The Making of a Valentine

I’ll pinch you on the playground.
I’ll give you the prettiest valentine out of my box of cards for the class.
I’ll pick you for my kickball team.
I’ll gift you an Itunes song.
I’ll wear lipstick on days we have chemistry lab together.
I’ll “happen” to visit a friend who also attends your same college.
I’ll break-up with you, just to get back together.
I’ll wonder when the question will pop.
I’ll say YES.
I’ll find myself buying beef jerky at the grocery store.
I’ll watch you paint the baby’s room.
I’ll use the potty to tinkle…with the door open.
I’ll watch you coach a girls soccer team.
I’ll make you spend the night on the couch.
I’ll hold your hand as we mourn a loved one together.
I’ll refuse to throw away your old love letters during our big move.
I’ll start developing a taste for beef jerky.
I’ll watch you walk our baby down the aisle.
I’ll throw your retirement party, and then try to find you a full time hobby.
I’ll escort you to that old timers reunion.
I’ll watch you hold your first grandchild.
I’ll remind you to take your medication.
I’ll push your wheelchair.
We’ll wonder where the time went.



Honest Advice for the Class of 2019

Touch your toes everyday, just because you can.
When it comes to cars or medicine, always get a second opinion.
Make your boss look good if you want that promotion.
Don’t cry over a break-up with a girlfriend/boyfriend who ever made you cry.
Read the newspaper, if only on Sundays.
Drink more water than anything else.
Chew with your mouth closed. Dine with your lap napkin open.
Give in to indulgences, but not enough to allow them to become routine.
Drop your spare change in charity cans near supermarket check-outs.
Handshake with a purpose. Hug with your heart.
When it’s important, pick up the phone. (Skip the text.)
Take care of your skin. Take care of your grandfather. Take care of your dog.
Politely merge in single file.
Be like a Norwegian and embrace friluftsliv.
Spend more money on dental care than make-up. (Lipstick can’t help a rotten smile.)
R.S.V.P. whether it’s YES or NO.
Own ONE major credit card. Pay it off on time.
Don’t let your second language be swear words.
Celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with more than a facebook post.
Take that diploma and run before they find out what really happened for the past four years.

P.S. Congrats to the Class of 2019! Run the world, kiddos!

Ski Soundtrack


Growing up, I never considered my father to have a hip music sense. However, he knew how to get our family excited for a day on the slopes. Right before we pulled into the Sugarbush parking lot, he would blast Crazy by Seal into the speakers of our Saab 900.   The song stuck in our head as the perfect anthem for bombing down the hill: “And you’re never gonna survive, unless you get a little crazy.”

My mother, on the other hand, had a more gentle ski anthem. Time after time, my mother would sing The Sound of Music aloud while floating down groomed corduroy.  She’d sing to herself, indifferent if anyone could hear her. The hills were alive, and that’s all that mattered to her.

I’ll admit that I have my own personal ski soundtrack as well. My car is filled with old CDs with titles such as “Mad River Tunes” and “Belleayre or Bust” but all of the CDs have one song in common: Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith. For me, Sweet Emotion is the perfect tempo for imagining myself in wide turns in good, fluffy, snow. I listen to it in the car, and then hum it to myself on the slopes all day.

The other day, I was watching an old ski movie featuring little more than twenty-something men ripping down glacier walls. Yet, when my husband hopped on the phone in our living room, he muted the sound to the movie. The skiing looked great, but it didn’t “feel” great. Watching skiers fly down back bowls to silence just wasn’t the same. It needed a little reggae. Or a little punk. Or a little Sweet Emotion.

A little Q and A with Jodi Picoult

One of my favorite storytellers in the fabulous Jodi Picoult. Not only is she an incredibly talented writer, but she’s also an active member of my small New England community. Jodi was gracious enough to share some of her thoughts about words, writing, and Harry Potter, when we asked her to fill-in-the-blank of the following sentences. (Her answers are in bold.)

Fill in the Blank with Jodi Picoult

Ms. Wormgrunt would be a great name for a children’s fictional character.

My most memorable writing teacher was Mary Morris  because she taught me to be my own best editor.

The most common grammar/spelling mistake I still make is putting a comma when I need a semi-colon.

If I could have been a fly on the wall for any conversation in history, I would have liked to have heard Shakespeare talk his way through Romeo & Juliet.

The most beautiful word in the English language is uxorious: excessively fond of one’s wife.

The ugliest word in the English language is intolerance.

The most romantic love scene in the word would have to take place in the Maldives.

I believe that a psychic is one profession which has a lot of potential for a good character.

The song to my life’s soundtrack is anything my son Jake sings.

Three of the most memorable fictional characters in the world are:  Nick Carraway, Lady Brett Ashley, and Harry Potter.

My favorite children’s book is The Paper Bag Princess.

The most important snack which fuels literary creativity is: chocolate.

My favorite place to read a book is the bathtub.




I spent this week writing unpublishable pieces.

For four consecutive evenings, I spent time away from my family to write. I sat at my computer, doing the keyboard dance, working meticulously on three distinct projects. And at the end of the week, I’ve come to realize that none of the three will ever see publication.

One piece was a tribute for an acquaintance who recently passed away. Her daughter wrote a much more lovely and personal tribute. I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) compete with her words.

Another was commentary on a recent national tragedy. But I struggled to come up with a conclusion.

The third was corny commentary on soup. Yes, soup. (A delightful bowl of chowder surely tricked me into thinking a soup column would be readable.)

As the saying goes, “you’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. Not every picture will make the fridge door. Not every song needs to be sung. But no matter how many times I send a desktop document to the recycling bin, it never gets easier.

An English teacher once told me that writing a sentence will only make us a better sentence writer the next time.  He was correct (as evidence in my well-intended but cringe-worthy high school papers). I’m not the perfect writer. But every time I sit down to write, I get better.

On this Friday afternoon, with nothing to publish, nothing to share, nothing to submit to editors, I can’t help but feel discouraged. But I know when to fold ’em. So for now, I’ll play baseball with my son,

Next week I’ll be that much better of a writer.


The Tick Life

In coastal communities, they live The Salt Life. Pick-up trucks drive around with bumper stickers proclaiming their allegiance to the ocean.

Me? I live The Tick Life. But It’s not one I’ve chosen. It’s a life which has chosen me. My dog is covered in ticks. My lawn is covered in ticks. My friends are covered in ticks. My rocky-road ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles is covered in one black “sprinkle” which actually moves. (BLECH.) Sometimes I think there are more ticks in the woods than there are grains of sand.

And I have no compassion. As far as I’m concerned ticks are the most no-good, terrible, horrible, worst creatures on earth. (They even make mosquitos look like good company in comparison.) I use organic oils to kill them. I use non-organic chemicals. I use lavender and white socks and long leggings and snake oil and anything else that promises to keep these pests away. But no matter what, they creep in. (My poor Labrador had fifteen ticks in her armpits last week.)

Luckily, I haven’t had a bite yet, but perhaps it’s because I’m obsessed with checking myself. And I’m also obsessed with checking others. Brad Paisley might think “I Want To Check You For Ticks” is a romantic ballad, but if I’m looking at that dark mole on your neck for a second too long, it’s only because I’m making sure it doesn’t have legs. We compulsively shower and check each other’s scalps. We wear light colored clothing on hikes, and cover our long hair with baseball caps and scarfs. We flick dirt off each others’ ankles just to quadruple check that freckles are just freckles.

Who would have guessed that the scariest thing in the woods of New England is 1/10,000 the size of a black bear? Well, friends, it is. And it keeps me up at night. In future I hope the ticks will be gone, and we New Englanders can proudly say that we live the Maple Life or the Morel Life or the Mountain Life.

But for now, I think we’re all stuck with a life that consumes us. Especially when I feel something crawling on my leg under the sheets…


Better than a Birthday Mimosa


My 30th birthday carousel…which was (achoo) years ago.

Friday is my birthday.  I’ll be turning (cough, cough) years old.

And after a good meal and a night out with the ladies, I’ll retreat home to participate in my favorite birthday ritual: writing in my “birthday diary.”  Ever since I was fourteen years old, I have written a single journal entry on my birthday. This all started when I was young and dramatic, and I began a diary, mostly to write about boys.  But eventually, I realized that in order to meet boys I needed to spend less time with my diary and more time out of my room.  However, I kept up with the once-a-year-habit, and now, writing in my journal on November 8 is more of a tradition than blowing out candles.

And on that day, I write about my life in the past year. I consider my blessings and my goals. I write down accomplishments and let-downs. I write about celebrations and friendships and deaths and travels and family and even sometimes…the color of my hair.  And at the end of every entry, I conclude with a comment on my favorite song of the year.  It’s my own little Grammy award. (This year? Uptown Funk. Duh.)

Then, after I write my two pages of scribble, I read my entire birthday journal from 1992 to present.  I giggle at the same entries which make me laugh year after year. (Specifically, the year when I profess my love for an old ex, only to curse him out the following year.)  I mourn the entries about heartbreaking losses, yet I smile at the entries about new nephews.  It’s like watching my life in a movie, and it gives perspective as to what really matters in a lifetime.

So, on Friday, I will be drinking champagne and eating carrot cake and treating myself to an entire day in old sweatpants.  But, I’ll also be recording my past year of life on this planet… Uptown Funk and all.  Bring on the bubbly!

Funeral for a Friend

I needed glitter. I didn’t want to be a California Raisin, a Ninja Turtle, or a Cabbage Patch Kid. (These costumes were all the rage when I was in elementary school.) Instead, my costume had to have shimmer and shine. And since my dancing school costumes were chock full of glitter, I decided to be a tap dancer-five years in a row. And since my sister liked anything I liked, she, too, was a dancer.

In my New Jersey town, the schoolkids would trick-or-treat on the residential streets near the lake. My mother would drive us to a friend’s home where we would gather with all the raisins, turtles and chubby faced dolls. We would collect candy from decorated homes and then conduct the Great Halloween Trade. After the rules were established (THREE Hershey’s kisses for every ONE Reese’s peanut butter cup), we would barter with each other until we were content with our cornucopia of candy.  We would pack up our bags and head home on a sugar high.

But, the big scare happened AFTER trick or treating.

As my mother pulled our car into our long, backwoods, driveway, we would start to hear the music. The screeching organ notes actually sounded like dying heartbeats.

As we approached the house, the music would get louder and we would notice the darkness. The lights had been turned off. There were no candles burning. There was no glow from the television. Just pure blackness…with the front door wide open.

“You go first, Mom,” we would whisper, trembling.

Mom would walk slowly toward the front door as we gripped to her legs. Our pale white knuckles squeezed her thighs tightly as glitter from our costumes rubbed off on her jeans.

