From Ploughshares: I’m in Love with a Writer

This week’s contribution to Ploughshares is dedicated to my ever patient spouse, who probably didn’t realize what he was getting into when he fell in love with a writer. Enjoy!

“I’m in Love With a Writer: A Survival Guide”


For the Love of Nicknames

I was paging through my active texts the other day and noticed a trend: all my friends have legit nicknames. Nicknames are one of my favorite things in life. Blame it on growing up with a name that is hard to abbreviate or make fun. Sure, I’ve had Ambie, Miss Ambs, Ambie, Ambular (thanks, Clueless), and Ambrosia (HATE). But nothing that just clicked. Perhaps that is why I bestow the people in my life with nicknames. Getting to name them in my own way makes them more personal to me.

Beyond that, the nicknames in my phone are specific to my relationship with the person. And it just so happens it reads like something out of X-Men or G.I. Joe. Bottom line? I feel like I have a super team at my fingertips should I need to assemble them.

For your consideration:


Divine Miss M

Dr. Stay Puft






Supreme Alpha


Oracle (one of my favs)



Rave On

I have one friend who finally gave me a nickname after endless badgering on my part. It’s grown on me.

What do you think, readers? Are nicknames fun or childish? And who based on my list would you like to befriend?

Read, Write, and Be Merry,


Remembering Sweet Caroline

Any one who loves a pet knows that the cost of that love is that one day you will have to say goodbye. Our family had to bid farewell to our cat, Sweet Caroline, after a tumor proved to be inoperable. It’s been hard, particularly because this is the first time my daughter has experienced loss. I’m going to follow my own advice to her and remember the good times instead of focusing on the sadness. So here is my post from the one year anniversary of her adoption.

March 19 2013

Yesterday I reposted my response a year ago when we adopted our cat, Sweet Caroline (and yes, we named her after a Neil Diamond song because we are that kind of awesome). Having never really had a cat, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured she’d keep to herself and we’d see her about once a year. I was mistaken. Here are five things that have surprised me about living with a cat.

  1. Cats really are predators. Seriously, I knew cats killed mice. What I did not realize is that it would be done with stealth precision. Living next to two open fields we get a number of uninvited visitors. She kills them quickly and efficiently. Thankfully she doesn’t toy with them or eat them. Instead, she doesn’t wanted them in her house and she deals with it. While I certainly don’t condone killing animals, I also think that sometimes humans forget the natural instincts of said animals.
  2. Cats are also kind of sociopaths. So Caroline doesn’t enjoy taunting mice; she does enjoy taunting our border collie, Charleigh. Each day Caroline walks me to the front door when I leave for work. Watching through the window, I then observe her settling on the landing of our stairs where she stares at Charleigh. When I come home, she’s usually still there (and Charleigh is laying in her bed looking very sad). I’m not sure if she breaks for lunch. When I settle in on my Fridays off to watch SVU, the fact that the theme music brings the cat running in the room is not an accident–I think she’s looking for tips on getting away with murder. Interestingly enough, Caroline does respect (and sometimes tag team hunt mice) with our dalmatian mix, Perdita.
  3. But can also be incredibly sweet (sometimes in a scary way). Of all Sweet Caroline’s habits, I think her affection was the most surprising to me. She talks to me all the time in little chirpy purrs, follows me around, and tucks me in at night before sleeping right next to me or on my chest. When I’m gone for a few days, she is happy (I think that’s the emotion) when I return, nuzzling me and purring. However, her version of sweet sometimes is a recipe for pain. A few weeks ago my toddler son and I were having a little snuggle nap. Alex fell asleep with his sweet little hand wrapped around my index finger. I dozed off until I felt a sharp stabbing in my thumb. My eyes flew open to discover Caroline on my chest, her paw wrapped around my thumb, claws digging in as she purred.
  4. Cats get the crazies. How else you explain that Caroline can go three months sleeping on our bed with no problems and then suddenly one night she realizes there are things under the covers (my feet) which she must attack? Usually this leads to running in and out of the room for no reason at all. Although she is allegedly afraid of water, she will also climb on the edge of the bathtub to chat with me. Sometimes she’s also a little stalker–if she feels that she hasn’t had enough petting, she’ll wake me up by a.) licking my face, which is like exfoliating with wet sandpaper, or b.) grabbing my bottom lip with her paw.
  5. Cats don’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) declawed. I knew nothing about declawing when we first got Caroline. My husband’s cats growing up had been declawed and I was one of those people who thought it was like some sort of kitty manicure. When the vet advised against it, saying because Caroline was older it would be extremely painful and take a long time to heal, I looked deeper into the situation. What I discovered had me calling my husband in tears, begging him to let us leave Caroline’s claws intact. He agreed and I know we made the right choice. We designated several scratching posts in the house that belong to her and she uses regularly. She does sometimes get a little nuts (see number 4) and claw at a door frame, but verbally reprimanding her takes care of the problem. The kids have gotten scratched, but it was because they were not following the rules of how to behave with the cat–when they trap her and drag her around like a doll, only to start dressing her up, I think a little scratch on the arm is appropriate.

