2017: “A Journey of a Thousand Miles” Into the Unknown

I’m hurtling down WY-220, my knuckles white from my death-grip on the steering wheel, though I’m still managing about 80 MPH. The melamine plates are rattling in the cupboard, and I’m fairly certain that the butter is stuck to the inside of the door above my little sink. Up ahead I see a mile-long line of stopped cars snaking up the hill. I brake early to account for my load before coming to a stop behind a truck hauling a huge water tank on the back of a trailer.

The road snake doesn’t slither. Not even an inch. After about fifteen minutes, I turn off the engine and get Chloé and So-Kr8z out of their car seats to take them outside. As soon as I pull the latch, the Wyoming wind pulls wildly on my RV door and slams it open. I coax Chloé down the stairs and see that the line has grown at least a mile behind us too. She won’t go. Too many eyes, I imagine. I put her back inside and grab So-Kr8z, who goes on every single, solitary weed, his leg lifting so high I worry he’s going to tip over and get covered in sticker burs.

Back inside, I watch the guy in the water truck ahead of me. He gets out to stretch his legs, pulls a fly pole out of the bed of his truck, and practices his cast over the shimmering blacktop. Because he looks like Yukon Cornelius of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer fame, and not a serial killer, I get out to talk to him. I pelt him with questions: What does he think is going on? Where’s he headed? Does he think we’ll be there long?

He tells me there was an accident up ahead the week before that took over five hours to clear. He says his buddy is a few cars behind us and they’re heading to work on an oil rig. He says he’ll give it a bit. He flips the fly line into the wind, unfazed, and a guy skateboards up the hill toward us. I feel like I’m on a road trip ala Hunter S. Thompson, sans acid. It’s his coworker. He tells us he’s going to ride to the top of the hill and see what we’re dealing with. I watch him pump up the steep grade of the road, his right leg working hard. Before long, he’s sailing back down. Fast. His arms are outstretched and his long black hair is flowing sideways. He says the line is miles and miles long, he can’t even see how far. He suggests that they turn back toward Casper and cut through Medicine Bow.

I ask how far Medicine Bow is. I admit that I’m new to RV life and I don’t know how long my gas will last. I wish out loud that I’d filled up in Casper. And I’m worried about the dogs. It’s so hot that it’s hazy in the distance, even with the wind. The skateboarder tells me I can follow them. It’s only about an hour out of the way and will lead us straight to I-80 near Rawlins. I can get gas there. I feel vulnerable, scared, and completely unsure of what to do. I’ve traveled the roads of Wyoming my entire life, but I’ve never heard of the road they’re talking about. I try to picture where it might be, but I have no idea. And, Yukon Cornelius aside, I don’t want to end up dead. Plus, the skateboarder is covered in tattoos.

Oh wait, I’m covered in tattoos.

I get in my RV, back up so the water truck can make the turn, and I follow him. As I bump over the bar ditch, I know the butter is toast, and the bungee cord that’s keeping my bathroom door closed stretches so that the door opens and then slams shut. His buddy pulls out in front of us and we form a convoy, barreling past the miles of cars and semis previously parked behind us.

As I travel into the Unknown, it strikes me…the whole of 2017, from the beginning of January to this hot and windy day on August 28th (a day after my forty-seventh birthday,) has been a venture into the unknown; an exercise in white-knuckled, hurtling, rattling, 80 MPH, butter-smearing bravery. Trips in trust. From Pennsylvania to Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to Wyoming, back to Pennsylvania to Boston to Cape Cod and back again to Wyoming, with hundreds more miles logged across the expanse of Utah.

I’d stormed to the bedside of a beloved man in my life to hold his hand while he took his last breath. I’d gone to D.C. with my best friend and hundreds of thousands of women to march until I thought I would buckle from the pain of it. I’d journeyed to defend my thesis after a process that nearly broke me as a writer. On the day I returned home with my M.F.A., I got a call that my dad was going in for emergency surgery. I swapped suitcases and went to him, and for six weeks I lived in my RV and drove to his place to take care of him. Daily he told me that he was “ready for the reaper.” Only when I’d secured his care did I return home. I walked in the front door with a bag full of dirty clothes only to end my five-year relationship with my partner. He moved out the same night.

And now here I was on a two-lane back road speeding toward Medicine Bow behind a couple of oil-riggers I didn’t know, Burl Ives tunes humming in my head, praying I didn’t run out of gas, and fully trusting that I was where I needed to be, even if I didn’t know where I was.

I didn’t run out of gas. Literally or figuratively. Some three hours later we arrived at a gas station about thirty miles from Rawlins where I thanked these two chivalrous men, and we hugged and said our goodbyes.

2017: The year of perilous adventure—breathtakingly beautiful, bumpy, and back-breaking.

What can I say after having been away from my blog for a year? Only that it was a time of intake and not output; that I was logging life miles; that I was listening and not talking. Somehow, I needed those 20,000+ miles.

The Pain of the Women’s March on Washington

I stood on the metro, scrunched up against scads of women wearing myriad variations of knitted pink hats with ears, and gulped breaths of air – nearly hyperventilating – and thinking I really needed to get out amongst human beings more. Swirls of neon pink, baby pink, pink bordering on purple, and dusty rose blended together, as strangers stood so close together their chests were actually touching, boob to boob. I clutched the hand rail and tried my best not to knock into those closest to me, as the train stopped and started, started and stopped.

A woman sold buttons for $3.00 with Shepard Fairey’s artwork on them, and she twisted like an Okie funnel cloud to reach her buyers. I figured she must do yoga. I bought one for me and my best friend who stood a dozen people away. I stood on my tip-toes to see her variegated pink hat, relieved that she was there.

I was nauseous and willed myself to breathe more normally. I knew it would help. I stood shoulder to shoulder with a man wearing a hat his wife had made for him. I watched as she threw her last knitted creation to another lady a few feet away who didn’t have one. The energy was one of celebration, hope and excitement, but the smell of cramped bodies gave away a touch of nervousness, too.

I decided that conversation would assuredly make me feel better. “Jeez, I can’t help but think of the packed trains that traveled to Auschwitz,” I said to the man, hoping my breath wasn’t too strong with coffee. I instantly regretted speaking what was knocking around in my mind, as I knocked into my train neighbors. He sort of smiled, but not really. I kept silent for the remainder of the ride.

We finally arrived in D.C. and I cursed the coffee I’d consumed and told my march mates I needed to find a bathroom. Our group of five passed two Porta Potties with lines I couldn’t quite see the end of. We’d have to wait.

