Tuesday, December 27, 2011

we all know how lucky we are, right?  even when the atm receipt shows negative $17 and the house is rank with the post christmas blues.  even when there hasn't been a word written in days and the heater breaks down and the dog's teeth are covered in putrid plaque.  even when the moon is a sliver of beauty that hardly gets noticed and the best time is right now, but you're thinking about later.  because luck is spiteful and doesn't like to go unnoticed.  luck will change itself just for sport--just to watch you wish for what you already had.

Friday, December 16, 2011

the emergency room housekeeping staff jokes about what's in the squirt bottles that adorn their carts.  this is the humor that the job requires.  you want a squirt of this?  which one is my best squirt?  i'll show you. . everyone has their assigned tasks.  there is a chain of command.  take the temperature.  draw the blood.  suture the skin.  swab the vomit off the floor.  push the wheelchair.  sign here.  put that in.  take that out.  you will be fine.  you will never be fine.  none of it matters if you are not there.  if you are arguing with an adolescent about the necessity of brushing their teeth; if you are pushing yourself closer to the warmth of the man in your bed; if you are scrubbing burned cheese off the dinner plates.  but still--the lights glow all night.  the cold seeps under the electronic doors.  lives are saved and ruined.  you'd never know.  until it's your life.  until it's all that matters.  

image found here

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

all around me there are old women and men sitting in their chairs, thinking about how easy it used to be to tie shoelaces, drive a car, brew a coffee, protest the rent increase, crack a joke, or comfort a lover.  now everything is hard.  even eating without choking.  remember to chew, honey.  this from a girl who even at twenty-two doesn't know how to line her lips without looking like a whore.  or maybe they all want to look like whores these days.  whores from another planet with landing strips between their legs and computer screens in their back pockets.  another thing that's become nearly impossible:  understanding what it is people want.

image found here  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

pickling red onions has become one of my favorite things to do.  partly because i know that i'll get to eat them later--on a salad with goat cheese and walnuts and what could be better than that!?!?--but also because making them is one of those rare tasks that is incredibly simple but feels really sophisticated in a domestic kind of way.  somehow having a jar of homemade pickled anything in the fridge feels incredibly satisfying.  and now that i've written all of that down, i realize how this is exactly the kind of thing one should not declare in public.  not unless you want everyone under the age of twenty-five to start snickering.  i can see my 12 year-old's eyes rolling.  kill me now, she'd be thinking.  if that ever becomes one of my favorite things to do, i will know it's time to go.  yep.  that's me.  not really caring about the shame i should be feeling.  that's me going to put on the kettle and unscrew the vinegar.  didn't i say something about a precipice?

image found here

Monday, November 21, 2011

i am on the edge.  teetering on that precipice of mid-life.  it is exhilarating and horrible, both.  cookies and milk taste even better than they did when i was young.  working hard at crafting a fictional life, falling in love with people who have already died, becoming young enough to remember young.  i see t's hands on his guitar and i wonder if there is a girl out there, the girl who will love his hands first, the way i loved the mister's first.  i was looking for metaphors, even then.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

do you listen to the sound the disposal makes as it whirs?  is there a small shriek every time a leaf turns loose of its hold on the branch and falls to the street?  are you clean on the inside, or filthy?  the sky was cloudy and gray when i saw two people shooting drugs in their car.  it was just one time.  you could be a star.  bring your friend.  no, not her.  the hot one.  we reek of trouble.  do you want to call your mom?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

recently, there were some black moods.  angry, hateful, disgusting.  the funny thing about moods, is that they're catching.  more contagious than the flu, i think.  so i won't say who started it, but suffice it to say that, at one point or another, we had each become afflicted.  this got me thinking about the antidotes to a black mood.  we should each have a bag of them, and use them just like medicine.  my bag includes:
  • make cookies
  • a walk
  • music
  • lock myself up & work
  • an outing to the bookstore
  • an episode of the office, 30 rock, or curb your enthusiasm
  • lock myself up & read
  • a hot chai
  • new pajamas
  • scrabble, pente, or cards
  • car talk
you?  i tried to get everyone to make their own bag because when you need it most, you often forget what in the world you could do to make it better.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

are you bitter?  do you find yourself rolling your eyes at people who smile too much?  why does it matter that your jeans will never fit the way you want them to?  why does that sometimes make you feel like you've missed something really important?  why do you struggle so much with middles?  everything happens in the middle.  beginnings and endings are for pussies.  you are not a pussy.  or are you?  are you capable of making a meal everyone will adore?  would the food taste better if your jeans fit like they should?  if you are the protagonist, what is it that you want?  what are you seeking?  your daughter wants to be an adult; she wants to stand in front of her own stove and push the food around, wondering if any of it is what it should be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the house is empty.  the dishes echo when i put them away.  i walked the dog and saw two dead honeybees in the gutter.  the trees have begun their beautiful goodbye.  wild animals are on the loose in ohio.  their cages broken, their keeper dead.  lions & tigers & bears.  keep the children home from school.  lock the doors.  make cookies and keep your eyes to the windows.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

another batch of house guests T minus 48.

