Every Book I finished in 2017, in order

This year I had a goal to read books by female authors. I read 58 different books, including 29 novels and 17 memoirs; I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. There are many books on this list I would recommend and there is exactly one book on this list that I hated and struggled to finish.  Looking back on this list, I see that 18 of this year’s books had death as a primary theme, including the stand-out, “The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying” by Nina Riggs. If you have the courage to read a book written by a woman who is dying from cancer, give it a go. It was one of the highlights of my list. 


Hannah Arendt’s classic, “The Origins of Totalitarianism”

Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”

“Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson

Kate DiCamillo’s “The Illuminated Adventures of Flora & Ulysses”

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

Issa Rae’s “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”

Magda Szabó’s exquisite novel “The Door”


Blair Braverman’s “Welcome to the Goddam Ice Cube”

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Sons”

bell hooks’s “Bone Black”

“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See

“The Vegetarian” by Han Kang

“The Story of My Teeth” by Valeria Luiselli

“The Conservationist” by Nadine Gordimer

“Down City” by Leah Carroll

“Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones

“Word by Word” by Kory Stamper

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

“Working Stiff” by  Judy Melinik MD and TJ Mitchell

“The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold


“West with the Night” by Beryl Markham

“West with the Night” by Beryl Markham (yes, twice in a row)

Joy Fielding’s “She’s Not There”

Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad”

Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake”

“Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout” by Laura Jane Grace


Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”

Anita Brookner’s “Rules of Engagement”

Madeleine Eagle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

Chrissie Hynde’s “Reckless: My Life as a Pretender”

“The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Sarah Hepola’s “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget”


“The Problem with Forever” by Jennifer L. Armentrout

TIna Fey’s “Bossypants”

“The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir” by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich


Janet Benton’s “Lilli De Jong”

“We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson

“The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying” by Nina Riggs

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffnegger


“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot

Joan Aiken’s “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase”

“Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution,” by Ji-li Jiang

“An Unsuitable Job for a Woman,” by P.D. James

“Cover Her Face,” by P.D. James


“The Skull Beneath the Skin” by P.D. James

“We Were Feminists Once” by Andi Zeisler

“News of the World” by Paulette Jiles

“Shrill” by Lindy West


“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “What Happened”

Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer’s excellent memoir “The Farm in the Green Mountains”


“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor

“Never Caught: the Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar


“The Children of Men,” by P.D. James

“Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest” by Zeynep Tufekci

“You & a Bike & a Road” by Eleanor Davis

Myriam Gurba’s “Mean”

My goal for 2018 is to keep reading books by women. 

My Pets’ Pets

Things that were sad: we said good bye to Cherry this week, at age 15. She died peacefully at home (thanks to a veterinarian who specializes in both end-of-life pet care and house calls), surrounded by some of her people and Captain, her companion of 9 years. I will write a longer post about her soon. In the meantime, enjoy this story about pests.

What I saw: I have graduated to a walking cast, but when I was still on the knee scooter, I had trouble by the back door. Turning around was a process of bashing into walls, running over shoes, inventing new cuss words, and trying not to fall. As long as the weather stayed unseasonably warm (thank you, catastrophic global climate change), my solution was to open the door and leave it open for Captain. I have taught Captain he is not supposed to charge out an open door, and he has learned to wait, even if there are squirrels; so, he stands, sometimes trembling with anticipation, and waits for permission to go.

Things that were funny: by leaving the door open for him, Captain just stood in front of it wagging and asking to go out. He needed to be told it was ok. I was in the kitchen trying to do ordinary things, like unloading the dishwasher one cup at a time, spilling water, bashing into the cupboards, and trying to make tea that all take forever on a knee scooter, and there was Captain standing at the open door unable to go out.  I said something encouraging. Now he was whining. I finished unloading the dishwasher one plate at a time and went to see what was wrong. There was a big spotted slug in the doorway.

Captain could not pass the slug without permission from me.

What I did beforehand: I had foot surgery in mid-October. I’ve been putting it off since seeing a creepy podiatrist in Seattle in 2000, but I realized as I limped around a horse show early this summer that I’d waited long enough.