At the door, the music would be deafening.  “The dirge of death,” as we would later call the tune. The song would echo through our haunted house, causing bone-tingling fear. There were pipes and organs and creepy wind sounds.

“Go ahead, kids,” my mom would say as she held back. “I’m sure I just left the radio on.”

Our tiny tap-shoe feet would slowly step through the front door.


Gasps and screams would follow.

After our hearts resumed beating, Dad would step from behind the front door, and smile.  “Gotcha,” he would say nonchalantly as he turned on the lights.

“Da-ad,” we would roll our eyes, never admitting our fear.

Every year of my childhood, my father blasted Elton John’s Funeral For A Friend to scare us on Halloween. And every year, it worked. We didn’t know it was an Elton John song. We only knew that the sound of those beginning organ notes scared the glitter out of us.

It never got old for my father to scare us. And although one would think that we would have learned our lesson the first time around (or at least the second or third),  there was always that chance that a ghost-monster-vampire actually was in our house. And so the tradition continued, year after year until we outgrew trick or treating. And to this day, it’s one of my fondest holiday memories.

I have a one year old son now. And he’s too young to scare on Halloween. But when he turns six or seven, I have a feeling that Funeral for a Friend might just make a comeback.


What I Eat In A Day


People Magazine has a new feature showcasing what celebrities (primarily skinny women) eat in a day. Inspired, here’s my take:


Two bites off of both ends of a pre-mashed banana

Several floor Cheerios (most* of which abide by the five second rule)

An entire roll of breath mints

Three mouthfuls from a baby food pouch of broccoli and peas

One small cup of coffee mixed in an oversized travel mug with two cups of whole milk and a sugar packet (from the bottom of my purse)

A two year old granola bar from the glove compartment

Seventy two flavored seltzer waters (or at least four)

The crusts of a grilled cheese sandwich

One Arrowroot baby cookie (which, by the way, are delicious)

Two slices of mushroom pizza. Three bites warm. Seventeen bites cold after dealing with toddler tantrum.

One generous glass of red wine

And a mega-multivitamin. Of course.



Guilty Pleasures

John Mayer once said that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.  I couldn’t agree more. I don’t feel guilty about my pleasures. I love Eggo Waffles, The Real Housewives of New York City and banana-flavored Tootsie Roll Pops. I couldn’t care if you think less of me because of my slight obsession with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I like what I like and I don’t need a reason.

However, of all the waffles and parade floats in the world, nothing should be more embarrassing than the saved stations on my Pandora account. This occurred to me while preparing for a summer barbecue. As I teed up music, I realized that folks would probably scoff over their steak tips at Michael Bolton’s “Soul Provider.”

In fact, very few of my music choices would suffice for the masses. Sure, I could play a little Lady Gaga and Brad Paisley, but for the most part, my music was a party-foul. After all, my Pandora stations are as follows:

Miami Sound Machine Radio
Debbie Gibson Radio
Seth McFarland Holiday Radio
Lisa Loeb Children’s Radio
Jon Secada Radio
Celine Dion Radio
Jimmy Buffet Radio

I won’t apologize for loving Only In My Dreams, but I also didn’t want my guests to suffer through their ice cream sundaes. So, I borrowed my husband’s music. I chose safe, party options. We listened to lots of Bob Marley, Zac Brown and One Republic. Everyone bobbed their head along with the background beat. The party was a success.

But the second everyone left, I blasted Celine’s “All By Myself.” I washed dishes while singing out my heart.




Shrooms, Ramps, and Snakes… Oh My!

There’s something about foraging that I love. After being inspired by this VPR segment on discovering backyard edibles, I decided to go on a hunt for my own morels and garlicky ramps. So, yesterday I put on sweatpants, a baseball cap, and my husband’s mud boots and headed into the woods. (I was looking like a fashionista, as always.) I carried a hand shovel (just to make me look more like a woodsman) and covered myself in bug spray (just to make me smell more like a Boy Scout.) I was ready to gather anything remotely digestible.

When a friend called moments before I left the house, I told her that I could only talk for a moment because I was mushrooming. She was horrified. “You are OFFICIALLY a Vermonter,” she said with a sigh. “Call me when you get sick of the woods and want to go to TJMaxx.” I hung up the phone and trampled on to the Great Outdoors.

I didn’t tell my friend that this wasn’t my first mushrooming expedition. Two years prior, another friend pointed out a morel under a blossoming ash tree in my backyard. He taught me the art of poking around the ground of the “Big-Ash” trees in mid May. That spring, I had found three morels on my own, nestled under a cluster of ash trees near my backyard brook. It was beginner’s luck, and it was great fun.

Yet, it took days to work up the nerve to actually eat those morels.  (I compared my finds to internet morels for a full twenty-four hours before bringing them to a local forester for confirmation.) Finally, I threw them in a pan with butter, and sautéed the heck out of them. It was lot of work for three mouthfuls of fungi. But, they were delicious. (Then again, cardboard is delicious when it is soaked in golden-brown butter.)

So, I had visions of saute pans when I headed towards the same cluster of backyard ash trees yesterday. No luck.  So I went to another “Big-Ash” tree. Nothing. One hour and twenty minutes later, I had  thoroughly checked at least a dozen or more trees. There were no mushrooms in sight. And to add insult to injury, I couldn’t even find one lousy little ramp in the surrounding areas.

I did, however, find one plastic trash bag and a small garter snake which scared the heck out of me. (And I hate snakes more than I hate the Connecticut Turnpike… which is a lot.) It was my worst forage bounty ever. I returned home smelling like DEET and worried about ticks. I showered the hunt away… trying to forget my losing battle.

Next year, I’ll go ‘shrooming again. But it’s not fun foraging in the woods when your odds of finding a snake are better than finding an actual edible. Perhaps I should cover a larger territory, and bring a friend or two for fresh eyes on a camouflaged landscape.

Or perhaps, I should just stick to the farmer’s market.



The Fourth Grade Bookshelf


The librarian pushed down on the book with her ink-stained, silver stamp. It printed a blurred date on the library card: “October 21.” At the age of eight, I didn’t have many dates I needed to remember. Mom’s birthday. Christmas. And now, October 21st.

“Rich Mitch” was certainly not high-brow literature. But it was a book on the fourth grade bookshelf. And I was only in the third grade. So, that book was a treasure.

Thankfully, the librarian didn’t notice the illicit selection. After all, I was pretty stealth in my pursuit. That afternoon, after exhausting the books on the third grade bookshelf, I had snuck around to the fourth grade bookshelf and grabbed the first thick book I could find with my chubby fingers. It was a thrilling feeling. A deliciously naughty feeling. An incredibly confident feeling.

I read “Rich Mitch” three times before October 21st. I read it during recess. I read it during the commute to dancing school. I read it on Saturday mornings in my bed under a pile of patchwork quilts. “Rich Mitch” certainly had big words and long paragraphs, but I devoured each sentence bite by bite.

On October 21st, I returned the book. I decided to forego the “library book drop slot” since it seemed too heartless. Instead, I said my goodbye and physically handed “Rich Mitch” to the librarian.

“Wasn’t this book on the fourth grade bookshelf?” the librarian asked me. She walked away with a forgiving smile before I could even give her an answer.

For the rest of the year, the librarian turned her head as not to notice when I drifted toward the decadent fourth grade shelf.

It was our little, wonderful, secret.

Born to Run (for cheeseburgers)


My father dangled the bacon cheeseburger in front of my face. “This will taste SO delicious after you cross the finish line.”

This was my father’s idea of motivation. He clearly didn’t realize that the smell of beef does not motivate a marathon runner on mile thirteen. He could have handed me a drink of orange Gatorade. He could have given me a granola bar. But instead, he stuffed a piece of beef near my nose. I tried not to vomit.

Let me be clear, running a marathon was NOT my idea of fun. Cheeseburgers were much more appealing.

But in 2002, I was living in a very small village in upstate New York. I had moved there for my first job out of college and I was having a hard time making the transition from college disc jockey to professional desk jockey. I was 23 years old, healthy, and growing restless. When my incredibly toned co-worker, Maureen, asked me to join her in training for the Ottawa marathon, I told her that I had better things to do.

Unfortunately, I didn’t. I had already tried knitting, cooking and indoor wall climbing (the latter of which was clearly a mismatch), and had failed at all three. So, I had nothing better to do than run.

Training stunk. I lugged around town aimlessly, rocking out to Enrique Iglesias in my walkman while counting down the steps to pizza slices. Yet, I was a decent (slow) runner. I’d pop gummy bears in my mouth from my (weird) fanny pack while I jogged around neighborhoods where the cute football coaches lived.

Over time, my training runs grew longer. My legs grew stronger. Kilometers turned into miles, and single digit miles turned into double digit miles

Finally, it was the big event. When the race started, I was a nervous wreck. I was surrounded by people who certainly looked faster than me. They wore fancy watches to monitor their heart-rates  and expensive running attire with moisture wick fabrics. I wore deodorant and an old yellow cotton t shirt. Yet, when the start-gun shot, there was nowhere to go but forward. And so I ran.

Soon thereafter, I was in the back of the pack, but making perfect progress. I ran the first couple of miles with my friend. Then, she ran faster and I ran slower and we amiably parted ways. I just kept moving, trying to concentrate on the various spectators and pop-up posters on the racecourse. Things were going okay until halfway through the race.

At mile thirteen, my father dangled the cheeseburger.

At that point, I wanted to quit (and vomit). But I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t imagine driving home without having finished that doggone race. And my parents had driven all the way up to Canada from New Jersey to see me run and my mother was not going home until she had a picture of me under that finish line. (She needed bragging rights about her “international” marathon-running daughter.) And so, I kept moving.

The rest of the race is a bit of a blur. There was a singing Elvis on the sidelines. And a friend hopped in and ran a mile with me toward the end of the course. But the rest of my memories are all pain and Gatorade, Gatorade and pain.

After four hours and twenty-one minutes of the marathon, I crossed that gosh darn finish line. I don’t remember who won the race.  I don’t remember taking pictures with family.  I don’t remember the emcee announcing my name as I came to a running halt.

But I do remember finishing the race and thinking, “It’s over.”

Fifteen years later, I still like to run, but not more than four miles at any time. I still own the yellow cotton t-shirt that I wore on the day of the marathon. I still have the picture of me crossing the finish line. I still have the racer’s bib.

But I’m not a repeat marathon runner. While most marathon runners I know have gone one to run multiple races, I’m a one-time finisher. I’m incredibly proud to have finished that 2002 Ottawa race. And I’m even more thankful to have a healthy body which withstood the many, many steps of that course. But I don’t have the desire to ever run a marathon again.

I’d rather be a cheeseburger-eating cheerleader on the sidelines. Go, runners, go.