sometimes i fantasize about my own life.  my own regular, dull, hermit-like life.

but at least the excuse for a dismal writing week is better than, gee, i wonder what kinds of curtain are for sale on etsy, or hmmm, is veganism possible for me, or wow, colum mccann really knows what the hell he's up to.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

i've been thinking a lot about how time changes us.  not just physically, though that's always floatin' around.  but when i think about who i was when i met the mister or had my babies, it's safe to say that i was pretty different.  and that's the beauty of those experiences:  they've forever left their mark on me.

i remember a conversation i had with a 7th grade boyfriend.  we were talking on the phone one night (remember those days) and i was sprawled across my iron bed with my feet on the wall.  we talked for hours about what kind of car we'd each drive when we were adults and married.  huh?  yeah.  look at me in the minivan, now!  i remember how i thought those things--the toys, the clothes, the pets--would determine the kind of life you had.  it was just a matter of choosing the right car, etc., and then everything would fall into place.  obviously, the ugly blue station wagon that my mom drove was an irreversible step into dorkdom.  it was because of that station wagon that she didn't "get" me.  that i wasn't allowed to go to friends houses if their parents weren't home (little did she know. . .).  that she didn't think loud music was fun or have any plans on new year's eve.

so, last night i became a traitor to my own 11 year-old-self:  e is not allowed to go to friends houses if there is not an adult at home.

how long will this rule last?  she wants to know.  in high school, too?

oh, yeah.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

i was sitting on a park bench, reading the extraordinary THIS SIDE OF BRIGHTNESS by Colum McCann.  it was an idyllic afternoon.  the children were running and biking, respectively, around the very large park and i was left with my book.  the eastern sky was threatening to storm, but it was still warm and breezy in the park.  an older male jogger was circling the park, making his route in the gutter, several feet behind me.  as he passed the first time i couldn't believe what i heard:  a loud and--dare i say--agressive, fart.  it startled me.  i turned and look at him as he kept on jogging.  surely he didn't know what he'd done.  i mean, couldn't he hear how loud and iconic it was?  he wasn't wearing headphones.  as he circled again, another one.  then another.  when the children finished their ramblings, i collected our things and as we were leaving i told them about the jogger.  perfect humor for my children.  and then, as if on cue, the farting jogger circles us again.  sure enough, he let one rip.  we couldn't help ourselves.  we laughed at his public display of flatulence.  maybe that's what he was after.

image found here

Monday, September 26, 2011

"it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."  - e.e. cummings

also, to explain to your grandmother what a boner is.  i'm just sayin'.  i live in the presence of a courageous girl.

image found here

Saturday, September 24, 2011

dead meat

we took the train to santa fe yesterday.  there was a free, heartwarming concert by kyma dawson.  this song was my favorite.  then, new mexican dinner and a return trip on the train.  in the dark.  we were all tired.  but there was a high-energy rebel, a kid named james who is fed up with it all:  obama, wall street, child labor, coach bags, tuition hikes.  he was articulate and passionate and entertaining.  we all fell a little bit in love with him.  

then, there was an extraordinarily large sound all around and beneath us.  like a bag of rocks on the track.  boulders.  the train seemed to lift off the tracks.  i put both my feet on the floor and held my breath.  then the engineer announced that it was a cow.  we'd hit a cow.  and the smell seeping in through the metal and glass of the railrunner was like something burning or melting or spoiling.  

james said:  some people eat hamburger.  e said:  i think i may be vegetarian.  i said:  i hope the cow didn't see it coming.  then we were all quiet.

photo by sharon montrose.  found here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

nature's love lesson #9

or welcome to autumn

9.  as soon as the sun backs off a bit, as soon as it's not shoving its hotness at you from dawn til dusk, not making you wince with its absolute constancy, then--and only then--does its heat on your bare back and hidden shoulders become excellent.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


the mister has his bday today.  there was a time i thought i'd never have anything in common with a forty-three year old man.  little did i know. . .

