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In the last few years I’ve lost two friends—one to death and one by choice. Hers, not mine. The circumstances are different, but the grief is the same. I fell out of touch with the first friend. We stopped working together. I moved. Life got in the way. I made a few attempts over the years to reach out. It worked for a while . . . until it didn’t. Once upon a time we were close. I always thought we’d get back there; time and distance be damned. 

            A few months back I learned he’d died more than a year and a half ago. It’s a strange and terrible thing to grieve a friendship that hasn’t existed for a very long time. But that’s the bitch about grief. There’s no playbook. There’re no rules. It’s just this presence that reminds me on the daily that I waited too long.

            Then there’s the story of my friend who slipped from my life like water in a cracked tub. An unreturned phone call. No response to a text. An ignored invitation. By the time I realized she was gone, it was suffocating. A room I couldn’t escape. A broken bridge. Three and a half years after the last time I saw her, I couldn’t reconcile her absence so I called her. We both cried. I may have yelled at her for leaving me. I asked why, what I did to make her leave. 

            She had no answer other than it just wasn’t right anymore. We were different people. This, by the way, after more than half a lifetime of friendship. I was dumbfounded. I could list thirty things we have in common. I heard what she was saying, but I couldn’t make it make sense. 

            I must have done something. Offended her somehow. I ran through the last time we were together. We were celebrating. Had I not been gracious? Had another party guest insulted her? No. If it’d been a concrete incident—a flippant remark, cross words, she would have said so. 

            This wasn’t that. This was fundamental. Somewhere along the line there’d been a seismic shift in us. In her. And maybe in me. I’ll never know. 

            These two people who had a permanent place in my life are gone now. One I didn’t get to say goodbye to. The other wouldn’t let me. I feel their absences. The first friend came to me in a time when I felt unmoored. The second I thought would be in my life forever. I never told her this, but I always believed our kids would go to prom together. We were at each other’s weddings. I imagined we’d be old ladies sitting on my terrace watching the world go by, sated from a lifetime spent together. 

            These are not my first losses. Believe me, loss and I are well acquainted. My brother’s been gone almost two-thirds of my life. His death was sudden and stunning. It’s not something I’ll ever get over, I just move around it. But the last thing I ever said to Robbie was, “I love you.” If a relationship has to end, there are no better parting words. I also lost my dad, but it was thirteen months and four days after he’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I moved to Florida the day after I found out he was sick and seamlessly stepped into his life. We spent a year together that never would have happened had a bunch of cells in his brain not mutated. We formed incredible bonds with his medical team. We told each other everything. I held his hand as he died. I whispered that I would always love him. I felt his soul leave the room, but it stayed with me. I had no regrets. We left nothing unsaid. 

            Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t always been this Zen about Robbie and my dad. It took me a long time to find the gifts shadowed in their deaths. 

            With these two friends, there is no good. It doesn’t make sense. I can’t find comfort. I should have picked up the phone and called my first friend. I had years and years to do it. I should have figured out what made my second friend leave me. I tried. But I still don’t know. I can only hope that one day she will come back to me.

            I am struggling. Do I have the right to grieve a friend I hadn’t talked to in a decade and a half? Does it make sense to miss someone who’s still alive? Kierkegaard said, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.” That’s not pain. That’s torture. Cutting off a limb. Blinding myself. I don’t want there to be any more futures I won’t know. Unsaid words are poison. I’ve let other friendships lag and haven’t taken chances that could bring great joy. But those bridges aren’t broken. There’s still time. It’s up to me to find my way back. 

            Music inspires me as much as anything. All my books are named after songs. A Chili Peppers song is the reason I wrote my second book. A David Gray song helped me create the perfect ending to my first novel. My kids’ horses are named after songs. When I’m staring down the barrel of a blank page, I put on a playlist and words appear like musical notes. Music endlessly inspires me to write, create characters, scenes, arcs and conclusions. 

            This past summer I heard a song that haunted me like a displaced spirit. Its melody is lovely; the words beautiful. And there’s one line that knocks me down every time I hear it. Especially now. It has so profoundly affected me that I let it direct me. I’m not waiting any longer. If there are people I want to reconnect with, that’s on me. Only I can do what makes me happy. I have to stop waiting for someone else to orchestrate the things I want to happen. I need a constant reminder to never again let goals go unmet, words be unspoken. 

            The song from last summer has already changed me, emotionally and literally. The lyrics inspired me to stop waiting. Stop waiting for the right moment. Stop waiting to take a chance. How can a song literally change me, you ask? Well, I got the lyrics tattooed on my forearm. Thanks to Nathaniel Rateliff, I have a constant reminder that “Every moment that you wait now is a moment slipped away.”

            May this be the end of me allowing moments to escape. The time is now. It’s up to me. I refuse to look back and remember something that should have happened but didn’t.

Don’t let your moments slip away. 

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It’s funny how we break time into fragments. Before I got married. After I had kids. Before I went to college. After I became a novelist. 1990 was definitely a year that fractioned my life. When I look back on that time, I mostly see it as the year we lost my brother Rob. It’d be easy to think of my sophomore year of college as the time when life as I knew it ended and a different, terrible reality took its place.

But 1990 was also the year I met Sandy Lobel—an event that I look back on now and realize had its own fault line. Before I met Sandy when I was just a kid with some raw talent for staying on naughty horses. After I met Sandy and my life was forever changed. The summer before my second year at college, I was at a horse show and saw a trailer from Morristown, New Jersey—just a few miles from school. I wandered over and introduced myself. The Ravenswood crew promptly invited me down for a visit. And that was that.

Riding is so much more than just finding distances and looking pretty. It’s about knowing your horse so well that you can predict his moods before he feels them. It’s about working hard and cleaning tack and freezing mornings in the dark and late nights when you have to roll your windows down in January to stay awake coming home from a show. Riding is about becoming a horse person. It’s about being kind to your barn mates and helping them up instead of kicking them when they’re down. It’s about becoming a family and taking care of each other like family does. That’s what Sandy and Ravenswood taught me.

