I brewed the last of my Rouge Métis tea this morning. That tea I bring home with me from Paris that, with one sip, brings me right back to my terrace on Cité Veron, writing in the mornings. There was just enough in the tin for one last cup, and I stood there at the counter shaking the last of the dregs into a tea filter, trying not to read into the fact that I ran out of my comforting morning ritual on today, of all days.

The death of someone you love is a nightmare, and not just because coping with it or learning to live with it and live without them is scary. Proceeding with life after a death has all the hallmarks of a bad dream: the eerie nonsense where everything seems like real life but is off just slightly, strange lurches of time, impending fear, wanting to run but finding your legs can’t move.

It’s easier for me to write about losing him in the abstract. I cry less this way.

I’ve started and stopped this post countless times this week, barely making it through a single line before the tears would suffocate me and I’d have to retreat into a ball and let the grief run its course. It’s never done though, grief. After ten years, you’d think it would have relented, moved on, faded to a manageable degree, like an old bruise or the last vestiges of a summer tan at the end of September. Instead, my grief has become Grief, a capitalized, all-consuming thing that floats at the periphery of my vision, never letting me forget it’s there. Lurking, waiting until I see an old photo or hear a laugh that’s too similar or get too close to this day or his birthday or mine. Grief acts a lot like a migraine, leaving me feeling as exhausted and drained but with an ache in my chest instead of my head. What else can it want from me, I think, each time I’m swallowed whole by it.

I’ve gotten by okay, for the most part. I can function in society, I can get out of bed, I have a happy marriage, a solid relationships with others. But my dad’s death has seeped into my bones and shaped who I’ve become in last ten years in a way nothing else could or will. It’s also given me a stupidly optimistic outlook on life, in a way: whatever happens, nothing will ever be as bad as losing my dad.

I don’t want this to sound like I am unhappy all of the time. I’m not. But my day-to-day is tinged with an almost manic happiness, as if my brain is saying, “I’m so happy, look how happy I can be, I am fiiiiine.” I’ve always been an introvert, since I was a very small child, preferring my own company to that of anyone else’s, but it’s gotten more extreme in the last 10 years. There’s a line in my novel about one of the more seemingly resilient characters: “Even when he was down he was up.” I am literally the exact opposite. Even when I am up, I am down. Being alone now means I don’t have to be on for anyone. I don’t have to be up.

I am not blaming my dad for any of this. Thanks to a lot (a lot) of therapy, I’ve moved past the feelings of anger and abandonment and blame. If anything, still having this hulking amount of sadness a decade later is comforting. It’s directly proportionate to how much he meant to me, the kind of man he was, how ideal our relationship was. But that just means I will be dealing with this for the rest of my life. Because while it feels simultaneously like it’s only been a week and also twenty years since I last held his hand, saw him thumb his mustache while he was deep in thought, there is no way 10 years is long enough to have shaken this Grief from my system yet.

Today is my last day of work before I become a full-time, stay-at-home writer. I quit two weeks ago because I have been fighting internally for months, maybe even since the day I got back from Paris in 2014, between my urge to have an income and my need to just write. There’s a certain unmissable symbolism in today being my last day, and when my boss and I hammered out the specifics, it took me a moment to realize why August 5th sounded heavy. It never registers immediately.

I cannot wait to finish this novel. I will finish this novel this year if it kills me, and when I am done I will write “For CJG” on the dedication page. Because this one is for him.

I found another, full tin of tea in the back of the cabinet.

I love you, Daddy. I miss you every day.

August 5, 2016 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 17

Book of the Month





My “To Read” pile…
(It’s only gotten more out of hand, and every book I’ve read has been replaced by at least two more.)








