It takes a Pandemic

I once read that if you’re struggling to find your life’s purpose, you could reveal it by looking to your behavior on the evening of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. What were you doing in the days surrounding the four coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States? This advice works if you were of age at the time, and not, say, a toddler. The idea here is that your curiosity, your natural inclinations will draw you to your calling, and reflecting on your actions in those days will reveal your gifts.

My gift, it turns out, was stress-eating. For a good week. And cooking for a good lifetime. More on this here >>

In these past few days since the Covid-19 epidemic has escalated to a pandemic, since a national emergency has been declared in my country, since “shelter in place” orders have been mandated throughout parts of our nation, I’ve only spent two days eating like it’s a plural-verb. 2020 – 2001 = 19 years. And in those 19 years, I’ve whittled down my food buffering by five days. I’m gonna boast and use the word “only.” I am a vision of progress.

It took a pandemic for me to write, and it’s the most therapeutic ritual I know. My home, the one I know by heart. The only ritual I’ve practiced since primary school. And, I was too afraid of it, that I wouldn’t know what to say, or worried who I’d offend. It’s too big. People want to read about blinding fear or gratitude, to validate or escape. To see a 35-year-old woman, a gym fanatic without underlying health conditions gasping for air, to give themselves a compelling reason to justify the anxiety. Or musical instruments played from terraces, neighbors dancing at their front doors. Light up the spirit.

I sat down to write this, finally, something real, something worthy, and a funny thing happened. Just as I couldn’t wait to write about the opportunity we all have to tap into our natural strengths, to write about my trip into Manhattan yesterday, and the way I saw the city and immediately regretted not having my camera at my hip–my thirteen year old daughter entered the room. “Please, I’ll only ask you these two things, and then I swear I’ll leave you alone,” she said.

“Don’t even,” I said, my fingers fanned into air stops.

“Just the fastest, please just the garlic and the onion. That’s all I need help with,” she said, holding a smile.

“Seriously? Now, of all times, when I’m finally writing. When you know I’m writing, you seriously want to interrupt me for this?”

“Come on, you can write about this, how your daughter interrupted your genius flow the one time you actually had something to say.” This sentence of hers makes me deeply proud.

“Yeah,” I say as I march toward the kitchen, “I can’t wait to tell ’em how you derailed me so you could make Spanakopita like a good Greek girl, when you’re like 90% Jewish.”

I teach her to remove the papery skins from the garlic, how to pass it through a press for intense flavor, and the French technique to dice an onion. I ‘ve had all kinds of teachers in my life. My mother, who taught me to make homemade Spanakopita was one of my earliest. Writing professors. Photography instructors. YouTube tutorials. And now I’m a teacher, not just to my children. Through my books, this blog, my photography, and where lately I’ve spent my most time creating value: helping people not just lose weight, but lose the problem. If you’ve read Moose, you know I’ve studied food and body image for the whole of my life. My past has been the teacher.

This photo I took in Hakone, Japan for some reason came to mind when I think about the coronavirus pandemic. I love not just the sculpture and the stories I can see in it, but also its juxtaposition in a sculptured garden–nature, what was once wild.

Yesterday when I was driving into Manhattan, I thought about something a writing professor once said to me. A writer is always writing, even when they don’t have a pen. They’ll walk into a party and be thinking, “How should I write this?” My photography instructor said something similar, assessing how he’d set up a shot, even if he was without his gear. Yesterday, I regretting not having my camera to capture the masked crowds, not six-feet apart. The man spitting phlegm on the sidewalk. The way a woman outstretched her hand to grip the top-most part of a door handle, witnessing her hand-to-metal progression as she tried first to use two fingers and then a full fist.

When I look to my behavior these past few days, it is not a list. People are de-cluttering, shopping, ordering puzzles, binging on the news and booze. I wanted to paint. To cook. To enjoy board games. To play Auld Lang Syne on the piano. To take photos, maybe. What I’ve spent my time doing these past few days? Coaching. I’ve been helping people with their anxiety, the thoughts and behaviors that don’t serve their future selves. I’ve been knee-deep in it, full days on the computer, holed up in the kids’ homework room. Virtual Coaching. It’s quite possibly what’s in store for my future self, since it’s what I already do. So, if you’re sheltering in place, isolated at home, or surrounded by too many loved ones, reach out to me. I’m in it with you, friends.

Should you be a WW (formerly Weight Watchers) member, digital or workshops, our virtual workshops are included in your membership, no extra fee. I’d love to invite you in. To hang with me online, get coached, get your mind right, or to just be a voyeur. If you live in the USA, or know friends who are members, share this post, as I invite you to pull out your WW app, click the icon of the people (aka Connect), then “Browse groups” and search for STEPHANIEK (screenshot below) and a list of my workshops will appear. You can come get a Stephanie Workshop 6 days a week, from home. In your PJs. Here’s my schedule…

To join the Virtual Workshop, click on the location name, click Join/Visit then “See more” on the Pinned top post to expand the post to reveal the link that will launch your virtual workshop. This Saturday, March 21, I’m available online at 7am, 8:15am, 9:30am and 10:45am. As for the other days, my schedule is posted here.

If you’re not a member and you want to join because you feel out of control right now, or you want to feel better, or you just want some help, I’m not going anywhere. I won’t run an advertisement, but you can reach out to me.

As for writing, while I’ve been thinking of the “how” in these past few days, writing in my head as things unfold, it was never something I was desperate to do. Until now.

Social Distancing


  1. I really do need to “lose the problem “….. I just haven’t figured out what it is yet. So, while I’ll doing my origami this week, 6 feet away from everyone, I will search for that underlying problem I soooo wish to release

  2. There is something about you ,maybe it’s your warm smile, or your “HELLO FRIENDS!”, or the way you not only talk(write) but listen also,that makes you the person you are, We are thankful we met you,your words and stories and facts are inspiring.You , to many of us,are much more than a coach,,you are family,,you are loved,…

  3. Always love to read anything you have scribed …..thank you! XO hope all is well with you and you beautiful family ❤️

  4. Happy to see you back in my in-box like the old days. Thinking back to all those years ago when I first “found” you is much better than thinking about what is going on today. I was thinking 13- how could she be 13! When I realized mine is 11. Boy how it flies…

  5. Thank you Stephanie for always being there for all of us in anyway you can. I so admire your energy your passion your creativity your wit and intelligence; your depth of soul. Please never change but only Grow

  6. This is an amazing piece that speaks volumes to everyone. I love the way you started with September 11th & brought it full circle to the pandemic we are living now. You are a brilliant writer & anyone who reads your blogs, FB posts, Instagram posts, & memoirs already knows this. Thank you for being the best Coach & for ALWAYS having our backs. For you this isn’t a job, it’s a passion! And for those of us lucky enough to be your members, we love & appreciate you more than you will ever know❤️ With the uncertainty we are surrounded by at the present time, we do know one thing for certain… have been & always will be by our sides to inspire, motivate, support, & truly keep us going

  7. You know I absolutely love you, us, our synchronicity our luster for life. Keep on teaching, writing, doing lives, painting, playing the piano and living by example. We need our Red everyday because let’s face it, this is a whole other world compared to 3 weeks ago and we are going to get through it. “WE GONNA DO IT TOGETHER” said in “Stephanie’s Voice”. Your voice is never far from my ears. Your passion never far from my heart! Xoxo

  8. Oh, the relief I felt a few minutes ago was palpable! My friend, Stephanie, is back! Thank you for coming back – I think we all need normal, and familiar, and comfy.

    Speaking of writing, my youngest daughter (who is now 25 years old and is a practicing attorney in downtown Manhattan) is trapped in her 19th floor apartment – this is day 12. She’s been battling with what we all are…doubts, fears, anxiety, but she is also alone with her kitty. So we spend quite a bit of time on Skype so she can see another human.

    The other night when she was feeling desperately alone – I told her to return to writing (she was an avid author before law school)…that she has a unique point of view that no one else has – she’s actually there, in the middle of the mess. She declined the suggestion. So I told her to send me a prompt, and I’d start writing it from here in Utah – and we could have a cross-nation mom-daughter book. She told me I’m silly. But I’m doing it anyway…earthquakes and pandemics be damned. Update: I just popped into our google doc – and joy of joys…she’s writing! :-)

    Stay safe, friends!

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