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Rome is where the heart is

I recently returned from an eight-day Italian vacation. I went by myself. And it was heavenly. 

Planning proved a challenge. With no constraints and no need to compromise or collaborate, it was hard to drill down on where and when I wanted to go, how to split my time, in which neighborhood to stay, Airbnb or hotel, activities… Faced with so many decisions, I became paralyzed.

Months of inaction yielded insight. It struck me how seldom we get to do whatever the hell we want, within budget and reason, of course. And even more rare is actually following through on our dreams. I met people on this trip who moved to Rome for a short stint or the long haul because perché no? There are a lot of things in this world that are hard to navigate but figuring out how to live abroad is certainly worth the effort. I’m not planning on moving, but I am certainly going to start planning my next solo adventure. 

In addition to all those choices large and small, the unknown causes me anxiety—even renting a car in an unfamiliar city can cause me mild panic. I have flown solo to Europe many times, but usually with someone waiting at the other end of the journey to stay or pal around with. 

To calm my agita, I read guidebooks, practiced Italian with Duolingo, booked tours in advance, and checked out train timetables. I heeded a million well-intentioned warnings about pickpockets and scam artists, and worried about being out of contact with work for a week-plus. 

All of my preperations faded into the background and my worry melted away like gelato on a hot day after my first walk around Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood. My body was so filled with joy and wonder that there was no room for negative feelings. Why spend the money to fly around the world if you aren’t going to utterly juice it up? 

With my leg looped through my handbag strap, I dined al fresco that first night with strangers, a lovely couple on their honeymoon. A gay couple from New York, they immediately felt like home. Rome felt like home, actually. I walked all over the city, often at night and often licking gelato, completely at ease even though my international roaming didn’t work and I had to rely on a paper map and my own sense of direction on Rome’s twisty cobblestone streets. Getting out of my comfort zone, I found a preferable kind of comfort that comes from curiosity and expansiveness. I even reached out to my crypts and catacombs tour guide and asked if he wanted to get together later in the week. Okay, I might have been a little day drunk, but he was from Maryland and Philly and was wicked funny so he felt a little bit like home, too. But it could have been the vino bianco…

I had dinner with a bald novelist another night, an ex-pat from Canada. He walked me around to all his favorite spots near Piazza Navona, mostly churches which were all closed for some reason, but we happened upon an ancient library, musty with the smell of precious books and handwritten ledgers. We ate at Armando’s, a legendary restaurant next to the Pantheon. Again, it felt like home, and not in the “global citizen” kind of way. The tiny restaurant, with its 70s wood paneling and friendly waiters, was reminiscent of a hole-in-the-wall gem you might find in Chicago or Philly, and totally my jam.

I spend a lot of time in solitude but still worried that I might be lonely on vacation without someone to nudge when my Vatican tour guide says “In peculiar” instead of “In particular” or to share a sight of such singular beauty that I’m brought to tears. I noted all of these things by myself and my experience might have been richer for it. I later shared some of these moments with friends on social media or via text. It was a lovely ritual, actually. At night with wine-stained teeth, I’d fall exhausted into bed, edit my photos and reach out around the world to the people who anchor me. As my stepmom Pat said about one of my Facebook posts, “I’m really enjoying your trip.” Yes, I felt she was on the adventure with me. 

While in Florence, I met up with Joe and Ken, the newlyweds I met on my first night in Rome. I joined them on a rooftop bar that overlooked the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio. I hope to see them again the next time I’m in New York.

I celebrated my love of my own life this week. I am generally a snarky person and hate the whole #blessed sentiment. However. This week as I dragged my 51-year-old body to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica and down into a chapel made of the bones of Capuchin monks, as I walked 79.8 miles through the streets of these two glorious cities, I was profoundly thankful that my body and my life allowed me to have all of it. Including 14 flavors of gelato. More of this, please.

So this is a bit of a call to action. Don’t wait for your person or the perfect opportunity or the right time. Don’t let anxiety slow your roll. Do it now, for no other reason than because you and your body can. Find more places out there that feel like home, be it an OG Italian restaurant, strangers who show you kindness, ancient ruins that provide sanctuary to cats, the top of a church or the cool dark of ingenious catacombs, the smell and suppleness of a leather shop, art that transformed the world. Let your senses run amok. And, yeah, always keep an eye on your wallet.

Love in the Time of Cranberry

WP_20151126_001Thanksgiving is upon us, and I can’t wait. And for once, it’s not just about the stuffing.

For many years, I’ve eschewed traveling to the Midwest to visit family, instead opting for a “Friendsgiving.” When I lived on the East Coast, I’d fly to San Francisco or train to Washington DC to tuck into turkey with loved ones. Now living in Seattle, I have gone stag to a pal’s home every year, passing the bread basket to her mom and now her two daughters while her husband refills my wine glass.

