand the Trinity," the child said--and disappeared. 

We can't understand how the Trinity "works", the same way we can understand how an equation in Algebra works, or a car engine, or a recipe. That doesn't mean we can't try to ponder it. Faith doesn't mean we just nod and smile and don't think about things. We're meant to have a faith that's muscular, and not just passive. But there are some things we will never understand fully--or at all. 

However, if you'd like a diagram: 

That's the other thing to remember--they're not the same. Each has a specific role--God the Father, the creator; God the Son, Jesus, the Redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier (one who makes things holy). 

Trinitarian doctrine is incredibly rich, and I've just scratched the surface, here. But the main idea I impart to the kids I teach is who makes up the Trinity, and what those three persons do. And--we're not polytheists! 

Seven Quick Takes No. 111

7 Quick Takes, writingEmily DeArdoComment


Before we get into Quick Takes proper, here's this week's posts: Catholic 101 on Pentecost and a Nashville Postcard


Next week: Catholic 101 is about Divine Mercy, and the Postcard is from Duck, NC--one of my favorite places on Earth. I'll also have a manuscript update! Yay!!!


Man, Barre 3 class on Monday was hard. I hadn't been all month due to post-trip recovery, and so it was going to be hard anyway, but I think the teacher felt like making it Evilly Challenging. It was almost all leg work and I've been sore all week--but I'm still going to class today. Because that's how I roll, people! 


The Last CCD for the season is on Sunday. It was a really long year, but I'm always sad to leave the kids. But I'm happy to get my Sunday mornings back--I can either sleep in and go to a later Mass, or I can go on Saturday night like I do during the CCD year and sleep in Sunday morning. Either way, Emily gets more sleep, and that's a good thing. 


In the home improvement department, I have floating shelves!

The Pirate parrot also likes his new perch. 

I was tired of having books that didn't have "homes" randomly scattered around, so I decided to give the floating shelves a try, and I love them. They're so cool looking, and these books finally have homes that are not just stacks on the carpet! Yay!


Two months until my Jeopardy! appearance on July 18. Yes, I'm going to keep reminding you about it. :-P 


Did any of you watch Army Wives when it was on? I've found it on Netflix and man, it's sort of crazily addictive. Between it and the hockey playoffs, I'm spending too much time with my TV. 

Postcard: Nashville

travelEmily DeArdoComment

Since summer=travel season for a lot of people, I thought I'd share some of my favorite places to visit with all of you, as well as local recommendations. One of my favorite things to do post transplant is travel, which is so much easier, because I don't have machines to lug around anymore! So I've been to a lot of lovely cities in the past 10 ( Almost 11!) years, and I love to share my travel thoughts with you. So this will be a pretty regular feature here until I'm caught up on cities! 

I've been to Nashville twice, and it's one of my favorite cities in the country. It's a big city with a small-town feel, and it has amazing attractions and places to eat, plus a Dominican monastery and a fantastic Catholic bookstore (yes, in the heart of the Bible belt! Win!)

Both times I've been to Nashville I've stayed in private homes, but here are some of my favorite places in Music City: 

St. Mary's Catholic Bookstore, 1909 West End Avenue

Three floors of Catholic amazingness! 

The Parthenon, 2500 West End Avenue

A recreation of the famous Parthenon in Greece, complete with a recreation of the Athena Parthenos (If you've read Rick Riordan's Gods of Olympus series, you know what I'm talking about!) Set in the middle of a park in downtown Nashville, it's also a great place to hang out, picnic, and play. 

The Frist Museum, 919 Broadway

The gallery hosts touring art exhibits, as well as being a place for local artists to exhibit their pieces. Adult admission is $12, but anyone under 18 is FREE, and college students are $9. 

The Wild Iris, 127 Franklin Road, Brentwood, TN (near Nashville) 

Located in a strip mall (or at least it used to be!), it's a charming restaurant with an excellent wine list. 

Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Motherhouse, 801 Dominican Drive

The sisters do offer retreats for young ladies from time to time, but you are also free to attend Mass there, or even parts of the liturgy of the hours. Contact the sisters to check on Mass and prayer times. 


Catholic 101: Easter and Pentecost

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

After a hiatus, we're back! Today we're talking about Easter and Pentecost--AKA, the season that just ended in the Catholic Church. 


Most everyone knows that Easter is the day Christians believe Christ rose from the dead. In the Catholic Church, Easter is a season that lasts for 50 days--until Pentecost--and is the greatest feast of the Church year. 

Easter has an octave, just like Christmas--octave meaning "eight"--so for eight days in the Church, we celebrate like it's still Easter Sunday (or Christmas). The idea is that the sheer awesomeness of the feast cannot be contained to one day--we have to celebrate with the same intensity for eight days, looking at the feast from all different angles and perspectives. 

