Tapas Schmapas

Tapas is the Spanish word for sucker. Or at least, that’s how tapas make me feel.

At first, I jumped on the tapas bandwagon. It was a novelty to think of communal dining in a day and age when everything is “gorge on the run.” I loved the idea of Spanish-influenced food courses over long periods of time with close friends. I appreciated the portion-control of smaller-sized items.

So, I went to dimly lit restaurants with yellow tablecloths and ordered large glasses of wine and small plates of food. Crostini with goat cheese and marinated red peppers. Chorizo-stuffed mushrooms. Ham and cheese croquettes.

However, there would be two small croquettes on the plate, and one and a half would go to the other three people at my table. I’d get a half-croquette, and I would leave the restaurant hungry.

My friends and I quickly learned to order more plates. Shrimp scampi, baked mussels, chicken skewers. By the time we had satiated our appetites, we would find the bill outrageously expensive and ourselves outlandishly “well-wined.” (Ordering extra glasses of wine was the only way to pass the time while waiting for other plates.) Eating enough to satisfy hunger seemed to cost a pretty penny with all of these tiny dishes.

If an alien landed on earth, he would wonder why tapas restaurants could charge more money for littler plates. It is a win-win for the restaurant industry: let people spend more money by ordering more expensive plates of smaller-portioned food. In any regular fine-dining restaurant, I can order a bowl of mussels for $10.99. At a tapas restaurant, I can order three mussels for $7.99. And I allow this to happen…because I’ve had four glasses of sangria.

I want to love tapas restaurants. I really do. And if you want me to meet you at your favorite tapas restaurant, I will be there with bells on.

Just know that I will have already eaten dinner. 🙂


You parsimonious hag! (Formerly known as %$#&^*)

I am not a prude. However, I find swearing in print lazy. If you drop a hammer on your foot, sometimes an expletive will slip out. But in writing, when you have time to ponder the value and meaning of every little word, I find swearing absolutely unnecessary.

For example, instead of calling Justin Bieber a %*%^$, you can call him a dangerous brat.

Instead of calling Kim Kardashian a %&**, you can call her an inane waste.

Instead of calling your terrible Uncle Phil a %&*&$, you could call him an intolerable highbrow.

The worst thing someone ever called me was unreliable. I’ve been called lots of swear words (both to my face and behind my back) but unreliable stung the most. It was more thoughtful than a swear word. And thoughtfulness hurts.

So the next time your drop a hammer on your thumb, feel free to swear. But if you’re trying to tell off the person who just cut you in line, at least take a moment and consider more creative language.  %$#%&* is so unimaginative.  Arrogant schmuck is so much better.

How to ALWAYS get a free Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkin

  1. Order something else. (You’re going to need something to wash down that munchkin, anyway.)
  2. While the clerk prepares your Latte/Frozen Hot Chocolate/Coolatta, gaze longingly at the donuts.
  3. Tilt your head and appear to “ponder” the flavors of munchkins. Jelly filled? Chocolate? Glazed? Decisions, decisions. 
  4. Look down and mutter to yourself (loudly enough for the clerk to hear), “Oh, I shouldn’t… I just shouldn’t.”
  5. When the clerk hands you your drink, smile and tell him, “Those munchkins look delicious.” (Turn on the charm here, folks! Eye on the prize! FREE MUNCHKIN!)
  6. Hand him a few dollars. Let him make change.
  7. Smile at the clerk as you take back your coins and say, “I could really go for one, but I wouldn’t want to trouble you for just one little munchkin.”

You can thank me later.


photocredit: dunkindonuts.com

Bye Bye Miss American Pie… C’Mon Sing It!

I’m not usually wooed by men whose names are displayed on wobbly chalkboards near the entrance to pubs. But, there is something fabulous about a good cover band singer after a few pints of tap beer.

Recently, a particularly memorable cover band singer caught my attention. It was a rainy day during a particularly rainy vacation.  When I walked in the brew pub with a friend, haddock and Guinness were the only things on my mind.  But there he was, warming up his guitar and drinking a bottle of beer from the stool behind a microphone.

He started strumming the opening chords of “Mustang Sally.” The motley crowd of après-work salesman and chatty singles turned their heads in his direction. In no time, he had the complete attention of the audience as they bobbed their heads along to the tune of “Ride, Sally, Ride.”  Frankly, he wasn’t bad. He even hit a few notes which were impressive.

