Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It’s been a while.

I went to my old favorite spot today, the hill I always climb when I’m happy or sad or feeling something big. At the top, the woods recede and the air feels cleaner and I can look out on the expanse below and just breathe. I first came to this place when my children were babies, preschoolers at the tiny yellow building nestled at the base of the hill, and over the years it became a kind of touchstone for me. I’ve climbed the hill plenty of times with friends, but even more often alone. Particularly on the first day of school, when my kids were back in class after being home all summer, it was a spot to go and think about how fast time was moving.

All of that changed about two years ago. I haven’t climbed it, not really, since then. 

During the pandemic, ‘my’ spot became more popular, crowded with people and their dogs. I go to the woods for peace and for clarity, so I found other paths. Besides, my oldest is in college now, my youngest close behind. Their first days of school have come, and passed, and are heading toward a close.

But driving by today, I felt the urge to visit.  

From my perch at the top of the hill I can see the landscape below has changed. When my daughter started school here, years ago, our car bumped down a rutted road, with wildflowers on one side and a horse barn on the other. The teachers led field trips to the barn, toting bags of carrots. The road is paved now, the horse barn replaced with a row of large, tidy houses. As slice of the woods has been carved out for more. 

As I stare out over the distance,  I can still see the landscape as I remember it: the soft curve of the road, the stand of maples that were particularly bright red in the fall. It’s all there, buried beneath the new topography, the way I can sometimes catch a glimpse of my children behind the eyes of the young adults they’ve become. 

And yet changes — even expected ones — are disorienting. I lose my way on a trail I once hiked so often I could have found my way in the dark. New boardwalks lift me over muddy paths. A favorite view is fenced off, the path rerouted to protect vulnerable plants. I don’t have access to it anymore. And the whole walk, I long for the deer I used to see, but instead find only squirrels, scolding me as they leap from tree to tree. 

And then, just before the trail curves, I spot her. A large doe, right on the path, white tail flicking. She looks at me a long moment, neither of us moving, before she turns and crashes through the undergrowth. She makes her own way where, to my eyes, there is none.

When I’m finished the hike, I climb the hill one last time. I search for the familiar view, but it’s getting dark and the changes make it difficult. I close my eyes, take a deep breath. The landscape’s not mine anymore, but then it never was. It’s time to find a new place, although this one will always be dear to me.

There are other hills to climb, other paths to follow. 


Read Full Post »


I take more photos in the summer.  I tell myself it’s because in summer, my surroundings are more scenic.  IMG_1340.JPG

Because the days are longer. Because in summer, time is slower.IMG_1441.JPG

There’s no carpool, no mad scramble to leave the house before 7, to hit the highway exactly by 7:15 to avoid the gridlock that inevitably forms, worsening every minute that I’m late.IMG_1461.JPG

But that’s not exactly it.  In summer, time is a bubble.  We pack every June for the same place I’ve gone every year since I was 19.  I buy a handful of new outfits, but wind up wearing the same three every day — cutoff jeans I’ve had since I was 30, a few sundresses, aged to the perfect softness, and workout clothes I’ve owned since before I had children.  I bring makeup, but after the first week settle for sunscreen and a good lip balm.

What we get in exchange for eschewing contemporary comfort is time.  In summer, we lose track of the days.  We have no cable, no air conditioning, no phone line, no wi-fi. We judge the days by the farmer’s markets, by trash collection, by the passing of the tides.

I hold my breath and pretend that my children are babies again.  The house is so small we wake at the same time, dreaming the same dreams of ocean and the sky. They wolf their breakfasts and disappear for the day, collecting hermit crabs,  walking the beach, tubing and running from house to house for card games, for movies, piling into a car for an ice cream run, jumping off the pier into the dark and swimming as fast as they can for the raft as seaweed brushes against their legs.  Last minute sleepovers and early morning rendezvous to watch the dawn, and knowing all the while that these smallest things, these insignificant details, are what we will remember and hold tight in the cold, aging light of fall.

Read Full Post »

Rainy Day Repast

IMG_9077It’s pouring buckets here today. Is it where you are, too? If you are looking for something to do, won’t you consider hopping over to Writer Unboxed and reading my latest blog post there? And if you get a chance, check out a few of the other posts writers have shared since mine — they are full of writerly inspiration for a rainy day.

Read Full Post »

WU Redirect With Recipe

I wrote a column for Writer Unboxed last week.  In it I remember a good friend and say good-bye.  If you have a moment, please stop by.