Pentecost is the Church's birthday. We celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. Pentecost is 10 days after the Ascension, when Jesus went back up to Heaven and left the apostles on Earth to do His work. 

El Greco, Pentecost 

El Greco, Pentecost 

Catholics talk about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles received that day: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, and Fear of the Lord. Every Catholic receives these gifts at Confirmation. (The third sacrament of initiation--We'll talk more about that when we get to sacraments.) 

The Holy Spirit is always sort of hard to talk about, because it's a spirit. He's usually imagined as tongues of fire (like above), or a dove, like in this Veronese painting I saw at the Getty in LA: 

The Holy Spirit is the "Sanctifier"--he makes things Holy. When a Catholic is confirmed, s/he receives the gifts that will help him most in his mission here on Earth. As we know, God gave us each a unique purpose--and the Holy Spirit helps us accomplish it. 

At Pentecost Mass, the Pentecost Sequence is sung or recited: 

Come, O Holy Spirit, come! From Your bright and blissful Home Rays of healing light impart. Come, Father of the poor, Source of gifts that will endure Light of ev'ry human heart. 

You of all consolers best, Of the soul most kindly Guest, Quick'ning courage do bestow. 

In hard labor You are rest, In the heat You refresh best, And solace give in our woe. 

O most blessed Light divine, Let Your radiance in us shine, And our inmost being fill. 

Nothing good by man is thought, Nothing right by him is wrought, When he spurns Your gracious Will. 

Cleanse our souls from sinful stain, Lave our dryness with Your rain, Heal our wounds and mend our way.

Bend the stubborn heart and will, Melt the frozen, warm the chill, Guide the steps that go astray. 

On the faithful who in You, Trust with childlike piety, Deign Your sevenfold gift to send. 

Give them virtue's rich increase, Saving grace to die in peace, Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.

Evening Prayer II of Pentecost ends the Easter season--and we're back to Ordinary Time, which isn't "Ordinary", since the next few Sundays are big feasts on the Church calendar. But we'll get to that. Later. I promise. 


Seven Quick Takes No. 110

7 Quick TakesEmily DeArdoComment


So, after a deluge of California posts, we're back to Regularly Scheduled Programming with 7QT! Yay!


It took me awhile to get back on track post-California--this week was the first week where I was really sort of back to normal. I started meal planning and cooking at home again, cleaning, and sort of getting back to my normal routine. Nothing major but it's those tentpoles in the week that keep things humming around here. 


Last week I went to the dermatologist and had two spots  on my scalp biopsied. They're probably nothing but they are stubborn and don't want to go away, so the doctor decided to take a official look, as it were, at them. It didn't hurt, but the two stitches that closed up the spots are crazy annoying. I'll be really happy when I can wash my hair normally again! 

(Also, this leaves TWO body areas that have been untouched by medical intervention--my left leg and my abdomen. That's it! No scars there!)


I loved having my travel sketchbook with me when I was in LA, and I'm finally doing some watercolors of Santa Monica Beach. I'd forgotten to bring my supplies when we went to visit, so I took some photos for reference, but it worked out, because my home watercolor palette has four blues, as opposed to the two in my travel kit, so I'm really able to get closer to the actual colors, and work on watercolor techniques and blending shades. My watercolor landscapes haven't turned out as I've wanted them to, but this time I'm approaching it as an exercise in variety, etc., as opposed to wanting something to be perfect immediately. 

I've done one in my travel sketchbook, and a larger one in my "big" watercolor paper Moleskine book. Different colors, but the same techniques in both. 


Every summer I do the great Jane re-read, but this year I'm reading the new book in the Austen project, first. This entails current authors reworking Jane's novels to reflect the modern day--the first one was Alexander McCall Smith's Emma, and the latest one is Eligible, a re-working of P&P by Curtis Sittenfeld. I picked it up at LAX but I never got a chance to really read it, since I was reading Color  on the two flights home (I got Color from the Getty, and it was really interesting, especially in light of my love of watercolor!)

After I read Eligible,  I'll start with Persuasion. I'm going to read the books in reverse order this year. Mixing it up! I love Persuasion but sometimes I run out of summer before I get to it. Not this year!


Oh, and I forgot to mention here (Geez, Emily!) that my Jeopardy episode will air July 18, 2016. Monday night, y'all. Three fun people playing for money. You know you want to watch!


What are your summer plans? I have NONE, other than my godson/cousin's graduation in June. I am in denial that he is old enough to be going to college. I really am. But other than that, a nice, free summer is ahead of me. 