The next set of two Porta Potties were the same as the last, and we kept walking. Surely, the organizers had planned for women’s restroom habits? There’s always a line for the women’s restroom. Always. Even at a random Chevron station in Punxsutawney, PA.

The third set of Porta Potties were more of the same, so when we came upon a lone Potty, we decided we’d best stand in line. An hour and a half later, we’d only made it halfway. I crossed my legs as my best friend, Monica, busted out the empirical evidence and told us that our restroom would be full by the time we got there.

There wasn’t another bathroom in site, and the crowds were getting too thick to move. Uncertain, we remained in line as it snaked slower than cold honey. A tiny woman with short dusty brown hair bounded up to her friends in front of us and told them she’d peed in the bushes and that there was a blockade of women standing by to protect pee-ers from passerbys. She certainly seemed lighter.

I didn’t hesitate. I’m from the west and come from hardy hillbilly stock, after all. Most of my group held back, asking me to tell them how it worked out.

It worked out just fine, thanks very much. After we’d all relieved ourselves between a slab of cement, a row of bushes and said blockade of beautiful strangers, we made our way about twenty feet to stand in line for the march. We couldn’t hear the speakers, just a jumble of noise.

We stood for a few hours waiting for march time at 1:15, and inched our way to the left as we could, so the building wouldn’t block the sound from the jumbotron. Eventually we began to hear the speeches. I was as clueless as I’ve always been. Alicia Keys sang “Girl on Fire” and I had no idea it was her. It was reminiscent of my 19-year old self asking when Judas Priest was coming on even after they’d been playing for half an hour. ‘Course, I may have been on the Giggle Smoke back then. Okay, fine. I was.

1:15 rolled around and I was starting to hurt. The combination of the 50 degree weather, the cold cement, and my arch-less tennis shoes were getting to me. I was more than ready to march. But they announced another speaker.

And another.

And another.

1:30 came.




The crowd around us began to get restless, and some were downright angry. Between each speech we all screamed together, “Let us march. Let us march. Let us march.”

But our cries went unanswered.

With each new introduction of a speaker, the crowd groaned, scowled, and complained to whomever they were with. I was in so much pain at this point I could barely stand. I figured it must just be my rheumatoid arthritis and the chilly air getting to me. My lower back was on fire, and my legs burned. My pinkie toes were so numb I wondered if they were frostbitten. But, that was ridiculous, it wasn’t cold enough for frostbite.

I realized as women started leaving that they were in pain, too. I wasn’t just being a pussy (pun intended.) Elderly women walked by holding their lower backs, with winces on their faces. Many held back tears as they left the march before we’d walked a single step in protest.

2:45 rolled around and they announced a surprise guest – Madonna. She came on stage in a black cat hat, her blond curls light against the dark, but there was movement like a rolling and an opening up. People had started marching – without fanfare, without fuss, without permission to begin. It was as if they had no choice but to move like cattle in a blizzard. I couldn’t have stopped my own legs if I’d wanted to.

Now, it might sound as if I’m complaining about being at one of the most monumental events in history. Don’t get me wrong…it was magical, unforgettable and beautiful to stand with so many, and I’m honored to have attended.

Allow me to explain as best as I’m able. Imagine 500,000 women from all over the world who’ve come together in solidarity, sisterhood, and even brotherhood (for all the men who attended.) Imagine that there is this HUGE energy of excitement. Each person in the crowd felt called to be there for very specific, very personal reasons. I was marching because I wanted to show President Trump that I stand with women, and we will not go away, nor will we allow ourselves to be treated inhumanely. We’ve come too far, even though we have further to go. Monica, on the other hand, marched predominantly for the environment. Truth be told, we each had a number of reasons.

But, imagine that every human being standing there had this incredible energy and intention behind their effort to show up, and then imagine that the march became not about the 500,000 people gathered en masse to march, but rather about those who were chosen to speak up on stage. Further, imagine that people are in incredible amounts of pain, even the 23 year old girl I was with had tears in her eyes from her leg cramps. Then imagine that our fervent cries of “Let us march” went unheard.

It was bound to happen. All of that brilliant energy deflated like the blimp in the middle of Hurricane Helga.

It wasn’t good.

By the time we started following whoever the first blessed soul was who just began to march without waiting for the go ahead, we found the five hundred-ish bathrooms we’d been blocked from. I was walking like Quasimodo by this time. Limping. Stiff. Hunched over, and trying to keep up with my group.

The energy did rise again, though. After people were able to move and shake out the stiffness, the feeling of sisterhood and solidarity was back in full force. Women yelled “We want a leader, not a creepy Tweeter,” and “Welcome to your first day, we will not go away.”

A woman who surely must have been a soldier screamed, “What does Democracy look like,” as the crowd answered, “This is what Democracy looks like.” Kids rode on their parent’s shoulders, and a swat team ran against the current to get to Trump Tower where people were dropping their signage.

As Monica and I drove back to Atlanta the next day, we reflected on the beautiful and the painful and came to the conclusion that perhaps the Women’s March on Washington wasn’t meant to be painless. Perhaps standing up for what we believe in has its pain, too.

Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t meant to be comfortable and full of only excitement and joy.

And now that I’m home and have been witness to Trump’s first days as President, I feel more strongly than ever that amidst this darkness, there is light, too. But, also, amidst this power there is pain. I’m certainly feeling it. The march set me up for it, in its own way.

And now I’m just trying to figure out how I will balance myself. How much pain I will endure, and when will I allow myself to take a fucking nap?

Too many days have found me wholly wrapped up in politics – watching this horror story with incredulity and shock, to the point that I’ve gotten nothing done.

My questions to myself are how can I take inspired action without losing myself and what choices feel like love? The march felt like love. Donating to the ACLU yesterday felt like love.

Getting sucked into Facebook for four hours bemoaning our country doesn’t feel like love. Reading news article after news article doesn’t feel like love.

Standing up for the rights of myself and others feels like love.

I’ve spent the bulk of my life ignoring the news and politics altogether. I hate politics. I’ve even written about it. But, that doesn’t feel like love to me this time around. It feels like fear and reminds me of the Germans who buried their heads during the holocaust as their very neighbors were taken away. Yeah, it always comes back to the holocaust for me. I don’t know why it knocks around in my head the way that it does. It just does.

I think the answers to these questions – how will we balance and what feels like love – is personal for each of us, but I’d so love to hear your thoughts, tips and advice. Whatever you’ve got.

Is Writing Hard?

melanie bates

“So, what do you do?” the girl asks. She has a gold star plastered on the chest of her snowy white sweater. Silver tinsel adorns the neck and cuffs. It matches her adult braces perfectly and I think her quite clever.