Read Full Post »

Happy almost Halloween!  I have all kinds of treats here, and very few tricks, I promise.

all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-197x300First, I’m over today at Writer Unboxed, interviewing the talented Bryn Greenwood about her novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.  Bryn is the kind of writer who takes my mind, turns it inside out, stretches it, gives it a good beating, then puts it back together so it’s never quite the same.  Her books aren’t what I would call easy reading, but they shake me up and make me think.  I’d love it if you would stop by and check her out.  (And there may or may not be a picture of her own Slobbering Beasts there too.  Just sayin’.)

51h9kbdnbjlNext,  I am sooooo happy to announce that Author in Progress, a book to which I contributed a chapter, is available for sale.  It was spearheaded by the lovely and amazing author Therese Walsh, who is a cofounder of the Writer Unboxed site.  Over the years she’s managed to pull together a tribe of writers who are supportive, kind, and just plain fun to be around.  If you are a writer in any way shape or form, published or not, the group is one of the nicest and most drama-free I’ve ever known and well worth checking out.  As is the book.  (See my subtle plug there?)  And if you aren’t a writer, but know someone who is, I promise the book makes a lovely gift.

Finally, Monday is Halloween.  So I couldn’t let this post pass by without at least one trick.  Which I played on the poor Slobbering Beast, who will be confined to his crate that evening so as not to lose his doggy mind during the constant ringing of the doorbell.  (And also to avoid any surreptitious snacking on stray candy bars.  Hey, a dog can dream.)


Totally Johnny Depp.  Okay, maybe Johnny after a few beers.


Read Full Post »

Alone Again, Naturally


I did my annual hike and cry around the hill today.  My oldest started high school last week (HIGH SCHOOL) but I was prepared, I was ready.  I dropped her off at a friend’s house so they could carpool together, and I may have welled up a little as she walked away, but no real waterworks.  Besides, I had the boy for another week — summer lite.

But the boy went off today.  Bravely, considering he’s starting a new school without his close compadre of friends, the friends who have known him almost his entire life.  So we dropped the girl off, and then jaunted down the highway to his new school, and in the rush of finding where he should be and seeing people I hadn’t seen all summer, the moment where he actually left slipped away.  And I was fine.

Until I got in the car and nobody else was there.

There was nobody to argue about what radio station to listen to, to roll their eyes when I played our summer theme (the entire Hamilton album) again, to remind me to cue up the book on tape or pass the tissues or the hand sanitizer or the box of granola bars.  And for about 15 seconds, it was wonderful.

And then I cried.

Because I can see the end, clearly now.  We’re hurtling toward it like the drop-off of a roller coaster, we’re strapped in and prepped for go and there’s no turning back, no way to get off.  Any lessons they haven’t learned (put your clothes away, make your bed, hug your brother, hug your sister, be kind, be true to you, look for the helpers in times of crisis, in times of crisis be a helper, love learning for learning’s sake), any wisdom I still have to impart, needs to be communicated now.  Because tomorrow is coming up fast.  And because my time with them, which once stretched ahead like the ocean, has become fleeting.

Friends took their kids to college this weekend.  Some to colleges around the corner from them, some to colleges hours away.  All of them are great kids, and the parents all texted me the same thing, more or less:  “He/she is so happy. They’re ready for this.”

The parents were happy as well, but sad in a way that was deeper, that a hike around the lake on a rainy day couldn’t fix.  Because parenthood is the only job where, if you do it well, if you put your entire heart and soul into it, at the end the best result you can hope for is to be let go, to become obsolete.  To watch your kids smile hugely as they walk away from you, because they’re excited and able to take on what’s coming next.  I realized today that all these past Septembers have been practice for the upcoming big one, the ones my friends are already facing.  But I think my heart has known this for years.

Which is why I’ve cried.

Read Full Post »

Past Time

Here’s something you might not know about me:  There was a time when I could debate scripture with the best of them.  I went to Catholic school for eight years, back when there were actual nuns, tough old biddies who would cut you off at the knees as soon as look at you if you gave them one ounce of lip.  So it was religion class what seems now like every day, or at least every other day, alternated with science.  It was mass every First Friday, as well as every holy day, every Sunday, and any time the nuns felt it was in our best interest.   And even after I graduated, it was CCD for confirmation, mass on Sundays and holy days right through my first year of college.

So I get the whole prayer thing.  I prayed hard and often.  I prayed for my family, I prayed for the world, I prayed for whatever special petitions we had at church.  I prayed I would pass my math test, I prayed that special boy would notice me, I prayed I would learn how to diagram a darn sentence before I had to lose another week of recess, staying in under the eagle eye of Sister Mary Rose, working on compound predicates at the black board.

I’m sure the nuns prayed too, prayed long and hard after a particularly challenging day with us.  But here’s the thing — they didn’t just pray.  They put their backs into it, each and every one, molding and shaping and very occasionally whacking our souls into shape.  It must have been exhausting work, and I loved them for it.