I’ve never been interested in subscription boxes. Paying $10 or $15 or even $30 per month (or week!) for a few makeup samples, or prepared meals, or clothes, or even treats for Fitz, who has the fun habit of throwing things up on the regular, seemed like a waste of money. My friend Herbie turned me on to Graze snack boxes when we worked together, but I would end up eating all four snack packs the same day the box arrived, thus defeating the very purpose and name of the thing (I have never been one for portion control). My sister-in-law gifted us a week of Blue Apron dinners, which were surprisingly delicious, the pre-portioned ingredients and step-by-step photo instructions appealing to someone with as little kitchen aptitude as I have. But after our free trial I wasn’t about to spend $60 on three dinners every week. I have such sensitive skin and such a carefully honed skincare routine that Birchbox always seemed like too much of a wildcard. But I get the overall appeal of subscription boxes; we live in an increasingly digital world, where it’s easy to have everything delivered, especially surprise boxes of goodies chosen by someone else. Who doesn’t love getting packages in the mail? As someone who does the majority of her shopping online, trust me, I should be a subscription box company’s target audience. But none of them ever made me think, “I have to have that.”

Book of the Month

“Is there anything more satisfying than to keep abreast of the best new books of our time as they appear? In reading them, in enjoying them, in talking with others about them, we feel our day taking shape.”

And then I discovered, through a Facebook ad no less, Book of the Month. Originally founded in 1926, the once-upon-a-time mail order subscription service started by a copywriter and a publisher has been modernized and rebranded for the internet age, and includes monthly selections chosen by a panel of judges (other writers, a celebrity guest-judge). Five new choices are released the 1st of every month (today!) and you get a few days to make your selection before the (branded, of course) hardcover of your choice is mailed directly to your door. You can add an additional book for an extra fee, and the subscription length runs either one, three, or 12 months. If none of the titles in a particular month float your boat, you can skip that month.

Book of the Month

Even though this is right up my alley, I wouldn’t necessarily have signed up for Book of the Month unless I’d found a coupon code (I literally buy nothing full-price). A three-month subscription is $14.99/mo, but if you use the code READ50 you can save 50%, making it about $7.50 per book. Not a bad deal! I chose my first book this morning; when you sign up you select a few genres that interest you, and BoTM makes a suggested selection for you each month based on those interests. You can always change to another title, and it shows you what percentage of other subscribers choose each title. In my case, the suggested selection, “Siracusa” by Delia Ephron, was spot-on.

I am in the middle of two other books, so hopefully I finish those before my Book of the Month arrives next week. What are you guys reading these days?

This post was not sponsored or paid for in any way. I found the coupon code through a Facebook ad and was not compensated for sharing it here. Book of the Month did not contact me nor ask me to write this post. (Though if they wanted to, I’d take some free books!) All opinions expressed are my own.

August 1, 2016 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 2



You have to write every day. You can’t always write well, and sometimes you can’t write at all, but if you’re not there at your desk trying, then you won’t succeed. Before then, I had thought of writing as something akin to divine inspiration. I would wait for the muse. Turns out you have to be dressed and ready for the muse or she will never come.

Jay McInerney on meeting Raymond Carver, as told to The Paris Review

July 29, 2016 / read / watch / Comments Off on Quotable

Press Button, Get Literature

Short Edition

File this under: Greatest Invention Ever, cross-filed under: Thanks, France! (I’m running out of room in that latter filing cabinet, quelle surprise).

Two French bibliophiles, Quentin Pleplé and Christophe Sibieude, were buying snacks at a vending machine in 2013 when one of them postured (because really, this is literally what I fantasize most French men walk around discussing): “Wouldn’t it be better if these dispensed short stories instead?” A year later the pair had developed a prototype machine that did just that, and by October of 2015 they had their first public installation at the Tourist Information office in Grenoble. They’re called Short Edition, and they call themselves the Distributeur d’histoires courtes — the distributor of short stories. Their website says, “Notre ambition est de voir fleurir des Distributeurs un peu partout pour promouvoir la lecture – et l’écriture – et pour faire connaître nos auteurs.” (“Our ambition is to see blooming Distributors everywhere to promote reading – and writing – and to publicize our authors.”) The machines are tall cylinders with just a few buttons, marked with numbers corresponding to the length of time each story takes to read. If you have only one minute while waiting in line at a teller, press “1”, and a short strip of paper spits out of the machine. If you have a longer lunch break later on in the day, press “5”, and a slightly longer story prints out for you. And the best part is, they’re free.

