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how do I love thee?

1 Oct

Let me (briefly) count the ways…


My frowning face entered this world in the month of October. We’ve been lovers since then.


I spend many evenings listening to the symphony of my feet pressing down on an endless sea of crunchy leaves in October. And I don’t feel like I’m hurting them, either. They live to fall, don’t they?


I can count every star in the evening sky in October, owing to that vivid, clear sky that seems inches away from my upturned head.


There’s a weird romantic electricity that roams around the atmosphere in October. It makes you want to grab someone and cuddle while you watch the slow setting of the autumn sun. (This, dear friends, will never happen–I don’t think “because it’s October” will suffice when said random stranger has me arrested for grabbing him and forcing him to cuddle.)


Well said.

sailing, takes me away…

26 Aug

A few shots of our trip to an 18th century sailboat. ‘Twas the kind of lovely day a person could eat.









En Vacances…

24 Aug

My view at present.


Woo hoo!

a friendly reminder…

23 Aug


That face.

Those eyes.

That stare.

That talent.

Kitten Heel Marvel loves Paul Newman. In case you forgot.

come fly with me…

11 Aug


I love vintage, old-timey travel ads. Deliciously nostalgic. Here are a few.


Paris Is Always a Good Idea.

2 Aug

Paris Is Always a Good Idea.

Yes, it always is, Audrey.

tripping the light liptastic.

6 Sep

Funny, how you learn something and it kind of changes everything? A bit vague, yes, so I will happily elaborate (and you know I will).

This past weekend, my Mother and I discussed how there are a few things in life I simply cannot take, accept, or stand. One of those things is teasing. I don’t like to be teased. In any way. Tongue-in-cheek teasing, jokey jokey teasing, whatever–when it happens, my insides shrivel up and I am transported back to the nauseating days of my adolesence, when my peers had no problem choosing something they considered “odd” or “weird” about me and commenced with mercilessly teasing and mocking me about it. (Super sensitive? Why, yes, I am. But I still reserve the right to despise it, thankyouverymuch.) Out of all the humiliating, teasing moments I’ve experienced (and there have been so, so many; trust that I will be penning a book for adolescent/teen girls on how to just plain survive in the near future), Mom and I discussed a singular, significant moment in my past that always stands out. It stands out for various reasons, but following last weekend’s discussion, I look at that moment now from an entirely different and far more powerful perspective.

Picture it: Surburbia, Northern VA, 1989 (I love you, Sophia Petrillo): I was a new sixth-grader at a brand new elementary school; quiet, shy, terrified by my new surroundings. That day, we sat on the nubby, brown-carpeted floor in the chorus room waiting for our chorus teacher. I was sitting against the wall, next to the radiator, facing a group of my classmates. I remember one of them lifting up his finger to point (this culprit, the ringleader, would resurface time and time again in my young life) at me, after which he started chanting, “Fish lips, fish lips, look at her fish lips.” A gaggle of other kids followed suit, pointing, chanting, and laughing. I remember wondering–I suppose this was the first manifestation of my whole delayed reaction thing–who they were pointing, chanting, and laughing at. I looked around me. I even laughed a little. Then I noticed that the few kids who weren’t pointing, chanting, and laughing were looking at me with strange, sad faces. The others who couldn’t look just stared down at the ground. It became clear: I was the target of the pointing, chanting, and laughing. I blinked in surprise…in confusion…in embarassment…in pain. My stomach dropped. I remember feeling dizzy. Why were they doing this to me? It kept going until our chorus teacher entered the room, when everything became conveniently quiet and still again. How did I react later, you wonder? Did I cry? Hold a grudge against the mongrels? Tell my little sister (who would have figured out a way to pound each of their faces in), my parents? None of the above. I did nothing. After the shock and pain wore off, I stopped thinking about it. I even became friends with two of the girls that had been part of the mocking crew, both of whom later subjected me to daily doses of peer pressure and further humiliation. Maybe it’s the wiring of a child’s mind, to forget and forgive so easily. I digress. Recall my statement about delayed reaction? Well, I did react eventually…for the next several years:

  • I started to cover my mouth when I smiled or laughed.
  • I hated seeing my lips in photos.
  • I would look in the mirror and stare at my lips in disdain.
  • I became so sensitive about my lips that when someone would look in my direction, I wondered if they were gawking at them.

A subconscious, toxic imprint was created in me that day, a fact I didn’t realize until later. Nevertheless, this really isn’t about the damage that day did and my long journey in finally accepting these lips and by extension, this face, and even larger, who I am as a person. What I now find incredible about that terrible day goes back to last weekend, during the aforementioned discussion with my Mom. Last weekend was when I learned something I never knew before: Mom revealed that my late father was so teased about his lips that he grew a moustache to take the attention off them.