What I wore: yoga pants

Who went with me: while I’ve been recovering from foot surgery, I’ve spent long days flopped out in bed, and Schwartz has been a shitty cat, not being nearly as snuggly as he should be, and finally curling up with me but not letting me actually pat him.

Why I saw this show: because of remodeling in other parts of the house, Schwartz is mostly confined to my bedroom during the day, and he has a cardboard box we put catnip in to entertain him.  He likes his box and thrashes around in it.

One thing that was not funny: one night, Schwartz brought a mouse up from the basement and put it in the box so he could play with it and it wouldn’t get away.

Another thing that was not funny: when the mouse abruptly disappeared, leaving two drops of blood behind, I assumed Schwartz had eaten it. This is a ridiculous assumption.

Still more things that were not funny: I was wrong, of course. The next night he was at it again, batting the mouse, enticing it to squeak and run and try to jump out of the box, and Schwartz was having the finest of fine times playing with it and not killing it.

Yet another thing that was not funny: the following morning I saw the mouse running around my bedroom, and I, temporarily one-footed and historically the only person in the house willing to catch and/or dispatch an injured mouse, was not able to do a damned thing about it.

Where I stood: then Schwartz showed up and recaptured the damned mouse and started for the bed with it in his mouth, I leapt to my feet, reacting from instinct, and nearly went down. Because I couldn’t put any weight on the left foot yet.

Something I watched: that night, there was a big storm and we were watching a few episodes of season 2 of Stranger Things.  We have a generator, and an expensive service contract for it, so we weren’t even worried about the power going out.

What it is: meanwhile, the Bacon Provider updated all our water treatment stuff, but the plumbers failed to install the air-gap we requested, and before the situation could be corrected, the heavy rain caused a bunch of water to back up into our basement. As a relentless troubleshooter, the Bacon Provider went out and got a sump pump to address it.

Who should see it: when the power did go out, quite late and in the middle of the episode, the generator did not fire up as it is supposed to. I found myself sitting in the living room in silence and almost complete darkness, and not sure where I’d left my knee scooter. I crawled around groping the air. The Bacon Provider went out to see if he could start the generator manually. It sputtered like it wanted to start, but couldn’t. He checked the fuel, and the oil.  It was still raining quite heavily still and the wind was so strong as to seem threatening. And now our sump pump solution was no longer a solution.

The least funny thing of all: I scootered around in the dark house, first looking for the number of the generator service company and then looking for mobile phone reception.  After the call dropped twice I got through. The tired woman who answered started off by asking my area code. I told her I didn’t have a landline and don’t know the local area code. She was indignant. I was more indignant. “I am sitting in the dark, I can hear water coming into my basement because the sump pump is off, I had foot surgery two weeks ago so I can’t walk, and you’re telling me the expensive service contract doesn’t include you being able to look up my account some other way?”

The Bacon Provider walked in, looking, by the light of his ever-handy pocket flashlight through the gloom even more alarmed, I told him, without muting myself, that I was on the phone with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (America’s grumpiest professional liar).

Eventually, after more arguing, she took my number and said we could expect a service call. My phone was down to 9% battery life, and my backup charger, when I found it, was almost dead.

I went to bed.

In the morning, I found out that the Bacon Provider had called the generator service company himself, after me, and got a call back. He was offered a technician at $480/hr with a two hour minimum in the middle of the night, or the normal day rate of $145/hour in the morning. He opted for the latter and went to bed. When they called in the morning to confirm, they told me that our service plan had lapsed two years ago. I begged to differ. They checked again, and found nothing. I insisted. On the third try they found my contract, up to date, under my correctly spelled name, at my address on my street, misspelled, and my town also misspelled.

I can’t wait until they call me in March about renewing!

What they saw when they showed up: the technician finally arrived mid-morning, and found that there was a big, spotted slug on an air vent of the generator, preventing it from starting.

A shit-show

What I saw: the physician’s assistant handed me a stack of pages of pre-operative instructions, including a page of “Helpful Items,” with pictures of crutches and canes and walkers and wheelchairs (things that no one ever thinks they’re going to need) and said, “You will want a knee-scooter.” It had been hurriedly circled in ball-point pen. I did not want it. She went on, “You can rent them, but…,” she said, glancing at my feet, “If you’re going to have to get both feet done, you’re probably better off just buying one.”

