Monday, August 24, 2015



Ayla and I went to Target for school supplies. She is entering 5th grade, her last year of elementary school. How this happened, I do not know. How it has been 11 years since I awaited the entrance of this child into the world is one of the great mysteries. I couldn't bring myself to say no to anything she asked for. Shiny new lunchbox with geometrical print, okay. Matching new water bottle with matching geometric print, toss it in there. Ayla was determined to get a white backpack and white shoes, both of which she would decorate with sharpies. The backpack had to be ordered online, the shoes, after some setbacks, were found by Grammy at Kohl's. Ayla gets these grand ideas in her head and I know she will be despondent if they don't work out, and I go to great lengths to prevent this despondency. When we got out of the car at Target I started singing to Ayla "back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I'm not a fool," in an Adam Sandler voice, and that is how I learned that Adam Sandler does not resonate with Ayla's generation AT ALL.

On Thursday we learned Ayla had been placed in a class with none of her best friends but with the two children she has had the most conflict with over the years. I know some parents think that children need to learn to deal with this sort of difficulty in life, and those parents are right. But I am one of those that thinks, why not prevent what bumps I can, life has enough challenges as it is. And I'm right too, you know? Neither Noah nor I are good at rocking the boat. We didn't want to call the school and ask for special treatment. I got Ayla into the car. "How big of a deal is this situation with your friends?" I asked. "A big deal, a small deal, a medium deal?"

"It's fine, it's not a big deal," Ayla said. "I'll still see them at recess and before school and stuff."

But she was holding back tears.

"Okay," I said. "And are those your real feelings, or is this you not wanting to hurt someone's feelings by switching?"

"The feelings," she said.

So I screwed up my courage and called the new principal and told her the truth. That we moved here from Colorado and it's been hard enough to make friends. That it's Ayla's last year of elementary school and I want her to have a good year surrounded by her pals. I understand that some might say these issues are trivial, but they are not trivial to me. I don't understand why we expect children to put up with things that we ourselves would not put up with. Anyway. The principal agreed to switch Ayla to a different class and Ayla and I fist bumped. I felt like a hero.

By some miracle last night they were both asleep by 9:15. These two have been staying up til midnight and it was just Thursday that Ayla slept in until almost noon. We drove them through McDonald's for ice cream because there's no Dairy Queen here, that is just the town I live in. I hate this town. After milkshakes we sang to them and put them to bed. I had cleaned both their rooms for them because I wanted them to feel orderly and cozy for the start of the year. When everything is chaos it helps to have a clean house. I even cleaned out the bottom of the pantry where there were a million shoes and plastic bags and two spiders and a moth infestation. Harry Potter could be living there basically. I watched them sleep, of course. I remembered thinking, when Ayla started 3rd grade, that we still had three full years until middle school and surely I would feel that time. Those three years would pass with the measured pace we expect three years to pass with. Now here we are, time is unreal. Mothers get this in our bones and yet we rage against it. Ayla's last year at BES and Indy right behind her. God help me.

This morning we all had bags under our eyes but spirits were generally high. Ayla shrugged on her white back pack decorated with the sharpie-drawn youtube logo and ihascupquake and Nirvana symbols. Ayla is into Nirvana. She is indulging her quirks with a trueness to herself that I admire fiercely. Indy overnight turned into a sort of brightly clawed kitten with jeweled teeth. She has presence. She is in herself and aware of herself like a starlet in a fashion spread.

God help me.

Noah took them to Waffle House (HATE TOWN) and then we dropped them at school, where at the last minute Indy said "Do you guys HAVE to walk us in?" all fake-casual, and we said ". . . no!" Me also feigning casual and so off they went, into the wilds, on their own. Then I took a drive up through the forest, it was misty and it had presence, aware of itself and the feats it is about to preform, getting ready just any minute now to magic all that green to yellow and gold, but not yet, not yet, and I thought everything is always coming, but not yet. Not yet.

indy alone

forest sign two

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August Rushes In

On the first day of August, we went camping. We have not camped as a family since we moved here. I don't know why. But sometime last autumn Ayla came to me crying and said she was upset because we never go camping anymore. She has a flair for the dramatic but also for telling truths. She is a Libra and a Hufflepuff. But of course I don't believe in any of all that.

