On Discipline

The good news about working from home is that I have no deadlines except the ones I impose upon myself and nobody to answer to except me. The bad news about working from home is that I have no deadlines except the ones I impose upon myself and nobody to answer to except me.

Bottom line: discipline is HARD.

I have the whole day to sit here at my desk, gaze out the window at the snow that is apparently never, ever leaving again, ever, and think up stories to tell others. That’s my job. You know what isn’t my job? Laundry. Shopping. Cleaning the house. Walking the dogs. Watching Netflix. Oh, they need to be done (with the exception of the Netflix one) and either I or Bonnie must do them, but they are not priorities. What they are is distraction. I’m stuck on a plot line? Hey, I’ll just run the vacuum instead. No idea how to flesh out this character? I think I’ll go grocery shopping. Haven’t written a blog in six months? Wait! I saw there’s a new cheesy horror flick on Netflix this week and I must watch it!

Discipline is hard.

I can write that line with great, all-knowing authority because today, I wrote those two beautiful words, the words every novelist loves the most. The End. So the next book (the beer book, which is actually titled “A Little Bit of Spice”) is that much closer to done and I’m feeling like a total rock star. Today.

Talk to me in three months when I’m in the early stages of the next book and instead of jotting story notes, I’m cleaning the bathroom…

Beer

So, I’m working on a new book. It has no title yet, so I’m simply calling it The Beer Book. In it, I have a main character who works for a small, family-owned craft brewery and another who doesn’t know the first thing about, nor has she ever liked, beer.

Fun fact: I don’t know much about beer, nor have I ever liked beer.

Yeah, this should be fun.

Like any good author worth her salt, I realized that a boatload of research was going to be in order if I expect to pull this off. Dogs, I can write about. Wine? I know my stuff. Laundry? I got this. But beer? I’m lost. So, I Googled “craft beer for beginners” and found dozens of websites and blogs to help me understand not only the process of making beer, but how to taste it. Who knew that tasting beer was similar to tasting wine? That you look at color, smell, head, all kinds of things in addition to taste? I do now!

As I researched, I realized there is really only one good way to write this beer novice authentically: I would need to actually take her journey. So, I’ve begun, and I’m going to blog about it so you can come with me. (And let me add a side note here: my wife is a huge fan of beer. Huge. It’s her favorite thing in the world and she tries all different kinds. She is over the moon that I’m actually drinking beer, so bonus!)

One of the beer blogs I read suggested starting with light beer. Not light in calories, but light in color. Wheat beer, Hefeweisen, pilsner, and such. A lot of the lighter colored beers are also brewed with fruit, which helps a newbie like me ease in. Some lighter beers have less hops as well and more malt. Since hops is what makes beer bitter (blech) and malt is what makes it sweeter (yay), it made sense for me to start there.

In New York, we can buy our beer in the supermarket, and Wegmans has a huge cooler case of various craft beers for you to create your own 6-pack. So I did that. I picked four beers for me to try and then two for Bonnie because, come on, let’s not get carried away. I have never liked beer, so why risk wasting six beers when you can risk wasting four instead? I bought a Sam Adams cherry wheat, a Blue Moon (at the insistence of three of my friends), a winter Shandy, and a pilsner.

Want to hear something weird?

I actually liked three of the four. Liked them. Beer. (The pilsner was a no-go. Blech.)

I do know what part of my issue is. Bonnie, being a longtime beer connoisseur, has very developed tastes. That’s fancy code for saying she likes the really bitter, hoppy stuff. She is an India Pale Ale fan. It’s her favorite in the whole world. I hate it. Hate. It. It’s horrible stuff. And since I’ve been with her for twenty years, whenever I venture to try a sip of beer, it’s inevitably an IPA. And I make a face and want to wipe off my tongue like Tom Hanks in Big when he ate the caviar. Most of the blogs for beginners say to stay far away from IPAs at first, unless you want to blow your tongue out of your mouth. Sound advice, thank you. I’d like to keep my tongue. They say I can work up to IPAs and may eventually like them, but I’m not optimistic about that.

I have since tasted a few other beers. It’s almost December, so everybody has their winter seasonal beer out and that’s been helpful to me. Blue Moon has a Cinnamon Horchata Ale that I really liked. Their Gingerbread Spice wasn’t as good, but that’s okay. My overall favorite so far has been the Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, with the Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale a close second. The Winter Shandy (which was brewed with lemon peel and pomegranate) came in third.