The stories are randomly selected by the machine when you press a button, but have to have first made the cut and been chosen by readers on their website, though, oddly, the majority of the stories printed by the machines are written by authors who wish to remain anonymous. These have actually been perfect for me to practice my reading comprehension en Français. The best of the stories are published in traditional, physical book form, or as audiobooks, or e-books, and now, in the machines.

Short Edition

Why a machine that distributes literature? A 2013 poll by Institut français d’opinion publique (Ifop), “found that seventeen per cent of [France’s] population had written a manuscript of one kind or another, most of them unpublished.”[1] Short Edition has been a free publishing platform for writers since 2011, and estimates they have 10,000 authors and a readership of around 150,000. In an interview with The New Yorker, Sibieude said:

The written word isn’t dead…Smartphones have blurred the limits between our professional life and our distractions. The paper format provides a break from omnipresent screens. People may not have reacted so strongly to our vending machines six years ago, when smartphones hadn’t become essential to all parts of our lives yet.

Men after my own heart!

I caught a segment on Short Edition on CBS Sunday Morning this weekend my first thought was that this was just too good to be true. My second thought was to figure out how quickly I could get to Grenoble. (My third thought was, “How well can I translate my own novel in French?”)

But maybe I don’t need to go as far as Grenoble after all. Director Francis Ford Copolla recently installed one in his café, Zeotrope, in San Francisco. I’ve never been to the city by the bay, and this might make the perfect excuse! You can rent the machines from Short Edition for €500/mo., which seems like a worthy investment. (I’m looking at you, Starbucks!).

July 12, 2016 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 2

The Home of My Dreams

House of my dreams

House of my dreams

House of my dreams

House of my dreams

House of my dreams

House of my dreams

House of my dreams

House of my dreams

Bibliophile (bib·li·o·phile/ˈbiblēəˌfīl) noun: a person who collects or has a great love of books.

I have fantasies of filling my home to the brim with books. Dusty paperbacks, dog-eared hardcovers, heavy reference books, art books, coffee table books, pocket novels, yellowed edges, annotations in the margins in pencil by someone else’s hand, spines cracked, bookmarks left in place, inscriptions on the cover page. I want so many books I could use stacks of the as furniture. Books piled in the corner, books in my kitchen cabinets, shelves in my library bowing from the sheer weight. And one day, at the old age of 101, I want to reach for a book as I get in bed to read as I fall asleep, and I want to set off a domino-effect avalanche that smothers me and takes me from this world in a crush of the literary greats. (Is that morbid? A touch?) I want to bottle the smell of a well-read book (and luckily someone already has), I want to run a secret bookstore from my home (and someone already does), I want to turn them into works of art (and someone already has), and I want to burn a candle that smells like a leather-bound library (and I already have). I love books. I love their transportive power, the worlds they contain, and, at a time when swiping mindlessly with your thumb and binge-streaming content are the new norm, I love the thrill of literally turning a page to find out what happens next. I love books so much I’m writing my own.

So when I found this home, in South Holland, the Netherlands, I knew the owner was a kindred spirit. A bibliophile’s dream home, this sprawling “city palace,” as the listing calls it. Ten bedrooms, over 11,000 ft2, and more books than my brain could handle without dissolving into jealous mush. Who lived here?? Why are they selling?? Is that library where Disney found inspiration for the Beast’s library in “Beauty and the Beast”?? WHAT DOES THAT LIBRARY SMELL LIKE? When I’ve pictured my dream home, it always had a view of the Eiffel Tower, but after seeing this listing I’m realizing I was a few countries off. I wouldn’t change a thing. Give me rooms full of books, a stack of gilded mirrors leaning against a wall, creaky wood floors, and a staircase I would invariably tumble down because I would spend all of my days with my nose in a book. How does one say, “Gimme” in Dutch?