Her gaze tells me we’re in a competition, though, and that we’re on the train, the whistle’s been blown, and she’s five cars ahead of me already. I can feel her superiority in my solar plexus as I answer, “I’m a writer.”

I glance at a guy a short distance away who’s wearing a bright red sweater with green trim and stuffed cats sewn all over it. I haven’t been able to decide which sweater is the ugliest, but I do wish I could vote for the sleigh bell earrings that jingled past me moments ago.

“I’ve always wanted to write a book,” she says. “I just don’t have the time. I’m too busy with work. Maybe when I retire.” Her braces flash and I wonder why she didn’t go with Invisalign. I realize I’m not being very charitable.

I want to tell her I’ve heard her answer exactly three million times. Tonight. Here in this room. But I don’t. Instead I choose the passive aggressive stance that I take when I’ve allowed someone to make me feel small. “So what are you working on?”

“Oh, that’s way down the road.” I fill in the rest of her answer in my mind, except I make her small like one of those Brownies in the movie Willow, and I make myself as tall as the Jolly Green Giant. Her voice squeaks in my head: I’m busy with real work that actually helps real people live better lives. But I have this idea for a book where-

“Do you read?” I ask. I’m already situated in the Passive Aggressive car, and the train’s going too fast. I can’t jump off now.

She laughs. “Reading just makes me fall asleep.”

“So… have you studied the craft at all? Taken any classes?”

“What is there to study? Writing’s easy. You just sit down and write.”

We stand in silence for a moment before she wanders off to talk to someone wearing a Gingerbread man sweater with its leg bitten off. It says “Bite Me.” I don’t find it ugly at all. He should be disqualified.

I head to the kitchen to see if I can find some bowl to refill or a loaf of bread to break up into bite-sized chunks. I’m not even the host of the party, but I feel safer putting myself to tasks.

But the conversation plagues me for days.

Is writing easy? And if it isn’t easy, does it have to be hard? Or worse… have I been buying into the idea of the suffering artist since I wore my first black turtleneck back in high school and drank Bacardi 151 out of a brown paper bag?

As so often happens in my life, the conversation comes up a week later with a brilliant client of mine who is pondering the idea herself. We spend a fair amount of time discussing the value of something being hard. We wonder together: if something is easy, and there is no suffering, do we value it the same? Or do we place more value on the things that we suffer through; the things that are hard?

And in terms of writing…would I be proud of something that sprang forth from me with no effort at all on my part?

Before I twist myself into an existential piece of Christmas art to adorn your coffee table, I can only speak my own truth.

Writing is extraordinarily hard. There are days when I sit at my keyboard, open my manuscript, and stare at it in a haze. I struggle to write every single, solitary word on those days. I spend much of my time hating on every letter that already exists and I tell myself that I am the worst writer in the history of writers. I let myself know, with no uncertainty, that I’ll never be published, and I should just give up. Let it go. Have an easier life. Who am I to think I could be a writer anyway? It’s all rubbish. It’s 100% shite.

Writing is extraordinarily easy, too. There are days when I’m in the flow and I read what I’ve written and marvel over where it came from. I love on every single word and tell myself that I’ve got this writer thing down. I literally clap my hands with joy over my story. I imagine myself being published, and I feel such immense gratitude that it hurts—I get to be a writer. Me. How lucky am I? It’s all beautiful. All the reading, craft classes, my bachelor’s, my master’s, the gazillion craft books, all of it has been worth every penny.

I believe that whether writing is easy or hard is a choice I get to make. And value? Who gets to assign that? In part, me. I have no control over the rest. But, I also have a sneaking suspicion that those days when writing is hard, are the days when I’m comparing myself to other writers, or thinking about who might read my work, or judging myself before I’ve finished a single paragraph.

Regardless of easy or hard, I use these tricks to get stuff written:

  1. I show up regardless of how I’m feeling. I just write. I “Turn Pro” as Steven Pressfield calls it. I understand that every day isn’t going to feel as if the Muse has descended onto my fingertips and guided my work. Rather, some days it feels like the Muse has abandoned me for a six-pack of PBR, a sleeve of Saltines, and a can of spray cheese.
  2. I don’t allow myself a single thought about who might read my work if I can help it. (<— That is the #1 cause of writer’s block, in my humble opinion, and will freeze me faster than Ralphie’s tongue to the flagpole.) I’m only allowed to write for myself, and I remind myself that the only one reading my words at this moment in time is me.
  3. I write without re-reading a single word. I write until the first draft is done, and I don’t allow myself to go back and read, or judge it. <—- Judgement belongs in the realm of editing, and editing should not be done until you’re finished with your first draft. (If I were to edit in the drafting phase, I wouldn’t have written a book. Ever. I would have written ten words, and deleted nine, until after seven years of writing, I had about two pages of my novel complete. Oh wait, I did exactly that back in the day.)
  4. I understand that I can’t fix what hasn’t been written. I know that I have to have something down on the page to work with. And…as Anne Lamott says, no one get away with not writing a shitty first draft. No one. Except that one woman that no one likes very much, so I embrace that my first drafts will be spectacularly shitty. And they are.

One final note, my friends, before I log off to make Christmas goodies for the neighbors.

It’s a choice we get to make every day.

I still pull out that black turtleneck from time to time, and put my hand to my forehead while sipping proverbial whiskey, and angsting over word choice.

In fact, I wore my black turtleneck to that ugly Christmas sweater party. I was disqualified.

On Aging: One of “Those” Women…


I needed a dress for a wedding. For some, this might seem a perfectly normal thing, but I loathe clothes shopping. Detest. Abhor. Hate with a fiery, red-hot passion. Yet I knew I couldn’t very well show up in the sweat-stained sweater I’d been wearing over my pajamas every day for the past week.

My stomach twisted up like a class F4 tornado, as I pulled into the department store parking lot. I’d gained forty-five pounds in the past year. What had my doctor called it? Oh, yeah, “dramatic weight gain.” You think?

Whether this added heft was due to my full hysterectomy, or my lack of an actual thyroid, or my love of white cake with lemon frosting and sugar sprinkles, I’ll never know. All I knew was that I’d worn a size 4 since I was twenty, except for that two-year period after my divorce when I cinched my 00 cargo pants with a belt.

As I wandered amongst the racks, I looked like every man found shopping on Christmas Eve – lost, forlorn, and hopeless.

I finally found something that didn’t make me want to lose my mind, and I hung three sizes of the same dress over my hand. I had no idea what size I wore now.