After many rounds of applause, the CS announced that he was willing to take requests. A few women in the crowd went abuzz. The lady sitting next to me announced to her husband that she was going to request their wedding song. (She didn’t disclose her wedding song, but from the look of her beer-gutted husband, it was probably “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”) But another patron of the bar beat her to a request by yelling out “Margaritaville.” The CS smiled and started strumming.

“You know you want to make a request,” my friend urged me on. She knew my weaknesses.

The problem was that making a request is tricky business. I didn’t want to request a song that nobody knew, nor did I want to ask for something that he couldn’t play. I wanted to request something the crowd and more importantly, the CS, would enjoy. And I knew from previous experience that there were a few songs which were guaranteed hits with the cover band crowd:

  1. Songs that have the word “sweet” in their titles (i.e. Sweet Home Alabama, Sweet Caroline).
  2. Springsteen songs
  3. Songs about America (American Girl, American Pie, American Woman).

After a few minutes of deliberation, I decided to go with another slam-dunk request: “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel.

I took a deep breath and waited for the end of “Margaritaville.” I approached his makeshift stage, stuck a carefully folded dollar bill into his beer stein and flashed my most charming smile. In close proximity, Mr. CS was even more handsome than I imagined. For a second, I was under the spell of a rock star.

“Something you wanna hear?” he asked, flaunting a dimple in his right cheek.

I sheepishly made my request and scurried back to my seat like a shy schoolgirl. (My friend rolled her eyes at me.) The CBS started strumming my tune, and the crowd clapped with enthusiasm  My song was a hit (whew!), so I ordered another beer and bobbed my head along to the music.

Two sets, two pieces of greasy haddock, and one more beer later, the CS was at the end of his gig. His closing song was a dead-on version of “Southern Cross.” We all clapped with enthusiasm, as he tipped his head to the crowd. Then, he was gone. He didn’t even hang around for a free meal.The CS had officially left the building, guitar and all.

Upon my own departure, I noticed a chalkboard on the sidewalk near the entrance to the pub. I glared closely at the print carefully, but the rain had spread the scribble into long, while chalk smears, disguising the true identity of the CS.

I knew I would never hear him play again. But for one night, I had the best seat in the house, and had fallen under the spell of a (somewhat) rock star.


Would you recognize your husband’s handwriting?

When I was little, I could recognize my friends’ salutations in my yearbook just by looking at their handwriting. Heather’s handwriting was incredibly feminine and loopy. Donna’s handwriting was textbook-esque and tiny. Christine’s handwriting was rigid at the corners, but curlier in the middle.

Now, I have close friends whose handwriting I’m sure I couldn’t recognize. I know their email addresses, but I have no idea how they write the word “Sincerely.”

I have to admit, I love handwriting. There is something intimate about recognizing the way your loved ones make their mark. Since handwriting doesn’t change throughout the years, knowing the way someone holds their pen is a stamp of a long-lasting friendship.

Plus, there is something artistic about handwriting. My friend Dana has incredibly slanted handwriting which  looks like it belongs in a calligraphy magazine. My dad’s handwriting is nearly illegible, but incredibly masculine and deliberate. My sister’s handwriting is similar to mine, except tidier on the page and without as many exclamations.

So, naturally, when I got married, it was important to me to recognize my husband’s handwriting.  Thankfully, he’s a letter writer, so I have bountiful evidence of his block letters (evenly spaced).  His handwriting is so… him.  Cool, calm, collected.

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I worry for the day that partners can’t recognize the tilt of a loved one’s signature. Perhaps we should all make sure to step away from the email now and again, just so our kids can learn our signatures.  (How else will they forge “sick day” letters to the principal?) 🙂





Duck Boots

Let me be honest, I know NOTHING about fashion. People sometimes assume my blog is fashion/style, until they meet me in person. My designer of choice is Target, and my style is whatever is warm from the dryer.

But a few weeks ago, I realized that I’m an accidental fashionista. I was having a conversation with a co-ed undergraduate who loved my old brown L.L. Bean Duck Boots. (My boots have a chocolate brown color near the top of the foot, as opposed to most which are tan.)

“Where did you get them?”

“L.L. Bean.  I’ve had them for years!”


You can imagine my eye roll. But at the same time, I realized that for once in my life, I was on trend. My brown little duck boots had a little more pep in their step as I walked away.

Now, if someone could just admire my turtleneck, I’d be on the cover of Vogue. .