California Diary: Recommendations

travelEmily DeArdoComment


Doubletree by Hilton LA--Westside

6161 W Centinela Ave, Culver City, CA

("West" in LA parlance means "south" to the rest of the world.) 

This hotel is really close to Sony Studios, hence the reason we stayed here. Lots of business travelers but I also saw some families. There's a pool and hot tub that are open year round (the pool is heated), and towels are provided there. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the room service menu is great. There's also a fitness room. The "business center" is two computers and two printers in the lobby. The people in reception also serve as concierges. 


Bouchon, Beverly Hills (Restaurant, bakery, bar) : Great wine list, classic French bistro menu, and the macarons are divinity. Be sure to stop at the bakery and pick up some yummy treats because they'll be closed after dinner! (They close at 7 PM, while the restaurant starts dinner seating at 6 PM) A great place for a nice dinner, and apparently kid-friendly-there were several people who had brought their kids to the restaurant. (Obviously, make sure your kid can handle a nicer restaurant before you do this.) 

Killer Shrimp, Marina Del Rey. This is a local chain, and it definitely had a neighborhood bar feel to it, but I liked that. It felt less touristy, you know? Coconut shrimp is amazing. 

Bubba Gump, Santa Monica Pier. Locations across the country. You don't have to know anything about Forrest Gump before coming here--I didn't. Fantastic view of the beach. 

Santa Monica Seafood, Santa Monica. They have a VERY small eating area, so you might want to eat on the earlier side. We were there around five, and got right in. 

Ghirardelli Soda Shop, Hollywood. This is also a sort of Disney Store. Pins are its main bread and butter, I think--the special Soda Shop pins can only be purchased here, and the line can be out the door and around the block when new pins are released. That said, the store sells tickets to Disneyland (get them here!), DVDs/Blu Rays, stuffed animals, some clothing, and things that tie into the most popular/newest Disney releases. But really, it's all about the pins. 

The Soda Shop has a very large menu and everything sounds amazing. 



Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood (When you see the walk of fame, you'll see a lot of other things too, like the Chinese theater, the Dolby theater, etc--if you're in the "main drag" section--the Chinese theater has all the footprints, etc displayed outside so you don't need to pay to see them) 

Dolby Theater, Hollywood. Where the Academy Awards take place every year. See all the best picture winners on the pillars inside. Go up the steps and you'll find a shopping center that will, eventually, take you to a spot where you can see the famous Hollywood sign. 

The Getty Center, Brentwood --free admission, $15 parking fee. The Getty is great for all ages--they have a lot of stuff for kids and families, including a family center and a kids' gift shop. The cafe is impressively diverse and you have great views of the city from the dining room. There's also a pricier restaurant, but the menu is a lot smaller--just go to the cafe! The permanent collection is also supplemented by various special exhibits--check before you go to see what's on. 

If you're taking Uber or RideShare, there's even a special place to wait when you're ready to leave--a nice bonus, I thought. We got to the benches marked for Uber and called the car from there. 

Disneyland , Anaheim--more below 

Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica--restaurants, gift shops, fishing, beach, carnival rides and games on the pier. 



Ticket prices here. They vary according to the season. 

Food: Carnation Cafe (Main Street), Naples (in Downtown Disney, adjacent to the park, and I do mean adjacent--it was literally right out the park gate, to the right), Mickey beignets (French Quarter), Dole Whips (by the Tiki Room--to save time, get in line on the Tiki Room side; order your Dole Whip of choice, eat it, and then "ride" the Tiki Room--the line is MUCH shorter this way!)

Downtown Disney has restaurants, shops (including a large Disney store), and a movie theater. It's a nice place to relax after your Disneyland adventures. If you're going to get an Uber from here, you might want to go over to the hotel that's next door--it's easier to give them a location that way. 


Uber--we used Uber almost exclusively (a few cabs) and had absolutely no problems with it--it even took us to Disneyland and back. The Disney trip was the most expensive: It was $40 each way, but given that it took an hour, that's not terrible. You pay $50 in NYC going from the airport to midtown.  Most of our trips around LA and environs were much more reasonable--anywhere from $8-14 each way. The app is  great, but do not call the car until you're at the pick-up spot, because they come fast! I saw a group of tourists sprinting from the elevator to the front door of our hotel because their Uber driver was waiting for them.  

There are plenty of cabs at the airport for you to grab to take into the city, and we used cabs after each day of taping--the producers would actually call one for me, which I thought was nice. But the rest of the time--Uber. 







California Diary-- Santa Monica

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It was entirely too cold to swim in the ocean, but that didn't mean we couldn't go wading!  

