Tag Archives: Writing

and now we are 40

15 Mar

I turned 40 a couple days ago. I feel pretty good about that. I didn’t complete any more of the five goals I had set for myself beyond the one about going to Canada. Which I still haven’t told you about, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it. At some point. I’m not giving up on this list, though. I still want to do the other four things, and so I think I shall. I may even add some other things, though I can’t think of what those things might be right at this moment.

You’ll be happy to know that I’ve learned some things in my 40 years on this planet. Not many things, but some. And I’m still learning, which is the most important part, I’m told.

Here are a few (but not all) things that I’ve learned so far.

I’ve learned…

…money is not something to trifle with. Money is a tool, and it can be a powerful tool. On the flip side, tools can be dangerous if not handled properly. Money is no exception.

…and furthermore, there is not nearly enough education around money in this country. Because if you read the news, people are f-ing dumb when it comes to money (I say this knowing that I myself have had my dum-dum moments about money). Given the lack of financial education we as a society have, for God’s sake, people, educate yourselves. Don’t be dumb!

…I am not made of straw. I will not topple over in the wind, and I mean that both literally and figuratively/emotionally/mentally.

…God, I really love dill pickle relish.

…people will still love me even when I’m a jerk. And better yet, they will still like me. Which is good, because I can often be a jerk (and often without realizing I’m being a jerk). And in turn, there are people I still love and like even when they are jerks, and I have no intention of stopping.

…sometimes people don’t like me, even when I’m not a jerk. Oh well.

…I can’t get what I want if I don’t ask.

…I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m not always comfortable leaving the house without putting on my eyebrows.

…take care of your body. It’s the only one you have.

…take care of your mind. It’s the only one you have.

…people who do not support mental health, or feel that taking care of your mental health makes you somehow “less than” are not worthwhile people.

…I was totally wrong when I’d think that there was always someone out there whose life is more together than mine. I realized that that is impossible, because that someone else is not actually living my life, they are living THEIR OWN life, so how can it be more together than my own, when the two lives are inherently different? And furthermore, let’s be real—my life is as together as I make it and/or feel it is. Trying to compare it to someone else’s is just stupid. It’s like believing what people post on social media is the really real-deal of their day to day life.

…“Do it for the story” are (still) great words to live by.

… so are “Never trust a big butt and a smile.”

…relationships (romantic, friend, any kind, really) are hard. Anyone who says they aren’t is lying through their goddamn teeth.

… Who are you? Why are you here? What’s important? What’s not important? are the four guiding questions that resonate with me, and sometimes I have answers and sometimes I don’t.

…writing makes me whole.

This is 40.

dear buyer, i’m just wondering

19 Oct

Two weeks ago the sale on our bootbox of a condo was finalized, and I’d be lying if I said that since then I didn’t have a few anxiety-ridden, hand-flapping moments of oh holy fuck, maybe we made the wrong decision how on earth could we have sold a place where so much life happened for us and eeeeeeeeeeeennnggggggonlydogscanhearmypanicnow.

But in my heart I know selling the condo was the right decision on so many levels, the top of which is that we Needed. More. Space. The mental sanity of my child depended on it. The mental sanity of my main squeeze depended on it. My own mental sanity depended on it. As wonderful as the bootbox of a condo was to us for the past four years, it was time to go. It was time to go, and it was time to let go, and it was time to let the condo be a place for someone else to make memories of happy times and sad times and angry times and sexy times and drunk times and bored times and frustrated times and dreaming times and humble times and worried times and righteous times and crying times and laughing times.

Yet I can’t help but think about the new owner, and I wonder how she’s settling in.

I wonder if she pours a Very Large (no judging) glass of wine at the end of the day, and sits on the balcony watching the sky fade from twilight to dark, which is never actually too dark because the streetlights pop on, illuminating Michigan Avenue, casting people in shadows as they walk down the street.

I wonder if the smell of grilled meats that twirls through the neighborhood makes her reconsider her dinner plans, and say Fuck This Noise, I Am Not Cooking Tonight, Yay, Margaritas, and turn off the stove and dash through traffic to the Mexican restaurant across the street.

I wonder if she keeps her windows open at night, so the sound of the garbage trucks banging through the alley at the barest break of dawn wakes her up on the regular, to the point she wonders why she even sets an alarm.

I wonder if she is happy.

