Friday, October 6, 2017

My Love Life in 6 Tom Petty Songs


Free Fallin': I'm 9 years old and Free Fallin' is on the radio every time I get in my parents' car. I'm  entranced from its first airy strums. Scenery rolls by, but in my imagination, I'm a good girl who loves horses, and a handsome boy writes my name in the sky. My little-girl mind paints a music video set in a kingdom called Racida, and I feel deliciously secret longings about freeways and boys I haven't met yet. 

At school, a popular girl asks me what music I listen to. She is wearing a New Kids on the Block jacket covered with pancake-sized pictures of the band members' faces. I tell her I love "Free Fallin'," and she snorts, "You like Tom Petty?!" in a way that instantly tells me that I have given  the wrong answer.

I listen to "Free Fallin'" the next time it comes on the radio. Again, I'm swept away. Already, the line "The good girls are home with broken hearts" speaks to me in a way that New Kids on the Block never will.

Free Girl Now: I'm 29, and I'm fed up. The boyfriend I've adored with puppy-like devotion has let me down for the last time. I call my buddy James and tell him I've decided to break up with my boyfriend, for real this time. James makes me a celebratory playlist, and "Free Girl Now" is the track I play again and again.

It's hard to stay broken up, especially when my ex keeps trying to come back, but Tom Petty makes me feel like I can -- like I DESERVE --  to "Dazzle, dazzle the moon above." So I try.

Change the Locks: I fail. That same ex and I are on-again-and-off-again for several dramatic months. All the while, my dear friend James listens, rolls his eyes, and offers me the frustrated sympathy I need. Until one day, the break-up sticks. I'm ready to move on. James makes me a new playlist. This is the song I like best. The songs clangs into my apartment, blaring its mix of rage and sheer delight. I changed the name of this town! 


Walls: Some days are diamonds. Some days are rocks. I am in my early 30s, and I am devastated. Recently dumped by someone I trusted, I come to the conclusion that I did not get the life I wanted. It seems cruel and unfair because I believe, with every fiber of my being, that I was born to love. 

Sometimes I have dreams at night that I've found true love, and when I wake up and realize the man in my dream wasn't real, I cry. I feel certain that I could love a man with a fire and loyalty no one's ever seen.

Instead, I go numb. I cry some more. I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up. I play this song on repeat. "You got a heart so big/ It could crush this town/ And I can't hold out forever/ Even walls fall down." 

Angel Dream (No. 4): It finally happens. 

"I dreamed you, I saw your face.
Caught my lifeline
When drifting through space
I saw an angel
I saw my fate
I can only thank God it was not too late."

American Girl:  I'm 34. I'm wearing white and sparkles and everyone I love is there. My best friends and I are on the dance floor. My wonderful family has come from far away to be with me. With us. Outside, I see my groom  standing with his friends. 

Billy floods my vision as the DJ pulls up one of the songs I wanted to hear today. Good old Tom Petty. Billy beckons me outside to pose for a wedding photo, and I dance for one more moment before running outside, through the most perfect day I've ever had. 

Make it last all night.

R.I.P. Tom Petty.
Thank you for the music.  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Nothing I Can See But You So Keep Dancing

I have a confession. Every time I hear this song, my imagination provides a music video. It's simple but vivid: just me and my Beagle Porter, dancing in our tiny kitchen without a care in the world.

The video is a scene that happened plenty of times in real life: me grinning and spinning, swinging my arms awkwardly and with happy abandon. Porter is prancing on his feet, ears flapping, his face radiating blissful devotion as he gazes up at me -- the way he always did.

I think the song strikes me this way because of this line:

"Nothing I can see but you."

That's how Porter loved. Porter had been abused, rescued, and nursed back to health, and he seemed to give me credit for all of it. He adored me. And judging by his clingy devotion, he didn't think he could live without me. Friends laughed if I asked them to hold Porter's leash as I dashed inside a coffee shop. Porter's whole world would grind to a halt, and he'd stare after me, frozen, panicked, and unable to function until I returned to him.

But the rest of the time, Porter was joyful. That was his gift to me: sunshine and joy at a time when I needed it most.

