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The other night I had dinner with one of my oldest friends. This is a man I’ve known since I was sixteen. Needless to say, he’s been around for some pretty big events in my life- college graduation, marriage, babies, and a few career changes.

I haven’t seen him in more than a year, so I was excited to share with him yet another milestone, the news of the release of my debut novel, NIGHT BLINDNESS. This is kinda how it went:

Me: My debut novel was published a few weeks ago. I still can’t believe this is real.

Him: What makes you think you’re a writer?

Me: Uh, I signed a deal with one of the biggest and best publishing houses in the country?

Him: Well, I’ve never seen you write anything.

Me: You’ve also never seen me poop. Doesn’t mean I don’t do it.

Him: (scoffs) I guess since you don’t have a job now, this will be a good hobby.

Me: (gulps the rest of my drink) Excuse me, Mary? May we please get another bottle of wine over here? And a straw?

Don’t get me wrong, this man is a good soul. He’s exactly the friend I would call if I ran out of gas at three in the morning. Or landed in the pokey for assaulting someone who insulted my children. Or my career. That is one of the reasons I was baffled that he was so dismissive of something for which I’ve worked so hard. It was my good upbringing that prevented me from telling him how much my advance was. Or how rare it is for a debut novelist to get signed for two books. Or that my novel went to auction and five houses bid on it. Or that about one in a hundred thousand people who submit manuscripts to agents end up getting published.

What, I ask you, would have been the right thing to do here? My first instinct was to tell him to shut the F up. But, I was pretty sure he was going to pay for dinner, and I do love a free meal. My second thought was to defend myself, my writing and my career (if this is a hobby, I need to stop working so hard). But, I was afraid that would validate his perception that writing isn’t a serious sport. So, I kept my yap shut and took his unwarranted and completely surprising abuse.

In twenty-seven years of friendship, this guy and I have never exchanged cross words. True- we only get together about once a year. We have horses in common. So, our dinners usually revolve around chatting about which shows I’ve been to, how our mutual friends are doing and me showing him endless pictures of my kids (in case he missed them all on Facebook). He is sweet, funny, and genuine. It’s never been in his character to be mean.

So what should I have done with him? In a very un-me move, I decided to let it slide. Don’t worry, I’m not going rogue and dipping my toe in the nice pool. Yes, my friend said cruel things to me, but he said them in such a lovely tone, while pouring an overpriced bottle of Italian cabernet, it made me think that he had no idea just what a penis face he was being.

While keeping quiet was the magnanimous thing to do, I’m not sure it was the right thing. It’s been almost a week since our dinner, and I’m bothered enough to write about it. Clearly my feelings are still hurt. I can’t say for certain that if I ran into said friend on the street, I would be pleasant. At this moment, I’m totally okay with not seeing him again for another year. So perhaps if not the right thing, maybe the healthy choice would have to been to tell him how I felt. I learned in graduate school that no one can make me feel a certain way, in fact, I choose to feel or react the way I do. In the spirit of making my advisors proud, I will own feeling insulted. I will also own feeling like a fool for not telling my friend to F off while I had the chance

Like I said, we are close enough that I will get over this and he will be none the wiser. But, I will continue to wonder if it would have been a better choice to get my ya-yas out while I was trying to figure out how to turn the bottle of wine and my straw into an IV. No doubt seeing the look on his face after politely asking him to shut the F up would have been worth any uncomfortable moments that may have followed. My friend is a good enough sport and a nice enough guy that he probably would have been shocked, then laughed and finally apologized.

Most of you probably think that I did the right thing by showing rare restraint. However, after much mulling over of the subject, I’ve come to believe that I was wrong by not telling my dinner companion exactly how I felt. True- I could have worded it in a softer way than what I was thinking, but that’s not really my style.

However, while taking a break from writing this to check email, I discovered that NIGHT BLINDNESS has been selected by the Indie Booksellers to be an IndieNext pick. This means even more exposure for the product of my so-called hobby. Perhaps I’ll have to mail my friend some of the fliers so he can see where my frivolous use of time has gotten me. And if that doesn’t impress him, perhaps the next time he’s rude, I will tell him to shut the F up.