I’ve only just begun on this interesting path, and I will try to blog about it as I go so you can tag along with me. Stay tuned for installment number two, which I’ll try to put up within the next two weeks. In the meantime, use the comment section to tell me about your own beer experiences, and feel free to give suggestions to this novice. And, go!

Women’s Week in Provincetown, 2014

Apparently, it is my lot in life to go for months and months with no idea on a subject for a blog. Then one day, I wake up with four of them. I don’t understand my brain.

That being said, let’s talk about my recent trip to Provincetown for Women’s Week. Have you ever been? It’s a wonderful time, filled with women, entertainment, and most importantly (to me), books. It’s one of the few times during the year where I get to work and play at the same time. Like the GCLS each summer, Women’s Week always consists of some of my very favorite people—readers and writers alike—and these gatherings are the only opportunities I get to talk to them face to face, with nary a keyboard in sight.

It’s an eight-hour drive for me, and this is the second time I’ve done it alone. Vacation time (or lack thereof) was the deciding factor for Bonnie to sit this one out, so I drove it myself. But I had my new Accord and the iPod, so there was much singing and good gas mileage to be had. I stayed in a condo rather than a room this time, and my roommate was the illustrious Melissa Brayden, fellow romance author, who turned out to be the best roomie a girl could ask for. I fed her. She gave me cinnamon whiskey. We solidified our friendship over a very expensive flat iron. She even smiled (sort of) when I decided that her wake-up call would be me cheerfully jumping on her bed bright and early each morning telling her it was time to get up. She loved that. She did, too.

Melissa, me, and the wind

I am not one of those people who craves nearness to water. I like it. I like it a lot. But I’m just as happy in the mountains. That being said, Provincetown has a little more charm because it’s on the water; it really does. You can walk down Commercial Street, shop a little, stop into Womencrafts for a reading, grab a cocktail and a snack, then stroll down to the water and just…breathe. I did that many times, something about the wind blowing off the water, the blue sky, the sunshine, and the salt air…it was so peaceful.

And sometimes, you skip the beach and just go straight to the cocktails, as me and Rachel Spangler did...

And sometimes, you skip the beach and just go straight to the cocktails, as me and Rachel Spangler did…

I want to say thanks to Womencrafts and all the women who work there. Next time you’re in P-Town, stop in and say hi. Tell them I told you to. It’s a great little shop filled with colorful, fun, women-created merchandise and lots of books. I did several signings there during my stay and met tons of readers. Thank you so much to each and every one of you who stopped in to see me. Your support means more than you know.

Lynn Ames, me, Liz McMullen, Marianne K. Martin, Wynn Malone at Womencrafts

Lynn Ames, me, Liz McMullen, Marianne K. Martin, Wynn Malone at Womencrafts

There were also some great readings. Fellow author and PR whiz Lynn Ames set us up at Napi’s restaurant for a morning reading with me, Melissa, Lynn, Marianne K. Martin (reading from the brand new and long-awaited “Tangled Roots”), and Wynn Malone. We had almost forty women in that audience at 9:30 in the morning, which surprised all of us. I read from my current novel, “Olive Oil & White Bread.” The GCLS also had some gatherings and hosted readings as well as author chats. In that venue, I read from my upcoming novel “Zero Visibility.” It was the first time I’ve given any peek at all of it, and I got some fantastic feedback. That’s always a nice feeling.

The night before it was time to return home, I spent some quiet time on the dark beach with two of my closest writer friends, Melissa and Rachel Spangler, and we talked about life and wishes and what we needed to leave behind us and what lies ahead. It was emotional and cathartic and just…good. (And there was a fox! On the beach! What?) And now I’m home, working feverishly to put the finishing touches on “Zero Visibility” so I can get started on the next project. As with all my writing trips, I came home all pumped up to get to work.
Time to do that…

(photos courtesy of Melissa Brayden and Lynn Ames…)

The Food Blog

As many of you know or may have heard, last month at the annual Golden Crown Literary Society conference, I sat on a panel called “Eat Your Heart Out.” My fellow panelists were RG Emanuelle, Mary Griggs, and Karin Kallmaker, and what we all have in common is the fact that food tends to play a large role in much of our writing.