And so, it begins again…


My start to 2017

Last year, my New Year’s resolution was to learn how to cook. It all started out with a bang. My casserole dishes were filled with noodle bakes. My oven was chock-full of melt-in-your-mouth oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. The whole escapade lasted about two weeks. Then, in mid-January, I found out I was expecting.

My 2016 resolution should have been to develop a new friendship with the take-out hostess of Tuk Tuk Thai. I spent fifty weeks of the year eating with plastic forks out of containers. But, the end result of my “takeout” year was more joyful than anything I had ever imagine. I might not have learned how to make a soufflé but I certainly learned how to change a diaper.

And now, it’s a new year. It’s another chance to begin again. It’s another opportunity to make restitutions for last year. It’s another beginning.

And I’m too darn busy to think about it.

But this morning, as I took my son for his first winter walk in the woods, I was reminded. After wrapping him like a baby burrito and strapping him to my chest, I headed into the backyard forest. There was a lot of snow on the ground and a lot of sunshine in the sky. It was quiet…real quiet. (The only noise was the crunch of the frozen ground under my boots.) I walked for a half hour, aimlessly wandering around the white jungle of tree branches and frozen streams.

There were no other tracks. No sign of any other human or creature. Just a whole lot of possibility.

Mother Nature had given me a clean slate for this new year. And, I started my imprint. I’m moving forward to 2017, carrying the goodness of 2016 with me but leaving the past behind.

And I may not know what lies ahead. But I certainly know that I have to go. This time, with a baby on board.

Power Necklaces

There’s something about a blinged-out necklace which makes it okay to wear sweatpants to work.

Everywhere I look, ladies are hanging jeweled ribbons around their necks in an effort to draw attention away from the rest of their outfits. Ugly gray sweater and pleated 90’s khakis? Throw on a bejeweled rhinestone necklace, and you’re good-to-go to the bridal shower! Mom jeans and dollar-store flats? A ruby statement necklace will get you in the door of any Michelin-stared restaurant! A trash bag and stockings? You’ll be the belle of the ball with a sapphire bib!

In fact, power necklaces are for women what “alligator” Lacoste-patched polo shirts are for men. They both allow you to enter the golf club, even if you’re dressed like a slob from the chest down.

I bought my own “power peacock” necklace after a flight cancellation in Salt Lake City last February. While wasting time at a local mall,  I was blinded by shiny purple stones in a Macy’s showcase. I wasn’t looking for a bling necklace, but that particular necklace was 70% off (which meant that they were giving it to me). I carried the heavy souvenir all the way back to Vermont with severe buyer’s remorse.

Yet, the first time I wore the power peacock, I was flooded with compliments. Nobody noticed the coffee stain on my pants… or the toothpaste on my sweater… or the spinach on my teeth (my usual wardrobe). Instead, I was a fashionista. So, I started wearing the power peacock more often. Brown sweater, brown corduroys and brown boots for work? Not cool. Brown sweater, brown corduroys, brown boots and my power peacock? Executive ready! In fact, the power peacock slowly became my favorite accessory.  On days when I can’t bear to wear fancy pants, I have my secret weapon.

Unfortunately though, I’m not sure how long this trend will last. (People thought the Lacoste ‘gator wouldn’t last through the 90s, and yet crocs are still popping up at power meetings everywhere.) Will corporate executives ever realize that their administrative assistants wear Hanes Her Way undershirts under their blinding cubic zirconia leashes? Will women tire of shining their collarbones with fake jewels just to wear Birkenstocks to parent-teacher conferences?  Will J. Crew declare 2017 the year of the understated gold chain?  Time will tell.  But, for now, I’ll ride the trend which gives me the freedom to wear t-shirts to staff meetings.

Bring on the bling!

December 20, 2016

National Novel Writing Month

Here I sit at 6:16pm on the last day of November. Every year, this date creeps up on me. It marks the last day of National Novel Writing month. And once again, I did not partake.

Those who did participate are probably celebrating their success with popped bottles of bubbly. I’m staring at this blog post with a spoon of crystallized ice cream in my mouth. (It seems like I haven’t had time to run to the grocery store, never-mind write the Great American Novel.)

Every year, I’m envious of those who cranked out a book in November. Not only is November the best month to write a novel (no skiing, no gardening, only dark afternoons and cold mornings) but it also sets up the holidays with a bang. If you write a novel in November, it gives you an excuse to do nothing but drink eggnog and build gingerbread houses in December. If you don’t, you’ll feel guilty every time a kid writes to Santa and you’re reminded that you haven’t picked up a pencil in a while.

Yep, today is a reminder of what could have been. And while I could lie and say I’ll do it next year, I know I won’t. It’s the equivalent of the weight loss conundrum…always saying this will be the last pumpkin muffin, but indulging again the following morning.

Yet, I know my failure is not because of a fear of commitments. I like working toward goals. (For heck’s sake, I ran a marathon.) It’s just that I like making commitments on my own schedule. I like writing when I want to write. I like taking days off to do everything but write.

In Spanish, the word for the”sloth” animal is literally translated as “lazy bear” (oso perezoso). If there’s one thing I am not, it’s a sloth. I cling to productivity the way that a sloth clings to a tree. I like being busy.

But National Novel Writing Month never seems to align with my internal productivity calendar. And once again, November slipped through my fingers. But cheers to those who made it to the final page. I applaud you.



Rack Friday


My closet

On Black Friday, I clean out my closets. While others are out shopping, I’m swapping out my closet rack.

It’s probably not a good idea to try on clothes after the largest calorie consumption day of the year. (Plus, this year, I still have baby weight to lose with a two month old newborn.)  But I try on dresses, sweaters, shirts and pants for every season, making piles for to keep, donate or trash. This year, I’m donating at least a dozen items which have barely been worn. (One particular violet-colored Banana Republic wrap dress is in perfect condition and will certainly be a hot commodity at our local thrift store.)

Plus, there’s no better time to clear out the racks then when family is around. My sister is the perfect person to tell me to stash or trash a pair of jeans. She also goes home with a bag of items of her own choosing. (This year, she scored a cozy gray wool cardigan which I’m already scheming to get back.)

Yes, “Rack Friday” is a time for me to shop my closet. I’m reminded of the things that I’ve forgotten. (Lilly Pulitzer flamingo pink bathing suit cover up-whoop whoop!) I’m energized by the things that I can donate. (Kate Spade little black purse!)  And I’m thankful for the clothes on my back (and rack).

I’ll have plenty of time to shop for the holidays. But Rack Friday is a time to open a bottle of wine and make room for a new year. And with family around, there guarantees to be a few laughs. (“You STILL have your middle school cheerleading practice t-shirt?”)

Remember, if you haven’t worn it in over a year, it promises to give another great cheer.  Happy Rack Friday, everyone!




What You Do

My father doesn’t need to chop his own firewood. He has a sixty-five year old body, with aches and pains and strains. He can afford to have someone else chop down the wood. Yet, every November, he walks into the woods, returning hours later with truckloads of stackable wood. When I ask him why he chops his own wood, he responds with four words: “It’s what I do.”

Those four words stick with me. Sometimes there doesn’t need to be a reason for our actions. It seems that we all have something that we do without motive. We do it whether anyone is watching. We do it whether or not we can afford not to do it. We do it without an excuse.

And sometimes true intimacy means recognizing (and living with) the things our loved ones do. The little things we do for no apparent reason define our character. We will be remembered for the things that we do, whether or not we realize that we’re doing them. Perhaps we hum while we gargle. Perhaps we spin our wedding rings when we get nervous. Perhaps we eat the broth of the soup before we touch the noodles. Sometimes these things are major, other times, minor. Yet, recognizing these things in each other allows a closeness only achieved with time and attention.

For example, my mother is clueless to one thing which makes her memorable to loved ones. My mother ALWAYS brings a bag of assorted drinks and reading material on trips. Whether it’s a long or short trip, she’ll always pack a bag of iced tea bottles and random magazines. Even if she’s just driving down the street, she pack a Snapple iced tea and a Good Housekeeping magazine. She doesn’t realize that we notice, but it’s what she does, and it’s what we remember.

My husband saves bugs. He doesn’t talk about it often but he’ll bring a spider outside after cupping it in the kitchen. He’ll find a warm place for an ant during a February snowstorm. He’ll even dismiss a mosquito through a window before swatting it down. (For one whole week, we couldn’t use the upstairs sink because he knew a spider was making it a temporary home in the drain.) Saving insects is in his DNA.  He won’t think twice about eating a cheeseburger, but he won’t let you hurt the fly circling it.

Even my dog Mabel has an ingrained behavior. She brings her plush rooster toy to the top of our stairwell every evening after dinner. She can be counted on like clockwork. There are no treats involved in this behavior, nor any human attention. Whether we’re watching or not, it’s what she does.

And for me?  I have lots of habits. I only eat cereal in mugs. I’m superstitious about turning off my Ipod only after a positive lyric. (I’ll literally run another tenth of a mile until Blake Shelton says something happy.) And, I can’t go to sleep unless my hair is in a top ponytail. But the one thing I can’t NOT do is write.

It’s what I do.


Facebook Birthday Graffiti


It only takes three consonants and one punctuation mark to wish someone a happy birthday. And in a time when folks prefer short emoticons to sentences to communicate, it’s not surprising that our facebook walls are filled with these sorts of greetings on the day of our birth.

It’s commonplace for people to hate on facebook. (Yet, while the haters hate, they are simultaneously updating their statuses. “Facebook is the worst.” 240 Likes.)  And most people roll their eyes when they talk about the wall of posts on one’s birthday. Nobody wants to admit that it’s actually fun to be the “person of the day,” just like we once were in elementary school.

However, I’m not a hater. I love a facebook birthday. This year, my birthday was on election day when folks were taking to social media with passionate political monologues and gruff gubernatorial grunts. My birthday was just a pebble on the political highway of facebook activism. And yet, my wall was still decorated with three word well wishes from folks who took four seconds to post.

And seeing each small boxed face next to a greeting reminded me of past lives and loves. This year, an old ski teammate called me by a nickname I hadn’t hear in years. When I read his post, I could hear his distinctive voice say “Becksterer” even though I hadn’t heard that sound since high school. (Hi, Craig!) It was a fond reminder of my old days of high school ski racing.

Other voices echoed just as loudly. A facebook birthday wall is that it is a reminder of the assortment of friends I’ve collected over the years. It’s a living cookie tin of life. I have posts from friends I’ve known since kindergarten. (Hi, Camille!)  I have posts from friends with whom I’ve shared tiny apartments. (Hi, Andreana!) I have posts from boys whom I secretly crushed on in college. (Nope, you’re not finding out that one!)

