the secret history

My Ma came by today with a pile of old photos. She was like, “I don’t have room for these anymore. Take them.”

That’s cool. Except…who’s that in the one of me at the hot-air balloon landing? And whose dog am I hugging there? And did I really wear floaties in my grandparent’s portable pool?

I don’t remember any of this.

Which is normal. You can’t remember everything, especially from when you were young. But it feels like these whole sections of my life are missing and I’ll never get them back. I played with friends and went hiking and fed animals at petting zoos, and all of these experiences add up to the person I am today. So it’s all good. I just wish I could remember.

The thing is, I don’t have much family to ask. So there’s no way to find out about all of this mystery info. Like, here’s a photo of my Gramp in World War II with a big gun strapped across his back and I don’t even know any of his stories. It’s just not the kind of thing I thought about asking when he was alive. And I really regret that now. Or the photo of my Gram from a long time ago, probably in the 1930s, but I’ll never know why she was wearing that uniform. All of this history is just…lost. Forever.

This is why I’m into archival scrapbooking. I want to remember my life and the lives of everyone important to me. I don’t want any of this to fade. Just like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends”:

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
a time of innocence, a time of confidences.
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.

the first day

Today is the first day for NYC teachers to go back to school. But for me, this is the first day of my new life.

I never thought I would resign from teaching. How does a person who knew she was a teacher at twelve years old, who worked her whole life to be this teacher, decide to leave?

Well, it’s mainly because I want more time to write. I’d like to have one book published each year instead of one book published every two years. And I don’t want to get up at 5:00. That was the worst. You can’t fight your circadian rhythm.

Here’s the thing. No matter what you thought your life would be, or should be, or all you thought it could be, there’s always room for more than you ever imagined. For a long time, I thought I would only have one career. That I’d pick the thing I loved to do the most and that would be it. But life is a wild thing. Anything can happen at any moment. So I realized that I had to think outside the box. You can have as many careers as you want. It’s your life.

A lot of people want to do something different with their lives, but they’re afraid of taking that risk. When I first decided to leave teaching, it was scary. I worried about affording health insurance and my retirement plan and…what if things didn’t work out? But as last year moved forward, my excitement squashed that fear. And now I don’t feel scared anymore. I just feel excited that I’m creating my ideal life.

Here we go…

mike white rules

Mike White is an amazing writer and filmmaker.

He wrote the most fabulous episodes of Dawson’s Creek during seasons one and two.  They were better than most other eps.  Like the ones with Eve at the beginning of season three.  What was that about?

Then he wrote one of my Top Five Favorite Movies Ever, The Good Girl.  Which is perfect in so many ways.

Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal in The Good Girl


So I was expecting another religious experience when I sat down to watch Year of the Dog last night.  But whoa.  I did not expect to cry like that.  I wouldn’t want to include any spoilers here because you have to see this film.  It’s just…Pencil!  No!  And that photo of Pencil on the beach, with his ears all flapping in the wind?  Heartbreaking.

Molly Shannon in Year of the Dog


I gave Mike a shout-out in Take Me There because his brilliance inspires me.  Anyone who can use film or art or writing in a way that affects me so intensely is a freaking genius.  He makes you feel your whole entire life in this completely transcendental way.  Rock on, Mike.


Yeah, I know it’s Tuesday. I live on the wild side like that.

So you know the whole TGIF thing? And how so many people seem to be living for the weekend, where Friday is the best day at school or work? Well, every Monday in my classroom was TGIM day. Because the whole week is fresh and new and full of possibilities. And why grumble about eighty percent of your week, waiting around for life to pass you by, when you could be creating awesomeness on any given day?

Yes, I was that annoying and perky at school. If you were in my first-period class, my job was to wake you up (mostly by being weird and what sometimes barely passed for funny). Not that I’m a morning person. I am so not one of those I can’t even tell you. I just play one at school.

When you’re dragging through your week, think about the possibility that every day could be the first day of your new life. Small changes add up to big results, even if it’s something as simple as smiling more.  You can improve your mood just by smiling.  And doing more positive thinking.  Happy new you.

it’s all about the crust

You know that episode of “Sex and the City” that made Magnolia famous?  The one where Carrie and Miranda are sitting on the bench outside, eating cupcakes with pink icing?  Yeah.  That bench isn’t really there.  But those cupcakes definitely are.  Sitting in the window, looking all tasty.  Staring at you as you attempt to walk by.