I will never stop feeling like I was robbed when I lost Porter. His accident was brutal and cruel and it pops back into my mind to remind me of the doom that waits around every corner, ready to take away everyone I love. Some days, it's a lot of work to fend off this feeling.

That's why I'm happy for this silly Justin Timberlake song, and all the memories of my little angel dog. Today I'm working in my yard, playing this song on repeat, crying a little, but letting my heart ache with gratitude and joy.

Can't stop the feeling, so just dance, dance, dance.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Just an Update

Me, horrified:  "We have a hole."

My living room, currently.

Billy, helpfully: "Well, one of your favorite bands is called Hole!"

I'm feeling overwhelmed this week. We're waiting for an insurance adjuster to come look at the big, soggy hole in our living room ceiling. The plumber said we may have to tear up our bathroom to get it fixed.

Our house has pretty much been under construction since June, which has been mentally and financially exhausting, making me miss the days when I just paid my rent and bought another designer handbag, without checking my bank balance. 

We celebrated our dog's second anniversary with us, and days later, came home to find her panting, trembling, and unable to walk. It looked like she was dying. Two vet appointments later, we found out her spine is dropping, or degenerating. She needs pain medicine every 12 hours and a new, gentle routine.

There are plenty of bigger, actual disasters to put things in perspective. Seeing those horrible headlines and heartbreaking photos is overwhelming, too.

In the mean time, here are some things I love right now:

  • Downward Dog, which I didn't discover until after it was cancelled, but I am enjoying watching a TV show about a woman who lives in Pittsburgh and works in marketing and loves her dog. Just like me! The scenes when she walks him in Frick Park break my heart and make me long for Porter so badly, I ache. But the show still makes me happy.

  •  Weekend dinners with my parents and husband. Today we went to Mindful Brewing.
  • Big amethyst clusters like this one on my Instagram. I have 6 of these now and I can't stop buying them. I read that they have properties that help you sleep well so I put two next to my bed.
  • Sending and receiving zine-style mail with my best girl, Madge. We've been packaging up treasure troves of collages, mini paintings, stickers, handmade booklets, and letters. A great mail day is a great day indeed.
  • The butterflies in my yard. They are so beautiful, and inspired me to dust off my real cameras. I took this picture and hope to get to blown up some day for our walls! 

That's all I had to say for now.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Life With My Husband

Billy: "Boy, I loooooove watching videos of animals falling asleep. There's one that's so funny. Have you seen it? It's one of those ... what are those animals you like? Lemurs?"

Me: "I like meerkats."

Billy: "Then what's a lemur?"

[ We Google "lemur." ]

Billy: Okay, then I was talking about meerkats.

[ Billy shows me this video ]

Billy and me: [ Fits of giggles. ]

Billy: I'm serious though, Google "Animals falling asleep. I've done it. It's the best!"

Saturday, August 19, 2017

That Pillow Fight in Wal-Mart: 4 Years Later

Four years ago today, my (future) husband and I went on our second date.

The night grew long, but Billy and I didn't want it to end. We drove around looking for something to do. We found that Wal-Mart was open, so we went inside, roamed the aisles, and found ourselves in the pillow aisle having a slaphappy pillow fight.

I already felt different with Billy than I ever had with anyone else. I found him exhilarating and exciting, but I felt perfectly comfortable with him. Like I could leave all my worries and hang-ups and insecurities at the curb and just enjoy him. Us. The feeling of sharing space with someone who could turn me on, calm me down, challenge me, and take care of me. 

I could surrender to this man. But this time it was different, because I wouldn't lose myself. Billy adored me too, and made me shine brighter than I did alone. Only two dates in, I was already certain that I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life.

Fast-forward to four years later. This morning. We're doing one of our favorite things: watching a cooking competition on Hulu and debating who should win, and who actually will. Billy made me a big plate of eggs and fresh tomatoes, just like I wanted, and I try to finish them all so he'll know how much I liked them.

As he reaches out and drapes a hand across my leg, I sizzle with excitement.

Still true:

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Tonight, at a party, I chatted with my dad and two other women.