I wonder if, on the first morning she woke up in her new condo, she tried to have a Maria von Trapp moment as she stepped out onto the balcony, arms spread wide and ready to greet the city, but forgot that the screen door was closed, put her foot through it, and then had to duct tape over the hole so the cat wouldn’t try and use it as a cat door, except he was too fat to fit through it and got stuck.

I wonder if she is full to bursting with ideas for her life in this new neighborhood, this new part of the city she’s living in, a complete unknown except maybe it’s close to her work, so, bonus for that.

I wonder if she’s adopted a big baby of a pitbull.

I wonder how many times she’s thought to herself, Oh, fuck me, there are only two closets in this place.

I wonder, while unpacking, how fast it took her to say, “In my next home, the first thing on my wish list is more space.”

I wonder if she’s finished unpacking.

I wonder if she drops the F bomb a lot.

I wonder if buying this condo is just the first of several decisions she will make that will alter the course of her life in ways she can’t even begin to imagine.
I wonder if she’s noticed I only gave the tub a cursory scrubbing before we left.

I wonder if she will have a good life there.

Because that’s my greatest wish for her, and any owner who may come after her, that that little bootbox of a condo be a home, for however long that may be.

photo friday: getaway

17 Mar


A couple weekends ago three friends, Baby McSwedolish, and I trekked up to northern Michigan* for a writing weekend. It was entirely uncertain how much actual writing would get done, considering we had an adorable baby to distract us, but surprisingly we were all quite successful in our endeavors.

It didn’t hurt that we were in an absurdly picturesque setting, with no television and spotty Internets. This is the view out the back/kitchen windows, and if that’s not enough to make you want to snuggle up with your laptop and give your mind the space it needs to think and create, then I don’t know what is.

Plus, we saw an otter playing on the frozen lake.

An otter!

My winter is complete.


*J’adore northern Michigan!**

**People don’t use the phrase “j’adore” nearly enough.

2017: wtf?

4 Jan

Ask five random people, and at least seven of them will tell you that 2016 fucking sucked.

And it did. There seemed to be an amped up number of shitstorms, celebrity deaths (of celebrities that we really, really liked) and political ire and just all-around awfulness from the beginning to the end of 2016. And those are just the things that we experienced collectively, in public. That’s not even diving into the shit year that a lot of people experienced in their personal lives.

It was not all bad—for me, at least. I had a beautiful, healthy baby, which pretty much eclipsed everything else. What’s more, eight close friends and family members also had beautiful, healthy babies. Eight! That’s nine total! Throughout all the bullshit, nine new lives came into this world, nine new little souls are here and bringing unconditional joy and love. When they sleep through the night, anyway.

2016 was such a roller coaster of a year, it’s hard to not let it bleed over into 2017. It’s hard to look at the 12 months stretched before you, completely blank and ready to be colored in, when you’re still wiping the paint off your hands from the previous year.

2017, WTF are we going to do with you?

We’re going to live, goddammit. We’re going to do what Danny Kaye said, and throw all the paint we can at it. Some of that paint may be from last year; so be it. It will mix with the new paint and create new colors, hopefully some original ones we’ve never seen before.

We’ll hopefully not forget the flagrant disregard for normalcy that 2016 showed us, and we’ll hopefully use that to rebuild 2017 into a monstrously extraordinary year.

Pick up a brush. Or a crayon. A marker. Colored pencil. Your choice.

It’s time.

and just like that, it’s over

1 Jun

Remember that time I didn’t throw up on my shoes?

That was a good time. But you have to be careful about good times, because they can be tricky. They lure you into this joyous haze—maybe or maybe not induced by refraining from public vomiting—and then you make wild decisions like getting suckered into volunteering to help plan and run those good times the next time they come around.

Which is all my way of saying I was on the planning committee for the 2016 Spring Fling, which went down a couple weekends ago. How did that happen? See joyous non-vomiting haze above, and also I guess when people look at you and think, “She didn’t throw up on her shoes,” they see that as a qualification of someone who can help plan big events, and signals to others that, I dunno…they’re drunk? I’m drunk? We’re all drunk? Someone must have been drunk. It’s the only explanation.

Anyhoo, there I was, eighteen months before the next conference, on the planning committee.

And then, quite not-so-suddenly, the eighteen months were up and the conference was actually happening. And then quite suddenly indeed, it was over.

