Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Slice of Life: A Coincidence or Something More?

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!


Sometimes, maybe things have a reason for happening, and I'm wondering about what happened yesterday. If you're reading this post, you'll wonder with me. Maybe even suggest a reason...

This story starts with a quick description of the Solstice Program, which is were I got my MFA in Creative Writing between 2014 and 2016. I had three mentors. (Not many). Most of the mentors and directors stay for a while, so the fact that the Director sent out an email yesterday announcing that the Assistant Director was stepping down was unusual. Oh, and the program is in Boston. Not New York-- which brings me to my story. 

Back in March, I was in New York for the TCRWP Reunion Day (if you ever can make it, do!) and at the end of the day, I got a coffee with friends. Trying to be efficient, I used my Starbucks app, but I used it for the wrong Starbucks. I said goodbye to my friends, retrieved my coffee from a few blocks down, and headed to the parking garage. The street was not crowded, I was not where I meant to be, and I ran smack into my main mentor from Solstice who lives in Vermont and hardly ever comes to New York. It was great to see Laura McCaffrey and meet her daughter who she was visiting, and that chance encounter was a highlight of the day. I wrote about our meeting during March here. 

And now the story gets weirder. Yesterday, after a day of learning at Teachers College-- the first time I've been back in the city since seeing Laura-- I walked from the apartment where I'm staying all down the west side. I'd turned down other invitations to spend some time by myself and walk down to Battery Park. Some of my route toward the tip of Manhattan took me through crowds, as I walked along the Highline and then through Chelsea and Soho. But then I cut to the west and walked through the quieter streets just away from the river. I knew right where I was, but I hadn't explored or walked through that part of the city. I was loving the residential feel, enjoying the gardens, and processing my day. And then, right in front of me was a familiar face. Remember-- there were NOT many people on this street! 

"Brendan?" I asked. "It's Melanie."

Brendan Kiely is another mentor at Solstice, although he started there after I'd completed the program. However, I've met him and talked to him several times at various conferences. 

We talked for a while, sharing what we're working on, and it was fun to hear about Brendan's work both at Solstice and with his writing projects. He had some interesting ideas for my novels, which I definitely need to get back to work on-- 

Maybe that was the message or meaning of meeting these two mentors in a completely random way in random parts of the city. Feel free to suggest other reasons or tell me to write it off (pun intended) to the randomness of life and big cities. I don't know though... 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Slice of Life: What Kind of Food????

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!


My daughter Larkin gets asked unusual questions when she explores job opportunities. Last night I got a text from her asking if I could talk. She wanted to know what kind of food she'd be if she had to be a food. 

What kind of food?

Yeah, she said, when I called her. It's like my dream job and the only question they ask is what kind of food I'd be. 

Larkin and I brainstormed possible responses for a while, and had a few really good laughs. I started with the idea of trail mix because of the flexibility and usefulness. She scoffed. Vanilla ice cream since it goes with everything? Another not so positive response. 

"Okay," I said. "What do you want to say about yourself? What do you think is important?"

We talked more about that and thought about other foods. An avocado? (Healthy, multiple uses...) We decided it was too fleeting in its readiness since unripe ones are so bad and overripe ones are such a waste. A loaf of bread? Possibly-- there are a lot of things to do with that!

Eventually, Larkin came to what I think was a decision, although she's been known to change her mind after a conversation, a tendency I admire and love about her. Once she did, I asked the usual question:

Have you googled this? 

We cracked up at some of the answers:

I'm a grapefruit.. one false squeeze and you get it right in the eye.. :P
I think I would be a chocolate meringue pie baked by my sainted mother.

Only those who saved room for me would even bother to try me. But for those few, I would be that rare indescribable experience. They would savor me with their favorite coffee, and remember me for the rest of their lives.


Turns out there's even a personality test to see what kind of food you'd be, just in case you're curious. I recommend the conversation over the quiz, though! And I'll keep you posted if the company likes Larkin's answers!

Happy Slicing,




Monday, April 15, 2019

Slice of Life: The Notre Dame Fire

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!


Clare's message in the family group text flashed in the middle of a meeting.

Given my role as recorder, I couldn't spend time opening the link right then, and the intensity of the conversation in front of me did not lend itself for me to say that devastation was happening in Paris. 

"Pay attention," I had to tell myself. But when there was a lull in the meeting, I clicked on the link. Images of the flames and billowing smoke overwhelmed me. 

Maybe because a 30th Reunion is looming, maybe because my daughters are in the middle of college, maybe because of other reasons... in any case, I've been feeling nostalgic, and today's fire at Notre Dame added to it.