A man came up to us, inserted himself into our circle, and interrupted the woman next to me.

"Looks like they're beating up on you," he said, and waited for my dad to laugh.

My dad looked at him, blankly, and turned back to the woman who'd been speaking.

"It's just you and three ladies," the man continued, poking my dad.

"Yes, and they're all so nice," my dad,
                                                    my wonderful dad,

Sunday, April 30, 2017

This is What You Married, Buddy

Scene From Our Marriage:

Billy:     What are you doing?

Me:        Um. [ holds up phone]

Monday, April 3, 2017

The First Dog I Ever Loved

This is a picture of Nookie, the first dog I ever loved, taken in 1975.

Nookie spent the first two years of her life as a guard dog at an auto body shop. This elegant and tender-hearted girl made a lousy guard dog (She loved to drink beer and was frequently found passed out drunk on the concrete floor). She went to live with my grandmother, and the two fell blissfully in love.

As you can see, Nookie was better suited for portrait sittings, evening strolls and belly rubs. I was smitten with her and pestered her endlessly, but she sweetly tolerated me and taught me how to love and respect animals. 💜💜

It made me so happy to find this photo at my parents' house today.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Two Things I Am Grateful For Today

1. This cat.

Firefly is 17-and-a-half, has only one tooth, and lives with (carefully managed) irritable bowel syndrome and high blood pressure. She doesn't like to play or even leave her bedroom much anymore, which means she really only likes one thing: cuddling with me. She lives to cuddle with me. She waits for me, on her favorite chair, all day long. When I sit with her, whether for five minutes or a couple hours, she purrs and languishes and gazes at me. She shows me that I've literally made her whole day.

It's really sweet.

2. The life my husband gave me.

Last night, we went on a date to see his friends Justin and Brian play music. We enjoyed good music, good food, and best of all, we got to share the band's excitement when they nailed a song particularly well.

I realize that if I hadn't held out so long, I could have ended up with someone whose passion is video games or college basketball. That kind of life would not have thrilled me or even suited me at all. Instead, I got the only life I'm really suited for: traveling and hanging out with with bands and musicians.

Musicians aren't like any other kind of people, and they are my favorite people. Especially this one.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Heaven is Wherever My Animals Are


I didn’t grow up religious, but there are a couple things I place all my faith in:

1. Being good feels good.
2. Being bad feels bad.
3. When you die, all the animals you’ve ever loved come running to greet you.

Thinking about #3 has helped me through some dark days of grief. Now, when I die and cross over to the other side, I have my arrival all planned out. 


Woody will spot me first. Here on Earth, Woody used to lay inside the door of my dad’s guitar shop, casting a stern gaze at all the passers-by. Each time I approached the shop, he’d narrow his wary eyes … until I got close enough for him to recognize me.

I’d wait for it … that precise, adorable moment when Woody spotted me from afar. His whole expression would change. His alert ears would drop. His squared shoulders would go soft. His eyes would go wide and bright as his mouth opened in a doggie grin.

Yes, when I die, Woody will make his wiggly way toward me first.

But Porter, my dear, angel Porter, won’t be far behind. When Porter and I shared an apartment, he slept on a futon in the spare bedroom all day while I was at work. I lived for the moment when I pushed open our back door each day. Porter, waking with a start, would burst out of his bedroom, slide sideways into view, then get tangled in his own Beagle feet as he did a quick, gleeful pivot in the foyer.

One day, I’ll see him come tumbling into to view again … then careen around the clouds, galloping, ears flapping, and diving into my arms. I can’t wait to feel his stocky little body and bury my nose in his turkey-dinner smell. 


(Oh Porter! I miss you most of all.)


Betty and Nookie, the regal ladies, will bring up the rear. Betty won’t be the crooked, sick old girl I said goodbye to. She’ll be the sleek, athletic Husky who used to race me down grassy hills — thundering past me in a joyful blur. That’s the Betty I’ll see again. Billy the brown dog, my first love, will take his polite place in line, and sometimes, I feel like I can't even wait.