I schlumped to the dressing room and prepared myself for my personal descent into the 7th pit of HELL – the trying on of clothes that I loathe shopping for.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall… I look like I’m seven months pregnant. Where’s my child?  The fruit of my womb? Is that a kick? Alas, no… it’s hunger pangs…

Size 6.

Dream on.

Size 8.

No, really… dream on.

Size 10.


I grabbed my sweats off the floor, yanked them on, zipped up my hoodie, and went back into the fray for a 12.

It sort of fit if I didn’t breathe too deeply, or expand my rib cage in any normal way, as one does when they actually take in oxygen.

Size 12…

I’m a house.

In all likelihood, I would have been more comfortable in a 14, but there was no way I could handle that. You know, emotionally, and all.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not a girly-girl. Never have been. Hate pink. Hate dresses. Hate frills. I can’t tell you what type of dress I bought that day. Like if it’s a a-line, or b-line, or whatever. It felt like the fifties to me – gray with black and pink flowers. I even bought the fucking pink sweater that came with it. Because… wedding and fluffy, young love.

I felt pretty low for a few days after that shopping excursion. I huddled in my sweats, clutching imaginary cake. I guessed my six-day-a-week workouts for the past two months were really doing wonders for me, as I popped estrogen into my mouth like Milk Duds.

Eventually, I pried my fingers apart, dropped the pretend crumbs, and looked at my new dress. It was kinda pretty, despite the extra fabric. With a surge of hope, I decided I would focus on hair and make-up.

I once again had purpose.

I looked in the mirror and ran my fingers through the hair that had finally grown out after my mid-life crisis pixie cut.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall… is that a gray patch? Nah. No. It looks like a gray patch of newly planted hair seeds. No. That’s not gray. It’s silvery blond.

Because I’ve actually burned plastic into my hair by setting my curling iron too close to the hair dryer before commencing curling, I called a professional and made an appointment. I told her I had bought a “bun thingy” and asked if she could just put it in for me and do something with my bangs, so they didn’t look like that lone Q-Tip that’s been shuffled around in the bottom of a cosmetics bag for the past twenty years.

She hesitated just long enough to make me wonder if the call had been disconnected. “Sure,” she finally said.




Next… make-up. Here’s where the story takes a twist. I’m a PRO at make-up. I have a crazy awesome collection of MAC and brushes galore. I can definitely do make-up. This isn’t a girly-gift. This is art and painting. I’m mother-‘effin-Monet with MAC.

On the day of the wedding, my hair perfectly coiffed and shellacked with about as much Aqua Net as the ozone layer could handle, I was feeling in character when I sat down to paint my face. I set up my little light mirror and pulled out the perfect shades of pink and brown I’d chosen, and began.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall… why does the skin of my neck look like the soft folds of a cowl neck sweater?

You would have thought I was seeing myself for the first time in five years. My face was changed. The version of me that I walked around thinking I was, was gone. My foundation poured into the cracks and wrinkles of my face and set there like concrete; like the dry-cracked mud of the Mojave desert.

It was in that moment that I realized…I was one of “those” women. All this angst over my weight gain, and crinkly neck, and deepening wrinkles… OMGoddess. I was one of those females I’d heard about. The ones who put all sorts of stock in their appearance, then the market crashes, and they lose everything. Or so they think.

And this isn’t to say that I was the Bo Derek supermodel type before either, but I had gotten a fair amount of attention in my life because of how I looked. This reckoning almost shattered my mirror that day. Who will I be without this outward appearance? Who will I be as my hair turns grayer and grayer? Who will I be as I begin to fully embrace the beauty within, and let go of societal expectations of how I should look on the outside?

I’ve spent some time since looking at beautiful photos of Diane Keaton and Helen Mirren. I love their fire, their spunk, and their style. They’re aging gracefully; beautifully. I can draft behind them until I figure out how to embrace this new version of the physical me.

Resistance & The Upper Limit Problem in Creativity

resistance upper limit

Resistance has had my hands bound with anchor rope for the past few months. Maybe you’ve noticed. I haven’t written a blog since April.


But it’s more than just blogging. I hadn’t been writing on my novel either.

For those who don’t know the word in terms of creativity, or following your bliss, essentially it means you’re wholly sabotaging your efforts to do what you feel most called to do in the world. For me, that’s all things to do with writing. Steven Pressfield, in his amazing book The War of Art, describes the concept in much more depth than I ever could. Get thee a copy, posthaste. You won’t regret it.

Here’s how Resistance shows up for me.

Little Resistances:

The moment I sit down to write, I remember that I haven’t cleaned the grout in the shower since I moved in to my place in 2012. It’s absolutely imperative that I do so at that exact moment.

Or… I decide I’ve lived with the junk drawer as a junk drawer long enough and it’s time to abandon my writing, make a trip to the Container Store thirty miles away, and organize it. Pronto.

Or… as I sit in the chair with my feet crossed in my lap, fingers poised over my keyboard, the calloused bottoms of my feet rub my inner thigh and I head out for a pedicure. Immediately.

Those little insidious things that fill my mind to the point of distraction are just that — distractions. But they’re mild, really, in comparison with the biggies.

Big Resistances:

You know, things are going pretty well in your life, Melanie. You’ve written your first draft. You’ve written your second draft, half of your third, and started over on your fourth. The book is starting to come together. It’s taking shape. You’re even sort of semi-pleased. Sort of. And your business is booming. You’re doing work you love in the realm of writing. And your new rheumatoid arthritis meds appear to be working. Why don’t you join a hip-hop class?

Resistance: Oh yeah. We’ll see.

*Screeches to a Halt* I end up in the E.R. that night with some weird nodule in my knee bone. So then I see an Orthopedic surgeon. Then I go for an MRI. Blah, blah, blah.

Or… I try to blow up my relationship with my guy. I’m talking: let’s figure out in this nanosecond if the four years we’ve been happy together is enough or if we should call it quits. (More on that neuroses in a later blog.)

Blowin’ My Own Mind:

As the Universe so oft does, I was brought to a few books in the past few months that directly spoke to this phenomenon for me. One, of course, was The War of Art, but the other was The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. I’ve started to ponder whether the Upper Limit Problem that Gay speaks of is the exact same thing as the concept of Resistance that Pressfield is famous for. Bear with me.

My understanding of the Upper Limit Problem from Gay’s work is that we have a baseline of what we’re comfortable receiving that’s established when we’re quite young. This includes happiness, success, joy, financial abundance, etc… When we approach that baseline and begin to climb above it, we subconsciously self-sabotage ourselves in order to get back to that comfortable baseline. Yep. Even if that baseline is really low and it sucks. We’re inclined to want to be in the space of what’s comfortable. Ever heard the phrase we’re creatures of comfort? Yeah, that.