Pass This Word

I’m going to hire a hacker. I’ve been locked out of my bank account since I’ve attempted too many passwords and I need some help.

I have sympathy for people whose identities have been stolen. But I can’t even steal my own identity these days. I have so many passwords that I can’t begin to remember them. One with a capital letter. One with a number. One with a special character. (What is a special character, anyway? Does anyone even know what ^ is called? How can it be special if nobody knows what it is called?) One with a letter between K and M, but not L, unless it is lowercase and followed by a prime number.

In the beginning, I had different versions of the same password theme: Beverly Hills 90210 characters. But things got complicated when “Dylan” and “Brenda” didn’t have at least eight characters. So, then I had “Brandon!” and “Brandon4ever” and “$BrAnDoN123$.” And that just seemed ridiculous, so I decided to give up on the 90’s television series and come up with more appropriate, serious passwords.

The problem is that appropriate, serious passwords are impossible to remember.

I do have a list of *some* of my passwords. I keep it on my bulletin board (which defeats the purpose of having passwords). Any custodian or candy-bowl-visiting colleague (the only people who visit my office) have full view of the password document. The only problem is that this list only contains passwords for things that you don’t care about. A photo account which only has pictures of my dog. (No credit card on file, thank you very much.) Logins for defunct writing websites which have already expired. The login password for my old computer which broke in half two years after college. So, as far as I’m concerned, if the custodians and colleagues want to take a peek, they can go for it.

One of these days, we’ll all be able to use our fingerprints to access our online accounts. Until then, we’re stuck with special symbols and capitalized vowels. So, if you have some time on your hands and you want to help me out, you could try to hack one of my photo sharing accounts. I know that I used the password Munster$21 for one of them. But I’ve lost the login.

If you can find the login, you can see the pictures I took of Stonehenge four years ago. Knock yourself out.

If Ski Areas Had Honest Slogans


Sugarbush, VT:  “Waffle House North.”
Big Sky, MT: “Four Flights from Anywhere.”
Killington, Vermont: “Voted Boston’s Best Bar.”
Tahoe, CA: “There’s an App for That.”
Deer Valley, UT: “Lifestyles of the Rich and Slow.”
Jay Peak, VT: “We Lost a Bet, and Built a Waterpark for French-Canadians.”
Jackson, WY: “Beards Gone Wild.”
Stratton, VT: “The Best Lift Lines Money Can Buy.”
Snowshoe, WV: “Fingers Crossed for Snow.”
Okemo, VT: “More Corduroy Than J. Crew.”
Sugarloaf, ME: “You Can’t Get There From Here.”
Mad River Glen, VT: “Tele Shaming since 1948.”
Mount Bachelor, OR: “Bend Versus the Volcano.”
Hunter, NY: “Long Island Playground.”
Stowe, VT: “Ben and Jerry Can’t Afford Us.”
Aspen, CO: “What’s in your wallet? It won’t be for long.”
Vail, CO: “Ski and Be Seen.”
Whiteface, NY: “Just Try to Stay Warm.”
Alta, UT: “Snowboard Intolerant.”
Sun Valley, ID: “No Small Potatoes.”
Snowbird, UT: “Where ACLs go to Tear.”
Powder, UT: “Dude Tested, Mother Disapproved.”
Mountain Creek, NJ: “Mallrats Unleashed.”
Taos, NM: “Someone is always bigger and better than you in the backcountry.”

By the way, I love ALL of these mountains, so no hard feelings, please 🙂


I look a lot like my sister. And if you’ve ever been introduced to the two of us, you know that I’ll always tell you that “I’m the prettier one.” Because that’s the sort of person I am.

And if you’ve met us, you will also know the truth that my sister is the prettier one. Which makes it annoying to have a sister in the first place.

I have a lot of friends, but I only have one sister. And she makes me crazy, happy, insane, punch-drunk, peppy, jealous, emotional, competitive, tired, joyful, frustrated, silly, overwhelmed, and proud. If you have a sister, you know what I mean. Friends are for forever, but sisters are since birth ’til death and every day in between.


Sisters never need to state their names on voicemail.

Sisters have photo evidence of your pre-brace face.

Sisters will tell you what they really of your boyfriend, “the walking beer keg.”

Sisters wear matching outfits through childhood…


Sisters know which jeans best fit your body type.