August sometimes gets a bad rap, but its one of my favorite months. August is when the light changes. One warm day in August you will be sitting in your car, it will be late afternoon, the light will go peach-colored and a breeze will blow in. On the underside of this breeze there will be a chill, and you will know that fall is going to come. Your seven-year-old daughter will turn to you and say, "It feels like everything good is about to happen". August is the month of stone fruit and school supplies. It's the month Indy was born. One day in August I had barely slept all night and was driven from my bed at four in the morning with labor pains. I thought this labor would take all day, run into the night, like my first. A mere seven hours later, I would be holding my Indy in my arms for the first time, her short little nose, her funny long legs. Ayla's first act as a human was to gaze at us as if she had known us for millions and millions of years. Indy's was to have a good cry. How could I not love August?

Camping here is different than camping in Colorado. We didn't grow up here, we don't know the good spots. We drove ten minutes down the street before turning onto a long dirt road lined with corn fields and horses. At the end of this rough road was a bend in the river, and we set up our tent on its banks. No alpine air, too many bugs. But the upside is this ancient river. Colored like coffee or the gold of some hound's eye, the girls undulating their sleek bodies in the shimmering light, little seals, legged mermaids. They are growing strong. Dive low, sputter up. Skip stones. Splash your sister. Ayla propped Indy up on her straight shoulders and said "I won't be able to do this much longer, you'll get too big." Ayla's legs impossibly long, Indy's eyes the brightest thing in the whole world.

Some people feel compelled to rush through August, squeezing in last minute summer before school starts up again. For me August is when summer slows down. You just have to surrender what you didn't get to. Like a woman of advanced age who doesn't hurry from place to place. Like the river growing wide around its slowest bend. For just a little while in August the world opens up. The swell of July is behind us, the smoke of September is ahead. I sat beneath leaves that danced with the light of the sun off the river. I felt a depression lift away. The old French Broad eventually flows into Tennessee. But just there, in that bend, it would hold us. My daughters closed their eyes and jumped in.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


This series of photographs reminded me of these two pictures of my daughters.

This is one of the more fascinating articles I've ever read.

Here is an old blog post by Tavi Gevinson that touched me.

I have been listening to the Longform podcast and the interviews with Cheryl Strayed and Tavi Gevinson got my juices flowing.

I would like to publicly request that Marc Maron interview more women. Hearing creative women talk about their stories and struggles is something I need as I try to find a place of peace between my two opposing desires to be a writer and to be a present mother for my children. These urges aren't in tension for every mother, but they are for me. I need to hear from women, women with children, women without children, married women, unmarried women. In the newest Mad Max, there is a moment when the warriors Furiosa and Max grip hands and I cried in the theater at the symbolism of that image. I dream of a time when women and men can work together in perfect union, but we can't get there without many more representations of the feminine myths, more stories about what it is to be female. I need thousands of them.

Dear Marc Maron: Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Kaitlin Olson, Jessica Walter.

Speaking of the myths about the female experience, I hungrily devoured The Wild Oats Project by Robin Rinaldi and Spinster by Kate Bolick.

June in North Carolina has been tremendously green, as if the color were alive, as if I lived inside a velvety woodland painting. One morning I opened my eyes and looked out the window at the exact moment the sun was refracting explosively off the leaves and in my sleep state I felt the color shoot through me, a photosynthetic infusion, the breath of the forest, the substance of life.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Free Angel Food Day

Have you been waiting to buy Angel Food on a payday that never comes? Do you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, afraid of becoming a smoker clown (a clown that smokes)? Do your friends keep telling you to buy Angel Food and you're like, a book made of cake? Where do I get one immediately? You're in luck! Angel Food is free today as an ebook. Just a few more hours to download yours. Get it here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


My heart may still be in Paris but my body is in Atlanta. Getting ready to catch a flight to Denver with my two girls. Minus my guy. I really wish he was coming. Not just so he could carry that enormous heavy bag that we ended up throwing into a wheelchair. Other reasons, too.

The spring in Brevard has been moody. Bright purple flowers against a dark gray sky. New green leaves shot through with strange light. I have been nursing myself off Paris with too many croissants from the local bakery. And lemon tarts. For a few days there it was touch and go. For a few days, I was like: I published my book. I went to Paris. I came back from Paris. Now what the hell am I supposed to do?

Then April started and I became able to feel optimistic again. I saw this tweet the other day and said YES. I think much about this idea of choosing happiness and a great portion of the time I think it is bullshit. I think it's available to certain DNA, but not to all. You know? In the winter, I'm not capable of it.