I was shocked. How could anyone tease my father, who was arguably the most handsome man I knew? And yes, I’m biased, but I happen to know that plenty of people share this opinion, ok? My Pops was a looker.

Even more incredulous: my Dad and I had shared the same struggle in trying to hide something that had no business being hidden.

But here comes the new perspective I mentioned earlier. Drumroll, please: finding out what my Dad went through with his self-image reminds me of how alike we really were. Good or bad, I love this. I love it times 100. Because knowing what he went through makes me identify with him even more, understand him even more, and appreciate the memory of him even more and more. Not only that, the revelation about my father strips away the power from the kids that chose to–for whatever psychological reason–target me. When I think about that day or speak of it now, I’ll only remember that my beloved dad went through it and he got throught it. Just like I did. You’re just like your father (heard it my whole life) has never meant more to me.

So these luscious lips of mine? They’re beautiful, plump, pronounced, and so liptastic. I stopped being ashamed of them a long time ago. And why not? I got them from my father.

conversational snowflakes, and other such topics.

24 Jan

“Conversational snowflakes,” courtesy of a good friend of mine. I love it. Anywho, it was an interesting weekend all around, with plenty of topics for conversation.











Yes, it did snow, and there was plenty to say about it. It wasn’t the “just flurries” jive turkey that the weather quacks predicted. Certainly, it wasn’t the Snowmageddon situation that happened in these parts some years ago, but there was accumulation. Enough to keep me in my pajamas for the entirety of Saturday. And since I judge the seriousness of weather based on my having to wear sleepwear during the day, yes, it was something. Really, though? I feel that all of us on the mid-Atlantic and the East Coast (myself included) should stop being shocked at wintry weather. We are in the middle of winter, after all. Why do we open our mouths in surprise? Who do we shake our fists at the gray, snow-producing skies? Come, precipitation! We await you. Oh, and can I just say that pajamas all day are the best ever? The absolute best ever.









This will be a generalization. Sorry. Men? Are the above. I won’t go into much detail right now. Just trust and believe that they are, and the truth of that generalized statement was more than underscored for me this past weekend. What about the good ones out there, Kitten Heel Marvel? someone may ask. There ARE good ones! Perhaps. I don’t know any, though. No, no, I do, but they don’t count toward this argument. And I’m sticking to this argument like glue. Once I unclench my fists, perhaps I may let up. Until then? Ignore the obese cuteness of that creature and reflect on what I’m saying. 












A haiku for my favorite sleepwear:

warm and flannel pajamas

on a winter’s day

i promise to keep you close.














It really does make a difference, to have an assembly of friends and people who do the above for you. I’m fortunate and thankful to have such people in my life. I reunited with two of them this past weekend. They are a husband-and-wife team of inspiration and goodness. Just lovely. There are a few changes afoot in my life right now (all good, more info later), and to have those two people in my corner, cheerleading me on: what an inestimable treat.

So despite the snow and resulting ice, despite the presence of pigs, the weekend was filled with fuzzy pajamas and a personal, emotional boost for me.

How was your weekend?*

*I recognize that it’s Tuesday, and the past weekend may have retreated back in the hazy corner of memory, but try to remember? Please and thank you?

why i love him so.

1 Aug

I have an enduring memory: I am driving in the car with my Dad. We are en route to his chemotherapy appointment and are listening to the radio. “Fire and Rain” comes on, to which my Dad exclaims, “that’s my man! James Taylor.” I regard my father with a huge smile on my face and tell him that, yes, he’s my man, too, that I also love James Taylor. I tell him it must be genetic, to which he laughs and agrees. We listen to the song in appreciative silence, after which I promise to make my father a CD of JT’s greatest hits.

For several reasons, the memory is quite fresh in my mind. Why? I’m in a JT mood and am presently listening to some of my favorite songs by him. Second, it is one of many moments I enjoyed with my beloved father before we lost him to cancer. Lastly, it’s a sweet reminder of how both my parents shaped my love of music.

Another enduring memory: my mother surprises me one evening with tickets to see James in concert. I proceed to run around our house, screaming at the top of my lungs, before throwing myself onto the couch in contented glee. While my mother and siblings laugh about my reaction, I hold up the tickets in the light and gaze at them in wonder. I was going to see James Taylor! (It was a wonderful show, by the way, absolutely grand. A year later, I was back in the same pavillion for the second time, watching JT with wide, teary eyes and going hoarse from my insistence on very loudly joining him on every song. Amazing. Amazing.)

What about this memory? Turning to VH1 one evening and finding that they were broadcasting one of James’ early concerts. And falling in love. With that face below. Yeah. (It didn’t help that at the time, I had a crush on a silly college boy who looked just like a young James Taylor. It was all I could do to keep from collapsing every time I saw him on campus. Anyway.)