And we, like many others, go around the table and say what we are grateful for. On that day, like every other day, I am thankful for my tribe of friends, a curated family of people who have my back even though we don’t share DNA. I am thankful that I always have a place at the table.

But don’t get it twisted: being perpetually single has its advantages, but it can suck Santa’s ass during the holidays. November and December—let’s not even get into New Year’s Eve—can be achingly lonely. Wrapping gifts or trimming the tree by myself, receiving cheery family photo Christmas cards from “The Smiths” or “The Hamlins,” baking desserts to take to someone else’s gathering, opening gifts from distant relatives on Christmas morning alone in front of the tree.

Taken on their own, these things are lovely but when viewed together, it’s a feat that any single person can stave off melancholy during the holidays. I once or twice thought about foregoing Thanksgiving or a Christmas tree, but I realized I needed to manage any possible depression or self-pity that could sprout in an empty apartment like a weed in a vacant lot. I haven’t always been completely successful, but I have been able to keep things in perspective and weather the few bad days.

This year, however, the game has changed. At 47, I’m no longer flying solo. I’m deeply in love and celebrating a year under my belt and under the covers with the man of my dreams.

This year, I—we—are hosting. I’m part of a we! I get to return the favor, inviting my radiant pastiche of a family into our home, a toasty fire in the fireplace and roasted turkey on an heirloom platter, handed down through generations to land on our dining room table. Hosting Thanksgiving feels like a rite of passage, up there with getting your first car or getting married.

And along with that, I have additional things to be grateful for.

Carl and I are integrating into each other’s lives. We’ve met each other’s friends and extended families. We’ve merged the Venn diagrams that were our solo social circles. We are hosting friends who we now both know and love.

While I am child-free, I was still a package deal and I wake up every morning sandwiched between my man and my cat. My heart turns as mushy as canned cranberry jelly when Carl makes up songs about Frida or roughhouses with her. I think she missed a man’s touch as well, seeing the way she purrs and preens for him, her white belly exposed for maximum rubs.

I’m also thankful that I’m my own person. Those decades of being a third wheel forced me to get comfortable in my own skin. I was generally okay with celebrating the holidays solo, but this time of year can trigger issues for the best of us, regardless of our relationship status. The holidays—full of people, parties, and enforced gaiety—can be achingly lonely. I’ve learned how to take care of myself, even though now I’m fortunate enough to have someone else to share the load.

Come Thursday, I’ll be refilling all my friends’ wine glasses. As for me, mine is already full.

Join me for Lit Crawl Seattle

As many of you know, I’m petrified about reading from my upcoming coming-of-age memoir, There Must Be Some Misunderstanding: A True Tale of Double Ds, Straight As, and a Whole Lot of BS.

Until I’m actually at the mic.

Then, along with my words, I come alive. I’ve done a handful of readings over the past year and each time, I’m find myself on a high the likes of which I’ve never felt before. I feel exhilarated, buoyed, and motivated to keep creating and connecting with readers/listeners.

So naturally, I’m thrilled (read: petrified) to be speaking at this year’s LitCrawl Seattle, a night of more than 20 readings around town. The venues are chockablock with crazy talented writers so I hope you’ll hit one (read: mine) or several. I’ll be emceeing “No Place Like Home,” readings centering around family. Deb Caletti (Secrets of Wedding Ring River) and Sam Ligon (Drift and Swerve) will be reading fiction, and I’ll be reading a chapter from my memoir-in-progress. I hope to see you there!

October 23, 7–7:45pm | LitCrawl Seattle, “No Place Like Home” Reading
Ltd. Art Gallery/Raygun Lounge, 501 E Pine Street

Create Your Own PITF Haiku Deck & Win a Copy of TIWTPITF!

Things I Want to Punch in the Face and Haiku Deck are like peanut butter and chocolate. In other words, the perfect combination. A new app for iPad, Haiku Deck allows you to create powerful presentations, using royalty-free images and bold graphics (check out the original PITF Haiku Deck here; it’s hilar). I love a good contest so in conjunction with Haiku Deck, we are asking you to create your own personal Things I Want to Punch in the Face Haiku Deck for a chance to win a copy of Things I Want to Punch in the Face.

Here’s how it works: 

  1. Download the Haiku Deck iPad app here.
  2. Between now and December 21, think of at least five things you are itching to punch in the face this holiday season. Hate your mother-in-law, your neighbor’s outdoor Christmas decorations, crappy regifts? Detail it all through words and images. Using your iPad, type in what you want to punch and then access Haiku Deck’s image database to find a good fit for your fury.
  3. Once you’ve completed your deck, send me the link at (include your name and e-mail) and I’ll post the deck on the blog, using your first name only.
  4. After December 21, I’ll select a winner and announce it on the blog. You’ll win a free copy of Things I Want to Punch in the Face, just in time for Christmas!