And when other people have birthdays, I love posting on their walls. It takes a measly couple of seconds to remember someone for what they meant/mean to you. It’s a quick reminder of a particular person who imprinted on your life in some way.

Today, November 15, marks the birthdays of two facebook friends. One,  I met during a work trip to Japan where we navigated the busy Tokyo metro with other colleagues. The other, I met in a shared cab to a karaoke bar during a rockin’ Miami Beach bachelorette party.  I haven’t seen either person since those memorable days, but I posted well wishes on their walls this morning nonetheless. And as I typed, I reminisced about those trips, when life was a little more carefree, exotic, and exhausting. Yep, my friends’ birthdays reminded me of so much more than just their persons. Their birthdays reminded me of me.

So, if it’s your birthday, I’ll write on your wall and you will be celebrated. Then, like everyone else, I’ll get right back to online shopping 🙂





A Book That Matters


Mrs. Claus kept me company at this signing.

You don’t know humility until you don’t sell a single book at a book signing. I’ve been there. It’s awful.

I’ve heard other authors speak of similar experiences. Nearly every author has a tale of a lonely book signing when the only customer was sweet Aunt Jane. And of course, we all told Aunt Jane, “You really don’t have to buy the book.”  But she did. She did because she’s sweet Aunt Jane.

I’ve suffered several lonely book signings. I’ve learned how to pretend to be busy, straightening and re-straightening the tablecloth. I’ve appreciated long bathroom breaks and calling it a day an hour (or two) early. And I’ve learned to shake it off when that one customer approaches the booth only to ask  for directions to the audio book section. (Heartbreaking!)

The truth is that I would write whether or not I ever sold a book. (And, they haven’t all been bad. Most of my signings have been successful and quite fun!) But I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I’ve always dreamed of being J.K. Rowling. For me, speaking to a packed room of readers would be as much as a rush as hitting the winning home-run at Fenway. Yet, I’ve learned that the most powerful feeling in the world is having ONE person truly want to buy your book at the very moment when you feel like you couldn’t even give it away for free.

So, the next time you’re walking through a bookstore, and you see an author straightening and re-straightening a tablecloth… if you can afford it, buy their book. You can re-gift it. You can use it to level that wobbly chair. You can use it as a coaster for your frosty Friday night beer. It doesn’t matter what you do with the book… you’ll still be a hero.

And you never know… your autographed copy of WOLVES UNDER A JAMAICAN MOON may someday be a literary collectible.

Brondes Have More Fun


I’ve been a blonde most of my life. For the first twenty years of my life, I was a blonde because of genetics. Then, for the next fifteen years, I was a blonde, courtesy of  Macadamia #90 hair color from Garnier Nutriesse.

However, lately, my hair looks more like a chestnut and less like a macadamia nut.


I made the decision to change my hair color purposefully. For my wedding day, I decided to grow out my colored locks for a little more natural look.  My husband loved the idea. (He’s also the man who loves make-up free, ponytailed women in Sunday sweatpants.) But, my wedding was over two years ago. And my hair is still the color of spring mud.

I just had my first baby. A friend mentioned that perhaps now it is time to lighten my hair.  She meant well by the comment. But I knew what she was thinking:  “You’ve let yourself go, sister, and dyeing your hair might force you to shampoo.”

But, I’m not sure I want to give up the bronde. (Blake Lively coined this term and I’m stealing it. I would like to steal everything else Blake has- her husband, her smile, her bank account.) My bronde hair is my new true color.  It represents the “realness” of my recent life milestones from marriage to motherhood.  It shows no roots and no disguises. And while it may get a little less attention in a sea of brunettes at a dive bar, it gets the right attention from the people that matter most.

People dye their hair for all sorts of reasons. To hide gray hair. To reinvent themselves. To shock their parents.

I dyed my hair to hold onto my childhood. Now, I’m keeping my natural hair color to embrace motherhood.  In a world of over-botoxed, over-processed, and over eye-shadowed ladies, it’s nice to get back to basics.  My bronde is my basic. And I’m going to attempt to rock it like a hot mama.

Yes, folks, brondes can have more fun. They just have to remember to occasionally shampoo.

Raisins on Halloween


Nobody wants a box of raisins on Halloween. It doesn’t matter that you’re trying to keep the kids healthy. It doesn’t matter that raisins taste sweeter than most other dried fruits. It simply doesn’t matter.

Nobody wants toothbrushes, pennies, or anything sugar-free either. Kids wants candy. Good ol’ fashioned candy. Candy with shiny wrappers. Candy that oozes goodness. Candy that is trade-able with brothers and sisters. Candy that gives cavities and diabetes and empty calories. And for one night in limited portions, I think candy is a good thing for our kiddos.

I’m impartial to snack-size packets of M&Ms. They are colorful. They are all-American. They are the first candies I steal from my nephews’ trick-or-treat bags. I’m convinced each color candy tastes differently, even though I know better. (I’ve always liked the red ones best of all.)

I buy a bag of Halloween M&Ms every year, even though I’ve never had a trick or treater at my house. My driveway is too long to warrant a walk for a treat. Yet, every year, I buy a jumbo bag of candy just in case someone takes the time to visit. Then, I eat the candy myself through the holidays…savoring each red M&M.

I don’t eat raisins until after Thanksgiving. As far as I’m concerned they can wait.

*For more on trick-or-treaters, click here.

Why I Invite Strangers To Guess My Baby’s Gender


“Let me check you out from behind.” She heads toward my backside. “Ah, yes, a little extra on the rump. It’s definitely a girl.”

I’m expecting my first child next week. My husband and I do not know the baby’s gender. But apparently, everyone else knows.

Unfortunately, most of their theories are based upon where I have or have not gained weight. When you’re not expecting, strangers would never comment on the chubbiness of your back. But, apparently, when you’re pregnant, you’re fair game for surveillance.  Friends, family and strangers inspect me like a piece of meat, looking for bulges.

“You’ve gained weight in your face. It’s a girl.”
“It’s all in your tummy. It’s a boy.”
“Your ankles look large. It’s a girl.”

My husband and I decided NOT to find out the gender of our baby for multiple reasons. Sure, as many unknowing parents explain behind a sugary-sweet smile, “it’s one of the only good surprises left in the world.” But we also aren’t finding out because it doesn’t really matter to us. My parents already have grandkids of both genders. We have boxes of hand-me-downs in both blue and pink. We’re ready for tractors or tutus. And we can imagine either little John or little Jane being the love of our lives. (I’ll also admit that my sister warned me that labor could be so painful that the surprise of the gender might be the only way to keep pushing!)

But the most surprising outcome of not knowing our baby’s gender is the fun we’ve had in allowing people to guess. It’s incredibly entertaining to allow folks to share their theories, and in fact, I invite their opinions. A friend of mine, who boasts that he’s predicted the gender of the last ten babies in his neighborhood, is convinced it’s a girl because of the glow of my skin. My sister, who has three kids of her own, insists that it’s a girl because I painted my bathroom pink before I knew I was pregnant. A manicurist at the Dallas Fort Worth airport told me that the lines on my hand predict a boy. (She took the premonition further, also noting that my baby boy will grow up to be a professor.) And of course, I’ve heard many renditions of boy versus girl, depending on whether my belly looks like a watermelon (male) or a basketball (female). Depending on which way I’m facing, my belly looks like BOTH.

People hang wedding rings near my belly. They consult Chinese birthing calendars. They ask me about my sleeping position. And, one person even asked me to pee in a cup of Drain-O. (I put my foot down on that one.) I’m a human experiment and personally, I think it’s quite fun.

In fact, for a few weeks, I got wrapped up in the fun of prediction theories as well. After hearing from a friend with multiple children that all of her kids’ genders were predicted by her dreams, I decided to pay a little more attention to my sleep. For a month, I drank a glass of warm milk and hit the pillow, waiting for a dream of my daughter or son. However, I mostly dreamed of being invited onstage at a John Mayer concert, singing a duet, and then realizing that I’m only wearing my underwear. (But that’s a whole other psychoanalysis.)

Yet, even after all of the dreams and rings and watermelons and basketballs, I still have a theory. I think I’m having a boy. My husband thinks I’m having a girl. And neither of us have any reason for our belief but gut instinct.

One of us is right. One of us is wrong. And your guess is as good as anyone’s. But sometime in the next few days, the mystery will be solved. And it will have the perfect outcome.

September 15, 2016

Advice To My 10 Year Old Self


Turn off the television and make something. Anything. Make a pinwheel. Make a lasagna. Make a paper football. Then, keep trying to make it better.

Stick up for the underdog now, reap the benefits later.

If someone you love cooked, baked or re-heated it for you, eat it without hesitation.

Don’t squish the ants just because you can.

Say “yes” or say “no” loudly when it matters.

Save every birthday card from your grandmother.

Take care of your skin. Take care of your teeth. Take care of your knees.

Be kind to people who can’t do anything for you.

Invite every single classmate to your birthday party. No exceptions.

Don’t ever pretend to be stupid.

Take any part in the school musical. (When you get older, you’ll have to try-out!)

Put at least one healthy thing and one unhealthy thing in your daily lunchbox.

Clothes don’t matter. But having a clever Halloween costume does.

Wear out your library card on books that you enjoy reading.

Keep cartwheeling so that you can keep cartwheeling.


Image credit:


With a Squeeze of the Hand

I’ll kiss anyone. (Or at least, I’ll air-kiss anyone.) I’m pretty comfortable with greeting friends, family and even strangers with a hug rather than a handshake. (I find the hug much more comfortable in most cases.) New Englanders are often stereotyped as being as cold as their winters when it comes to personal greetings. But I challenge that assumption. At our local general store in Norwich, I can’t seem to leave without at least one hug. (It’s a blessing to live in a small town where you can’t buy toothpaste without bumping into a friend.) Yet, there is one gesture of intimacy I save for special moments: the hand squeeze.

Holding hands is clearly a sign of intimacy. But the hand squeeze during the hand hold is something significant. It can convey everything from excitement to sadness, delight to support. And since it’s a gentle act, it can pass in a quick moment, unbeknownst to outsiders.

Some of the most important moments of my life have been preluded or concluded with a hand squeeze. The boyfriend who squeezed my hand before dropping to a knee. The sister who squeezed my hand before the big ski race. The friend who squeezed my hand before my big speech. A hug was not enough for those moments. We needed something a little more special, a little more private, a little more meaningful.

And I’m conservative with my hand squeezes. Too many hand squeezes cheapen their meaning. They are the quiet “I Love You” before a sister walks down the aisle. They are the silent “Go Get ‘Em” when a husband drops off his wife at her new job. They offer a powerful message of “I’m With You” when a loved one takes a final breath. They have multiple meanings…but they are always significant.