July 1, 2016 / home design / LEAVE A COMMENT / 2

The Ritz, Reopened

Ritz Paris

Ritz Paris

Ritz Paris

Ritz Paris

Ritz Paris

Ritz Paris

Ritz Paris

I’ve never been to the Ritz Paris. I’ve walked by it on Place Vendôme countless times, but as early as my visit in 2012, the hotel has been under varying degrees of construction and renovation. It reopened, finally, in early June of this year, after four years and over €200+ million with newly updated air-conditioning, plumbing, and heating. The hotel originally opened its doors on June 1, 1898, by Swiss hotelier César Ritz, and was the picture of modern luxury even back then: each room had a private bathroom. The Ritz Paris has played host and home to some very famous (and infamous) guests over the course of its 118 year history: Hemingway used it as his base when he covered the war, as did war photographer Robert Capa; Chanel lived there for 34 years; and even Princess Diana and her partner Dodi Fayed stayed there the night before they were killed in a car accident in the Pont de l’Alma (his father, Mohamed al-Fayed, bought the Ritz in 1979). It’s appeared in Hemingway’s, “The Sun Also Rises,” the movie “How to Steal a Million” with Audrey Hepburn & Peter O’Toole (a delightful Parisian art heist, I highly recommend it!), and was the subject of a fascinating biography simply titled, “The Hotel on Place Vendôme.” Christ, even the Luftwaffe, the Nazi air national guard, used the Ritz as their own personal barracks during the occupation (the Gestapo stayed at the Hotel Lutetia in Saint-Germain, which, oddly enough, I stayed at during my very first trip to Paris in 2001, and which is also currently closed for renovations).

Once I heard the Ritz was planning on reopening, it became a bucket list goal to spend a night there. But when the cheapest room starts at €1000/night, I might have to console myself with a drink at the Hemingway Bar instead. Or maybe afternoon tea in their newly opened garden. Because while I may never spend a night in the Fitzgerald suite (so named for, who else, F. Scott himself, who included the Ritz Paris in “Tender is the Night”), Hemingway was certainly right when he said, “When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz.”

June 29, 2016 / home design / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 2

Three Before Thirty

Cotton candy clouds

June 20th, just a few days ago, was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in this hemisphere. The sun stayed out until after 9:30, and Fitz and I sat on our front stoop watching the sky change from blue to golden to pink to the color of a fading bruise before ducking back inside. When I was younger, my dad and I would pack a picnic and head to the West River Drive, savoring the late light. Fitzgerald said it best, through Daisy in “The Great Gatsby”: “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.” I didn’t miss it this year.

June 20th was the longest day of the year, and also exactly six months until my 30th birthday. It was hard for me to miss the irony that the last six months of my 20s began on a day after which every subsequent day would be a little bit shorter, a little bit darker. It’s rather poetic, my slow descent into my 30s being marked by a day after which literally everything goes downhill. The countdown to this December 20th seems more menacing than in years past, and in looking for a source on which to pin blame, I uncovered a universal conspiracy designed to drive home the fact that turning 30 is ominous. Because in case I needed further convincing of just how serious and scary 30 is, every day the sun will set earlier and earlier as I inch closer and closer to not-20 until the big day arrives and it is the shortest, darkest day of the year.

Of course, this could all be a coincidence. How likely is it that the sun has a personal stake in assuring I am adequately terrified of my impending birthday? (Answer: very, I’ve done nothing but speak ill of the sun my entire life and have taken great pains to avoid its rays at all costs, and just had my first laser cosmetic procedure last week to remove some hideous freckles, I shit you not). Perhaps I’m being dramatic; it’s been known to happen. It all just seems so conveniently timed, you know? The universe is sending me a message loud and clear, and I GOT IT, I HEAR YOU.

I’ve channeled all this doom & gloom into a bucket list, of sorts. I looked at my life and realized there were things I wanted, things I needed to accomplish before I turn 30, and I’m going to use these last six months to do it. Not because I legitimately believe I’m like Cinderella at the ball and I’m going to turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight on December 20th, but because there are things that I always thought I would have figured out by the time I left my 20s.

Herewith, my top three before thirty:

1. Finish my novel
2. Go to Paris
3. Find a job that makes me happy

I could’ve picked thirty things, for symmetry’s sake, things like “take French classes again,” and “workout twice a week,” and “grow boobs finally,” but I didn’t want my main focuses to be diluted amongst 27 other, less important goals. These three represent the entirety of my hopes and dreams to close out this decade. I want to celebrate this milestone birthday knowing I accomplished writing a novel. And of course, if I have to turn 30, I might as well do it in Paris, non? Finding a job that makes me happy (and that also pays decently) may be a bit of a challenge, but I’m really going to give it my best shot. Because 30 means I’m an adult, and adults have their lives and careers together. Don’t they?

