We’ll Muddle Through Somehow


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For many, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Some folks find joy in the frenzy of the season. But for others, there’s the exhaustion, the feeling of overwhelm at trying to do it all, in a limited amount of time. Clean, decorate, shop, wrap, bake, toast, mail, smile…. No wonder you’re stressed out.

And for many people, this is a sad time of year. Maybe it’s due to loss – of loved ones, pets, friends. Financial worries. Not enough sunlight (yes, it’s a thing). The loss of meaning in an ever-increasing material world. Or perhaps it’s something harder to pinpoint but can only be described as an all-encompassing feeling of melancholy. We’re living through harsh times, let’s face it. All of this can make you wish you had a river you could skate away on.

Social media is peppered with photos of smiling faces and sparkling trees. Of course it is, no one ever wants to share a photo of themselves feeling blue. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling festive! Celebrate! But if you have a friend or co-worker who opts out of the festivities, just accept it. Let it pass. Because for those who struggle through this time of year, all they wish for is to muddle through, somehow.

What I Read this Year


Not enough! So many books, not enough time. But perhaps there are a couple of books on my list that didn’t make it onto yours, and maybe you’ll want to add them to your TBR pile:

fire and fury Fire and Fury – Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff lived up to its hype. I don’t know that there was anything startling in it, because this administration has been reported on every day. And by now, there’s just so much more…

Galway Stories Galway Stories by Kevin Barry and Mary Costello really helped me understand more about Galway, the setting for my most recent novel. Sometimes gritty, sometimes delightful.

No Excuses No Excuses by Yolanda Alvarez. Let yourself be uncomfortable as you read this stark memoir. My bet is that your upbringing was very different from the author’s. Still, in spite of all the negatives that can be associated with Alvarez’s childhood, she survived. And thrived. And succeeded. Her story will fill your heart.

The Paris Wife The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This book is about Ernest Hemingway’s wife Hadley Richardson. Written mostly from her perspective, this is a must-read.

This Unfamiliar Road This Unfamiliar Road by Jill Fague. Fague’s first-person account of her battle with breast cancer will move you. With clear and honest writing, she details not only the procedures but all of her emotions.

Thirteenth Star Under the Thirteenth Star – an anthology of writing by Rhode Island authors is the Association of Rhode Island Authors’ second annual anthology. Inside you’ll find a variety of selections from some of Rhode Island’s best.

corey I’m Still Here by Corey Calligano. Another young woman who battled breast cancer. Calligano writes in an honest voice, holding nothing back. A brave and compelling journey.

Damiani Il Bel Centro by Michelle Damiani details her family’s year abroad in the small town of Spello, Italy. Written with humor and introspection, you’ll follow the Damiani family from their home in Virginia to their new home in Italy.

Whitman Have Mercy by Barbara Ann Whitman. Using her extensive knowledge as a family support counselor, Whitman created a novel based on a young girl in the foster system. You’ll feel as if you know Mercy as she navigates the complex road to adulthood.

Matilda Messing with Matilda by Cat Lavoie. Lavoie is one of my favorite romantic comedy authors, and for a sweet escape, pick up this one. Actually, read everything Cat has written!

How to Walk Away How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. Give me a book about hope and despair and I’m hooked. This one ticks all the boxes, with wit, raw emotion, pain, heartache, and ultimately, love and acceptance. Probably the best book I read this year.

North Haven North Haven by Sarah Moriarty. I’ll admit, I picked up this book because I lived in North Haven (Connecticut) for a short time as a small child. This story, however, has nothing to do with Connecticut and everything to do with an island in Maine and a family vacation home. It’s a great summer read.

Hood The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood. Hood’s early works are magnificent, but like The Obituary Writer and An Italian Wife, this one left me less than thrilled. It’s somewhat autobiographical, and the ending was so far-fetched I was left disappointed.

