Some find inspiration in the wilderness. Others find themselves hopelessly lost.

Monthly Archives: July 2013

kid's luggageBefore I had children, I expected that, once they arrived, I’d strap them to my back and travel the world. I really believed I’d tote them along to scale mountains and ski across glaciers. The kids would probably love all of that. There’s just one problem: I can’t carry all of the stuff they seem to need with them.

Tomorrow, I leave for a year in the UK.  I did this once before, about fifteen years ago.  Back then, when I was single and childless, I traveled with a duffel bag stuffed with clothes, sheets, a blanket and a couple towels, plus a laptop.  That was everything I needed.  This time, I’ve got two giant duffel bags, four suitcases, a backpack, a laptop in a carrying case, two car seats and a stroller. I’ve packed toys, crafts, snacks, sippy cups, dolls, a booster seat, plenty of diapers, backpack carriers for hiking, and many teeny-tiny truck and flower-adorned garments.  Thank goodness my parents are driving us to the airport to help my husband and I push all of this stuff to the ticket counter. We couldn’t do it on our own. The kids want to carry their own stuff, but we all know that isn’t going to happen.

Other people do seem to manage mega-adventures with their kids and, honestly, mine have stayed pretty happy despite the fact that all of their toys are now either in a suitcase or sealed away in a box in a closet.  Who knew my imaginative kids could keep so busy with packing tape, a broom and a dustpan.

So, maybe it is time to revisit the glacier ski expedition. Or at least it’s time to attempt some long hikes in Scotland.

If you don’t hear from me again, I lost my mind on our three-flight, overnight journey.  Otherwise, I’ll be writing next from Great Britain.

My novel, Drowning Cactus, is now available for purchase. I’ve been telling my friends that I’m leaving the country because the book is an exposé set in small town America, revealing their deepest darkest secrets.  That isn’t true.  My friends are all wonderful, kind, dull people.  Just kidding, guys!  You’re not dull at all. But my book isn’t about you, either. Maybe it should be, but it isn’t. Sorry, friends, and sorry, all you readers out there hoping to get the dirt on my friends.


I’m fascinated by organizations and governmental entities working to bring farming and rural life to city folks. I love reading about beekeeping workshops in Manhattan, and itinerant greenhouse grocery stores.

My novel, Drowning Cactus, features an organization that teaches organic farming to inner city kids. Even my daughter’s “in town” preschool has a school garden. We’re not in the city (in fact we’re biking distance to a small chicken farm where we buy our eggs), but everyone seems very concerned that my kids have an opportunity to delve into agricultural life. Probably a good idea.

But what about the rural folks missing out on the urban experience?

The time has come to bring city living to the country. I’m thinking about opera, or maybe mediocre street performers, on farms, and food truck conventions in orchards. Said food trucks must serve bacon-laced dessert items. Let’s relocate the Central Park roller skating party spot to a 4H Fair venue. Could one of those critical mass bike rallies overtake a tractor pull or small town Memorial Day parade?

I’d like to start an organization dedicated to sharing the reality of city life with America’s rural youth. Anyone interested in an unpaid internship? Applicants must be sharply dressed in dark, slim fitting clothes, generally in a hurry, extremely ironic, and deeply skeptical, but fully committed to current food and music trends. A mind-your-own-business attitude and in-your-face speaking style are expected. Grittiness preferred.

To apply, submit your qualifications through the comment section.


Look out for my short story, The Break-In, available as a free download only the weekends of July 26-28 and August 2-4 on


Big news: I packed away my beloved Joy of Cooking today.

I’m clearing my house out for renters because I leave in about two weeks for a year away. As I reluctantly sealed the box of cookbooks, my husband teased, “We’re in for a year of joyless cooking, aren’t we?”

For just a second, I panicked. We are in for a year of joyless cooking.  Maybe a joyless year entirely. Fortunately, the thought and my anxiety evaporated almost instantly, replaced by a cracker jack idea.

You’ve probably read the book Julie and Julia based on Julie Powell’s blog, or seen the movie. It was fun to read about Ms. Powell’s attempts to tackle aspic, but aren’t you dying to hear about my free-style hard boiled eggs? Simmer or boil? How many minutes? Fourteen, right? I totally have this under control. Wait! Is that for large eggs or medium? You just know I’m going to end up with some hilariously green-tinted yolk rings.

Yes, I think the world might be ready for Carrie without Irma (Marion, and Ethan): My Year of Cooking Joylessly.

I can already predict that my homemade mayonnaise is going to come out runny.  I’ll almost definitely rush my frittatas without my J of C’s warnings to cook them low, slow and steady. All those disasters and I haven’t even thought past the chapter on eggs! Oh, Joy of Cooking, I miss you already!

Sure, I could look recipes up on the Internet and I can probably improvise a frittata, but that would be boring. If I try hard enough, I’m almost certain I can come up with some disastrous culinary experiences–perfect fodder for a blog on joyless cooking.

Foodies have been hip for a while.  Kitchen klutzes are poised to hit the big time. Who better to fill the role than me?!

Now, excuse me while I attempt an impromptu zucchini/barley flour/dried porcini casserole.  I won’t blog about it though.  The world is so NOT ready for posts about the meals I’m creating as I attempt to use up the remains of my pantry. You guys want humor, not horror, right?