But it was exhausting being molded, too.  I would have loved, before one of those recess sessions, to have gone up to Sister Mary Rose and said “I prayed I would learn how to diagram this sentence, Lord! So we’re good now, right?”  and then skipped outside to be with my friends. But I knew without even trying what would have happened.  She would have pulled me back by my ponytail, sat my bony butt in the chair, and made me do the work.  So I prayed to myself, and then stayed in for what seemed like a month until I finally got it right.

The nuns knew what we’ve forgotten:  We’re not just supposed to pray.  We’re supposed to get off our butts and do the work.  I’m heartsick at seeing ‘prayers’ posted on social media yet again in the wake of a mass shooting.   Prayers aren’t doing it, people.  We can pray all we want, but prayers won’t bring back the fifty people who died yesterday, won’t do them one bit of good.  Won’t help the 32 in Virginia, the 27 in Sandy Hook, the countless others who are shot every day.  Won’t help the ones who will be shot tomorrow, or the day after that.

What WILL change things is doing the work.  The work of electing candidates who believe in gun reform, who will stand up to powerful lobbyists and say no civilian needs a weapon that can slaughter 50 people in the space of a song.  Period.

Prayer can be good.  But not by itself.   It’s past time.  Let’s get to work.

Read Full Post »

Hi there!  I’m over at Writer Unboxed, talking about a topic that is very dear to my heart — how to create readers and read more yourself.  (Hint:  It has nothing to do with balancing books on your head.)  Please stop by and let me know what you think!



Read Full Post »

Yikes, it’s been a while. It’s July, and we’re looking at Christmas pictures here.  It’s the blog equivalent of having a guest sit down on the dirty laundry you’ve stuffed under the couch.  How did that happen?

I’ve been meaning to write this particular post for about six months, but life, writing, raising kids — the usual — got in the way.  And I might have been feeling a tiny bit of blog burnout, too.  But I’m back! (Although not on a regular schedule.  It is July, after all.  At least for a few more days.)

So, anyhow.  One of the things I try and do when I’m not writing is read.  And six months ago I read Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies, or Fat Envelopes, by Madeline Levine.  I have not been able to stop thinking about it.  If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, or just someone who likes kids, I can’t recommend it enough.

Levine, a practicing psychologist, writes about the pressures we put on our teenagers to succeed and how harmful that can be, which shouldn’t be news to anyone.  But she also talks about the definition of success — the best grades, acceptance to the most elite colleges,  landing the most exclusive, highest-paying jobs — and how that may not be right for anyone.

The whole success conversation is such a complex, crazy one.  My children go to two different schools —  a charter in an inner city, and a private school — and the differences — not in teacher devotion or skill, but in parental expectations — is mind-blowing.  The reasons are complex and include financial situations and cultural expectations  — and are of course not true across the board — lots of parents at the charter school have very high expectations for their kids, and lots of parents at the private school are very good about letting their children find their own paths, but navigating between the two institutions sometimes leaves me with whiplash.  I’ve heard about complaints from parents that the elite high school their child was accepted to wasn’t good enough, and I’ve listened to a grade schooler say that she wanted to be a doctor, but her parents think the education would cost too much money, so she’ll be a nurse instead.

I am as guilty of riding the success train as anyone.  I have asked my children (one child in particular) why they have not done better on a test score.   I have suggested that a child may not have put their best work into a project.  I’ve been annoyed when a child has gotten a lower grade than I expected.

And yes, I get that kids need to learn to do their best work, to live up to their potential.  But does everything have to be the best, all the time?

Levine’s book has an exercise that helps you bore down to what your core values are as a parent — what do you want your child to walk away with when they are grown?  I almost never do these things, but the book was compelling.  So I came up with three qualities I want my children to have as adults, that I want them to start cultivating now.  I wrote them on a sticky note and put it on the front door, so they could read them every day before school.  I figure if on any single day they have two of them, it’s a step in the right direction.


And of course, they had a response.  (Well, one of them, anyhow.)  You’ll be happy to know I resisted the urge to correct the spelling or comment on the penmanship.  At least one of us is learning something.

Welcome to boredom palace!  Please use servant's entrance.

Welcome to boredom palace! Please use servant’s entrance.

PS.  If you’ve missed me, I’m also over at Writer Unboxed today.  Please stop by!

Read Full Post »

Greetings, peeps!  With only THREE days till Halloween, I come bearing gifts!

First off, did you know that coincidentally, there are only THREE days left to register for the Unboxed Conference in Salem, Massachusetts?  That’s right — the chance to register closes on Friday.  So if you’ve been on the fence, hop over and sign up today. (For a description, visit this post at Writer Unboxed.)