It was a fun panel, lots of joking as well as some serious talk. At the beginning of the event, audience members were asked to write out three suggestions on small pieces of paper and deposit them into three bowls. One was to be a protein, one was to be a vegetable, and one was simply, “other.” Each panelist chose one slip from each bowl and was tasked with creating a dish that included those ingredients.

I will stress two things. One, the drawing was NOT rigged (despite what my fellow panelists might think). Two, I got extremely lucky because I drew bacon, artichoke hearts, and pasta. I realize how it looks, since RG had to incorporate gummy bears and Karin’s protein was herring. So, amidst the loud shouts of my fellow panelists calling foul, I proceeded to make my dish. And it was delicious. Ready? Aprons on!

Since artichoke hearts don’t have a ton of flavor, I decided to add some cherry tomatoes from my garden to the mix. So, at this point, I’ve crisped the bacon (which will go on Bonnie’s portion, but not mine, as I am still not eating meat…and holy crap, do I miss bacon), and cut up the tomatoes and artichoke hearts.

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Next, a little oil in the frying pan and add some garlic (you might also note that other ingredient: red wine…this does not go into the dish itself, but into the cook, which makes for a much more pleasant cooking experience). Sauté for a couple minutes, and then add the tomatoes, then the hearts. I added salt, pepper, and a little Italian seasoning, but you could pretty much do whatever you want at this stage.

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This is where I’d alter it a bit next time. I added a small amount of vegetable broth to keep the tomatoes and artichoke hearts from being too dry and to make a bit of a sauce. I was concerned about adding too much and having the sauce end up being too thin, so I played it safe. Turns out, I should have added a bit more because most of it did cook down, and it was a tiny bit drier than I would have liked. So noted for next time.

I cooked up about half a pound of linguini as my pasta (this is more than enough for two people, but I am half Italian and have an inherited inability to cook the proper amount of food without going over…by a lot), then served the garlicky tomatoes and artichoke hearts over it. Next, I crumbled the bacon on top along with a sprinkling of parmesan, and voila! Mangia!

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Not gonna lie: it was damn good. I’d make it again in a heartbeat. Give it a try and let me know how yours turns out.

Don’t F**k With the Babysitter

Is a 45 year age difference creepy?

Probably. But I don’t care. I’ve fallen in love with a one-year-old. I admit it.

I am a woman who has never really wanted kids (although I did have a brief period in my mid-thirties when I thought I wanted to be pregnant…which is completely different than wanting kids, I realized). I like quiet. I like a tidy house. I like my things just so. I am not really cut out for parenting. And that’s okay. Some of us aren’t. Between Bonnie and me, we have twelve nieces and nephews ranging from age 25 down to age 3. So we’ve got the child thing covered.

When we moved from New York to Florida and then up to North Carolina several years ago, I was home writing full-time, but needed to make a bit of supplemental income. A wonderful couple of moms were looking for a sitter for their two kids after school. It was perfect. A few hours a day, extra money for me, still left me time to write. Surprisingly (to me), I adored the two kids pretty quickly.

So babysitting on the side became my thing to earn a little extra cash. Kind of a weird career move for somebody who’s not a huge fan of kids. But when we returned home to Rochester, I did it again, and I sat for 4-year-old Addison until she started first grade. She was the perfect kid to watch: she liked quiet and she LOVED to color (as do I). We colored all the time, me and Addison. Good times.

Cut to last year. Our good friends Jennifer and David were pregnant and due in June. Jenn had maternity leave until early September, and they were actively looking for some day care (which is ridiculously expensive, FYI. Wow.). I am not even sure what brought it on, but I asked them one day if they’d found somebody. They had. They’d found a woman who lives about 20 minutes away. She would watch the baby, along with a couple others and not charge them a million dollars. (Side note: Jenn and Dave live about three and a half minutes from us.) I ran it by Bonnie, then sent a text to Jenn and said, “What if I did it?” They know me. They trust me. I live very close. I’m home alone all day. It was perfect. Jenn and Dave were ecstatic. And so it was: I told them I’d be happy to babysit Charlotte until she was a toddler (I was pretty sure after that, she’d be too much for me). So…at least the first nine months to a year.

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First: let’s get to the silliness of my assumption that I’d just write while the baby slept. HA! Go ahead. Laugh. HA! Never happened. Lesson #1: when the baby sleeps, you either clean up your crap from when she was awake or you sleep, too. Luckily, I only have her an average of two and a half days a week, so I still have time to write.

