one of the defining characteristics of being at home with the family is game night. and by game night, i don’t mean one night a week is set aside for the gathering of family around a polite board game. by game night, i mean any spare moment where there are at least two people and a deck of cards handy.

i am one of four siblings (two of which are married) plus two parents means more often than not, we’ve got too many contenders for what the kitchen table can hold. that doesn’t stop us. we cram on in and start dealing. and perhaps not so surprisingly, it’s from these nights smushed around a too small table that i’ve learned many of life’s lessons:

(1) arithmetic. in the game: if you don’t keep track of your own points, no one will. in life: simple math comes in handy way more than you’d care to admit to your fifth grade teacher; at the grocery store, at work; balancing your checkbook; tipping the waitress; and on and on and oh make it stop.

(2) the art of bragging, aka confidence. in the game: winning (for me) is inconsistent, so you have to toot your own horn when (if) the situation arises. in life: this is the hardest lesson to learn. perhaps start with a “raise the roof” when you do something grand, like remembering to buy the toilet paper. the confidence will build from there.

(3) communication. in the game: you may be playing a partner game. eyebrow waggles. finger snaps. coughs. morse code. these are important TOP SEKRIT forms of communication. learn them. in life: talking in plain english is a vastly underrated skill, so if (when) all else fails, try a series of heel clicks or tongue clucks. that’s sure to get the point across.

(4) deception. in the game: it’s all about the poker face, even if you’re playing go fish. in life: you may feel like you’re unqualified to raise a kid or do the job your boss assigned to you or cook that meal or make that call, so you have to fake it til you make it. good thing you’ve already learned about poker faces.

(5) humility. in the game: you aren’t going to win very often, so the only way to enjoy the bottom of the scoreboard is by wrapping your arm around last place. really, we’re all winners here. in life: really, we’re all winners here.

(6) humor. in the game: again, you aren’t going to win very often, so best to keep the crowds laughing and the mood light. if you’re working a tough crowd, always keep a plate of homemade cookies handy. in life: knock knock. who’s there? canoe. canoe who? canoe lend me some money?

(7) organization. in the game: your cards need to be structured to allow for the fastest possible play. this game waits for no one. in life: oh man, your apartment is smaller than you ever wished for and the closet space is shockingly limited, so organizing your clothes and dishes is a necessity. your job is busier than you ever anticipated and you have almost more work than you can handle, so keeping track of that workload requires many structured calendars. your personal life is full, so figuring out who to meet at which restaurant on what night is important. being organized keeps all those ducks in a row.

(8) patience. in the game: learning the games takes time. waiting for your opponents to make their move often takes longer than you’d like, but then again, if the game seems to be moving along, YOU’RE probably the one soliciting the patience from others. give it so you can get it. in life: you hate waiting, so you are determined not to have anyone wait for you (golden rule, my friends) which means that you are early/on time for everything which means you end up waiting. all the time. deep breath in, patience is a virtue, deep breath out.

(9) shuffling a deck of cards. in the game: this is a lost art form. you’d be surprised at how many people are impressed with this skill, especially the bridge. in life: i repeat, this is a lost art form. you’d be surprised at how many people are impressed with this skill, especially the bridge.

(10) thinking on your feet. in the game: your opponents will make moves you never expected, so you may have to adjust your game winning strategy. in life: you can’t read peoples’ minds, so your friends, family, lovers, enemies, colleagues are bound to act in ways you never imagined. thinking quickly, reacting swiftly is a necessity so long as you want to appear competent.

and now, excuse me. i’ve got to practice shuffling the deck like those vegas guys. hey, if i can’t win at home, at least i can WOW ’em with cheap parlor tricks.


happy thanksgiving 2010

in order to fully enjoy my most favoritest of all the holidays, it’s important to remember this:


but more importantly, i hope you know how much i LOVE you. yes, you all, my readers! spiking up my stats! raising up my levels of excitement! and though you may be less in numbers, you are no less dear to my heart, my commenters! you witty, kind, sassy, loyal, smart, dedicated beings! exclamation points all around! CAPS LOCK! seconds!! and thirds!!! WHEEEE!!!!

go eat leftovers, drink more wine, and be merry!