Next, do you have trouble revising?  Me too.  Getting this manuscript down to a reasonable size has been a real struggle.  But I had an epiphany while watching The Incredibles.  Really.  Read all about it over at today’s post on Writer Unboxed.

Finally, I would very much like to dress the Slobbering Beast in any and all of these costumes.  But I think I need that vampire kitty.

Happy Halloween!

Read Full Post »

It may come as a surprise, but I’m not the most organized person in the world. (My husband and mother don’t need to chime in on this.)  My organizational strategies are few, but hard-won: The keys go on the hook right when I walk in the door, or I lose them. The phone goes on the charging station, or it disappears. Twice a day I walk through the main rooms of the house, starting in the left corner and working to the right, restoring whatever has escaped to its rightful spot.

Which is why sights like this:

photo 4

Creative doll house space that needs maid service


and this:

photo 1

Sewing corner that would make Martha Stewart cry

make me crazy.  Sometimes after a long week, I admit it — I lose my cool and yell about the mess of plastic and paper we’re drowning in.  And for half an hour, everyone under the age of fourteen scurries around, putting their laundry away and moving the toys from the floor to under the bed.

But I always wind up feeling horribly guilty about these rants. Not just because I hate to yell but because I’m torn.  Childhood should be a time when kids learn organization skills, it’s true (although I had the most organized parents in the world and not much rubbed off, so I’m leaning toward nature over nurture on this one) but it should also be a time of insane creativity.  It’s a time when kids don’t know the rules, so they have no compunction about breaking them.  They can dream big, because no one has yet told them how small their space is in the world.  They can make a mess, and create something beautiful.

It’s not just things that are over-organized, either.  Almost every minute of my children’s day is scheduled.  My youngest goes to a school where even recess now has ‘stations’ to choose from. Gone are days when kids could play tag (too rough) practice cartwheels on the grass (too dangerous) or wander aimlessly through the playground. And after school, the days of just hanging out in the neighborhood with friends or on the couch reading are over, too — the neighborhood is empty, because everyone’s at soccer practice, and if anyone’s just hanging on the couch, they’d better be studying for that math quiz.

But if everything is scheduled, everything is put away, when does serendipity strike? When do the unwashed petri dishes lead to penicillin? When does the time on the couch lead to a book that leads to a hobby that leads to a brilliant idea? When do our kids have the time, and the opportunity, to connect two unrelated things and make them sing? For that matter, when do we?

Or as Steve Jobs said:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

If you schedule every moment, if you put everything away neatly in its place, you’ll have a well-organized life, it’s true.  You may become brilliant at taking tests. But then that sewing corner may never lead to this:photo 2


photo 2

And this:

photo 5

Random paper clips arranged in a pattern on the floor


won’t ever have time to grow into this:


And who knows what else the world will miss?

(Tell  me — how do you balance organization and creativity?)

Read Full Post »

Wherever You Are

I hope your summer looks like this.

beach day

Read Full Post »

It’s been a crazy few weeks, with lots of good stuff, bad stuff, and holy mother of moly isn’t it summer YET stuff?  But we are on the home stretch, people!  And I’ll post one or two times more before taking a much-needed break from the internet.

So, I’ve been thinking about this post for a few weeks, and today’s blog over at Writer Unboxed made me decide to put it out there. (Go read it, btw, it’s an excellent, balanced view of the cranky pants contest Amazon and Hachette are having. Plus, Kevin Cronin always manages the snappy titles.)

Here goes:  My son is nine and has turned into a reader, so my life’s work is complete.  Books have lots of competition in his world — there’s soccer, baseball, throwing a random ball against the house, video games on the weekend, eating, teasing the Slobbering Beast — so I’m always trying to find books I can sneakily leave in the car that will suck him in during our morning commute.  I found one such book recently, and oh joy of joys — it was a Series. With SIX books. Which, after he read the first one from the library and proclaimed it good, I immediately set out to purchase.

By immediately, I mean he said “Great book, Mom, thanks,” and by the time the car door closed behind him I was already ordering my personal assistant to call our local bookstore. I do enough business there that Siri has it on speed dial. They opened at 9 a.m., and at 9:15 I was chatting with the sales clerk.

Me: “Hi, I’d like to order the complete set of series X. I can’t remember the author’s name, but it begins with X, and there’s six books.

Clerk: “What’s the title again?”

Me: “It’s X. Author starts with X. It’s for middle school readers.”

Long pause. “I’m not familiar with it.”

Me: “Okay, but could you check? My son really likes it and I want to order the series.”

Longer pause.  “I don’t see it on the computer. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it just means I can’t find it here. I need more information. ”

Me (thinking loudly — no #$#$ it exists — my son just read one): “The title is X. The author’s name begins with X. There are six of them. It’s for middle school.”

