k before run 2017

Getting Ready

So, you all know I run. I don’t run fast, and as with my writing, my running isn’t super consistent. But, I enjoy it, and I like to get out often, except for when I find an excuse not to. Running is as much about disciplining the mind as it is the body.

Anyway, I ran a 10k while on vacation in my hometown, Kalamazoo, last weekend. I had a blast. Seriously. Best race I’ve run in a really long time. My time was good, for me, but more it was my mindset. I wanted to be there. I was happy and excited to be there. People were having fun and there were several cheerleaders along the route. Even though it was early in the morning, I felt amazing.

As awesome as that was, the race wasn’t actually the focus of this piece. When I run, I think. My mind wanders and I let it – suddenly I’m a mile further than I was the last time I focused on my surroundings – woot!

So, during this race, I started thinking about the arbitrariness of life. There I was, in my hometown, in a location I know very well, but yet, I was still an outsider, a visitor. That’s a strange feeling. To be home, yet to not really be home. It’s a feeling I’m pretty familiar with. As an expat, and even in places in the US that aren’t Kalamazoo, I have felt both at home and like an outsider simultaneously.

We’ve been in Texas for nearly four years now. I have good friends, I know my way around pretty well, at least in our immediate area. I refer to Texas as home when I’m not there. But, I’m still an outsider. I have to ask questions people who’ve lived there their whole lives, or who are second or third generation (or more) in the the area, wouldn’t dream of needing to ask. I’m in good company, though. Many people who live in our neighborhood are transplants or expats, so that helps – we all muddle our way through and faux pas are generally kept to a minimum.

I am always a little speechless (which doesn’t happen often) when I think about the arbitrariness of friendships. What if we had moved into a different neighborhood? What would my life be like now? What if I never took Arabic classes in Dubai? What if I never went to the temp agency in Chicago and got the job at Aon? What if I never left the bank? What if I never left Kalamazoo in the first place?

Why does any of that matter? Maybe it doesn’t. But these are things I think about when I run.



I’m not making a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference about the meaning of life. I am simply stating my age, as my daughter is more than happy to remind me nearly daily. Not to say that I am old, because she is also quick to say that she is not saying I’m old, she just knows how old I am, and she has decided she needs to tell me so, every day.

So, when I opened her backpack this morning (I never get around to it on Friday afternoons, particularly not now that it’s May and we are counting down the days to the end of the school year), I was not all that shocked to find an “All About Mom” sheet in there with my age plastered right across the top.

First line: My mom is *blank* years old. Yes, we get it. It’s so cute when they say “13” or “100” or “cupcakes” or whatever. Somewhat less cute when they’re accurate, though.

But, I have to admit there is something rather endearing about first-grade spellings. I know these words come from her heart, and I don’t mean to poke fun, so I am sharing this in the spirit of adorableness, not in the spirit of let’s laugh at my kid’s terrible spelling. She did great, and I understood all of what she was saying (I am her mother, after all), but there are a couple that may be confusing if you’re not me: The best thing I cook (according to my seven year old) is sammy patties, aka salmon patties. And, I am special because I am awesome.

Not a bad way to start the week, that’s for sure.

Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day!All About Mom



I love grocery shopping. I’m fortunate, I know this. I don’t have to bring my children with me kicking and screaming through the aisles (though, they never really did do that too much). I don’t have to shop on Saturday morning with the masses. I am frugal, but I buy mostly organic when I can, and I am also fortunate to be able to splash out on items if they take my fancy.

I guess that’s partly why I love grocery shopping. Mostly, though, it’s because when I go to the store, I know many of the employees by name, and they know me by name, too.

That feels good. To be known. To be a local. We tend to move around every few years, so for me, it’s important to get routines established early. It helps with settling in. We’ve been in Texas for nearly four years now, though. We have friends here. And we know our way around reasonably well. We’ve traveled locally and can even share personal recommendations with out of towners.

On Monday mornings, I take the kids to school and walk the dog (simultaneously), then get in the car and drive to the store. Once there, I grab my bags and a small cart and make my way to the coffee counter. Joe greets me warmly, and we chat about whatever. Usually about something inconsequential, but there is a narrative that seems to run through our weekly conversations. I thank Joe for my coffee and head over to see Cheryl in the floral department. I don’t often buy flowers, but Cheryl and I will chat for several minutes before I head over to produce. I found out that she’s a Master Gardener, so we talk about plants and her grandkids, and my kids, and just life in general. After I visit with Cheryl, I select my fruits and veggies then head over to the meat counter where Jessie looks up and greets me enthusiastically. He’s got a little grandson that he loves to tell me about, and a while ago I introduced him to my mom, so he always asks after her.