IMG_3932What I did beforehand: I avoid shopping with the Massive Online Retail Monopoly, but they have all the things and also all the reviews. You simply must read the reviews of these knee scooters or you might end up with the wrong one.  As for me, I had to read the reviews of the wrong scooter after I had found the right one to figure out that I was actually wrong. I had to get the child-sized scooter, because the manufacturer makes a “regular” sized scooter for people who are larger than the average size woman.

I got the one with the three wheels (instead of four) in the hopes of not hitting myself constantly in the ankle of my “good” foot. And I got the one with the bigger, 9” tires in the hopes of not wiping out thanks to a pea-sized bit of gravel on my driveway, or succumbing to the enormous thresholds of the doorways in Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum. It came in a big box that arrived via drone only three minutes after I ordered it, and I had to put it together with the shiny, enclosed tools. It came with lots of written instructions, stern warnings about not backing up, and even has a training wheel, to put on the side opposite your good foot, for people with stability issues. I had the Bacon Provider adjust the brakes and finish the tire inflation. We took turns riding on it before my foot surgery, to see how it cornered (not especially well), to see how fast it could go (not especially fast), and to see how it stopped (well enough). It sat in the corner of the dining room like a vague threat until the surgery.

What I wore: the wrong pajamas.

Who went with me: I have to back up a little and say that Cherry turned 15 this summer and is now completely deaf. When she was a younger dog, she knew a good number of useful commands like sit, come, stay, down, don’t touch, and take it. I even taught her hand signals for sit, stay and down because I always thought that’s what good dog owners did to prepare for the day when their dog could no longer hear. Cherry’s hearing seemed to vanish suddenly and completely about two years ago, but in retrospect it was probably failing for a while and she masked the loss by continuing to seem obedient by making educated guesses about what she was supposed to do. Those educated guesses were her forte from a young age, and it was why I was able to get her to climb on top of things like big rocks or tree stumps for pictures. We are unprepared for her diminished vision, though. You cannot call a deaf dog. And you can wave all you want to a dog who can’t see, but she’s not coming to you except by luck.


How I got tickets to the shit-show: Cherry seems to be able sometimes to see a waving hand about 6 feet away. She gets up and down the stairs from the kitchen to the yard with a great, clumsy leap. Sometimes Cherry wanders around the kitchen looking for people to stand next to, which is sweet but kind of annoying when you’re cooking. When she rises from her dog bed and starts wandering around the kitchen, then we wave our hands to try to shoo her out the door. She makes her leap off the stairs having no better plan. Some mornings we get up and she’s had more than one accident in the kitchen. The sting of frustration about this is dwindling as she becomes more and more frail.

Why I saw this show: so, the Bacon Provider had to do a webinar one morning, just a couple of days after my foot surgery. I was still unable to put any weight on the bad foot, spending most of my days with it elevated in bed, and taking pain meds.  I said derisive, colorful things about the word “webinar,” and some insightful things about capitalism. Only the cat heard me. He agreed, I think.

Pretending to listen

Things that were not funny: before you need your knee scooter you can tool around your dining room, but it will never prepare you for the horror of a bathmat, a narrow bathroom, a pile of laundry, or a pair of shoes in your way. You can’t pick them up. You can’t go over them. You can’t go around them. The turning-radius a knee scooter is one half to two feet to large for most of this 80s museum. Also, you will come close to falling for surprising reasons, like missing the pad where you’re supposed to kneel, or smashing yourself in the good ankle, or the unexpected shoe (and it’s never your shoe, because all you need now is one sad shoe for your right foot, a sacrificial shoe, chosen to get extra, uneven wear and be forever associated with the dark days of recovery from surgery).

What it is: somehow, thanks to the webinar, I got stuck with feeding the dogs breakfast.

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 9.53.13 PM
Clearly on pain meds

Things that were sad: there were dog blankets all over the kitchen floor. People in my family cover the dogs with blankets when they sleep. Yes, this is ridiculous, but Cherry gets cold. But also, she is a dog, and being a dog, she wakes up and gets a drink and the blankets come sliding off and get dragged across the floor and left there when she goes back to her bed.

Who should watch their step: of course, Cherry is no longer really very housebroken so sometimes she gets up to go on the floor and other times she just poops in her sleep.

Things that were funny: so when I scootered across the kitchen to get a can of dog food and there was a dog blanket on the floor and I tried to back up, bend over, and pick it up, I was showered with dog-poo nuggets. And I don’t know if I was like, trying to nugget-dodge or maybe bounce them away from me like they were dog-poo-hacky-sacks, but I wobbled. Cherry, who was hungry, which was the whole reason I was trying to do things in the kitchen at all, was right up against me, keeping track of me the only way she can anymore.

Where I sat: so when I started to fall, I also hit the old dog, who also fell. No one was hurt, though the scooter and I were kind of tangled up and the poo nuggets were involved. Cherry wasn’t so much hurt as she was startled, and so she kind of had the shit scared out of her. The exertion of trying to get back up made her poop some more, and because she and I fell together, now she was pretty much just pooping on me. I’ve had dogs for about 25 years, but I think that was the first time I was pooped on directly by one.

When that was over, I righted the scooter and tried to stand. My pajama pants (these being the sub-optimal pajamas and not one of the two pairs of optimal, post-operative lounge-wear) got caught on one of the bigger, 9” tires of my five-star-reviewed knee scooter as I was trying to stand up so I fell again.

Where I sat on the way home: so I had to crawl around picking up the poo-nuggets, take off my clothes, wash my good foot, and still feed the dogs, and when I was done I had so much leftover angry energy I hauled the vacuum cleaner out, and took out the trash. I can’t say why exactly I sat down on the floor of the garage while I was taking out the trash, but I did. It was cold, and quite gritty, but not nearly as bad as falling in dog shit.

I had waited long enough

What I saw: maybe in 2000 I had my first inkling that everyday foot pain wasn’t normal/good and I went to see My First Foot Doctor who told me about his passion for tap dancing and about all the different bunion-prone races of people in the world. In addition to (incorrectly) guessing my ethnicity, and sharing his theories on race that he should have kept to himself, My First Foot Doctor described (too much like Dr. Frankenstein leaping around the lab shouting, “It’s alive!”) an unnamed surgery where he would cut my feet open, break certain bones and screw them back together. When he saw my enthusiasm wasn’t up to the same level as his, he sent me to get some custom orthotics, and told me, with authority, “Your feet have no integrity.  Never run.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 1.22.51 AM

No problem there. Running is for fugitives.

What it is: I wore the orthotics, got rid of both pairs of my beloved, ankle-spraining Dasko clogs, started wearing more boots and fewer heels. Ten years later I tried again, with a different doctor. This one was a little less creepy but so completely impressed with himself, in a way that only a credentialed white-coat-wearing tall white man who wants to cut your feet open, saw your bones into pieces, and screw them back together can be. He was disappointed not to be The First Man Ever to tell me to get orthotics and throw away all my high heels.

Things that were not funny: I had yet to have a doctor use the word “bunionectomy” with me, and I had yet to hear what the surgeries they were so eager to perform would do to correct the underlying cause. While addressing the problems, their bone-breaking-and-screwing-back-together had nothing to offer to prevent the recurrence. Also, the bone breaking and screws sounded pretty terrible. I could also say something here about the really terrific health insurance Microsoft used to offer back then, but I make it a policy not to say nice things about them.

Why I saw this show: New York is brutal on feet. Even if you mostly stay out of the city it will give you blisters when you don’t. My feet hurt and I’m getting too old for this shit. I tried a nearby podiatrist in Bedhead Hills. I could have guessed from the incomprehensibly ugly angular building, clad in pale green roofing shingles that it would be a no-go. The stained waiting room carpet was warped and curling in the corners. The receptionist did not greet me because she was on the phone talking about shit she shouldn’t have been talking about at work. There was original Weldwood paneling. The only other patient looked like she was going to die of ennui. The Bedhead Hills podiatrist held my foot in his hand and didn’t let go. He told me my good foot was actually worse than my bad foot. And he dropped the b word on me.

How I found a doctor that didn’t give me the willies: I go to Pilates a couple of times a week, not because I’m trying to be a cliche or anything but because I like it. Some of the people at Pilates talk too much. I try not to be that person, the one who complains about her anxious kids, or her friends and their poor choice of partners, or her husband’s career, or her feet. I don’t want to blurt things out about my children and their anxiety, or my friends’ relationships, or my husband or my feet, so I let my Pilates teacher do the talking. She counts and tells me things.  The subject got around to foot doctors and she claimed to know The Guy.

“He did my sister’s feet. He’s done several of my clients’ feet. He’s The Guy.”

I kept the piece of paper she gave me with The Guy’s name on it for a few months, pretending that I couldn’t read it or that I thought his name was a misspelling. I didn’t want to see a doctor in Connecticut because I have a known allergy to Connecticut, but as if to prove to myself that this guy would be just as creepy as the rest, I made an appointment. The office was clean and professional, and I was seen on time. I met his nurse and liked her. And The Guy himself was clear, upbeat, and unafraid to use the real names for things.  He told me that if I’d had surgery 10 years ago it would have failed by now.

He  described a procedure that would leave me with some airplane parts in my foot. Those parts would be the actual solution to the cause of the problem.

What I did beforehand: I remember being a kid and writing “1976” in my diary and thinking about how weird it would be that someday I would write “1980” or “1990.” I counted how old I would be in “2000.” I spent this summer thinking about the perfect date to do a surgery–a surgery more unimaginable than being 37 is to a 13 year old. Who plans to give up walking for a while? How do you put something off for almost 20 years, and then wake up one Thursday and look for a spot in your calendar for it?

And then there was the Bacon Provider’s work schedule to consider.  I imagined I was going to need him at home for about two weeks, and it would be fine to do calls after the first couple of days. Then I thought my normal self-sufficiency would return.

What I wore: I really only have two pairs of pants that work with the dressing on my foot post-surgery. This would be enough if I were currently the person in charge of the laundry.  So I am wearing pajamas all day which is fine anyway because mostly I’m in bed.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider drove me to the ambulatory surgical center.  When I checked in, I had to prove my identity with a photo ID and my health insurance card.  The Guy greeted us and wrote on my foot so they did the right one.  A nurse gave me something to make me sleepy and someone else did a nerve block behind my knee and I don’t remember anything after that.

Things that were funny: when I woke up, they let me have a delicious cup of ice chips. I smiled at everyone like I’d done a fine job. The surgeon came and showed the Bacon Provider before and after x-rays of my foot, adding, “This is as bad as they get.”

“How do you even walk on a foot like that?” asked my husband.

“I don’t know,” said The Guy.

Something I ate: the next day, my friend S. sent us turkey and pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had.

Things that were sad: I came out of surgery with pins sticking out of my toes and couldn’t get my foot wet for a couple of weeks. The nerve block was supposed to last about 20 hours, but lasted longer, with a prolonged couple of days of bad foot feelings as the block wore off. I took the pain meds ’round the clock until I didn’t have to (and mostly it seemed like they don’t do anything about the pain they make it so you just don’t care). After two weeks I got my stitches out, and The Guy pulled the pins out of my toes (which felt a way I would forget if I could). Then I was cleared to take a shower, but showers are scary when you have to stand on one leg.

How I get around: I have a knee-scooter until the day when I get a walking cast, which is an exciting prospect about a week away.

Who should do it: lots of people get foot surgery, and even more need it and put it off for years because they hear/fear it will hurt and it will be inconvenient. My experience has been that it hurts, and is inconvenient. My estimates of how much help I’d need, and for how long, were completely unrealistic.


What I saw at home: the cat has been disappointingly aloof, napping near me but not with me, trying to bite me if I try to pet him, and hiding from the knee-scooter like it offends him.

One more thing: I have to do the other foot someday.

I found something I could ride

Something I ate: when, back in April, my husband and I took our trainer to dinner and asked about his ideas for getting a new horse, I think I ordered the fish.  Horse shopping wasn’t a new topic of conversation, as this is something most equestrians have opinions about, so we weren’t surprised to hear him suggest going to Germany. “The main thing,” he said this night, and not for the last time, “Is find something you can ride.”

How do you find a horse to try: while I was able to use my personal connections to find someone to look for a horse for me in Germany, looking closer to home was still easier. And where are the closer-to-home horses advertised? On Facebook, in a large, open group. Facebook has gotten some tough press lately, for its role in interfering with democracy and in facilitating genocide, but until we overthrow our social media overlords, cast off the shackles of our Amazon Prime memberships, and find a way to circumvent the authoritarian monopoly on online search, it’s what there is beyond word of mouth.

What I did beforehand: a day before my flight to Florida, I got a message from the agent who was supposed to show me the horse. She wanted to check if I was still coming. I said I was. She said the horse I had first contacted her about was no longer available, but she had a number of others to show me. There are a lot of reasons I can think of that would make a horse be no longer available, like injury or illness, or if it was already sold, or if the owner changed her mind about selling it. But to be honest I was annoyed. Peeved, even. I thought about cancelling my trip.

Why I went anyway: when I somewhat testily pressed the sales agent, she cheerfully provided me details about four other horses, all theoretically suitable for my purposes. I got over my peeved self.

Things that were not funny: at the sales barn, the fellow showing the horse had a German first name, and everyone knew him by his German first name, and no one said his last name because apparently no one felt they could pronounce it. This feels terribly American to me, as does most mispronunciation of names. Put this on our list of things we should do to be better, America. Let’s all learn to pronounce each other’s names. Starting with me. I can’t pronounce the German guy’s last name.

What I saw: the first horse the fellow with the German name showed me was a little chestnut mare, darker than a penny but a shade brighter than liver chestnut. When I saw her in the cross-ties, I noticed she had an unusual pattern of white on the side of her face, and wasn’t sure I liked it. But there is no such thing as a good horse in a bad color, so I set aside this impression.

She seemed like a quality horse with a professional rider sitting on her, but the reason professional riders exist is because they can ride anything and make it look like a quality horse.

What I wore: riding clothes, but no spurs.


What it is: riding is expensive and time consuming. Horses are simultaneously fragile and dangerous. I know of nothing more magical than the feeling of riding well, and also nothing more elusive.

Things that were funny: over the course of four trips to barns, I rode about 10 different horses, and it wasn’t until I sat on the little chestnut mare that I felt that I’d found something I could ride. My trainer’s advice, which had seemed at first to be so obvious as to not be important, turned out to be the best signal that I’d found what I was looking for. I tried to suppress the huge grin, but I felt right away that I had found what I was looking for. I just didn’t want to tell anyone yet. I didn’t even know the horse’s name. In fact, we left the barn without me finding out her name. I knew she was six, and what she was like to ride that day, but not much else.

Who went with me: the sales agent who did all the work finding horses for me to try in Florida, who was polite when I abruptly got off another horse I didn’t like, who laughed at my jokes, and who even got me the chance to try the horse I had originally wanted to see.

Why I bought this horse: other than being the one horse I tried that I really felt I could ride, she was the one that was fun without feeling inexplicably intimidating. Sure, they weigh 1300 lbs., but, as my trainer says, either you’re in charge or they’re in charge. And her face? Once I’d ridden her it seemed extraordinarily adorable.

Things that were sad: that other horse, the one I’d wanted to see in the first place? She was really nice, too.

I heard meowing

What I heard: that meow a cat makes when he’s in another part of the house and he’s like, “Hey, where you at?” Insistent, but not yet panicked.


What happened the day before: it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single-family house in possession of a goodly amount of wallpaper, must be in want of stripping. The project of updating Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum has begun, starting with the gutting of the upstairs bathrooms. The rate of progress of re-modeling projects is chaotic at best, with stretches of steady progress, interrupted by the delays of backordered tile, or returning round drains when you wanted square, or replacing uneven concrete pads for the AC units. So in the time between small disasters our contractor assigned two workers to the non-trivial task of stripping the wallpaper from every room. They started upstairs. There was this one tool that made a screeching noise, and another that got everything wet but whatever. As they worked their way downstairs the house has been transformed, from a neat-but-dated 80s museum to just the sort of sad, shabby, destroyed ranch house that might be claimed by feral cats.

After a few days they’d stripped the upstairs hall, the stairwell, and the downstairs hall. While I was out they moved on to my bathroom and then my bedroom. I wasn’t quite ready for them, but my lack of preparation for the disruption was nothing compared to Schwartz’s. He’d been locked in our end of the house for days, and though he had food and water, his litterbox and plenty of good hiding places, he must have escaped. When I got home from the barn he was locked in my bathroom, crouched on the toilet tank, angrily overlooking a river of urine that he’d left running through the soon-to-be gutted bathroom.

What happened the next day: the next day the plumbers were working on the rough-in of the upstairs bathroom, and while they’d been very careful to keep the cat out of the basement, a drain pipe got installed in a way that prevented the upstairs bathroom door from closing. So of course they went to lunch and left the door open. A few hours later, after they’d finished and left for the day, I heard the meowing.

Who should see it: anyone who didn’t get to see enough disaster photos recently. Cat behaviorists studying the way a meow changes from normal inquiry to angry shout. Problem solvers.

What I wore: pajamas, which got splinters in them.

Where I sat: on the floor by the roughed-in pipes, with the cat screaming and reaching for me with one paw.

Things that were funny: I found the cat under the newly roughed-in bathtub, frantically thrashing and howling and unable to fit through the only opening left to him.

Things that were not funny:

How I got help: the Bacon Provider decreed that pets are useless and terrible, and among the primary obstacles to his happiness, so he was not interested in helping the cat until after he’d eaten his samosa and lamb tikka masala and chicken saag. Then I realized that a solution might include removing a newly-installed floor panel and I announced to no one in particular it would be necessary to use a power tool.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider pretended that his involvement in the cat rescue was a great personal inconvenience. But he got to use the drill, so…<\shrug emoji>

Why I saw this show: it was love at first sight. The first time Schwartz saw the gutted bathroom he fell madly in love with it. Plain plywood floors. Exposed framing. Old pink insulation. Nooks. Crannies. Places a cat must never go. He could not resist.

Things that were sad: J.M. Barrie’s opening line of “Peter Pan” is, “All children, except one, grow up.” No cats grow up. And they persistently search for Neverland.

More things that were not funny: days later, when he returned to the upstairs, Schwartz begged to be allowed back into that bathroom.

Something I ate: we had Indian food delivered. It was very good. I might go have some more leftovers right now.

I was invisible

What I did: a user experience design (UXD) class at General Assembly

What I did beforehand: had a couple of conversations with people about this blog


What I wore: Puma sneakers and jeans, mascara, irrational optimism

Who went with me: 29 other students, an instructor, and two teaching assistants

How I got here: I had taken a single-evening class there over a year ago and promised myself then that if I didn’t migrate my blog to WordPress within a couple of months that I would sign up for a structured class where I could do it. When I called to enroll, I let the admissions person talk me into a user experience class without thinking too hard about whether that was what I was really looking for.

Why: apparently, I will sign up for anything.


Where I sat: in the front by the instructor, so I could see and hear and minimize how distracted I was. Still, I had to put my glasses on to see the white board and take them off to read my notes.

Things that were sad: feeling like I was old enough to be everyone’s mom; bringing cookies the second night because it was the instructor’s birthday and I am everyone’s mom. I interrupted a 27-month-long writing streak to try to improve my blog and caused a 3-1/2-month-long drought.

Things that were funny: my notes. Also, I have been complaining that I’m invisible lately. On the train, they didn’t even take my ticket.


Not me

Things that were not funny: I have been feeling invisible lately. Maybe it’s safer this way.

Something I drank: Harney’s gen mai cha, because I carried a little Ziploc™ bag of tea bags to class in my backpack every week.

What it is: UXD is what they do when they want shit to work the way you expect it to.

Who should do it:  anyone looking for solid, up-to-date instruction in tech stuff.

Joe, heckin’ good instructor. Am doin’ a teach.

What I saw on the way home: the menace of headlights from cars driven by fast-man-persons who pushed past me getting off a train.