Monday, December 26, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Holiday Version

OK, so get this: I got "Just Dance" for Christmas. So psyched. Took it out of its shiny cellophane wrapper yesterday and danced for 40 minutes solid -- even with the boys butting in to get their grooves on. My nine-year-old was a riot. All over the place.

Then, with the boys out of school for winter break today, we hit the gym and rented a tennis court for an hour. I was busy getting a pedicure for the first bit -- but then my pretty red toes and I caught the second half. (I know. It was fantastic day.) Neither my 12-year-old nor I have mastered this tennis thing yet, but we managed to rally for 16 straight hits at one point, so we were feeling pretty cocky by the time we left. Plus all the wild hits had me ALL over the court, so I got a better-than-average racket workout. (We don't pay much attention to out-of-bounds lines.)

Tomorrow it's back to work. Workout plan: Huh. I'm not sure yet. But if the temps stay as freakishly high as they've been, it'll probably include Miss Daisy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


My neighbor just gave me his massive P90X cd collection and a spreadsheet for keeping track of the related (insane) workouts.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Ha. Ha.


I'm totally going to do this thing, aren't I?

Project 40 to 41: Day 45

Why didn't I set my Project 40 to 41 goal to floss my teeth every day for a year?

That would've been so much easier.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 44

You'd think, wouldn't you, that after 44 days this whole exercise thing would be part of my routine. I read somewhere when I was a kid that an activity becomes a habit after 21 days. Actually maybe my mom told me that -- and it might've been related to making my bed or cleaning my room or something.

At any rate. Here I am, 44 days in, and I'm still regularly surprised at roughly 10:30 p.m. when I'm thinking of bed -- and realize I HAVEN'T $*#((@#$*#$ EXERCISED YET.

This happened last night. Which explains why my "work-out" consisted of 20 crunches and a few yoga poses on the floor next to my bed.

What's wrong with me?

Maybe things will get easier after Christmas. I've been wrapped up magazine production for the last week while simultaneously trying to squeeze as much holiday spirit as I can out of my days. Add all the other life stuff in there and the days get tight. My stomach, unfortunately, does not.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Project 40 to 41: UGH

I'm so frustrated! I was REALLY REALLY REALLY looking forward to climbing in bed with my book just now. And then I remembered I haven't exercised yet today.


On Turning Ten by Billy Collins

I'm such a sap. This made me get all sniffly today. Maybe it has something to do with my youngest being nine years old...

On Turning Ten
by Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Speaking Jenny: Kasson Luncheon

I had a (surprisingly) fun time speaking at the Kasson Lutheran Church on Saturday for their annual Women's Christmas Luncheon. The attendees -- about 160 in all -- were warm and kind and laughed at all my jokes, which is really my most important criteria when it comes to ranking an audience. (Professional or personal.)

I spoke on the "12 Ways to Take Care of Yourself (aka 12 Tips for Living Your Life)" -- based on a former Jen's World column. And while I don't want to give it all away, I'll tell you this: "Paint Your Toenails Red" was one of the 12.

Project 40 to 41: Day 30-something

Another quick note before I call it a night. Since I started today's workout 5 minutes after midnight, I suppose it technically should be counted on tomorrow's tally. But let's not be hasty. It may be nearly 1 a.m., but this is still my Monday.

The last four days have seen one rockin' cardio gym workout, one walk with Daisy dog (far shorter than it should've been), and two home strength/flexibility days -- including tonight's late-night offering.

Incidentally, this is one of those nights when I wonder if exercising was actually the unhealthy choice. I worked out tonight because I'm determined to do this thing -- even if it meant STARTING my exercise routine at midnight. But would it have actually been healthier for me to get to sleep at a decent hour?

Tomorrow morning and the inevitably busy day that follows is going to feel awfully early...

That's my cue to turn this thing off and hit the pillow like everyone else -- including the four-legged -- in this house.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 31

Day 31! A whole month!!

And where am I? Well, I'm still sore from yoga on Monday. And I had a fabulous (FABULOUS!) treadmill workout at the gym tonight. Just felt so energized and lucky through the whole thing, even when I was busting my butt on the incline, because I can FEEL the difference between now and one month ago.

My weight hasn't changed. I don't have a six pack. But I can tell I've been moving. My flexibility is better. My energy is better. And I'm actually looking forward to my next workout. Who knew?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 29

Just a quick check-in on a busy day. Yesterday was one of those weird, jumping jacks and jogging in place work-outs at 11 p.m. while watching Chelsea Lately and Friends. Those work-outs always feel like cheating a bit -- but I have few options when I've waited that long to get my exercise in. They'll have to do.

Today I'm heading to the gym at noon for yoga. If I get enough work done this morning and can spare the time, I may hit the treadmill as well.

What are YOU doing today?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 26

Everything's rolling along beautifully: Yesterday I did aerobic (dancing, jumping, jogging in place) while watching the final Netflixed Mad Men. (Can't believe I have to wait 'til March to see what happens next. Also: Engaged? To her?? And what is up Betty's butt?)

Today I hit the gym while the 12-year-old took tennis lessons. 30 minutes on the treadmill followed by some mat stretching.

It feels GREAT to be on a roll. I had so much energy today during my workout -- even as slowly as I'm progressing, this whole "exercise everyday" thing is paying off. Happy, happy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 24

Hot damn! I managed a morning workout!

Daisy dog and I took a brisk 2-mile walk / sometimes jog around the 'hood after getting the nine-year-old to his bus. And then we returned home for some yoga and strength training. It feels FABULOUS to have this out of the way for the day.

In other news: Last night, I dreamt that we discovered that Daisy is actually a robot dog. And that she's trained for terror.

Explain that.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 22

Chalk up another workout: 25 minutes of strength and flexibility work on the living room floor.

Tomorrow's plan: Hit the gym for some treadmill groovin'.

I had that one good workout... on Saturday... this weekend...

Confession time: Remember how I wrote how sick I felt? And how that was just A-OK because -- hey! -- you can still exercise when you have a head cold? Even Mayo Clinic says so!

I was just a little ray of workout sunshine that day, wasn't I?

Well, I kind of want to wrestle me for that. Or at least give myself a big, fat eye roll accompanied by a sneer. Actually, that's what I'm doing now.