my mister is a perfect specimen of humor, kindness, passion, wisdom & forgiveness.  to my fourteen-year old self who would read this and think, seriously, ewww:  you can't even begin to imagine the goodness coming your way.  thanks, mister.  happy birthday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

". . .there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty. "-Anne Lamott

I wonder, as I read these words, if this idea is taught in schools?  Is it even considered when designing curriculum?  A nine year old girl that I met this weekend told me she wants to be a dentist when she grows up.  Cool, I thought.  I've never heard that from a child.  So I asked her why that interested her.  She said she'd heard they make a lot of money.  Sigh.  Surely some dentists are inspired and fulfilled by their work, but doubtful that they got into it for the salary. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


i woke up at 3am with shards of glass in my throat.  after camping with t's 4th grade class for two nights, it was to be expected.  when i woke again at 8am, i was thinking about my father.  the bedroom was slightly cool as his was on the day he last spoke.  little t, then only three, toddled in and said, "hi, papa."  my father turned his head slightly, smiled a little as his eyes rested on t. "hey, t, how you doin'?"  it was the last thing he ever said.  when i woke up this morning i was thinking about the road my father's mind travelled after those words.  because i know he was still travelling.  still hearing conversations, still seeing scenes in his mind from his life.  but it was all his.  none of it shared.  his own private road home.  it makes me lonely, but also profoundly in awe of life and its unfolding.  there will always be the thoughts that are our own.  the things we'll never share.  and this thought makes the things that do we share ever more precious.  i can hear his voice, still.  that final question a gift like no other.  a strand of his concern that echoes over and over.  how you doin'?

image found here

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

not that i mind. . .

but somebody mistook my beloved, well-worn, bought at a gas station in carlsbad, california cowboy hat, for a sombrero.  i'd just like to use this space to show the world the difference.  top photo is a cowboy hat.  bottom photo is a sombrero.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

dipping my toe in the water

the morning is cloudy and cool, unlike any morning for so long.  maybe three months, even.  it matches the writerly insides of me.  quiet.  dark.  slightly gloomy.  tolstoy was not an academic.  didn't like school.  but in between visits to the brothels and bars and gambling halls, he taught himself twelve languages.  what a slacker.

t and i saw a woman speaking (?) super fast sign language in her car this morning.  the woman in the passenger's was wearing dark glasses and appeared to be blind.

that's all.

*except the photo is by my brilliant friend sacha, found on her flickr page.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teen Lit Day

Drop a book off in a park, bus stop, cafe and imagine changing someone's life.  (Or maybe, depending on your mood, just get a tattoo of a book that changed your own life.)  But, really.  If you've got the time, be a part of the DROP!  Words matter.  We are hungry for stories.  Hungry to find our own stories.  The ones we'll return to again and again.  Go out and minister to the youth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

fellowship for writer parents

Pen Parentis is an organization in New York that hosts readings by writers who are also--wait for it--PARENTS!!  It is curated by my dear friend, Arlaina, and they are currently accepting submissions for a $1,000 fellowship.  The fellowship will be awarded based on a short story, so put your pen to paper, 'rents!  For details, follow the link.


Monday, April 11, 2011

During the past couple of weeks, I've been working on a couple of guest posts for a several blogs, including Lori's Reading Corner, and Booking Mama.  In conjunction with the posts, these bloggers are giving away paperback copies of DEAR STRANGERS.  If you like, visit their sites and register to win a free copy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm feeling kinda fed up with precious.  It seems to be everywhere, cultivated as though it might save us from our certain deaths.  I don't know if this makes sense to any of you and maybe it's my own sort of defense mechanism, but I don't want to see any more flower brooches or perfectly placed antique metal letters on mantels or sweet little handmade anything.  I'm not in the mood for sunny dispositions or looking on the bright side or pictures of clouds.  I don't want cupcakes decorated with spots and stripes or handmade invitations or pennants made from scraps of fabric.  The adjectives super, sweet, and lovely shouldn't describe baked goods, crafts or people's personalities anymore.  Badass, curt and blazingly honest seem much better.

If I were a teenager, today would be the day I'd get a tattoo.

I read a book this weekend that could, another day, be called sweet and lovely and the description would be right, but today I will call it courageous for its quietness and badass for its smarts:  A GOOD HOUSE by Bonnie Burnard.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

E and I took the train to Santa Fe this weekend.  Neither of us had ever ridden the route that the Mister takes everyday.  It was a soulful journey.  I watched the graffiti on the old warehouses by the downtown station shift into small, chainlinked yards, then, set farther back from the tracks were larger yards with trampolines and sandboxes.  Even further along, the mesas and llamas and solitary pick-up trucks evoke a kind of nostalgia for a small-town way back when.  Men in folding chairs sat along the tracks in places, passing their day by the train's schedule.  I wondered if they daydreamed about us, just as I was daydreaming about them.