If you’ve ever planned a conference, you understand what I’m saying. If you haven’t, all I can say is there’s all of this build up, this stretch of seemingly endless lead time, and then there’s not and even with all the planning you’ve done it’s happening, you’re in the thick of it, trial by fire, because God knows you’ve never planned a conference before, and there’s nothing left to do except be all, “HEY, THIS FIRE LOOKS NICE AND TOASTY. LET’S SING STEVE MILLER BAND SONGS AND DANCE AROUND IN IT.”

It’s just…it’s quite befuddling to have this huge event in your life for so long, taking over every minute of your free time, especially in the last few months before it actually happens, and then it’s…done.* You don’t have to think about it anymore. I mean, you do, a little bit, but really only because you’re not sure what else to think about. It’s a bit flail-inducing, all those spare minutes back in your own possession, and you don’t quite know what to do with them.**

If you’re lucky, like me, you’ll have three amazing women also on the conference planning committee who will share in your befuddlement. (And also share in all the wine you drank in the months leading up to the conference.) Thank goodness, because befuddlement is more fun when you’re among friends. So is conference planning, in case you were wondering.

I won’t get into the details about the conference, the workshops, the people, the swag, the speeches, the panels, the energy—I’m not sure I could do it justice, quite frankly, except to say that it was amazing. All of it and everyone. I am amazing! You are amazing! Your hair is amazing! Your mom is amazing! Our headliners and VIPs were amazing! So much so that I now have a girl-crush on every single one of them. I didn’t know it was possible to have girl crushes on so many women at once, but here I am, starry-eyed and moony over these 14 women.

And don’t even get me started on the actual conference attendees—I lurrrv them. I lurved meeting them and chatting with them, and celebrating their successes (and lo! Were there many successes throughout the weekend!) And I’m not just saying that because some of them politely laughed at my jokes during the opening kick-off. I could not have asked for a more enthusiastic, engaged, and appreciative bunch.

But now? Now, like I said, it’s over.

And now I need a nap.

And maybe some potato chips.

Here’s to Spring Fling 2016, my friends. And to the 2018 Spring Fling planning committee, God speed. Here, let me pass you some wine.

A pillow will be waiting for you at the end. It will be the best nap of your life.


*Kind of like a wedding. Which is also something I was planning during this same time period. Because why not? Why not join a conference planning committee while working full time, and then decide with your main squeeze, hey, NOW is a GREAT time for us to get hitched. (The wedding was actually easier to plan.) And then you know what else you should do? Get pregnant. And also have your first trimester, when you feel like you’re hungover all the g-d time without the fun and delicious red wine to get you to that hangover, happen during the intense six months leading up to the conference. Listen to McPolish, people. I give great advice.

**Eventually you figure out what to do with them. And it involves writing ridiculous blogs and eating pizza, sometimes simultaneously.

that time i didn’t know about the biggest fight of the century

6 May

So I’m buckled into my seat, ready to fly to Vegas last week for work, and I hear the two guys sitting next to me, and the three people in front of me, and the one hundred seventeen people on the other side of the plane murmuring about the Big Fight Coming Up.

“Is there a fight this weekend?” I asked the guys sitting next to me.

And you know how sometimes someone says something so absurd you can’t even muster an expression? Your face just kind of goes slack—not like a cartoon, with your tongue hanging out or anything, just sort of no muscle control whatsoever—and your eyes sort of glass over because your brain is working overtime due to the fact that someone just said something and it does not, for the love of all that is holy and decent, compute.

That’s pretty much the look I got.

“It’s only The Biggest Fight of the Century,” one of the guys told me. He didn’t say it condescendingly, more like he was afraid for me, that here I was, this unsuspecting traveler, on her way to Vegas for one of the biggest weekends of the city’s career, and I was clueless.

“Oh,” I said nodding. “Right. I think I heard something about that.”

No, I hadn’t.

Well, no, that’s a lie. I had heard some chatter on during the sports segments of the news about Mayweather, but I thought it was just general talk about boxing and…stuff. I didn’t realize it was because he was fighting Pacquaio in The Biggest Fight of the Century for hundreds of millions of dollars.