After all that, I wander around and finish my shopping and I’m very nearly always in a great mood. It’s probably partly because the coffee has kicked in, but I think it’s mostly because my inner social butterfly has been satisfied. I feel energized when I get to talk with people as I go about my day.

I know routines can be boring, and grocery shopping can be a chore, but I thrive on routine and personal interactions. I feel thankful that I can have both of those things to start off my week.

What about you? Do you like grocery shopping? Do you prefer anonymity or do you enjoy being a known regular?


Photo taken from Whole Foods Market Katy facebook page.


The First Rule.

The first rule of blogging is you do not talk about bloggingblogging club. No, wait. That’s fight club.

The first rule of blogging is consistency. Or, maybe it’s the second rule, but it’s up there, I’m sure of it. Anyway, back to the rule. Consistency. I recently attended a meeting of our local writers’ group where I facilitated our session on blogging. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not exactly a pro at this. I usually just write about what I’m thinking about at the time, and I write as and when I think about it. I’m far from consistent. But, I like rules, so I’m trying to follow this one by posting now. I want to engage you, the reader, consistently and often, so that you’ll be interested in me, the writer, and maybe one day buy my stuff. If I ever have anything finished and for sale.

Speaking of buying my stuff…

(Cue cheesy music and game-show announcer voice) Mother’s Day is coming up – Sunday, May 14th, here in the US – and have I got a book for you! (and the crowd goes wild!)

Last year, I was honored to be part of the second volume of Lisa Ferland’s Knocked Up Abroad series, titled Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists and turns around the globe. It’s a series of anthologies with stories of parenting joys and challenges while living in a culture foreign to one’s own. The locations may not be familiar and they may have their own specific cultural nuances, but the feelings evoked by these experiences are shared by parents the world over.

KUAA Ch 12 PicMy contribution consists of my first-born’s birth story intertwined with my experience of being pregnant in Abu Dhabi. As with most of my writing, it’s told through the lens of humor. There are several heartwarming and engaging stories of love, loss, and parenting in unexpected ways told within by talented authors whom I’ve come to know and enjoy over the last twelve months.

If you’re looking for a heartfelt gift to give to your mother, or someone else’s mother, or anyone who enjoys stories about parenting, for Mother’s Day, Knocked Up Abroad Again is a great choice. You can find links to the book and ebook by visiting my Amazon author page.

So, that’s today’s thought: consistency and self-improvement through self-promotion. I’m going to do what I love and attempt to be more consistent about it. I’m also going to try not to get so bogged down with following the rules. So, who knows, maybe I won’t be very consistent. You’ll just have to follow me and see.




I have written and re-written this piece. I have held it in “drafts” for a while now. There is no great revelation in here, but this feels especially personal to me. And, I feel vulnerable hitting “publish,” but I think I must. Here goes…


Surprisingly, this is the only Pearl Jam concert t-shirt I own.

Pearl Jam was recently inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. I meant to have a beautiful, grand homage piece written prior to their induction, but that didn’t happen. So, instead, I’ve decided to post a few vignettes. Little snippets of important moments that have stuck with me over the years. If you’ve known me since college, you know that being a fan of Pearl Jam, and Eddie Vedder, and music in general, is a big part of who I am. I’m proud of the band for earning this accolade, and I’d like to share a few of my experiences with you.




The first time I even heard the name Pearl Jam is a memory burned indelibly into my brain. My friend, Tina, and I had decided to explore downtown Kalamazoo one fall day back in 1991. Turns out, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam were playing the State Theatre that same day. I had never heard of any of those bands, and I vaguely recall making fun of their names (the current me feels great shame in sharing this, but it’s the truth). We were looking around in a shop of vintage junk and curios when two long haired, kind of scruffy looking men – one of whom had a little triangle-shaped beard thing right under his lower lip – approached us looking for a place to store their records, like boxes or milk crates or something. Now, the thing is, Kristy back in those days was a bubbly, blonde cheerleader and ever the extreme optimist. She’d never met a stranger, and if she had, they certainly hadn’t been ill willed toward her. God, Mom, no wonder you didn’t want me wandering around downtown. Those doe eyes were bound to get me in big trouble one day.

Anyway, I suggested they look at Meijer’s (yes, I said Meijer’s, not Meijer – you know you do it, too) because I had heard that sometimes grocery stores have extra boxes and I honestly thought that I was being helpful. I was thisclose, this.close. to probably getting backstage and hanging out with a group of people who would soon become some of the most important and influential people in my young life. But, instead, I suggested they go to Meijer’s.


Fast forward a few weeks to Tina and me watching Mtv in her room at her parents’ house. Who did we see on the screen….triangle-beard man! Dave Abbruzzese, and I think it was Mike McCready (though, again shamefully, I can’t quite remember – I’m sorry, guys, really), had been hitting on us. *gasp* I didn’t know it. I think Tina may have known it. She was always better at that stuff than I was, and she was also better at protecting us from that type of stuff than I was (see, Mom, I was fine wandering around downtown with Tina).

Again: Sigh.

That was my first real initiation into the music phenomenon known as Grunge. Once I got to college, my freshmen year roommate, Jessica, turned me on to the rest of the Ten album (up to that point, I only knew what I’d heard on the radio), and I was hooked. Completely.  I credit my Mom with propelling my love of music by getting me a boom box for my graduation gift that summer and lord knows Columbia House got more than 99 cents from me in the years to come.


My sophomore year in college, I vividly remember sitting in my room, in front of my new stereo system (remember those multi-disc changers with two tape decks and also the radio built in? I got one of those for my birthday and I was *so* excited) with a blank tape in deck one and the radio on, my index and middle fingers poised and ready to press the record and play buttons simultaneously. The dj had just announced that the first Pearl Jam single off their new album was about to be played for the first time. My heart raced. My hands shook, just a little. My brain buzzed with the excitement of brand new music. I had so many questions: What would it sound like? Would it still sound like Pearl Jam? Would I even like it? Who was I kidding, of course, I’d like it. Would I be able to hit the sweet spot of recording the first note of the song, but none of the dj? Would he let the whole song play before talking over it? Aahh! I was so excited!

And then it came on. The opening sequence of that song blew me away. It was hard and fast and didn’t sound much like the Pearl Jam I had come to know, but I loved it! Go still holds a special place for me because every time I hear it, it brings me back to the glorious anticipation that was waiting for my favorite song to come on the radio so I could tape it and, even if only in some small way, be a part of the music.

Teenage Girl in Line for a Concert in a Small Town.

There are so many moments like that that I can relate back to Pearl Jam and my love of the band and the music. But, one major moment sticks out in my memory and I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t mention it. And also, anyone who knew me then, knows that this was probably the pinnacle of my life’s moments up to that point (and it probably held that position for many more years). My friend, Christa, and I got tickets through Ten Club to see Pearl Jam at the Masonic Temple in Detroit in the spring of 1994. We got seats in the 3rd row, center stage. I can’t put into words how excited I was. And, big thanks to Christa, who put up with me and my fangirl craziness during that whole event. I think because this one moment stands out so vividly for me, I really can’t remember much of the actual show. Other than standing on the arms of the theatre seats, along with all the other devoted fans, and Eddie telling the security crew not to bother us because we weren’t being destructive, we were just trying to get the best view. Man, I was so in love with him.

Anyway, it was a gorgeous spring afternoon and Christa and I were wearing our best flannel shirts, waiting in the line outside the Masonic Temple before the show. Somebody came by and said that Eddie and the band were playing Frisbee in the park across the street. I looked at Christa. I was fraught with indecision. If we both left we’d lose our spot in line, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet him. Eddie Vedder. I had to go. Christa was so gracious and kind and understanding, she just looked at me and said, “Go.” I am pretty sure I didn’t even pretend to argue with her about it. She’d granted me permission to leave her there (what a terrible friend I was for actually doing so), and I jumped at the chance. I bee-lined over to the park – I don’t even remember walking there, it was like I was on a tether and being pulled only in his direction. I may have looked both ways when crossing the road, but I doubt it (sorry, Mom). There was a line of similarly awed teens in flannels waiting to talk to the man himself and I was there. In that line. About to meet Eddie Vedder. Rock icon, man of my dreams, Eddie Vedder. What was I going to say? I had to be cool, but not too cool. I couldn’t faun over him or jump him like part of me wanted to do. I tried to breathe. I must’ve breathed because I didn’t pass out, but eventually, the wait was over and it was my turn. I walked up to him and shook his hand. I croaked out, “Do well.” My voice had escaped me and left me standing there feeling meek and less than the outgoing unstoppable young woman I was. He had a pink pen and he wrote his name on my arm. He thanked me and I smiled awkwardly, and turned and walked back to join Christa back in line. I felt like I completely flubbed it. “Do well?” Seriously. That’s all I could muster?


Even now that I’m much older and my life no longer revolves around music and Mtv and going to shows, I still pause if I hear Pearl Jam on the radio (outside of Pearl Jam Radio on Sirius, for obvious reasons). Steve instinctively knows not to change the station, and he’s even encouraged my obsession over the years. One of the first gifts he got me was two tickets to see them at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. It was cold, but I only remember that because Eddie remarked that it was, and we were outside and Steve was there with me while I reveled in the music. If he had known then….

Oh, Deer. The Follow-up


The Curb

Your season’s over,

For months you reigned, majestic.

Now? The curb. Oh, dear.

Escape Artist.

My favorite shirt. I got it when we were in Colorado last summer. I don’t normally buy shirts with much writing on them, but this one spoke to me. The design, the colors, the fit, all of it. So, I bought it. When I wear it, I think about our trip to the mountains, and my soul feels instantly lighter. I know it’s not the shirt, but the memories it invokes.

Whether it’s the material itself or the memories I associate with it, it’s still my favorite. And, with Escape Artist emblazoned in bright yellow across the chest, it’s also relevant. I came to realize something the other day: I read to escape.

It’s not an entirely new revelation. I’ve had this thought before. The first time I actually consciously noticed it was in the months following September 11th, 2001. Most of you know that we lived in Manhattan, and we were there that day. In fact, if you’ve met me since then and have spent more than about ten minutes with me, I’ve probably brought it up in conversation. Like it or not, that event is a large part of me, of my history on this planet, and I carry my life experiences with me and rarely do I shy away from sharing them.

A couple months before the attacks, some of our good friends moved from Chicago to New York and actually moved into the building where we were living, one floor below us. We were quite close at the time, and I was relieved to have them there that morning. I hadn’t heard from Steve since the second plane hit, and I knew he was downtown in the middle of it. I didn’t hear from him for three hours, and those were the longest three hours of my life. Chris and Maria offered me updates and comfort that day and helped me manage in the months to come.

What does any of this have to do with books? Well, after September 11th, fear crept in and like tree roots searching out water, it wound its way into every thought, took hold of every routine, informed every action. Suddenly, I had tennis shoes untied and ready to wear under to my bed and we slept with the bedroom door locked – in our 16th-floor apartment. You know those little door locks that sometimes keep children and small dogs out, but pretty much everyone else can get past them in seconds? Yeah. I relied on that lock to keep the terrorists out of our bedroom. We kept our front door deadbolted and chained (nothing new there, actually). We also had go bags ready and waiting just in case we needed to make a mad-dash out of the city, fleeing terrorists. I took up running again. We carried our IDs with us everywhere and had them at the ready to prove that we should be allowed down our usual streets or into our own office buildings. We had a plan on where to meet if there was ever another attack and cell service was disrupted again.

Most days, all I could think was, how was I going to get back to Michigan? Or isn’t that plane flying awfully close to our building? Or, why is that plane flying out over the river, they don’t usually fly that path, do they? Or, oh, god, what’s that sound – we’re all going to die! – wait, that was just the subway passing under the street.

Everything changed. I can make fun of myself for it a little now, but at the time, I was scared. I needed an outlet. My friend, Maria from downstairs, provided that to me in the form of Harry Potter.

Before September 11th, I had heard of Harry Potter, but to the best of my knowledge, it was a kids’ book, and I didn’t have kids. I normally read crime novels and the occasional vampire novel. I liked suspense and action. I didn’t need to read kids’ books. But, after September 11th, I needed to get away. I needed to escape. I devoured the first four Harry Potter novels in a very short span of time and then kept looking for any book that might help me forget about real world problems. Gritty crime dramas seemed too real, I needed witches and wizards and vampires and werewolves.

I still love urban fantasy and vampire books but over the years, I’ve expanded my palette. Several years ago I started reading biographies of our founding fathers and early presidents. I love that period of our history. I love new beginnings. I’ve belonged to book clubs over the years and we’ve read some amazing books about heavy topics along with lighthearted essays and tales of adventure. I’ve read some of the classics: Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ve even read fantasy fiction books based on this classic, from Mr Darcy, Vampire (meh, not my favorite, surprisingly) to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (wow! I loved it!). I’m not trying to brag about my voracious appetite for reading. In fact, I read quite slowly compared to many of my peers. I am attempting to show that my interests are varied, and have changed over the years. I tend to lean toward science fiction and fantasy, but normally, I like to change things up. After a few romps around fantastical lands with fantastical creatures, I usually like to dip into a gritty crime scene and work out whodunit and how it went down. I like to throw in biographies and essays and classics to round things out – usually.


But now, I’ve found myself feeling the need to escape again. It’s only just dawned on me that that’s what’s been happening. I’ve been reading urban fantasy, and only a handful of different authors, continually for at least a year now. Probably longer, but I can’t remember exactly what I’ve read and when. My son and I are reading the Percy Jackson series, and these stories are some of my very favorites in recent times. Reading these books reminds me of how I felt when I started reading Harry Potter, but now I get to share that sense of adventure and excitement with my son.

My world isn’t as tumultuous or as dramatically changed as it was after September 11th, but I do find that I cannot deal with our new reality all the time. My husband recently bought me biographies of Dave Grohl and Alexander Hamilton and I am excited to read both, but I can’t seem to pull myself out of these fantasy worlds that I escape to nightly.

Not yet, anyway.

What about you? What are you reading? Do you read to escape?


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