September will bring a lot of hand squeezes in the Upper Valley. As the air cools and the leaves redden, we’ll embrace this time of change and new beginnings. We’ll go back to school, back to the field, back to sweaters, back to early bedtimes. We’ll rely on each other to get us back to the grind, the routine, the unknown. And so fathers will squeeze their daughters hands before dropping them off at kindergarten. Moms will give their sons one last squeeze before watching them board the school bus. Friends will squeeze the hands of friends as they watch the winning field goal attempt.

As for me, I’m anticipating my own special hand squeeze this September. I’m nine months pregnant and thinking a lot about the little creature in my belly. I know that the first months will be hard, wonderful, surprising, and a bit of a blur. But I look forward to the moment when that little human grabs my finger in a loving clench. It will most likely be our first physical entanglement, warm, wonderful, and supportive. The first hand squeeze from my son/daughter will bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.

Bring on the squeezes.

Baby names


I’ve always been jealous of my friend Jenny Kiszkiss. Her last name, pronounced “Kiss kiss,” always made me smile. But I had Munsterer as a last name. It was a mouthful and it sounded like something that hid in German closets to scare kids. Luckily, my parents chose a gentle first name as balance.

I’ve been thinking a lot about first names lately since I’m eight months pregnant and have no idea what I’m going to name this little creature in my belly. I have three different books of baby names with meanings and origins. And at night, before bed, my husband and I flip through each letter of the alphabet, hemming and hawing from Aaron to Zephyr. Since we don’t know the gender of our little one, it makes it doubly difficult.

There are many names I like. Sadie is adorable. So is Violet. (Mom, we’re not naming our kiddo Sadie or Violet, so don’t start ordering monogrammed tote bags.) Milo would be handsome. So would William. (Same goes here, Mom!)

But I want to fall in LOVE with a name. My favorite name is already taken by my Labrador retriever, Mabel. She was named after the protagonist in The Pirates of Penzance, but really, she was named because I love the name. (Most people think Mabel sounds like an elderly woman who crochets ugly sweaters. But I LOVE the name.)

And since everyone has an opinion, I hesitate to even mention names I like. Recently, when I nonchalantly mentioned a name I like to a friend, she moaned. From that moment on, Ingrid has been off the table.

I also know that there is always pressure to choose the “perfect name.”  Perhaps it is a family name. Perhaps it is an uncommon name. Perhaps it is a name with significant meaning. And there’s also pressure for my husband and I to agree on a name. He tends to like trendy names (i.e. Ryan for a girl.) I like more traditional names (i.e. Ryan for a boy.)

But I also know that there is no such thing as the perfect name. Life might change his/her name in ways I can’t imagine. As soon as I would name my baby Elisa, there are going to be three other Elisas in her nursery school. Or a Kardashian will name another daughter Elisa. Or Elisa will be the name of the newest Apple software. Or Elisa will become “Smelly Ellie” on the school bus.

I’ve been waiting for the two perfect names to fall into my lap. I’ve been waiting to meet a waitress with a name that I’m convinced MUST be the name of my new daughter. I’ve been waiting to be inspired by a literary character with the perfect blend of masculinity/wisdom/and humor. But so far, it’s been a slow process.

My husband and I have a few weeks left for inspiration to strike. But if it doesn’t, on the big day, we’ll do the best we can to name young Billy/Jimmy/Hugo/Dean/Winston/James/Jeremy. Whatever he’s called, he’ll be awesome.

Image credit:

The Busy Staycation

I had to force myself to turn off the computer. No errands to the post office. No tidying up the closets. No checking work email. No making plans for any reason. This was going to be a real staycation.

For multiple reasons, I was homebound for a four day vacation this year. And as much as I can pretend that a staycation is fabulous, it’s not as fabulous as letting someone else change your towels in a beach-side hotel room. But, I was determined to make it better than it sounded.

Every article on “Making the Most of Your Staycation” urges you to visit places in your hometown that you’ve never seen. But, there’s a reason I’ve never visited these places. As much as I could force myself to go to that little shop that sells comic books, I truly had no interest. Plus, in a teeny town, chances are that you really have been everywhere.

So, my staycation was going to be all about me. Not about friends. Not about art museums. Not about beach traffic. Just about me! Me! ME! (And since I was seven months pregnant with my first child, I could be this ridiculously selfish for the last time of my life.)

The problem is…if you leave myself to myself, I have a hard time not working toward a goal. I tried to read a stack of Vanity Fair magazines in my backyard, but I had a hard time sitting still. I needed to do something, anything, which would make the time feel more purposeful. And as much as I needed a vacation, I wasn’t exhausted. I didn’t need ten hours of sleep or a break from physical activity. (Trust me, I know when I a break.) And even though I was pregnant, I still had a lot of energy.

So, I got off of my chair and went to (enjoyable) work. For not particular reason, I picked up a paintbrush and painted three watercolor portraits: two owls and one pig. I wrote three new chapters of my new novella. I downloaded a whole catalogue of new music for my Ipod.  And then, on the final day of vacation, I finally had the energy to sit still. I’m proud to say that I finally read an entire Vanity Fair, cover to cover.

I don’t think I’m alone in my restlessness. I think millions of people also spend their staycations (and sometimes vacations) working toward particular goals. There is real enjoyment in skipping the dishes but working on a hobby.

No matter how many times people try to convince me otherwise, staycations will never be my “dream” vacations. (Dream vacation= over the water bungalow in Bora Bora with  mimosa daily room service and snorkeling access.) However, I made the most of my staycation by allowing myself to define what invigorated me. Some people might recharge through binge television. But for me, it was keeping busy. At the end of the four days, I felt, dare I say, accomplished. (And it is pretty nice to have saved money.) And I’ll always have a souvenir from this vacation: a pig painting.



Nearly 10% of the USA Olympic Team are parents. Two Olympians are named Carli Lloyd. One is 4’8″. And I’m excited for them all.


I’ve drank beers with Olympic athletes. I’ve danced to Bruno Mars with Olympians. I’ve even been on the worst date of my life with an Olympian. (Nope, not telling.)

And, sure, all of these Olympians were run-the football-bleachers-before-dawn driven. But they were also all unbelievably human.

I’m excited for the Olympics because I’m excited about the people at the Olympics. Sure, there are superstar celebrity Olympians like Serena, Carmelo and Usain. But for the most part, Olympic athletes don’t have household names nor multi-million dollar Rolex contracts. We recognize them as the folks-who-could-live next door.

What I love about most Olympians is that they haven’t quite yet been “glossified.” They seem more human before they have made the cover of ESPN magazine. They have turtleneck-wearing moms and pimples and bad hair cuts. They don’t have a Rolodex of girlfriends…yet. Take, Richelle Stephens, who looks like the-babysitter-next-door. Or Beezie Madden, the 52 year old equestrian powerhouse. (How could you not cheer for someone named Beezie?) Or Vincent Hancock, who looks a lot like my bank teller. I can’t wait to cheer on Richelle, Beezie, and Vincent because it will feel like I’m cheering on friends.

And sure, while some athletic careers can span decades, unfortunately, their Olympic careers probably only last a couple of minutes. (Or in the case of short distance runners, a couple of hopefully very short seconds.) So, as a spectator, I feel the tension. Unlike NFL football or MLB baseball games, which appear on any television screen in any sports bar any day of the year, I don’t really have the opportunity to watch archery every day. This every-four-year peek at a sport is what keeps it interesting. In fact, most of the sports at the Olympics I never watch until the Olympics. (I’ve never watched a curling match that wasn’t Olympic. I’ve never watched men’s volleyball that wasn’t Olympic. Heck, I’ve never even watched a track meet that wasn’t Olympic.)

This year, there are 555 members on the USA Olympic Team. They range from 46 states, and 54 of them are parents. They range in age from 16 to 52. (That means that in some ways, I’m twenty-one years too old to compete, but 15 years too young. Don’t do the math. I’m Forever 21, if you look at my label.) Two of them are named Carli Lloyd. Some of them are very small, others are very tall. They’re a diverse group of talent, and I’ll be cheering on all of them.

Rio will have its challenges. (I’ll be honest, this is one Olympic games that I will be happy to watch from my own couch.) And I wish some sort of toilet-related karma on the dopers. But, I’m looking forward to watching our athletes have their moment.

God bless the pre-dawn stair runners. Go, get ’em!

For more Olympic Fun Facts:





If there’s one thing that my nephew was NOT going to do at Storyland, it was walk the plank.

For a hot day, we had done well at the kiddie amusement park. My two nephews, ages four and six, had not had a meltdown on the line for the Polar Coaster. They didn’t complain about the kiddie-sized ice cream cone even though they had eyed the jumbo sized sundae bar. They didn’t lose their lunch on the magic tea-cups. All in all, things were going along swimmingly. Until, that is, we boarded the Buccaneer.

When I was little, my family would go to Wild West City, the cowboy themed-amusement  park near my home in Northern New Jersey.  We loved the games and rides, but there was one particular attraction that both petrified and thrilled me: the train ride.  During the infamous train ride, there was a “hold-up” by some not-so-friendly cowboys who would tease the conductor.  It was a rite of passage for every four-year old in our county to wet their pants… and then want to go on the ride again.

Now, as I sat next to my four year old nephew on the Buccaneer pirate ride, I was reminded of the thrill of fear. The Buccaneer was an innocent enough-looking ship that puttered around a natural cove on the outskirts of the park. Little did my nephew know, though, that the Pirate Captain would become the character he most loved to hate.

As we boarded the ship, the Pirate Captain instructed the kids on board that they would be responsible for rowing the boat on a nearby crank handle. (Clearly, the kiddos didn’t hear the roar of the ship’s engine since they were so focused on the Pirate Captain’s orders.) “If any matey stops rowing their crank, they’ll walk the plank,” he arghed from the stern.  The fear popped through my nephew’s eyes as he started rowing ferociously. Sweat poured from his brow and sunscreen dripped down to his chin as his pale arms pushed as hard as possible in ninety-degree heat.

“You can take a break,” I whispered to him. I pointed to some of the older kids who had stopped cranking their handles and were simply enjoying the ride. But he looked at me like I was insane. He rowed harder and harder as we made our way through plunging cannonballs and other pirate surprises.

In that ten minute ride, I believe my nephew could have qualified for the crew team at the Rio Olympics. He rowed non-stop until the moment we reached the dock. The poor kid was so beat as we exited the boat that we had to go sit near a sprinkler and take a rest.  I was worried about him until he muttered the five words that every aunt loves to hear…

Can we do it again?

I was proud of that little pirate.

July 18, 2016


“Let’s paint our house,” are some of the worst four words a wife could utter to her husband. I know because I live in a half-painted house.

