What the Health

Last night, I watched What the Health, a documentary about the state of American health and the American diet. It was well worth watching. I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years. I quit eating animals when I discovered how meat was produced in this country; back in the early aughts, the plight of factory-farm animals was still well-hidden and not part of the public conscience. I was completely shocked when I stumbled onto a book at the library and learned all about the abuse that animals suffered, and I realized it was quite hypocritical of me to be a devoted dog lover while also scarfing chicken salad for lunch. I became a vegetarian in a single day. It shouldn’t be surprising that there are serious health benefits to eliminating animal products from one’s diet (I don’t eat dairy, either…but I do occasionally bake with eggs and cook them.) Or maybe it IS surprising, given the fact that the government is in bed with every single animal-product industry, and even our “health organizations” like the American Diabetes Association promotes the consumption of dairy and meat, even though consumption of each are well-documented via studies to increase a person’s chances for getting…

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Reminiscing

I went to Italy for the first time seven years ago this month. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. Since then, I’ve married and had two beautiful little boys (one was a twinkle in the eye of my then-boyfriend and me on that trip, where we decided that when we got home, we would move in together and get pregnant. How impossible and far away that seems now!). I’ve written a novel that, alas, did not sell, and am nearly finished with a second novel. I’ve published piles of essays and gone to Italy a second time, this time with my husband and sons. I’ve kept meeting with my writing group for all of those seven years. I’ve made new friends. Life has marched along, full of its dramas and tragedies. But…Florence will always always hold a special place in my heart. I went with friends, to a creativity conference, when I was still coming to terms with the idea of just wanting to be a writer. The air is different in Florence. It is somehow both light and intense, lemony and astringent and concentrated. It smells of dust, and of the Arno, which is an unpleasant…

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Bread Loaf in Sicily

It’s been almost a month since I arrived in Erice for Bread Loaf in Sicily. I wish my pictures could somehow encapsulate the magic that was our conference and this special place. I wasn’t terribly excited about this place before I left; the photos on the Bread Loaf site all looked very, well, brown. I love the rest of Italy, with its lush, verdant landscapes, and this seemed so unattractive. I’m glad I allowed myself to trust the Bread Loaf name; it did not disappoint. Erice is a small, medieval town almost 2500 feet above sea level. Each morning, I woke up to the stunning view above, and I felt myself unwind and go still inside every time I took in that view. It was a balm for my soul. The town is very quiet. There’s little traffic, and only the soft sound of the wind accompanied me on my walks. We were in the clouds every day–they floated past my head, and once I had the delightful experience of getting caught in the rain while in the clouds. It was completely different from any rain I’ve ever felt! The conference itself was intense and wonderful and enlightening. I felt energized to…

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Why I don’t write about my children

Right now, the most commonly-asked question I get from people–besides “What do you write?”–is whether or not I write about my children. This could be due to the fact that I spend a lot of time around other mothers. My children are very young (almost 5 and 18 months), so our days are spent doing preschool runs and making play dates. But still, I find it interesting that this question comes up so often. There’s even been a bit of a nasty twist to the tone when a person or two have asked this question, raising their eyebrows and laughing as if I can get some sort of revenge on my kids by writing about them. I don’t write about my children. Other than very minor anecdotes in an otherwise larger story, I’ve chosen to exclude them from my writing. And this is not an accident. Years ago, when I was in college as an older student (I went back to finish my bachelor’s degree when I was 30), I had a wonderful professor who taught creative non-fiction and also published essays. Shannon Lakanen gave a reading one night at my college while I was taking one of her classes. Her essay…

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Wonderful news: Now is the Hour!