“There’s too many authors that start with X. I can’t find it.  Sorry.”

Now, maybe what she meant was that their distributor didn’t carry this particular book. Maybe she was having an off day and couldn’t be bothered to take my information, do some research, and call me back. Maybe a $50 sale in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean that much to her store, or maybe she’s not personally invested in her store’s success, or maybe she doesn’t like middle school stories that start with X. But I have to tell you, as a reader who has spent plenty of time and money at that shop, I was pretty pissed off. And as an author, I was appalled. What if that had been my book? A single sale of $15 may not mean much to that store, but every single copy I sell means a great deal to my future as an author.

When I finished driving I pulled over, googled the book, and found the series on Amazon. It took me less than a minute.

I’m not the only one who has had this experience.  Several friends, some authors, some not, have been kvetching about the quality of service at their local stores, how snobbery some are, how disinterested in their needs.  I’m the first to say I’ve had great experiences and support from this store and others like it — but the taste I’m left with after this is a bit sour.

I support indie bookstores. But they need to do more than just tell me Amazon is killing their business and how unfair that is.  They need to give me a reason to shop with them. Every single time. Because if they make it hard, it’s far, far too easy to go somewhere else.

Read Full Post »



Something Blue

Read Full Post »

I went to the preschool today and remembered how much I loved this quote when my children went there, so I thought I’d share it with you.

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”



I wish all the children of the world were so fortunate.

Read Full Post »

Lately when riding, I am a hot mess. (That’s the technical term.  The actual term used by my instructor is unprintable here.) There are so many things going on — my seat isn’t balanced, my legs slide forward, my knees are jammed up against the knee roll, my reins get floppy — hence, the hot mess. (In fairness to my past riding self, it’s not all bad all the time — but compared to how I used to be, it certainly feels that way.)

This week, my instructor brought me back to basics.  She took a long whip, threaded it between my elbows and behind my back, and told me to keep it there while cantering.  Lean forward and hunch your shoulders toward your ears (my favorite riding position, apparently) and the whip pops out. Humiliation galore. (And an exciting ride if it happens to hit your horse on the way down.)

It’s an old trick, but it worked.  To keep the whip in place, I had to roll my shoulders down and lean back. Which centered my seat. Which fixed my leg. Which got my hands out of my lap and improved the way I held the reins.

One small change, and everything fell into place.

Writing is like that too.  Looking at an entire manuscript is overwhelming and can make you feel like a failure.  But if you pick just one thing to work on — your dialogue, for example, or the way you transition between scenes — one of two things will happen:

Either you’ll fix the main problem, and everything else will snap into place, or…

You’ll find out you have more work to do.  Which isn’t the end of the world, I promise.  It just means picking the next one thing. Fixing that. And moving on.



(And if you’ve read this far, here’s a reward — one of my favorite riding videos is at the end of this page.)

Read Full Post »

Last week, after one of the constant snow storms, the Slobbering Beast and I were lucky enough to be the first ones on the trail.  No car tracks at the main entrance, no boot marks anywhere.  Bliss. We hiked in silence, the only noise the creaking of the trees, the crash of ice and of snow sliding off a branch. We took a side trail, not the main one, and about 15 minutes in the snow was covered in tracks.  Small prints — mice or maybe chipmunks — hand-like prints that could have been raccoon or skunk, and then, far off on the rocks, a large dog-like paw print with no human tracks in sight.  We didn’t linger near that one.

The Slobbering Beast was in his glory, running this way and that, investigating every scent.  It was a reminder to me that the woods are like this for him every time, full of invisible residents. They are there always, even when I can’t see the signs of their presence.

Stories are like that too, I think. All around us, hiding in plain sight, invisible until there’s a shift in our thinking, a catalyst to change how we view the world. Then they reveal themselves, ready at last to be told.

What stories will you see today?

Happy dog

Read Full Post »

Around This Time…

Saint Francis is wishing he’d been posted to a warmer clime.


Read Full Post »


I’ve finished a project.  It feels odd to type those words, because I’ve been working on it for so long. And of course it’s not really finished — it’s just resting with someone else for a bit.  I’m nervous and anxious and a bit at a loss for what to do with all this mental space.  I finish a freelance project and turn around to poke some words on my manuscript into place and remember that I’ve sent it off. I pick up a book to read and don’t have to put it down because it’s 10 p.m. and I haven’t made my word count for the day.  I can read my favorite authors again without worrying I’ll be influenced by their voices.

What will I do with all this head room?  For now, I’ll let it be.  I’m organizing my physical space — I promised myself if I finished writing this month I’d clean my office and closet (how sad is that for a motivating goal?) — and in a bit I’ll organize my brain,  too.  I’ll read plotting books, research the idea for a story that’s whispering in my ear, and maybe take a few workshops.  But for now, I’m trying to let my brain be still, let the writing muscles rest so that they’ll be ready when I need them again.