When I started Project 40 to 41 not even one month ago, I was determined to exercise every. single. day. for one year. No matter what. I was my own, built-in cheerleader:

A day full of meetings? Exercise!

Traveling by car, by plane, by boat? Exercise!

All levels of disease? Exercise!

Well, I'm here to tell you that I have failed miserably.

Failed, I tell you. Miserably.

Don't think I don't feel immense guilt. Because I do. But last Wednesday night, as I sunk into my bed -- "for just a minute" -- with every sinus cavity in my head filled to capacity and my face wincing in pain with every swallow and a mountain of tissues and cough drops piled on my nightstand, I just couldn't force myself back up.

Ditto for Thursday.

I made that Thanksgiving dinner. I sucked down as much ibuprofen as necessary to swallow it down. And then I watched three episodes of Mad Men on Netflix back to back until I fell asleep.

And I felt bad about it. Sure, I did. Bad enough to do some stretches across my bed for five minutes and call it "yoga."

But not guilty enough to take a walk or throw in Wii Fit or -- God forbid -- actually drive to the gym.

So where does this leave me?

It leaves me with a goal unrealized. No matter what happens now, I can't say I exercised every single day of my 40th year. That sucks. But I'm not stopping now.

On Saturday, I had a fabulous workout at the gym. I cranked up the incline on the treadmill (I usually go at 0.0 -- so this is a big deal for me) and really worked those legs.

Last night, while we watched Elf, I did jumping jacks in one-minute intervals between core work on the mat. (Turns out jumping jacks? Crazy intense for me.)

Today I'm working all day, then heading to a meeting in Cannon Falls for the night. To get a workout in today, I'll have to do it late tonight, when I'm home. And I will.

Game back on.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tonight at dinner...

"I'm sorry your throat still hurts, Mom."

"That's OK," I whisper.

"At school, Sophie and Logan have strep throat. They sit right next to me."

Please no. Please no. Please no. Please no.

Project 40 to 41: Day 15

I'm officially sick. Sore throat. Stuffy nose. Blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc.

The bad news: I'm officially sick. The good news: That doesn't mean I have to take an all-out break from the Project.

Protest if you want, but it's true. Here's something I wrote about a year and a half ago for one of my health information clients:

How do you know if you're too sick to exercise? Follow this rule of thumb: If your symptoms are "above the neck" — such as runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or sore throat — exercise is okay. If your symptoms are "below the neck" — such as chest congestion or tightness, hacking cough, or upset stomach — postpone your workout. Also, don't exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches. [Source:, Exercise and illness: Should you exercise when you're sick? February 2, 2009.]

So I'll keep at it. But I will slow down a bit. Yesterday's 45-minute aerobic session might've been pushing it. Today I'll focus on strength and flexibility.

In other news, I received this message in my inbox last week from a Jen's World reader:

Your column reminded me about myself 5 years ago, when I discovered I was gaining weight (all around my belly ) with no good reason nor any diet or exercise change in my daily routine. When I checked with my doctor, she said: You are 40, and from now on you have to exercise every-single-day of your life just to keep your current weight... Period.

So I started Zumba. I am not a sporty person, but this is not exercising, it is having a party! Probably what I love more about this exercise is the level of energy I've got! I am alternating with little weight lifting because at 40 I also started menopause (hopefully you still have years before menopause!) and I feel very good about myself.
Give Zumba a chance!
-- Angelica

I've tried Zumba before -- once. And then I decided I should probably stick to running. Despite how I love to dance, the choreographed moves of Zumba seemed above my ability. Plus, the studio at my gym has these big wall mirrors, which is just embarrassing. Still: My exercise variety IS lacking. Maybe I'll give Zumba another shot when I get bored.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Super Major Fail

OK, so here's the completely aggravating story of last night:

4 p.m.: "Twilight" with friends. (I will never, ever be able to drink out of a styrofoam cup again.)
6 p.m.: Dinner with the fam.
7 p.m.: Movie night with the 9-year-old while the 12-year-old stayed at a friend's.
9 p.m.: "OK, kiddo, I'll just lay with you for a few minutes before I get my workout in."

And that's it. That's my whole night.

I fell asleep and broke my streak!

arg-arg-arg-arg-arg. I was so angry when I woke up this morning. I was also coughing and wincing every time I swallowed--and talking liking the sexier, huskier-voiced version of me. (But definitely not looking like it.)

So, yeah. Day 14 was a wash. But I'm not going to beat myself up too much about it because, clearly, my body needed the sleep.

But it also needs exercise. So today, I'm making up for that missed workout by getting in a full 60 minutes. And I'm starting in a few minutes so I can get it in AND get that full night's sleep I need.

(Still. ARGH. ARGH. ARGH.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Project 40 to 41: The conversation that started it all

For my 40th birthday, my sisters and their families came down to celebrate with me. We danced. We played cards. We held ruckus, kid-centric dinners in my too-small dining room.

And we had the conversation that made me write this Jen's World column.

If broadcasting the details of my muffin top to 30,000-plus newspaper readers wasn't enough, my family had to take it to the next level. When my friend Kelly posted the link to this column on her Facebook page, the resulting comments looked like this:

[My mom] Jenny didn't mention Amy's comment about her stomach looking like a butt.
22 hours ago · LikeUnlike

[My mom] Amy told me to write that.
22 hours ago · LikeUnlike

[Me] Real nice, guys. Real nice.
19 hours ago · LikeUnlike

[Kelly] Witch.
18 hours ago · UnlikeLike · You like this.

18 hours ago · Like

Project 40 to 41: Day 13

Clearly there's going to come a time when Wii Fit isn't going to cut it. But that time is not yet. Tonight -- at 11 p.m., because that's when I finally fit it in -- I pulled up my Wii balance board and hula-hooped like a mad woman. Then I did some boxing, some jogging in place, a few strength moves. Thirty-five minutes and a full 180 seconds on the "focus candle" later, I was glad I'd stayed up to get my workout in. (Though it wasn't all a wild success: On the yoga plank move, my virtual trainer told me I was "shaky" and gave me 0 points for my "weak core." Yeah, yeah, I know -- my weak core is what motivated me to start this project. But still. It's a little hurtful coming from a totally buff non-person.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

That's a lot of Words

This morning, I finished printing the 171-page manuscript of selected Jen's World columns that will someday become a book. It's a pretty hefty little stack of paper. I may not even start editing and proofing for a couple days; I may just walk around holding it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Inspiration Break

I can't quit watching this. It's a performance worthy of inspiring a week's worth of workouts:

Project 40 to 41: Day 12

I don't even know if I should admit this: I'm actually sore from Wii Fit last night. I'm pretty sure it was the hula-hooping.