I’d only been at Ravenswood for four weeks when Robbie died. One of my parents called Sandy to tell her I was leaving school and to please take care of my horses for a while. She drove to my dorm room and held me until I couldn’t cry anymore. When I got back to school she never pitied me. She just loved me. She was my mother when my own mom couldn’t be there. She was my friend when all of mine didn’t know what it was like to be nineteen years old and suddenly not know what life was about anymore. She was my shelter, my protector and when she needed to be, she was the fiercest mama bear.

For a while after Robbie, I thought Sandy, Anna and all the boarders at Ravenswood were being super nice because they’d heard about what had happened. I know that kind of sympathy. It’s genuine, but finite. This wasn’t that. By the end of the school year, I started to suspect that something was really wrong with my health and my mom had told Sandy, but not me. That’s how lovely she was. I really truly wondered if she was just so kind because she knew something I didn’t.

Summer came, I went home and didn’t drop dead. When I returned to Ravenswood in the fall, it was as if no time had passed and Sandy, Anna and everyone were just as welcoming and kind as they’d been the year before during a time of so much grief. I continued riding with Sandy, learning how to think like a horse, be soft on the horse’s mouth even when I was getting run away with, and understand that I was a part of their family.

That realization came at the perfect time. There was yet more upheaval in my life, although this time around it was on a much lesser scale. An old boyfriend couldn’t quite let go and things got a bit scary. When campus police told me I should leave my dorm for a while, I got in my car in the middle of the night and drove to Sandy’s house. This was before the days of cell phones. So I just showed up, scared and crying. She opened her front door, looked behind me to make sure I hadn’t been followed and hugged me hard. Then she put her hand to my cheek and told me I’d stay with her until I felt safe enough to return to school. Here’s the thing. I never told her why I was there. She just knew. Because she was Sandy.

I rode with Sandy for three years in college, but when I graduated, our relationship didn’t wane. I visited her when I could and went to dinner with her when we were at the same horse shows. She met my kids when they were little and took an instant liking to Kurt. She was proud of me for the life and horse choices I’d made and she always told me so. I went on to return to the barn I grew up riding at, then moved to another beautiful place where Kurt and I got married. Eventually, I landed with Peter where I’ve parked myself for more than twenty years (although now I’m more fangirl than rider). When I first met Peter in the late ‘90s, he complimented me on my strong foundation and natural style. I thanked him for the high praise and then promptly gave all the credit to Sandy.

Sandy’s methods were so grounded in horsemanship and simplicity that I walked away from some lessons not realizing how much I’d learned until I’d think about it later on. Without a doubt my growth on a horse was immeasurable during the years I spent with Sandy. But again, it was the life lessons and feeling like I belonged somewhere that have stayed with me for more than thirty years.

Last summer I found myself working or riding at Princeton three different weeks. I called Sandy, thinking maybe we could meet up for dinner one night. What happened next I can only describe as magical. She insisted I stay at her house and hosted dinner parties that kept me up and laughing way past my bedtime. We sat on her porch and shared stories of times past and current days as we watched the sun set in shades of deep purples and dusty pinks. She introduced me to people who used to ride with her years ago and they said the same thing as me: Her impact and love have stayed with them all these years. I slept soundly in a beautiful room after gourmet meals and woke to breakfast sandwiches on the counter and fresh eggs waiting for me.

I returned each night to a hug that made me want to stand still forever. And every morning when I left, Sandy would tell me she loved me. And I would say the same.

It was nothing more than happenstance that led me to those shows last summer. It was the kind of kismet that I loudly and repeatedly profess to not believe in. But goodness, I don’t know what else to call it. When I drove out of Sandy’s driveway that final morning, I didn’t think it would be the last time I would see her. I knew of her health challenges, but I believed she would overcome them and I would get down to Florida to visit. It wasn’t so.

When Anna called me yesterday, I knew as soon as I saw her name flash on my phone. I knew. I’m sad. Of course I am. I loved Sandy like she was my second mother. Because she was. But I have a profound sense of peace knowing I said everything I needed to say to her. There wasn’t much. Just that I love her and I will forever be grateful for her love. It was a pretty awesome thing to be loved by Sandy Lobel. I am a better person for having been loved by her.

For Sandy—wherever you may be. I miss you and I love you.


This is not a tale of everything happening for a reason, but of how wonderful things can be the result of a less-than-ideal situation. How is that different? You tell me.

Last year we sold our house so we could build a barn and bring home the ponies. James and Popsicle are old men now, and they deserve to hang out in our backyard and be pets. Finding something that checks all the boxes is difficult in a regular world, but almost impossible in Covidland.

In May, our realtor, Lisa, decided to move to Florida. Her house would have been perfect for us and the ponies: lots of land, a mile from downtown Chester. Super long driveway so when the ponies escape, there is nowhere to go. A half-mile from Sasha. A pool with a pergola and a terrace with an outdoor fireplace. And the house itself is spectacular. I wanted it so freaking badly. But it wasn’t meant to be. So Lisa and I kept looking.

Our closing date came and went and still no house. Fear not, I have the loveliest parents in the world and they invited us to live with them. They have a lower level that is basically an apartment. Yep, I was a fifty-year-old living in my parents’ basement. And you know what? It was the greatest summer ever. You heard me. Best. Summer. Ever.

Why, you ask? Family. My stepdad had some health things (he’s great now, thank you for asking) that left my mom alone in the house for a while. It was perfect timing for us to move in. And when Nick came home, getting to walk upstairs and hang out with my parents was pretty freaking awesome. We often had dinner together. Kurt and I fixed stuff around the house. It was a win-win for everyone.

