Monthly Archives: October 2015

Treasure Hunt

For book lovers in the Fox Cities: Don’t forget this weekend is the AAUW book sale at the Northland Mall. The Appleton branch of the American Association of University Women holds this sale annually to raise scholarship money for girls.

Good cause, and hey, books.

It was at one of these sales that I found an old geographical dictionary that inspired my story, “Geography Lesson,” which won the Wisconsin People and Ideas Fiction Contest this year. I’ll be reading an excerpt from my story at the Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison on Friday.

During the festival the Friends of the Madison Public Library also will be hosting a book sale, billed as the state’s largest. Road trip!

Book sale in Eureka Springs, Ark.

Passport stamps

I invited my mother to Mexico and we went together. We breathed the salty air under navy blue clouds on a beautiful red-flagged beach, bracketed by hurricanes.

Mexico 13 188She had stayed with me in the hospital for two nights while I recovered from surgery. “The last time we stayed together in the hospital was when you were born,” she said. Now we walked on the beach and waded into the ocean in between storms, and when we weren’t on the beach we filled our plates with tasty food and listened to the waves.

We breathed some more.

We visited Chichen Itza on the day of the fall equinox — one of two days when the shadow of a snake appears on the side of the pyramid and connects with an ancient carved snake head at the base. We saw the shadow start before it clouded over and rained.

That was in 2013. The Mexico trip acted as a sort of springboard. My friend and I kept our plans and went to Key West in January 2014. Then some classmates of mine started a writing retreat in Italy and I went in September. By that time I was completely restless, wanting to move back to the west coast where winters wouldn’t keep me shut inside — I wanted to be outside more, to get more exercise, to get more Vitamin D. But I also liked being near family in the Midwest. And I needed to keep working, and I wanted to keep traveling.

What to do.

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Sometimes the Universe Throws a Bone

Maybe I was putting out some serious travel vibes to the universe. Maybe it was a some kind of karmic consolation prize. But just a couple of weeks after my second surgery in 2013, I won a trip to Mexico.


It was at one of those business expo things. The organizers had set up a fun little way to get people to talk to the exhibitors — a “passport” that you’d carry around and get stamped at each exhibit. Get twenty stamps and you could enter the passport into a drawing for a three-night trip for two to Mexico.

I was determined to win that trip. That was my trip.

Ha, ha, a coworker said. It’s my trip.

He was wrong. I was right. And I didn’t even have to be present to win. I left for a doctor’s appointment and later that day noticed a bunch of voicemails and tweets.

Yay! How cool was that? My real passport was about to get stamped, for the first time in more than a decade.

And now, instead of questions like, “How long do I need to keep these drains in?” and “Why is my skin graft turning black?” the big question was “Who wants to come with me to the beach and sip umbrella drinks?”