Wish me luck!

June 27, 2016 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 4

Beware of All Enterprises That Require New Clothes


I wasn’t born with endorphins.

The exhilarating rush people describe experiencing during or after a work-out, that “natural high” everyone else seems to enjoy from making themselves sweat, from pushing their bodies to the limit, is a completely foreign concept to me. I have never –not once, not ever, not even in high school gym class or all the years I danced ballet and took classes four times a week– felt good after exerting any physical energy. I kept waiting for it, thinking that like so many muscle memories, it was a learned sensation that would come with time, or a different work-out, or something. I’ve tried running, yoga, an hour of cardio followed by a weight machine circuit (four or five times a week, back when I was unemployed right after college), cardio followed by yoga, pilates, pilates before cardio, but have finally just accepted the fact that I am a lazy sack of bones for whom endorphins are just not on the genetic menu. I have never enjoyed working out.

And for most of my life, this wasn’t a problem. Blessed as I was with a magnificent metabolism and two tall and skinny parents, nothing stuck to me for the longest time. When I graduated high school, I was under 100lbs –skinny, yes, but proportionate to my bone structure and a lingering benefit from all that ballet. And then, somewhere around the age of 23, everything started sticking to me, including things I wasn’t even eating; I could smell someone else eating a hamburger and somehow it would manifest on my thighs. Gone were the days where I could eat two breakfasts, down an entire order of wings for dinner followed by a sleeve of oreos, and still somehow fit into a 00 waistband at Delia’s (omg does anyone else remember that store??). A few years ago, I started really watching what I was eating, knowing that since I hated working out and all but refused to break a sweat, I had to find a balance in what I was putting in my body. That worked, for a while.

But did I mention I am lazy? Do I need to say that a sheet cake tastes better than a kale salad? That I’d rather eat a jar of frosting with a spoon for dinner than literally anything else? Old habits die hard, and I inevitably slipped up. For the last year. And underneath all my gluttony, my abject hatred of exercise persisted. I basically thought, and still think, that people who rave about feeling excellent and invigorated after a work-out are huge liars. There is no way anyone leaves the gym feeling good or frankly anything other than like a giant pile of floppy pool noodles that’s been set on fire. Right?!

But, guys, I’m six months away from 30, and if that isn’t enough of a motivator to get into the best shape I can be before it all goes to shit I don’t know what is. If my body doesn’t bounce back from a weekend of binge eating cupcakes and snarfing down nachos at 29 the way it did at 19, what the hell do I expect at 39?

SO. Despite being endorphinally challenged, I dropped a ton of money on exercise leggings and grippy socks and sports bras and sneakers and a membership to Pure Barre, all the while repeating that famous Thoreau line from “Walden”: “Beware of all enterprisest hat requrie new clothes.” I took my first class last Thursday, and it was legitimately precious to picture my confidence before setting foot in the studio. “I danced ballet for 14 years, how hard can this be?” The sweet, gorgeously fit girl who signed me up was also the instructor for my first class, and let me tell you, I liked her a lot less once she donned her headset and was barking instructions at me for 55 sweaty, shaky minutes. I couldn’t do half of the stuff she was asking. Unsurprisingly, I am woefully out of shape! I looked at myself in the mirror at one point, and looked like someone had slathered me in Crisco. “Girls don’t sweat, they glisten,” is a load of bollocks spoken by someone who has never taken a barre class before.

But then, the oddest thing happened. I got home, and managed to clean myself up despite not being able to use any of my limbs, and I wanted to try again. I wanted to go back and do better than I had the first class. I wanted to be able to look back in a month and realize I’d made progress. Don’t misunderstand me, in no way did I feel good. My missing endorphins didn’t make a surprise appearance and make me feel blissful and alive; I felt like death had run me over in a steam roller. But I still wanted to go back! So I’m heading to my second class this morning, and I’m hoping I don’t need help crawling into my house because Jamal left yesterday for a business trip, and Fitz is only interested in licking the sweat off my forehead and shins.

