My former (and true) very weird job

Sometimes you just have to balance out the difficulties of being a grown up human being with a look at the absurdity of it all. Here’s a story I told recently at the West Chester Story Slam for the evening titled “It’s My Job.” Mine is about the time I worked as a research monitor for herpes studies. Watch out, it’s gets a little saucy in spots. See more of my stories on the video tab above.


Too bad I’ll be published in the New York Times soon


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One of these days shortly I’ll be showing up in the New York Times in a story about bank scams. Yes, I made some mistakes and landed at the local branch of my bank looking for help getting my account resecured. It was my son’s money that was taken and when he tweeted about it, a New York Times reporter, Stacy Cowley, who likes to write about Wells Fargo, contacted us and did an interview. Should show up in the financial section soon.

Turns out I’m on the cutting edge of scams relating to the latest banking feature, Zelle. It’s supposed to make it easy to move money out of your account, a bit like venmo or paypal, and I can tell you for sure, it was easy.

After failing to log into my bank account one day because I kept putting in the wrong password I got an email indicating the online access had been shut down due to too many false tries. If you want to reinstate your account click here and log in again, it said. I did that and thought nothing of it since I obviously was the one who had tried the multiple erroneous passwords. In my defense, I was trying to talk and enter my super-secure-confusing-and-difficult-to-remember password at the same time.

This alone was not enough to get me in trouble since there is a two step process to sending money through Zelle. The next day I got seven calls (!) from the same 800 number, all of which I ignored. It continued to the point, though, that we felt compelled to do a google search. That indicated it was my bank’s fraud detection unit so I answered. A wire transfer was supposedly in progress and we could intercept it by blah blah blah. I was texted, from the fraudster via my account and the Zelle function, a code number which I gave them. That was the second mistake. Then he siphoned off dollars as we spoke, but promised to reinstate my account with new credentials he’d fedex in 24 hours.

As soon as I hung up, a gentleman from the bank’s real fraud detection center called, but there was no way to recognize him as real. He was not as friendly, or as easy to talk to as the kindly fellow who had just bilked me, mostly because he wouldn’t even give me his name or the reason for his call, except to say he thought my account was under attack. Same as the first guy. He gave me some unlikely information that sounded suspect about how to be in touch with the fraud detection unit (call between 4:30am and 6:00pm Pacific Standard Time even though we live in the east and I was already on the phone with them right?, for instance), but he did urge me to go into the bank right away. It was unclear whether either of these calls was legit or not. Even the banker was confused once we explained it to her.

Three hours later and after speaking to a Wells Fargo representative at the fraud detection unit I could barely understand due to his accent, and who would not discuss certain elements with me because they had to do with my son’s account (which I have full access to), and after mistakes he made were corrected, we felt secure again. The bad guys sure were easier to deal with, though!

In the end, the bank returned our money in just days.

I want to be in the New York Times but I was thinking it would be for a book review or some other literary accomplishment some day. For now, I am going to bask in the glory of this tangential event and the happy ending Wells Fargo was able to secure.

A win at the Philadelphia Writers Conference!

I found a suspicious envelope in my mailbox Friday that threatened to be exceedingly convincing junk mail. It looked eerily authentic as something personal, but I’ve gotten this stuff before and I was not expecting much.

When I opened it, here’s what I found!

I attended the Philadelphia Writers Conference in June but left before the awards ceremony. Ah well! Foolish me.

Regrettfully, I missed the chance to hear my name called, hear a smattering of applause, hear anything they might have said about my writing, and missed the joy I might have felt for the past few weeks knowing I’d won a prize.

Happily though, it is here now!


LOST – Another win at the West Chester Story Slam!

“So even though it doesn’t sound likely, you can be lost and alone and not even know it”. That’s how I started my story Tuesday night when I stepped back up to the microphone at the West Chester Story Slam. The topic, LOST, was perfect for me, because I recounted growing up on an isolated estate just outside of NYC where it seemed no one was ever home, and I ended up arriving at adulthood unaware of just how lost I was.

As I told the crowd gathered at the Side Bar Restaurant, I love telling stories about my life because it helps me connect with people. Despite my unique circumstances, listeners relate to the depiction of isolation and insular thinking that was the hallmark of my childhood. I know because some stepped up to me afterwards to say they appreciated hearing my story. As they did I thought to myself wait, didn’t you hear me….I grew up surrounded by thousands of acres of trees. How can you relate to this?? But that’s what I’m talking about, sharing my stories has the power to connect me with people even though on the surface you might not think we had much in common.

Thanks to everyone there Tuesday night, but especially to Diane Yannick with whom I tied for first place. Because of this win we are both now slated to tell stories at the Grand Slam on November 1!

Thank you to my first beta reader!