Sisters kick you under the table at Thanksgiving when Dad tells that story for the umpteenth time.

Sisters know which 80’s song still makes you cry.

Sisters help you make bad decisions onstage…


Sisters are both your biggest competition, and your biggest support.

Sisters help get you out of that little legal thing.

Sisters share your love for putting too much salt (or pepper or hot sauce or ketchup) on everything.

Sisters help you pick out undergarments…


Sisters can’t stand the friend who doesn’t treat you like a sister.

Sisters know how you order your salad. (Dressing on the side, no feta.)

Sisters mispronounce the same words. (Perishables?)

Sisters get revenge on your wedding day…


Sisters don’t care who pays for lunch.

Sisters call at 2am without having to apologize.

Sisters could guess your computer passwords, if need be.

Sisters insist that you hold their kids in pictures…

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Sisters won’t let you wear that in public.

Sisters attend both your Girl Scout Gold Award ceremony and your retirement dinner.

Sisters know how you got your nickname.

 Sisters share that one weird thing. Post-wine squinty left eye…


And sisters know that they’re lucky to have a sister. 

Cheers to the Seesterhood!

Frostbitten and fabulous, darling!

I admit it.  I’ve been really loving my hat head this season.  All the girls are wearing this look.  I think it’s the new pixie cut.

And my biceps are the bomb.  Forget Cross Fit, folks.  Have you tried “Raking The Roof?”  It’s a blend of cardio, core, and shoulder toning exercise.  Follow it up with a solid hour of “Shoveling Places for Your Pet to Poop” and you’ll be bikini ready by June.

Yes, this winter has been the ultimate season for self-progress.  I’ve saved money due to cancelled flights.  I’ve perfected the long-johns-under-the-work-slacks look. And my skin?  Well, let’s just say that there hasn’t been a sunburn in six months.  SIX MONTHS, people!  And I haven’t needed makeup since fall, since I’m perpetually wearing the latest blush must-have: a hint of frostbite.

I know that winter has been great for many of you as well.  All those facebook pictures featuring the negative temps on your car’s temperature gauge.  I’ve watched with bated breath, hoping that you’ll hit -23!  And who could forget your Youtube clips of neighbors landing their third-story backflips on snowbanks?  Not me.  And even some of you are still wearing your lucky Patriots sweatshirts since you haven’t left your house since the Superbowl. The celebration continues!  Lucky you!

Plus, we have reached major milestones in communities up and down the eastern seaboard:

 Record Sales of Vicks Vapor Rub in Connecticut

School Cancellations Prompt Impressive “Call-of-Duty” Scores.

Maine Extends Pond Hockey Tournaments Through July

Nantucket Home Sales on the Rise, Credited to Plow Drivers’ Salary Bulge

Also in breaking news this winter?  Pantone retracts the color of the year. “Marsala” was recently overthrown by this year’s clear winner: “Whitish.”  In addition to being Meryl Streep’s haircolor in the blockbuster film The Devil Wears Prada,  Whitish originated on snowbanks on the New Jersey Turnpike. A mix of snow and gravel dust,  it’s not as white as its big sister, Polar, nor is it as gray as its dirty sister, Fog.  It’s somewhere in between, and it’s everywhere you look from Boston Common to Rockefeller Center.  (Pssst… I hear that Tom Ford’s 2015 spring break collection will feature “whitish” tankinis with faux fur-trimmed overlay. His inspiration? A Poughkeepsie January.)



As Lieutenant Dan famously said as he hung over the side of his shrimping boat in a hurricane, “You call this a storm?”   Well, tomorrow, I’m going to stand on my snowbanks as I hold my my fist to the sky and scream “You call this a winter?”

C’mon Mother Earth, I can still see out my window from the second floor. Try a little harder next time. It should be illegal to have this much fun.

The most beautiful celebrity… according to my husband

Last night, I had an Oprah “a-ha moment.”  There we were, watching the Academy Awards. Dozens of beautiful celebrities graced the screen. Reese Witherspoon. Julianne Moore. And the perfect Jennifer Aniston herself.

I was in awe of these beauties as I sat on my couch pushing fists of popcorn into my mouth.  I was wearing tight-ankled sweatpants. They were in floor-length gowns.  I wore my un-shampooed hair in a bun with a rubber band which was previously wrapped around the Doritos bag. They wore updos and chignons. I was flawed and in awe. They were flawless.

My husband however was less amused. Our banter was effortless but surprising.