I told a roomful of mandated reporters at my kids’ school that I was going to punch the mother of a bully in the face. Assuming I was joking, they laughed nervously and didn’t call the police. I wasn’t kidding. Bullying is a problem, even in lovely and quaint towns like mine.

My daughter, Ainsley, is extremely naïve and overly trusting. For her, it’s a blurry line between fitting in and being led astray. Fortunately, her big brother, Cooper, represents all that is good and decent in the world. He loves his little sister and looks out for her.

Last winter, an older girl took Ainsley’s brand new hat and wore it off the bus. Ainsley, who cannot fathom that another person could have cruel intentions, didn’t say anything to the girl (we’ll call her Madison). However, Cooper witnessed the incident and told me as soon as they got home. Furious, I drove to the girl’s house while I called her mom.

Madison’s mother told me there was no way her daughter would do that and that Ainsley must have forgotten the hat at school. I informed her that I was sitting outside her house looking at said hat on her lawn. (I left it there to prove my case. I was ready to call CSI and dust it for prints.)

While she was still making excuses for her kid, I spied her peeking out the kitchen window. The hat was in plain sight, and suddenly she changed her tune. She went from raising her voice and blaming Ainsley to finding some humility. Hmm, let’s see if I have this straight. The kid lied about taking the hat and her mother was beyond indignant right up until she got busted. By then, I could hear the little brat crying, not because she was sorry. But because she was sorry she got caught. Can you say Tiger Woods?

Months later, a different girl told Ainsley to pull another child’s hair. While Ainsley should have known better than to do that, the older girl eventually admitted she chose Ainsley because she thought she could manipulate her into doing something wrong. In some ways, Ainsley isn’t like her classmates. It doesn’t occur to her that certain kids are mean.

Now, this case is a little different because I have a history (and not a happy one) with this kid’s mother. So, I didn’t think twice about calling her and reporting what her kid had done. She was less defensive than the first mother, which at first surprised me, but then I realized that she knows her daughter is a mean girl.

My best friend’s daughter is as much a part of my family as my own kids. So, when she got bullied right out of the public school system into a private school, I took it personally. My BFF is much nicer than me and never confronted the mother of her daughter’s bully. Bella used to tell my friend’s daughter that she couldn’t sit with her and her friends at lunch, she’d push her gym mat away from hers and point out that her winter boots weren’t Uggs.

Where, I ask you, do children learn this kind of behavior? I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist (or I was in my last life before I started writing about people’s oddities instead of trying to treat them) and I learned long ago that normal isn’t normal. Normal is what we know. It’s what our families teach us. I guess it’s possible that these girls could have been nice if only they’d had better role models.

I tell my kids all the time that I’d lie down in front of a fast moving train for them. I don’t think they’ll truly understand the enormity or the sincerity of that statement until they have kids of their own. They take it to mean that I’m a fierce mama bear who will do anything for her cubs. Included is keeping them company when they can’t sleep, getting in cold tubs with them when they have high fevers, holding their heads while they barf, pretending I know how to do their homework, and a million other things that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Also on that list- I will forever confront their bullies and their bullies’ parents.

It’s becoming increasingly and horrifyingly clear to me that kids learn how to be bullies at home- if not by mirroring unacceptable behavior, then by the inaction of their parents. So, as I already warned the principal of my kids’ school, I will punch the parents of bullies in their faces and feel good about it. Then I’ll go home, ice my hand, wait for the swelling to go down, and write about them.



I’ve  been a published novelist for eight days. People keep asking me how I feel. Hmm, let’s see. I guess I feel like I can’t wear pajamas all the time anymore since every now and again I have to be seen in public For instance, last Monday I did an interview for WTNH’s Connecticut Style TV Show. Before the segment, my good friend, Brittain, called her friend who regularly appears on national TV for her job. She was nice enough to send me a list of helpful hints intended to make my appearance go more smoothly.