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A few weeks ago I met with a woman I did not know, my first beta-reader for my manuscript of You’ll Get Over It, Jane Ellen, specifically to get her reaction. She, of course, knew all about my life and had opinions on it, and that was a shock. It was a surreal experience. Because I grew up in isolation one of my childhood dreams had been to have a witness, someone there to see it all unfold, so I wouldn’t have to live it alone. I used to tell the stories of my life to the trees, to the air, to no one, pretending there was someone there, and practicing in case someday someone would be there. Now that I have done that, told the stories to that nebulous someone out there, it feels pretty crazy.

She called the book “compelling” and “honest”. I was aiming for that! She said that the characters were living in her head even when she wasn’t reading the book. She even put in writing on my feedback questionnaire this: “It was also a powerful reminder of the importance of staying in touch with one’s feelings. From the standpoint of a writer, it was a strong example of powerful writing techniques.” When I asked what the theme was she wrote, “Finding one’s own voice, self, and sense of purpose in spite of great family challenges.”

She is a co-director at the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project whom I’d met at a writing workshop two years ago where I got her name and email address. So glad I dared to contact her recently asking if she’d be up for reading my story. I could not have asked for a better first beta-reader experience. Many thanks, Janice.

My winning story published! Yay!

The text of my winning story from the West Chester Story Slam, told in January 2014, was recently published in this anthology of stories. This is when I stood at a microphone in front of a live audience at Ryan’s Pub and told the silly account of how I explained to my son how babies are made after it became evident he wasn’t clear on some of the facts.

Some say it’s about how sex education differs by generations, but I say it’s about showing respect to your kids even when you must embarrass yourself. It’s about sacrificing for kids because you’re a parent. Either way, I am quite happy it was selected to appear in this anthology.

Here’s a link to the video of me telling the story.

WC Story Slam book cover

Reading at Chester County Book Company



I always jump at the chance to read my work aloud. I just love doing that because I find it fascinating to see what people think of it. I also get to hear how it sounds out loud, for real. It’s one thing to read aloud in your dining room and quite another to do so in public with everyone looking right at you. This was a successful reading and folks came up to me afterwards to talk about the story I read, “Lots and Lots of Love and Kisses” an excerpt from my memoir.
Here are a few photos of me at the podium that night, May 18, 2015.

Reading with kids is a joy


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Today I started volunteering at a local elementary school, reading for thirty minutes separately with two second graders. I’ll be going every week throughout the school year to be their personal cheerleader in reading.

We had a lot of fun because discovering the story together, was a delight. Even though I know the story already, and even though I read it twice in one hour, it was a special experience each time. Each of the kids saw different parts of the story as significant and each was excited by different parts.

The little girl I read with was ridiculously cute, asking me when I would be coming back. She was clearly keeping tabs on me, calling out as she left, “See you next Thursday!”

Why saying ‘thank you’ matters so much


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I cannot say enough good about thanks.

At the bus stop today, which I visit regularly to stay in touch with my youngest neighbors, I showed the kids how to get my dog to do tricks in exchange for treats. One little girl was so charmed as my dog dutifully came to her on command, that she said to me quite directly, “You come back tomorrow and we’ll do this again.” Once the older kids were on the bus and she was headed back home her mom insisted she and her very young brother say thank you to me. She didn’t let them off the hook when it seemed a little difficult. They both knew, they’d been down this road before with mom, and they said their thanks. I thanked them in return for being great friends to me and my dog.

The parents of my piano students do the same. After every lesson they instruct their children to say thank you to me. I in turn thank them for working hard and for being great students. Kids don’t always want to do this. When my kids were little we called it a ‘proper thank you’ and it required that you look directly into the eyes of the person you were addressing. It matters to me that we acknowledge one another.

Friends of our stopped by last night to say thanks for a favor we’d done them. They stayed and chatted and let us know what it all meant to them. We shared in the joy of having a connection. We said thanks back for being great guests and for acknowledging our favor.

The reason I bring all this up is because saying thanks is part of how we get to know ourselves. It is a significant means by which children learn who they are. My MANTRA! Helping kids know who they are! It is important to me because it is the reason kids ever leave home and get jobs. They are itching to go and be who they are and live the life of a grown-up after all those years of being a kid and just thinking about it.

Saying thank you is a way to become aware of what they like. They are grateful and they say it out loud. Parents help kids know this about themselves. Know what they like. Consciously. Out loud. And this in turn helps them get to know who they are. And then they often hear back why the other person is grateful for THEM. Bonus that kids then learn even more about themselves. Teaching children to be grateful, to show gratitude, to not take the world, even neighbors and piano teachers, for granted, is a gift to your child because it is a doorway to helping them learn who they are. If they know who they are they have a chance of figuring out what to study in high school, in college, and then into the work world. Knowing who they are helps them direct themselves in life.

There are a whole bunch of other benefits to saying thank you, like bringing a positive spirit to those you interact with, like character building which is shown to be a key to doing well in school, like inspiring others to be conscious of themselves, like teaching children how to treat their parents once they themselves have become teenagers and then adults, and on and on. And there are, of course, many additional ways to learn who you are. But saying thank you is a cultural norm that I love to see young parents teaching their children. It is good for children, it is good for parents, and it is good for us all.