“Dear Molly, this is just to say that the website and the blogs are sheer delight. I so enjoy them - witty, sharp and touching so cleverly on all aspects of our lives today. Thank you, Elizabeth”
Elizabeth Buchan, international bestselling author of, among others: "Revenge of the Middle", "Aged Woman", "Everything She Thought She Wanted", and new release "Separate Beds". www.elizabethbuchan.com

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LET’S TAKE OUR MINDS OFF THINGS!

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The news is awful. The election sucks. But there is good news: It’s summer reading season!

I therefore would like to share another book list of novels that I have really loved, and that you might want to think about reading.

WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES by Frances Whiting. A story about friendship and betrayal that will knock your socks off.

ALICE IN BED by Judith Hooper. A brilliant debut novel about Alice James, Henry James’ sister, who was bedridden, and nobody knew exactly why.

SWEETBITTER by Stephanie Danler. This one was completely hopeless, quite depressing to me, but so well written that I was glued until the end.

THEY MAY NOT MEAN TO, BUT THEY DO by Cathleen Schine. Such wisdom. Family, aging, love when it happens to “old” people. It made me cheer.

MODERN LOVERS by Emma Straub. Rock and roll and the aftermath. Way after. Another story of family, love, and the lingering effects of youth. Great summer reading.

A WILD RIDE UP THE CUPBOARDS by Ann Bauer. What happens to a family with a child who suddenly turns inward? A study of a family in crisis. This reads like a memoir, but it is fiction. Riveting.

MIDDLE AGE: A ROMANCE by Joyce Carol Oates. Oates certainly writes about strange people and she examines one man from ALL angles.  So weird. But she does it so well.

And, of course, as I revise my new novel yet again, I go on a reading hiatus. In the meantime, I hope that any of you who have not read my debut novel, KEEP THE ENDS LOOSE, will do that. It’s a good one!

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What We Need

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Right now, when the world is twisting around in uncertainty, death, horror, and all things that terrify us, we need a picnic.

We need a picnic with the kinds of things that our mom made. Potato salad with just the right amount of mustard. Hot dogs grilled by dad, who always let them get that delicious dark brown crust on the outside. Soft buns. Baked beans that are really baked, not the kind from a can. Orange Kool-Aid and iced tea with mint. For dessert, we need huge slices of watermelon with tons of seeds that we spit at each other.

We need that picnic table on the concrete patio, the splintery table  that our mom put an oilcloth cover on. We absolutely need white paper napkins and those aluminum tumblers in a rainbow of colors–the ones that sweat all over the outside and cool off our hands. Paper plates. We need a torrid day that turns into the sort of gentle night in which we can sit out on the Adirondack chairs and pretend we can see the Big Dipper. Even though it just looks like a wash of ink up there, pricked with a thousand tiny lights.

We need our dad to sit there pontificating about the complete ridiculousness of rock and roll, when “Everyone knows that the only true musicians write symphonies.” We need our mom to tell us that actually, there is cherry pie with ice cream if anybody has room.

We need safety. The safety of a world before now, when the only scary things were holding a sparkler for too long and burning fingers, or falling off the bike when we were enjoying coasting along, hair blowing in the breeze,  but then we accidentally leaned back and set off the brakes suddenly. Rusty nails. Stray dogs. Cavities.

Let’s try to go back there.

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EASY TO LIVE WITH

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I am a big fan of “This American Life” with Ira Glass. The last episode I listened to presented a startling statistic, which I am sure that I am misquoting: about ninety percent of people, when you ask them if they think they are easy to live with, will answer with a resounding YES.

Naturally, the people are wrong, because according to the expert that Ira was chatting with (all I can remember about him was that he had a British accent) was that there may be only two or three people ON EARTH who are easy to live with. Ha! Of course, I am one of them. No, really.

I mentioned this to my husband–the statistic, not the fact that I am in the distinct minority on the planet. He didn’t even raise his eyebrows. It was as if I had just told him that the man on the podcast declared that sugar is sweet. So I pursued this. Not the best idea.

ME: You aren’t surprised?

HIM: Of course not. If people actually realized what jerks we all are, nobody would ever get married, and there would be a huge population decrease. Wait. I take that back. The population would be the same, but nobody would be married. Everyone would be looking for studio apartments.

ME: What do you mean? I am easy to live with. You are the one.

HIM: I have never thrown a tantrum about cat vomit.

ME: But that is understandable. I, on the other hand, don’t file my nails in bed. Or wait until I look like Albert Einstein before I get my hair cut.

HIM: If you want a list of your faults, I will be glad to draw one up. You think you are easy to live with because I make it look easy. You know, like making sure the deck gets swept once a week in the summer so that the neighbors won’t think we are “hillbillies.”

ME: That is a low blow. Just because I grew up in West Virginia. What about the fact that I no longer kick you under the table when you ask the waitress if she is “the chef?” Or ask for a doggy bag when your plate is empty? As if the wait staff in every restaurant has never heard those? Sheesh.

HIM: I am not the one who got four cats. Let’s revisit the barf.

ME: Everyone knows that having pets lengthens one’s life. My blood pressure is lower because of all the purring, I am sure of it.

HIM: I bet it goes up when you step in the vomit. Your decibel level surely does.

ME:

You know, that Ira Glass is absolutely brilliant. He has the very best pundits.

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ATTENTION, PASSENGERS!

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If you would just direct your attention to the flight attendant who is standing in front of you, seat belt simulator in hand, we can get started. We know any idiot knows how to attach and un-attach that thing, but regulations require us to bore you with it anyway. And for heaven’s sake, in case of a crash or something, please look at the flight attendant when he or she tells you how to save your own life, for Pete’s sake.

Since we now stuff all of you into your seats like sardines and still allow those of you rude enough to do it to recline your seats, let’s just go over a few guidelines for passenger etiquette, shall we?

  • The middle armrest. It isn’t a case of “dibs.” Two of you are expected to share it. So for heaven’s sake, one of you take the back end, and one of you take the front! And really, don’t touch arms. That’s just creepy.
  • Our food is expensive, and we realize there is a sorry selection. So we get it. You bring food on board with you. But will whomever chose the tuna sandwich please touch your “call attendant” button? We are sorry, but you will have to relinquish the tuna and have it in the boarding area after we land. What is wrong with you?
  • This is a peanut-free flight. There is an allergic passenger. This is a serious matter, because peanut fumes can kill (they are actually lethal; although tuna fumes just seem that way). Don’t think you can sneak a bite of your Snickers. That would be murder, you ignorant slob.
  • Keep your feet to yourself. The space under the seat in front of you and the overhead bins are absolutely crammed with luggage that nobody wants to pay to check. So despite the fact that some of you may be over six feet tall, just shove your feet against your carry on and hug your knees for the remainder of the flight. Remember, don’t touch the passenger next to you. How many times do we have to tell you that touching that person is just weird?
  • You may use your electronic devices in “airplane mode.” How on God’s earth we can determine if your device is actually in “airplane mode” is an excellent question. We have no idea. However, if the pilot comes charging out of the cockpit screaming the F word with spittle flying out the sides of his mouth, it’s a safe bet that he figured out that your device is not in airplane mode. Enough said.
  • Your seat tray is filthy. Babies have been changed on it. Passengers have probably sneezed on it at the beginning of that nasty flu that is going around. So if you want to open your “complimentary” bag of pretzels and spread them out all over your tray, go right ahead. It usually takes at least 24 hours for symptoms to appear, at which time you will be safely delivered to your destination.
  • Thank you so much for choosing to fly with us today. We know you have many choices of airlines, all of which jam-pack their flights and charge ridiculous prices, and we understand that flying these days is nothing like the pleasurable experience it used to be in the 50’s, but we appreciate your business, and we would like to announce that even the people in First Class are now being given their cocktails in plastic glasses. Have a wonderful day, wherever your travels take you.
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