Second, let’s discuss the sheer bliss of having a baby fall asleep on you. My house was unfamiliar to Charlotte at first, and she did not like being put down in her playpen for a nap. It didn’t take me long to learn the signs of, “I’m tired.” Squirming. Rubbing of the eyes. Rubbing her face against me. I learned when to start rocking her, and she would easily fall asleep in my arms. And then? I’d sit on the couch and watch TV while she took a two-hour nap. I know. I know. I should’ve put her down even though she would most likely have woken right back up. But I couldn’t. There was something so amazingly peaceful about having her sleep on me. Lesson #2: there is nothing quite so awesome as having an infant feel secure enough to fall asleep in your arms and stay there.

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To all of you moms out there: I finally get the whole, “I don’t really care if my clothes don’t match because I’m tired, and I don’t have time to care” thing. That happened to me one day, and it was like a lightning bolt of understanding. Charlotte was fussy. She hadn’t napped, and we were both exhausted. I knew I could pop her in the stroller and go for a walk and life would be good. She loves her stroller. But I couldn’t really put her down anywhere to change my clothes because she’d be off like a shot (if speed crawling was an Olympic sport, she’d have a slew of gold medals). I was wearing black shorts and a bright fluorescent yellow shirt which had some kind of food on it from the baby’s lunch. The only shoes within reach were my pink Nikes. My hair was in a messy ponytail, so I threw on a blue hat. Yeah, what’s that? Four separate colors? Not necessarily complementary ones? Exactly. I got her into the stroller, and we were on our merry way as I hoped I wouldn’t run into anybody I knew. The whole time we walked, I pictured cars driving by, getting an eyeful of my mismatched and stained outfit, and thinking, “Oh, that poor mom is tired.” Lesson #3: I get it, moms. I get it. You wear whatever the hell is within reach. More power to you.

Then came the day when I lost my mind. The baby was approaching the 9-month-old mark. Jenn is a very organized woman, very much a planner. So she sent me a text saying it was time to have that dreaded talk because she needed to figure out where Charlotte would go next. The baby was very close to walking. She was becoming a much bigger handful than an infant who sits in my arms all day. She was moving around the house, touching everything, putting everything in her mouth (the dogs’ toys are her favorite). I thought about Jenn’s text. I thought about Charlotte and her little pudgy face and her tiny hands and her adorable feet. Then I thought about some other sitter blowing raspberries on her sweet little belly and smelling her baby head and kissing those cheeks. And you know what? I couldn’t stand it. I texted Jenn, “What if I can’t give her up? What if I just want to keep watching her?” WHAAAAAAAT? Needless to say, Jenn was ecstatic. Lesson #4: be careful. A baby can steal your heart when you’re not looking. Just like THAT. *insert finger snap here*

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So here we are today. Charlotte turned 1 last week. Bonnie and I went to her birthday party. I can’t say it was awful when she bypassed both grandmas and an aunt and came right to me with her pudgy little arms up. No, that did not suck. It’s summer, and I keep thinking of things we can do together. My garage is full of baby toys. My downstairs closet contains a giant Rubbermaid container full of toys. There is a high chair in my kitchen and a car seat in my car. I have no idea how long Charlotte and I will be together. She’s growing so fast. I imagine pre-school isn’t that far around the corner, but until then, she’s mine. Well, she’s obviously not mine, but you know what I mean. I even bought her pink Nikes to match mine:

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She’s hard work, don’t get me wrong. There are days when I am watching the clock, counting down the hours until Jenn picks her up so I can relax. Sometimes, my day looks like this:

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But I love our time together. And if anybody hurt her, I would kill them. KILL THEM. I love our walks. I love how amazing my dogs are with her (they are like two extra babysitters, sticking close and keeping an eye on her with me). I love taking her places. I love how she sits up tall in the grocery cart and waves to everybody in Wegmans. I can only come to one conclusion.

I am in love with a one-year-old. And I’m okay with that.

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So Long, 2013

It’s the last day of 2013. Already. Wow, where did this year go? I feel like I was just writing up my resolutions for 2013 and now it’s December 31. How did that happen? The older I get, the faster it goes.

It’s a day for reflection. For remembering the good and the bad of the past year. To congratulate ourselves on changes we wanted to make that we did. To console ourselves for the things we weren’t as successful with (damn you, dusty exercise equipment!). I find that as I age, I tend to ponder more. To ruminate. To contemplate. And all those other words that mean “think about more than necessary.” I like to analyze things that I’ve said/done/heard and how they affect me (or don’t). Here are some of the things I learned in 2013 in no particular order.

