Driving Patagonia

When my husband Dave and I picked up our rental car in Patagonia the first thing the agent showed us was the spare tire and the jack.

Next, we completed the prior damage report: large chunk of exterior missing above the rear tire, slightly cracked windshield, and splattered black asphalt marks on the passenger side door.

Read more: http://www.gonomad.com/component/content/article/38-transports/5376-torres-del-paine-and-other-delights-on-a-road-trip#ixzz2oc0zITwY

I wrote about a driving trip through Patagonia for the website Gonomad.com.

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Humorpress Contest

“When people learn what my dad does for a living, it usually goes something like this: 

Me: My dad is a pilot.
Other Person: Do you get to fly free?
Me: It’s not totally free, but we pay a very small percentage.
Other Person: That must be the best.
Me: Yeah, well the catch is you have to fly standby so you don’t always get on a plane.
Other Person: Still, you’re so lucky.

But when I was growing up, it didn’t feel like I had won the travel lottery…”

I received an honorable mention from HumorPress.com’s humor writing contest for my essay about flying standby while growing up.  You can read the full piece here.

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LA Times Health Essay

“In my junior high home ec class, I liked the emphasis on precision we were taught: Use a butter knife to level off the dry ingredients in a measuring cup, and never pour salt into a measuring spoon over a bowl of already waiting ingredients.

I felt comfortable following directions, and attempting a meal without a recipe left me uneasy…”

I wrote a short essay for the LA Times Health column “My Turn” about how joining a CSA program has helped me branch out in my cooking.  You can read the entire piece here.

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The Ghost Story

“When I was asked to sit on the review board of a literary journal after several years of sending my own work out to similar journals, I was excited.  As most writers who have been submitting know, publishing in print literary magazines is really hard.  You put your work into envelopes or emails and send them off to unknown addresses to wait for months at a time for a response.  After a few editors don’t respond at all, you can find yourself getting excited to receive a form rejection letter – just because it tells you that your work actually did arrive and wasn’t lost in some correspondence black hole.  The few rare occasions when editors have taken the time to scribble something like “Not bad” on my rejection letters, it’s been my motivation to keep writing rather than re-directing my creative energies into something with more tangible results, like learning to play the harpsichord.  Of course I’ve also learned notes on a slip aren’t always motivational – I got overly excited about seeing handwriting on one rejection slip before I read the words, ‘Sorry for the delay in responding.’  I had been waiting for a reply for over a year…”

I wrote an essay on my experience participating in the submission review process for a literary journal for Authorship.  You can read the entire piece here

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Honorable Humor

One of my essays “Caffeine Dreams” received an honorable mention for the Rosalie Fleming Memorial Humor prize.   The full essay is below:

Caffeine Dreams

During the eight years that I spent in the 9-to-5 cubicle world after college, I would often stop for coffee on my way to work and look longingly at the people camped out at the tables around me.  I was on my way to work on my carpal tunnel syndrome for the next nine plus hours and these people were doing whatever they wanted.   They were on laptops, reading, or just staring into their oversized cups, and having the freedom to do that on any given weekday morning seemed idyllic.  I began to fixate on the image of doing the same thing myself one day.

I am no stranger to picturing scenes for myself.  When I first moved to New York without a job I had visions of myself sitting at the counter of a diner pouring over the classified ads.  Of course, the reality of my job search involved me surfing the web in my pajamas at home.

I had had brief periods of unemployment between jobs in the past, but was never able to complete the coffee shop dream as those times were spent panicking over the fact that I didn’t have a job.  To achieve the image I had to actually be able to relax while at said java joint.  As luck, or determination, would have it I eventually found myself with a flexible schedule a couple of years ago when I completed grad school and began teaching college writing.  For part of the summer I was only teaching an online course, giving me freedom to pretty much do what I wanted with my days.  Of course it took me a while to build up to the coffee shop dream – why get up and go out first thing in the morning when you can hang around the house all day?

When I finally motivated to drag myself to a café to work, I chose a hip place with funky unmatched tables and chairs, and a quaint patio.  When I got to the counter to order a sign said:  “This is not your office.  This is a business.  You must order a drink to sit at the table and do your ‘work.’  Plan to buy one drink per hour.”  I bought my drink and noted the time on my watch.  The clock was apparently ticking.

One of the questions I used to ask myself when I was decked out in my Banana Republic business casual clothing ordering lattes was – how were all these people able to just hang out on a weekday?  Was it a day off?  Were they all “freelance writers”?  Looking around my coffee shop it seemed hard to decipher – some appeared to be students with textbook-like reading and others stay-at-home moms with young kids.  But a fair percentage of them were nondescript people hiding behind laptops.  Since everyone seemed to make a point of facing their screens to the wall it was hard to know what they were doing – writing novels, paying their bills, looking at porn?  But the bigger question was, what did they do in life that allows them to do this?  I suppose there are other professions that allow for flexible schedules, but when you work an office job you tend to assume the majority of the rest of the world is also confined to the same cage that you are.

When I tired of sizing up the people around me I opened up my laptop to begin some work.  It was nice, but also distracting.  When people walked behind me I was afraid they were trying to read what was on my screen and when I moved my screen to face the wall I wondered if they thought I was trying to hide something.  The music was loud and not my usual taste and I had to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to leave my laptop unattended with all those questionably employed people.  As the end of my hour approached I decided I would go home rather than purchase the next required drink.

I still go to coffee shops to work from time to time, but I’m often more productive when I go to my office.  There is a certain irony that I now seek out the place I used to dream of escaping, but I’ve found that in most of my imagined idyllic scenes the reality always has some shortcomings.

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Short Boulder Clip

Many years ago I entered some sort of contest to writing about cities and did not win.  Recently, a search for my name turned up the piece I wrote for the contest about Boulder here.

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Italy Anthology

We were halfway between two of the towns when clouds rolled in and the lightning started.  I thought I knew what to do in lightning storms:  Get away from trees and other tall objects, and find a ditch to lie in.  But, as it was, we were on the top of a cliff with trees all around us and no ditches in sight.  We couldn’t see where the trail led next as it rounded corners along the coast, but we knew we were far from the next town.  We heard loud thunder strikes all around us and started counting off the time between each flash of lightning and the corresponding boom.  One, one thousand…two, one thousand…three, one thousand.  Each count represented a mile, the distance between the lightning strike and us.  At least, that’s what someone had told me in elementary school, and I had no better knowledge to go on at the time…”

I wrote about an ill-fated hike in Cinque Terre in the essay “Shirts Off for Bill and Ted”  for the anthology Italy from a Backpack.

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Christian Science Monitor: This Christmas Letter Gets Rave Reviews

“Around Christmastime a couple of years ago, one of my friends ranted about how much he hated those holiday “brag letters” people send out each year. After making a mental note never to send him one in the future, I began to wonder what it is that makes people so irate about the good fortune of others…”

I wrote about my Dad’s popular annual Christmas letter for the Christian Science Monitor in this essay.

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McSweeney’s: Favorite Song

“In a linguistics class, I learned that advanced speakers of a language will anticipate what someone is going to say before they say it a large percentage of the time. So conversation, for the most part, is boring and expected. But song lyrics are different, because logic is often abandoned in favor of poetics, so when people think they hear Elton John singing, “Hold me closer, Tony Danza,” they don’t stop to ask why.

When I shipped myself off to Spain for a semester, I was not an advanced speaker of the language…”

McSweeney’s was kind enough to publish my essay on U2’s  “One Tree Hill” as part of their essays about favorite songs section.

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Real Lab Notes

I wrote a humor piece for Yankee Pot Roast — “Real Lab Notes”

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