And then there was Cooper and Ainsley, especially Ainsley. She’s always been very close to my parents and living with them for the summer was the best thing in the world for her. They took her to the garden. She did their grocery shopping, she often ditched us to have lunch and dinner with them. Having grown up very close to my grandmother, I can say firsthand that there is something magical about spending time with your grandparents when you’re a kid. It’s time none of us will ever get back.

Ainsley loves animals and was thrilled to spend time with Piper, my parents’ dog. Neither my mom nor Nick are very mobile these days, so Ainsley took Piper for long walks, comforted her when it stormed and played with her every day. Ainsley got to have the dog she’d always wanted.

A few weeks after we moved, my good friend Ken needed help at a horse show he runs. Princeton and Ken are two of my favorites, and any time spent at a horse show is good for my soul. So I called Ken and got hired. Ainsley had a summer job and there is no way I would have been able to split for two weeks if we hadn’t been living with my parents. They dropped her off at work, picked her up and took her to the barn. They were lifesavers. There is mad truth to that whole “it takes a village” thing.

At the show, I befriended two stewards, and realized being a steward would be a great way for me to stay involved in horse shows and be with my peeps. To fulfill a prerequisite, I would need to show at a USEF show. This led me back to more favorites—Peter Leone and Lionshare Farm.

For more than two glorious months, I spent four days a week at Lionshare training with Peter and his team. Peter’s Farm is in Bedford, New York, but it could be on Mars and I would have figured out a way to get there. However, being that much closer coming from Madison and knowing Ainsley would be with my parents when I was gone made the whole experience even groovier.

As if this summer weren’t perfect enough, I was offered a cabin in Woodland, my childhood paradise. For two months I split every weekend to ride and then went to Woodland. There is no way I would have been able to do this if I didn’t have my parents to pick up my slack.

Summer was almost over, and still no house. But I was happy. Dinner with my parents, riding my bike to the beach, and my kids spending time with their grandparents made for a perfect summer. Our time in Madison felt less like house purgatory and more like home.

One day while showing us another bust of a house, Lisa mentioned she’d had offers on hers but hadn’t found the right buyers. Her husband, Steve, had built it and they wanted the next owners to love it as much as they did.

That night Kurt and I went out to celebrate our 23rd anniversary and he said we should make an offer. The next morning I called Lisa. She said from the second she and Steve decided to move, she’d wanted us to have the house. Then she left me speechless when she accepted our offer.

There’s no smooth segue here, so I’ll just spit it out. Remember how happy Ainsley was taking care of Piper? Despite me not being a dog person, my kids needed a dog. I’d investigated adopting a rescue dog earlier in the year and it would have been easier to buy a kidney on the black market. So, I didn’t have high hopes when I applied this time. But, hours later, I found myself agreeing to pick up our puppy on October 21st, moving day.

I won’t lie. I cried three times that day. First when I said goodbye to my parents, even though I’d see them a few days later. Second when fourteen pounds of love in a puppy suit trotted off a truck and leaped into my arms. And third when I walked into our new house with my family and knew I was home.

A few days later a friend asked if I was frustrated that it took five months to end up in the house I’d always wanted. I heard Lisa telling me that everything happens for a reason and she’d always hoped I’d get her beloved home. I almost said that this was how it was supposed to be, which is pretty much the same as everything happens for a reason. But I just can’t quite wrap my head around that kind of faith.

I will admit this. If we had bought Lisa’s house in May, we wouldn’t have spent five amazing  months with my parents. Ainsley wouldn’t have gotten all that time with her grandparents. She wouldn’t have bonded with their dog. I wouldn’t have realized we needed a dog and we wouldn’t now have the best puppy ever. I also wouldn’t have been able to work at Princeton, meaning I wouldn’t be training to become a steward now. I wouldn’t have spent the summer riding with Peter. And there would have been no weekends in Woodland.

I’ll never really know if fate led us to Chester or if it was just happenstance. But I do know this is where we belong.


I have a reputation. No, not like that. I’m old and porky and married to the greatest guy in the world. I have a reputation of being fearless on a horse. That I’ll get on anything and go in the ring and get the job done. No matter how long it’s been. Well, that is and isn’t true.

In my 22 years riding with Peter Leone and Lionshare Farm, life has gotten in the way and there have been stops and starts. Kids, jobs, and the pesky responsibilities of being a grownup have led me away from doing one of the things I love the most at one of the places I love the most.

Many times Peter and I have connected after me being away from the sport and he’s offered me lovely lovely horses to ride and show. Sometimes partnerships have lasted years, sometimes just a week or two. Each time I’ve competed at some of the best shows in North America—Old Salem, Princeton, Bromont and Gold Cup. These shows are no joke.

And not once has it ever occurred to me that I couldn’t do it. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: for an old, porky woman, you’re awfully full of yourself. I’m really not. Believe me, the horses, Peter and his team get all the credit. And even more so, it’s the system. Peter’s system. Yes, we do our homework at the farm. Lessons are mostly flatwork and raised cavalettis. We work on the basics. I’ve never once walked in the show ring feeling unprepared.

But it’s Peter’s system that allows me to get on after too much time away and be somewhat competitive. When I tell you Peter has a plan for literally every step I’m in the ring, I’m not exaggerating. Our detailed strategy starts with the entrance. I know what you unhorse (read: normal) people are thinking: How hard can it be? You go in the only entrance and jump the fences that are conveniently numbered and flagged. It’s not rocket science.

Oh, but it is.

Peter goes over every stride my horse will take and how I should ride it. Sit down going away from the gate. Stay tall and balanced to planks on flat cups. Two legs and two hands. More leg than hand. Always. Make time everywhere I can. For a fairly fast jump-off rider, I am slow like DMV lines in the first round. Pass up the big distance to an impossible inside turn. Closer is better than gappy to a combination.