The Santa Monica pier has entrances to the beach proper, which we did after we had lunch at Bubba Gump's on the pier. The day was beautiful, sunny, and breezy, and the waves were such a fantastic blue that you definitely don't see on the Atlantic side of the States. 

The pier has restaurants, shops, a small carnival with rides and games (and similarly overpriced for being what it is), and even places for buying bait and tackle so you can fish off the pier, if that's your sort of thing. A few people had cast their lines off the end of the pier and we're waiting to see if they could reel in some fish. 

The pier itself wasn't too crowded, which was nice, because we weren't all crammed in. I wish the weather had been a bit warmer so we could've hung out on the beach and not been blown away. The wind was fierce. But it was such a beautiful place to be. 

Looking south from the pier 

Looking south from the pier 


East Coast Beaches? West Coast Beaches? Which do you like better? 



California Diary: The Getty and OP Appearances

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View from the Western Pavilion at the Getty 

View from the Western Pavilion at the Getty 

On Thursday of our CA trip, we decided to get some high culture by visiting the Getty Center in Brentwood. Mary and I both love art, and the best thing about the Getty is that it's FREE to visit their amazing collection and special exhibits. FREE! Since we took Uber, we didn't even have to pay for parking! 

We were especially excited to see this exhibit, which closed May 1, so we just squeaked in!

Tapestry and weaving has always fascinated me, so this exhibit was really well-timed for us. We couldn't take photographs of it, though, in order to preserve the tapestries, so I have nothing other than this shot.

But I did take plenty of other photos of the art work the Getty displays all the time.

The Getty is different in that it's not your typical museum, where everything is under one roof. Here, it's open air pavilions, with a main hall that opens out to the central "hall" space, and the four pavilions are located around them. There's also a cafe and a restaurant with breathtaking views of LA. 

The collection included illuminated manuscripts, European masters from all eras, sculpture, furniture, photography, and a few special exhibits other than Woven Gold. Van Gogh's Irises, some Monets and Rembrandts, and a Rodin sculpture were all on view--but I loved finding some hidden Dominican friends!


This painting depicts St Francis (L), a pope, St John the Baptist, and St Dominic, and was painted by a Dominican--Blessed Fra Angelico, one of the patron saints of artists. 

A few galleries later, I found these matching paintings: 

These two paintings, by Domenico Beccafumi, depict two scenes in the life of St Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the church, co-patron of Europe, and Lay Dominican. The top painting is the moment she received the Stigmata--the wounds of Christ--and the bottom is where she received communion from an angel when she couldn't physically attend a Mass. 

Such beautiful paintings of such great saints! But wait, there's more!

St Thomas Aquinas, another Doctor of the Church and Dominica friar, on this portable altar

OP power is alive and well at the Getty!


Some of my other favorites:

Irises, Van Gogh


The Baptism in the Jordan, Veronese


This little girl:


This woman pushing away Cupid made me laugh:


The miracle of the House of Loreto--if you're new to this, basically it's a story that says Angels picked up Mary's house in Nazareth and moved it to Loreto--whether or not it's true is debatable, but it's a great painting: 


This medieval chasuable:


Sight read this, yo! 


This painting of Mary Magdalen:


This reunited family, after a "not guilty" verdict is read: 

I love art museums, so the time in the Getty was well spent. It was such a beautiful day that spending time on the patio, reading and writing, was fabulous (I did that while Mary went to check out some period French furniture  After walking more than seven miles at Disneyland the day before, my legs needed a break!) 


California Diary: Disneyland!

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Time for some true confessions.

When I was first thinking about what to do in California, Disneyland was on the "maybe" list, because, to be honest, I'd heard a lot of "meh" about it.

It's small.

It's boring.

It's not as "cool" as WDW.

I am glad I did not listen to these people! 

There is an intangible magical aspect to Disneyland that's probably the fact that Walt was involved in every aspect of it--from start to finish. He was planning WDW at the time of his death, but Disneyland was his baby, and that shows. 

The park is smaller than WDW, but that is a plus to me, because it means you don't have to rush through it like a crazy person in order to see everything you want to see. We had plenty of time to ride everything we wanted to ride, each a leisurely lunch, shop, and get character photos, without ever feeling rushed or crushed by the crowds. And the weather has WDW beat--it was 70 degrees--perfect. I was actually COLD at  a Disney park, which I didn't think was possible! 

Also, Sleeping Beauty is better than Cinderella, to me, so I was happy to see Aurora's castle and accompanying things around. (It's not that I don't like Cinderella-- I just prefer Sleeping Beauty.)