My husband and I decided to paint the interior walls of our house last December. Truth be told, our house was being featured in a national commercial for T.J. Maxx (long story) and we knew that the Maxxinistas wouldn’t be interested in our spider web ceilings and crumb-filled couches. So, we spent an entire weekend cleaning the house and bringing out our unused cutting boards, fine linens, and all the other wedding gifts that we’d been saving for a special occasion.

Even after all of our spiffing up, our house was still average-looking. And the reason it was so bland was because the interior walls were beige. I hate beige. And for years, I’d been promising myself that I would paint my beige walls some fabulous shades of color that you see in Charleston mansions. But, of course, I never lifted a paintbrush. It took T.J. Maxx to put a little fire under my bum.

So, my husband and I committed to the challenge. We spent hours fighting over swatches and buying paint gear. I liked pale pinks, he liked deep blues. Finally, we compromised on a green ivy for our downstairs guestroom, a grayish-blue for our kitchen, and a blush palette for our bathroom. (With names like “Heiress,” “Perfumed Days,” and “Riding Violet,” the paint companies convinced us that our home would  be transformed into an 18th century English manor.) With some help from family and some regular quarrels over paint splatters, we finished our downstairs in a matter of weeknights. Yet, we were exhausted. While our first strokes on the wall were fun, our last strokes on the window trim were brutal. When T.J. Maxx confirmed that they would only film on the first floor, we took a break from painting and figured we’d start the second floor after the holidays.

It is now July, and our entire upstairs is…beige.. Our master bedroom, our master bathroom, the hallway and the nursery hasn’t been touched. It’s beige, beige, beige from one wall to another.

With a baby on the way, we’re in a bit of a conundrum since I’m not supposed to be breathing in paint fumes.Since I can’t paint, I nag my husband. Since I can’t help him, he gets frustrated. (Plus, I have a laundry list of more pressing chores for him, i.e. putting together the crib.) Between us, we can find a million reasons not to paint. But every time, I step over the dusty paint cans in the nursery, I’m reminded of our unfinished project.

Friends have shared their own similar experiences. Well-meaning newlyweds starting a paint job on their apartment. Retirees finally changing the color of that old bathroom. All of the stories end the same: it was a good idea at the time. Then, the paint started hitting the fan.

It took me a while to admit that we would never finish the second floor. (I’m typically not a quitter, particularly when it comes to home improvement.) But, this past week, I finally hired someone to finish the job. While we once scoffed at paint estimate prices, I’ve learned the value of paying for help to keep my sanity.

Someday soon, our master bedroom will be “Kensington Purple.” And since I’m never taking on a painting project again, we’ll force ourselves to like the color. No matter what it looks like on the wall, it will be better than beige.




A little human is going to pop out of me in September. It could be a girl. It could be a boy. It could be a future pop star. It could Prince George’s future princess-wife. It could be a redhead, a lefty, a drummer, or a linguist. All I know is that it will be loved.

I’d post a picture of my bump but that would require standing from my seat to actually take a decent photo. And since I’d rather sit comfortably on my tush and eat one more bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, I’ll skip the pic. However, I can assure you that I look AMAZING (from the forehead up). My hair has never been so shiny. The rest of me…well…looks like I’ve worked all spring growing a person between my vital organs.

I promise that The Becky Pages will not turn into a mommy blog. (I’d rather read a blog about black mold than a blog about young Winston’s first tooth.) I’ll still write about scented markers instead of pacifiers. I won’t bore you with the trials of sleeplessness, but I will beg for your mercy when my writing is clouded by lack of sleep. I’ll become a mom but I’ll still be a wife, a daughter, a sister, a John Mayer fan, a tomato lover, a metal detectorist, a skier, and a writer.

But, I did think that you, reader, should know my news. There will be a few more crumbs in my keyboard as I snack through the baby kicks. There will be a few emotional pregnant cries at the keyboard that you’ll never see. There will be procrastination from finishing columns as I shop for strollers online. And there will be a new perspective.

But otherwise, it’s business as usual.  Just with a heck of a lot more hopefulness.



Eavesdropping in Ipswich


I’m a beach eavesdropper. And I know you are too.

This past Tuesday, I spent a lazy vacation day with my husband on Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Here’s the thing about Crane Beach: it’s packed to the brim with people. (Since the water is too icy cold to swim in June, it feels especially crowded since everybody is on the sand and not in the surf.) It’s a spectacular beach with fabulous people watching. But as I learned firsthand, it’s not very quiet.

As I sat on my beach chair, only feet away from strangers, I couldn’t help but listen in to their conversations. The woman next to me, dressed in a fabulous peacock-colored one-piece, spoke with her sister about her boss, who allegedly plays favorites when it comes to granting vacation time at work. The woman’s husband, dressed in not-so-fabulous and way-too-short blue trunks, chimed in that the boss was probably having outside relations with another co-worker. I had no idea who these people were or who they were spreading gossip about, but lordy, it was entertaining.

A few hours later, they left, and a lone twenty-something bellied down on a towel in the sand. He pulled out his cell phone and called his buddy for advice about breaking up with his girlfriend. He hemmed and hawed in an ongoing monologue about wanting to date someone who wasn’t so selfish. At the end of the conversation, he decided to break it off. His second call was much more silent. I have a feeling she had the last word.

The internet tells me that the word “eavesdrop” was derived from the name of a person who used to sit near the eaves (or edges of the roof) just to listen to a private conversation. Clearly, anyone sitting outside your window to spy is a jerk. However, we need a new word for the act of innocently listening to others’ conversations. It’s impossible to NOT eavesdrop on conversations around you, even if they’re private, if the folks are speaking at a decibel that the third party can’t ignore.

In life, we’re either part of the conversation or we’re not. Yet, sometimes it’s fun and downright healthy to listen in on other people’s comments. It makes us realize the humanity in one another, for better or for worse. So, if you don’t want me eavesdropping on your conversation with your husband at the grocery check-out, then keep your voice down. But if you’re going to break up with your girlfriend ten feet away from me, know that I’m listening… and that there are other fish in the sea.


No Shirt, No Shoes, No Butter


I recently went to a seafood restaurant which had one rule: no butter.

Everyone had to eat their clams and lobster and oysters without the oozy deliciousness of our favorite dairy product. The restaurant wanted us to appreciate the saltiness of the seafood for what it was. It was an exercise in back-to-basics at the request of the hand serving the food.

Typically, I’d get annoyed by these types of restaurants. They always seemed snooty, like the steak house which refused to give you ketchup. If there’s one thing to know about me, I am not a snooty eater. (I smother my rib eye in ketchup,  much to the disgust of my husband who prefers naked meat.)

So, the no-butter rule irked me. I rolled my eyes and vowed to ask for cocktail sauce or something else they’d disapprove. But, when the butter-less crab legs arrived and I took my first bite, something amazing happened. I loved them. I licked my fingers clean not to taste the last drippings of butter, but rather to savor the salty deliciousness of crab.

I’m not giving up ketchup on my hot dogs at the ballpark this summer. But perhaps I’ll try a few favorite foods without all the razzle-dazzle of condiments. Perhaps I’ll skip the salt and pepper on my corn on the cob.  Perhaps I’ll skip the bleu cheese dressing on my fried chicken sandwich. Perhaps I’ll eat a naked hamburger.

I hate to admit that the no-butter rule changed the way I’ll eat crab forever. But this time, the customer was not always right.




I had an amazing outfit for my fifteenth year college reunion last weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to wear it.

I had attended my fifth, which was a blur of alcohol and lobster bakes, as well as my tenth, which was centered around the child care tent. Yet, I had a prior engagement which kept me from the ol’ campus last Saturday.

All night, I wondered what was happening on Mayflower Hill. And I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t miss my twentieth.

When you’re young, you don’t go to reunions to see your friends.You go to see the people who were your acquaintances (i.e. the hot guy from chem lab, the know-it-all on the field hockey team, the valedictorian-turned-Vegas showgirl). Yet, as you get older, you don’t remember the acquaintances, so you go to remember your friends. You go to drink copious amounts of wine with your old roommates while explaining to their husbands the little things that you remember. You go to remember the smell of your ex (a blend of peppermint gum and Ivory soap), who still carries Tic-Tacs in his pocket. You go to hold on to the things that have been slipping away.

I spent a week at my parents’ home earlier this month, cleaning out my childhood bedroom. I uncovered all of my old yearbooks from middle school, high school and college, and grabbed one at random to flip through before bed. It was my 1996 junior year of high school yearbook, covered in smudged signatures making predictions which would be proved wrong. (“Never forget Smack-N-Cheese!”  I forgot. But I’m sure it was unforgettable at the time). I read the yearbook from cover to cover, slowly reintroducing myself to a tribe of faces who were the wallpaper of my teenage years.

In high school, we looked toward the future with the same desperation that today we use to cling to the past. We wanted to be prettier. Now, we wish we were that pretty. We wanted to have a family. Now, we miss our parents and grandparents who attended our soccer games. We were filled with angst to be something more. Now, we are filled with regret for not becoming more.

For some of us, those years might have been golden. For others, the worst of our lives. Yet, for all of us, time rolled by. We lost classmates to war. We lost classmates to drugs. We lost classmates to tragedy. And we lost many of our memories.

And that’s why we attend reunions every so many years.To eat buffet dinners and clink glasses and wear nametags as we make our best effort to remember. And to wear a darn good outfit.



For everyone with TRY in their hearts

A few weeks ago, I received a short email from a stranger in Vermont who hates my blog. He called me an embarrassment to the state and asked me not to advertise my “Vermontness.” He didn’t give any specific criticism. Instead, he just insisted that my writing is terrible. (He misspelled two of the words in the email. But who am I to judge?) I didn’t respond because I didn’t have the words.

Yet, I’d be lying to say that I wasn’t crushed. His email really got under my skin. I didn’t understand why this man would even bother to email me. Was I really an embarrassment to Vermont?  Why wouldn’t he just ignore my blog if he hated it?  Did he really have to email me and ruin my day? I lost sleep that evening tossing and turning over his words.

It took some time to regain my confidence. But, after a few decent sleep cycles, I realized that I couldn’t let him destroy my love of writing for many reasons:

  1. I never claimed to be Shakespeare.
  2. I’m not charging money for him (or anyone) to read my blog.
  3. I’m not hurting anyone.

I can take criticism. But I don’t appreciate meanies. When it comes to this silly little blog, I can’t apologize for something that makes me so darn happy. (I officially give you permission to ignore this blog forever if you hate it.)

I don’t have to succeed. I don’t have to fail. I just have to try my best. After all, try in my heart is more powerful than hate on your tongue.



So plush!