“Look at her!”  “She looks like a turtle.”  “What about her? That skin!”  “Meh.”  “Oh my gosh, could she be more gorgeous?”  “Yep, she could.”

It amazes me how my definition beauty differs from my husband. I would trade places with Rachel McAdams in a heartbeat.  My husband could take her or leave her.  I gush over Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara.  Jamal doesn’t even know her name. In my next life, I’d like to be Jennifer Garner.  Jamal would rather hang out with her husband.

But there is one “celebrity” he does love. But she’s as far from the Academy Awards as you could imagine. My husband is in love with Rebecca Romney, the “rare books” expert on the reality television series, Pawn Stars.

Don’t get me wrong, I also think Rebecca is a pretty girl.  But she’s no Charlize Theron.  And she certainly doesn’t have a million dollar contract with Revlon, nor a Glamour Magazine cover.  Rebecca is, well, the pretty girl next store.  Or rather, the pretty girl next bookstore.

Yet, Jamal drools over Rebecca.  He loves the way she paws through an old book.  He loves the way that she inspects a book binding as if she were a CSI. He loves her blazers, her bobbed hair, and her funny little laugh.  To Jamal, Rebecca is the epitome of beauty.  As far as he’s concerned, Charlize can simply hold her books.

A funny thing happens when you learn the taste of your husband.  You realize that for all of these years, as you tried to have the perfect haircut and the flawless skin and perfect waist, all you needed to do was pick up a book.

Kudos, Rebecca.  For keeping beauty real.


Valentines for Veterans

Every year around Valentine’s Day, my girlfriends and I make handcrafted valentines for the hottest people we know:  VETERANS.

I started this Valentine’s for Veterans tradition after reading about the trend in a Dear Abbey column. Apparently, thousands of groups from Girl Scouts to book clubs were crafting valentines for veteran’s groups. Considering that my community has an active VA hospital, it was the perfect match for my local ladies group. For ten years, we have been making valentines for the veterans at our hospital.  And for ten years, it has been a heck of a good time.

Last night was no exception. My lady friends and I gathered at a local restaurant, carrying bags of supplies (from glue sticks to stickers) to the back nook of the bar.  We spent hours crafting, coloring, and cocktailing. As the cocktails flowed, the valentines became more creative. The basic heart card turned into a paper airplane covered with real kiss prints from my cranberry-colored lipstick. Some of the valentines were silly. Some were true works of arts. But all were made with love. After a few glasses of wine and endless french fries, we had a pile of seventy-five valentines sealed with a kiss..

This morning, I delivered the cards to the hospital. The volunteer coordinator told me that they typically received 2500 valentines annually, mostly from children. Yet, she assured me that our adult valentines were just as appreciated. The valentines were added to the veterans’ lunch trays and many of the veterans keep them as decorations in their room.

As I left the VA hospital, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I walked passed dozens of veterans with various medical needs. Some were waiting for appointments. Some were wheelchair bound. Some were only visible through the crack of the door to their permanent rooms.

Our little love notes weren’t fancy. But they were heartfelt. And I can’t imagine a group of folks who deserve them more.



Supersweats Sunday

I don’t care about the Superbowl. But I love any activity which encourages the wearing of sweatpants. Supersweats Sunday allows us all to eat whatever we like in pants which won’t punish us for the extra helping of beef nachos.

Not that I need a reason to wear sweatpants. Sweatpants are my in-house uniform. When I return home from work, I immediately change from work clothes to sweatpants. (I don’t think my husband has seen me in anything but sweatpants for the past week.) In fact, I go through sweatpant wardrobe changes depending on my agenda for the evening.

So, in celebration of upcoming Supersweats Sunday, here is a guide to drawstring-waisted cotton trousers.


      1. The “HOLES IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES” (but most comfortable) sweatpants. USES: sleeping and hangovers.

2. The “WALK AROUND TOWN WITH MY GIRLFRIEND AND A LATTE” fitted and adorable sweatpants. USES: social activities which require more drinking than sweating. *Not to be confused with yoga pants, their skinny and more promiscuous sister.

3. The “GONNA SWEAT OUT THE WINE ON THE TREADMILL IF IT KILLS ME” sweatpants. USES: non-social activities which require more sweating than drinking. *Not to be confused with running shorts, which are much more appropriate for gym activity but unavailable due to laundry shortages.