So how does that relate to Pressfield’s Resistance? Well… both involve the employment of self-sabotage to baser levels of comfort. Let’s bring in Mr. Maslow, too. You know, just for kicks.

Most people remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from Psych 101, right? A simple refresher: Our first priority is to take care of our most basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing. If we have that handled, we can move on to job security and a safe working environment. When we’re golden there, we can move on to feeling wanted and to a sense of belonging. Next up? Self-respect. Last… if all those lower needs are met, we can finally move upward to fulfilling our potential and achieving our dreams.

But what if we’re not comfortable up there in dream achievement and potential fulfillment? What if we’re more comfortable in job security or feeling wanted?

When we’re in Resistance, we are almost wholly focused on Maslow’s lower levels. My self-sabotaging always brings me down to my baser needs. Grout, anyone? Relationships, perhaps? Of course, I’m comfortable there. When I wander one foot over my baseline of comfort to the realm of pure joy (which is where my bliss is — where my writing resides), WHAM-O.

Obviously, I’m still noodling this out for myself. I don’t have it all locked down, and I’m not going to wait to post this blog until I do have it fully ciphered. That’s where you come in. I’d love to hear your thoughts around the subject. What’s your take? Do you see the connection between Upper Limit and Resistance? Is Resistance the effect of the Upper Limit Problem (the cause?) Are they the same?

I’ve written 1,000 words a day for the past five days. Twenty pages of pure, glorious bliss. The Muse definitely joined me on two of those days. She saw I’d been making effort and blessed me with her presence. My job is in “Turning Pro” (another golden nugget from Steven Pressfield, as well as a follow-up book to The War of Art.) It’s up to me to show up at the blank page, day after day, despite the Resistance, and to work on increasing my Upper Limit by allowing for more joy, success, and abundance. In other words, practicing my Receiving skills.

Thoughts? Alternatives? Arguments? Spot on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

For my Visual Peeps Out There:


A White Girl on White Privilege


I was in the middle of a workout a few weeks ago – sweat pooling, weights in hand – when someone rapped the secret knock on my door.

Da da dadaaa da, da da.

I never answer my door. Ever. For any reason.

But I was curious. Who could it be? Maybe my little brother was making a surprise visit. He would definitely use the secret knock.

I went down the stairs wearing pajamas, a robe, and my sneakers, and opened the door.

Before me stood an African American woman, arms outstretched, with a huge smile on her face.

I can’t remember exactly what she said to me. Memory’s a fickle thing. But, I do remember how I felt, and I do recall parts of that day exactly.

We’ll say her name was Emily, but she told me to call her Emy, and she said that she was knocking on my door because she was trying to make a better life for herself, and asked if I might help her to do that.

I listened to her spiel a bit warily. I didn’t want to buy anything, and my heart rate from the cardio I’d done was losing its momentum. I really wanted to get back to my workout.

Except there was something about this girl. She had a light about her, and I instantly liked her. When she began telling me some of her story, I kinda fell in love with her.

She explained that she was from back east. She’d lost her mother to drugs, her brother to the streets, and had two babies by a white man who had raped her. She told me she was going door-to-door to learn life skills, speaking, and leadership by selling magazines.

She said she wanted to live in a neighborhood like mine one day – to raise her kids there, and she asked me if I had any advice for her.

I told her to own her story, and to allow herself to tell it fully to one or two compassionate witnesses – folks who would really hold that story sacred with her – and then to start to change it.

Emy asked me what I meant.

I said something along the lines of, “Well, you’ve got some aspects of a horror story in your life. Like stories worthy of a Stephen King novel. And you can’t change those bits. They happened. But you’re on a heroine’s journey, and you’ve made it through the trials and tribulations part. Start telling stories that empower you. This and this and this happened, but look how strong I’ve become; look how far I’ve come; look at how those experiences made me who I am today: a survivor making a better life for myself. We’re all doing the best we can with the stories we’ve got. And our stories aren’t all that different.”

I asked Emy inside, and she followed me up the stairs where I pointed toward an old typewriter I have that holds one of my favorite pieces of writing. I asked her to read it:

But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small, things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held – so much like the jumble in the bags could they be emptied that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place – who knows? ~ Zora Neale Hurston, How it Feels to be Colored Me

When she finished, I pointed to a painting above the typewriter. The artist is Kelly Vivanco, and I had purchased it a few years ago because it reminded me of Hurston’s essay. It’s called Bag of Colors.


I told her we’re all brown bags of miscellany and the only thing I’d add to Hurston’s essay is that our bags are also full of our stories. We heft them around. Sometimes they’re heavy, and sometimes they’re as light and joyful as a robin’s feather. Sometimes we carry them for years and years without ever setting the bag down, even for a second. And my story and her story aren’t all that far apart.

Emy seemed inspired and delved deeper into her tale. I shared a bit of mine, too – of addiction and the tough times. My boyfriend, who had been napping upstairs, came down and began to share some of his stories, as well. I hoped that somehow my words, and my story, would make a difference in her life. She was certainly making a difference in mine.

I ended up buying three magazines. When she gave us the price of $152.00, I flinched for a moment and debated ordering just two, but decided I didn’t care. I wanted to help, and Emy was very upfront that 50% of the cost went to her.

Emy left and we assumed that would be the last time we’d see her before she headed back east. That is, until my boyfriend went to the store. On his way back, as he pulled on to the street next to ours, he saw two cop cars, and Emy was standing there with a couple of police officers.

He stopped.

My boyfriend came home and told me his story. He said he got out of the car and asked the cops what was going on. They asked him if he knew Emy and he told them he did, that she’d just been at our house. One of the officers told him she didn’t have the proper permits to sell door-to-door. As he told me this, I chimed in and said, “What about Girl Scouts?” He told me that’s exactly what he said to the cops – that if the Girl Scouts come to our house should we call the cops to find out if they have the proper permits? He said the cops then asked him to step over to his vehicle until they were done with Emy. They let her off with a warning, walked over to my guy’s car and asked him if  he was finished. He told them he guessed he was, and they left.

He then talked a bit more with Emy. She told him that the policemen informed her that one of our neighbors called the cops.  She said, “I probably don’t look like I belong in this neighborhood.”

My boyfriend gave her a hug and told her that wasn’t true. They talked for a few more minutes and he offered her a ride, but she declined. Before she went over to wait for her boss at the park, she thanked him for having her back.

The second knock on my door that day was imaginary, as wispy as smoke. It was fear. Out of curiosity, I looked up the company that Emy worked for and the first thing I came upon was a story of a 70-something year old woman who answered a knock on her door, and was thrown down, raped, had alcohol poured on her chest, and was then lit on fire.