J. Gilbert private shopping event this Sunday!

Shopping during December does not exactly put me in the holiday spirit. Between parking sharks, crowds, the clanging of the Salvation Army bell, and ferreting out the perfect gifts for loved ones, I’m left exhausted.

J. Gilbert Footwear is different. The welcoming Belltown shop is magical. Pop in and you’ll find yourself lingering for hours, trying everything on and making friends with sales staff and commenting on how fabulous a jacket looks on another customer.


That’s why I’m so jazzed to be participating in another event at J. Gilbert Footwear this Sunday. From 12-4pm, stop by for a private shopping event. Everything in the store will be 15-percent off, and there will be champagne and hors d’oeuvres. There will be a trunk show with Spark Designs jewelry by Kathy Sparkman and I’ll be signing copies of TIWTPITF, a perfect stocking stuffer as you know. You can’t beat that with a stick.

Stop by or RSVP here.

We want YOU…as a punch recruit

It’s been a, ahem, full few weeks promoting TIWTPITF. And we’re far from done! In Seattle, we’ve hosted two amazing Punch Parties with loads of talented people showing up to read their own rants and play a saucy game of “Punch in the Face or Make Out With.” Last night, as part of Seattle’s Lit Crawl, I was on a Funny Ladies panel reading a Seattle-specific Punch in the Face rant. Needless to say, it was high-larious (as were all of the other talented women on the panel).

But wait, there’s more!

I’m now in Southern California for a weekend of punch-drunk love. Bring a rant to tomorrow’s Punch Party at Vidiots Annex or Sunday’s Punch Party at The York in Highland Park. Things get under way at both venues at 6pm. Bring a friend, bring a diatribe, bring yourself! If you’re interested in coming out and punching something, here’s the deal:

  • I’ll introduce you briefly (let me know if there’s anything I should mention; I’m all for promoting your stuff too!)
  • You’ll read your own PITF (loudly, with feeling and hopefully with wild gesticulations)
  • Your PITF should be a couple of paragraphs or about 200 words, so we can make sure everyone who wants to share has time (if you really need to get something off your chest and take 10 minutes, so be it; I won’t bring out the hook)
  • I don’t need to see your PITF in advance
  • It will be fun!

And if you’re in Seattle or Portland, never fear. Punch Parties are coming your way on October 26 (Queen Anne Books in Seattle) and November 9 (Powells at Cedar Hills Crossing, Beaverton).

With the holidays breathing down our necks, now is the time to ease the pain by picking up signed copies of TIWTPITF for your stocking stuffers, hostess gifts and Secret Santa presents. It really does have something for everyone.

Check out all my upcoming events here.

(photos: My publisher Colleen Dunn Bates and I checking out the book at the Pasadena Urban Outfitters)

Meet Yeardley Smith, shop for shoes, and get a copy of TIWTPITF

If you know me, you know I like to shop, usually for shoes. Join me this Saturday, Oct 6, at J Gilbert Footwear in Belltown (2025 First Avenue, Seattle 98121), from 12-4pm to meet actress and designer Yeardley Smith, shop her new fall collection of Marchez Vous AND get a free signed copy of Things I Want to Punch in the Face (the first 50 people will get a book with a purchase of $200). This is one of J.Gilbert Footwear’s infamous signature shopping events. Get 15% off the entire fall collection, a chance to meet and get an autograph with Yeardley, plus an exciting adventure for two (trust me; it’s GOOD).


New trailer for TIWTPITF!

To know me is to know I geek out over creative ventures in any shape. So you can imagine how much fun it was to work on a video trailer for Things I Want to Punch in the Face. I collaborated with the very talented Joni Blecher to create this video, offering up a pupu platter of favorite entries to convey the flavor of the book. Actress Susan Harmon lent her outraged, snarky voiceover talents to the project, and publisher Colleen Dunn Bates and agent Joy Tutela offered their input. If you like it, please repost or pass it along! Thanks!


Welcome to my word. First things first: I’m tickled pink about my website overhaul. The talented Robert Rowe of Mood Interactive basically looked inside my soul and channeled my inner graphic designer. It’s been a long process…in my head. I’ve been talking about redesigning my site for something like eight years. I may seem prolific to many, but my website was a serious thorn in my to-do list.

Until now. is a hub, offering up the latest events, news, and press about my books and projects. Join my mailing list, comment on my blog, contact me I can’t wait to hear what you think!