We took an Uber to Disneyland--we used Uber almost exclusively this trip, and had ZERO problems, so I'm a big fan now--and arrived a little after 8:30. We'd bought our tickets at the Ghirardelli shop on Sunday, so we had those, and got in the line for the entrance. The park opens at 9:00, but Main Street opens at 8:30 So we got in, I got a hat (needed a hat, per my dermatologist--gotta protect the head!), and we headed through the castle to Fantasyland.

Mary saw Mary Poppins and Bert, so we got a photo with them because her sister loves Mary Poppins, and then we went on to ride two more English rides--the teacups and Mr Toad's Wild Ride. 

I love the teacups, but I'd never been on Mr Toad's Wild Ride--I hear it used to be at WDW but it's part of the Winnie the Pooh ride now This is silly to me, because I loved Mr Toad! I thought it was such a fun, simple ride that anyone could enjoy, even if, like me, they weren't too familiar with his story.

Small World also has the bonus touch of Disney characters inserted into the ride, but in a low-key way:

I thought that was a really clever job by the Imagineers. 

Another fun thing was New Orleans Square, which I liked a lot better than "Liberty Square" at WDW--the theming of New Orleans was a lot more fun and specific than the sort of colonial "Liberty" square era at WDW. The Haunted Mansion has a decidedly Southern theme here, and even Pirates of the Caribbean begins in a firefly lit bayou. And Mickey Beignets? Mary said oui to that. 


The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland 

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland 

Of course, there's always the unexpected Disney things:

Yes, that's a real cat in the line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad--and she was totally fine with all of us watching her!

Yes, that's a real cat in the line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad--and she was totally fine with all of us watching her!

There is an undeniable charm to Disneyland that's nice--and the people are so low-key. No one was grouching about waiting in line I didn't see parents hauling screaming, crying kids out of the park around 2:00 because they'd been there since 6:30 waiting for "rope drop". Maybe I just got a lucky day, but it was blessedly free of the hordes of scooters and pushing, crying crowds that you often see at Disney World. It just seemed more "mellow" than its Florida counterpart. 

We had a great lunch at the Carnation Cafe, and even got Dole Whips before we went on the Tiki Room (you don't really "go on" the Tiki room--you enter the Tiki room, I guess). I shall reveal a super-secret tip on getting Dole Whips Quickly in the wrap up at the end of the series! 


List of rides: 

  • The Tea Cups: Always a winner
  • Mr Toad's Wild Ride: My favorite "new" ride
  • The Carousel (Spelled "Carrousel" at Disneyland): Classic, especially due to Saving Mr Banks
  • Small World: The original, with Disney characters! Find Nemo!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow and red headed women
  • The Haunted Mansion: Longer and scarier than the one at WDW 
  • The Tiki Room: Always good for a laugh (name that movie)
  • Indiana Jones: I was totally underwhelmed--least favorite "new" ride
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: It might not be huge or showy, but it's a solid, smooth coaster ride

We ate dinner at Naples in nextdoor Downtown Disney, and then we headed home, getting back to the hotel (thanks to Uber) around 8:00

Have you been to Disneyland or Disney World? Which do you like better? What's your favorite ride? 

California Diary: Tuesday Night--Dinner at Bouchon

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OK, so I'm not going to write about Monday/Tuesday on the Jeopardy set--at least, not yet. I am saving all those things for when the episode actually airs in July so I do not risk giving away trade secrets pre episode air. But the episode airs July 18--that's a Monday night--so write it down!

However, I will continue to tell you about our trip--sans Jeopardy.

So Tuesday we had dinner at Bouchon, one of Thomas Keller's restaurants. Even if you're not a "foodie", you know who Thomas Keller is if you watch movies--he was a consultant for Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille and designed the version of the title dish that you see in the film (he was also the voice of a patron). He also worked on Spanglish to create "The world's best sandwich" for Adam Sandler's character. Finally, he's the creator of the insanely popular and acclaimed French Laundry restaurtant in Yountville, CA, as well as other restaurants Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Per Se, Ad Hoc, and Addendum.

We weren't anywhere close to Yountville--but there is a Bouchon in Beverly Hills, and Mary and I love French bistro food, which is what is served here--and it's reasonably priced (especially for a Thomas Keller restaurant--Dinner at Per Se can be over $1,000, with wine). So we decided that this would be our Tuesday night dinner.

In the Beverly Hills Canon park before dinner 

In the Beverly Hills Canon park before dinner 

The restaurant didn't open until 6, and we were there early, so we went to the connecting Bouchon Bakery for some treats and coffee.

