Monday, March 31, 2008

Things I learned on my Spring Vacation

What an amazing trip! I'm home from Chicago, a bit foggy and overtired, but in that happy, post-adventure sort of way that is always worth it.

I was at a conference of women from Vineyard churches all over the country. My friend Grace was one of the keynote speakers, and the theme of the conference was this idea from the Bible that we all have a race to run in our lives--something we're specifically designed to go for, to work towards, and to accomplish. Admittedly, there are all sorts of distractions and discouraging events that tempt us to stop, or turn around, or give up completely, essentially derailing our entire lives. Each of the speakers offered their thoughts on what it looks like to get past these distractions and keep running. None of them wasted our time with pithy slogans or empty pep talks (you know, the stuff that sounds so great when you first hear it, but then leaves you just as lost as before when you get home and think about it for more than 5 minutes?) Instead, these women shared real stories about walls they've run into (walls we're likely to face ourselves) and how they found their way around/over/through them and kept going. It was great.

Perhaps my favorite story came from a woman in her late 60s, describing in total candor some of the steps she and her husband have taken in the past few years to keep their marriage vibrant, fun, meaningful, and sexy. I mean, talk about inspiration!?! Who wouldn't want a marriage like that, one where the "happily ever after" part is still right at the center, through all the stages of life? Sign me up!

On a personal note, I also learned that microwaving a chicken pot pie for dinner in your hotel room is a bad, bad plan...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Q...but not much A

Deep questions I'm pondering, here in Chicago:

1. At the airport, while eating a portabello mushroom wrap for lunch:
What food group is a mushroom? Is it a protein? It's not a carb, right?
I still have no answer for this. I mean, mushrooms are rather bizarre--they fall somewhere beyond the animal/vegetable/mineral continuum... Into that dark land where I can almost hear God saying, "I called it a FUNGUS...what more do I have to do to convince you not to eat it???" Still though, it was yummy.

2. Last night, on the way to the conference:
Seriously...a BLIZZARD???
You know those camera shots they use on the Weather Channel featuring harried Midwesterners clutching their parkas and fighting unimaginable squalls of wind and snow to get to their destination? Apparently, they fly folks in from Boston to film those things. (I suspect it's a secret effort to get us to stop complaining about how cold it is in New England. Probably won't work).

3. This morning, at 6:00am Boston time:
I can sleep for an extra hour here???
I love Midwestern time!

Happy Weekend :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BSP=Blatant Steph Promotion

I'm going to Chicago today!

As you longtime readers know, I have a bit of a love connection with the Midwest. I'm fascinated by the inhabitants of this region--somehow, they manage to exhibit the warm friendliness of the South in the midst of winter weather that's far worse than here New England...If that isn't a sign of miracles, I don't know what is.

I'll be attending a women's conference where my friend Grace will be one of the keynote speakers. And I just found out that I'll be back in Chicago in June, as one of the featured authors at the Printers Row Book Fair. By July, I'll be so friendly that I'll need a whole other blog to contain it :)

In honor of my upcoming Midwestern adventures, I'd like to do a little bragging about one of my writing friends who hales from that region. Some of you know her as Steph, soon-to-be published author, awesome champion of fellow writers, and the glue person for our online writing network. Others know her as Manic Mommy, blogger extraordinaire. What you might not know is that she now has her own featured segment on the fabulous website, Betty Confidential, where she fields questions about all kinds of things with her usual combination of wisdom and wit. I'd put your beverage down before clicking over :)

I'm off to the windy city!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One confession leads to another

Hi. My name is Trish, and I'm a salt-a-holic. It's been four days since the last time I salted my entire dinner plate (including the parts between the food, in case I needed extra for dipping) when I thought no one was looking.

People have told me for YEARS that this was not a long-term strategy for health and well being; I brushed them off with pithy rejoinders about how salt is a preservative and therefore the secret to maintaining my youthful glow. (And just for the record, I'm not conceding this point, not one bit).

The thing is though, I read a book this weekend that scared the salt right out of my shaker, so to speak. It wasn't one of the usual harrowing tales of high-blood pressure or clogged arteries that harass me every month from the pages of my women's magazines, nor was it a stern talking-to by a member of the medical profession. It was a memoir called Confessions of a Carb Queen by a former body builder whose food addiction (which was, by and large, determined to be a salt addiction) left her topping off the scales at 468 pounds before she finally sought help.

I mean-yikes! If that doesn't get your attention, what will?