I then found the company on the BBB and found a boatload of complaints, folks who never got their magazines, another person saying something along the lines of how said company treats their employees like indentured servants, working them for long periods of time and paying them very little.

As my boyfriend and I consulted more and more with Google, I felt myself becoming so angry. I thought I would explode. At one point, I went off on my guy (yes, totally misplaced for me to take it out on him), about how this is exactly what the media has ALWAYS done. Instilled fear. You can’t turn on the fucking news, or any other media outlet, without a black man having done something – anything, somewhere. And it’s so pervasive, but we don’t even realize it. It’s that glimpse of upper thigh on a commercial that’s using sex to sell, and only your subconscious registers it. We’re so unaware it’s happening, but it is, and racism in this country is far from over. Far from healed. Far from better.

I started pacing the floor. Angry that I was buying into it by reading those stories because I did feel fear. I was angry at the media. I was angry at the cops who, by the way, I hadn’t seen in this neighborhood in the past three years. Not one single time. I was angry at myself for buying into the fear and even searching on Google. I was angry at the mixed feelings I was having. I was angry that this beautiful experience I’d had was totally sullied.

And… all at the same time, I didn’t want to support a company that treated their employees like indentured servants.

I’m heating up with shame as I type this, but we decided to cancel the check.

I felt like I had been on a rollercoaster of emotion all day. From joy to fear to anger to shame. I had a dinner with my dearest friend on the calendar and I went. I sat at the table waiting for her, so filled with anxiety I couldn’t focus. I was second-guessing my decision to cancel that check. Sure, I wasn’t supporting the company, but I wasn’t supporting Emy either. My friend showed up and I hijacked the first twenty minutes of our dinner telling her the story. As much as she held space for me and made me feel better, it stayed in the back of my mind all through dinner. It didn’t help that my boyfriend called five times while we were eating.

I got home and he was as big of a mess as I was. We decided that it didn’t matter if the company wasn’t stellar, we wanted Emy to get her half. We quickly stopped the stop payment, and I called the bank the next day to make sure that they hadn’t tried to put the check through. The bank assured me that no one had attempted to cash it and it would go through. And, a few days later, it did.

It’s been weeks now and I can’t stop thinking about Emy and this whole situation. Who am I with my-time-to-workout-and-my-original-Kelly-Vivanco-and-my-Hurston-essay-in-my-antique-typewriter, spouting off about story and telling a more empowering one? I have no idea what her life is like. But we made a connection. We shared story, which is the biggest thing of all. There was nothing but love in our conversation, and in our actions, until that fear came knocking.

Here’s what I know about white privilege. And it’s not enough. I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that there are black people who need to give themselves extra time to get somewhere because they might be pulled over for driving a nice car. I can’t understand what it’s like to be under surveillance when I walk into a store because the clerk thinks I might steal something based on the color of my skin. I have no clue what it’s like to walk around a neighborhood, knock on a few doors, and have the cops show up as I try to make a better life for myself and my kids. White privilege is just that. It’s white folks getting privileges that we can’t even fathom because they’ve always just been there.

The question that plagues me is what can I do about that privilege, aside from being vigilant that it exists, and sharing what I know with other privileged folks? It definitely doesn’t feel good to shame myself for that privilege. Shame isn’t good for anyone. It doesn’t feel good to wish I was in another’s place either. I love my life and feel blessed about forty times a day… and there’s some more privilege.

Last up… a bit of irony. I sat on this blog for two months, afraid that I might be misunderstood, or judged, or criticized if I published it. A couple nights ago, after I worked on it for the billionth time trying to make every word perfect (impossible), I watched Real Time with Bill Maher. It felt like a God nod when he said, “I know you’re trying to demonstrate to minorities that you’re a sympathetic ally by dumping on your own whiteness, but most minority folks could give a shit…I’m not saying that being a white male doesn’t have its privileges. Of course it does. I’m just saying that constantly crapping on yourself doesn’t fix anything. It’s a perverse sort of narcism.” Okay, I thought. Got it. It’s time to share the story of Emy, along with this white girl’s take on white privilege.

Traversing Female Friendship


It’s fall of 1982. The grass hasn’t started to crunch yet, but you can feel that Cheyenne Winter is sitting on his suitcase full of snow in a vain attempt to secure the latches. His flight is booked. His car is waiting to take him to the airport. I’m wearing ginormous brown glasses with a butterfly decal in the corner, but I can’t see anything because I’m crying tears that won’t stop. There’s a moving van, semi more-like, out front, and I’m in my bedroom that’s been stripped of all its Holly Hobbie decor. The cheery yellow walls look like rancid butter. My best friend Monica is there with me. She’s crying too. Our parents think we’re being melodramatic. They think we’ll forget each other. Make new friends. Get over it.

I don’t. Not really. Not for a long time.

Our moving van drops us off on Rodeo Drive, and I start 7th grade. Gillette Winter hefts a steamer trunk and five suitcases. He uses a valet. I sport a Dorothy Hamill haircut, a gaping overbite, and freckles too numerous to count. I’ve replaced the ginormous brown glasses with even bigger blue ones. I make friends with the most popular girl in school. Being with her feels like bright sunshine and extra sprinkles. We have countless sleepovers. We take trips in her folk’s RV to watch motocross. We write pale pencil letters to each other with hearts and BFF4Ever sign-offs. I love her more than Ms. Pacman and the fistful of spare change I’ve collected to go hog wild on sour candy at the gas station. Our friendship lasts just over a year until a new girl moves to our school. Jane…

Jane sweeps in as Gillette Winter is bidding us adieu. She’s full of energy and gumption, but must know intuitively to ease in between us slow—like a worm wiggling to the surface after the thaw. She includes me in plans and adventures, but it isn’t long before I’m eating greasy, lukewarm tator tots alone at a lunch table. The BFF4Ever notes fade, but the school yearbooks come and I write in my own copy the things I wish they’d say, and then I sign their names. I attempt to write them all differently so they’ll look real. I even use different colored pencils. Some I sign in cursive, others in print. I write things like: You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. BFF4Ever is penned in dark blue ink under the ones I longed to be friends with the most.

I looked at it the other day. Most of the autographs are variations of my juvenile handwriting. The BFF4Ever hasn’t faded all that much though.