But April comes and I feel good again.

Besides croissants, my other coping mechanism is pretending I live in Austin, Texas. I know my moods are exhausting. My changes of heart wear me out. But I'm maybe a bit obsessed with this yogi Adriene. I dream of hot sun and hot weather and funky towns. Let's just say it: I dream of having green drinks delivered to my door. I dream of Mexican blankets and succulents. Lime popsicles and music festivals. You know? I DON'T KNOW. I just have a crush on Adriene. And Austin. Then I was snooping around on Airbnb and found this:

I mean, if I have an aesthetic, this is it.

So when I go to work and the stalker man comes in and stares, or the good old boy patornizingly tells me to smile, or the rude man asks overly personal questions trying to figure out if my beliefs are Christian like his, I just pretend I am living in Austin. With Adriene and this famous guy I love. Maybe it's crazy, but it works. IT IS WORKING FOR ME. Leave me alone, let me have it.


Do you know I wasn't harassed one single time during my two weeks in Paris, but at my job I am harassed daily? I'm not going to be able to stop talking about this. Is it the fact that I'm almost 34? I have a shorter fuse for certain ills. Don't tread on me, I'm 34. Maybe? It's a patronizing harrassment most of the time. Which is more insidious, harder to take head-on. I'm 33 but I'm almost 34.

(I ask myself, "where should I aim to travel to next?" but all I really want is Paris.)

In Denver we're going to go to the zoo and eat some stuff. I don't know. Asheville has a Chipotle now* so I don't really need to fly to Denver anymore. Indy was fed Subway an hour ago but she's sitting next to me huffing. So I have to go buy her a $34 airport burger now.

With love from Sunny Austin,


Update: The Atlanta airport has a Chipotle. So.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Chocolate Tour of Paris (With Pastries, Spring, and Oeuf)

 Before leaving for Paris, I read that Easter was the major holiday for chocolate. Apparently Christmas is nice and all that, but Easter is when chocolate really has its time to shine. Everywhere I went, there were bunnies and eggs in gorgeous window displays. As you can see, it was often hard to get a good picture with the reflections and all that. Here's what I managed.

 Painted chocolate at Jacques Genin, my favorite chocolatier

Jacques Genin

Jacques Genin 

Jacques Genin 

A patisserie in the 3rd.  

The renowned Jewish bakery in the Marais where I 
didn't know what to order and managed to walk out
with a very good, but very American, brownie. 

Pain de Sucre on Rue Rambuteau in the 3rd 

Pain de Sucre. I wish I'd ordered something other than macarons.
Turns out I don't really care for them. 

 *not chocolate, probably. In the 3rd.

 File under "things one must do when in Paris" even though
it's touristy and dumb. 

Georges Larnicol in Saint Germain des Pres. I took home
two kouignettes, which were, like macarons, too sweet for me.  

 Georges Larnicol

Georges Larnicol. That is all chocolate.

Hard to see past the reflections of this gorgeous
chocolatier in the 7th, near the Eiffel tower.  

The outside of the famous Printemps feels appropriate for an Easter round up. 

Printemps again. Printemps means "spring".  

The classic. Glad I went, for the experience. One thing I noticed in Paris
is that the sweets were usually less sweet--they were made with less
sugar, often served with little sugar packets on the side. I never used
the extra sugar. And I never felt sick after indulging in them the way
I do after the sweets I eat here. 

A bakery in Montmarte, which may have been called The Two Windmills.

Tarte citron, which would turn out to be my favorite Paris treat.  

Tarte Citron by Eric Kayser, this locaiton near the Musee D'Orsay. 

The pastry tray at the Salon de Thè at Paris' Grand Mosquee.  

Patrick Roger in Saint Germain. 

Tarte aux Pommes from the famed Poilane, please ignore my thumb.

 Walking around at night. I think this was Rue Vielle du Temple in the 4th.

Du Pain et des Idées, "Bread and Ideas", near my apartment
in the 10th. Some say it's the best bakery in Paris. 

Chocolat chaud done just right at Patisserie Viennoise. 

There were a few students working here, drinking this. It's not far
from the Sorbonne. Can you imagine
this being your study spot? 

When Marie Antoinette came from Vienna, she brought her pastry chefs with her. The
French chefs of the time learned from them. So, at patisseries, there are the regular French 
pastries, and then there are the Viennoise. Thanks Marie!