Here's what shocked me: when she asked for help finding her way back out of her 468 pound cage, guess what they removed from her diet? Not fat. Not carbs. But salt. She described the crazy cycle of how salt leaves you insatiable, craving more and more. I thought of all the nights I've shoveled giant bowls of pasta into my mouth, my stomach begging for mercy while my taste buds demanded, "We need MORE!" And how often I sneak extra salt when I'm out to dinner, hoping no one will notice that I've reapplied four, five, or even six times. Then I laughed, thinking of a friend of my parents' who tells people he's on a "low-sodium diet" because he no longer adds extra salt to his bag of potato chips. That sounds like something I'd say.

I threw away our salt shaker Saturday night. And the garlic salt, and the soy sauce. I think we have some meat tenderizer lurking on a shelf somewhere, but as soon as I can hunt it down, that's gone, too. It's not that I really think I'll end up in the 400 lb. range; the author of this book had other food issues that--thank God--I don't share. My fear is less extreme: that I'll reach that point so many women do, where I've gained so much weight that I no longer feel like myself, and can't figure out how to get back to where I'm supposed to be. I don't want to drape clothes over my body just to be covered. I don't want to shop only in the handbags and shoes sections because I'm afraid to know my dress size. I want to be me for the long term, and if breaking my salt habit will help me avoid being Trish in a Tent, I guess that's the price I have to pay.

But still...if I used salt as an exfoliant, I might still benefit from its beauty-preserving powers, right??? Bring on the Cheez-It skin scrub!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I had drinks last night with two friends from college. I'll call them Top of the Corporate Ladder Girl and Saving the World Girl. We're recently reunited here on the East Coast, and it's a beautiful thing.

On the way home, I was thinking about how the three of us are living proof that all the things they tell you are so important in college--focus, direction, a serious and disciplined approach to THE FUTURE--don't really matter at all.

Here's what I mean: take Top of the Corporate Ladder Girl. She didn't exactly spend her college days attending Future Business Leaders of America meetings. By her own admission, it was a bit of a struggle simply to remember to wake up in the morning in time for English Class. Part of what made her such a great friend in college was that she somehow remained utterly unfazed by all the pressure, and knew how to celebrate the little stuff that happened almost every day. And now, she's hugely successful in her field, so much so that she has a full arsenal of skills for hiring and firing not just people, but entire branches of her company. If I had any skills whatsoever (aside from bumbling into situations that make for interesting blog posts and memoirs...) I'd be begging her for a job, because I bet she's fabulous to work for.

And Saving the World Girl: she's a mover and shaker at the highest levels of corporate giving. She has her finger on the pulse of the Boston Philanthropy Scene (who even knew there was such a scene?), and has miraculously parlayed her left-wing, hippie upbringing into a job where she gets to travel the world AND legitimately make it better. She's like Robin Hood, only everything she does is legal. I'm telling you, the girl's a genius, even if she left our graduation with no idea where she'd go next.

Then there's me. I knew from second semester freshman year that I was going to be AN ATTORNEY (not a lawyer, but an attorney...sounds more important, right?) Yeah. Three years of law school and three years of practice, I realized that I HATED billing my days in six-minute increments more than I hated algebra (which is a serious level of hate, trust me). So I quit, went back waitressing, back to grad school, and back to dating guys who obviously weren't Mr. Right, just to have some semblance of a Mr. Right get the picture. Not exactly the stuff colleges brag about when sharing their alumni news.

And yet now we're all doing great, and discovering that we still have a fun bond that makes girls' nights well worth planning, despite our crazy schedules. That counts for something, right? It makes me wonder if, for all the things the world tells us we MUST do to succeed, it might be worth considering the possibility that we don't have to do them at all?

In salute to this realization, I'm crossing "Organize closets" and "buy scented candles" off of my to-do list, and trusting that somehow, my life will still turn out okay.

(I expect to hear from my alumni director any minute now, begging me to pretend I went to a different school :) )

Monday, March 24, 2008

Special Delivery

Our doorbell has never worked properly. We're not sure why, or what it would take to solve the problem, and it's never been particularly high on our list of situations we're eager to explore. Especially now that I work from home, I'm okay with missing the myriad opportunities that present themselves each day for me to dash down three flights of stairs with THAT DOG in close pursuit, to find only a teen selling overpriced candy bars/a Jehovah's witness selling a time share in some alternative universe/or the UPS man wanting to know if I'll accept delivery of the latest twenty-seven pound "Hams from Across the World" package for my neighbor so it won't be sitting out on her porch in the sun all day. When friends come by the house, they call to let us know they're downstairs. It's a system where everyone wins.