1.  Despite still hating my forties and what they’ve done to my body, I’m learning to live with it.

Also, I found out something interesting. I bitched and moaned and complained about the extra weight I’d put on over the past year or two. I meticulously watched everything I ate (frankly, I got a little ridiculous), to no avail. But as soon as I gave up in a huff and stopped worrying about it, just ate what I wanted to (within reason) and went about my day, I dropped almost ten pounds. Funny, that. Moral of the story: QUIT WORRYING SO MUCH.

2.  Being legally married  absolutely does feel different.

Bonnie and I will celebrate twenty years together in 2014 (OMG!). Though I wanted to get married, I sort of viewed going down to the courthouse and doing things legally as just some necessary paperwork, no big deal. Not so. Our entire ceremony took about three and a half minutes, but I felt completely different afterwards. I hadn’t changed. Bonnie hadn’t changed. Our relationship hadn’t changed. But the way people look at us legally did. And that, my friends, was pretty freaking amazing. Still is.

3.  Being a vegetarian is harder than I thought.

I gave up meat in September. For the animals. I have gotten sappier as I’ve gotten older (see #4) and I can no longer stand the idea of something being killed so I can have a burger or fried chicken or a slice of bacon. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t dislike meat. I miss it. Badly on some days. And there have been difficulties I didn’t anticipate. My meals with Bonnie, for one. She’s a meat eater. She always will be (though she doesn’t eat much red meat, and she’s also found some of the research…disturbing). There are a few meals we have always enjoyed together—her homemade Reubens (drool), pulled pork (double drool), anything done in the crock pot. And don’t get me started on what a giant, cruel tease the smell of bacon is. I admit to having snagged a slice or two of turkey bacon in a weak moment. I also ate some turkey pepperoni a couple weeks ago because I thought I’d go mad if I didn’t. But whenever I feel myself slipping, I think about the articles I’ve read, the news reports I’ve seen, and if I’m desperate, I’ll watch the animated Chipotle ad again (the sad cow eyes!). Those will usually set me back on track.

Also, not everybody “gets it.” Some just think I’m being difficult (which is weird because I rarely say anything, don’t push my views on anybody, and I don’t expect a special meal). I have one aunt who, when told the treatment of the animals bothered me, said something along the lines of “Well, that’s just stupid. It’s been done this way for a long time.” (Um…okay.) I have another aunt who bought me three vegan cookbooks for Christmas.  So there you go. It takes all kinds, I guess.

4. The older I get, the sappier I get.

What the hell? Aren’t you supposed to get harder as you get older? Not me. I’ve always been easily touched and cried at the drop of a hat. But I expected that to get better as I aged. No. Not happening. It’s getting worse. I am a bottomless pit of marshmallow fluff. I mist up over everything. More than once! That stupid Christmas Apple ad with the kid filming his family and making a Christmas video? I’ve seen it a dozen times and I still get all teary. I used to be able to tune out the Humane Society ads on TV, but now I actually have to change the channel (stop singing at me, Sarah McLachlan!). I can’t watch anything at all to do with an animal being in harm’s way or (god forbid) dying. I. Cannot. Do it. It makes my heart hurt. Even just talking to Bonnie about loving her. Or kissing on Baby Charlotte’s face. Or having Finley or Duncan snuggle up against my leg. It all gets me teary-eyed. I have grown into a giant mushball.

I guess maybe I should just own that shit, huh?

5.  Letting bad stuff go is really, really hard for me, but it needs to be done.

This isn’t really news, but for the first time in my life, I’m starting to understand the importance of releasing negative energy and embracing the good stuff in life. I am half Italian. Like my mother, I can hold a grudge like nobody’s business. Even if I’m not holding a grudge, I can still remember exactly what you did or said to hurt me and believe me, I will call it up when needed. But I am beginning to realize how unhealthy that is for me. Example: a little while back, we were bumping through a rough patch, Bon and I. Bonnie went out with a friend so she could vent. During their night out, this “friend” said some very unkind things about me. To my wife. Hurtful things that changed the scope of our friendship (read: it ended). This now ex-friend lives on our block, so we see them on a regular basis. We are civil, but we are not friends, and every time I see their face, I am reminded of the cruel things that were said and that anger and hurt bubbles up all over again.