Almost thirty years ago, one of my best friends, Kara, and I boarded a plane for Paris with a pair of backpacks, a Euro-rail pass, a super tight budget, and a list of places to see. We landed at Charles de Gaulle and Notre Dame was one of our first stops on our DIY tour. Together, we explored, admiring the stone carvings, the stained glass, the pillars. We climbed up to the bell towers, taking goofy pictures of us posing with gargoyles.

I don't know if we paid attention to the history, read the stories, appreciated the details of the chapel. Maybe we did. Tonight I revisited Notre Dame through virtual tours, as well as through the memories and reflections of my friends on social media. The intricacy, the spirituality, the grandness of the chapel and all its history flooded back, reminding me of our visit so long ago. I wish I had made it back before today.

I'm having dinner with Kara at the end of the month--I'd reached out to her before today and we set that up on our calendars. We don't see or talk to each other often, but always assume that our friendship is there, solid as the landmarks we visited when we were 21. Over the last few weeks other events have reminded me of the impermanence of life and the importance of seizing moments, reaching out, doing those things I've been meaning to, but just haven't gotten around to... I have to keep working on that.

Happy Slicing,



Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Slice of Life: The Pants

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!



"Hour of truth," Clare said.

P. was hardly out of the car, and I watched him walk across the parking lot and toward his fraternity. 

Should I say that the first thing I noticed was his pants that were a little tight and short? Honestly, who really cares? It's just that most of the boys who've been around our house wear their pants on the baggy side. Maybe the snugness was just from a recent beer binge, although he was pretty slim... I decided to keep that whole line of thinking to myself.

"I like him," I said. 

He was friendly and polite at dinner, appreciative and happy to answer questions. I liked hearing about how they spent the afternoon playing Jenga at a local coffee shop, enjoying one of the first spring days. I have a sense as to college and what having a boyfriend also involves; I'm trying to repress my own college sophomore days insofar as men, relationships, and freedom is concerned as I think about my almost twenty year-old daughter. 

"I like how comfortable the two of you are," I said. 

The two of them had jokes they shared. When I asked Clare what her plans were for Easter, P, was quick to say she was invited to his grandmother's. Judging from her reaction, Clare already knew his grandmother. Since he lives closer to their college, she's already met and spent time with his family a few times. Maybe more than a few times. 

"And he puts up with you." 

While he didn't hold the car doors or stay standing until she sat down as her last boyfriend did, his manners were fine. Clare gave him a hard time when he left his napkin folded in his lap as opposed to spreading it out. (I'm not sure that's a thing, but Clare had an opinion about it.) I hid my smile as he accepted her napkin spreading with a smile. 

"I can't believe he wore those pants," Clare said. "I made him get new ones last week and told him to put those away."

I started to laugh.

"I'm making those disappear!" she said. 

I laughed harder. I love that girl, and I have a feeling he's starting to also. Good luck to him!

Happy Slicing,



Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Slice of Life: The salmon oil saga, Part 2

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!



My blue polka-dot sweater had gone through the wash since the salmon oil debacle. Just as I debated a couple of weeks ago about what to wear, I debated again this morning. Connecticut weather has been tricky. We are all ready to pull out our spring clothes, but the outdoor thermostat has different ideas. Whether we like it or not, boots and tights still feel better than capris and flats.

In any case, the blue polka-dots seemed like a good choice.

"Cute sweater," a co-worker said as I walked into work.

Yes, I thought. An oldie but goodie. It was even an easy sweater to wash and seemed no worse for the wear after a good cleaning to get rid of the salmon oil I'd splattered on it.

But then I sat down at my desk to dig into a curriculum project I needed to get done.

What was that smell?

Oh no.

Another waft.

Oh double no.

I pulled up the collar to my nose. Triple no. It was 8:45.  Could I make it home before my meeting at 10:30? I could, but I wouldn't get the project done. Why didn't I do it the night before? I don't usually save things until the last minute. I tried to concentrate. The smell started to give me a headache. By 9:15, I reached for the motrin. Would motrin help a smell-induced headache.

At 9:50, I made a decision. My meeting was a drive away, and if I was quick, I could go a round about way and swing into the Gap just as it opened. There would for sure be a sweater that would match a neutral pair of pants.

I didn't have time to make it home, but I did have time to be in and out of the Gap in under five minutes with a beige cotton sweater that looked fine, was on sale, and smelled great.

Now what to do with that polka-dot sweater?

Happy Slicing,