So you can IMAGINE my surprise when--at approximately 10:27 last Thursday morning--the sound of a doorbell rang throughout our condo. THAT DOG shot straight up in the air like she'd been set on fire, then bounced from wall to wall, looking at me frantically as if to say, "FINALLY! My people are here to adore me! Let them in! Let them in!"

I guess I'm a bit more jaded than THAT DOG, because I couldn't think of a single person who would stop by at 10:27 on a Thursday morning to adore either of us. So glanced surreptitiously out the front window to see who might be lurking below...and what superpowers he/she/it had that had caused this ringing sound.

Our street was clear, except for the Fed Ex truck parked in front of a house that sits kitty-corner across the street. That's when I saw what had caused this commotion: each time the Fed Ex guy reached for the little button next to their door, OUR doorbell rang.

It's the squirrel. I'm convinced of it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Feelin' Groovy

I guess this about says it all :)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A slog of a blog

So you know that thing they call Seasonal Affective Disorder? The one where people grow increasingly despondent when deprived of adequate sunshine? Well, I think it's got me by the tail. I'm over-reacting to things that shouldn't upset me nearly this much (more on that below) and failing to process some of the bigger news coming my way. I'm not sure what to make of this (or what God was thinking when he designed the month of March as it plays out here in the Northeastern states).

Here's a tip, if you ever wake up feeling this way: DO NOT finish the book you're reading, the one where you know--because the author has been kind enough to warn you--that the beloved 13 year old dog you've been reading about is going to die. Put the book down. Even if it's overdue at the library, put it down. The extra dime you'll pay in late fees will be more than made up for by what you save in tissues used if you read the book. And that's not even considering what a wreck you'll be for the rest of the day when you look at your beloved dog, who just turned 12. (And the fact that said beloved dog is not comforting you in your sorrow, but rather strategizing to grab your pile of used tissues so she can tear them to shreds in a fit of uninhibited joy, will not diminish your sobbing as much as you might expect).

The one thing I try to remember now when this happens, is that how I feel on one crappy, soggy day is not in any way indicative of what tomorrow will be like. I used to get sucked down into a bog of imagined inevitability, unable to fathom how or why anyone could go through the mundane tasks of life when things were destined to always be this grim. Now I know: it's because they won't. Circumstances change. Things make us laugh. Bad news gets turned around and we forget that we were ever worried. Maybe we even return an overdue book to the library and the computer shows no late fee at all. So I'm gonna let today be a gloomy day, trusting that tomorrow, there will be something way more fun to blog about.

Okay, that's all the philosophy for now...I'm off to pop some vitamin D and download some sunshine-related songs for my iPod.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Today Is A Fabulous Day!

At least that's what I keep telling myself. The truth is, the evidence is decidedly mixed and it may be several hours before we can make a true assessment. Here's what I'm working with so far:

(Hi) The Celtics won last night, breaking the Houston Rocket's 22-game winning streak!
(Lo) It was 58 degrees yesterday afternoon...and now it's SNOWING. (I'm thinking of petitioning for a new groundhog; I need more assurance that spring will come...)
(Hi) I'm reading Merle's Door, an amazing book about a really cool dog (think Marley & Me, only this dog can hunt elk).
(Anticipated Lo) I'm afraid to finish this book. I think something bad is going to happen to Merle, or at the very least, he's going to die. I don't want Merle to die.
(Hi) I finally replaced those pitiful, leaking mugs I told you about with an assortment of lovely alternative options I picked up for almost nothing at one of the outlets up in Maine.
(Lo) I woke up this morning too congested to taste my coffee.
(Bonus Hi) The coffee stayed in the mug, rather than leaking out all over the counter, the floor, and THAT DOG'S head.

Now, some folks would say that if you have to look to the fact that your coffee mug is, indeed, holding your coffee (or mugging it, I guess would be the appropriate whatever extent a piece of ceramic can verb?) to determine the prevailing vibe of the day, you're reaching a bit beyond the accepted parameters for happiness. Grasping, I believe it's called.

I've decided I'm okay with that :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dancing the deep woods

I'm up in Maine right now, babysitting The Niece and The Nephew. It's approximately 22 degrees outside. I just made grilled-cheese sandwiches (slightly charred, but no one's complaining so far) and I have approximately nine minutes in which to choreograph a dance routine to "Boogie Wonderland" to keep us occupied this afternoon.

The Niece just asked "Aunt Trish, what do turtles say?" She then cycled through rabbits and camels and pretty much every other animal that probably makes some sort of noise....