It breaks my heart to think of it now, as she sleeps beside me, but by then, my beloved cat Firefly will be there too. Her health has been failing, and every day seems like a bittersweet reason to celebrate. I don’t want her to go, but when she does, I hope she waits for me, too.

I hope it with all my heart.  


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nothing Good (or Fair) Comes Without a Fight

I just finished the book “America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines” and here’s what I think we need to understand today:
  1. Our nation was built, and civilized, in no small part by the backbreaking work of women, slaves, and immigrants. Women have done this work while shouldering the burden of pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing.

  2. Today, most men and women can’t even fathom the near-constant opposition American women have faced throughout history. Women could teach, run their husband’s plantations, serve as nurses and even surgeons on our military’s front lines, but could not vote, sign a lease, or, until 1974 (!!!), have a credit card. (To name only a few things.)

  3. The reason we don’t have to worry about so many of these things now is because of women’s RELENTLESS fighting, protesting, and marching. These rights were hard won by women who dedicated their lives — enduring shame, abuse, and arrest — to making sure we wouldn’t have to.

  4. For every American woman who dared to wear pants, work outside the home, or fight for basic equality, there were other women who shamed her and fought just as hard against her. Yes, many women fought against their own equality, and continue to do so today.

  5. So many women like me can’t imagine fighting for rights simply because we’ve been basically, if not perfectly, FINE for 30+ years. I hope that this has not made us lazy and soft. I hope that we can be courageous and organized enough to fight for ourselves and our fellow Americans.

Nothing good or fair comes without a fight.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Beagle Who Brought Me Back to Life


Four years ago today, this little dog saved me.

I worked for an animal shelter, where I’d met thousands of adoptable dogs. But this dog, Porter, was unlike every one of them.

He came along like an answer to a prayer. I was going through a tough time, and nothing, not even medication, could rescue me from constant sadness. I wanted to give up.

This sick, abused little dog looked even worse than I felt. He was catatonic. He had given up.    

So I took him home with me. Porter recovered from illness. I recovered from loneliness. 

In particular, I found the strength to break away from a relationship that was very, very bad for me.

With Porter by my side, I took long walks. I started a new hobby. I found dog-friendly restaurants and took him out to eat. All the while, Porter's clingy devotion to me was actually funny. He gazed at me like I was an angel. 

But he was my angel. Somehow, having an adoring little dog helped bring me back to life.

I got better. I was free. And just in time. Because just months after Porter came along, I met my husband, and I was ready for him. I was no longer a broken, shell of a person. I was happy, excited, and ready to start a new life. I shed my baggage, and Porter, Billy, and I became a family.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.


Porter left us too soon, in an accident so awful, it sometimes overshadows my memories of our time together. But that little dog and I had an otherworldly bond, and we still do. Sometimes I get an overwhelming feeling that he’s not so far away.

No matter how badly it hurts to think of Porter now, I’ll always be grateful for the gift he gave me. I only knew him for 2 years, but when he healed me, he gave me a whole new life.

xo, my sweet love.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Rich Men, Poor Men, and The Best Kind of Men: How to Choose

This weekend, a lovely lady that I know was set up on a date.

She and the man went to a bar. He ordered several drinks while she sipped one. When their bill came, she offered to chip in. He paid for her drink, and said, “No, you can pick up the next tab.”

Then, at the next bar, the man ordered seven appetizers, including a platter of mussels that my friend was allergic to. Then, as promised, he let my friend pick up the tab.

Dudes, the jig is up on this one.

We know this trick. In my single days, it happened to me too.

Unfortunately, a nice girl will pay for “the next thing.” But that’s going to be your last interaction with her, because you’ve just revealed yourself to be a cheap, lousy date.

While we’re on the subject, let’s address “cheap date.” Why would an enlightened feminist like myself care about a cheap date? After all, some of my favorites dates — like a dog walk in the park with my now-husband — were free or inexpensive. 

Because being cheap with someone you’re supposed to like reveals something about you. I dated rich men and poor men, and learned that income doesn’t matter: the best men are generous men.

Ladies, ditch the man who orders shellfish on your tab.

Marry the man who packs your favorite candy for the movies.