I have an agent! Almost a year ago, I was contacted by three agents after one of my essays was published in Slice. They wanted to see my novel manuscript (which I’d mentioned in my bio). I was working on my seventh (yes, seventh) complete rewrite of the damn thing, and it wasn’t quite finished yet. When I finally sent the full manuscript out to those three agents last December, two took a pass (historical fiction not being their thing) and one said she wanted it! Brandi Bowles of Foundry Media gave me a list of revisions, telling me she expected these to take 4-6 months (she was right; it took exactly six months). I got the manuscript back to her about a month ago and we spent a few weeks doing some fine-tuning….line-editing and brainstorming a new title and working on a pitch letter, among other things. And finally, a week and a half ago, Brandi began sending out Now is the Hour to New York publishing houses! I’ve worked on this novel for so long–I started it in the fall of 2010, just before I got pregnant with my first son–that this has all felt a little heady, like I’m playing pretend. My…

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Damn the baby-holders, full speed ahead

I was talking with a friend recently about baby-holders: the people who show up after you give birth and want to do nothing but hold your baby. Oh, did we have a good and bitter laugh about them! She had gotten into an online discussion, voicing her opinion that it was perfectly acceptable for new parents to put a sign on their front door that said, essentially, “Our baby is sleeping and we are resting. Feel free to leave food and we’ll call when we’re ready to see you.” Apparently some people were having a fit about this, because they considered this sign and this behavior “rude.” And it brought back a LOT of memories for me. When I had my first son, we had so. Many. Visitors. It was a nonstop stream of people for a solid four or five months. My oldest was not an easy baby. He screamed a lot. Like all night long, unless he was walked in a loop through our kitchen, living room and sun room; walking in that loop was the only thing that soothed him. I tried to nurse him and couldn’t because it was horribly painful–I didn’t find out until he was…

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Oh, the places we’ll go

I camped a lot as a kid. My parents started us off tent camping as babies (can you imagine?), but when I was ten or eleven, they bought a pop-up camper. We went everywhere with that thing bopping along behind my dad’s truck. We drove up and down the length of New England, all the way up to Maine and down to Key Largo (from Toledo) multiple times, to the Outer Banks, to northern Michigan. My mother planned all our trips, and recently told me that they often set out with only a few hundred dollars and a destination in mind. We found some of the most lovely campgrounds, and saw a good bit of the country this way. My fondest memories of my childhood all come from our camping trips. My husband and I bought an RV a couple months ago, and I am so excited that we now we get to continue that tradition with our own children. The first trip–only an hour and a half away–wasn’t easy. It was 90 degrees, a thousand percent humidity, and the campground was in a rather bare state park with nothing fun for the kids to do. The baby had a…

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Why I don’t watch TV

I read a really eye-opening statistic last night, courtesy of A.C. Nielsen: by the age of 65, the average American has spent nine years watching television. Nine years. Four hours per day adds up to two full months of TV-watching every year. Two months! I don’t know if I can adequately describe how those numbers took my breath away. At the risk of sounding extremely sanctimonious, I don’t watch television (not online and not on my regular TV). Very occasionally I will indulge in a few episodes of something, but that literally happens maybe twice a year. I also don’t let my children watch TV shows. This is not because I want to be a holier-than-thou mother who looks down her nose at the common folk who let their children rot their brains on cartoons, but because I don’t watch it myself. My oldest is almost five years old, and I’m glad that he doesn’t have any “regular shows” (they always ask this when we get his hair cut, so they can put one of his “regular shows” on to entertain him, like they do with all kids). It doesn’t even occur to me to turn on the TV or…

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The fire drill of life

Life is getting in the way of writing lately. This past week alone, we’ve dealt with or are dealing with the following: buying a new couch (the old one has a broken frame, and the baby has peed on it too many times to count), the babysitter quitting with less than a week’s notice, hiring and training a new babysitter, made reservations for our rental apartment in Italy, our dishwasher catching on fire and necessitating a call to the fire department at 10:30 at night, my National Piano Guild auditions the morning after the dishwasher fire, and hiring a new housecleaner. Each of those events involved a constellation of their own mini-events (for example, once we discovered that the dishwasher was the source of the fire, then we had to turn the power off in the kitchen for a day. Then we had to take the dishwasher out of the wall and try to find out exactly where it was burning. Once we found the loose rubber gasket that rubbed against the heating element and caught fire, we had to take it out, then put the dishwasher back, then run it to make sure nothing was leaking and nothing else would…

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