If this doesn't tell you what pitiful shape I've been in lately, I don't know what will.

On today's exercise agenda: A stop in at the gym after picking up the boys from school. I'll probably split 60 minutes between the elliptical, the treadmill, and floor (stretching, hand weights, stability ball).

That reminds me: Must charge the iPod today. There are few things more discouraging than showing up for my workout without some form of auditory distraction.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 11

So last night's dog jog turned into 15 minutes of dancing with my four-year-old friend Kathleen. Not the 30 minutes of my goal, but it was something and I'll take it.

Tonight: Wii Fit. Finally got it figured out, even with the 12-year-old sleeping. (OK, fine: The truth is that he and I were playing Wii Sports tennis after school and the thing was still on when I went down to exercise.)

After a couple of borderline days, I feel like I'm on the upswing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 10

Never did figure out the Wii last night without the 12-year-old to help. The Plan B: Jumping rope.

Guess what? Jumping rope is really, really tiring. I did it for about one minute and then I did yoga poses while watching an episode of Mad Men.

I really need to pick up the pace here.

Tonight's plan: A jog with the dog. A dog jog, so to speak.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Day 9

OK, these are the days when I wonder if I'm going to be able to pull this thing off.

After yesterday's late night, there was no getting up early for a workout. Not that I'm a get-up-early-for-a-workout kind of girl. But I can recognize the benefits.

For instance, if I'd gotten up for a 7 a.m. jog this morning, I wouldn't be sitting here I am at 10:15 p.m. wondering if I can figure out how to get Wii Fit up and working without waking my 12-year-old to help me.

Instead, I was sleeping at 7 a.m. And then I was getting kiddos off to school. And then I was picking up Daisy at the kennel, working at the Rochester Magazine office, stuck in meetings, and suddenly serving after-school snacks to after-school kiddos before hitting homework duty. A friend's birthday dinner. The Vikings game. Bedtime reading. Volunteer editing. The balancing of a checkbook.

Wham, bam, 10:15 p.m.

The bottom line is that I'm going to have to make exercise more of a priority -- and not leave it to the last item on my to-do list. Maybe tomorrow. Until then, I've got some late-night Wii Fit hula-hooping on my agenda.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Project 40 to 41: Week 1

Well, the project started before the blogging. I sit here in my basement with a fistful of M&Ms at 10:55 p.m., preparing to squeeze in Day 8's workout. (The Day 8 workout, I should add, is probably going to consist of jumping jacks and yoga poses in front of a Redbox rental of "Something Borrowed." This is yet an imperfect science.)

I don't want to exercise tonight. I don't. I spent the morning in a waterpark hotel with the family and our friends. I spent the afternoon driving back home to Rochester. I spent the evening grocery shopping, overseeing homework, sorting three (count 'em, three) containers of widowed socks, unpacking a ridiculous amount of crap considering we were only gone two days, and finishing up a writing assignment due tomorrow.

I don't want to exercise. But I'm going to. Because this is what I've vowed to do. I've vowed to exercise every single day for the 365 days between my 40th and 41st birthdays with a specific goal: Feel and look better at 41 than I do at 40.

Here's where I started:

Day 1: November 6
"Jay," I say. "You need to take a 'before' picture." I want a record of where I was on my 40th birthday--an image I can compare to 41.
I stand against the living room wall in my bra and underwear. I lift my arms, holding one hand in a "4" and the other in a "0". I smile. He shoots.
"OK, let me see it," I say. I'm not all that nervous to look at a flabby, near-naked picture of myself. This is, after all, the point. We have to start somewhere. Must have an unfortunate "before" in order to have a kick-ass "after."
But it's worse than I expect. My bra is too small. My Hanes Her Ways are too big, the sides too wide. Holy crap, I think, my husband is married to a woman in granny panties.
So now I have two items on my to-do list: (1) Exercise at least 30 minutes a day every day for the next 365 days. (2) Buy sexier underwear.

Day 2: November 7
After a slow start, I feel like the momentum starts today. Yesterday, my exercise session consisted of swimming at the gym while the kids splashed around me and ambling through the neighborhood with my friend LaNae. Not wildly successful, really. (Though I did have a giant fruit bowl instead of a birthday cake and when I blew out my birthday candles, I wished for a good, healthy year with all my boys. So there's that.)
But today! Today, I hit the gym after I pick up the boys from school and go straight to the fitness floor. I do five miles on the elliptical while listening to NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" on my iPod, followed by yoga poses and core work on the stability ball for 20 minutes. One full hour. Shazam.

Day 3: November 8
Today, I take Daisy for a run before work. It's a slow run, sure. It's a run littered with doggie potty breaks and squirrel distractions. But it's a run--the first I've done in months. By the time Daisy and I make it back up the driveway, I'm feeling mighty good. As empowered as I am fatigued. I check the time: We've been out 28 minutes. Close enough.

Day 4: November 9
It's back to the gym today: Elliptical + treadmill + yoga poses on the mat between work and dinner. I'm feeling pretty good until I call Jay from the gym. "I didn't have time to plan dinner tonight. You?"
"I'll figure something out," he says.
By the time the boys and I make it home, Jay has canned soup and sliced apples waiting on the table -- a fair job considering the contents of our pantry and the extent of my forewarning.
But my workout high is gone. I feel like a failure as a wife and mother. Why can't I manage to work and take care of myself and take care of my family? Why can't I do it all? Why do I feel I have to?

Day 5: November 10
It's another long walk for Daisy. She's lo-o-o-o-ving this. I also do some arm work with five-pound weights. The three-pounders had seemed too wimpy, but halfway through my arm raises I wish I'd started there.

