When yes requires no

abnegationlogoYeah, I don’t think I’m ready to join the Abnegation faction quite yet.

When I was growing up, my parents raised four kids on a truck driver’s salary. It’s sort of a marvel to me how much we did:

  • Musical instruments and/or lessons: Mark: clarinet; Tina: drums;  Tammy: French horn; me: piano.
  • Sports activities and equipment, as desired/required: Powderpuff football for the girls; soccer and tennis lessons for me.
  • Braces and headgear for three out of the four of us. (Curse Mark and his good teeth, which required only a retainer!)
  • New clothes for school every year.
  • Cars for every teen of driving age.

We had food in the refrigerator, presents on holidays and our own allowances, all in a house that was big enough for us to have our own bedrooms.

“How did you do that?” I asked my mom once, having realized that they managed all of this on less than I make right now.*

* Mitigating factor: CPI inflation. What my dad made in 1980 would translate to nearly three times that amount in 2014, so comparing his salary then to my salary now is deceptive.

“Well, we didn’t do anything,” she replied. And it made total sense.

Continue reading

Solitary confinement

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 8.48.02 PM20th Century Fox

When we were growing up, the worst punishment my parents could think of for one of my sisters was to make her go to her room and close the door. She’d last five, maybe 10 minutes before they’d see the door stealthily drift open a hair’s width. To her, kiddie solitary confinement was pure torture; my other sister wasn’t a fan of it, either.

Even I managed to eventually do something that warranted punitive action—I know, unimaginable, right?—so Mom did what had worked so well in the past: marched a kid to his bedroom, closed the door, and …

“FOUR HOURS LATER, I finally came to see what you were doing,” she recalls. “I opened the door, and there you were just sitting there reading, happy as a clam. I don’t even think you remembered that you had been in trouble.”

I never outgrew that. A few weekends ago, I spoke to a total of five people. Two of them were baristas, one was the guy who runs my favorite Thai food place, and another was the woman who took my breakfast order at Phoenix Public Market. So my sole conversations were with Mr. Brooks, and they clocked in at about 15 minutes.

It was delightful.

Continue reading

(Law) Suit and (Tongue) Tied

A few reasons that I might not give an assignment to a potential freelance writer:

  1. Pre-emptively announcing that you will be submitting articles not electronically but via typewritten pages.
  2. When I reply that we wouldn’t accept them in that format, calling me “persnickety” and saying something like, “If it’s only 200 words, how long would it take someone there to punch it in to the computer?”
  3. Asking what sort of fields my company specializes in.
  4. When I suggest that you can find such information on our website, asking me for my company’s web address.
  5. Oh, and this is a big one: SUING ME TO GET AN ASSIGNMENT.

Continue reading


“Toes Shouldn’t Have Bangs”

“Toes shouldn’t have bangs.”

— Jen Ortiz, who wrote my favorite sentence in the latest issue of GQ magazine in a short piece about how fellas need to groom their feet during sandals season. (So use grooming scissors or clippers to trim back your toe hair.)

shirt070614 shorts070614 shoes070614
The shirt: Cotton V-neck T-shirt by Mossimo, from Target.
The shorts: Camo-print multi-use shorts, also by Mossimo, also from Target.
The shoes: All-Star sneakers by Converse, from PacSun.


What Sam Wrote: “A Survival Guide to Healthy Travel”



Part of this article, which just appeared in Arrive magazine, was inspired by a spill I took over holiday break in Hawaii. I ended up with a sprained foot, on Christmas Eve, in an area OwOwOwwhere more flip-flop shops remain open on holidays than medical facilities do. The rest of my trip was spent pretty much supine, or hobbling around on crutches, which limited the number of beaches I could enjoy.

Continue reading

What Sam Wrote: “Berries on the Brain”


I still haven’t tried anything açai. Maybe I’ll try to track down some frozen pulp at Whole Foods or Sprouts during today’s errands run, because like most fruits, apparently it’s way better for you in relatively whole form, instead of juice.

(Fret not, juicers: You’re still ahead of people who aren’t consuming any fruits or vegetables, but condensing the contents to a liquid appears to leave much of the nutritive benefits behind.)

Continue reading

I could get used to working at home …

During this week’s business trip to New York, I worked from my hotel room when I wasn’t in client meetings, rather than playing another round of Occupy Open Cubicle in my company’s midtown office.

I am the sort of person who usually does best when immersed in an office environment. Being at a desk, at an office computer, reinforces the “now it’s time to get work done” mentality. It’s not unusual for me to look up at 1 p.m. and suddenly realize that I haven’t left my desk for four straight hours because I’ve been waist-deep in projects.

At home, though … well, let’s put it this way. Between typing the previous paragraph and this one, I got up and:

  • Took a load of laundry out of the washer, took some things outside to line-dry and put the rest in the dryer.
  • Logged on to Dollar Shave Club to add another handle to next month’s order, because the “improved” one they sent in May broke while I was in New York. (I do like that service, because I can opt for bimonthly delivery, instead of monthly.)
  • Watched people pull up to tour the recently reduced yet still incredibly overpriced house across the street, which has been for sale for like a year, and chortled.
  • Started making a list of things I need to get at the grocery store.
  • Sorted mail.

Continue reading