The instruction goes on. Everything from letting the horse’s front feet land before we start an inside turn to gliding through the corners to save time (again with the time faults) and being aware of spooky shadows and funky boxes that draw the horse’s eye down.

I don’t think Peter has any idea how much I depend on these exchanges. I would never survive one of those equitation championships where trainers aren’t allowed to walk the course with their riders. Peter patiently and repeatedly tells me exactly what I should be doing every moment I’m in the ring. Between preloading, the 45-second clock and a roughly 80-second time allowed, we’re in the ring about two and a half minutes. That’s Peter telling me what to do for 325 strides.

Walking the course with Peter is like taking an open-book test. As long as I have a solid foundation, it’s impossible not to do well if I actually follow directions. If I can get my poop together long enough to trick myself into forgetting I’m an old, out-of-shape amateur, and I remember to do everything Peter tells me, the horses magically do their jobs like the perfect animals they are. All they need is for me to stay out of their way and ride like Peter has taught me.

It’s a long story, but after six years out of the saddle, I once again recently found myself reunited with my Lionshare family. My grand finale was at Princeton last week. I couldn’t pick a favorite part because every single minute was glorious. From taking Ravel out for grass to setting jumps (badly, I might add) for Peter to showing to chatting with new friends and having dinner with old ones, every minute was perfect. I was home.

While every second of being there was my favorite part, walking the course and absorbing (or trying to) Peter’s exact and specific plan is what allows me to go years without riding, get back on (a super lovely, perfect schoolmaster like Ravel or a wild, kinda feral sportscar like Vancouver) and go in the ring with all the confidence in the world.

I wish I were as gutsy and as good as people think I am. I’m not. If I remember to do what Peter tells me, the horses are stars. If I don’t, the horses are stars who do their best to cover my mistakes. Either way, it’s an amazing feeling to stand at the ingate knowing I can do this.

The only thing I didn’t love about being at Princeton was leaving. I get to enjoy Ravel and Peter’s company for a few more days. After that, I don’t know when I’ll be back. But I do know two things.

First—if it’s a month, a year or ten years, Peter, his team and his program will give me just as much confidence as they always have. After all these years together, I know that if I can just follow the plan, success is waiting for me in the ring.

Second—I’ve always said that if I ever get another horse, I will name him Supertramp, a nod to the great seventies band. After I hugged Peter goodbye and kissed Ravel on his cute little nose, I got in my car, wiped away tears, turned on the radio and a Supertramp song was playing.

Somehow I know this isn’t the end of my Lionshare story.


So I’m not a big believer in fate and I definitely don’t buy the whole everything-happens-for-a-reason thing. But, a recent experience has me wondering. Let me share it with you. My BFF, Sasha, needed a ride somewhere. (Wait a minute—wasn’t she the inspiration for my last blog too?) Knowing I would be waiting for her while she was busy, I put my computer and Chapstick (two things I never leave home without) in my backpack and headed to the garage. Passing the pantry, I spied a Diet Polar soda (I know, I know) and grabbed one. I gently added that to my bag and off I went.

Like everyone else in the world, I have Google Maps. I often use the app even when I know where I’m going because I like to play a little game with myself. I look at the ETA and then see how far off my actual time is. (Google Maps is a smart lady- she always gets it right). So I plugged in our destination, picked up Sasha and off we went.

When we got to the center of Chester, I continued to follow directions (something I bet my mom wishes I would have done when I was little) instead of going the way we normally would. Google Maps has never failed me before or taken me on a longer route, but this time it did. Like way out of the way. I would have turned around, but I saw that even with the strange detour we were still going to be one minute early. And any time I get to chill with Sash is a good time. So we meandered along.

I know what you’re thinking. Get to the point. Okay, I will. So instead of coming through Deep River and picking up 153 in Centerbrook, the map app took us all the way to Route 9 and spit us out on exit 3 near the Sunoco Station. (Apparently I’m not getting to the point.) We got to the end of the exit ramp and we were again wondering why the silly map took us miles out of the way. But as we were at the stop sign waiting to cross Main Street, a car was coming from our left with his right blinker on. He got to where we were and was waving us to go. I didn’t because I was so confused. He waved. I stared. He waved some more. I stared some more. His expression went from pleasant to aggravated to surprised. And that’s when he turned off his blinker, waved like mad (smiling again) and continued on straight.

Have you figured it out yet? He was trying to turn right onto the exit ramp. Let me repeat. THE EXIT RAMP. If we hadn’t been there at that exact moment, he would have gone up the exit ramp and gotten on Route 9 south GOING THE WRONG WAY. It took me a few minutes to process what had happened. As Owen Meany would say, it gave me the shivers.

But wait—there’s more. This second part is far less dramatic and not life-changing at all. But it was another weird oddity. After we got to our destination (still with a  minute to spare), I dropped Sash off and went to park. I reached in the backseat, grabbed my backpack and put it on my lap. Immediately I was soaking wet. This bummed me out for several reasons. My computer was in there and I had a mini freak out that whatever had spilled killed it. It didn’t, thank goodness. But, I was wet and when I moved my bag, I noticed whatever had spilled was the color of rust. Which brings me to my next point. I work from home. It’s Covid. I don’t go anywhere. I’m missing the gene that makes me care what other people think. I live my life in yoga pants and fuzzies. Brushing my hair is optional. Makeup is unheard of. But, since I was leaving the house, I took a shower, dried (and yes brushed) my hair, put on jeans (one step up from yoga pants) and a favorite, but seldom worn sweater. I looked pretty cute. And then I had icky rust juice liquid mystery slop all over my pants and sweater.

After making sure my computer was still alive, I reached in my bag to figure out had what spilled. It was the soda. But the weird thing was the way that the can split. It looked like someone had taken a knife to it. There’s nothing sharp in my bag. The soda was not frozen. It was a conundrum. I dried myself off with a towel (there are advantages to have teenagers who never, ever take anything out of the car that they put in it), didn’t think anything of it and went about my merry way writing book five.

