There’s a thrill over produce…

…that I get when Hungry Harvest sends me a confirmation email telling me what to expect in my delivery box this Saturday.

Naturally, I have already customized my box. I did it almost immediately after the last email I got that told me customization for this week’s box was open.

Add a dozen eggs (I’m a baker and I’m a runner – I always need eggs), take out a few apples (only because I have TONS already at home), and oooooooo! There are leeks this week!

And grapes.

And zucchini (I’m totally making bread).

And a type of tomato I’ve never heard of!

Check, check, check. They all go in the box.

I clicked “Save” and went about my day.

This morning, though, my confirmation email reminds me what will be in my delivery, and (my favorite part) it tells me WHY each items was recovered.

These ones look a little uglier than others, but they are still good and tasty.

The buyer who wanted these ordered too many, so we have the extras.

These ones are just a touch small, so just add two to your recipe.

I’ve calculated before how much money I’ve saved getting rescued produce and it usually falls in the neighborhood of $50 per month. And for my little family of two, $50 is kind of a big deal.

Plus it’s fun to let the preschooler color in the box afterwards.

Want five bucks off your first box? Use code: HERO5 on your order!

I am a Hungry Harvest ambassador, which means I am part of a community that really loves talking about Hungry Harvest.ย 



So I wrote this thing…

…actually, I wrote it a while ago. A few years, in fact.

Then it was published like an honest to goodness real book with a cover and paper pages, and I was so delighted, I think I actually cried.

Then the publisher folded.

Just my luck, right?

So I cried some more, but that’s fine.

I’ve rereleased it. I gave it a pretty new cover and a few tiny edits here and there. All in all, I really am proud of this book and am still excited about sharing it, even if it has been several years since I was deep inside of it.

Just for this weekend, I decided to make it free so that as many people as possible could download it, read it, and tell me what they think. I’m not interested in telling all of my friends to leave five star reviews. That’s way too easy. (My friends are amazing, and they would do it without a second thought.) I want to know what readers feel when they meet my characters. I want to know if something resonates. I want to know if my prose is good and if my dialogue is believable. I want the real truth, even if it may hurt to hear.

So, dear blog explorer, if you are reading this and feel so inclined, please do feel free to check out the link below. If you’re feeling exceptionally generous, please do also feel free to share it with whomever you like.

I have some VERY exciting news…

Scribd is now unlimited.

Words cannot convey my joy.

I’ve had my Scribd subscription for about two and a half years – one of those things that starts as a free trial and you kind of figure, “I’ll just cancel it on day fourteen.”

No. I kept that thing and have never considered unsubscribing.

Scribd is a mobile app (and website!) that grants the user access to thousands of books.


Up until yesterday, the monthly subscription allowed each user three ebook credits and four audiobook credits per month. Users could also catalog and save every book or audiobook previously selected, like a virtual private library. If I picked a book, I didn’t have to finish it within that month (I did anyway) because it was saved to my shelf. I can still go back to pretty much every book I’ve saved within the app since I started my subscription.

Of course, some books get pulled from Scribd for reasons yet unknown to me. I’m supposing that some publishers have a contract with the app that expires at some point. Either way, it has only affected maybe half a dozen books in over two years.

Credits could also roll into the following month. If I only used two book credits in July, I would have four book credits in August.

If you ran out of book credits (and I always did), there was Scribd Selects, which were free and you did not need any credits to save to your shelf. It used to be much more broad, but then the selection shrunk significantly (probably over publishing rights).

No more.

I can now save as many books as I want with no limits, even ones that are not on the Scribd Selects. I can read more than three new books each month. I can read all I want.ย 

This is happy news.

This is such very happy news.

P.S. Book nerd friends, this happiness is $9 per month. If you (like me) are super busy and keep spare books on your phone and/or if your Goodreads yearly challenge count is anywhere around fifty or above, it is totally worth it.


Hi there, happy people. It’s been a while.

I fell out of touch with my beloved blog over the past few months simply because life has been crazy.

Quick update:

Yes, I’m still running. (I had an 8:36 minute mile yesterday!!)

Yes, Hungry Harvest still rocks my fridge twice a month.

Yes, I successfully fulfilled my National Novel Writing Month word count. I’m so excited to make that thing a real book.

No, I’m not done editing it.

I went to New Orleans with my office job last month, and I really don’t understand how I was able to get on the plane to come home, because that city is magic –ย the culture is vibrant, the people are lovely, and the food is unreal.

More to come soon, I promise. There are plenty of short stories kicking around my noggin. ๐Ÿ˜‰

“Come on, feet…” and Rain Running

I love Halloween. I love David Bowie. I love stories with strong messages about dedication, friendship, and personal endurance.