It turns out that with The Biggest Fight of the Century comes a lot more Vegas nonsense than I could imagine. Tickets to the event sold out within 30 seconds, my driver to the hotel told me. Hotel rooms on the Strip were completely sold out, and even the nearby crappy hotels that did still have a sprinkling of rooms available were going for upwards of $600 per night. Prostitutes from around the world apparently fly in for weekends like this, the hotel staff told me, and extra law enforcement had been brought in as well (for the general public, not necessarily for the hookers).

Top it off with the fact that the Kentucky Derby was also last weekend, along with the NFL draft, and I’m pretty sure that the sports books were out of their minds.

Anyone who knows me knows that I get annoyed with crowds and while I love rolling craps I am a horrendous gambler. So last weekend? Even once I learned about The Biggest Fight of the Century, last weekend was totally lost on me. While Vegas was making history, Mayweather was remaining undefeated, and a million people were cramming themselves onto the Strip, I was holed up in my hotel room watching The Roosevelts on YouTube and asleep by 9:30* because I am wild and crazy and nothing if not fond of spitting in the face of sports lust.**

I feel like I should apologize to Vegas for my lack interaction during this melee.*** I so incredibly did not participate in the fervor of the weekend, and it’s entirely possible I let Vegas down. First I didn’t know about its mega event offerings, and then I did know, and I totally ignored them. So, I’m sorry, Vegas. I’m sorry if I let you down while I was there. I promise to try harder next time.



You know, let’s just play it by ear, how about that? I don’t want to make you promises I’m not sure I can keep, especially if it involves anything happening past 9 pm.

*Two hour time difference you guys. It’s killer for a routine-craving person like myself. 

**Lie. I have been known to get utterly vociferous about college football, hockey, and White Sox baseball, for a start. And I adore Derby Day, but sadly it fell in the middle of the workshop I was staffing, and I’m relatively sure stepping away from my duties so I could throw a box on a few horses would be frowned upon.

***Except I’m not all that sorry as I learned the area outside of the Tropicana was cordoned off because of a shooting after the fight. Not that I was staying at the Tropicana, but whatever.

things i’ve been meaning to tell you–late summer edition

27 Aug

1) A coworker is offering Mandarin Chinese lessons to our organization once a week over the lunch hour. We had our first class this week. I took four years of French in high school, and two and a half years of Italian in college. I’ve even got a year of eighth-grade German under my belt (wo ist Claudia?) But let me tell you something about learning French, Italian, and why you care so damn much about Claudia’s whereabouts: It is nothing like learning Mandarin Chinese.

Considering I barely have a grasp on English-as-my-first-language, I don’t have very high hopes of becoming fluent in Mandarin any time soon. But in our first lesson, I did manage to pick up a few language basics, and even learned a few key words and phrases like, “hello,” “my name is,” “thank you,” and “horse.” We were also taught the very important lesson about making sure you have the right tone whey saying the word “dad”—one wrong inflection and all of a sudden you’re talking about poop.

Also, I shit you not, they passed out fortune cookies during the lesson, and this was in mine:

What are you trying to tell me, Mandarin Chinese lessons?

What are you trying to tell me, Mandarin Chinese lessons?


2) Earlier this month I finished a thirty-day cleanse. For a month I cut out grains, dairy, sugar, and basically anything that was not a lean meat, vegetable, an occasional fruit, a nut, or a seed, and was told I’d feel like absolute bliss and wouldn’t miss the “dirty” foods (the aforementioned grains, dairy, sugar) at all. And I made it. I fucking made it through.

I know! I’m as surprised as you are. I learned a lot of terrific things about my body and how it handles food, and it really challenged me to break out of my normal kitchen cooking routines. Those were the good parts. The bad part is the woman running the cleanse needs an editor. And possibly a lawyer. Because when you are neither a licensed nutritionist nor a licensed dietitian, a trained counselor or anything of the like, I don’t think it’s a good idea, in your daily motivational email, to send out messages that encourage people to lie and tell restaurant staff they have food allergies when instead they just would rather not have cheese on their sandwich because they’re staying away from dairy. Or that if something is broken or toxic in your life, “Just drop it!” Because that works well if you have a job, are supporting a family, or trying to fix a relationship that is in a rough patch. “Fuck it all! I’ll just drop it!” But then again, what do I know? I am neither a licensed nutritionist or dietician, nor am I a trained counselor, and also I missed pasta for the entire thirty days. It was not bliss.