Wish me luck...

5:00pm update: The children are now spontaneously cleaning their playroom. Not only did I not suggest this, I said, "No, I don't think so," when they asked if I'd like to help. They persevered without me, and now the blocks and cars and game pieces are being arranged in neat little piles. The Nephew just said to The Niece: "There are over 76 different rules of cleaning, so you can't possibly know them all..." When she questioned him, he admonished, "The more we talk, the less we can clean..."

I'm slightly concerned. I don't know a whole lot about parenting, but I'm fairly certain this is not normal child behavior, right? Have I ruined them???

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hopping to make a difference

This has had me giggling all week:

My niece, confident and splendid at the age of four, is undertaking her first project to make the world (which revolves, you understand, in a tight circle around her) a better place: she and the rest of her pre-school class are holding a Hop-a-thon to raise money for charity.

A Hop-a-thon!

Does anyone else think this is perhaps the cutest planetary improvement idea ever? How much more fun would Earth Day be with some hopping involved? I have been cracking up for days at the idea of my beloved niece and her classmates (all fortified with copious amounts of sugar, no doubt) hoping with all their little hearts while their teachers cheer them on by yelling cha-ching! to acknowledge the nickels and dimes and quarters they're earning for their cause.

There have to be more ideas like this...what else could we do to make a-thons more creative and fun? (And let's stick to G-rated options, in case above-mentioned niece is reading :) )

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Real Housewife of Cambridge, Mass

Dinnertime came again last night. It's relentless. Every night, it's the same collision between the need to eat and my inability to put something in the oven without setting off the smoke detector. In the past three weeks, I've boiled a meatloaf in it's own oil (apparently it's important to get the low fat ground beef) and set chicken legs aflame. I tried to make a pot roast, only to discover that this involves more than taking a roast of beef and baking it in a pot.

I'm not sure where this standoff with the oven started, only that it's gone on for as long as I can remember: When my sister came to visit me at my first apartment in Philadelphia, she found an abandoned baked potato in the oven. "Is this yours?" she asked, poking it with a fork. "No," I admitted sheepishly, "it must belong to the old tenant." I'd been in the apartment for six months and never seen it.

Maybe if I'd glazed pottery in my youth, or participated in some other activity that involved putting things into heated boxes and predicting how they'd transform I'd be better at this, but the truth is, I could convert our oven to an auxiliary storage cabinet for my collection of pretty pasta bowls and spend the rest of my life a happy girl.

Is that so wrong?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Looks like greener grass...but up close, it's astroturf

I just watched the inaugural episode of The Real Housewives of NYC...and I'm very, very frightened. Never in my life have I been so grateful that I know actual wives in that city; I plan to spend the rest of the evening calling them, begging for reassurance that if Steve and I ever hit the big time, he won't have to wear a thong speedo when we go to the beach for vacation. (We're planning another trip to the woods of central Maine this summer, where I'm pretty sure such attire would earn us a police escort to the Canadian border...)

Weird clothing aside, these women seem tense...and miserable. Rather than enjoying life in one of the most creative, exciting cities on the planet, it seems like their world is very, very small. There's not enough of anything to go around, and everyone is jostling for position. Isn't it crazy that such a lie would have so much power to people in their circumstances? I mean, how can you believe there's not enough when you have everything (and in three colors)? I can't imagine life where I'm just one missed party or botox appointment away from being forgotten.

Being the pious woman of devotion that I am, I know I should pray for these ladies. But I'm not there yet. I'm just gaping at the TV, horrified and astonished. Still though, it's fun to think about what I'd do differently in their shoes. For starters, I'd house train that poor's not fair to anyone that he's left to pee on the hardwood!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thoughts on the fakes

Blog friend and author Jen Miller interviewed me about the latest round of fake memoirs (or fakoirs, as one member of my writing loop calls them) at her fabulous book blog. Come on by to read part of my book's disclaimer, why and how I wrote it the way I did, and some thoughts on the incredible (TRUE!) books that have inspired me lately!

Happy weekend :)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Conversation starters

I spent part of yesterday compiling the Reading Group Guide that will go with my book when it comes know, the 10-20 questions designed to generate discussion in book clubs and other social groups who will have the chance to talk about how I was, in many ways, the dumbest twenty-something they've ever heard of:) (I see this as way to help readers get beyond the obvious first reaction--something along the lines of, "Face it Trish-He's just not that into you!"--and generate enough interesting conversation for everyone to enjoy a glass of wine and some Brie.)