Fast forward to tonight when I told Kurtie the story complete with the detail about the rust slop and showed him the can. He’s the smartest person I know and explained what had happened. The soda had gone bad. There must have been bacteria in the can and when I tossed my backpack in the back seat, it landed just right and the can exploded. Kind of like when you see old meat at the grocery store (or in my case in the back of the fridge) and the plastic wrap gets super big and puffy. Same theory. The stranger part is that I bought the soda in the last month and it was the last of twelve cans. All the others were fine. Kurtie said that one can must have just been bad.

Being saved from drinking ick soda has nothing on preventing a wrong-way driver, but it was odd that those two events happened within minutes of each other.

Now to get to my real point. We’re all in a hurry. We all like the things that we like. Normally I would have been annoyed that my flipping GPS took me miles out of the way. And those sodas are my guilty pleasure. The silver lining of both those things happening was immediate and very apparent. But maybe there are all kinds of unseen and unknown things that we are saved from or we save others from when silly annoyances like the two I just wrote about happen. We just never know about them because their consequences aren’t as obvious.

Am I looking on the bright side or is there a greater force out there?


I have my BFF, Sasha, to thank for this blog. She always says, “When they go low, we go high.” Today I put that mantra to use and I gotta say, it felt pretty good. Let me tell you what happened.

Kurtie and I are at Coop’s lacrosse tournament. The poor kid is playing with a bruised and battered foot—compliments of last weekend’s tournament. But, he had an assist and his team won a hard-fought battle 7-6 in the first game. There’s a nice breeze and a good cloud cover. So we were off to a great start.

With a two-hour break before the next game, Kurt and I went to get some water and as we were walking back to the fields, we noticed all the handicapped parking spaces were filled, including one with an SUV with a bike rack on the back. I did a stealth walk around and noticed no handicapped license plate or placard. Normally I would just wish bad karma upon the space hog and move on. But, my parents are coming to watch Coop play and my mother does have a legitimate and much needed handicapped parking placard. And there are no spaces to be had. Not a one. Not even regular spaces.

So Kurt, being the nicest person on Earth, politely asked the woman to please move her car as we have handicapped guests coming. What did she say, you ask? Her exact words were, “Fuck off.”

Stunned, Kurt stared at her. She said something I couldn’t hear to which Kurt replied, “I’m very sorry to hear that.”

I came around the corner and asked her if she had a placard and she told me to fuck off. A word smith, she is not. She at least could have thought of something a bit more creative such as, “Eat me, hose wench.” But no. I got the generic “fuck off.”

An image of Sash flashed through my mind and I inhaled and paused. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a shoot first and ask questions later kind of girl. I don’t know what came over me. So many comebacks came to me. But still, I just stared. She snarled at Kurt, waved me off and said, “Be gone.”

“Be gone?” I asked. Was she vanquishing me like the witches on that old TV show Charmed?

“Peon!” she screamed at me. I couldn’t help myself and I laughed. Apparently that was not the reaction she was looking for because she screamed again at me to fuck off. Really lady, come up with something a bit more original.

Kurt and I started to walk away and she yelled out her window, “Nice ass!” Now, Kurtie does have an adorable little tush, but I’m pretty sure she was mocking me. Still channeling Sasha, I turned around and called, “Thank you!” Then I shook it for effect and flashed her my best smile.

Apparently she wasn’t enjoying this kill her with kindness approach and she growled, “Does it talk?”

Props to her for trying to continue the insult. But what? Really? Is that the best you got?

I laughed again and called in my most pleasant voice, “Sticks and stones, lady. Sticks and stones.” Kurt and I lazily walked away and although I can’t be sure, I think I heard her slam her hands on her steering wheel.

All this anger because we asked her to be considerate of someone who needed the space she was illegally parked in.

I get that the world is wonky and life as we knew it has gone sideways, but really? That seems like a lot of rage for a legitimate and fairly benign request. I have to tell you though, it felt pretty good to not sink to her level. I grew up with the mighty Dick Moroso and I know every swear word ever invented and a few that he made up. They’re good ones, by the way. But, nope. I was not even snotty with my responses. It was so not me, but I liked it.

Kurt and I wandered away with her still yelling and flipping us off and I asked him why he told her he was sorry for her. He told me that she said she’d just been diagnosed with cancer. I guess her extreme overreaction makes more sense. And it does make me feel even better about myself that I didn’t call her any of the not so nice names I briefly considered. As we got to the top of the hill I actually felt sorry for her. How unhappy she must be to rage at people the way she did. The world is sideways. And hers just got turned upside down, too.

So thank you Sash for inspiring me to not say something I might have regretted (but probably not). I stopped at the top of the hill and glanced back at her. I suppose she got the last laugh because she was still giving me the finger. But I gotta tell you, the view from the high road is pretty nice.



My son, Cooper, has a new horse named Chuku. He’s an off-the-track chestnut thoroughbred. For all you non-horse people, think red headed stepchild with ADD, ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Some racehorses are taught to be aggressive. After all, when there are fifteen horses on a track, the sweet, passive ones aren’t going to push their way to the front. If aggression is any indicator, I’d bet good money that Chuku was the second coming of Secretariat.

I love this horse so hard.

A magnesium supplement can work wonders for tense and grumpy horses. I was willing to give it a try. But, I wanted to understand why it might help. So I asked my freaky smart husband. He explained that the mechanism in the mineral affects cortisol and blood vessels and muscle relaxation or some such slop. But, I was like the dog from The Far Side cartoons and all I heard was “Blah blah blah makes him quiet. Blah blah blah he might not try to eat you anymore.”