I remember being in college on the east coast and taking the Amtrak from New York City to New London, CT with the Mister.  It was our first trip alone together.  I was nineteen.  Only eight years older than E is now.  We sat in the cushioned seats, snuggling, the Manhattan skyline receding behind us and I remember thinking I was so worldly, on a train with my lover.  Then the Mister got a severe bout of motion sickness and my fantasy was broken a bit.

There are so many things I want to write about.  Girls turning from girls into something else.  The friends that make them giggle and roll their eyes and feel powerful.  The friends whose lives they envy because everyone else's rules seem better than your own.  Or maybe everyone else's rules seem absent.  Maybe they seem like they're already riding trains with lovers and not having any motion sickness whatsoever.  These girls, in their short shorts, with their braces on their teeth and miniscule waists are so sweet to me that I have a hard time remembering that I have a job to do.  Sometimes my job is going to make them mad.  Make them close their bedroom doors and exhaust all the curse worlds they know complaining about me.  Sometimes I'm going to want to join them.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

a closed drawer. . .

. . .is a beautiful thing.  So much possibility:  danger, deviance, disappointment.  If you could see my bedroom drawers right now, it would repel you.  The clothes are falling out, thrown across the open drawers like desperate refugees.  It's not pretty.

There should be goal here, stating something like, yes I will get that dresser tidied up and I will marvel at the beauty of the closed drawer.  But I'm not going to lie.  My intentions, at this point, are ambiguous.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm not sure how to say this, but the whole word count thing is a sham.  I'd never tried it before, so how could I have known?  But, really?  I could sit and type the word accomplishment 5,150 times and report to you that number and look like some kind of bad-ass.  Not that I have.  I've been brutally honest here (as evidenced by my excruciatingly low word count.  Who would fake that?), but the point remains.  The number is meaningless.

In this job, attendance is really the only thing that counts.  You must show up, you must come with good intentions and you must stay until you cannot stay any longer.  There.  That's your job.  Because some days, when there is absolutely no word count, there has been lots of work.  But then I have to log in and 'fess up and I feel like a loser, when I should be feeling like a winner because--hey--I showed up.  Or, some days, when I know the word count is decent, I also know that I hate them all and they're getting deleted as soon as possible.  Then, I log in and feel like a poser.  Does it seem like I'm moving the goalposts?  Yeah, it does to me, too.  But, whatever.  I'm over the word count.  That's all I'm saying.

Image found on mrlomo's flikr page.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Word Count:  114

Mood:  Today I was discouraged.  Why can't writing just be writing?  Why does there have to be so much forethought?  I suppose on the best of days this forethought vanishes and there's just a clear path, without obstacles that look like gigantic piles of reasons why not.  Not a good choice, not a good metaphor, not an interesting setting, not an authentic action, not happy enough, not sad enough, not big enough, not small enough, not early enough, not late enough. . .Today was not one of those days.  Today felt like I was in one of those traffic rounds where you yield, wait, turn, yield, wait, turn. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Word Count:  Hard to say because I will skipping between three different manuscripts.  Going back in for edits, trying to find my way.  Thinking a lot about story and how it's so very different from life.  Like going from a solid straight to a liquid (I learned today that this is called sublimation.  Perfect, huh?)  It's kind of a perfect metaphor, I think.  Take the big solid, heavy chunks of life and sublimate them into a gorgeous, drinkable solution.  Chemistry for writers.

Reading:  Old Filth by Jane Gardam.  It's like a classier Ian McEwan.  All proper British country house blokes with loads of devilish secrets lurking underneath.  I love it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Word Count:  0

Mood:  It hurts to see it in black and white.  Here's what took precedence:  Loads of math, reading, writing & spelling work with T, sewing a thank you letter (?!?), Target, Parcheesi, nachos, email, filing, bills, and Pilates.  Hmmm.  Would you ever admit that list to your boss?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Word Count:   62

Mood:  I'm so glad you're a forgiving boss, who requires no dress code nor daily minimum.  Give youself a raise.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Word Count:  246

Mood:  Some books should come with warning labels.  The Unnamed should warn its readers:  This book is so devastating that you may cry until your whole face is wet and you feel both ashamed and elated that such genuine tears were prompted by paper and ink.  Joshua Ferris is not a writer to be messed with.  His prose is so confident, his vision so remarkable, his empathy so deep, he may actually be able to write us the fuck out of trouble.