What do you do with the space between projects?Image

Read Full Post »

There are days when I wake up and turn on the news and think, How did we come to this?  When I watch people interact with each other, when I see what passes for entertainment, and know that we are following in the footsteps of Rome, a long slow sad decline.

The last few days have been like that. Blame it on the rain, blame it on missing vacation, blame it on this manuscript that is trying to kill me.  It has been gray.

But the lovely thing about being part of a community of wise and thoughtful writers is that there’s always someone with a hand outstretched, virtual or no.  Yesterday the wonderful Therese Walsh (author of The Moon Sisters, which you ought to go and preorder now, because I got to read it in advance and it is a fabulous book) posted a quote on Facebook which I’ve been pondering ever since.

“There is darkness in the world but we don’t have to give way to despair. One of the best themes in The Lord of the Rings is that despair is the ultimate crime. Winter is coming, but you can light the torches and drink the wine and gather around the fire and continue to fight the good fight.” – George R.R. Martin

There’s always been strife and craziness. I look at histories set in the Wild West, I read biographies of men and women from the World Wars, I read about the Inquisition and the Black Plague and I think holy crap. What has always pulled us out of the those times are the people who refuse to bow to them, who stand with their backs to the darkness and toast the light, who become a beacon themselves if need be.

So cheers, my friends.  On this rainy afternoon, burn brightly.

Read Full Post »

We had snow today. And a Christmas concert. And did I mention poison ivy?  (That would be me.) And I have finished an entire draft of my novel and am now laboriously working my way through revisions. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.) Which all goes to explain why this post is late. And also, why it is probably the last one of the year, because around the holidays, the days are just packed. 

But, if you are like me, you might be able to use some gift ideas right about now.  I of course have some EXCELLENT suggestions, most of which involve books. Ready?

I had an early Christmas this year — I purchased Alice Hoffman’s Survival Lessons and Joshilyn Jackson’s Someone Else’s Love Story. Completely different books, both beautifully written. For that hard-to-please person, for the person who has had a tough year, or just for yourself, buy these books. I promise they will not disappoint.

Have a teen who tore through the Diversity and Hunger Games books?  Try the Wake series by Lisa McMann. Spooky and tightly written, they’re impossible to put down.

Does someone in your house love the Narnia books and A Wrinkle in Time?  Check out No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko. (She also writes the excellent Al Capone series.) Or try A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz, which is just spooky enough to keep you turning pages. (Both these books also have excellent audio versions.)

Tired of the Wimpy Kid and Big Nate series? Get your reader to branch out with the Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon, or Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder (Joe Nesbo, and worth it for the title alone).  Or for a stretch, have them try the False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy is also quite popular around here.

What would I like to find under my tree?  I’m intrigued by Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose; Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now by C.B. Bernard; and A Story Lately Told by Anjelica Huston.

What do you hope to find under your tree this year?


Read Full Post »

I spent 45 minutes in line today to get my turkey, and another few minutes at the garage getting air put in my tires, and I cannot tell you how grateful I was to be able to do both things. Sometimes in the rush of the holidays (shopping! baking! and my ‘favorite,’ cleaning!) it’s easy to lose track of just how fortunate I am. Fortunate to have the time and the money to be able to afford a turkey, fortunate to have a farm down the street that raises birds with care and humane practices, fortunate to have a car that’s safe and reliable to get there and back — the list goes on and on. I’m afraid, sometimes, that if I list all the good things in my life the wicked fairy from Sleeping Beauty will come to curse them, so I’ll whisper the rest of my blessings to myself.

I’m lucky too that both my children’s schools run food drives during the holidays, making it easy to help out others who might not be that fortunate this year.  Demand for assistance is up since a temporary boost in the nation’s food stamp program came to an end.  If you have a moment, try to catch this Diane Rehm show on hunger in America — it is worth listening to. (And if you can’t find it to hear, at least check out the comments listed below the description.) States from New Hampshire to Texas are seeing more hungry people, and oftentimes the biggest sufferers are the smallest — our children.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I wish you a bountiful holiday season.

Read Full Post »


The days pass slowly, but oh! The years are flying by!

The days pass slowly, but oh! The years are flying by!

Read Full Post »

Today two things happened: I realized I didn’t have a blog post planned, and my daughter thought the dog looked like he wanted an adventure. I will never say anything about blog posts in the dog’s hearing again, so help me.

My kids go to two different schools now, in two different towns with different schedules, and the Slobbering Beast does not like this. He hates when a kid leaves the house on his/her own, as my daughter does when she is carpooling, and this morning he stuck to her like glue. “I think he wants to go to school with me,” she said, and at her words he went and parked himself at the door. “He looks like he wants an adventure.”

