Wednesday, November 30, 2011


After seven sunny days in Colorado over Thanksgiving, we arrived home Tuesday night to cold rain and a suspiciously nippy house. The cat, rather than being happy to see us, looked pissed. The furnace was out. It was too late to find anyone to come fix it. We bundled up in sweaters and socks and threw extra blankets on the bed, and spent an uncomfortable night trying to sleep with a desperate feline between us, determined to draw whatever warmth we had out of us.

Did I mention that I was in the midst of a snotty, head-achey cold, and had been traveling since early in the day by car, bus, plane, and taxi, hacking, coughing, and burning through three travel packets of tissues, much to my fellow travelers' delight?

At 2:00 a.m., afraid to roll over for fear of having to warm up a new spot in the bed, I thought, "Hats! Why didn't we wear hats?!"

This morning, after securing an emergency appointment with only the second HVAC company I tried, I read this:

Warm Trees, Cold People

And realized: I have not one thing to complain about. And I have a request for all you knitters and knit bombers out there: clothe people this winter, not trees. Make hats, scarves, gloves, sweaters, blankets, and give them to those without heat. Not a knitter myself, I will procure those items by other means, and get them to people in need.


Friday, November 18, 2011


For long slow mornings, for words on the page, for the tiny hands of yellow red maple leaves in my office window, for the smell of coffee lingering in the rest of the house. For time spent chatting with friends about very little, for important talks and hard discussions, for quiet solitude and rain hitting the skylight late at night. For all the love that has come and gone, for the love that remains, and the love to come. For crisp cold air and the smell of apples, the crunch of leaves, the early streetlights, the bright moon, the fog that obscures it. For friends who make me laugh, who lift me, who save me from myself, who understand, who don't understand but try to. For songs that make me sad, because they remind me what is important. For songs that make me happy, because joy is always available. For you, and for you, and for you, and did I say, you? And yes, for you, too. Thank you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hey 19

Yes, I know that if you're reading this you're more likely to be the parent of a 19-year-old than 19 yourself. But then you also know of the wisdom I'm about to impart. Pass it on to all the pre-olds you know, the pre-wrinkled and pre-arthritic, the pre-age-spotted and yet-to-be-disappointed-by-their-lives.

Because some of this stuff doesn't have to happen. The age spots? Preventable. The chronic aching back? Preventable. If we could turn back the clock and take better care of ourselves, we would. And yet we can't (and would our young selves listen, anyway?) Will these pre-olds listen? Perhaps if we showed them photos of our lined and freckled decolletages, our spotty hands. Our monthly output for Advil and massage appointments, laser appointments to remove the age spots, therapy to deal with not dealing with problems when we were young.

Perhaps not. But we can try. Here are my suggestions for aging a bit more gracefully and happily than the rest of your friends. (Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.)

1. You know that dumb spoken song about using sunscreen? It's not dumb. It's so fucking true. Slather it not only on your face every day, but on the tops of your hands, your neck, your chest. Anywhere you don't want to be spotty and leathery one day.

2. In fact, any skin care you do for your face, do for those exact same areas, for they are exposed to the sun and elements the most, and end up looking the oldest. Thinking I'm being alarmist? Look at any old person naked. You will find that the parts of their body that have always been protected by clothing look young and supple, while their hands, necks, faces, shoulders, chests, look old. It's freaky.

So how awesome would it be if you protected your face with a hat (hey, they're fashionable!) and your chest with a scarf when in direct sunlight? You can still wear low-cut slut clothes (they are fun, I know) but just cover up a little when no one's actually looking.

3. Working out is good for you to a point, and I'm not talking to the couch potatoes, here, I'm talking to the gym rats, like me, who pound away in step classes and on machines, and with kettel bells and all of that high impact stuff, because you're young enough to get away with it, for now. And I'm here to say: STOP. Think twice about putting that much pressure and impact on joints and ligaments and body parts that have to last a lifetime.

Sure, you look great now, but you are going to hurt, all the time, later. Instead of waiting until you're fifty to stretch or do yoga, do it now. Try swimming instead of kick-boxing, biking instead of running, or at least running on grass instead of pavement. (A good walk is a good thing.) Do more reps with lighter weights instead of fewer reps with heavy weights. Long lean muscle is beautiful. Short bunchy muscle turns to flab when you get lazy, later. Truly. And you WILL get lazy later. Or too busy, or too stressed, to work out. Poll everyone you know over 30. Do they still work out religiously? Um . . . no. But they're going to, just as soon as they get less busy, less stressed out . . .

And did I mention the pain? All those little injuries you incur now come back to haunt you later, and there isn't enough ibuprofen in the world to make you feel the way you did pre-injury, pre-impact, pre-torn-cartilage and herniated disk.

4. Wear the most awesome revealing clothing you can, right now. Wear it all the time. Take lots of photos of yourself. Even if you think you look horrid now, save them. Do not delete! Tuck them away for a rainy day when you're 40 or 50 or 60, when you will realize how incredibly hot and gorgeous you were then.

5. Do not look at older people and think, "I'll never be like that." You will be like that. EXACTLY like that. No one gets out of this thing not getting old and decrepit unless they die young. And that sucks more.

6. Do not look at older people and think that they wish they were like you. They don't. They look at you and think, "Oh god, I remember being that young and dumb, and making really stupid mistakes, and not appreciating my youth, and thinking I knew everything." I'm not making this up. We are not saying it as sour grapes. We mean it. We like most of being old, just as you like most of being young.

7. Appreciate everything. Be thankful for the job you're fired from, because you will discover much better things down the road. Be thankful your parents and siblings and friends are still alive and with you, every day. Be thankful that some of your dreams crash and burn, because out of them, your real life emerges. Be thankful you have such a long lovely road in front of you to dream about. All of a sudden—after 20, 30, 40 years have passed—it will have all felt so fast.

8. Do what makes you happy. Whether it's a job, the place you live, the person you mate with, the group of friends you keep, make decisions based on what you love, not what you should do. The hardest thing to reconcile when you are no longer young are the years you let yourself be unhappy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How to Eat

Food manifestos are not new. I love Michael Pollan’s simple rules for eating only those things that come to us from the earth, not from packaging. I love the phrase “Life is short; eat dessert first.” Food means so many things to we humans that the “rules” are often conflicting. In my second novel, Eating Heaven, the main character Ellie is a food writer with food issues. By the end of a story fraught with figuring out her past, her present, and her unhealthy relationship to food, she figures a few things out. See if Ellie’s 7 simple rules for eating make sense to you, too.

How to Eat

by Eleanor Samuels

Why do most women in our country have an obsession with food, the eating as well as the not eating of it? We gladly feed others, yet we struggle with our own hunger. Is food a panacea to fill our empty souls? Have we lost touch with something vital—say, self-fulfillment, or even just self-acceptance—and all we can do is medicate ourselves with the pleasure of fat and calories (or heaven forbid, carbohydrates)? On the other hand, if we don’t eat and lose weight, might someone love us more? If we’re hungry and our stomachs growl, are we more virtuous than if we’re full and satisfied?

I’m just one woman, with my own variations on the female love-hate relationship with food, but I say, let’s start a revolution. Let’s make food simply food again, sustenance and nourishment, and fun when the occasion calls for it. From here on out, I will try my best to live by these seven secrets of the sane and happily well fed:

1. Eat when you’re hungry, and don’t when you’re not.

2. Eat food that tastes good. Period. No exceptions.

3. Eat food that leaves you sated instead of waiting for the next allotment.

4. Eat food that nourishes your soul as well as your body. Consider it a spiritual quest.

5. Savor every bite. Enjoy every meal. If you’re not fully aware and appreciative of what you’re eating, you’re just wasting it.

6. Eat with friends, with people you love, or with your own good company—anyone who appreciates food, drink, and good conversation as much as you do. (This would not include a TV set.)

7. If you start worrying about eating, stop it. Be happy you can eat.