4. The “FRESH ENOUGH TO WEAR ACROSS TOWN” basic black sweatpants. USES: public parties where loungewear is accepted (i.e. the Superbowl.) *Note- only the Superbowl.

5. The “MY COLLEGE LOGO MAKES ME FEEL YOUNGER AND MORE RELEVANT”  USES: bad-hair days. TV binge-a-thons. Boyfriend break-up recovery.  

6. The “DON’T MIND THE STAINS” sweatpants. USES: cooking pasta sauce from scratch on a Sunday.

7. The “TIGHT ANKLE BANDS TO STUFF INTO UGGS” sweatpants. USES: fetching the newspaper on a snowy morning while dodging onlookers in cars.

8. The “IT SAYS JUICY ACROSS MY BUM” sweatpants. USES: working retail in Victoria’s Secret.

9. The “LET’S DO PULL UPS IN PUBLIC” light gray sweatpants. USES: ROTC.

10.  The “I DON’T GIVE A DARN BUT I REALLY DO” cheap-looking but expensively-priced and designer-made sweatpants. USES: music videos, pedicure days with J. Lo.


The DOG IQ Test

Duke, the super dog.

Duke, the super-sweet (but not super smart) dog.


By: Rebecca Munsterer Sabky

A few months ago, my husband and I watched a segment on 60 Minutes about dog intelligence. The piece centered around a particular Dog IQ test which gives a sense of your pup’s natural intelligence.

While we watched the segment, I had two dogs in the house. While they were the same breed of dog, they couldn’t have been more different. My dog, Mabel, the six-year-old black Labrador, had used her charm to convince my husband to cuddle her on the leather couch. On the other hand, my parents’ dog, Duke, the ten-year-old yellow Labrador whom we were dog sitting, lay two inches from the wood stove, dangerously close to self-combusting.

After the segment concluded, we decided to give the dogs the test for our own entertainment.  We popped open a bottle of wine, grabbed a stopwatch and some treats, and let the games begin. (Let’s just say it was a slow Sunday night.)

The test included many basic exercises. For example, it tested long-term memory.  (Show the dog a treat, remove him from the room, and see if he can find the treat minutes later.)   It tested basic problem-solving skills. (Hide a snack under a low table and see if he can get it out with their paw.)  It tested language recognition. (Say a standard word like “BICYCLE” while calling for him, and see if he waits to come until his proper name is called.)

Mabel took the test first. I’m biased, but I believe that Mabel might be the world’s smartest dog. She knows how to hide her toys when other dogs visit. She can hike for miles without a leash and never leave my side. And she knows how to give kisses right when you need them.

As we gave Mabel the test, she easily completed all of the exercises. I was happy to be proven right.  Mabel scored 31 out of 35 points, which the quiz key labeled a “genius.”

Next up was Duke.  Duke is a special dog. He’s sweet. He loves people. But he runs in circles aimlessly with bugged-out eyes and straight legs. Let’s just say that we didn’t expect much.

At first, Duke didn’t fail miserably. He just failed. In tests where he could score five points, he would score one. But we were happy with one.  When he was unsuccessful finding a treat under a soup can, we still celebrated the fact that he tried.

However, one particular exercise really perplexed Duke. The dog intelligence test requires you to throw a towel over your dog’s head and count how long it takes for the dog to shake it off.  Mabel had shaken the towel off in a matter of seconds.  Duke, on the other hand, seemed content under the towel.  After two minutes of wearing the towel, Duke had no chance of getting any points.  However, we let him sit with the towel, hoping that eventually he would shake it off like Taylor Swift. After four minutes, we couldn’t take it anymore.  We removed the towel, and Duke just smiled at us, completely unaffected.

I’m not sure we learned anything from the test that we didn’t know already.  Mabel is incredibly underutilized as our pet, and should be working as a guide dog or an avalanche dog rather than just living with us.  And Duke.  Well, Duke is special.  He’s happy just being there.  And that makes for a darn good animal.

Writing to Harry Styles

Girls, get your pens out. Writing will change your professional life, your love life, and your financial life. And if nothing else, it might just get you a date with Harry Styles.

Let me explain.

I have a day job that has nothing to do with writing. I’ve made very little money off the writing I have published, and I’ve had hundreds of literary pieces rejected by editors worldwide. In fact, I am posting this column on my own personal Word Press blog since it has been shunned over a dozen times by major publications. Regardless, I feel strongly that it needs to be printed. Writing can change your life. Take it from me.

Let me start with how writing has changed my professional life. As I mentioned, writing is not my primary source of income. Yet, my ability to manipulate the written word has catapulted my career.  For example, a thoughtful and well-crafted thank you note scored me an invitation to a very exclusive networking event. A well-organized report propelled me to a chair position on an important professional committee.  And I don’t embarrass myself with poorly written email correspondence, most of the time. (I once signed off an email to a colleague with “Breast wishes, Becky.” Whoopsie.)

And, writing is the reason I got married this past September. You may not believe this, but without an ability to craft a funny email, I would most likely still be sitting on a bar stool, chatting up match.com men. My fiance and I dated long distance for three years. The only thing we had to keep our love alive were love letters. My incredibly educated, horrendously handsome husband fell in love with average ol’ me because of our communication. Not because of a particular outfit. (L.L.Bean boots and middle school sweaters are my uniform.)  Not because of the way I look. (My refusal to go to a salon has caused breakups.) But, instead he fell in love with me because of the way I could make him laugh over daily email. (Dear Jamal, I love you more than land mines. And they’re the bomb.)

And lastly, my love for writing has scored me lots of really nice stuff. A few years ago, I won a short story contest in a travel magazine, and won an all-expense paid trip to Tahiti. Tahiti!  Writing literally paid for me to go snorkeling with sting rays. And, I have won contests for all sorts of beauty products. Last year,  I won a supply of high-end (and very expensive) sunscreen. (I barely touched the stuff because I live in the land of gray skies and freezing temperatures, but it made my Floridan friends happy.)  I’ve also won flower bouquets, gift certificates to fancy restaurants, designer beach towels, a ski trip to Quebec City, and a year’s supply of Special K cereal. Oh, and did I mention Tahiti?  I did. Oh good.

Things weren’t always this way. The first thing I wrote was dreadful. Inspired by a music class in fourth grade, I wrote lyrics to a song which I thought would be Debbie Gibson’s next hit.  It was called “All American Girl” and it made no sense whatsoever. (Looking back, it was somewhat of a rip-off of both Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and David Bowie’s “Young Americans.”) But I had fun writing it. And when my little sister started singing it around the house, I knew I was on to something. (If Molly liked something, then I knew it was valuable.)

From there, I started writing all sorts of things. Poems. Diary entries about teachers I didn’t like. Fan mail to Candace Cameron (D.J. on Full House) who I idolized. Stories about leprechauns. (Yes, I went through a leprechaun phase. It was weird.)

But my writing really developed when I discovered a boy band. The New Kids on the Block were young, good-looking, and everywhere. (You could buy New Kids bedsheets, bath towels, posters, dolls, etc., and I had them all.  My bedroom looked like a museum to hair-sprayed boys.) The youngest member, Joe McIntyre, was the cutest boy I had ever seen in my life.  Naturally, I thought I should write Joe a letter and introduce myself. According to my plan, he would be so taken by my letter, he would come to Jefferson, New Jersey, sweep me off my feet, and marry me. It was a perfect plan. I just needed to write the perfect letter.

So, I went to work. I crafted and re-crafted the perfect note with a flashlight under my sheets after bedtime. I crossed out sentences, and re-wrote full lines, carefully choosing my words. Love, Becky? (Too desperate.) Sincerely, Becky? (Too formal.) Smiles, Becky? (Just right.) And when I finished one letter, I would start writing another.

Out of the hundreds of letters I wrote, I only mailed about a dozen. Considering I sent them to only address I could find (a talent agency in California), I’m pretty sure that Joey never received them. But looking back, those countless letters made me a better writer. I might not have won the heart of a New Kid, but I certainly gained a love for the written word.

So, girls, find your motivation wherever it lives. Write not because you want to write the Great American Novel…but because you want to ask someone special to the prom.  Write because you really, really want to convince your school board to allow foreign exchange programs to Italy just so you can taste real gelato. Write because you want to tell Grandma Mabel how much you love her. Write because someday your diary might be a relic in the National History Museum. Write because you might win a lifetime supply of cheesecake-flavored chapstick. Write because there is a because…whatever it may be. Writing can and will change your life if you stick to it.

And there’s no better way of sticking to it than writing to Harry Styles. By the time you find the perfect words, he’ll be balding and you’ll be a Pulitzer Prize winner. And at that point, you probably won’t have time for him.