Nothing says “Don’t Mess With Me” like carrying an oversized Tweety Bird around the Jersey Shore boardwalk. Everyone at the fair knows that you are the best stinkin’ water balloon- fillin’ watergun slinger around.

Yes, jumbo plus animals are the “must-have” items of any carnival. How else will strangers know that you climbed that tipsy-turvy rope ladder and rang that darn bell if you’re not carrying a pink gorilla around your neck?

When I was younger, all I wanted to do was win an oversized Scooby Doo from a carnival game on the Jersey Shore boardwalk. I’d spend dollar after dollar trying to throw a ring on a bottle, or land a frog on a lily pad, or knock the bottles from the shelf, just to win ol’ Scooby.

Thank goodness I never won. I’m not sure what I would have done with Scooby.

The truth is that Scooby only has value on the boardwalk. The second I would try to leave with the ol’ pup, I’d have problems. (How do you fit those things in your car?  Can you dry-clean the fried dough and mildew smell out of the fabric? Where exactly do you put him in your home to keep from being considered an absolute creep? ) Let’s be honest,  nobody should feel comfortable in an adult bedroom with a Scooby Doo in the corner.

Online, people clearly try to re-sell their prizes. Yet, considering so many of them are available, I would assume sales are slow. Plus, a consumer could always buy a new “Rasta Banana” for a pretty cheap cost instead of purchasing a used model. (The 49 inch plush “Rasta Banana” sells for $24.oo from a wholesale carnival company. It’s little brother, the 24 inch banana sells for $8.00.I’m not an expert on the Jamaican banana market but these prices seem cheaper than the wallets of dough folks hand over on the boardwalk.) It seems as if winning these prizes can sometimes be easier than getting rid of them.

I can’t help but believe that most of these characters end up in the trash a few days after they’re brought home. The poor Hello Kittys and Nemo fish and South Park characters are most likely abandoned only days after they are adopted.

Yet, on the boardwalk, plush toys reign supreme. And you, Mr. Watergun Champion, have your rasta banana proof to prove it.




If I were cool

I want to be a person who likes Sriracha. Sriracha= intrigue.

I want to be a person who drinks their coffee black. The cool kids have no time for whipped cream or Cinnabon creamer.

I want to be a person who speaks another language. Fluently. I want to order an egg sandwich on a croissant at a French delicatessen with the accent of a native speaker.

I want to eat grains of rice with chopsticks.

I want to carry the one book that makes you think I’m smarter than I am.

I want to make those thigh-high boots actually fit my thigh-not-so-high legs.

I want to follow a band you haven’t heard of…yet.

I want a collection of trucker hats.

I want to know a few people in the industry.

I want to be a cool kid. Just for a day.

Photo credit:

L.L. Bean models

Darn those L.L. Bean catalogues! They make me feel like I’m cheating on my husband.  Where do they find these gentlemen, anyway?

Women around the world know that the L.L.Bean catalog is the male equivalent to the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. We don’t need our gentlemen in underwear. I’m thrilled to see a man in corduroys peeling an apple on the back porch of a rustic cabin. (That lucky, lucky apple peel.)

Clearly, the ad agency knows what I want. Men in flannel shirts cutting down Christmas trees? Yes, please. Men with bulging muscles, hoisting life boats ashore? Uh-huh. Men in shawl collar cardigans cuddling yellow Labrador retriever puppies? Be still my heart.

Most male models in magazines look like boys who have been caged like veal. They have no muscles. They have little hair. They look sad and malnourished. (Clearly, I don’t like veal.) I’ve never wanted to date a Prada model. Nor, have I ever seen a Prada model building a dock on a pristine Maine lake.

Most mainstream male models always seem a little too primped and a little too performance-driven for my tastes. I always wonder why everyone is always wearing sunglasses with their raingear.  And what’s with the jumping in the air?  Where are the puppies?  Where is the lumber? Where are the lifeboats?

Yep, I’ll buy multiple oatmeal Henley shirts for my husband as long as L.L. Bean will continue to feature men peeling apples on the porches of their restored farmhouses. Even if he doesn’t wear them, I can return them and request another copy of a new catalogue. I can never have enough copies.



In Awe

I took a walk in the woods this morning. I take walks in the woods nearly every morning.  Usually, I’m only concentrating on two things: waiting for my dog, Mabel, to poop… and debating whether or not I need to take a morning shower. But this morning, as Mabel circled her favorite drop-off spots, I realized something monumental. This particular April morning, the woods were the prettiest they had been all year.

Now, I’m not talking glam-pretty like mid-October in all its glory of orange and reds. Nor am I talking about December pretty with a fresh coat of snow, all Currier-and Ivesy. I’m talking about nature at its most natural. Nature at the moment when it slowly wakes from winter slumber but isn’t quite ready to get out of bed. Nature when, just like a lover at daybreak, it can’t hide what it is really is, filled with both roots and stumps and blooms and nakedness. Nature at its most vulnerable, but also filled with hope.

This morning, the woods were quiet, clean and (almost) ready to take on the duties of renewed growth. The mud had dried, but the weeds hadn’t unearthed. The lilacs hadn’t yet formed their buds but the moss was squishy under my feet. The chicks of spring hadn’t quite flown their nests, but the pond peepers were sounding the alarm for all fauna. But best of all, the woods, even the deep woods, were still bug-less. For a moment, I stood next to my poop-less dog, just appreciating the fact that I was not being eaten by winged blood-suckers.

And, in those woods this morning, I decided that this might be my favorite time of the year. I don’t need to mow the grass nor shovel the driveway. It’s too early to be in the garden but too late to be huddled around the wood stove. I sleep with the windows opened but the air conditioner off. I’m not sunburned nor frostbitten. Vermont is still and simple and serene and spectacular.

And then it hit me.Today is Earth Day. A day to hug trees and plant flowers and recycle our toilet paper rolls into weird crafts which would appall any thinking human. And while I’m the first to admit that the words “Earth Day” inflect guilt as someone who still chooses plastic over paper, I couldn’t help but have a moment of pure “Holy-Mackerel-Mother Nature-Is-A-Darn-Good-Exterior-Decorator.” Clearly, the lady has some talent.

After Mabel went about her business, I took a few extra steps in the wrong direction before walking back home. It was too special of a morning to rush. I wanted to listen to a few more fading peepers and relish in the bouncy soil below my feet. I wanted to feel the hope in the air and bask in the bugless, mudless, snowless, landscape around me.

When I returned to the house, I decided not to take a shower… in honor of the Mother, of course.










Scratch, Write, and Sniff


When I was in grade school, a girl in my class introduced me to scratch and sniff markers. My mind was blown by strawberry-smelling ink.

For the next five years, our entire elementary class sniffed chemicals from tubes during art class. And at some point, we all tasted the chemicals as well, since it was impossible NOT to lick the green apple marker to see if it tasted like a Jolly Rancher. (For the record, it did not.)

Our teacher thought it was a terrific way to get us to color. And frankly, she was right. We would have colored a crossword puzzle if it meant sniffing our “bubble gum” pink markers. (It was ironic that we weren’t even allowed to chew bubble gum as first graders, which made that darn pink marker even more alluring. They might as well have given us a tobacco marker.)

In theory, scratch and sniff markers were a great idea. However, I’m sure that allowing students to sniff markers all day was not exactly the best idea for our brain development. And, using the markers could be confusing when you were distracted by your olfactory sense. Was it okay to color a tomato picture with the apple-smelling red marker? Should the blue boat really smell like blueberries? And did we really want to use the stinky black licorice marker in our favorite Hello Kitty coloring book?

Yet, those scratch and sniff markers will always have a place in my heart. (Let’s pray that they don’t have a place in my lungs.) They colored my world and taught me the love of art. I looked forward to creating something (anything) that my parents could hang on the fridge.

To this day, when I get a whiff of bubble gum in the checkout line of the supermarket, my mind drifts back to that pretty pink marker.

Been There

I’m fortunate enough to have a day job which requires copious amounts of travel. And even when I’m not working, I love cashing in my frequent flier miles for adventures in exotic places with my family.  Some of my favorite places to visit have been South Africa, Norway, and…believe it or not, St. Paul, Minnesota. However, I’ve been disappointed by other locations. (I love Tennessee, but I didn’t love Graceland. Sorry, Elvis.)

And after all this travel, there are places I recommend visiting, and others that I recommend “google visiting.” (Google visiting allows you to virtually explore the location  without having to pack your bag.)

And while I’m sure folks will disagree with some of my recommendations, I can’t help but share my thoughts. (Please don’t take offense at my list if the Coca Cola Factory has employed seven generations of your ancestors. Clearly, I’m just a silly Vermonter who doesn’t know anything.)

Places to Visit
1. The Na Pali Coast, Kauai
– Jurassic Park, in real life.
2. Times Square, NYC– The block that never sleeps.
3. Redwood Forest, OR–  Even the tall feel small.
4. The Great Wall of China–  Goodness, gracious, Great Wall of China!
5. Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro– Go for the hot beaches, stay for the hotter men’s volleyball.
6. National Space Museum, D.C.,- Up, up and away!
7. Pearl Harbor, Honolulu– Take the ferry, then hug a veteran.
8. Pebble Beach, CA–  The premiere gated community, which happens to be ungated.
9. Stonehenge, UK–  Really, how did they do it?
10. Raffles Hotel Bar, Singapore– You’ll feel like an international spy.

Places to “Google Visit”
1. The Mall of America, MN– Fun if you need shoes and frozen yogurt. Not fun otherwise.
2. Niagara Falls, NY–  Imagine sitting in traffic only to witness a long ice bucket challenge.
3. The Coca Cola Factory, GA–  Diabetes, anyone?
4. The Liberty Bell, PA– It’s history…cracked.
5. The Bronx Zoo, NY– Giraffes in the Bronx will never make sense.
6. Salem, MA–  Don’t you want to sleep at night?
7. Big Ben, London– I love London, but you can see big clocks at Pottery Barn.
8. Lincoln Memorial, D.C. – I know, I know, but I can also just flip over a penny.
9. Sea World, FL – Rent a snorkel and head to the beach instead.
10. Yankee Candle Village, MA–  It smells like your grandma’s house.

Skinny Knees

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but I’ve got some fabulous knees.

My calves, however, are another story. I’ve always had strong, wide, calves… partly because of genetics, partly from a lifetime of running on my toes. My lower legs don’t fit in Uggs. I need special sizing for ski boots. And, I’ve been told by men that they wished they had my calves.

While I’m incredibly thankful for healthy legs which get me where I want to go, I’ve always been a little self-conscious of my calves. And, shopping for pants can be a nightmare. (Forget skinny jeans, I’m lucky if I can squeeze into a plain pair of wide-leg corduroys.) It’s always a war of leg vs. material as I try not to split seams in dressing rooms.