case of the worms*

this past weekend, i saw one of my best friends get married. ALL of my high school peeps were there and then they stayed and played in boston with me. it was a weekend of grandeur and booze and laughs and love and silly immaturity.

so why am i melancholy today?

because i lost my scarf.

my long, cozy, WARM purple scarf. it got left behind at the hotel and the hotel says they haven’t found it yet. in case you’ve been under a rock, it is november. i live in massachusetts where the winters are mean. i need that scarf now more than i want it.

scarves aren’t expensive and (again) it being november, they are abundant in stores right now. i can replace it quite easily, but it won’t be the same. it won’t be the same rich hue. it won’t be as soft and warm. it won’t be the original. but if i really think about it, it’s just some yarn strung up in a fancy shape. why is this loss bothering me so much?

maybe because a replacement won’t carry the same memory of shopping with my mom and sister E. maybe it has something to do with the fact that this situation could have been avoided if i’d done one last check around the room. maybe it has something to do with how scatterbrained i’ve been feeling. it’s been a long, stressful summer which has morphed into a fast paced, stressful fall and the winter shows no signs of stopping. i’m multitasking while multitasking and we all know that dividing your attention and then subtracting it by half doesn’t do anyone any favors. and this time, my scarf was the casualty. RIP purple scarf from H&M.

speaking of losing things, i recently lost a raging battle — against myself. (i didn’t even need to go to linda grimes for an excuse.) i managed to come up with approximately 2,098,374 other things i could be doing rather than writing.

even if the things i did other than writing were productive in terms of real life, i needed to make writing my priority. and i didn’t. i don’t know if it’s because the scenes i need to fix are challenging and i’m scared. i don’t know if it’s because i’m just tired from having house guests over all weekend. i don’t know if it’s the lack of a real deadline. i don’t know if it’s the weight of expectations on my shoulders. i don’t know if it’s because my laptop is a piece and it’s annoying to use. i don’t know if i’m having trouble editing on a screen instead of with a pen and paper. i don’t know if i’m just lazy. i don’t know if i need a break. i don’t know what it is.

and i don’t know how to re-motivate myself.

i’m energized by my WIP, but i can’t bring myself to stop reading books and start writing.

what do YOU do when you are blocked? (in writing, in driving, in reading, in cooking, in designing, in cleaning, in riding, in running, in studying, in creating, in life?)

what do you do when you’ve lost something that you know can’t be recovered? should i just learn to knit?

*the title of this blog makes a lot more sense if you read this.


role models

traveling gives you a fresh perspective on yourself, your likes, your dislikes, your neighborhood, your family, your friends, your habits, your life. basically, it will flip your notions upside down. the farther you travel away from home, the knowledge you learn will increase exponentially.*

i was in denver this past weekend. i had the good fortune to be able to swing a last minute visit, which meant i had two and a half days with my mom and maga (my grandmother). amidst the flights and food and christmas cards and conversations and quiet moments, i learned about these people i call my family.

for instance, there is MAGA. she is 89 years and 8 months old. what a trooper she is. she is dealing with the aches, pain, and confusion of getting older, but she manages to put a smile on her face and get out there in the world despite the fact that every morning she wakes up without jobo (my grandfather), she does so with a broken heart. her advanced age means she can’t continue the globe trotting ways of her youth, and so, she brings the globe to her. egypt and india are the only two places she and jobo never visited, so when the king tut exhibit set up shop in the denver art museum, she got tickets for herself and mom and me and we all walked like egyptians.

thanks, maga, for showing me how to retain my sassiness for 89+ years. and for showing me how to bring the world to my doorstep.

for instance, my DAD is a sly guy. he’s not upfront with his emotions, so you have to listen for his declarations of love. i’m glad i now know how to do that. this time, it took the form of him looking up my (ridiculously small windowed) connection in philly. he let me know which gate i’d be arriving at (B14) and which gate i had to get to (C18) in 15 minutes. (i originally had 40 whole minutes, but de-icing a plane + waiting while the pilots shoo a fly out of the cockpit cuts into that.) he gave me specific directions on how to get from one gate to the next (because i am amazingly adept at getting lost). he even emailed and texted me this information because he wasn’t sure which i’d get to first. (side note, i LOVE my smartphone.)

too bad i didn’t turn on my phone until after i landed in boston.

thanks, dad, for giving me a reason to practice letting someone take care of me. i’d kind of forgotten.