3) Speaking of pasta, I went out for a big bowl of it last night with my girlfriends, and over dinner we were discussing how growing up we’d always wanted to go, but had never been, to Wisconsin Dells—a common dream of many a Chicagoan child in the 1980s. This then lead to a conversation about Indiana Beach, and whether or not it was still in existence (it is), and what, exactly, it was. (All you could really glean from the television ads back then was Indiana? Not just about corn.) This then lead to my question, “Did you know there’s a town called Santa Claus, Indiana?” At which point I learned that one of my best girlfriends is in possession of the knowledge that Santa Claus, Indiana, is where Jay Cutler, quarterback for the Chicago Bears, grew up. I don’t know why we all found this so surprising; Beh Beh often is a font of knowledge you didn’t know you should know. But there you have it, Jay Cutler, the golden child of Santa Claus, Indiana. (Feel free to insert naughty/nice, lump of coal, or any other Christmas-related jokes in here. All the ones I’ve come up with are rather uninspired.) If you didn’t know, now you know.

better and more

8 May

A couple weeks ago I went to a romance writer’s conference and….


Have I ever mentioned this to you before? That I sometimes write fiction? And it’s romance fiction? Except not really romance-romance, because as I confirmed at the aforementioned conference (that prior to this sentence you may not have even realized I’d have any interest in attending), what I write falls more in the category of Women’s Fiction with Romantic Elements.

Now that you’re all caught up (Maybe? Am I even caught up myself? Doubtful.), this was a complete 180 in terms of usefulness from the last writing conference I attended in September. This one had a lot more information and insight that I could apply to my own writing, an incredibly welcoming organizing committee and attendees, and honest to Christmas I was utterly exhausted by the end of the day simply from the overload of creativity!, and ideas!, and HFS, I need to quit my life right now so I can sit at the computer and compose beautiful pages of woooooorddssss!

And I only attended one day of the two-day conference.

Could you imagine how I’d feel if I’d been able to attend both days? It’s more than likely I would have completely imploded into a mass of goo and lipstick.

One of the highlights/part of what kick-started a minor implosion into goo and lipstick of the conference was the opportunity to pitch a Real! Live! Agent! TA-DAAA!

Highlight because, wow. Just, wow. It’s not easy to catch an agent’s attention, but to have an appointment wherein it’s TOTALLY OKAY AND ENCOURAGED AND LEGAL to hold one captive for 10 minutes?

But minor implosion into goo and lipstick because, HFS GAH. You want me to pitch an agent? You want me to…to…whu…buh…lksjflskdjflskd….goo.

Being that it was my first agent pitch ever, I have high hopes that I will be better and more next time I have the opportunity to pitch. Better and more what? Fill in the blank. (Unless it’s with the word “sweaty,” in which case, I’d like to be less.) I could do with better and more of everything, but God bless that agent, she didn’t even bat an eye at what must have looked like a head-bobbing, rambling, hand-flapping hot mess. And when I finished yammering my way around the outline of my book, she also gave me some very helpful feedback and the invitation to send her a synopsis and first 30 pages when it was ready.

As an added bonus, I did not yarf on anyone’s shoes.


I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to stay for the evening’s Gala Event, because let me tell you something, romance writers know how to Party. Up. (I have never met such a large group of women and the occasional man, gathered together, who live and love for wine and chocolate.) But next time, next year, I’m in. For the agent, for the Gala, for it all.

I’ll be sure to pack extra lipstick.

a quick contest note

6 May

For all of my fellow writers out there, if you’ve ever wanted to know if the opening words of your greatest work would catch the eye of an agent, here’s your chance.

Guide to Literary Agents is hosting another of its “Dear Lucky Agent” contests, the 10th of its kind, this one focusing on “upmarket” fiction. You can find details here.

Check it out, submit something, give it a whirl–won’t cost ya nothing–and it’s a great way to put yourself out there, even if it’s just a couple hundred words.

Happy writing!

wherein i am a repeat offender

28 Dec

Due to the traveling, the holiday melee, and now being knocked down a notch by a cold, I almost forgot to tell you all about something rawwwthah exciting…..

Head over to Sarah’s blog, Glass Cases, and you can read my second publishing on her blog, To the Hot Guy at 5:30 Mass.

Enjoy. And thank you to Sarah for publishing the essay! Because missives about hitting on guys at mass should not be kept under wraps.