We laughed about it and I moved him out of the way and then she left for school and I went up to have my own adventure waking the boy, but not before letting the Beast out. On days when I don’t drive the carpool, the routine is we wait for the girl to leave, The Beast goes outside for a short run around the house and a cookie from the neighbors, and then he comes in for breakfast. 

But this morning, he met his match. I heard a loud noise, like a flame-thrower — Whoosh, thump, whoosh, thump — but when I looked out the boy’s bedroom, didn’t see anything. About five seconds later, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, telling me a hot air balloon had almost landed in our yard. Now, the Slobbering Beast does not fear much, but apparently this thing descending from the sky was the breaking point for him. He galloped out of the yard and headed for the hills. 

I am blessed with very good neighbors. While I yelled for the boy to GET UP! GET UP NOW! and grabbed my car keys, they were already in action. One stayed at home to relay messages and three headed out to search. The boy and I looked too, with no success, until it was time for school. I was just heading back and turning onto the road where we hike when I got a phone call saying he’d been spotted on the trails. I looked ahead of me and there was another neighbor, waving me down.  I pulled in and started calling, and within five minutes the Slobbering Beast came crashing through the undergrowth, looking a bit wild-eyed. He’d taken the cookies the neighbors had bribed him with but wouldn’t let them grab him. I’m not sure if he was spooked or just enjoying his time off, but he’s back, looking quite content. 

Next time in the morning I will say something more useful, like “I wish the Slobbering Beast would bring home a million dollars,” and see what happens. Although perhaps he already did — my neighbors are worth at least that. (Thanks, guys.)


Read Full Post »

Feed and Water


I read this post a few months ago, and it has stayed with me almost every day since. It is so hard in today’s society to do something you are passionate about that doesn’t produce a dollar return, to make time for something just for the sheer joy it gives you. To give that something some of your best hours, not the ones you have to cobble together around work or family or other responsibilities. Like sleep.

I interviewed a group of women recently who have taken up hockey. Hockey requires logging lots of hours just to be good enough to stand on the ice, to move around without the puck. These are women in their forties, women with children and jobs and carpools and houses to run and dinners to make. And yet they are cheerfully going off and spending hours and hours each week learning to play hockey. I asked one of them what she planned to DO with these skills (because don’t we always have to DO something with our skills? Make something out of them? Turn a profit?) and she looked at me as if I was slow, and said “I’m going to keep skating, I’m going to get as good as I can for as long as I can. Because I love to skate.”


It’s hard to put our passions first. It makes us seem selfish, or immature, or oblivious to the needs of those around us. Lazy, even. But sometimes our passions aren’t just what we want to do, they are who we are. And when we neglect them, we starve our souls.

Don’t forget to feed and water yours today.

Read Full Post »


It’s officially fall. We’ve made up one last batch of hummingbird food, but there aren’t any birds to eat it. The local farm has switched from selling petunias to stocking mums and is having a sale on sauce tomatoes. The crazy school-to-track-to-dance-to-soccer-to-flag football season has started.  But most importantly, I’ve switched my purse.

Not from Prada to Hermes (neither seems resistant to dog slobber and spilled juice, although I do like the latter’s saddle) but from my teeny tiny summer bag to the portable suitcase I carry around the rest of the year. In summer, to minimize my risk of permanently throwing out my back, I pare down and carry just the basics — my debit card, a lip gloss, a handful of Band-Aids (I said I pare down, not tempt fate), and maybe a few Evenfall cards.  It’s not a lot, but it is enough.

But yesterday I took my enormous leather September-to-June  bag down from the closet.  I filled it with the staples — the cards, the cash, the Band-Aids. Then I added everything we need to get through a typical day — the mini-bag with scissors, pens, pencils and tape for doing homework in the car;  a makeup bag so I can go from running to school without scaring small children; a stash of snacks in case someone’s blood sugar starts to fall; breath mints, gum, aspirin, an extra pen and notebook;  hair elastics, dog treats, and depending on the day, 1 pair of clean dry socks. (Never underestimate the power of clean dry socks to turn your day around.)  Just call me Hermione. 

But before I say goodbye to summer for good, I thought I”d do a shout-out of my favorite things of the past three months.  Herewith:

  • Favorite Sandwich: Roasted tomato, basil, mozzarella cheese, and roasted onion panini. I could eat this every day. (And did.)
  • Favorite Wine:  Matua Sauvignon Blanc.  Owned by Fosters — who knew?
  • Favorite audiobook:  A tie.  The kids vote for The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.  I’m partial to The Once and Future King, especially the first book. Best phrase: “WE are the sinners. HE is the blessed.” (Doesn’t look like much written down, but it’s pretty funny when intoned in a Welsh accent by an eight-year-old who has just been bagged for misbehaving.)