We move to our next spot at the start of 9th. I don’t care about Denver Winter—whether it has suitcases or trunks. How much snow it packs. My glasses have been replaced with contact lenses, which I babysat a whole year to earn the money for. Mostly the kid slept while I watched Porky’s over and over and over. Yep. The beginning of my sexual revolution included Beulah Balbricker. I digress. Pimples sprout up, but I deftly cover them with orange foundation that I’ve stolen from the corner store. My face looks like an Oompa Loompa, but the makeup ends sharply under my chin, so from the neck down I am a nice, normal color. I make a lot of friends. A LOT. We start out the school year snorting crushed up Smarties in the bathroom. But then we graduate to smoking pot in the parking lot during Home Economics. Every day. I have a source that buys me bottles of Bacardi 151, which I pass around at the football games. I carry it in a crinkled brown paper bag. At the time, I don’t see the irony. I’m popular. The multitude of yearbook signatures are all real. I want nothing more than that $100 sweater, so I get a job sweeping up hair at a salon and I buy it. I get fired for doing cocaine with my boss in the backroom. I’m fourteen. My mom sees my decline, and we hightail it out of there. I’m so devastated over leaving my tribe that I forget to pick up my beloved cat of ten years at a friend’s house. We’re a few hundred miles out of town, when I lift my snot-covered face and remember her. My mom won’t go back.

We arrive in Utah. I start 10th grade at my new school because I was held back in Denver for missing 64 days in one semester. My gangliness is abating, but my face is still orange. I sew the legs of my Levi’s so tight that they leave ruts like the Oregon Trail down the sides of my thighs and calves. I have to stand on the cuffs to pull out of them. One leg at a time. Homemade skinny jeans. It’s a small town, and I feel worldly. I can drink my new friends under the table. I still smoke a bit of pot. I’m popular once more. It’s not hard. I learned a lot from Jane.

I had become the worm.

Salt Lake, West Valley, Taylorsville, Mt. Pleasant, Fairview, 2,000 miles to Cleveland, other places I don’t recall due to the brevity of my stay…

Twenty, twenty-five, thirty-two, forty years old…

Sweet friends, loyal friends, fucked-up friends, mean friends, friends for a time, not really my friends…

My guy told me recently that as we get older we realize we really only have a few friends. I didn’t want to believe it. I thought about it for days. I had gotten used to having a whole lot of friends because I thought it would make up for the one I’d had to leave. It didn’t. I thought it would give me a cushion for the ones I’d lost from move to move. It didn’t.

I’m no longer the worm.

I’m 45 and content. Back in the place I was born. Utah Winter is bipolar. Sometimes it packs a steamer trunk. Sometimes just a duffel. My glasses are much, much smaller. Stylish, really. And they’re red. I spend 99% of my time in my pajamas with no makeup on at all, while doing work I adore. I’m a perfectly normal color. I no longer steal, or do drugs, or drink. The wild ways of my first, (and my second,) childhoods are gone. But Monica isn’t. Our parents were wrong. We’re meeting up in Atlanta this year. I’ve visited her in Germany, Colorado, Austin… she became a nomad like me, though she didn’t imbibe all the substance and strife that I did. These days when we talk on the phone, I can see her beautiful 12-year old face. Her freckles were lighter than mine, but she too sported glasses. I don’t remember what kind of decal she had. She’s holding up a dollar, luring me to go play Ms. Pacman. Her smile is wide.

Countless friendships. An abundance of amazing people, but only three or four have stuck like beautiful burs that latched on to me and dug in their spiny spurs.

I’m okay with that now.

If You’ve Had a Rough Year… This One’s For You

rough year

This one goes out to a dear friend who battled breast cancer this year. Battled? Hmpffff… She smote it down and pissed on its ruins. And to another who’s dear to me who’s heading in for his final treatment for melanoma that showed up first on his face, and then in his brain.

This also goes out to those I love who’ve lost those they love—fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, a child.

And this goes out to all who’ve been diagnosed with dis-ease, who’ve ended relationships, who’ve lost jobs, and who’ve battled… Something. Anything.

It all started at the end of 2014 when me and my lovely friend, Lisa M. Hayes, were discussing what a crap year we’d both had. We commiserated and compared our crappiness, and then she said, “You and I need to get together and script out a 2014 obituary.  You know how it goes.  Everyone is always awesome in an obituary!”

Say What?

She asked me to write to her about all the craptastic things that had happened to me in 2014. I’ll spare you the gore and give you the gist. My letter to her was three pages, but, in essence, it included things like having a full hysterectomy after three prior surgeries and fifteen years of suffering with Stage IV endometriosis, and how I felt empty and as if I were now Crone at the age of 44. It also spoke to being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and how I woke up, more often than not, limping and watching my toes spread and curl underneath themselves like the sister in Pet Cemetery. There was also a death in the family… My guy admitting himself to two different psychiatric hospitals for extreme anxiety and PTSD… My computer (lifeline/workline) dying, then my fridge with all its contents, blah, blah, blah. Suffice it to say, I let it all hang out on those three pages—”the good, the bad, the ugly, “and even the insignificant.

Then… over the next few days, Lisa crafted this obituary for me of The Year 2014:

Like most of us, Melanie was only hoping for a happy and healthy new year. She was ready for some ease and flow when 2014 arrived. However, before the cute of the baby year ever wore off, she realized she had a year that was less cuddle and more morose teenager in disposition. Like anyone dealing with a morose teenager, it’s often hard to see that what’s hiding behind the Goth makeup and disturbing music lyrics is a creative mastermind and mad genius.

2014 had its own plans for Melanie and itself. Luckily for Melanie, ease and flow wasn’t really on the agenda. 2014 was not about the status quo and rebelled against anything that didn’t have real meaning. It knew that Melanie had been longing for more depth and true connection in her life. It knew something about Melanie she hadn’t been able to see for a very long time. It had been years since Melanie had really danced with her own greatness. 2014 knew that Melanie was secretly very tired of things that looked good but didn’t feel real, and it was very impatient with her. 2014 couldn’t understand why Melanie insisted on playing in the shallow end of the pool. 2014 was fucking sick of Melanie standing in her own shadow.

So it knew, it had to give her the gift of losing the two things most precious to her, certainty and her identity. When 2014 said those words, “certainty” and “identity” it always put air quotes around them and smirked because 2014 knew a few things Melanie didn’t about those things.

As 2014 started to mature and became less morose teenager, and more mad genius, it still got in a lot of trouble. 2014 got caught spray-painting graffiti all over the inside of Melanie’s life. It seemed to have a penchant for vandalism and destruction. 2014 made Melanie give up huge swaths of her identity to pay its bail when it was in trouble. It stole her certainty with her most important relationships right out of Melanie’s purse when it was bored. 2014 even beat her up more than once when it was in a rage, leaving Melanie’s body “broken.” <— Again, in air quotes. At the time, all of this looked only like madness. The genius part of the plan was less obvious, but no less important.