About fifteen minutes into the project, I started giggling. I realized that this whole idea is different when your book is a memoir, rather than fiction. Essentially, what I'm doing is creating prompts to generate the exact conversations I've always feared the most: the worst-case scenario assessments I was terrified people were whispering each time I veered off on some crazy left turn when I was supposed to be going right:

"What do you mean Trish left her law career? What's she thinking?"
"I don't know...Apparently, some bestselling New Age author is taking her on a 'spiritual pilgrimage' to Greece. I mean, who does that?"
"But wait...whatever happened to that nice blond guy she was dating?"
"Oh him--he announced over dinner that he might be bisexual. And you know Trish...she's so picky..."

Too funny (now, at least...) It's challenging for me to stick with the accepted question protocol (which reads something to the effect of: "Trish made a series of unusual decisions in her personal and professional life...What impact did this have on her? Do you agree or disagree with her choices? Discuss.") I can't stop imagining how these conversations are more likely to go:

"This Trish was kind of a wing nut! Why was she dating the semi-bisexual in the first place?"
"Don't you remember? She moved her fishbowl from one end of the living room to another to generate romantic opportunity, and he's the guy who showed up. But he was a Pisces, so his water energy drowned out the fire of her Leo rising."
"Man...if God can sort her out, he'll help anybody..."

I can't be the only one who has wondered about these types of conversations, right? So tell me...if you were crafting the Reading Group Guide for your memoir, what would be THE question to get the conversation started?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Multiple Personalities

Remember that episode of Friends where Monica had her credit card stolen, and realized that her alter-ego was having more fun being her than she was? This is, I realized last night, much like what happens when you Google yourself. (And don't tell me you haven't tried it, cause I won't believe you...)

A quick search on Trish Ryan reveals that I'm a busy, multi-faceted girl! For the most part, I'm still my usual writer/superhero-wannabe. But in Australia, I'm a huge football fan who paints my face for big games, and the head of some sort of government initiative to process data. In the U.K., I'm a midwife (not sure how that happened, given that I get queasy being in the same room with blood pressure cuff). Here the U.S. I'm a fitness coach (my sessions must be done in 7 minute increments, as that's really all I know about fitness), a PhD in physics, and the backup singer for a band. One site has a line about me being a hot wrestler, but I decided not to click through to that one...I'm not sure I want to know.

Kind of makes me wonder what the other TR's think when they self-google and find my blog? Have any of them been inspired to try baton twirling, or deep fry macaroni? Or is there an aspiring chef out there desperately wishing I'd stop posting about my love of baloney and setting the kitchen on fire?

My favorite thing I found, though, was actually about the real me: a review of my book that said exactly what I hoped for when I sent the last copy off to the publisher:

With a candid, earthy approach that’s reminiscent of Anne Lamott and Eat, Pray, Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert, Trish Ryan vividly addresses the trials of love and heartache...Much like a lead in a romantic comedy, Ryan’s been through it all with guys. While some of her accounts of love gone wrong are humorous; others hit a little too close to home for comfort. And that refreshing honesty makes He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not a journey worth taking whether you’ve already found Mr. or Ms. Right or not. -- Christa Banister

When I read that, I felt a little bit like Dorothy, realizing that there's no place like home. I guess that career as a backup singing woozy midwife will have to wait!

How about you? What are your many facets of Google?

Monday, March 03, 2008

America's Next Top Chef

Steve was at a conference in Minneapolis this weekend, and I set the oven on fire.

It was such a bummer. I was so proud of myself for even trying to cook something while he was gone; that's so not my style. I'm not sure how I survived my pre-Steve years, given that my only two sources of protein were Jiff crunchy peanut butter and the orange powder that comes with Kraft Mac & Cheese...

But I had a BIG PLAN for this weekend to conquer my unhealthy ways and cook one of my favorite recipes from childhood: Broiled chicken legs basted with Italian salad dressing (and if even one of you foodies makes fun of me that this is my idea of a favorite recipe, I'll come to your city and cook for you to make you pay!)

Long story short: Who knew you had to put the broiler on the lower shelf? Who knew that the "High" is not always the best option? Who knew that chicken fat catches fire?

Our condo filled with smoke. I turned off the stove, extinguished the chicken flambe, and ran into the hallway to wave a towel under the smoke alarm to quiet it's screeching warnings of doom. As the air cleared and the alarm stopped, I heard a strange noise: slurp, slurp, slurp...

I went back to the kitchen and found THAT DOG licking her chops....she'd just devoured a whole stick of butter I'd left on the counter.

The Food Network should be calling any day now...