The book is full of exquisite macaroons, which were eaten later ;-) 

The book is full of exquisite macaroons, which were eaten later ;-) 

It was really an exquisite night--just perfect--so when we had the option of eating on Bouchon's patio, which overlooked the park, we jumped at it.

The menu is classically French bistro food, and it was so hard to decide! We started with a three-piece cheese plate, because we need cheese, we love cheese, cheese is a wonderful thing--I can't say enough good things about cheese. 

I felt a lot like Remy in Ratatouille here, saying things like, "Oh! If you combine the cheese with the honey AND the cranberry, it's AMAZING!" And all sorts of those things. I was waiting for the little flavor animations from the movie to pop up.

After the cheese, we ordered our wine (A glass of Cote du Rhone for each of us, please!), and our mains. Mary got the croque madame (a ham and cheese sandwich with an egg, basically), and I ordered the lamb shank special, which was served with ratatouille (I mean, come on! I Had to get it!). 

Our waiter was so attentive, and so fabulous--he was really the creme de la creme of waiters. We had a great meal with him. For dessert, I ordered chocolate ice cream, and Mary ordered profiteroles. The chocolate ice cream was the pinnacle of chocolate ice cream. It's exactly what you want/think chocolate ice cream should be.

When I drink wine, it needs to be documented, because I don't drink it all that often 

When I drink wine, it needs to be documented, because I don't drink it all that often 

The meal was so great, and the atmosphere so relaxing, that neither of us really wanted the meal to end. But end it must--and we were going to Disneyland tomorrow, after all ;-). 

What's the best vacation meal you've ever had? 

California Diary: Saturday/Sunday

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Salinas--Steinbeck Country--from the plane 

Salinas--Steinbeck Country--from the plane 

Saturday was interesting

I've never had bad luck flying in my life--I've never even had a late flight  But the Saturday we left for California, we had a flight was six hours late  Instead of getting to LAX at 4:25 PST, we got there at 10:30 or so, PST

And my bag was lost

So basically, I got all the bad luck except for a cancelled flight in one trip

Saturday, the flight was six hours late--a "mechanical problem" whatever that meant in actuality  What it meant in reality was that we got to Oakland late, and we had to change planes--when originally we didn't have a transfer  So Mary and I bolted down the empty hallways of the Oakland airport at what felt like 1 AM to us, for the flight to LAX

We got to LAX, and as I thought, my bag hadn't made the trip So I had to fill out the form in the baggage office, and we hailed a cab and got to our hotel, where we had no problems and received warm cookies, and fell into bed around 2 AM our time--11 PST

Since my bag hadn't arrived when we woke up the next morning, Mary went to Mass by herself and I stayed back in the room since I didn't have anything else to wear to Mass, and I didn't want to go in the outfit I'd worn yesterday--and let's not even talk about my hair 

After checking with the front desk a few times, it was revealed that my bag HAD been delivered at 3 AM--but the front desk forgot to tell me  So I retrieved it around 11 AM, took a real shower, put on clean clothes, and felt human again

After Mary got back, we decided to tour Hollywood, so our first stop was the Ghirardelli chocolate shop in Hollywood, so I could do some pin trading!

The pin trader sundae at Ghirardelli--you get to customize it

The pin trader sundae at Ghirardelli--you get to customize it


For those of you who don't know what pin trading is--basically it's like baseball/hockey cards, except, with pins The pins depict Disney characters/rides/hotels/theme parks--anything Disney-and you can trade them at the parks, with cast members, with other collectors, and online Pins from the Ghirardelli shop are especially prized, because you can't get them anywhere but this shop in Hollywood So I had to go and get my own Pin Trader Sundae Pin I got Winston, the butler from Oliver and Company


After ice cream, we walked some of the Walk of Fame, and went to the Dolby Theater, where the Academy Awards are held  One of my favorite things about this was that the best picture winners are arranged on the pillars, by year--and the pillars go until 2071! 


(One thing about the Walk of Fame--you have to pay to have a star there  A committee decides who will be offered a star, but the star (or the star's company) put up around $30,000 to get the star put on the Walk of Fame  Donald Trump has one, and man, that star was getting a lot of abuse, so I guess his $30K will go toward keeping it free of graffiti, which tells everyone exactly what people are thinking about Donald these days) 

We decided to have dinner at Santa Monica Seafood, which was a great decision  I had an exquisite salmon fillet, and it was a beautiful spot  I had no idea that roses grew so well, so close to the ocean  Obviously, I knew the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade were in Pasadena, which isn't too far away, but the sheer extravagance and variety of roses that were everywhere we went was overwhelming


Look at those striped roses! These were in Santa Monica Seafood 

Look at those striped roses! These were in Santa Monica Seafood 

On Monday, I had rehearsal at the Sony studio (which was actually also a potential tape day, although I didn't know that then)--so we went back to the hotel and I was in bed pretty quickly, since I had to get up around 6:15 the next morning!




