Susan McCorkindale

Author. Editor. Autism Advocate.

You can quote me on that


I have almost as big a thing for quotes as I do for shoes. Maybe bigger. Almost every day I find another saying (or three) that I print out and tape to the wall above my desk. Unfortunately, the one that’s probably most visible in this photo is “Don’t Be A Whiny Little Shit,” which I love because, well, sometimes I am. But my favorite is the small one, right above the butterfly, which simply says,


Every morning when I come into my office, those eight words are the first I read. Before I wake up my computer, light my vanilla-scented candle, or read the to-do list I left myself the night before (because God knows I remember nothing these days), I look at that quote and ask myself:

Am I afraid?

If the answer is yes, I ask myself what specifically I’m afraid of.

Am I afraid of:

one child never moving out,

the other moving back in,

both children moving back in,

discovering my life insurance policy doesn’t cover suicide,

running out of wine,

never meeting a nice, normal guy who’s cool with the fact that I’m not normal,

never writing another book,

finally writing another book but being unable to find a publisher,

getting cancer,

or getting cancer and having to count on my kids who can’t get their act together enough to fly the coop to take care of me?

Of course I could be and frequently am afraid of other awful scenarios I haven’t listed here, big stuff like not being able to pay my rent, buy groceries (or, eek! wine), but the point is I make myself acknowledge whatever it is that’s scaring me and then I ask myself the million dollar question: If that scenario came to pass, what’s the worst that could happen?

When I first moved into my apartment, I had lots of answers to that one. Mature responses like, I’d hide beneath my desk! Call my mom! Run back to New Jersey, live in my childhood bedroom, declare myself a failure and die! I confess, the first few months on my own I was definitely afraid. I’d read that quote, feel the fear in the pit of my stomach, and tell myself (out loud, now that’s scary), Suck it up, Suz. Drink your coffee and pretend you know what you’re doing. You’re the mom, dammit!

You know, sort of like The Little Engine That Could’s whole, “I think I can, I think I can” thing, but with curse words.

I published a couple of pieces during that time. Columns about making lemonade out of life’s lemons and the pain of getting divorced. I shook writing them, and I shook when they ran. (How would people react? How would he react?) But I didn’t let my fear stop me. I wrote them from the bottom of my broken heart. I wrote them scared. And I survived.

That fact recently brought me to an important conclusion, and it’s simply this: a little fear is a good thing. Athletes and actors talk about how they get butterflies in their stomach before a game or performance. And they don’t think it’s so terrible. In fact, they like it because it keeps them sharp. I get that now. These days, being a little anxious, nervous, scared, provokes a “just try and stop me” response I didn’t know I possessed. I call it my Badass Mode. Can you even imagine? Me. A badass. But you know what’s even better? Lots of days I don’t feel frightened at all.

If all of my worst fears came to pass tomorrow, if I couldn’t pay my rent, or buy wine, or both kids decided to cling to the coop….forever, the worst that could happen is I’d deal with it. Figure it out. Go into Badass Mode and do my best to make it better. I don’t need to beat fear because no matter what happens, I can handle it scared. You can quote me on that.







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Divorce and Self-Doubt: Did I Throw In The Towel Too Soon?


This morning, for the first time in a very long time, I got up, put on my exercise clothes, and went for a speed walk on the trail that runs along the old railroad tracks near my house. I gave a split second thought to saying the hell with it and walking to Safeway as I’m out of sugar and need more to make lemonade from the lemons life hit me with last week, but decided against it. So what I had to leave the job I so enjoyed. I’ll find another.

Walking, working out, was something I used to do every single day. When Stu was sick, exercising kept me healthy so I could take care of him. After his death, it gave structure to my days and kept the panic that raged in my brain to a low roar.

When I remarried though, my sixty minutes of me time fell by the wayside. Nudged, no, shoved out to make time for managing personalities and tension and tempers. I spent my days in fight or flight mode, ready to play referee at the drop of a briefcase or a backpack. The results were textbook.

I gained weight. I got sick frequently. Back to back to back bouts of strep throat. A sinus infection that migrated to my gums. Hip bursars discovered by a particularly prescient friend during a Jazzercise class that were quickly confirmed by a rheumatologist. (A rheumatologist! Old people see rheumatologists!)

“You see that?” she asked, circling a spot on an MRI of my lower back. “Your spine is collapsing.”

Was it old age? My turn to get the rheumatoid arthritis that runs in my family? No. It was the weight of my world, all my desperate efforts to keep everything on an even keel, crushing me. And my body was crying “Uncle.”

Sometimes at night, when my courage and confidence have the audacity to fall asleep before I do and my self-doubt gets its second wind, I torture myself thinking about the good times. The dinner parties that ended just before breakfast. The nights spent watching movies and, God help me, Top Gear reruns until we fell asleep on the sofa. The road trips filled with friends, endless rounds of Cards Against Humanity, morning wine tastings, and the discovery that a) I simply cannot drink during the day, and b) I can find a place to nap in any barrel room known to man (and probably those man’s yet to discover).

I have many beautiful memories from my two and a half year marriage, and a few indescribably painful ones of things I shouldn’t have tolerated for two and a half seconds.

We all know it’s unhealthy to focus on the lemons life hits us with but, on those nights when morning feels years away, and self-doubt has invited fear and second-guessing to the party it’s having in my head, I have two choices: concentrate on the moments that shattered my trust in my husband, or curl up next to self-doubt and worry,

What if I threw in the towel too soon?