I need to let it go.

I need to forgive, forget, and move on. I know this. I have to remind myself that the reliving of all that anger hurts nobody but me. It can’t be changed. It’s over and done with. It would be healthier for me to let it go. But it’s hard for me. I’m terrible at it. (Just like my mom. I blame her.) (Love you, Mama!) I think that’s one thing I’d really like to work on in 2014. Life is too short, too much fun, filled with too much good to let the crap slow you down.

Two months from now, remind me I said that, would you?

6.  I have the most incredible wife on the planet. 

Yours may be awesome, but so is mine. Maybe they can have an awesome-off. My money’s on Bonnie. I am not an easy person. Okay, that’s not exactly true. I’m pretty easy most of the time. But I have my quirks. And my career is very solitary, not terribly lucrative, and affects my confidence level all the time. If I don’t write, I’m miserable. If I get a bad review, I cry. If I get frustrated with a story, I’m cranky. Bonnie takes all of this in stride, encourages me, brainstorms with me, and works her tail off so I can stay home and be a novelist. She is supportive, a terrific listener, she makes me laugh each and every day, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life. I am a very lucky girl.

7.  My family rocks.

I think we sometimes take our families for granted. And we all know you can’t pick your family. You get what you get. We all have a creepy uncle or a derelict cousin or whatever. Anyway. 2013 was not a good year for us financially. In fact, it sucked financially. We had intended to have a big, gorgeous wedding in the park with all the trimmings. I’d been looking at invitations and favors and stuff for months. We’d even reserved a place. Long story short, we needed to have a quick-and-dirty ceremony at the courthouse so I could be on Bon’s benefits. And weddings are crazy expensive. And after the courthouse, it just felt like we’d done it. We talked about having a party, but the money wasn’t there and it just made sense to cancel whatever plans we had made and be done with it. We were disappointed, but okay with our decision.

Enter my mom. My awesome, amazing mom, who said to me in September, “You know, I’ve been feeling really terrible that I didn’t do something for you guys for your wedding. So I want to throw you a party.” And throw us a party, she did. It started as a small gathering at her house. My dad got in on the deal and helped with the plans and the finances. My stepdad worked his tail off, finally suggesting that maybe the house was a bit small and we should move the festivities to a lodge in the park. So we did. My grandmother and aunts and cousin and sisters made all the food. My mom took care of the guest list. Our nieces decorated. My cousin made the cake. Bonnie and I didn’t lift a finger. And so many people came! My entire family was there. And they were so happy for us. It had no bearing at all that we’re a lesbian couple. My grandmother is 94 and is thrilled for us. Her sisters came and were thrilled for us. My aunt hugged us and got all teary, she was so happy. My rather stoic cousin kept coming up to us and saying, “I’m really, really happy for you guys. Truly. It’s great.” (He’d had a lot of wine, but still.) If there was one day in 2013 that will stick in my memory forever, it’s that one. My family rocks.

8.  I miss manners and common courtesy.

Social media has its place. I know this. The fact that we can communicate with people all over the globe in an instant is mindboggling. Texting is incredibly convenient (and the only way I can talk to my nieces and nephews, really); I do it often. I love that I can find just about anything I need with a few swift maneuvers on my keyboard.

That being said, people online are MEAN. Wow. Especially kids. Especially girl kids. If you’re a teenage girl and you don’t have body image issues, just get on Twitter and see what some of the girls say to each other. Holy cow, they’re brutal to each other. I saw a bit by comic Louis CK a while back and he was talking about how he really didn’t want his daughter to have a cell phone. He said kids are mean because they’re “trying it out, seeing how it feels.” And when one says something mean or nasty to another and sees that hurt look in their eye that they caused, they think, “Okay. Wow. That felt crummy. I won’t do that again.” But with texting and Facebook and Twitter, they don’t see that hurt look. They say something mean, laugh about it, and go on about their day with no repercussions. He’s so right and it horrifies me, the nasty things people say to each other online. Read any controversial news story on the Huffington Post or Yahoo or wherever, then scroll down and take a look at the comments. They’re awful! Mean, racist, homophobic, just generally horrible. I know the general consensus is that humans are inherently good. Not if you go by what’s written online.

And you young people today: look up from your freaking phone once in a while! You’re missing life! Whomever you’re texting can wait ten damn seconds while you actually look at me when I talk to you. Don’t you know that it’s extremely rude not to give your full attention to the person you’re talking with? Eye contact is polite. Use it every now and then. And if you ask me a question and then check your phone while I’m answering you, I will slap that thing right out of your hand. Fair warning.

9.  2014 is going to be a very good year.

2013 was pretty good to me, despite the pitfalls. I made some terrific new friends in 2013, and I expect we will keep cracking each other up next year. Bonnie and I will celebrate twenty years in June (OMG!). I will (hopefully) visit Portland, OR, for the first time. I will have at least one, possibly two new books out by winter. And there will be a bevy of new books, movies, TV shows and more to keep me entertained. Hopefully, you guys—my wonderful readers—will continue to write to me and let me know what’s on your mind. Your e-mails keep me writing. And I hope to continue to learn from the writers I admire.

Thank you to each and every one of you who bought my work, supported me at the GCLS, read this blog, sent me gifts, and wrote to me with your thoughts. I am eternally grateful and I wish all of you a safe and very happy New Year. May your wishes come true in 2014.

How We Eat

Bonnie showed me this video over the weekend, which is actually an advertisement for restaurant chain Chipotle. Take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUtnas5ScSE

First of all, how friggin’ awesomely haunting is this version of “Pure Imagination” by Fiona Apple? I’ve been humming it for days. But second—and more important—how about the message conveyed so heart-wrenchingly by the animated story? The first time I watched it, tears sprung into my eyes, I wanted to hug the scarecrow, and to be honest, there haven’t been subsequent views because the sad eyes of the cow make my heart hurt too much.

Aren’t we supposed to get harder as we age? That doesn’t seem to be happening for me. I’m getting softer. I cry much more easily than I used to (though, to be fair, I’ve always been a pretty easy crier), and I’m way more affected by the injustices in the world than I was when I was in my twenties. That goes double when it comes to animals. Any cruelty or injustice carried out with an animal as the victim absolutely horrifies me. I despise no celebrity more than I despise Michael Vick, thanks to his dog-fighting days. Don’t send me e-mails. Yes, I know he did his time. I don’t care. The man had no trouble training dogs to fight to the death and then killing the ones who lost, all in the name of money, and he’s still making millions in the NFL. I would spit on him if I could, I kid you not. I have taken to buying only shampoos, conditioners, and soaps that are cruelty free because I can’t stand the thought of some poor monkey or rabbit having shampoo squirted into his eyes or rubbed into his fur to see if it stings or gives him a rash just so I can have soft hair. (Side note: cruelty-free cosmetics are NOT plentiful.) And thanks to the Chipotle ad, I am once again reminded of the abhorrent conditions in which we keep dairy cows, chickens, and other livestock (not to mention the scary shit we inject them with) so that we can feed the people of our country.

You’ve all heard me talking in the past about the possibility of going meat-free. This ad has made me revisit that. I don’t love meat. Some people do, and that’s fine. I don’t. I can list on one hand the meat products I would miss as a vegetarian: turkey bacon, Bonnie’s chicken soup, my mother’s chicken cutlets, and my mother’s meatballs. That’s about it. Four things. I think I can manage. Conversely, I can think of no vegetable that I don’t like (with the exception of onions, and I can deal with them when I have to). So it seems like my path is clear, doesn’t it?

Bonnie does love meat, though she is also touched by the plight of the animals we read about. So, we’ve decided that we will cut our meat consumption way back (I’ll cut mine entirely) and what meat we do buy will be organic. I do wish organic meat wasn’t so expensive…I think many more people would buy it if it didn’t cost twice as much, but therein lies the rub, as they say. And since we’re cutting our consumption back, we should be able to be able to afford less meat for more money.

I know this decision of mine won’t change the world, but I think that at least if I am taking steps to make a change, that’s something, right? And I’ll feel better knowing I’m not part of the reason bad stuff is happening to those animals. It will still go on, I know, and it will still upset me to the point of nausea, but at least I’m doing something.

In the meantime, I want to say thank you to Chipotle for opening my eyes and my heart (again) to changes I can make, however small. And any of you out there who are vegetarians or who have suggestions for me, feel free to comment. I am open to education. Tell me what products work for you. Share your recipes with me. What do you grow? What do you eat? I’m all ears. (And I plan to continue to eat seafood…is that allowed?)