Since I live right down the street, it was extremely difficult to resist attacking Magnolia for a daily cupcake fix when I first moved here.  But you get used to it.  Kind of like how if you work at Dairy Queen, you’re not craving the ice cream so much.  And the thing I’ve discovered is that they have other stuff.  Like cheesecake.  Decadent cheesecake.  In cute circle shapes that are just big enough for you to feel like you’ve had dessert without being so stuffed you wish you hadn’t.  So now when I have visitors (or friends in from Brooklyn, which is pretty much the same thing) and we make the requisite Magnolia stop (which may include standing in line for thirty minutes, depending on whether or not the “Sex and the City” tour bus just pulled up), I usually get cheesecake instead of a cupcake.

And then SP (Sexy Pierre) and I were walking around the East Village and all of a sudden there was this big sign all like, Eileen’s Special Cheesecake.  The sign said how it’s the best cheesecake in New York.  Now.  Here’s the thing with cheesecake.  I am a cheesecake expert.  I make twenty-three different kinds.  And ever since my Gram taught me the special cheesecake recipe (which, if you follow it while executing certain secret techniques, is the best cheesecake anywhere), I have been searching New York for a cheesecake that good.  And guess what?  Eileen’s comes close, but it’s not quite Eileen’s (of course, my Gram’s name was also Eileen).  When I make Gram’s special cheesecake, I triple the crust recipe.  So the crust is so thick and rich in all of its buttery-graham-cracker goodness you just don’t even know what to do with yourself.  It’s like that line from Big Night, about how it’s so good you have to kill yourself after because nothing will ever be that good again.  Yeah.  It’s that good.  I challenge anyone, anywhere to try and come close to this.

Oh.  And that scene with Carrie and Miranda on the non-existent bench?  Carrie’s wearing knee-socks in it.  And Sara is wearing knee-socks on the cover of When It Happens.  Hmm.  It must be a cupcake thing.

Magnolia cupcakes

up in the wiihouse

Here’s reason number seventy-three why I heart NY:  Fun random stuff you never knew existed.

I met a friend at this bar down the street. It’s called Greenwich Treehouse, all perched up above Greenwich Avenue. They have a big screen this guy was using to play Nintendo Wii. You could tell he hangs out there a lot. He was really good.

When we were leaving, I noticed that the only other people in the place were the bartender and some other dude, playing Wii. So I was like, “If I stay, can you guys show me how to play?” And they said yes. So I stayed with them and we played a Wii board game (Mario Party 8), which went on forever. Oh, and when I told the dude the music there was so good? He said thanks…he picks the music because it’s his bar.  It was my first time playing and I pretty much suck at it.  But after two hours, I could feel my Wii skills improving!

See, this is the kind of thing that can only happen in New York. You go out expecting one experience and this whole other experience happens. Because there are so many friendly neighbors here and eccentric people and you never know who you’re walking down the street with. It’s the kind of fun times I always wished I was having as a teen, growing up in a small New Jersey country town and longing for city excitement. Maybe that’s why I appreciate these little things so much, now that I finally have them.

In New York, you can find a group and a place for any interest you could possibly have.  Seriously.  There’s a place for board games and a bunch of places for trivia night and there’s even Bingo night at Tortilla Flats, which is so super fun I can’t even tell you.  There’s even an organization called Quiet Party, which is part of a movement to create spaces where people can take a break from all the noise.  And there’s places with Skee-Ball and Pac-Man and Gregorian chants and backgammon and…just every random thing.  How sweet is that?


I’m a plant person. When I had to give away ten plants to move here (fab apartment, but no southern exposure), I missed them a lot. I get really sad about things like deforestation, forest fires, or a wicked storm that wipes out tons of trees. All of those beautiful trees just…gone 😦 I mean, say there’s this tree, just doing his thing with the xylem and phloem, chilling on a sunny day and minding his own business when all of a sudden – smacko! Life is over for you, tree!