He’ll be the one who gives you his jacket when you’re cold. Who carries a cup of coffee up the stairs to deliver it to you in bed. He will save you the last French fry.

This is the man who will love you best.

 It's worth holding out for!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Friends are the Family We Choose: My Friend Chris

“Today our model is wearing a charming ensemble featuring corduroy overalls. Look how effortlessly she completes the outfit with a lovely white turtleneck! She ties it all together with a pair of casual sneakers. Ooohh la la!”

            I was 5 years old, and this was my go-to game when my mom’s friend Chris came around. I’d make a grand entrance in whatever outfit my mom had put me in that morning, and Chris would describe my little-kid ensemble as though I had stepped onto a catwalk.
            When I was a kid, I thought Chris was one of greatest people in the world. I still do.

            Chris and my mom grew up as best friends and neighbors, but to me, Chris has always been family. Birthdays were always more special when she was around. Even being dragged to the grocery store with my mom became fun and exciting if Chris was coming too. I horned in on as many of their outings as I could, and Chris always made me feel like I was just one of the ladies.  

            Chris showed up when times were tough, too. When I was 15, my grandfather died unexpectedly. His death didn’t really hit me until I got to his funeral, and suddenly, I started crying and couldn’t stop. I stood there, helpless and panicking, while sobs took over my body.

            Suddenly, Chris was there. She whisked me into another room, pulled a Kleenex out of her purse for me, and distracted me. I don’t remember what she said, but it was the right thing. Soon, I was smiling, and even laughing. Chris had rescued me. To this day, she is always the first to step up when my family or I need it.

             Over the years, Chris was always there with a funny joke and a big heart. And she always came up with fun things to do. She, my mom, and I went to Atlantic City, a mountain resort, and even just to the DMV — because even the worst errands were fun when we were together.

            I’m in my 30s now, but Chris still tells me “You’re JUST A KID” every time she tries to pay my way when we do something fun. Now, we fight over who gets to treat. But I wasn’t prepared for what she did two years ago.

            I was planning my wedding on a tight budget. I decided try on gowns at a bridal shop, find my favorite dress, and search for something similar — but thousands of dollars cheaper — on eBay. Since the bridal shop was right in Chris’s neighborhood, my mom and I invited her to join us for lunch.

            Chris came to the bridal shop with us.  As the clerk buttoned me in to my favorite gown — the one I loved the moment I walked in — my heart simultaneously soared and sank. This dress was absolutely perfect. I had come so close, but so far, to finding a dress as beautiful as I'd dreamed of.

            That’s when Chris revealed her secret plan. She’d come to pay for my wedding gown: one of the most special parts of our big day. I couldn’t believe it. Just like that, my dream dress was mine. 


            Chris has taught me several things.

·      The time is always right to play a little prank on someone.

·      If you get bored, you can always play a game to entertain yourself and your friends, like, “Which of these weird things would you eat if you had to or else someone was going to shoot you?”

·      It’s usually best to be nice. Except for when it’s not.

·      Always spoil the people you love.
            Some people come from big families with lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I come from a tiny family, but I got the best deal. I got Chris.

I love you!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Us, at Home

This is my new favorite picture.

This is a photo of my husband, Billy, sitting on our staircase. I was sitting in my home office, trying to focus on something at my desk. Billy was, as he often is, buzzing with thoughts and ideas and just couldn't stop talking to me. He knew he wasn't supposed to come into my office, so he planted himself on the other end of our hallway, and happily chattered at me while I attempted -- and gave up on -- my task at hand.

He just couldn't stop talking to me, and I am so grateful for it. I can't believe I didn't find him until I was 33, because that enthused, earnest face would have made me swoon when I was a teenager in study hall, too.

I love being his person -- the single human who gets all of him, the play-by-play of his overactive but always interesting brain.

The holiday season is about to come to its official close, and I know that what I will miss most is being home during the day with Billy. We're like two kids in this house. One afternoon, we practiced pull-ups, attempted to weigh the cat, danced around changing all the lyrics to Chritsmas carols to be about our Beagle, and ate lunch in front of Netflix.

Everything is fun with him. I appreciate every moment.