So I bought a supplement and the checklist on the front of the bag caught my eye. It went something like this:

Your horse may be magnesium deficient if he:

  • Doesn’t like to be touched
  • Is cranky, antisocial or unhappy
  • Never relaxes
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Is consistently inconsistent
  • Has unprovoked bouts of moodiness

Um, hello? Mr. or Mrs. Supplement Maker? Exactly how much of this product would you recommend for a human? I think Cooper’s horse and I are soulmates.

Since reading that checklist, I have begun to see the world through Chuku’s eyes. When he was a baby, he was whipped if he didn’t run fast enough. My gait is best described as a leisurely dawdle. If I have to pee or am really cold, I might step it up to a saunter. Kurt literally walks circles around me because he cannot make his body move that slowly.

Kurt tells me that I don’t have to talk because my facial expressions give me away. Well, Chuku is my spirit animal because he also makes his feelings known without having to speak a word. The other day, I put him on crossties and went to get him a carrot. When I came back, a woman was standing in front of him holding one crosstie. I would have thought his ears being pinned flat back and him chomping at her would have clued her in that he was unhappy. Short of him breaking into The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, he couldn’t have been any clearer. But no. She stood there yanking on the crosstie every time he did his darndest to ask her to move.

Feeling his pain of having his personal space invaded, I felt the need to intervene.

ME: Excuse me, but that horse will bite you.

HER: I know. That’s why I’m holding the rope (she couldn’t even use the correct terminology).

ME: But he doesn’t like that.

HER: I know. That’s why I’m holding the rope thingie. So he can’t get to me.

ME: (Mentally telepaths to Chuku to bite her.) But, you’re in his space and he doesn’t want you there.

HER: Oh. Should I move?

My friend Carey is a tremendously talented horseperson and extremely empathetic to the animals. She told me many years ago that to be a successful rider, you must think like a horse. It’s sage advice, but also common sense. If the horse doesn’t want you in his space, don’t be in his space.

I oh so badly wish I had the ability to pin my ears back. I also long for it to be socially acceptable to bite people if they stand too close to me or come in my room uninvited.

I think this horse is on to something.

It’s a fact that alpha animals interpret other animals looking them in the eye as a challenge. So guess what, I don’t look Chuku in the eye and when I go in his stall, I step in and stop. I stay still and trust that he’s not going to mow me down. So far so good. I always give him a treat when I enter his space. It’s the least I can do for letting myself in his room without knocking. Do you have any idea how much happier I would be if people brought me treats before they stood too close to me or touched me?

It bears repeating. Chuku and I are soulmates.

I respect the grumpy. I understand the cranky. I get the need for space. The magnesium has helped. As has my acceptance of his quirks. He no longer tries to give me a nose job with his teeth. He hasn’t offered free dental work with his hoof for a while. I let him come to me. I am convinced I can win his love with homemade applesauce, Milano cookies made from scratch and an endless supply of carrots.

If only that worked for people, too.


They say you can’t pick your family. In my case, I kind of did and I chose the best one. I just didn’t know it at the time. When I met Kurt twenty years ago, I had no idea that his family would become such an important part of my life. We’d only been together a couple of months when we met his parents for dinner in Miami. Knowing Kurt was the one, I wanted to make a good impression. I wore a cute dress. I brushed my hair. I talked about sailboats and other things I knew nothing about. Lou and Marie made me feel so comfortable that I forgot to be nervous and had an amazing dinner with them.

With a giant glob of something green plastered to my front teeth the whole time.

The next morning Kurt told me his dad noticed it right away but didn’t say anything because he knew how hard I was trying to make them like me and he didn’t want to embarrass me. That’s the kind of guy Lou was- making sure everyone around him felt like family.

In my second book, I mentioned Lou and Marie in the acknowledgements. I thanked them for loving me like I was one of their own and always making me feel like a rock star. I have never spoken truer words. Writing is fun and it’s definitely my dream job. But, it’s not curing cancer or ending hunger. Lou made me feel like what I do is just as important. When we’d see Kurt’s parents a couple times a year at Christmas and in the Outer Banks for family vacation, Lou would ask about my writing with such sincerity, I honestly felt like he really, truly believed in me.

Families and maintaining relationships among them is often difficult and rarely easy. There were several years where I was disconnected from parts of the family I grew up with. It was a desperately lonely time and one that I’m not sure I would have survived without Kurt’s family sucking me into their fold and doing their best to make me feel like my spot at the dinner table had always been there- just waiting for me. That’s a love that is hard to come by, no matter who you’re dealing with.

Lou had many health scares in the last several years. And each time he seemed to make a miraculous recovery. Despite the fact that he was in his seventies and hadn’t always been kind to his body, I started to secretly believe that he’d live forever. He had to. He was the glue that held us together. Time with Kurt’s family has always been my favorite two weeks of the year- we do nothing but talk, swim, eat, read, enjoy each other’s company and play Scrabble. No matter if we were at Lou and Marie’s house in Florida or on the beach in North Carolina, year after year, I marveled at the same phenomenon. We all gravitated to Lou. The kids wanted Grampy to read them a story or play a round of Trouble with them. And I was fascinated by his knowledge of… everything. There was never a lull in the conversation and we’d talk about everything from primitive villages in the Outback to his painting techniques to which movies were worth staying awake for.

Now Lou is gone. And I still feel like he is going to live forever. I guess you could call it denial. His death was sudden and certainly unexpected. But, I do think he’ll live forever. In how selfless his daughter Susie is. And in how Kurt is the one person in the room who makes everyone feel like they belong. And in his grandchildren who have his sideways sense of humor.

To say it was a privilege to be a part of Lou Strecker’s life and family for twenty years is a gross understatement. I feel beyond blessed to have been loved by him and, like I said, treated as one of his own for almost half my life.

May you rest peacefully, Lou. I love you always.