Days 6 and 7: November 11, 12
We're in Wisconsin Dells with the Winklers, our family-like-friends from Green Bay. Oh, how we love them. "I have to figure out how to work out while we're here," I tell Sara. "I'm doing that Project 40 to 41 thing."
"Playing at the waterpark is exercise," she says. "Totally qualifies."
And because Sara is a fitness queen -- a yoga, Pilates, swimming master -- I jump on her logic. "Hell yeah," I say. "The waterpark IS a workout."
The thing is: She's proved right. Fighting the "tide" in the wave pool, climbing flight upon flight of stairs to the top of water slides, and screaming through "The Tornado" does get my heart beating. It doesn't feel like a cheat to claim these days as exercise days. Still, it will feel good to get a "real" workout tomorrow.

Day 8: November 13
Ah, and here we're up to speed. "Something Borrowed," jumping jacks, yoga poses. So maybe it's not the "real" workout I'd planned, but it's something. And something is better than nothing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I am Not Middle Aged (Just in Case You're Wondering)

Sounds like last week's Jen's World is hard to find on the PB site. (Shocker, I know.) So here it is, for your reading pleasure:

* * *

One evening last week, I was spending time with a group of friends and acquaintances when a man I don’t know very well said, “Well, you know, when you’re middle aged like we are…”


I shot incredulous looks at my friends. “Who the hell is HE talking to?” my expression said. “What does he mean, when you’re ‘middle aged like we are’?”

Ha. Ha ha ha.


But I was unsettled. Was I middle aged? And, if so, why hadn’t anyone told me? I went home that night and Googled, “What is middle age?” And then I did what I’ve told my kids they must never, ever do: Used Wikipedia as my primary source.

“Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age,” the entry read. It went on to state that the Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition as “…the period between early adulthood and old age, usually considered as the years from about 45 to 65.” And that the U.S. Census lists middle age as including both the age categories 35 to 44 and 45 to 50.

It didn’t take me long to do the math. In roughly one month, I’m hitting the big time—a milestone birthday. 40. Which means, according to the U.S. Census, I’ve already been middle-aged for half a decade.

And that, my friends, is why you should never use Wikipedia.

I’ve always been the girl who quotes Abraham Lincoln when it comes to birthdays: “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” And I believe that—wholeheartedly. But I’m also beginning to see, in fits and starts, the places where I might, kind of, sort of, be entering into if not middle agedom… then at least older than young adultdom.

Here’s one example: I sat in my car in a parking lot for 10 full minutes this afternoon, riveted by what was on the radio. It was NPR. (In my defense, it was “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” NPR’s “weekly hour-long quiz program”—and who doesn’t find Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell irresistible? Don’t answer that.)

Here’s another: When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is open and close my fingers in loose fists to see how my arthritis is doing. I’m not even lying. And then I shuffle—I’m shuffling, people—to my closet, where I put on my robe, which is not only flannel, but embroidered with Scottie dogs. (Once again, I feel I must defend myself by pointing out that the robe in question was actually a gift from my mother-in-law.)

One more: I found myself using the word “persnickety” this week. Also, curmudgeon. That can’t be good.

The thing is, though, that occasional grandma-like vocabulary, a bit of arthritis, and an affinity for NPR weekend programming aside—I feel young. Like really young—like 27. Or 32. Or, hey, maybe even almost-40.

Because here’s what else I’ve discovered: No matter what the U.S. Census says, 40 is young—or at least it’s youngish, if “youngish” indicates vitality, vigor and much future promise. (And I would argue that it does.) I mean, heck: Leonardo Da Vinci painted The Last Supper at 43. Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn at 49. Jack Nicklaus won a Masters, and Martina Navratilova a Grand Slam in their 40s. Even Orville Redenbacher didn’t start his popcorn company until his late 50s.

Not that I’m trying to emulate Orville Redenbacher, mind you.

This time of life, as far as I can tell, embodies the confidence of youth with a bit of the experience and wisdom of age thrown in. The truth is, most days I feel energetic, enthusiastic, and excited for the future. If that’s middle aged, I’ll take it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More reasons VCFA (and my low-res MFA) is cool

David Jauss wrote this piece for Writer's Digest, and it's now on the Vermont College of Fine Arts blog. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about my experience at VCFA. As if I needed more reasons to feel that way...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm Not as Crazy as it Seems...

Really. But reading this latest column, you might not know that:

* * *

Last week, my husband, Jay, and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. I’m not saying the last 15 years have always been easy—but I do know how good I have it. My husband is a patient, funny, not-easily-flustered soul. Which is exactly the kind of man I need. This may not come as a surprise to longtime readers, but it’s occurred to me once or twice that I may not be the easiest person to be married to.

Earlier this month, for instance, Jay took our sons “up north” for the fishing opener. Big weekend, that one. Takes a lot of planning. A lot of stringing rods and assessing tackle and packing strategically for cold May mornings. It takes lining the boat up just right to get it on the hitch, and making sure the life vests are sized correctly for growing boys.

At our house, this process takes days. Jay is one of those super organized people who likes to make sure everything is ready well in advance. (We differ in this way. A typical date night at our house, for example, includes Jay waiting in the driver’s seat of the car three minutes before I run out the front door, shoes in one hand, make-up bag in the other.)

True to form, 24 hours before Jay and the boys are to leave for the fishing opener, the truck is packed like a 500-piece puzzle. The boat is hitched. The trailer lights are checked. All that’s left to do is jump in and drive.

The truck, I should point out, is a new development. After years of sharing a single car with me, Jay recently became the owner of his dad’s old 2000 Ford Ranger. It’s one of those trucks with a small, extended cab and those little side seats in the back.

Anyway. It’s Saturday morning—minutes before liftoff. The kids are finishing breakfast. The fish are calling. This is when I decide to tell my husband what I’ve been thinking since I woke up: That I’m worried about our sons riding five hours one way in those tiny seats. That it can’t possibly be safe. That they only have lap belts, right? Lap belts! That, clearly, I won’t be able to rest the whole time they’re gone because I’ll be so worried.

To which Jay replies, “It will be fine, Jen.”

So I say it all again, only I rearrange the sentences to make it sound like a new argument… and add the part about taking our CR-V instead. My husband runs his hand through his hair and says, slowly, “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

In an effort to bulk up my case, I Google for backup and find a 2002 JAMA study: “Children riding in the rear seat of compact extended cab pickup trucks were nearly five times more likely to suffer injury during a crash compared to children riding in the rear seat of other vehicles,” I read aloud. “We encourage families who own them to avoid transporting children in them and to find other forms of transportation."

I look up meaningfully at my husband. “See?” I say. “I’m not crazy.”

He shakes his head, sighs and walks outside. Lowers the tailgate and begins unloading fishing rods and buckets and coolers. Changes the hitch. Tests the trailer. And, I’m guessing, calls me 75 nasty names in his head—give or take.

But not a single harsh word to my face. And when he finally loads the kids into the CR-V, and I hug him and say, “Thank you for doing this”—he hugs me back and says, “You’re welcome.”

Of course, marriage isn’t one-sided. Which is why, all weekend long, every time Jay called me from the boat with his latest fish story—like the 14-pound northern he couldn’t fit his hands around—I did my part, too. I acted like it was the most thrilling thing I’d heard all day—all week, even. And I meant it.

Jenny Rand is Done With Chemo!

...and this is what she has to say about the experience, from my 5/18 Jen's World:

* * *

In February, I told you all about my friend Jenny Rand. I told you about her crazy sense of humor, about her four fabulous kiddos... and about her breast cancer. It's after columns like that one that I'm reminded what fabulous reader-friends I have. You may have never met Jenny Rand, but she touched your hearts. When I saw you at the dentist office, you asked how she was doing. At the bank, you told me you were praying for her. At the gym, you asked if you could help. It's instances like these—and more like them—that tell me this is one of those columns that deserves a follow-up.

When I sat down to write about Jenny again, though, I fell short. I know her chemotherapy schedule. I know when her “off week” falls and when her good days come around. But I don't know what it's like to have breast cancer. I could tell you what Jenny has said about losing her hair (“it sucks”) or how she's never felt more loved in her life (“best part”). But it's not the same coming from me.

Then, last week, on the night before her final chemotherapy appointment, Rand wrote an honest and heartfelt journal entry on her CaringBridge page. She’s given me the go-ahead to share her words—in the excerpt below—with you:

I struggle with all the things this disease has taken from me. … It took my hair, and my eyelashes, and my eyebrows. It took all the hair out of my nose, so my nose is constantly running. It is taking my fingernails and my toenails (no cute sandals for ME this summer!). It is sapping my strength and stripping my energy. It has taken my chest, and soon, who knows how much more of me with the hysterectomy or whatever else [my doctors] decide will be best.

I have to admit, I worry about feeling like an 'it'. Who will I be with all of these parts of me gone? I hope that I will just be, well... ME. I am still me. I am a little tired, and I am a little battered. My heart is still the same. I am still wickedly inappropriate most of the time. I am still my kids’ mom, Mike’s wife, Tom and Sue's daughter. I still love to laugh. I still love my children and adore my husband. I don’t LOOK the same—some days I don’t FEEL the same—but I hope that I am still the same where it matters: my heart, my soul, my faith, my love.

Yes, cancer has taken many, many things from me. Perhaps most importantly, it took my innocence. It took my invincibility. But it didn’t take my children’s mom. It didn’t take me from my husband.

All of the things that cancer took might seem unimportant. And, all things told, [they] might not be important one at a time. Throwing them all in at once, though? Along with the diagnosis and the treatment and the chaos that it’s thrown into our lives? It got, and still gets, overwhelming. Sometimes, I do forget to pull it apart into smaller parts and deal with it all that way. Today, I can tackle the rashes. Tomorrow, I will try to deal with the actual treatment. Friday, I can minimize the bone pain. Saturday, I plan on LIVING for [my daughter’s] fourth birthday! I just forget to take it one day, one problem—or, some days, one minute—at a time. On these days, throw in one other stressful situation, and I tend to fall apart.

Tomorrow, my 44th birthday, I will get to say goodbye to chemo—and I hope I will get to say hello, again, to myself. The one I used to know. The one that is still inside here somewhere. Tomorrow, my 44th birthday, I will welcome LIFE back in my life.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Pretty cool. A book I wrote a couple years ago -- 50 Ways to Calm Your Fussy Baby -- is now for sale as an eBook. Want to see it? You can check out the cover (which features the baby version of my now 9-year-old) HERE.

It's pretty exciting that in addition to the 200 or so print copies I still have in my closet, 50 Ways to Calm Your Fussy Baby is now also available for purchase on Kindle devices and Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and Android-based devices.

Being married to a tech-savvy designer has its perks... :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Had a great Mother's Day with Jay and the kiddos today. I had to make my own breakfast in bed (Cocoa Krispies, if you must know), but it was followed by a lovely afternoon bluff hike and picnic at Whitewater State Park. Such a great place. We even took pictures, but in order to post them, I'd have to wake Jay to ask him where the card reader is. And then I'd lose my Queen of the Day status pretty quickly.

Another time.

So, the highlight of the day was when the 11-year-old held my hand in the mall. (!!) And when the 9-year-old came running in the house to get his baseball glove while playing with neighbor friends, and spontaneously yelled, "Happy Mother's Day!" on his way up the stairs.

Also, when we did not fall to our deaths on those wickedly scary bluffs at Whitewater.

It's the little things.

Today, I was loved. Last week, not so much. You can read about THAT in last week's Jen's World.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reason #137 I love my 9-year-old

I was just paging through notes I'd taken and tucked into my "writing life" folder. Doing a little spring cleaning. Looking for inspiration. I found this, a line-by-line account of a conversation I'd had with Bergen a few years ago. He must've been five.

Me: I ran my first race when I was pregnant with you.

Bergen: That's bad, right?

Me: No, it was ok. I was just newly pregnant – and you turned out ok, right?

Bergen: No.

Me: How are you not ok?

Bergen: I'm always thirsty.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jen's World: Willie!

Here's my 4/20 column... by popular demand. And by "popular demand," I mean that my friend Kelly requested I post it.

Long Live Willie Nelson!

* * *

Willie Nelson is the soundtrack of my youth. I probably wouldn’t have admitted it to my friends then, but how many times did I dance in my parents’ basement to “Good-Hearted Woman”? Play pool under the fluorescent lights to “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”? Belt out “On the Road Again” during family road trips?

Countless, that’s how many. And so it was with a fair bit of excitement that I walked into Mayo Civic Center for my first-ever Willie Nelson concert on Saturday night.

As my friend Lisa and I settled into our seats, we checked out the crowd. We noted a decidedly older demographic (there was a cane hanging on the railing blocking the stage)—though there was a respectable showing of children and 20-somethings, as well.