I may need cucumber slices on my eyes in the morning.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Word Count:  103

Mood:  Sometimes it seems like we're our own biggest obstacles.  Get out of the way, Meg. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Word Count:  238

Mood:  During the carpool this morning, the world seemed so tender.  Maybe because of the weekend's events in Arizona, I felt a kind of communal heavy sigh as I passed a young red-headed office worker juggling her coffee and her keys on the way to her car for the early commute, a middle-aged man waiting for the bus and smiling at a pigeon cooing near his feet, a group of brave golfers carrying their clubs across a frosted green.  They all seemed to be struggling with the same kind of quiet disbelief of the pain we humans inflict on each other.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Word Count:  0

Mood:  I'm weepy and achy in my gut reading Joshua Ferris' The Unnamed.  It's devastating in all the best ways.  It captures life's sweetness and its cruelty with such poignancy that it will slay you.  These kinds of books (Lark & Termite, Let the Great World Spin, The Story of Lucy Gault) are either huge sources of inspiration, or the best argument for retirement, depending on the day.  Look at the number above and you'll see in which of those applies to me at the moment.  Does that count as a sick day, Boss?  Or, two?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Word Count:  138

Mood:  sunny (and there's no sarcasm in that, I swear).

PS Thanks, Boss, for the encouraging comment.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Word Count:  15

Mood:  #@%?!%Fifteen
Word Count:  251

Mood:  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. . .

Blogger funked out on me last night so these numbers are for yesterday, January 5th.  Sorry, Boss.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Word Count:  169

Mood:  Really?

But here's this from an interview with Dave Eggers, aka King of the World, in the Guardian:

"I procrastinate worse than anybody.  Writing is so hard.  I need eight hours to get maybe 20 minutes of work done.  I had one of those yesterday:  seven hours of self-loathing."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Word Count:  218

Mood:  a wee bit lost, but it's not all bad

I've been plodding my way through more of The Great House.  It's an odd book.  It doesn't feel novelistic at all.  Which is strange because The History of Love was such a tight, fully realized novel.  This book almost feels like a series of monologues.  Like it should be on stage.  I'm determined to finish it, though. 

Sugar Fast:  Coincidence or not?  This morning at the ungodly hour of 6:30, though I was not happy to awaken, I was completely AWAKE once I put my feet on the floor.  This is highly unusual for me.  I usually trudge through the first 45 minutes of the morning as though walking through mud.  Hmmm.  But, chocolate is everywhere and there are several members of my own family who torture me with their cocoa breath.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I know a thing about caution.  As much as I love a good resolution, I am also a realist.  So here's what I have to say about today:  I spent a lot of time looking at cookie recipes.  Time that might otherwise have been spent, say, writing.  Why, you ask.  Well, because in addition to assigning you all the new job title of BOSS, I also decided to give up sugar for the month of January.  And who would have guessed--all I really want right now is just a little smidge of chocolate or a little crunch of a butter cookie.  Suddenly, I regret all the cookies I never ate.  Seriously, I didn't gorge myself enough!  I never took advantage of actually eating sugar when there was no rule against it!  Did I?  Oh, crimeny.  It's bad.  The Mister says it will only be a little bit WORSE tomorrow.  Really?  WTF?  If you're in the mood to drool, or if you are actually a sane Boss who can eat whatever the fuck you want because you don't bother with stupid resolutions and self-deprivations, then hop on over and make this recipe.  It's one that I stared at long and hard.  It's printed out beside me right now.  My mouth is watering.  How many days left in January?

Word count:  Zero

Mood:  Greedy

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reading Steven Millhauser's story in the New Yorker, "Getting Closer," was such a beautiful meditation on life and writing.  It resonated with me.  Often, the anticipation of writing, the collecting of ideas and images, is so full of promise--just like standing at the edge of the water, on the cusp of the perfect day you've imagined for so long.  

Word count:  249

Mood: cautious

making a change

Happy New Year!!

I'm using the first day of this year to make some changes to the blog.  No, it won't be prettier, wittier or wiser.  In fact, it may be less of all those things, if you can imagine.

I'm going to use this place as though it's my supervisor--so if none of you are interested in being the boss of a very sensitive writer struggling with her third novel, this may not be your cup of tea.  It could get ugly.  My plan is to check in DAILY with a weather report of sorts:  A page word count for the day, a general update of my writing mood, and maybe a little about what I'm reading and how it's influencing the work.  Capiche?