Your book is coming out. Congratulations!

Now you have to promote the thing. Don’t worry. The process is simple. No need to buy a bunch of books by book promotion experts (oh, they are so sneaky using those promotion tricks to get you to buy their book).

I’ve distilled everything you need to know into this simple ten step program.

1. Be famous. This is especially important if you have written a children’s book. Sarah, the Duchess of York, Julie Andrews, Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow all parlayed their fame into successful children’s book careers. So can you.

2. If you’re not famous, be the child, and/or grandchild of someone famous (think: Andre Dubus III). Preferably someone with a Penguin Classic in print.

3. How about marrying a writer? If you have to resort to this, you’ll want to marry an author with serious star-power. A Kardashian is probably your only hope.

4. Build hype by creating a large presence on the Internet. You can easily accomplish this by humiliating yourself on YouTube. You might consider eating lit firecrackers or driving down the freeway with your child’s carseat latched to the ski rack on your roof. Be sure to get those stunts on film.

5. Befriend librarians and owners of independent bookstores. Just remember, libraries have no money and few people attend readings at bookstores, so this won’t affect your book sales. Still, it’s a mitzvah to be kind to librarians and bookstore owners. They’re sad, sad people.

6. Get book reviews and blurbs from famous people. How? See #1, #2 and #3, above.

7. Get lots of exercise and eat well to stay positive and energized. Unless, of course, you plan to gain a lot of weight and go on a reality TV show about weight loss. That would be a good idea. Just be sure your book is about a contestant on a weight loss competition reality show.

     7.1 Substantially alter your book so that it features a contestant on a weight loss   competition reality show.

     7.2 If you’re serious about this tactic, consider moonlighting as a stripper and demonstrating your pole-dancing skills on the weight loss reality show. You’ll want to work a strip tease into your book, too. The cover should feature a strip club scene. Hollywood has capitalized on the public’s fascination with strippers. So has Andre Dubus III. Why shouldn’t you?

8. Clean your desk. Replace your clutter with a shrine to your favorite, most successful author. Three times a day, repeat the mantra, “I am becoming [insert name of bestselling author].” Bonus points if you choose Rhonda Byrne. As her book The Secret reveals, visualization will lead you to achieve your goals. You might be tempted to dismiss this as useless new age nonsense, but, remember, she’s sold something like twenty million books.

9. Clean your refrigerator. This won’t help you sell books, but we all know you haven’t cleaned it in way too long and it’s starting to smell gross.

10. Keep writing and be nice to your mom. She’ll probably buy anything you get published. If it’s any good, I’ll buy it, too. Heck, I even buy lousy books. Lot of people do. In fact, if your mother is the only person who buys your book, you can take comfort in the knowledge that it is probably too good for most readers, those people who are so busy snapping up books written by the Kardashians and Rhonda Byrne.

Disclaimer: I have read neither The Secret nor The Dollhouse. Maybe they are both brilliant. I bet your book is better though.

My novel, Drowning Cactus, is coming out July 26th. I’ve got my shrine to Rhonda Byrne next to my laptop and I sent Kim Kardashian a love letter. I think I’m ready for success, but welcome promotion suggestions in the comment section below.

My small town has been invaded by thousands of men dressed as Civil War soldiers. I have to admit, I find the phenomenon a little baffling. Why do grown men want to wear wool pants and coats and then lay on the ground, under the hot sun, pretending they aren’t alive? I get that they’re interested in history, but the urge to dress up as one of many suffering soldiers doesn’t resonate at all.

Tuesday night, while the reenactors cooked their coffee and beans over campfires, I watched the movie Kumare. A documentary about faith, Kumare follows an American masquerading as a guru from India, gathering followers and learning about spirituality while he lives a lie. It’s funny, thought-provoking, and I highly recommend it. The subject of the film is able to convince intelligent people he is a guru in part because of his attire. In fact, by changing his clothes and growing his hair long, he manages to step so far out of his normal life that he discovers a new side of himself and a new way to connect with others.

Maybe those Civil War reenactors are doing something right. By dressing the part, they can become their heroes, people who were part of a transformative moment of American history, who risked their own lives to protect their families, their homes, and ideals.* Maybe they’re learning something about fortitude, brotherhood or their insignificance in the face of larger forces—political, natural, or even modern ones, like the hordes of camera-happy tourists who’ve also arrived in town.

There’s no question that costumes have power to change who we are and how we see the world.

Lately, I’ve been wearing torn cargo shorts from the late nineties and even older T-shirts. I’ve given myself permission to indulge in all the nail biting I desire. I’m trying to sort out the health problems that sent my toddler into the emergency room while I pack up my house for a move abroad, and get a book and short story out to press all before the end of the month. Plus, all those re-enactors have thrown a monkey-wrench into my usual traffic-free life. Rather than give in to stress, I think I need to try costuming, to re-connect with the part of myself that is deeply relaxed and calm.

So, should I go the guru route, and attempt to channel the inner peace of a yogi or monk? Or should I don Civil War era attire, to get some perspective and escape into another time, when most people’s lives were far more difficult than mine?


* I’m trying to stay neutral here. Insert your own angry objection about Confederate or Union ideals, if you like.

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