So, last St. Patrick’s Day, when a friend’s sister was making shamrock leggings for a local 5K race, my friend warned her to leave a little more fabric for my calves.When the big day came and I put on the leggings, my friend’s sister took a good look at my infamous calves. She stared at at my legs a second longer than most people, as I uncomfortably waited for her reaction. “You have such skinny knees,” she said with a smile.

Her comment overjoyed me. It was such a simple statement, but it reminded me the importance of focusing on the positive. Now, when pants don’t fit in a dressing room, I don’t hate my calves. I just look for a pair of jeans which will best accentuate my fabulous knees.

Happy St. Patrick’s week everyone!  Flaunt what you’ve got!



Fleece is Fashion

I wear fleece the way that celebrities wear fur. (Faux fur, hopefully.)

Sometimes, I drape it over my body. Sometimes, it lines my jackets. Sometimes, it pops out in unexpected places. Sometimes it keeps me warm over my party dresses.

Yet, most designers agree that fleece is not fashion. But sensible New Englanders who pump their own gas in bitter temperatures don’t care what designers think. They know that fleece is the fabric of our lives.

My town of Norwich, Vermont, in particular, should be renamed Fleece Country, USA. Even the most fashionable of townies still rock their designer jeans with a fabulous fleece coat on a Saturday night. My neighbors have fleeces for every season. (Fleece pull-overs for a late night summer bonfire? Absolutely. A fleece layer underneath a spring raincoat? Definitely. Fleece-lined pants for winter walks? Without a doubt. Fleece coats for fall apple picking?  We’ve got red or green options.) Yes, in Norwich, fleece goes with everything and can go to anything. In Norwich, the fleece jacket is basically the little black dress.

Since it’s March, I’m relying on my many fleece jackets to get me through mud season. They line my closets in various colors, shapes and sizes. (I collect fleece jackets the way others collect shoes.) I’ll wear them with jeans and skirts and running shorts and dresses. They will accentuate none of my body parts, but they will keep me comfortable, flexible, and on the move.

And in my opinion, anything that keeps me on the move, can be machine washed, and can survive mud season is HIGHLY fashionable. Supermodels can keep their fur, but I’ll keep my fleece.


French Sugar

When I was younger, I loved going to Pizza Hut with my family. Pizza Hut was a special treat, as my whole family would crowd around their deep dish pie in awe before fighting over the cheesiest slice. But my sister and I also loved the Pizza Hut salad bar. In the early 80’s in suburban New Jersey, Pizza Hut was revolutionary with its salad bar, complete with self-serve bacon bits.

But, our plates were not all bacon bits, croutons, and sunflower seeds, much to the delight of my mother. We ate a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes and cauliflower at that salad bar. And the only reason we ate those veggies was because of their unbelievably delicious French dressing. Pizza Hut French dressing was/is the champagne of French dressings. My soccer friends and I would chow down on broccoli florets at Pizza Hut team dinners, as long as that broccoli was bright orange.

Yet, French dressing, as we all know, is made up of sugar, sugar, and more sugar. (I was traumatized when a schoolmate once told me it was made from crushed Oompa-Loompas.) It leaves a tangerine-colored stain on everything it touches. It tastes like, well, fruity sugar paste. And it’s delicious.

I haven’t been to a Pizza Hut in twenty years.  But today, I still smother my salads with French dressing. As an adult who knows I should be choosing a healthier option, I continue to douse my spinach in orange-colored gooey-ness. Then, I devour my salad like ice cream. ( I wouldn’t consume as many daily carrots if they were only coated in a tasteless, fat free vinaigrette.) If it takes a few teaspoons of sugar to make the broccoli go down, so be it.

And when people judge my sugar-coated salad, I tell them to go suck on a tomato.  A tomato dipped in French dressing, of course.





Taking It Down A Notch

A few weeks ago, I blew out my left eye. My doctor said I had high blood pressure in my eyeball, caused by stress, which forced a cell behind my retina to explode. Everything was blurry, and I was in shock. And when Doc told me that I needed to de-stress, I became stressed.

Everyone I know is stressed. Everyone is wondering where the time goes while they’re running around wasting it. Everyone is “crazy busy” running to the thing, and then getting to the next thing, and cooking the thing to bring to the thing.  We’re all out of our minds.

And yet, I’ve been told to take it down a notch. But I don’t want to take it down a notch. I like being a princess of productivity. Yet, I realize, for my own health, I have to cool it.

After all, I’m too young and unimportant to be popping out eyeballs. Nobody’s life depends on me. Nobody in my immediate family is in pain. My bills are being paid, and my mouth is being fed.  Everything is okay.  If my office plants die and I forget a friend’s birthday, life will go on.

But it’s awfully hard to let go of that “go-go-go-and then go some more” drive.  So, I’m committing to small changes. Instead of running my typically four miles at the gym, I’m walking two on an incline. Instead of leaving my laptop on until 9:00pm, it’s powered down no later than 8:00pm. Instead of walking my dog for 45 minutes at lunch every day, I’m allowing other people to take care of her.

And to be honest, I feel a little lazy. I should be writing more. I could be sweating more. I should, I could, I want, I will.  The phrase drums through my head whenever I’m feeling less productive.

And yet, to slow things down, I simply tell myself that I am. I am getting exercise. I am treating my dog well. I am writing great things. (After all, It doesn’t matter if I’m running four miles a day or walking two. I’m still doing thirty minutes of cardio a day, which deserves a pat on the back.)

Yes, I’m taking it down a notch this winter. And by doing so, I remembering how good it can be to exhale. I’m spending more time enjoying the view from where I already am, and less time climbing the unending ladder. And frankly, my vision has never been more clear.

Chipmunk Hotel

I put one chunk of tomato-basil bread into the small nook in the dead ash tree.  Then, I reach on my tippy toes to place another chunk into another nook.  I continued to circle the tree, filling other nooks with bread pieces.  When every nook is filled, I move forward with my hike, leaving nothing more than an accidental trail of crumbs from the bread bag, as if I were Hansel and Gretel.

This time of year, I get a kick out of leaving bread in the woods for wild animals. Silly, perhaps, but there’s something Cinderella-esque about imaging a bunch of robins and squirrels delighting in a thumb-sized buffet.  (That is, until you realize Cinderella is an orphan who is abused by her stepmother, but that’s another story.)

So, on the weekend, I put on my snow boots. I wrap my chilled ears in a wool hat. And I call for Mabel, my canine companion (who loves eating stray crumbs). We disappear into the forest, following the snow tracks of tiny critters.

It’s quiet in the woods. The only sound in my backyard is the occasional creaking of an old spruce, and the pitter-pat of Mabel’s paws. It’s peaceful and pretty and downright lovely. I’ll spend an hour trekking up the mountain, looking for tree stumps (taller than  Mabel’s reach) to leave the end of a bread loaf for a lucky chipmunk. I’ll peek into a hole under a dead tree to drop a few slices for a hungry squirrel.  And then, of course, I’ll seek out the perfectly wood-pecked dead tree for the ultimate room-service.

The menu changes, of course. Today, it was failed pretzels which never really rose in my oven.  Last week, it was Panera sandwich bread.  A few weeks ago, it was a moldy loaf of whole wheat.

But I find my customers to be fairly open to new cuisines. They’ve never sent back an order.

Photocredit: bkade

Every day I’m puzzling…

On a cold winter’s night, my idea of a good time is a Merlot bottle and a thousand piece puzzle. However, telling someone that you’re a puzzler is like telling them that you collect limited edition Elvis plates. It’s puzzling…unless you’re eighty.

So, I don’t talk about it. I don’t tell my colleagues that I can’t wait to go home from work so I can find that darn corner piece. I hide my puzzle tray in the guest room when friends drop by for dinner. And I limit myself to puzzles ONLY during the winter months.

I live in the same town where the world famous Stave Puzzles are cut. So, it’s natural that I love a good jig-saw. (I am not a puzzle snob though, since I also love a plain ol’ drugstore puzzle in a box.) And during the winter when the weather outside is frightful, but red wine is so delightful, puzzling is a decent way to spend time while I wait for the outdoors to defrost.

My husband and I have even snuck away to The Rabbit Hill Inn for a fun weekend of skiing by day and puzzling by night. The Rabbit Hill Inn is a fabulous Vermont bed and breakfast known for its lobby-full-of-puzzles. (But I already live in Vermont, and I already have a bed and box of Thomas’ English Muffins in my fridge, so let’s be honest. I only go there for the puzzles.) I even started puzzle smack talking last year when another couple (who were completely jerky) boasted that they were half-finished with a particularly difficult puzzle of the city of Boston. “Good for you,” I smirked. “We finished that one in an hour, but it’s cute that you’re still trying.” (Trust me, they were horrible people.)

Yet, as soon as the snow starts to melt, I box up my puzzles. I crush them back to their original pile of chaotic pieces and stack them in storage. When the wind turns warm, it’s time to open the windows, step away from my living room, and move on to yet another hobby beloved by the elderly: metal detecting.  I’ll spend my spring hours secretly walking around my woods with a detector… looking for treasures of coins and jewelry the same way I previously looked for corner pieces.

Clearly, I’m eighty at heart.  And it’s darn good fun. Now, pass the edge piece with the speck of green…

Happy Non-Holiday Birthday!

Many of the people I love were born in December. The month is scattered with birthday celebrations of every age. We celebrate my husband, my father, my aunt, and many close friends. (Thirteen of my facebook friends all celebrate a birthday in the next four days!) And in order to successfully celebrate a “holiday season birthday,” we do our best to get rid of the red and green. Even though Christmas is actually a religious birthday celebration, I can’t help but allow my hubby to pick his own theme colors for his Dec. 22 party.

My husband, in particular, is celebrating a big milestone birthday tomorrow.  And so,  we’ll turn off our Mariah Carey Christmas album, and turn up Coldplay. We’ll skip the red and green cookies, and instead eat bright pink strawberry cake (his favorite). We’ll leave the Christmas tree lights off, and instead cuddle by the dim television light of a movie-on-demand (his choice, of course, The Thomas Crown Affair.)

Yep, in my family, we do our best to separate birthday and holiday. Over the weekend, we celebrated my father’s  birthday with a margarita party and a trip to a local indoor swimming pool.  We dined out with spicy stirfry at a local hibachi restaurant, and didn’t complete a single Christmas chore all day.  It could as well have been any summer day.

We all know that we can’t change a birthday. And my loved ones all agree that they don’t mind their holiday-timed birth dates. However, I simply can’t allow red and green to be the theme of any of my friends’ late- December birthday parties. They deserve their own thunder.

Happy birthday, December babies!  Sending kisses to all (without the mistletoe.)