Stranger Stranger or Friend by Silvia Villalobos. This thriller will grip you from the beginning. The writer uses tension skillfully in her scenes, and if you’re a murder-mystery reader, grab this one.

Mai Crossing the Bamboo Bridge – Memoirs of a Bad Luck Girl by Mai Donohue. You’ll find it difficult to pause your reading of this riveting memoir. From her forced marriage in a Vietnamese village to her escape and survival, against extreme adversity, you’ll come to admire this remarkable woman.

truth The Pendulum’s Truth by Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss. The writing team of Brown and Corliss make team-writing work so well, you’d think they were just one person. They convey emotion with excellence and tell a great story that you’ll truly enjoy.

How Hard How Hard Can it Be? by Allison Pearson is a laugh out loud funny, brutally honest account of how women of ‘a certain age’ find themselves being pulled from both directions. So relatable to women dealing with work, kids, aging parents, and marriage.

Fear Fear by Bob Woodward. I probably didn’t need to read another book about the chaos in the White House, by the chief chaos creator, but it’s Bob Woodward. This account of the Trump presidency is spot-on, but it’s not like you’re going to feel any better after reading it.

print A Printer’s Choice by W.L. Patenaude. I’m not typically a reader of science fiction, but I was thoroughly engrossed in this well-written novel about the classic battle between good and evil.

A Place of Springs A Place of Springs by Hannah Colby. Colby’s big book was years in the making, and her dedication to scene and detail is evident. An epic tale of love and loss, despair and hope, against a backdrop of the horrific Bosnian War.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen. How I missed this one is beyond me. No wonder she’s one of my favorite authors.

Well, that’s it! How about you? What was the best book you read in 2018? What book are you looking forward to?

Forty Years Back


Nice, France

Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.

My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.

I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.

But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭

It is the heat. And it is the humidity.


Nearly September. 95 degrees today. Heat index 104. Just like yesterday.

So who else is cranky? I know (at least) three people who live without air conditioning. I don’t know how they live, though. Our thermostat is set at 74 and I’m hot. But I’m grateful for A/C, especially at night.

I’ve never liked summer best. Fall is my favorite. How about you? Depending on where you live, you might not experience four distinct seasons. But by September, the sun rises later and it’s dark by 8:00 now, so I want that cool air to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the second round of edits for my new novel, so now it’s off to my trusted readers, who give me honest feedback. I sometimes can’t see a plot hole or a character who uses repetitive language, but they can! I’m still on track to have this book ready by December 1 – the day I’ll be at the Rhode Island Authors Expo!

Until then, I’m reading a lot (what are you reading?). I loved How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and Crossing the Bamboo Bridge by Mai Donohue (her memoir of growing up in Vietnam – you won’t be the same after reading it). I’m almost done with How Hard Can It Be? by the hilarious Allison Pearson, just started Alternate Side by the wonderful Anna Quindlen, and The Pendulum’s Truth by the very talented writing team of Leigh Brown and Vikki Corliss. Vacation next week means lots of reading!

Autumn will get here, eventually. You won’t hear me complain about the cold. Not me.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifty-two


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Well, that year flew by. I seem to be saying that all the time lately.

A year ago, inspired by The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus), I decided to begin my own journey toward living a more minimal, and more mindful, life. If I blogged about it every Friday, I’d be more accountable, and maybe if I had a flash of insight, I’d share it.

It began by cleaning out a drawer, then another. Then a cabinet and a cupboard, and another. Closets, multiple times. I began to look at possessions differently – all those collectibles that my husband I had bought through the years of our marriage, little trinkets of remembrance. Some Many of those items are worth keeping – like the prints and paintings that remind us of a special trip. Other things just take up space.

I’m not done. This is an ongoing project, and I never did clean out the garage as much as I’d wanted to, so I’ve marked that as a fall project. We still have our beloved dog, Bonnie (thankfully), so the well-worn furniture that she claims as her own stays, for now.