From the balcony, we admired the inhabitants of the first row with wonder (“How do you get those seats?” and “Look at those sequins!”) as a man behind us starting singing. “Waylon, Willie, and the boys…” he crooned, before yelling out, “C’mon! Everybody!” I thought the woman at the end of our row was going to join in, but instead she yelled, “We love you, Willie!”

And then, as if that’s the signal he’d been waiting for, the lights dimmed and Willie Nelson appeared. Wearing sensible tennis shoes, black jeans, a zip-up sweatshirt and a cowboy hat, the 77-year-old legend walked quietly on stage. Like an alternate-world Mister Rogers, he slipped off his sweatshirt, hung it on the table behind him, and put on his guitar—with its trademark red, white, and blue shoulder strap. And then, simply, he began playing. Just like that. No theatrics. No fanfare. No introduction. Just Whisky River.

And yet the crowd exploded—and I was transported. Like the smell of Bay Rum aftershave or the feel of riding a 10-speed on gravel, hearing Willie Nelson’s distinctive voice—live, in person, right in front of me—brought me straight back to RR 1, Box 294B, Thief River Falls, Minn. I might’ve been in section 10, seat 10 at the Mayo Civic Center, but I was also spinning around the pool table at my parents’ house, playing air guitar on a cue stick while my dad drank an Old Milwaukee and my mom twirled my little sister under her arm.

There’s a reason Willie Nelson doesn’t require fireworks or a grand introduction. His music is enough. We know all these songs—even if we didn’t know we know these songs. For 90 minutes, Willie sang back-to-back-to-back hits, without pause: Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. Good-Hearted Woman. Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground. On the Road Again. You Were Always on my Mind. I’ll Fly Away. Georgia. City of New Orleans.

It struck me during the concert that Willie Nelson is the original crossover star. I’m not suggesting that his sound was ever confused with pop music. No. But he draws fans who might otherwise never lay claim to country music. Thirty years ago, when my dad first forced the Red-Headed Stranger onto his family? The long row of albums under my parents’ stereo housed The Doors, the Beatles, Peter Frampton, Janis Joplin, George Carlin. Willie Nelson was the delicious anomaly.

Because here’s the thing—and if I didn’t know it then, I know it now: Willie Nelson is cool. Like crazy cool. He can amble on stage, throw on his guitar and play 90 minutes of solid tunes. Utter a couple of thank-yous. And then smile, sign a few hats, and walk back off.

And still make me nurse a sizable crush—and hum Good-Hearted Woman for the next three days. And counting.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jen's World: 15 Years & Counting...

Hey everyone! Yes, I know, MIA. While trying to decide exactly what need this blog fulfills (for me, for you), I've skirted it tremendously. :)

I'm hearing that many people are having difficulty finding my columns on the Post-Bulletin site. I get it. I tried to find them just now and came up with a big, fat ZERO when entering "Jennifer Koski" AND "Jen's World" in the search engine, despite the fact that I've written more than 250 columns for them in the past five-plus years.

So here you go, those who've been asking! This is the 3/23 column. Last Wednesday's column can be found on my FB page.

Best to you all! xoxo

* * *

Nearly 15 years ago, my husband and I were married. And can I just say that, if I could do it over again, I would change almost everything?

For starters, I would knock myself upside the head when I got the brilliant idea to make our own invitations. This was definitely one of those “sounded like a good idea at the time” projects. To save money and personalize our invites, we bought specialty paper, which we both rubber-stamped and embossed by hand. And then we realized that we’d forgotten the date on the first batch. It took us weeks to finish those things. And then we had to address them. And I’m pretty sure we didn’t actually save any money.

Also, if I were to do our wedding again, I wouldn’t waste five seconds worrying about coordinating colors. I’ve never been good at making decisions (to this day I have to give myself a time limit in the candy aisle), but I was particularly inept when it came to choosing colors for our wedding. I still remember agonizing over which shade of green was most appropriate for napkins, for ribbons, for dresses. When, really, does anyone even notice that stuff?

OK, yes, maybe they notice the dresses. But that’s another thing I’d change. I would never again presume to pick out clothing—much less the exact same gown—for five other women. I mean, really. If I were to get married again, I would tell anyone who wanted to stand up front with us that they could wear whatever they wanted.

And this is just for starters. I’d also have our wedding outdoors on a Friday evening instead of indoors on a Saturday afternoon, and wouldn’t worry about whether that meant that a second cousin twice removed wouldn’t be able to attend. Our reception would be twice as long. I’d have brownies instead of wedding cake. And I’d forego all formal pictures. (OK, maybe I’d allow a couple professional candids —but there’d definitely be none of that posing-for-two-hours thing.)

Truth is, there’s a ridiculous list full of things I’d change about my wedding if I could. But, I’m happy to tell you, it doesn’t include the most important stuff.

Like the groom. Of course. And the attendees. Jay and I were just one year out of college when we married (what babies!), so our guest list comprised this fabulous mix of high school friends. college friends, and family—many of whom are no longer with us. Our reception remains the best party I’ve ever attended. (Also, it didn’t hurt that I rode to the reception on the back of a Harley after our best man found a willing escort in a bar.)

Last week, I was digging some blankets out of a trunk in our living room when I came across perhaps the smartest decision we made for our wedding. It’s a simple, hand-bound book filled with cloth-like paper. On the cover, it says, “Thoughts” and I suppose that’s accurate.

During the dinner at our wedding, we circulated this book along the tables and asked our guests to write in it. Paging through this momento in my basement last week, I took to heart sincere messages (and laughed at the funny ones), recognized many a distinctive handwriting, and touched the signatures of people who’ve since passed from this world.

“Never forget we love you both and will always be here for you.”

“May your marriage be long and happy.”

“Never go to bed mad because you’ll wake up madder. Trust me.”

Paging through this book, I wasn’t only transformed back to my wedding day, but also to the people who were key in my life in 1996. What an incredible gift. In fact, it may be the best decision I made for my wedding. Besides the groom, of course.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cross Promotion

Happy Friday! I just stopped in at the Rochester Mag office and updated the blog there. Click through to check out the "Beauty and Insults" being strewn about with that crew.

Those people crack me up. Jay met me down at the office before lunch today, and when we left he said, "I don't think I'd be quick-witted enough to work down there. I was only there for three minutes and there were four different conversations going at once."

This is what I'm saying.

In other Friday news: I just tried sushi for the first time. Want to know how it (gag) went? I'll be writing about the experience for the April issue of Rochester Mag.

Happy weekend to all! I'm going to be painting the bathroom and writing next week's Jen's World column. Have a topic idea? Send it my way!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More on Memory

In preparing for my March small-group workshop, I was doing some reading last night in Abigail Thomas' Thinking About Memoir. On one dog-eared, pencil-noted, starred page I found this:

"The thing is, I'm old enough now to know that the past is every bit as unpredictable as the future, and that memory, mine anyway, is not a faithful record of anything, and truth is not an absolute."

There's something so reassuring about that. Also, it made me realize that I've been inwardly debating memory for some time. I marked up that book years ago.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Today, I stumbled upon the perfect epigraph for an essay I've been writing:

All of our memories are false, but how elaborate are the stories we tell ourselves? What role do we think we play in the lives of others? There are so many pathologies.

This I read in Stephen Elliott's The Daily Rumpus e-mail -- which remains the best thing I've done for myself all year.

As a nonfiction/memoir writer with 120 pages of a 150 manuscript under my belt, I've been thinking about memory a lot these last couple of years. "Memory is suspect," I've often said. But I like Elliott's assertion that "memory is false." As I write about things that happened 10, 20, 30 years ago, I usually sit back in my chair, close my eyes, and go back to that place--wait until I can smell and see and hear that experience before I write about it. Sometimes it feels fuzzy. Sometimes it feels like an exact reliving -- and I'll be (pleasantly or not) haunted by the memory for days afterward.

In all regards, my aim is to tell the truth. To be as honest as I know how.

Yet: My version of a moment, a week, a year, a relationship, is likely immeasurably different than the version of the person who shared that moment, week, year, relationship with me.

This doesn't mean that my version isn't the truth -- but it's my truth. A friend / family member's truth of the same event may well be something entirely different. Or it may be the same.

This fascinates me. Why is this? What's memory? How elaborate are the stories we tell ourselves? About even the most mundane moments? How is it that I can remember walking into the restaurant on the main floor of the Kahler Hotel... remember the tall wooden beams dividing the dining room from the kitchen, taste the walleye sandwich, remember telling the waitress that it was "too fishy" and her replying, "it's fish." Like it happened last week and not 8 years ago. Yet my husband tells me there were no tall wooden beams. That it wasn't at the Kahler. It was at John's Restaurant. And his co-worker was with us.

"But I've never been in John's Restaurant," I tell him. "Never."

"Yes, you were," he says. "You had the walleye."

We're both, somehow, right.

Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about lately. And, as I put together this collection of essays, I'm just trying to get it, somehow, right.

Friday, February 18, 2011


OK, so for the last two-plus years, I've been using the phrase "When I'm done with school..." to start a wide range of sentences.

"When I'm done with school, I will take on more paying work."

"When I'm done with school, I will keep the house clean."

"When I'm done with school, we'll look into taking in a foster child."

"When I'm done with school, I will make dinner for my family every night."

"When I'm done with school, I will do yoga every morning."

I pictured my post-MFA life to be this magical time of, well, time.

I mean, no more packets! No more thesis! No more reading list! No more monthly essay deadlines!

But then I remembered that the whole goal of getting my MFA was to (1) become a better writer; and (2) do more of my own (read: non-client) writing.

Which means, if you're following me here, that I still need to be writing essays. And reading. And setting those deadlines.

Why hadn't I realized this?? Why is this such a shock??

To keep myself going, I'm considering registering for a post-grad workshop with deadlines that are even TIGHTER than the ones I had during my MFA work.


It needs to be done, though. Because I don't want to get lazy. I didn't spend a bazillion dollars (and a few tears) on that degree to spend the rest of my writing life with regrets.

And, plus, who wants to just sit around scrubbing the floor, anyway?

P.S. In addition to the workshop I'm (almost sure I'm) joining, I'm launching another of my own here in Rochester! There are just three spots left in the March Small-Group Writer's Workshop. This relaxed, fun and productive workshop will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on March 3, 10, 17, and 24. To get in on the action or to learn more, send me a message at

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Writing Workshop!

I'm launching another small-group writing workshop in March. (Classes will be held four consecutive Thursday evenings.) This will be a generative workshop, which means that we will focus our time on creating new work, rather than critiquing existing work.

My small-group workshops are designed to be relaxed, fun, and productive evenings for writers at all levels. The cost is $55 for the four-week session, which also includes "take home" materials, and maybe even cookies.

Contact me at for more information or to register. Class size is limited to six people.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Had a Hot Date Last Night

...with the Rochester Public School district.

Here's what went down, from my column in today's Post-Bulletin.

* * *

Holy Hannah, that was intense.

I just spent 3-1/2 hours at the Rochester Public School board meeting. I’ve been home for about an hour now, and I’m still sorting through what I heard—mainly because a hearty portion of tonight’s meeting centered around the 2011-2012 budget cuts.

It’s heavy stuff. A few of the potential items on the cutting block included media specialist positions, Quarry Hill funding, the closing of two school swimming pools, and select high school sports. Let’s just say the community showed up.

During the “public input” portion of the meeting, several people rose to speak. They asked that the board make cuts that don’t directly affect students. They asked that the board not close the swimming pools. They pointed out the social, academic and physical benefits of sports programs. One well-spoken parent recommended the district pull from its reserve funds—which, I learned, currently sit at $19 million, or 14% of our operating budget. Good points, all.

I get that being a school board member is a difficult, often thankless job. But so is being a parent. And instead of finishing dinner with my family tonight—instead of helping with piano practice, talking through my son’s “historical event” project, and putting my kids to bed, I spent 3-1/2 hours watching the district’s leadership come to no conclusion.

It was frustrating. Over the course of the evening, one board member offered a specific, altered budget solution. Two others stepped up and indicated they’d like to take action tonight and vote on the existing options. But mostly I witnessed vague non-solutions:

“I’m just not happy with any of these options…”

“Well, we don’t want our students to suffer…”

“There has to be a better solution…”

No one wants our students to suffer. But we knew more cuts were coming if we didn’t pass that referendum in November and now we have to follow through. And whether the cuts come from student programs or staff changes, students will be affected.