Wish me luck!

June 6, 2016 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 6

Vacation Photos Spain: Barcelona, pt. 3

Mercado de La Boqueria

Fresh Fruit Juices, Mercado de La Boqueria

Marzipan! Mercado de La Boqueria

Marzipan! Mercado de La Boqueria

Mercado de La Boqueria

Carrer de Colom

Sneaking In

El Palace Hotel

Architecture, l'Eixample

Reading in the Sun

Waiting Puppy

Restaurant Window, Gràcia

Waiting Bike

Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia

Afternoon Stroll

Hotel Casa Fuster


Every city has that one neighborhood for me: Paris has Montmartre, Rome has Trastevere, and Barcelona, as we happily discovered, has Gràcia. An authentic, charming, local’s-only neighborhood, nestled above l’Eixample, Gràcia extends as far north as Park Güell, but the pocket we fell in love with is between Avenue Diagonal and Travessera de Dalt. We felt the same way walking around Gràcia as we did the very first time we visited Montmartre years ago: we could absolutely live here. Finding Gràcia was easily one of the highlights of the entire trip for us, more than any of the attractions we bought tickets for, or the restaurants that were highly-rated online. Just walking around and falling in love with the neighborhood, its locals, its shops and restaurants, its slightly shabby architecture, made both of us wish we could move right in and never leave.

But we had to leave, at some point, because life is super unfair all good things must come to an end. Or something. I don’t like to talk about politics much around here, I do enough of that in real life off-line, but the upcoming presidential election might very well provide an ideal opportunity to get the fuck out of America for a few years. And I know exactly where we’ll land. Mostly because I didn’t get to actually eat any of those magical marzipan creations at La Boqueria, and I need to know if they taste as good as they look.

And thus concludes the vacation photos from our trip to Spain. Thank you so much for tolerating me these last few weeks! Now back to our regularly scheduled, not-Spain content. Boo.

May 31, 2016 / art / photo / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 1

Vacation Photos Spain: Barcelona, pt. 2

Morning, El Poblenou

Niños, El Poblenou

Rambla del Poblenou

Teatre Coliseum

Bar Bas

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell

Carrer de Mallorca

Cocktails, Why Not Bar

Breakfast, Café Zurich

Out for a stroll, Les Rambles


Pastelería Escribá

Did I mentioned we loved Barcelona? The weather was glorious, all sunny skies and crisp morning breezes; there was only one afternoon where temperatures rose into the 70s, and it coincided with our visit to Park Güell to see more of Gaudí’s work. We underestimated how much time it would take to get there on the metro, and then we got lost trying to find it, and since the tickets are good only for a specific time slot, we were sort of in a panic. You only need tickets to see the Gaudí structures, and the rest of the massive, sprawling park is free to the public. Families were having picnics, there were men playing guitar, but I was frankly most excited to see the exact spot where Top Model Cycle 7 had their final runway challenge (Jamal did not understand). Park Güell was originally intended to be a private housing development, with shared green space for about 60 Gaudí-designed homes. They only ended up building 2 or 3 before running out of money, and Gaudí lived in the model home. For a man who designed such intricate, visionary buildings, he lived rather modestly; his bedroom contained a single bed, a crucifix, and one small bedside table.

We moved for our last few nights to the Cotton House Hotel on the Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes, which was, without a doubt, the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The hotel is a converted mansion that the original cotton magnate of Barcelona built for his wife, and was just oozing comfortable luxury. We used Jamal’s hotel points, and they surprised us with an upgraded suite with a balcony overlooking the terrace. We even saw Keith Richards in the lobby! At least, we think it was Keith Richards. It may have been a very convincing dopplegänger.

Gran Via was close to the main shopping thoroughfare of Passeig de Gracia, and only a 10-15 minute walk to nearly everything else in the city. We are already dreaming (and scheming) about going back, to that hotel specifically, but Barcelona more generally. Cute puppies, strong cocktails, chocolate-covered croissants, and gorgeous architecture? Can you blame us for wanting to go back?

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May 27, 2016 / art / photo / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 1