The outside of Patisserie Viennoise, where the above 3 photos
were taken, down a tiny little street in Saint Germain.
 I found it thanks to a tip from David Lebovitz's
"The Sweet Life In Paris". I'm with him--it was probably 
the best chocolat chaud I had in Paris.  

Henri LeRoux, across the street from the Jardin du Luxembourg. It's worth
mentioning that at this and every other high end chocolatier I stepped into,
I received very warm and helpful service. At places like Jacques Genin,
where the chocolates are displayed like expensive jewelry, I expected
the atmosphere to be snobby. It wasn't--the one exception being Ladurée.) 
It was also completely normal to buy just four or five pieces. Or even one.
No pressure to spring for the 120 euro box.

Cafe Suedois, or Swedish, a bright spot where I spent a 
cold and rainy afternoon. 

My final Parisian indulgence was at Pierre Herme. I happened to pass by it and
had to go in, even though I was over the whole macaron thing by then. I'm 
glad I did, for the beauty of the sweets alone. My picture does no justice. They
were gorgeous little works of art. I couldn't help but exclaiming "Tres jolie!"
Which I thought meant "very pretty!" but doesn't, really, I think. The French
seemed more likely to use "beau" when remarking on beauty. "Trop beau!"

I selected Caramel au Beurre Salé (of course).
The purple is "Envie"--vanilla, violet, and cassis.
Top right is Olive Oil and Mandarin,
and finally yogurt and grapefruit, which I ordered
on accident, but there you go. These were the best 
macarons I had in Paris.

Today the girls are eating all their Hershey eggs and Cadbury cream eggs, which have their place in the canon, of course. But I'm happy to say that later this evening, I will slip into my room and have a little Jacques Genin that I tucked away into a drawer, waiting for me, all the way from Paris.

Friday, April 3, 2015

I Don't Know What This Blog Even Does Anymore

1) No I have not spent the last few days looking at areas of Paris I didn't get a chance to visit on google maps and pretending to be there.

2) Somebody asked me what was the best thing I had to eat in Paris and I said the pastries but I was wrong: it was the eight oysters that I ate raw and completely undressed (the oysters not me), shucked before my eyes by a surly vendor at the Bastille market during the half hour of sun we had that day, and chased down with a one-euro glass of wine in a plastic cup. I followed them with a Nutella crepe. Heaven.

3) Here are some of the pictures I wish I'd taken of La Chambre aux Oiseaux.

4) There's a million things that I wish I had done in Paris. One thing I did manage to do was eat what Paris by Mouth named the number one tarte citron in the city. I also ate two Eric Kayser versions, one by Le Pain Quotidien, and two from little bakeries in Montmartre. They were all my favorite.

5) One Sunday it was freezing and after picking up some brie melun and tome de chevre from the neighborhood market, I went into Le Petit Cambodge and orderered what was basically pho. The waiter seemed really concerned that I had ordered this, but he didn't speak English and I wasn't understanding most of his French. He brought it to me despite his concerns and it was great. After I ate it, a beautifully friendly and beaming waitress helped me with my French. She taught me to say "J'ai fini" instead of "Je suis fini" and then she said "from the verb 'to be'" and I said, "Oh! J-a-i" which phonetically was like "zhay ah ee" and she smiled  and nodded and I smiled because it was good to have this one piece of a massive puzzle fall into place and she was just that kind of person that you can't really help smiling at profusely.

6) On the day I walked around the Ile St. Louis I was annoyed that there were twelve million people in line at every location selling Berthillion ice cream. They just want it because of the name, not because it's actually good, I thought to myself. Then I passed by a window with a short line so I said oh what the hell, and stood in it. I ordered one scoop of salted caramel ice cream. One taste and I knew this was the best ice cream I had ever had in my entire life and maybe ever would have. I stood on the bridge over the Seine and ate it. Then I turned back and happily stood in line for 20 minutes for two more.

Le Petit Cambodge 

The bridge that lead to La Marine in my neighborhood.
(The red awning is La Marine) 

Craft, a coworking space/cafe, that I loved so dearly.
Also in the 10th, my neighborhood. 

Oysters at the Bastille market on Sunday 

Nutella crepe, same 

Rue Cremieux, near Bastille 

A door in Le Marais 

You just see this kind of thing everywhere you look. 

World's Best Ice Cream 

The sun came out while I was eating the World's Best Ice Cream 

The outfit everybody was wearing in Paris and the shoes
I deeply regret not buying. 

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