for instance, there is my MOM. i had the opportunity to witness my mother as a mother but not while mothering me, which (still with me?) means i was able to objectively watch and appreciate her parenting skills. observing her taking care of her mother was something phenomenal. i felt like i had put on a pair of super-scientific-x-ray-night-vision-high-tech-not-yet-created-but-probably-will-be-soon* goggles and instead of seeing bones or guts or body heat, i could see her patience, her intelligence, her frustration, her sense of humor, her nerves of steel, her love.

growing up, it’s hard to see your mother for all of her sacrifices because, well, you can’t see past yourself. (those teen years are tough on everyone involved.) and even now, it’s still a bit hard to see her objectively because she’s either doing something for me or for one of my siblings and i’m too close to view the situation with any clarity. but denver enlightened me. my mom’s relationship with her mother is (not so) surprisingly a lot like hers and mine. they laugh, bicker, listen, talk, direct, clash, roll their eyes, are grateful for one another. another key fact: they still possess the ability to embarrass each other.

for instance, maga came down wearing a silk scarf tied around her head to keep her ear warm. i thought she looked adorable, however mom couldn’t stop laughing at how maga looked like a babushka. later that night, we were all at the neighbors (maga was sans scarf) when my mom announces to the group, “do you have any grandsons? abby’s available.” yup. thanks, mom.

but you know what? if having them as my role models means i’m going to grow up to be like them, i am ready to grow up.

any day now…..

in the meantime, thank you, mom, for being there for these first (almost, but not quite yet) 30 years. i wouldn’t be who i am today without your guidance, your expectations, your love.

*so says me, the scientific expert.

book club

BOOK HUNGRY: all creatures great and small

who says you have to be crowded into the living room/kitchen/dining room to hold a book club? we are ladies of the 21st century. we don’t need no stinkin’ couches. so pull up a blog and join in the conversation.

the members of the BOOK HUNGRY are (alphabetically): patty blount, kelly breakey, karla nellenbach, vanessa noble, alyson peterson, cynthia reese, elizabeth ryann, and myself. here’s the deal. we pick a book to read. we discuss via email. we post a review on our individual blogs on the same day (3rd thursday of the month). we link to each other. done. i know, genius. click on each one of their names (above) and it’ll take you to their review. browse. enjoy.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is:


i am not an animal person.

*waits until crowd stops gasping*

(and by crowd, i mean the one person who’s reading this.)

i also don’t read a lot of non-fiction.

*crickets chirping*

hey, those crickets have a place in this month’s selection, which, despite the aforementioned facts, i enjoyed. and here’s why. well, wait, let me first quote james herriot himself:

“If only vetting just consisted of treating sick animals. But it didn’t. There were so many other things.” (page 173)

and THAT’S why i like this book. it’s not just about the animals and the veterinary practice herriot joined right after he graduated from vet school, it covers his crazy boss and the farmers and the town and his crazy boss’s brother and the automobiles and his clumsy search for love. (yes, i could relate to that part.)

sure, the animals have a starring role (and i found it rather fascinating to read about them from a scientific standpoint), but it’s mainly about james  herriot, an english bloke who’s fresh out of vet school and is in desperate need of a job. (hmm, sounds familiar in this economic time). what follows is herriot’s firsthand account of how he found his way into the bizarre, hilarious, never ceasing life of a country vet. it’s a coming of age story, if you will.

(can you still call it a coming of age when the main character has graduated from college and beyond?)

back to the story, herriot’s boss (siegfried farnon) said this: “There’s a very fine dividing line between looking a real smart vet on the one hand and an immortal fool on the other. This sort of thing happens to us all.” (page 196) which is why this book is so relatable. we’ve all been in situations that required us to tread softly in hopes of coming out looking like a genius instead of appearing as though we barely passed the first grade. herriot faces these situations weekly.*

i fear if i go on, i might ruin some of the most hilarious parts, so just know that the life of a veterinarian is never dull and throughout the hectic and chaotic nature of his job, herriot manages to maintain a sense of humor as well as a degree of humbleness.

if you like animals and non-fiction (or even if you don’t), prepare to be charmed by this book.

*intentional vagueness required so as not to spoil anything.

p.s. see you next month, folks, where our December pick will be THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer.