First Impressions




It’s a warm winter evening, a perfect night for being out and about. I walk down the streets of Lodo (lower downtown, Denver’s city center), passing spacious breweries and newly remodeled Union Station. I pass a person or two, but otherwise the streets feel shockingly empty. I look in the window of a few cool-looking bars, and I see a few people at tables but no crowds. On a night like this in D.C., every seat at every bar in this neighborhood would be filled. It feels weird. It feels like the calm before the storm. Then it occurs to me: Denver is preparing. With a warehouse-sized brewery on every other corner, Denver doesn’t have the population to fill these spaces, not yet; but in a few short years, it will.

Denver is the one of the fastest growing cities in America, ranking somewhere between 4th and 6th depending on the source. Even more substantial is the number of those with college degrees moving in. According to the Washington Post over the last 5 years there has been a near 22% increase in educated young people, more than any other city in the nation, and that’s only set to increase. The economy is booming with energy, tech, and marijuana leading the charge. The predictions vary, but Denver’s government is estimating that the current population of roughly 650,000 is set to add another 132,000 people in the next 5 years or so, and Denver’s businesses are ready. So is the housing market, with a large amount of new condos and apartment buildings going up.

Personally I’m reveling in the spaciousness, the calmness, lamenting what’s to come. After living in D.C. for so long with its constant noise and bustle, I’m in love with Denver’s low-key vibe. I selfishly want the city to stay just how it is, and yet I’m guilty of attempting to convert East Coast friends. Denver is just so wonderful it’s hard not to want to share it with the people I love. I’ve been living in Denver now for just under two months, and I’m amazed at how much it’s changed since my childhood. I never spent much time in Denver, because honestly there wasn’t much to recommend it. Back in the ’90s, uptown was named 5 Points, and it was overrun by gangs and crime. I remember going there a couple times for raves as a teen; it was dirty, filled with sketchy characters and rundown warehouses where squatters laid on cold nights. It’s now been rebranded the River North Arts District, or RiNo for short. And those rundown warehouses have now been converted to gyms, cool coffee shops, sushi places, and finally a fucking walk-up cupcake stand. And back then, New Belgium Brewery was just a barrel of Fat Tire being brewed in Jeff Lebesch’s basement; now there are too many breweries to even count, not to mention wineries, pot shops, and even a whiskey distillery.

Continue reading

A Tally from the Tundra: Who’s Winning, Me or the Snow?


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Greetings from the frozen white wasteland that is the greater Boston area. I’m considering escaping to a warmer climate, but I’m too paralyzed by fear of the killer icicles lurking everywhere to make a run for it.

Thanks to all this snow (we’re at about 7 feet, but my backyard is under about 12 feet, in case you were wondering), we’ve been stuck inside. A lot. Really, far too much. My kids’ cabin fever has reached a frenzied pitch and my patience an all-time low, but on the upside, I discovered a great comic book to read to them that combines my love of martial arts and rabbits: Erik Craddock’s Stone Rabbit, Vol. 5: Ninja Slice. It’s about a rabbit who’s trying to prevent his friend’s pizza place from going out of business due to a rival chain run by ninja, and it contains this epic illustration and the ideal job description of the Ninja Slice owner:

Who wouldn't want this job?

Who wouldn’t want that job title? Imagine how intimidating it would look on a business card.

But ninja rabbits and pizza shoguns aside, we have read multiple books, watched lots of TV, played an absurd amount of video games, built at least six Lego creations that were subsequently smashed and rebuilt, and baked biscotti. We’ve played in the snow when the wind chill wasn’t into the negative 20s, and even made an igloo that unfortunately collapsed when my son fell onto it (and directly onto my husband’s head). We are seriously out of ideas, and we have two or three more storms headed at us over the next week. So I decided to do a little tally to see who’s winning this Boston winter, us or the snow. Continue reading

A Procrastinator’s New Year’s Resolutions


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I realize it’s a bit late to start talking about New Year’s resolutions. But I am nothing if not a procrastinator at heart, and also, I like to change my mind as new ideas and information present themselves to me. Honestly, this is why I don’t like the idea of New Year’s resolutions much. Resolutions to better yourself and your life are great, obviously, when made in good faith. It just seems to silly to start renewing your life and changing how you’re doing things because it’s the next calendar year. Why aren’t you reviewing and adapting as needed whenever the thought occurs to you? Why make some goals tied to a dropped ball and a changed date?

But it has been brought to my attention by, well, me (since I’m my own boss) that I could be more productive and attack my to-do list in better form. I’m mainly talking about my writing to-do list here because I’m great at getting through projects for clients in an organized, timely fashion; otherwise, I would have no clients. Anyway, I was talking with a friend today who said that at her job, they set goals and develop strategies for getting work done in two-week increments. Employees are supposed to track their output and their goals closely so that they have a list of things accomplished and things ongoing at the end of each two-week period, and then they move forward with planning the next two weeks with all of that info in mind. It sounds like a constant checks-and-balances type system where, ideally, anything that isn’t working or isn’t going smoothly will be quickly discovered and put back on track. Continue reading

The Grumpy Gift-Giver’s Gift Giving Guide

I have a love/hate relationship with holiday gift guides, mainly because a lot of what people put into gift guides is way out of my price range. Also, I find that I often object to their lists of “must-haves” because let’s face it, must-haves are water, food, air, and shelter, not someone’s pick for the year’s hottest eyeliner that’s $50 for one thin little stick. Besides, I’ll bet someone on Pinterest can teach you to create that very eyeliner out of a used matchstick, some ground-up kale, and a dollop of coconut oil.

So here’s my own holiday gift guide, presented in the grumpy spirit which always lurks somewhere in my psyche whenever I have a shitload of shopping to do. I realize it is the proverbial last minute, so I don’t know if you can actually get any of these by this Christmas, but they are awesome so you should just buy them ahead of time and then you’ll be ready for next year. Unless, like me, you might completely forget where you hid them.

Thanks and credit go to the lovely and equally grumpy L. for supplying me with two of these suggestions via Gchat one day when we were both “working” at the same time. Continue reading

A Writer’s Rights


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Earlier today, Carolyn of Rosemary and Reading Glasses alerted me to the following post on John Scalzi’s blog: Dear The Toast and The Butter, Please Fix Your Rights Grab. As you may know, last month, one of my essays appeared on The Toast. I was thrilled to have it accepted and published there, but I refused to sign their contract, which as Scalzi and the folks at Writers Beware note requests not just all rights but moral rights as well. For me, this refusal was a gut instinct. My essay is an incredibly personal one, and the stories I tell in it have implications that affect many others in my family besides myself. There is absolutely no way in hell I would sell all rights to it to anyone, no matter how much money they offered me.

As a fiction writer, I’ve done a lot of research into what rights publications typically acquire and the language of contracts, so when I got The Toast’s contract and read it, I knew that the language was terrible for writers. In fact, it seemed like such an overreach to me that I asked a handful of friends about it before I sent a response. I am lucky enough to have several friends who are either lawyers or who know a lot about law, and they all advised me that the contract was a bad deal for me. Basically, if I had signed it, The Toast could do whatever they wanted with my work, from now until infinity. And if I, say, suddenly became a screenwriter and developed a movie based on my essay, they could sue me for it. Continue reading

“Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air…


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…we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.” – Maya Angelou

For days, I’ve considered writing a post about Michael Brown, about Eric Garner, about Tamir Rice. But there is a lot of excellent writing out there already, and despite my frustration and outrage about these situations, I doubt I could add anything to the conversation that is different or significant enough that it’s worth asking people to listen to me. Instead, I think we should listen to these men:

  • Chris Rock, who gives a very thought-provoking interview with so many great quotes that I can’t choose a favorite
  • W. Kamau Bell, who walks us through the way he approaches something as seemingly simple as buying ice cream at night as a 6’4″ black man
  • Kiese Laymon, who talks about the protection he is afforded by his Vassar College faculty ID, and about how he and his students, despite the “protection” of Vassar, are not okay

And if you’re interested, like I am, in doing something that may help bring justice in the long term, Amnesty International USA is calling for some concrete action. I’m still looking for other places and ways to make a difference, so if you know of any, feel free to share them in the comments.

I’ve put this list together now because silence seems wrong; it seems to imply that I’m not upset about each of these cases, and that isn’t true at all. But as I said, a speech from me seems inappropriate too. This is my compromise.

And if you’re interested, here are some shots of what the protests looked like here in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville.

Thank You, and Goodbye

The time has come for me to say goodbye to DC. Not to worry, I still plan on being a city girl, but the next time you hear from me, it will be as a newly minted Denver resident. There are a lot of reasons why I’m leaving, so I’ll make it quick. The first and foremost is highlighted in this month’s issue of the Washingtonian, entitled “Can You Afford To Live Here,” and speaks to the ridiculous housing and ever-rising cost of living. Short answer: No, I can’t afford to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Secondly, I’m well into my 30s, and without children of my own, I want to be closer to my family. Reason three, I miss the mountains, I want to spend more time outdoors, and well..sometimes you just need to be a ski bum.

Now with that out of the way, here’s what I want to say. Thank you, DC. It’s been an adventure. A pretty crazy one at times, but I moved here because I knew I’d be able to do things here I couldn’t do anywhere else. At times I’ve wondered if you were the right choice. I stand now, single and poor, but no one will ever say I’ve led a boring or predictable life. It hasn’t been an easy journey. I’ve battled with crazy landlords, bed bugs, and theft, to name just a few of the hardships, but I’ve walked away with a wealth of experiences. Here are a just few of the things I have to thank you for: Continue reading


What is a “burner”? Well, since I’ve started living with one, I’ve had a decent amount of exposure to the community of people who not only attend Burning Man but have invested themselves in attending regional events all year round. At these events, people congregate for a number of days, and eventually they burn an effigy, and sometimes more than one. During the days between setup and the actual burn, any number of things can and do happen. If I had to summarize it in a sentence, I’d say it’s free-for-all Disney for adults. Imagination runs wild, and so do the people. Here’s my take on it all.

I’ve wanted to go to Burning Man for years; for me, the appeal of 70,000 people putting together a temporary city is nothing short of astounding. What’s more, some of the most impressive and creative sculptures in the world are there. Some of them are burned down by the end of the week! For a theatre geek like myself, the allure of seeing such creativity exploding at the seams is irresistible, and I hope dearly to go one day soon. Still, it’s always seemed like such a remote and esoteric experience, I had no idea until the last couple of years that Burning Man existed outside the once a year event in the Nevada desert.  Nor did I realize that it’s a community that people identify with and define themselves by, though if you think about it perhaps it shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

Burning Man appeals greatly to Gen X-ers and Millennials for the same reason we still want to watch transformers and mutant turtles. We who are constantly accused (maybe rightly so) of never growing up, not only have we turned Halloween into an adult holiday, but we find almost any excuse to dress in silly costumes and get snookered. We can’t even exercise without silly makeup. I’m so accustomed to seeing runners on the way to their latest drag-themed 5K, zombie 10K, or glow-in-the-dark bocce tournament that I hardly even turn my head at the constant stream of crazy costumes mucking about the city streets all year long. Well, here’s another example of us trying to bask in everlasting youth. Always wanted to be a fairy princess in a castle? Sure, why not? Buy some glitter and fairy wings, dye your hair, and build a castle. Then do a lot of drugs and burn it down. Burning Man is in many ways the ultimate example of our generation’s slow saunter into adulthood. It’s no wonder Black Rock City has grown so quickly in the last few years. Rumors has it if they can get the proper permits it will grow to 100,000 within the next five years. Tickets sell out so quickly that you’ve got to be in the know to get one. Continue reading

In Which I Direct You Elsewhere


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I haven’t had a chance to write here for the past couple of weeks, partly because I’m trying to do NaNoWriMo – or a version of it, anyway – and partly because on a whim I went to a presentation on executive functioning skills yesterday that took up most of my night, which is often my only available blogging time.

In lieu of a new post here, I am proud to say that I have a personal essay up on The Toast this week called “Hope Is Not a Strategy: On Violence, Redirected.” It is probably the most personal thing I’ve written to date, and I hope you read it if you have a chance. Then you should read everything else on The Toast because they are awesome.

And hopefully I will be back to posting here next week, unless I’m still trying to decipher how Hilary Mantel can write so very perfectly that maybe the rest of us should just give up, at least on NaNoWriMo if not altogether.


In Defense of the Thousands of Little Elsas Descending Upon our Cities Tonight


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It is the word you knew was coming. The dreaded one-word answer to “What do you want to be for Halloween?” Gone were the days where you could stick your baby in a Hot Dog sack as a nod to Portillo’s. Or glue a mustache to their binky in homage to the great Ditka.

unnamedNo. Now they have opinions of their own. They don’t like your hilarious ideas or genius play-on-words costumes. This year, they want to be what THEY want to be.
And they want to be Elsa. Continue reading


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