In the end, I’m glad we went with our instincts in adopting a cat that needed a home and seemed to bond with us. My allergies have disappeared and Sweet Caroline has proven a wonderful companion for our family. Even if she is a little psycho sometimes.

From Ploughshares: Writer Types to Avoid

On this lovely Friday, please take a moment to enjoy my latest piece on Ploughshares, “Seven Types of Writers That Don’t Play Well With Others.”

Read, Write, and Be Merry,



From The Baraza: A Little Crazy

Sometimes we do crazy things under the influence of substances like vodka, pot, or Subway sandwiches (What? I get really excited any time I can pick my own toppings and have someone make it for me. It’s like cooking in a robot kitchen.)

Sometimes, though, we just do crazy things because we want or we think it’s pretty.

I did a crazy thing. Read about it in “Ginger Pop: Perfectly Marvelous Folly.”

Read, Write, and Be Merry,


Chance Encounter in a T.J. Maxx

Location: T.J. Maxx, Tuesday afternoon

You: Cute mother with two kids slightly older than mine.

Me: Frazzled redhead with a screaming little boy in the midst of a breakdown over the denial of a salted caramel bar strategically located next to the check out counter.

My 3-year-old son was electric red and screaming with a bulging vein and his arms crossed. You laughed, but then quickly apologized.

“It’s always funny when it isn’t your kid,” you said.

I replied, “It is funny. Laughing is fine. Just no judging.”

You smiled and I knew in that moment that you too have carried a screaming child from a public place, as I had to, and you too had gotten dirty looks, as I did.

“No judging,” you said. “Never judging.”

You are a good person who made me feel like less of a failure at life. I hope we meet again someday or, if not, that your attitude and laughter will continue to comfort desperate parents throughout our city.




From the Baraza

This week on the Baraza, I lament the awkward things people say to me as an English teacher. Chime in and share your professional woes!

“Ginger Pop: What Not to Say to an English Teacher”


In honor of several conversation I have had this week, I present one of my favorite quotes:

From Ploughshares: Blitz Writing

Happy Monday, pals and gals!

I’m dancing a happy to jig to begin my second year writing for Ploughshares’ online content. My colleagues there are all wicked writers and I’m all a flutter to be among their numbers.

Post number one for the new contract deals with something central to my writing life: time (or the lack thereof). In “Blitz Writing: Writing When There is No Time,” I talk about my own little method of madness for making time to write, even when it means brushing my teeth while popping out dialogue. Please visit, read, and post your own time saving writing tips in the comments. It will make my day.

Read, Write, and Be Merry,


Flashback: My daughter rocks at break ups

Last year my daughter got her first boyfriend on Valentine’s Day. But it was a short lived romance. See how Liliana handled the break up and why she’s a rock star in this post from March 2013.

Young love is a fickle thing. Just a few weeks ago my daughter got her first boyfriend. This week, that romance came to cruel ending.

The little boy, who we’ll call S, had a birthday last weekend. Liliana spent the better part of Saturday cutting, pasting, drawing, and folding to make him a birthday card. She even had her Papa print off a special balloon picture to include. When her masterpiece was dry, she tucked it in to her backpack so she wouldn’t forget it Monday morning.

Monday afternoon I came home from work to a heartbroken little girl. When she presented S with the card, he wadded it up, threw it away, and told her he didn’t want her anymore. Although it is not a completely unexpected action from a six-year-old boy, it was still unkind.

But before we just write this off as first heartbreak, here’s how she responded to his dumping her:

“I don’t even care. Girls like me don’t need boys who treat them bad.”

As a mother, I could not be more proud to type that sentence. My colleague called it perhaps the greatest response to a break up ever. Now the truth is, she was hurt, although more that he tore up something she made for him than the whole boyfriend thing. And at home she shared her bruised feelings with us and we tried to soothe them. Her daddy took her on a walk and explained that no matter what friends or boyfriends or girlfriends may come and go, she’d always have our love.

All that considered, I am so blown away by the way she handled it in public. Just looking at myself and my friends, how much better would our lives have been if we stopped and said this to that guy who did treat us badly? Or even better, to ourselves? Because girls like us don’t need boys who treat us bad.

In honor of Liliana, let’s all have a little disco party with Miss Gloria Gaynor who always reminds us that we will survive.