Another one: sitting on my sister’s bed (her bed was so neat and clean, and mine…well, mine was going through a disorganized chaos period. Like Picasso and his blue period. It was art, you see, never making my bed and piling mountains and mountains of clothes on there. Oh, my artistic past), listening to *this song on my cd player (so archaic, I know), and weeping like a little child. I couldn’t stop crying. The song was moving me in places I couldn’t really understand and evoking feelings that simply boggled my mind. I was identifying with the song, but wasn’t sure how or why. (I do now, though. That’s for another post.) The only way to respond to that kind of stunned feeling was through streams and streams of tears. And that’s what I did. Cried and pressed repeat.

Memory #676: making my way through a crowd of millions, it seemed, to see James perform at an Earth Day rally in Washington DC. I was about 20 years old. And I squealed when he came on stage.

This one: watching James and one of my other big favorites, Carole King, perform “You’ve Got a Friend” at a televised reunion concert at the Troubador last year. Yeah, I cried. It was gorgeous and emotional.

Ooh, these memories: moments when I would recognize that the lovely, melodious voice in the background of some of my treasured JT songs, like “Shower the People” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” belonged to Carly Simon, one of my other favorite favorites (I have a lot). It made me giddy because they were married at one time and that fact inexplicably thrilled me. Why? Couples working together? Hearing my two favorites blend their voices in sweet harmony? Who knows? I loved it all the same.

Speaking of “How Sweet It is…”, another terrific memory: playing the song repeatedly for my little brother and hearing his infectious, toddler-y giggle when James says, in the middle of the song, “it’s like jelly, baby.” Oh my goodness, it was so cute. That kid.

Memory #5,112: Still in love with that face to the left. Never gets old.

This one: when autumn comes, I think of James Taylor. Likely and largely due again to *”Walking Man,” which has lyrics that bring everything I love about autumn (the air, the leaves, the orange) to the fore. In addition, songs like “September Grass” and “October Road” pretty much solidify it for me. Autumn, James Taylor, one and the same.

It’s amazing, to have loved an artist your whole life. Since I was a kid—sitting in my uncle’s car, whizzing about New York City and hearing “Handy Man” on the radio and being instantly hypnotized—to now, when I get daily, online updates about JT. I need to keep track!

One day, I’d like to meet James Taylor. After security warns me to stop hugging him, I’d like to tell JT about that afternoon in the car with my father, when hearing him exclaim, “that’s my man!” filled me with so much happiness that I almost let go of the wheel to hug my Daddy. I’d like to tell him that whenever I hear him sing now, I always think of my father. Then JT will sing, I’ll cry, and I will make yet another memory. Until then, I’ll press repeat.

*Lyrics for “Walking Man”:

Moving in silent desperation
Keeping an eye on the holy land
A hypothetical destination
Say, who is this walking man?

Well, the leaves have come to turning
And the goose has gone to fly
And bridges are for buning
So don’t you let that yearning
Pass you by
Walking man, walking man walks
Well, any other man stops and talks
But the walking man walks

Well the frost is on the pumpkin
And the hay is in the barn
An pappy’s come to rambling on
Stumbling around drunk
Down on the farm

And the walking man walks
Doesn’t know nothing at all
Any other man stops and talks…

the book that did it.

17 Jun

I’ve been given a task by my fellow blogger, Nika Yuedan, to write about a book that had a major impact in my life. (Thanks, Nika! What a great idea.)

At first, I had to think it through. I’ve read an inordinate amount of books, all of which have accomplished something for me—either personally, as a writer, or both. Which one stood out? Which one knocked me over? Which one bypassed the boundaries of paper and page to enter my heart and significantly touch my life?

This one.

I don’t even remember how old I was when I read this book. 10, 11, 12. I just remember feeling kind of stunned, because the story of Margaret and her growing pains resembled the same things I was going through at the time. I remember reading the book so quickly that I couldn’t believe it was over when I completed it. I remember sitting in the couch in our basement, my eyes swallowing words that were affecting me in a way a book never had before. It wasn’t a Greek myth or a children’s book. It was Margaret wondering about faith, boys, growing up girl, her family.

It was me, rendered in book form.

Years later, there was some kind of event in USA Today, where you could send Judy Blume a question. I quickly sent my message to her: no question, just sincere appreciation for the book that changed my little life. She replied. She replied! I have no idea where that email is now, I don’t recall what she said—but I remember jumping around the house, nearly in tears, because the author who penned that amazing, thought-provoking book sent me a message. It was out of this world.

Out this world, a bit like the book that pretty much changed everything.



Sincerely, Taj

Dear World, I have stuff to say, so get cozy. Here, I've got cupcakes.

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