Back from the West Coast

travel, JeopardyEmily DeArdoComment
The Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Beach

The Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Beach

So, I'm back--and with a computer that has a period key that doesn't work!

So no, I'm not experimenting with new fun forms of punctuation--I'm going to get it fixed soon--but I wanted to pop in here and say that I'm back and I can't wait to share my adventures and California thoughts with all of you!

Obviously, I can't say what happened during my Jeopardy adventure, but I can tell you that the episode will air July 18 (That's a Monday)--so write it down now! :) 

As I've done in previous travelogues, I'll take you through each day, and I'll have a final post with everything we did and my recommendations, if you're traveling to the LA/SoCal area and want to know what I thought was a good bet for food/fun/etc

One thing that was definitely a good bet, though? 

Oh, I was dazzled, Olaf--totally!


Daybook No 118

DaybookEmily DeArdoComment

Outside my window::

it was really sunny and blue skied earlier, but now it's clouded up. Might rain later? 


Jeans and a Boden striped top. I love these things. 

In the CD player:

Audrey Assad's Inheritance.


Chicken piccata with herbed basmati rice. There's not a lot of cooking going on this week since I'm leaving on Saturday for LA. I'm basically trying to use up all the perishables. 

On my mind::

LA. Packing, the taping, packing, driving a car around LA......all sorts of things. I'm working on iTunes playlists for the flight and books. It's a seven hour flight--the longest I've ever been on. So that's sort of exciting but also--gotta make sure I've got my reading material ready. I can't bring too many hard copy books because my suitcase is going to be pretty full, what with the clothes I need for taping and then the clothes I Need for a week in LA, plus things for the beach and Disneyland (and all that). I'm generally a pretty minimalistic packer--I can do a 3 day trip with just my Vera Bradley Large Duffel bag and my backpack. But this time it's proving sort of challenging. When you're going to be on TV in front of the entire country, it can inspire the Overpacking Tendency! I'm trying to rebel against that 


The Contemplative Hunger, Little House in the Big Woods (because why not), and my LA/SoCal travel books .


I have gone to TWO Barre3 classes! My first one was last Thursday, and I was very sore for the next day or two.  My second was yesterday and that was a lot better--I mean, it was still hard, but I can walk today. :) I have my third class on Thursday. There is a Barre3 studio in Santa Barbara, where we're planning on taking a day trip, but I think I'll just "be on vacation"--and I'm sure to get enough physical activity in during this next week. The great thing about this workout is the modifications. I can't hold a regular plank for two minutes--but I can if I'm doing it at the barre instead of on the floor. (The skin graft on the wrist really cut down on the flexibility and strength in my hand and wrist area.) Modifications are awesome, as the instructor said yesterday--and I'm not the only one who takes them. Even better. 

I have to fight against the tendency I have to not want to do things I'm not good at. Math is a prime example of this. I'm terrible at math. But Dad would tell me there were some areas, like algebra, where I really wasn't bad. Part of it was I just didn't want to learn--and the other part is, my brain doesn't work that way. But in this case, I have to realize that anyone who starts anything is not perfect in the beginning. It's that way with sports, art, writing, music--whatever. So I'm trying to be nicer to myself instead of demanding PERFECTION immediately. 

Potential Travel Ideas: 

This is what we've worked out so far: 

Sunday: Mass, the Getty, LA Farmers' Market

Monday: Hollywood 

Wednesday: Disneyland!

Friday: Santa Barbara Day Trip

I'm so excited to be going, and the weather looks perfect--low 70s. No jacket, no sweating like crazy. Win!


I think I've reached the end of revisions on my 2014 NaNo novel. Now I have to go back and put a solid ending on my 2015 NaNo novel. And fill in parts of the 2013 NaNo novel. 
And I'm still shopping the memoir manuscript. So, I'm not lacking for things to write, over here!


Have you been to LA/SoCal? Any places we shouldn't miss? 

What do you pack in your carryon when you fly? 

Seven Quick Takes No. 109

7 Quick Takes, travelEmily DeArdo1 Comment


I leave for California in eight days. That's right guys. EIGHT DAYS. So today I'm getting my hair trimmed in anticipation of its TV appearance, and then I really have to start packing in earnest. I have a list, and I have some things laid out, but the time has come to Get Things Into Bags and Make Sure It All Fits. The fortunate thing is that it's going to be pretty mild, weather wise, so I won't need to pack a huge variety of non-show clothes. 