How I wish I could fit all of those things, plus this, in my bag:



How was your summer? And are you sad to see it go, or happy that it is fall?

Read Full Post »

Missing, One Summer

Have you seen it?  It is covered in lazy beach days and afternoons by the pool. Give me a call if you find it.  I’d really like it back. 



Read Full Post »

One of my neighbors is a fireman. I don’t know if it is part of his profession or not, but I’m always amazed by what he sees. We’ll be standing in front of my house, talking, and he’ll reach down to palm a candy wrapper some rotten child has left on my lawn. We’ll stop our cars on the street to exchange news, and he’ll remind me to turn out the mirrors I turned in to squeeze out of the garage. He’ll ask about a tree branch on our property that looks like it is about to fall down, one I pass under every day but never seem to notice.

My neighbor has vision that is all about the external. I have no idea what his inner life is like, but I’m fairly sure he doesn’t spend much time imagining the life of Henry VIII or contemplating how an April snow shower might resemble falling apple blossoms, two ways I find myself spending time. (Although I could be wrong.)

As writers, we tend to spend a lot of our time in our heads, or obsessing over a single external detail. The trick is to find the balance between external and internal vision — between being present and noticing the world around us, and saving a quiet space in our heads for our work.

It’s a balance I still struggle with. How do you manage?

Read Full Post »

We’re about 6 weeks from the end of school right now, and the activities are crashing over us like big waves at the beach. There’s not a lot of time to catch a breath, and before I know it, this year will be gone. I have mixed feelings about this, but very little time for introspection, which is probably a good thing. But I’ve managed to snatch just a moment to share a few bright and shiny distractions with you. Check them out, and let me know what you think.

  •  Am I the only person who missed this when it was happening? The coolest astronaut since Tom Hanks in Apollo 13. (Aside from his taste in hockey teams, of course.)
  • This movie. Crazy good. Made me think again how important character development is.
  • The Glass Wives.  It’s Amy Sue Nathan’s debut book, and I cannot wait to read it. I’ve parked it next to my bed as an incentive to help me get through the next few weeks.

What’s on your must read or watch list?

Read Full Post »

I have been a slacker this winter. Oh, I have run on the treadmill, and hiked with the dog, but in terms of logging good, heart-pumping, want to keel over and die miles? Not so much.

This is bad for so many reasons, the main one being that my mind, it goes like a hamster on a wheel. Being too tired to stay awake at night and worry about everything from the state of publishing to how I can fend off the inevitable shark attack at our sleepy beach on Long Island Sound this summer to whether tomatoes with fish genes will ever be approved (I do not jest — look it up) is an excellent thing. And of course, there’s the reason of health. But most importantly ….

there’s the vanity. My husband bought me a very fancy dress for a very fancy event this summer, and not fitting into it, or fitting into it and looking like an overstuffed kardashian, is truly not part of the game plan. And so I cast around and looked for an emergency solution, one that would work well with wine and chocolate.

I found a local gym that was running a health challenge, in which you promise to attend a certain number of classes, eat a certain number of calories, and commit to a certain number of minutes spent in cardiovascular exercise, and the gym promises you will get in shape. At first I thought “Ha — suckers! I will ROCK this cardiovascular exercise part.” But unfortunately, life gets in the way, and spending X number of hours a day running hasn’t been possible. So instead of setting aside big chunks of time every day for exercise, I’ve been trying to sneak it in — I get to the gym 15 minutes before my class starts and walk around the block. At night, I drag my son and the Slobbering Beast with me for a nightly jaunt. I’m still running and hiking a few days a week, but on the days I have other obligations — and there are many of them — 15 minutes a handful of times throughout the day is what happens.

And you know what? It’s working. Numbers that I wanted to go down are dropping, slowly but steadily. Maybe not as quickly as they would if I committed to running five miles a day again, every day, but dropping all the same.

Writing is like this too. I’d thought that this year, with both my children in school, I’d have hours of luxurious time to devote to writing. Most days, I don’t. Some of that is because of outside obligations, obligations I can’t control, but sometimes, it’s because the idea of sitting down and looking at a blank page for two hours is terrifying, and I will fill those two hours with almost anything else. (Except ironing. Even I have limits.)

So I’ve been taking my laptop with me lately. Fifteen minutes in the waiting room before a doctor’s appointment. Ten minutes in the car before the kids get out of school. It’s not a lot of time, it’s true, but the words add up. Because sometimes the freedom of knowing you can’t get it ALL done in the short time you have allows you to get SOMETHING done, which eventually adds up to all.

How’s your writing coming these days?Image

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »