Author Archives

I'm a writer, editor, writing coach, teacher, and founder of Motherhood & Words. I'm the author of Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood, and co-author of Silent Running, a memoir of one family’s journey with autism and running. My writing has appeared in numerous journals, including Brevity, Creative Nonfiction's True Story, Los Angeles Review of Books, New York Times online, Poets & Writers, and River Teeth. I teach in Ashland University’s Low-residency MFA program, at the Loft Literary Center, ModernWell, and online. For more about my work and editorial services visit

Stumbling Into Joy

Jill Douglas/Redferns

Kate Hopper | True Story | August 2019 | 46 minutes (9,120 words)


“[Playing music together provides an] opportunity of stumbling into joy, of having an essentially unedited, fresh, and electric experience . . . [which] is key to the girls’ futures.” —June Millington, member of Fanny, cofounder of the Institute for the Musical Arts

The year I turned forty-three, I was in pain almost all the time. It wrapped like a mammoth hand around my right rib cage, squeezing, squeezing. The culprit: a sluggish gallbladder.

Pain is like a feral animal; it’s unpredictable. It’s not just the physical discomfort that’s so disruptive; it’s also the fear of the pain’s return. So even when I had a good day, I knew it was short-lived. Would I feel okay tomorrow? Was it something I did? Or something I ate? Pain made me feel old. It also made me acutely aware of my own mortality.

Finally, after eight months of trying to address the pain on my own, I had my gallbladder removed. It took another six months for my digestion to stabilize, and when I finally felt better, I was relieved, but also a little shell-shocked. What had just happened?

I shifted into taking-stock mode. I was almost forty-four years old, and ideally I still had half of my life ahead of me. How did I want to live it? And what were my regrets? Luckily, I didn’t have many. I was happily married, with two wonderfully spunky, smart, healthy, and kind daughters. My work as a writer, editor, and coach, despite not paying very well, gave me great pleasure. I reasoned that even the hard stuff I’d experienced in my life, which I would have gladly avoided if given the chance, had taught me something and had, as the saying goes, made me stronger.

Read more…