Of course I also want to do fun things while I'm in LA, so I'm trying to narrow down that list as well. I'm a little sad that the ocean will probably be too cold to swim in, and the air temperature won't be warm enough to necessitate a plunge into freezing Pacific Waters. But hey...it's the beach! 


In case you're late to this party--I'm going to be a Jeopardy contestant, so that's why I'm going to California. Obviously, that is paramount in the scheduling. I'm trying not to freak out too much. I mean, I have performance experience, so crowds don't bother me, and I've done quiz show things before (Thanks, College Bowl!) so I've worked buzzers and such. I just haven't done it on national television. I'd like to not totally screw up. And no, I can't tell you how I did. I can tell you when the episode will air--but you don't get to know how I did in advance. Lips are zipped. It's a rule!


I turned 34 last Saturday and while it was snowy and cold, it was still a fun day. We had dinner at PF Chang's, which involved Birthday Cake flavored ice cream, chocolate cake, and honey shrimp, so that's always good, and my family. Melanie was in Texas, sadly, but I did get her gift. :) 


I went to my first Barre3 class yesterday and while I am sore today, it was a good workout and the teacher was great. I've scheduled three more classes for next week before I leave because going to be on TV. So, you know. Even though you won't see much of me on said TV, I have some pride here people. :-P


I love Colonial Williamsburg, and I especially love their adorable sheep! If you like adorable things, check out this story about Baby Lamb Edmund. 


If you have any suggestions on things to do/see/eat when I'm in Southern California, let me know! I don't want to miss anything good!

Yarn Along No. 46

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Yarn Along time! :) 

(I feel like being dramatic today.)

So today--still working on this square, although I'm pondering making it into a blanket. Because it can't be that hard, right, to sew the little knitted squares together? And that would be fun and useful. I love blankets.  (If you have a good source on how to sew the squares together, please let me know!) 

This book......it's a tricky one. I read it through once and thought what just happened. The author says in his note that it's supposed to be a retelling of The Magic Flute (The Mozart opera) but it's.....not. Sure, the title is one of the character's names. But it doesn't really work. 

So I finished it, and I was totally confused, so I think I need to read it again and see if I am confused because I just wasn't paying enough attention. I know. I'm weird. I'll re-read a book that may or may not have been good the first time around. Anyone else read it and can help me out? 


healthEmily DeArdoComment

A week or so ago, I read a piece on the site The Mighty, which is where people talk about life with chronic illness-or their lives with a family member who has it. I can't find the link for this particular story, but it was written by a mother who talked about how her daughter's illness did define her--and she was sort of glad it did. 

I gotta say, I don't agree. 

I'm a lot of things. 

I'm Catholic. I'm a girl. I'm an American. I'm a dramatic contralto. I'm mathematically impaired. I'm near-sighted. 

These are all things I would list before I say "I'm a girl with a lung transplant." "I'm a girl with CF." "I'm a girl who can't hear."

Why in the world would you want to describe yourself by what you are not, or by what is wrong with you? Why define yourself in a negative way?

There was a student at my college who had a chronic illness. But unlike me, this person definite him/her self (yeah, I'm being really vague, here) by the illness. It was the first thing his professors knew about him. It was the thing she led with. 

This repelled me. My professors didn't know anything about my health until I was in the ICU for two weeks and I was missing class. Then I  (well, my parents) told them. 

Sure, there are things that I can't do. But why would you define yourself that way? "I can't do differential equations." "I can't spell." "I can't swim." Why in the world is any of that important? 

I'm not tossing out the old rag "everyone can do whatever they want!" "You can be anything you want to be!" Because that's crap. It's not true. I can't play in the WNBA. I can't be a swimmer like Michael Phelps. I can't be a prima ballerina. 

Everyone has limitations. It's part of life. None of us are perfect. But why you would lead with that, or make that the focal point of your life, is beyond me. I don't get it.

Is this part of me? Well, yeah. It's a part of me like my hair color or my eye color or my height. But I don't let those things tell me who I am, and that's not what I lead with at a party. 

Pre-transplant, I never really talked about my CF in public at all. Now, I do it because I want to spread awareness of organ donation. But I also think that's there's a fine line between talking about it/raising awareness, and over-talking it to death, and making it the KEY POINT IN EVERYTHING. 

If I could tell parents of kids with chronic illness one thing, it would be to let your kids live their lives as normally as possible. Don't coddle them. Don't make them afraid of life. Don't baby them. And also--tell them that they are more than the strange outcome of their genetics or malfunctioning cells. Yes, they might need some accommodation. Yes, they might not be able to do everything everyone else in their class can do. But that doesn't make them less. Don't define yourself by your limitations.