Unfortunately her suggestions terrified me. There wasn’t anything unreasonable on her list, such as speaking in a British accent to make myself sound smarter or answering questions with questions to keep the conversation going. On the contrary, she provided a thoughtful list of tips that would have benefitted someone more like Brittain (she’s sophisticated and has her s*** together). If I wanted someone more my speed to give advice, I probably should have asked Mama June of Honey Boo Boo fame. Anyway, included on the list were the following:

  • Wear nude heels to elongate my leg. Um, let me back up here. The fact that I was a guest on a TV show called Connecticut Style is nothing short of ironic. If you’ve read my blog titled A Bright Orange Buoy in a Sea of Beautiful, you know that fashion isn’t my thing. Needless to say, nude heels do not live in my closet. They don’t even live in my imagination. My choices were pretty much black riding boots or pink flip flops.
  • Wear a DVF dress. This one made my brain hurt. I grew up in the NASCAR world, so the only abbreviations I’m familiar with are STP and RPM. Oh, and NASCAR, I guess. I googled it, came up empty, and finally my friend Bobby filled me in. Turns out DVF doesn’t stand for Don’t Vomit, F***face (I thought maybe the dress was made of plastic), but Diane von Furstenberg.
  • Don’t move my hands. No problem. I’m Italian, so I’ll stop talking with my hands right after I cut them off.
  • Never, never, never look at the camera. I thought that would be easy until I got to the TV station and there were six cameras pointed at the set.
  • Cross my legs at the ankle and point my knees away from the interviewer. I actually practiced this at home. Every time I hooked my feet together, my knees opened like I was a drunk girl at a frat party.
  • Have a stylist meet me at my house an hour before departure time. Believe me, it takes more than an hour to make me look like a girl, which is why I never do. I pretended I didn’t even see that directive until I got to her last suggestion which was…
  • Make sure a professional does my hair or I will look (and I quote) crazy on TV. At this point, I accepted defeat. Fortunately for me, I rock the crazy look.

So this is how Monday morning went: I dug a pair of plain black slides out of the bottom of my closet, wiped off the mud (they had clearly made a guest appearance at a horse show), and managed to find black pants that I wished were plastic because I was afraid I might poop myself. I styled my hair in the least crazy manner I could, rummaged for makeup, found dried up mascara, threw it away, settled for Chapstick in lieu lipstick, tried one more time to cross my ankles without looking like a hooker and then drove to New Haven.

I got there, met the lovely staff and waited my turn (still trying to master the ankle cross). Once I sat down with the beautiful and perfectly put together Teresa Dufour, I ran down the list of pointers Brittain’s friend had sent me. Positive I had committed everything to memory, I took my seat and a deep breath and was ready… right up until the cameras started recording and Teresa began asking questions I should have been able to answer without thinking about them.

As she was introducing me (even I was impressed with me after listening to her), I crossed my clunky slides, jammed my knees together in such a way that made my hips ache immediately, pointed said knees away from Teresa, swiveled my upper body so I could see her, craned my neck to make sure I wasn’t looking into any of the giant cameras staring at me and clasped my hands together so hard I thought I broke a finger.

Then the rapid-fire questions began. Okay, she spoke slowly and eloquently, I just couldn’t think fast enough to keep up with her. She started with an easy one: How did I make the transition from my past career to becoming a novelist. For once in my life, my filter wasn’t malfunctioning. I was thinking, I quit my last job because I F-ing hated it. But, I managed to say something politically correct (and true) about wanting to be home with my kids, and then having some time to write once they started school.

Next she asked if the book has any truth to it. Um, well, the main character, Jensen, is a tall, skinny, black-haired beauty who models in the nude for artists. Yeah, no. Just no.

A few questions later she asked if my own upbringing influenced the book being set on the Connecticut shoreline. I originally had the novel taking in Baltimore, but I caved to editor pressure and changed it to New England.

Although the interview only lasted five and a half minutes, it felt like five and a half hours. The best part of my time on camera was concentrating on Teresa’s pretty face since I wasn’t allowed to look anywhere else. At the end, I thanked her for having me on her fabulous show and sat beside the next guest. Feeling like it went better than it could have, I smiled at her, hoping for a little atta girl. She looked me up and down, then brought me back to reality by saying, “Next time you might want to smile. And take a Quaalude.”


Whoever said time heals all wounds never had a brother die four days after his twenty-second birthday. Whoever said you have to get over losing someone clearly has never lost anyone. This month, in twelve days to be exact, it will be twenty-four years since my brother, Robbie, died. I’ve lived longer without him than I lived with him. That is a fact that only gets harder, never easier.

Van Morrison put it best when he wrote a song called Melancholia. I don’t know any of the words other than, “Every single day, it won’t go away. Melancholia.” The month of September is not my friend. Rob’s birthday is on the 26th. The anniversary of his death is the 30th. I have all year to prepare for these thirty terrible days. And I’ve had twenty-four years of practice. You’d think I’d get good at it. I haven’t and I won’t.

Trying to appease the people who say I need to get over losing Robbie and move on, I think about the positives that September brings. My kids go back to school, and back to their friends at a school that I feel loves them almost as much as I do. My mom, grandmother and husband all have birthdays this month. It’s the start of my favorite season- not autumn, but football.

And you know what all that means when I’m having a day like today? Nothing. I don’t love celebrating Kurt’s birthday any less. I was grateful and honored to spend Grammie’s ninety-ninth birthday with her. I enjoyed hanging out with my mom at her birthday dinner. The Broncos are 2-0. My kids’ teachers are kind and their friends are awesome. So I will put all that in the happy pile.

But just out of reach, to the left, is the I-hate-living-without-my-brother pile. He was twenty-two. A rock star. Everybody’s everything. At his funeral one of the founders of NASCAR called him one of the best young drivers that ever was. And then, in the middle of the night, in an instant, he was gone. Just gone.

I remember what I was wearing when my mother and grandmother showed up in my dorm room to take me home. I remember refusing to leave campus because I had a French test. I remember getting to Connecticut and calling my best friend to tell her that I needed her to come home. She was already on the phone with her mom who was telling her what had happened. I remember crying with Sasha. I remember crying so much that I thought I’d never stop.

I’ve been crying for twenty-four years.

What have I learned in these last twenty-four years? Grief doesn’t go away. It certainly doesn’t get better. It just gets different. I probably don’t cry as much as I used to (although right now it doesn’t seem that way). I get through a day here and there without thinking about Rob. I absolutely don’t go a day without missing him. Not crying every day and not having him constantly on my mind is better, right?

It’s really not.

In the “Who Am I” section of my website, I describe the time after my brother died as waking up and feeling like I was breathing water instead of air. While I go for longer stretches of time now being able to breathe, when I do experience that feeling of drowning, it crushes me. That time softens the sharp edges of grief is more like a practical joke than a gift. Just when I get kind of good at going about my life without having my brother’s absence smack the crap out of me on a daily basis, something trips me up. Sometimes it’s a song or seeing one of his friends. And once a year it’s the flipping month of September. Because I’ve had a little respite from the constant beating, it sucks twice as bad, hits me a million times harder, and continues to kick me when I’m down.

Grief is a quick bitch and there’s no outrunning her. So I must sit with my grief. I don’t try to distract myself. I don’t keep myself busy. For these thirty days I wait for my kids to get on the bus, and then I sit alone in an empty house, with my grief. Without my brother. And I feel his absence like a draft. It makes me cold. The kind of cold-in-the-bones chill that I cannot escape.

Sometimes I go back to the two piles- one of happiness. One of sorrow. I know how fortunate I am. I have a good man who’s loved me for the last eighteen years. My children are the light in my life. I have great friends, a job that I love, my mother and grandmother. Still, the happy pile does not lessen the sad pile. It doesn’t take away my grief. It doesn’t discount it. I sit between the two piles and know that they will continue to co-exist, quite possibly, forever.

The best I can do is hold on to the helm and weather this storm named September. I will sit with my grief and love my children. I will miss my brother and enjoy Sundays with football and friends. I will cry for thirty days straight and understand on the thirty-first day, it will begin to get different. Not better, but just different again.

I will mourn life without Robbie and love the life I have.


I have officially turned into my mother, which for the most part is a good thing. She’s smart, sweet, caring and she raised a great kid (my brother was awesome).