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I like to tell on myself. It clears my conscience and I don’t have to sneak around trying to cover up whatever sin I may have committed. Now that NOWHERE GIRL is out in the big, wide world of bookstores, I am crazy busy with events, readings, TV appearances and newspaper interviews. Lord knows those are perfect places to rack up saying and doing stupid things.

Here they go…

My first event was to be on a TV show called CONNECTICUT STYLE. Oh- the irony. For someone whose office is her couch and work clothes consist of feetie pajamas, I was the odd man out. This was my second time on the show, so it was going considerably better than the first. Right up until the host asked me a question I didn’t have a good answer for. I explained myself the best I could, but apparently she wanted more. I didn’t have anything brilliant to say about how I wrote about twins even though I am not one (I don’t even have a sister). I started to sweat (literally, and I’m a smelly sweat-er), and blurted out something I really hadn’t planned on telling the world. Good news- it stunned poor Jocelyn into silence. Bad news, it was an awkward silence.

After the segment was over, I asked someone to take my picture with the still-mortified Jocelyn. Unaware that the studio was almost silent and people were talking in whispers, I very loudly said, “WOULD YOU PLEASE TAKE OUR PICTURE?” only to hear someone yell, “Cut!” and then have fifteen grumpy people glare at me. Oops- they were on air.

After slinking out of WTNH’s station, I got myself together to do my first bookstore appearance in Madison, the town I grew up in. My dear friend, Paulette, offered to provide drinks and desserts for the event. She laid out a beautiful set up of fruit, chocolate, eclairs & waters. She constructed gift bags with her realty company’s (WILLIAM PITT/SOTHEYBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY) logo on them. You see, Paulette is the best realtor around and also a lovely person. In defense of me and my stupidity, speaking at RJ Julia is a little like playing Woodstock. It doesn’t get any better. I was so star struck that I was weepy when I got behind the podium. Everything I wanted to say, including thanking Paulette for providing the goodies flew right out of my mind. But, don’t worry, I thanked her profusely at the launch party… about twenty minutes after she had left.

Next came an interview for THE DAY NEWSPAPER with the very funny and talented Rick Koster. Rick and I spent some time together on the phone when my last book was released, and he made me feel like I was talking to an old friend. My kids are pretty awesome and I’m very comfortable with Rick, so I didn’t think twice about multi-tasking and speaking with him while I was driving the little people to the barn. Settle down- it was hands-free blue tooth. My kids now know who offed poor Savannah in NOWHERE GIRL as they were sitting in the backseat getting an earful. We pulled into the barn and I told the kids to go in and I’d come in when I got off the phone. Rick and I were having a lovely conversation about books and music, lots and lots of music, when Ainsley came running out yelling that Cooper smashed his face and was crying. I asked Rick to hang on a second, ran inside, and with him still on the line, discovered that Cooper, who never cries when he’s hurt, was sobbing and had broken his tooth. Uh Rick? I gotta go. Click. An emergency phone call to the dentist, photographic proof of the accident and forty-five minutes later, I did call Rick back. Despite our fragmented conversations and several emails that had everything to do with music and very little to do with the book, Rick still managed to write a fabulous article. I don’t know where he got his information- I was of very little help to him.

Okay, moving on. What was my next flub? Oh yes- the launch party. Taking place at a hip and funky art gallery and with nearly two-hundred people coming out to celebrate, it was a smashing success. We sold a ton of books, stayed at the gallery an hour longer than we were supposed to (and magically did not overstay our welcome), and then walked down the street to the fabled Gris and closed the bar. They actually herded us out the door with mops in hand. And before that, I stood in front of all the revelers and made an impromptu speech about how fortunate I am to do what I love and then I thanked everyone for coming (some from as far away as Florida). I made sure to thank the lovely and talented Suzanne Kingsbury for being the world’s best editor. I forgot to thank her at the last launch party. So, I made sure I got it in this time… after she left. I think she might have gone splitsville with Paulette. So, I thanked two people who weren’t there any longer, but I forgot my parents, Kurt’s parents, Sue the bookseller and my amazing friend Cathy whose company donated an entire living room set among many other pieces of furniture so people would have a place to take a load off. CRAP! I have a whole new respect for those NASCAR drivers. They never miss a beat every weekend when they say how well the “KFC, Coca-Cola, Tide Detergent, Black and Decker, Tampax, Skittles, Summer’s Eve, Preparation H number 99 car” did. I need to take notes.

This morning I was at FOX 61’s TV station waiting to go on air with the beautiful Erika Arias of GOOD DAY CONNECTICUT. This was my second go around with her and she’s so lovely that I wasn’t nervous at all. I met a dog named Cutie Patootie, learned a little something about the Irish sport of hurling and read the extremely flattering article Rick Koster had written. I emailed him to say thank you and told him what I was doing, adding that I hoped I wouldn’t be an oaf this time. He graciously responded saying I’d be great and gave me simple yet powerful advice. “Don’t be an oaf.”

I never was good at following directions.

The interview actually went well. I didn’t stumble with my answers and I mentioned Keanu Reeves- any day I get to talk about him is a good one. My friend, Sarah, who is a Fox journalist watched the interview and immediately texted when it was over saying I was funny and relaxed. All was good. A super nice crew member unhooked my mic and said that he respects what I do. I humbly said my job is easy compared to his. I could never keep it together long enough to work under the pressure of being on live TV every day. Everything was great. I was having a good hair day, my outfit was cute, I didn’t barf on anyone. And then…

And then I turned to say goodbye to Erika and there she was, exactly in the spot she’d interviewed me- beautiful, long dark hair, skinny and wearing a black dress. As the words, “Thank you so much for having me, Erika” were coming out of my mouth, my brain was screaming at me to stop. Abort! Abort! Something’s not right! But, I couldn’t stop myself. Would you believe me if I told you there were two beautiful, skinny women with long dark hair in black dresses in the studio? And I thanked the wrong one.