“We’re going to need more community involvement,” said one board member. “More volunteerism.”

Yes, we will. But it seems to me that manning the ticket booths at basketball games and shelving books in the library isn’t going to make much of a dent in a multi-million dollar gap. There’s no getting away from this. Decisions have to be made, and they’re not going to get any easier. But instead of voting on the budget reductions tonight—something Superintendent Silver said she wished would happen—the board put it off again until March 1.

In the end, the evening left me with more questions than answers. Here are some things I wish I understood better:

Why aren’t we pulling from our $19 million reserve? My understanding—and maybe I’m wrong here—is that it’s to be used in times of trouble. Aren’t we in trouble?

Also, why do we need $25,000 to find a new superintendent? It was announced tonight that the search firm has agreed not to exceed $24,995 in the search for a superintendent. Is that really what it takes to fill a position in this economy?

And, finally, is there an easier way for community members to access district information? Does the district have a blog or a Facebook page that I haven’t uncovered? A place where community members can find materials and offer input without having to muddle through the district website? Because if the turnout at tonight’s meeting is any indication, the people of Rochester want to help.

We have to. In fact, “pulling together” was one thing that everyone wholeheartedly agreed upon tonight. Because according to tonight’s meeting, we’re looking at even deeper reductions for the 2012-2013 school year.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Twice the Bloggin'

So I've finally, at long last, lined up a password AND an Avatar that allows me to blog at, where I've been an assistant editor since September.

My first post is here:

Those people crack me up. I'm not lying when I say I keep a notepad on my desk at the Roch Mag offices just to write down the things they say to one another.

Friday, February 11, 2011

This Week in Jen's World...

Valentine's Day horror stories! My favorite column lately. Love this stuff. :)

You can link to the full story on the Post-Bullet site HERE.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Anti Valentine's Day

In today's Jen's World, I tell Valentine's Day horror stories, like this one:

“The last Valentine’s Day before our wedding, my husband and I hit up the lake house for a romantic, fireplace kind of weekend,” says Suzanne. “We turned on the water and the pipes burst, causing a gigantic and freezing flood. Since we had to turn the water off again, we were without working bathrooms, and since the septic system had frozen, muck was spit back into the unflushable toilets and undrainable showers. I still gag.”

More like this in today's Post-Bulletin. I'll link to the full article when it hits the web. :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why I've Fallen in Love with The Rumpus

This is an excerpt from today's "Daily Rumpus" e-mail -- which I've signed up to have delivered to my inbox. (You can, too, here:

Stephen Elliott's writing is fast becoming a favorite of mine.

I was thinking yesterday how people are vulnerable and the things that are troubling us sometimes rise, like from a volcano. Or how the people around us are mirrors, so we can't really know ourselves without seeing ourselves in someone else's eyes. I think I broke up with my fiance because I saw myself in her and didn't like what I saw. And I was thinking about how we take blame for things, and how sometimes that's mature and other times it's enabling. You can, perhaps, realize the role you've played in a conflict with someone, but that doesn't mean you can have a healthy relationship with them. You can recognize a problem without solving it.

Then I was thinking about this guy who was dating a prostitute. This is mostly true. She was married and he loved her and she loved him but neither of them was really capable of love. They were capable of passion. His friends robbed a jewelry truck, Tiffany's or something like that, an armored car. They stole over a million dollars worth of merchandise. It was on the front page of the newspaper. The crime was never solved and one day his friend gave him a ring from the robbery and he gave the ring to the girl. But the girl didn't want the ring. She said, So you're a client now? She thought he was trying to pay her. She didn't know she was holding the key to a famous crime. There was so much she didn't want to know. There was her husband, her boyfriend, her clients. Her clients flew her to places like Nashville, and Tokyo. She had a knack for giving people hope. She loved men briefly and they felt that if they waited long enough she would love them again. They didn't realize what she really wanted was to be desired.

So their relationship didn't work out, and the crime was never solved. And years passed and he kept thinking he saw her, a girl with black hair waiting in line, running on a treadmill, standing behind a table, boarding a bus. But he never did see her again.




Live in Rochester?

The Friends of the Library winter book sale is still going on until 3 p.m. today. Tons of books available for $1 and $2. How can you resist???

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A New Day

* * * For the best advice I'll give all week, read all the way to the bottom * * *

Here I sit at the Max & Emma's restaurant at Dulles, about to begin this post by apologizing for my long absence... but then realized what an utterly girl thing that is to do.

So instead, I'm going to share a few of the fantastically inspirational or interesting things I heard at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference the last few days. (So many writers! So much wisdom! So much wine!)

In no particular order:

"Good work finds its home." -- overheard

"I'd like to find the courage NOT to tell my stories." -- attributed to Ander Monson

"In every situation, the reader is the most important person." -- Stephen Elliott

"If you're afraid of hurting a reader, you're not being honest." -- Stephen Elliott

"It's not about what happened to you. It's about how you perceive what happened to you." -- Nick Flynn

"The interiors of our head are the most accessible infinities around." -- Ander Monson

Biggest message: Persevere.

Biggest tip: Go to The Rumpus' and sign up for Stephen Elliott's daily e-mail.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

El Yunque!

And here is why graduating in Puerto Rico kind of rocks:

We're in Part 2 of the residency, in the El Yunque rainforest.

Seriously cool.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Seems like last month I was lining my applications across the living room floor, worried I wouldn't get accepted into my dream MFA program. Or any program.

And, now, tomorrow I leave for my final residency in my dream MFA program. My graduate residency. In Puerto Rico, no less. (I know. Pinch me.)

I'll be staying in Old San Juan for part of the trip, and in the El Yunque Rainforest (here) for the remainder of the trip. I'll be delivering my lecture on "Crafting Rural Characters" here. Because, apparently, my life is a dream.

And then -- and THEN -- as if it couldn't get any better, my hubby and kids are going to help me celebrate graduation in style by popping down to the island after the residency for a week.

We'll do some hiking. Some swimming. Some waterfall diving. And then it'll be back to the real world. Which, really, I'm just as excited about. I'm anxious to start my life as an honest-to-god-MFA, leading workshops and teaching some classes and crossing "Get MFA" off my "50 Things to Do While I'm Still Able" list.

Rock on.