But, she also buys presents months before birthdays and Christmas and puts them in a safe place. Then she loses them. My birthday is in June and I’ve gotten bathing suits and beach totes for Christmas.

Months before my best friend’s birthday, I one upped my mom by finding Sasha the perfect present (I won’t say what it is in case she reads this) wrapping it and putting it away for safe keeping. Then I became my mother by losing it.

After a meticulous search of all the usual hiding spots, I gave up, piled my kids, Cooper and Ainsley, in the car and went downtown.

We live in an upscale Connecticut River town filled with two-hundred year old houses, lovely families and beautiful women. We have a large percentage of runners in our town (I watch them jog by from my couch). Spin classes at the local health clubs are filled with moms who are at school pick up (or so says my neighbor). And families crowd the Farmer’s Market selecting organic fruits and vegetables (I watch them from across the street at the ice cream shop).

I brush my hair when I have to, live in yoga pants (they’re much classier than sweatpants) and have given up trying to make my kids look like they model for Crew Cuts. When we ventured downtown to find another perfect present, Cooper was sporting a comfy pair of sweats with a Demarco Murray jersey, Ainsley was decked out in her best pair of pink pony PJs and I was donning a beautiful pair of black yoga pants with a stylish drawstring. We were a bright orange buoy in a sea of perfect families in our old-fashioned, New England town.

In our area, three towns combine to form one school and recreation system. Our town, let’s call it One, is presumed by some to be the most desirable, followed by its quaint neighbor, Two, and lastly Three. I love Three. It’s got one of the greatest musters in the country, a beautiful downtown area, and some of our closest friends live there. But, some people think of Three as One’s less glamorous step sister.

We chose One not because of its prestige (see above references to my lack of grooming or dressing), but because it has a phenomenal school system and our house is conveniently located across the street from my best friend of thirty-plus years. Remember Sasha? This started out as a tale about Sasha (anyone forty-something like me out there get the “Alice’s Restaurant” reference?).

When my kids and I wandered into a nice jewelry store, the owner tried hard not to frown when he was greeted by Mama Scruff and her Baby Scruffies, then too politely asked where we were visiting from. Somehow I refrained from correcting his grammar. “We live just down the road,” I told him.

“Oh,” he nodded knowingly, “you’re from Three.” While all these towns are small and close together, I wouldn’t describe Three as just down the road.

“I love Three. But no. We actually live a mile from your fine store. It’s a great day for a walk.” I hoped he hadn’t spotted my muddy car in the parking lot.

I swear to you, he took a step back as if he’d just heard the most surprising, horrifying news of his life. “One? Where in One could you possibly live?”

I almost busted into an air-banjo version of the theme song from Deliverance (Come on, sing it with me, Dah ding ding ding ding, ding ding ding.). This is where it gets really fun. Unbeknownst to my shabby-chicless family when we moved here, we’d apparently chosen to live in the fancy part of town. “Ocean Road,” I told him.

“Ocean what?”

“Road. Ocean Road.” By this time, I’d been standing at the desk with my credit card in hand for several minutes waiting for him to ring me up.

He took my card and studied it for a moment, as if deciding if it were stolen. “What number?”

“Seriously?” I thought about it for a moment. “666.”

He ran my card and hurried us out of the store.

Twenty minutes later, as we were buying ice cream, I realized the shopkeeper hadn’t given me back my credit card.

Getting dressed the next day, I briefly considered blow drying my hair and putting on a nice pair of pants with a stylish cardigan before returning to the underworld to fetch my credit card. While I live in a pretty town with beautifully decorated storefronts and beautifully decorated women, I will always be like the game Imus’ sidekick, Bernard McGurk, plays. Which Doesn’t Belong and Why?

That would be me. Because I’m me. And, probably, because I’m a writer. And writers are a little weird. We don’t always fit in, we’re on the fringe, observing. That’s what makes us the eyes of the world. We tend to stand on the sidelines. So, I took my credit card from the guy and smiled sweetly. Someday, I thought, I’ll put you in a novel. And it might not be pretty.