Wrenching as it is, I choose to concentrate on the crap. Release the flood gates and let it rip. Relive every single second of every single stunning, out of the blue betrayal until I’m so angry I’m out of bed, making coffee, and muttering like a crazy woman, Throw in the towel? Am I insane? I clutched that towel. Cared for it. Mended the holes that man blew through it without a moment’s hesitation or a morsel of remorse. I loved that towel. I didn’t throw it in.

And I didn’t. I just put it down when it got too heavy and hurt too much to keep holding on to.

It’s four fifteen in the morning as I’m slipping into my sneakers and congratulating myself on surviving another long night. I’ve been through half a box of Kleenex and six cups of coffee and that latter fact alone means just one thing: today’s speed walk will definitely include a stop at Safeway. Sure, I need sugar. But it’s much more likely I’ll need the ladies’ room.

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Here’s to rising from the rinds


Lately I’ve got a real thing for lemons which I’m pretty certain is because life keeps throwing them at me.

For instance, I bought a lemon-bedecked tablecloth for the kitchen, matching lemon-flecked napkins, and a package of very pretty faux lemons I plopped in a white soup tureen and placed in the center of the table. I added several touches of lemon to my gray and white living room too, and I can even foresee a time not too far in the future when my lemon love will spread through every inch of this place including my seventeen year-old son’s room, which I plan to “decorate” with the strongest lemon-scented air fresheners I can find.

“Go ahead, life,” my growing fondness for the bright yellow fruit seems to be saying, “take your best shot. Bean me right in the kisser. But beware, I make a mean lemonade.”

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Is There Sex Over 50?

Today’s topic is sex. Don’t panic! It’s actually, more specifically, about a dear friend’s journey to becoming a sex pod-caster.  Ok, now you can panic. I’m kidding. It’s not scandalous. It’s hysterical. As is her show, “Our Better Half: Sex Over 50.” In a few weeks she’ll be interviewing me. Am I nervous? A little. I’m not a big one for talking about sex, but I’m game. I figure we’ll laugh our sexy little butts off the entire time and you know me, I’m always up for a good giggle. Particularly if it’s at my expense! And now, without further delay, I am happy as a battery operated device in an adult toy store to introduce writer, blogger, author, and newly minted sex pod-caster, Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh. Read on. Giggle, And click the link to her show. In private, of course!

A Funny Thing, or Two, That Happened on the Way to My Podcast


Being a sex pod-caster, as it turns out, isn’t that sexy but it does raise the heart rate.  For one thing, I have to say the word “sex” out loud a lot, which is not something you hear from middle-age moms all the time. Or at least not THIS middle age mom. When I decided to start a humorous podcast about sex for people in the “Second Half” of life, I thought it might be interesting. But it turns out it’s a bit of welcome scandal.

I may not be having more sex, but I am having a lot more laughs, and at my age that’s not nothing.

I laugh at my kids rolling their eyes. My parents rolled their eyes at my kids rolling theirs: turnabout being fair play.

I laughed when the renowned Dr. Ruth emailed to wish me luck but was too busy with travel to be interviewed. I looked at her Twitter feed and you know what? She is! That 89 year-old is busier than anyone I know of any age. And if that’s what talking about sex does for you, I’m in.

I got a chuckle when my mother-in-law, instead of recoiling when she heard about my “sex over fifty” podcast started sending me neat little clippings from the paper on topics that, shall we say, we don’t usually discuss. I hear I’ve raised her popularity at the hair salon now that she can humble brag about her daughter-in-law’s “dirty radio show.”

It’s hysterical that I’ve bookmarked websites that most people hit “clear cache” for, at my age.

My email spam has gone from do-it-yourself backdoor sheds to… doing things at back doors and in sheds. I have to open my email hunched over the screen if I’m in public. My friends forward me things that make me go “huh?” And then “OH.” And then “MY.”

I’ve said “penis” into the ears of former colleagues who I would be too shy to invite to dinner. I’ve suggested therapeutic orgasms to folks who know how poorly I maintain my lawn.

It’s funny that one of my friends, on hearing me talk on the broadcast about daily orgasms, said that her “better half” would be all too happy to hear it and so she listens to my episodes on one tab with the only visible site being a BBC show on manners. Golf manners, no less.

I was thanked today by a friend for reminding her to do her Kegel exercises. So now my friends think of me fondly when they sneeze.

I cried the first day, but laughed later, about the sexpert who declared me unqualified to ask questions about sex because I had never even taken a field trip to a sex toy shop. I never said I was an expert, or particularly kinky: I’m a journalist. I ask questions. So I’m asking myself: “Why haven’t I ever been to a sex toy shop?” And the answer is: “Why are you hosting a podcast about sex?”

Getting people to be interviewed hasn’t turned out to be too much trouble. Everyone wants to talk about sex. Not their sex lives, of course, but everyone else’s. It’s off microphone, however, that I hear all the good stuff. If only “off the record” meant “record.” Maybe it does!

The best thing about my new gig is the giggling. I giggle about the people I want to interview and with the people I do interview. I giggle as I spend my days editing audiotapes full of words I probably pronounce wrong. I giggle at the particular sotto voce way people talk to me now, and I outright guffaw at the idea of ME doing this. I even giggle when my husband asks when I can find time to practice what I preach! Which isn’t good.

But it would make a great segment for the podcast…

Click to Tune In

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