Archive | March 2012

Fan Letter Friday (Vol. 1): Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett in Southern Living Magazine

(The above photo by Melissa Ann Pinney, from an article in Southern Living.)

Dear Ann, (can I call you Ann and not Ann Patchett? We’re both Southern, let’s just do it!)

You are the lucky recipient of my first fan letter posted on my blog.  I have written other fan letters way, WAY back in the day, before the world wide web was invented (to local musician David Garza and to Karate Kid star, Ralph Macchio).  I am a woman now; I don’t need to send fan letters based on my teenaged hormones or languid fantasies about being the future Ms. Karate Kid. I can send a fan letter now because I am in awe of your talent, your range, and your stories.

I first “met” you as an author when my book club selected Bel Canto in January 2002. I was skeptical at first when I read the back cover.  Latin American crisis and hostage situations are not my go-to’s for fiction.  But, I was a good book club member (until I quit because everyone else had a husband and a baby and a breast pump and I was so desperately single that no book in the world could relieve my jealousy) and read it– in two days, while in Law School.  In case you didn’t know, law school students are not exactly known for having lots of free time to pour over great contemporary fiction.

I loved Bel Canto and then, frankly, I forgot all about you.  That law school gig flourished into an actual law practice and eventually I quit quitting things because I was single and started quitting things because I was married and had two children.

This year, I decided to read 50 books.  The first: The Magician’s Assistant.  A dear friend who’s brilliant and artistic and perfect claims this is her favorite book.  Again, I devoured it in about 2 days.  And again, in case it hasn’t leaked to the world, people (mothers) with two young children are not known for having vast swaths of free time in which to read fiction.  I loved the book and still think of the characters all the time.  I wonder where you came up with the name Parsifal and I dream of seeing a house in Los Angeles that you described. (My husband’s from LA so it could happen.)

Here’s the true fan letter part:

I love your imagination and your writing. I also hate you for showing me how good a writer can be, because it’s kind of clear you don’t just dick around on a computer a few minutes of everyday (like I do).  When I read your fiction, I wonder if somewhere buried way deep inside of me, maybe in my heels, there is at least 1 story I could tell that is mostly from my imagintion.  I am not so sure. I don’t think everyone is out there walking around on a great book if only they had the time and the resources to sit down and write it.

I loved State of Wonder, which I also read recently.  I think about those mushrooms a lot and those scenes on the river.  I also think about how it might feel to get pregnant in about 30 years, and then I hyperventilate and have to find a paper bag. So thanks for giving me those daydreams!

The real kicker, and what landed you in volume 1 of my Fan Letter Friday is your memoir, Truth and Beauty.  I read the first two pages and then called my friend Joyce (of the Magician’s Assistant ardor) and told her that I loved it so much I will never write again. It’s too good, too perfect, and your opening line was exquisite.  “Jesus, she can do both fiction and non-fiction. I hate her like I hate those toned bitches in the Athleta catalog.”

Joyce talked me off the ledge, and I kept reading.

I think Truth and Beauty is one of my all-time favorite books.  I haven’t read that many books about friendship that gripped me like yours did.  Years ago (the last year I tried to read 50 books in one year (1999)), my 50th book was Lucy Greely’s Autobiography of a Face which I was literally finishing up right as my ride to a New Year’s Eve party was honking for me to come down.  “Wait, I have to finish this book by midnight. I have 2 more pages. I am coming!”  So when I realized that your book was about your friendship with Lucy, I about peed my pants on the red line train (and judging from the smell on the red line, that’s pretty much just what you do on that train).  My memory of Lucy Grealy’s book is that I had wanted to like it more.  I probably wanted more angst and sentimentality, but now, of course, I have to re-read it. I know it’s around here somewhere.

But back to you.  I was really astounded to read how codependent you were with Lucy.  And in the middle of all of those storms, you created beautiful art and that tells me that I don’t have to be perfect to have the privilege of making art. (Does a big-time novelist like you consider blogging art? Not sure if I do. Let me know what you think.)

I loved that you worked at TGI Friday’s. I love that you are southern. I love that when I finally saw your picture on the back flap of State of Wonder I was stunned at how open, friendly and approachable your face looked. You looked like someone I would be friends with.  You didn’t look all weird and artsy or inscrutable or reclusive. (I hereby vow to comment on the appearances of all the males I send fan letters to as well.)  Once a boyfriend called me a “plain Jane,” and many years later I took it as a compliment. It’s sort of what I am getting at here, but more I think that you like my friends look, which makes me feel safe and happy admiring you and your work.

You may never read this, unless you Google yourself and stumble upon Outlaw Mama.  You no doubt have lots of fans, but one more is always nice.


Spring Swinging

I will report that I did clean out my closet and I am walking taller and feeling more refreshed than ever.  The refreshed part could be the 2.25 hour nap I took this afternoon and the walking taller could be my new platform sandals, but let’s not scoff at all the progress I have made.  I am uncharacteristically quiet and contemplative tonight.  Everyone is asleep so I am taking these few moments to stoke a little gratitude fire in my soul. Here’s my gratitude list for today:

My health and the health of my family


A safe and happy home

My friends who lend me fabulous books and their fabulous ears/hearts/homes

Having more to think about than how much I ate (or didn’t eat) today

Living in the First World

Choices– all of ’em, big and small

Chances– all of ’em, big and small (like Scary Mommy choosing MY POST to publish on her site on May 8th!!! — that’s a big one. Take that, NYT!)

For Simon’s super irritating whiny phase wherein he requires me to hold his perfect chubbiness for hours on end

For Sadie’s wild spirit and desires for quicker-than-immediate gratification

That my cell phone runs out of batteries, which forces me to be present

For all the loves of my life, you know who you are and you better be reading and following this blog (because nothing says true love like “no strings attached”)

For these two little people who changed my whole world, may you always share giggles, private glances, and inside jokes– even if they are at my expense.


On Adrienne Rich and Spring Cleaning

 “When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.” Adrienne Rich

I just got the news that poet, Adrienne Rich, passed away Tuesday. I am too tired to work up the appropriate amount of outrage that I checked three news outlets before finding the information about her death.  Does it signal the end of days that the comings and goings of Pauly from Jersey Shore merit a headline when the death of a great American poet doesn’t?

I take it back, I have just enough fumes in my tank left for some outrage about that.

It’s possible I am just worked up because my project to embrace spring cleaning is, thus far, an epic failure.  Failure, like Bear Stearns-sized failure.  I spent actual time and actual energy trying to decide which I hated more: Excel spreadsheets or spring cleaning.  My answer is both.

The problem with spring cleaning is that I feel the inexorable tug to declutter and fling open my windows and rid myself of my detritus so we can launch into a new season lighter and brighter and with only 10 black tee-shirts and not 17, but I can’t seem to execute.  I did clean the condiment shelf in the fridge the other day, which means I moved the ketchup next to the Bar-B-Que sauce, and threw away Jeff’s nasty peanut butter (Peter Pan– gag, right? I married a man who likes Peter Pan peanut butter!) all the name of cleanliness.  But sorting through the linen closet (which is really just a bunch of towels buried under stacks of my clothes) and the guest room closet (which is the satiny wad of my wedding dress and my clandestine purchases from any number of discount retailers) and the upstairs closet (which is home to my former business casual outfits in case anyone ever hires me again)– all that is too much.  I can’t seem to tackle the areas that need it the most.

I believe in the spiritual benefits of cleaning and positioning myself for a fresh start.   I am sure if I would shut down the computer right now and at least put my wool clothes away for the summer I would probably sleep better, have better posture, better sex, and better hair for the next few weeks.  Shouldn’t that propel me to get out a storage box and start packing? If not for the sex, at least for the hair?  And good posture is nothing to sneeze at.

But, I know right now, I am going to finish this post, re-read it a few times, check Facebook and my email and then turn out the lights– only a few feet away from my closet and a spiritual transition, but it might as well be a mile.

And that is the truth.

Rest in peace, Adrienne Rich.

Into The Ether


All day long I kept thinking of this excellent captivating idea for a post that would educate, dazzle and touch every single one of you.  I thought about it during my doctor’s appointment, when I was with the kids at the park, and later still when I was sweeping Simon’s dinner off the floor. It was getting more clever and juicy and valuable as the day wore on.  I remember distinctly watching Sadie go down the slide this evening and thinking “Oh, maybe the title could be ‘Barf Bag Not Included.'”

What does it mean that I have no idea on Earth what I was going to say?  What did it have to do with a barf bag? 

I tried to Google on a stream of consciousness basis (I highly recommend this when you are bored and have Internet access) to see if I could jar the memory out of the sticky resin of my gray matter.


I am not sure how that is even medically possible, but I can’t even remember the theme of what the post was going to be.

But, the good news is that my highly scientific Google search brought me in touch with some valuable information that I think will be useful and edifying for ya’ll.

Did you know that there are three major celebrities that have died on the toilet? Can you guess who they were?


Judy Garland

Lenny Bruce

According to a website published by people who track these sorts of things, it is only confirmed that these three died in the bathroom.  Records are unclear as to whether they were actually on the throne upon their passage to the Great Beyond.

More relevant to Outlaw Mama was her doctor’s opinion that Outlaw Mama is unlikely to die on the toilet any time soon.

So, we all have that going for us.



Porking Out: Pig Demo for Jeff’s Birthday– Done and Done

One thing is for certain: if you sign up for a pig butchering demonstration, you should not wait til the last minute to decide what you are wearing.  Because you will be all relaxed and enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon and suddenly you realize that the babysitter is on her way and you need to get dressed, but have no idea what type of outfit best befits a butchering. 

I decided to go with something I would wear on any night out, regardless of whether or not I was planning on watching someone saw a pig’s hock off. 

That proved to be a problematic decision, at best, because, wait! I don’t go out. I put on my pajamas around 8 p.m. and find Rosie re-runs on my DVR.  I don’t think I can wear Jeff’s Canyon High School t-shirt with my frayed (and see-through Anthropologie pj pants (see-through because I bought them in 2001 and they are fat pants disguised as soft cotton pedal-pushers that I wear almost every night, not see-through because they are sexy)) lounge jammies. 

Once I grasped the idea that I could not wear what passes for lingerie in my house, I surrended to jeans and a white top.  If I was going to get a bovine’s blood on my shirt, I wanted it to be noticeable; I wanted it to make a statement.  “Besmirch by BCBG shirt,” I dared the pig we saw splayed out on the table when we walked into the butcher store. 

I won’t lie. It was intimidating. I could see what I thought was a vital organ hanging from the ribs (kidney, apparently) and the hooves were just laying there all attached and foot-like.  I gave myself permission to excuse myself to go sob in the bathroom if need be, but it turns out that learning about how butchering is done (it’s a craft) was both educational and extremely fascinating.  I didn’t have to go to the bathroom to retch or sob; I was uncomfortable thinking about both our pig’s fate and the fate of thousands of animals who are slaughtered by big agri-business operations all the time.  I could have done without watching the butcher hit an artery full of blood or without the story about how much the pig trusted the farmer who inevitably led our pig to the butcher block for slaughter. 

But beyond that, I think it was important for me to think through the issues and ethics of eating meat, because I will most likely always be a meat eater.  I reserve the right to go all-in as a vegan, but I don’t see that in the near future, given my twice-daily cheese snack and my adoration of all things cream-based.  In the meantime, I love supporting a local business that sees its mission as both supporting local farms and educating the eating public about how food makes the journey from pasture to my cast-iron pan. 

So, if you are in the market for some fun with your partner that has NOTHING to do with being a parent or getting into a pre-school or whose turn it is to do the f*cking dishes, I highly recommend an evening at the Butcher and Larder in Wicker Park .  It’s educational, slightly nauseating and good for the soul– like math class without all the pesky numbers.

Here are some snaps from our time on the butcher block:








Outlaw Mama’s Travel Tip

I was hoping my recent travels would spawn some useful travel tips. It is with great satisfaction and quiet humility that I offer a killer tip:

If, gentle reader, you find yourself on a flight that is scheduled to last longer than 27 minutes, and you see the below passenger on your aircraft, you should deplane as quickly as federal law allows and walk to your destination.

This entry was posted on March 25, 2012. 4 Comments