I was so close to taking Rick’s advice. But I just had to be an oaf.

Tomorrow is a new day. I’ll be at Mohegan Sun Casino with one of my favorite bookstores ever, Bank Square Books and the wonderful Otis Library to do a luncheon, reading and discussion. I really like Annie, Kate and Elissa, the women who run these events and I don’t want to screw up in front of them. But given my track record… I wonder what kind of oafery I will commit. Who knows- maybe this will turn into a weekly installment of all the stupid things I say and do.

On the bright side, it’ll give me something to blog about. I’ve been quiet far too long.

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My grandmother was known as Grammie. Didn’t matter if you were related to her or not, almost everyone called her Grammie. And the few people who didn’t, thought of her as Aunt Ruth. Because that’s who she was. She was the matriarch of the Boyd family, the high priestess of the Woodland/Roxmor clan and everyone’s grandmother.

Grammie celebrated her 100th birthday last summer, surrounded by all of her kids, most of her grandchildren and almost all of her great grandchildren. People flew in from Seattle and Germany and even Papua New Guinea. Surrounded by more than fifty family members, we celebrated a life that spanned a century, crossed a millennium and went from a time of horse-drawn carriages and staticky radios to facetiming with her family in Europe.

We took turns at that party sharing what having Grammie in our lives meant to us. I only had a few moments to think about it before a video camera appeared in my face and I had to speak. Having Grammie in my life meant growing up with someone I could talk to when I didn’t feel like I had anyone else. My friend Kristin and I were among the youngest of the group of kids at our vacation cabins in upstate New York, a place I still affectionately call Woodland. We were probably ten or eleven years old and some of the teenagers were talking about leaving the council that night to go to the inn and make out. We had no idea what they were talking about, so we promptly went home to a house named Boulder Camp and asked Grammie to please explain what making out meant. Without a trace of hesitation or embarrassment, she told us the best she could. I understood what she was saying, I just had no idea why anyone would want to do that. There were many other times I turned to Grammie when I had questions I didn’t think could be answered. Why didn’t my parents live together anymore? Why were friendships so complicated? What in the world was wrong with boys? Grammie never turned me away and she always held my hand and looked me in the eye, even when she had to say the hard stuff.

Grammie and Pa founded a colony of old, charming cabins in Shandaken, New York. No, you don’t know where that is. One of my favorite books growing up was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I was so fascinated by that story, by the way those children slipped through the closet into a magical world. That was Woodland for me. When I was little, we’d pack up the wood-paneled station wagon and head to Woodland for the entire summer. This was well before cell phones and cable, but it wouldn’t have mattered. We were so far removed from civilization that TVs didn’t get a signal, pipes froze in the winter time and there were no electronic gadgets of any kind. There were seven or eight other families who spent most of their summer vacation in Woodland, as well as many of my cousins. Our days were spent making leather belts, stamping intricate and unique designs into each one, swimming in an always freezing stream, digging up clay from the banks of the stream, swinging on a knotted rope and my favorite, rolling down the hill at the Inn. Our nights were filled with playing flashlight tag, catching lightning bugs and participating in the council where we’d have talkfests, one-legged chicken fights and sing slightly disturbing songs about mothers-in-law getting shut in folding beds. Years later I’d sing those same songs to my children when they were babies and I was trying to get them to sleep. We also spent hours square dancing, sitting on the porch at the inn, telling ghost stories and eventually drinking beer and making out with boys. Don’t tell my mom.

We even went to Woodland during the winter to go skiing. There were two mountains nearby and I learned to ski as soon as I could walk. I still remember my favorite trail was called Long John. Being about a hundred years old, the cabins were not winterized and, as I said, the pipes would freeze in the winter making showering impossible. We’d get metal buckets full of snow and put them on the wood-burning stove to melt. Then we’d use that water to flush the toilets. All this was done after we’d park our cars at the bottom of a steep and long hill and carry our suitcases, sleds and food up to the house. It was exhausting and we were always cold, but we begged our parents to take us up every weekend.

Woodland was my very own Narnia. A magical place where I spent almost all of my free time doing things that are unheard of today. I still contend that square dancing is one of the most fun things you can do with your clothes on, and strangely, no one I know outside of Woodland knows how to do it. I can tie sheepshank, clove hitch, bowline, figure eight, granny and square knots. I can tie knots I’ve never heard of and have no idea what they do. My best memories of childhood are of Woodland. And all of them happened because of Grammie.

Grammie had five children, ten grandchildren, sixteen great grandchildren and countless others who thought of her as their surrogate mother or grandmother. She was one of those people who everyone knew and loved. Sometimes I would watch her interact with people I didn’t know and I’d wonder what it felt like to be loved the way she was.

Grammie was more than a hundred years old when she started to decline. The week before she left us, I called Kurt crying at the imminent thought of losing her. I said to him that it was hard to imagine a world without Grammie. He responded that it’d been a long time since there was a world without Grammie. I thought about that statement. How the world, the universe had been graced with a century of Grammie. Generations of families grew up being served Grammie’s lemonade and baked beans at the annual 4th of July parade. Countless kids led more charmed lives for having been loved by her.

Minutes after Grammie left us, I heard my aunt Ruth on the phone with her brother, Jim. She was telling him that long ago Grammie told her that all she wanted was for her children to be happy and love each other. Simple but powerful words.

I have made mistakes and spent years missing some of the people I love the most. Grammie’s 100th birthday party was the first time I’d seen them in far too long. Although we were supposed to be giving Grammie presents that day, she gave me the opportunity for the greatest gift of all- forgiveness. I was welcomed back. I don’t know that that ever would have happened if Grammie’s party hadn’t brought me back together with them.

That was Grammie. The sun of our universe. Making our lives better and brighter. She illuminated our world. For the one hundred years that she was with us and for all the time to come. Grammie was and always will be our sun. We love you now and forever.