My friend gave me this wonderful bracelet for my recent birthday – how thoughtful she is, especially knowing how I feel about plastics and ocean pollution. Please click the link for more information about how you, too, can help. Gifts with purpose!!

If you’re overwhelmed with clutter, know that if you want to change that situation, you can. And if you look around and think you can never live more minimally, start small (like I did). Start with one drawer. Or, start on August 1 and get rid of (meaning, recycle, repurpose, or toss out) one item. On August 2, do the same with two items, and go through the month that way. You can throw out an old tube of mascara on August 1 and donate a worn but still wearable pair of shoes on August 2. Yes, you can do this.

So even though I won’t be blogging every week about my journey, the journey continues.

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Bonus Time


Martha turns 4. That’s me on the right. I don’t know who these other children are.

I’ve only had a few birthday parties in my 60 years on this earth. Birthdays weren’t something my parents made a big fuss over, although the celebration was always enough. Hamburgers on the grill, chocolate cake with white frosting. “Milestone” birthdays are usually a bigger deal (until they aren’t). Although this year, celebrating with my two sisters, brother-in-law, and husband was one of the best days ever.

I’ve never liked having my picture taken, so I don’t get the obsession of some people with selfies. I see myself in photographs and cringe – bad hair, fat face, goofy look, whatever, I could always find a flaw. Adding three pictures of myself to this blog post feels self-serving.

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We were all young once.

Through the years, I’ve celebrated my birthday with family and friends, most of the time. In 1981, I was working as an au pair in Switzerland, living with an unhappy couple and their badly behaved little boy. On my birthday, I broke a lamp in their house. It was an accident, but oh. Not a good day. She was much more forgiving than he was.

The year I turned 40, my husband and I went to Boston, and, as it turned out, we were back there for my 50th ( I spent my birthday facilitating a roundtable discussion with fellow fraud investigators). But, our hotel room had a view of Fenway Park and I ate chocolate-covered strawberries.

I’ve lost some friends over the years. By the time you reach this age, it’s not completely unexpected, although I do expect to attend wakes and funerals for the parents of my contemporaries, not my contemporaries. Still. Jeff, Steve, Lucy, Kevin, Sue, Paul, Kathy, Jack, Patty, Susan, Michael, Andy, Danny, Carole, Tom, Pat, Karen, Joe, Tim. Always remembered.

My friend Tommy Hobin (we’re going on 48 years now) says we’re living in “bonus time.” How many of us can say we’re still alive thanks to good fortune or dumb luck – those narrow escapes we reminisce about but don’t want to share with our children or grandchildren. Bonus time.

This year we won’t be in Boston, but I’ll be somewhere near the Atlantic Ocean. I had a new headshot taken, by my dear friend Dianna Solimeo of Vee’s Photography. It’s me at 60, with my Coke-bottle eyeglasses and lines on my face. It is a true photo of the real me. Maybe, finally, I’m okay with it.

BONUS!

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a reward! Every single one of my books (all eight) are discounted to 99 cents for the digital version. Seven novels, including my Swiss Chocolate trilogy, and one nonfiction. I’ll keep the prices low for a week or so. 💛💚💙

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifty-one


plastic bags

I’ve been thinking a lot about plastic – bags, straws, packaging, utensils – there’s just so much plastic. And we all aware that our oceans are filling up with plastic at an alarming rate.

At the conclusion of this year-long project, I’ve just discovered Tippi Thole. Tippi Thole is someone you should discover, too. Check out her “tiny trash can” website here – and you’ll be amazed/inspired/ wowed. Because Tippi Thole replaced the trash can in her kitchen (10-gallon capacity) with a small wastebasket (like the kind you probably have in your bathroom). She began to shop mindfully, and within a few months, the amount of trash her family produced each week fit into a Mason jar that is under 3″ tall!!!

Could I do this, too? I’m sure as hell going to try. We’re only two people.