I’m also a person who is weird about turning on her air conditioner. As long as it’s below 95 degrees and not crazy humid, I can deal with just the fan. Yeah, I’m still hot, but it’s way better than dumping ozone-depleting hydrofluorocarbons into the environment. The environment has enough problems. I’m all for an ice-cold movie theater in August, which is cooling many people who are (hopefully) not running their air conditioners at home during the movie. It’s just that I feel selfish adding to the global warming emergency just so one human can be more comfortable.

But! Author Eric Luper planted a tree for me in his yard. So now I can turn on the air when it’s unbearable with less guilt. Here is my tree! Eric lives upstate in suburbia. You get to do cool things like have a yard with a garden when you live in suburbia. Oh, and he interviewed me a while ago, which you can see here.

Everything is connected. Everything you do affects the world in some way. Find out about ways you can conserve energy and take better care of the Earth. It’s the only planet we have. And appreciate every single tree. They make our lives possible.

2 degrees of john krasinski

Announcement: I am connected to John Krasinski by a cool two degrees.

John Krasinski

You’re probably wondering how this is possible. I know! Especially if you’re a friend of mine, in which case you are painfully aware that I adore The Office and the best character ever, Jim Halpert. Because I go on and on about these things so much that my friends eventually slip into a yeah-you-already-told-me-that semi-catatonic state out of extreme boredom.

Here’s what happened. I finally picked up my June/July Jane magazine the other day. It’s a shame that Jane will no longer exist after the August issue. It’s been real, all the way back to my high school Sassy days. So I was reading that page with the photos and bios of the contributors for the issue and there was a photo of Jean Villepique. A girl with the same name was in my high school class, which was a tiny class in a tiny town. But I was like, this can’t be her. Except the picture kind of looked like her. I was still like, no way. But then it was like way because I Googled her and found out that it’s the same Jean. Oh, and of course she lived here in NYC up until a couple months ago. I could have walked over for a reunion. And I’m not even sure why this is such a big deal. The energy of connections, I guess.

But this isn’t the point.

Jean Villepique was on an episode of The Office, which I would know by now if I had a TV. I always have to wait for the previous season to be released on DVD before I get to watch. But I found a photo from the ep on her friend’s blog. She’s just standing there, right across from John Krasinski. So John and I are, officially, connected by two degrees.


colors & lights

There’s this building across the Hudson River in Jersey City that has a slanted top. Sometimes the top of the building is lit up and other times it’s just dark. But times when you’re super lucky, there’s a light show on that slanted building top.

First it will glow all these intense colors, one at a time. Deep red, electric blue, hot pink, a bunch more. Then the colors will break apart into stripes. The stripes appear to be random. Some stripes are thin and some are wide. Different colors are put together in all these awesome combinations. When things really get going, the stripes move across the screen, fast and slow and blinking. I could watch this for hours (and, yes, I am aware that it requires very little to entertain me).

So I’ve been wondering. Does someone plan out the light show? Or do the lights and patterns just run on some random program? And what building is that? If anyone out there has the inside info on this, please share.

If the colors and patterns weren’t so random, I might suspect this to be part of an ambient device. Ambient information involves peripheral cues that let us know when something specific is happening. For example, there’s a device called an Ambient Orb. It looks like a big egg. It sits in your house and glows certain colors to let you know how much energy you have been consuming (or you can plug the Energy Joule into a socket, which is cheaper and tells you more energy info). The orb can also show you things like trends in the stock market, weather forecast variables, or traffic conditions. So if you want to reduce your energy consumption, you can set up the orb to let you know if you are conserving electricity (glows a happy green) or if you have to turn off a few extra lights and the TV already (glows an angry who-do-you-think-you-are red).

Ambient Orb

The idea with ambient information is that if we can see subtle hints to indicate our usage of something invisible like electricity, we will respond to those colors with action. It’s all about persuading us to make lifestyle changes without being intrusive and all up in your face about it. Like, you could always check the weather forecast to see if you should bring an umbrella when you leave, but so many people don’t bother with that. Solution? You could use the ambient umbrella. Fascinating! This umbrella responds to precipitation forecasts and its handle glows if you should take it with you. You can see these cool inventions here. Some of the devices are expensive, but I love the idea of ambient info. How cool would that job be? Thinking up rad inventions, using your creative brain all day. Sweet times.