At the end, 2014 looked a lot more like an aging hippy with a very satisfied smile. It knew it had done its job perfectly. Melanie was not broken, she was a blank slate. It would be the job of another year soon to come to nurture her through finding her real identity and that was perfectly fine with 2014. That wasn’t its style. What 2014 knew for sure was Melanie would never stand in her own shadow again. Melanie wasn’t in the shallow end of the pool anymore because 2014 had forced her to swim into the depths to save herself. 2014 was more than happy to leave Melanie there, swimming in the depths. It knew it didn’t have to feel good to be a truly great year.

I cried like a lil’ bitch when I read it. Not only was I buoyed by a different perspective, but I came to love 2014. Really. It shifted something for me that is still in motion to this day.

So… if you’ve had a year chock-full of crap, I highly recommend this process to you. Ask a friend, or someone dear to you, to write an obit for 2015 for you. Share with them all the craptasticness that happened and let them go to town. (Or, as my friend Chara suggested in the comments below, write your own!) Then please do share your experience of it in the comments below. I’d so love to hear from you.

May 2016 be exactly what you need.

Best Fiction of 2015 & Perhaps a Gift Idea or Two or Five


Oh, SQUEE… Have I got a gift for you! I’m so stoked to share my best reads of 2015 with you. You might be thinking, Hey, she already has her top books listed here. And you’d be right. But… I want to go a bit deeper, in my own words, about why I adore them so much, and why I think you should read ’em (like… yesterday.)

So, whether you’re looking for a few last minute gifts for the readers in your life, or you’re just wanting to hide out and hunker down with a cozy tome while Aunt Ethel imbibes her seventh spiked eggnog, well then, here you go:


The-Crane-Wife-Patrick-Ness-Feature-PhotoThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness. Holy Hannah, I adored this book. L.O.V.E.D. it. One part Japanese myth, one part magic, and two parts awesome, I loved the ethereal quality of this book. It set the tone for my entire year of reading. I was constantly on the lookout for fiction based on the myths and folklore of other cultures. The prose of this puppy was flat out lyrical, breathtaking and full of substance.




o-GOLEM-AND-THE-JINNI-facebookThe Golem and the Jinni: A Novel by Helene Wecker. I went wholly gaga over this book and read it twice this year. The characters and their natures… how they never strayed far from those natures—the story, the myth, the religion, what Wecker had to say… All of it was sublime. I’m always on the lookout for my trifecta: great character, great story, and what the author has to say about our world through her fictional world. This book had all that in spades.




Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim. I have a bit of an addiction to books set in WWII and stories about slavery. This was the latter. I may not need to say anything but this: I started this book at 11:00 pm and read until I was finished. The characters were amazing, the tension tight throughout, and the symbolism was just the cherry on top of it all.




16248223The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. Above, I mentioned that The Crane Wife set me on a search for books based on myth. I feel like I fully lucked out in finding this lil gem. Wowza. If I weren’t afraid of commitment, I would say this was my top pick for 2015. It’s chock-full of Chinese folklore and awesome sauce. I don’t usually say this, but if done right, this would make one heck of a movie. *gasp*




9780803738553_zoomCounting by 7s by Holly Sloan. Got a middle grade reader in your life? This coming of age and well, frankly, coming of transformation was a deep, deep delight to read. I love the main character’s voice. It won about every award under the sun and I wasn’t alone in calling it a best book of the year. Lots of great metaphor, in fact that may have been my favorite part.




The_Sweetness_at_the_Bottom_of_the_PieThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. This one. This. Just this. *jumps up and down and chokes on own saliva* Oh folks, oh!!! If you only read one book this year, or next, let it be this one. I’ve got a funny story around this one too. I’d had it on my Kindle for over a year. I thought it was literary fiction. When I finally dug in, I was shocked to learn it was a mystery. Now, I’ve got not a single thing against mystery, I just wasn’t expecting it. Let me tell you, it could have been baboon sex space opera meets horror with a toenail fungus antagonist and I wouldn’t have cared. I fell so deeply in love with the young main character Flavia de Luce, that I read all seven in the series in a matter of a few weeks, and then sobbed into my Cap’n Crunch because there weren’t any left to read. There’s nothing worse than soggy cereal, people. I blame Alan Bradley.


nightcircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This book was just plain dreamy, and I mean that literally. There was such a dream-like, ethereal quality to this story. I really loved the way Morgenstern plays with storytelling and point of view in this book. The characters were phenomenal. I’m not a huge fan of the circus, but I’d visit this one in a nanosecond.




a-head-full-of-ghostsA Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. Hey, what’s happening? Yep… that’s pretty much how I felt the entire time I read this. I don’t read a lot of horror these days, but I try to go back to my roots and pick up one or two a year. It’s certainly not like my old heydey of reading every word Stephen King had ever written. (Gosh, I do still love him though.) Anyhoo… this book had a creep factor that’s hard to describe without spoilers. Yum. Yum. Yum.



Well… there you have it. Looking back over the year, I love how I can see the synergy among so many of these books—the ethereal, dreamlike, myth/folklore, magic of them. It was a fantastic reading year. 56 books and over 19,500 pages (57 if I finish The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton before the bell tolls midnight on 12/31.) Lord, I’m such a nerd. (And I love it.)

Happy Reading y’all. And do please share your faves of 2015 with me. The 454 books on my Wish List are lonely and shivering.

P.S. All links above are set to Amazon for ease, but by all means visit your indie bookstore to pick these beauties up.

10 Things I’d Rather Do Than Shop on Black Friday – 2015 Edition


Indeed! It’s that time of year once again when I share my list of things I’d rather do than shop on Black Friday, so let’s get on with it. Ready? Here goes. I’d rather:

  1. Lick Donald Trump’s hair flap
  2. Finally pass the 4th grade at the age of 18 and buy a souped-up, jacked-up, white pick-up with 35 inch tires in which to fly the Confederate Flag.
  3. Spend my down time on Facebook reading Fox news articles and status updates from those who post them.
  4. Knock each tooth from my mouth with an anvil.
  5. Eat a vat of GMO corn during a painful bout of irritable bowel syndrome.
  6. Elect Ben Carson for President.
  7. Buy a Volkswagen diesel.
  8. Use Internet Explorer.
  9. Akin to number 9 above – Use a Saran Wrap condom.
  10. Have Jar Jar Binks appear in  Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

There it is, folks. If you want to read more of my inappropriate Black Friday blogs, you’ll find ’em below:




If you are a Black Friday shopper, wear a helmet and be safe out there.