If all of these things do not add up to The Labyrinth in your mind, I’m so sorry, but we are going to have to work on our friendship. It’s not impossible – I’m friends with Sox fans, after all – but it will need some attention.

The Labyrinth, of course, is not reserved solely for Halloween, but as my small sidekick has taken a recent interest in spooky movies, I took it upon myself to introduce her to my favorite Goblin King. He scares her just a bit, but she still loves Ludo and the music (bless her, she is absolutely my offspring).

Rewatching this, one of my most beloved films, through the new eyes of my daughter made me hear a line I hadn’t really paid much attention to in the past. As Sarah is about to enter the labyrinth and musters her courage, she says “come on, feet.”

That, I naturally felt the need to analyze…

Since becoming a runner (and wow, I can actually say that now, sans irony…) this past April, I’ve noticed so much more about my body’s will versus my mind’s. Yes, I fully understand that such a statement will sound cheesy and ridiculous to many. Go with me for a moment, though.

If I put feet to pavement (or dirt or gravel or mulch) for long enough, my mind tunes out completely and my body just does its thing. I may be aware of the components of my body hating me, like my knee aching or my fingers swelling, but overall, my legs pretty much tell my head to shut up for long enough for them to get done what needs done.

There are also the days that my mind is totally into it and my body disagrees. It’s as though I am hyper cognizant of how much I’ve grown to love running, but my stomach or lungs or legs decide they’d all rather be doing other things.

I feel like today helped me come full circle with that concept.

About two weeks or so into running on a regular basis, it rained. It wasn’t bad at all, just sort of misting, but my body had me convinced that the couch was a better option than the trail. This is the part where my mind said, “Um, no, sweetie. You said you would, and now you have to. Get off your butt.”

Today it was raining, and definitely not in the refreshing misting way. My leggings clung to me in a way I’m unaccustomed to my clothes clinging, I had no fear whatsoever of dehydration, and my stride was amazing due to all of my very creative puddle hopping efforts. By the fourth mile, I truly couldn’t tell what was sweat and what was rain.

And today, in spite of the rain, was a rare day that found both my mind and body in perfect sync. My head was super into “okay, great, let’s rock” and my legs started getting into “yes, we get to move” (because, yes, I do sometimes think of them having their own personalities, it’s fine).

A bit of a rambling explanation that ends with this: there will still be days when my body is good to go while my brain is other places. There will still be days when the opposite is true, and I will have to force my hands to get my shoes on and say aloud “come on, feet”. As long as I land there eventually, and as long as, by the end of it all, I am still delightfully exhausted, I can say “come on, feet” all I need to.

Next half marathon is in three weeks, and I want to beat my time by ten minutes.

“Not Really” by Pepper O’Brien

You’re sitting on the other side of the bar when I first see you and it’s weird because I’m afraid you’ll know right away who I am, which is ridiculous because we’re a thousand miles away from my town and I’ve grown out my beard and maybe you don’t listen to my music and maybe you wouldn’t care that much anyway.

You’re drinking whiskey. You’re drinking whiskey alone in a bar and I can’t help but feel scared for you. Aren’t you scared that some asshole is going to come by and bother you? Don’t you hear all the same horror stories I do about women getting harassed in bars just like this one? What are you thinking drinking alo – oh. Oh, I see your friend coming back from the bathroom and she orders a club soda. That’s good, at least.

Someone does come by to bother her, though, and you look sad. You’re sad because she’s forgotten about you in favor of her new bothersome potential assailant and I don’t know what upsets me most. Are you okay? You look so sad and I don’t like it. I don’t want to be weird and keep staring, but you look so alone just now gazing dejectedly into your glass and you don’t even look the least bit tipsy.

I can be brave. Can I be brave? It’s hard for me to be brave by myself without a band and a stage and a bunch of people telling me how great I am. I think sometimes that they’re paid to say that or that they just enjoy lying to see what I’ll do. What will I do now, for example? I could say hello. I could sit with you until your friend tires of the nitwit over there in the stupid beanie.

I’m brave. I order you another whiskey and I swear I’m not trying to get you drunk and I have the bartender give it to you because I don’t want you thinking I would ever try to put anything in it. You can send it back if you want and I wouldn’t mind. Maybe you don’t want another drink, and damnit, I shouldn’t have assumed that you would, but you look so sad that I – oh. Oh, okay, you’re smiling at me. The bartender must have told you it was me who sent you the drink. I’m glad I asked what brand it was. I don’t really drink that much.

You’re smiling and you tuck your hair behind your ear and I don’t know what to do. I’m stuck to my chair and I hope you’ve never seen my face anywhere before because I don’t want to fall in love with a fan. I really don’t want to fall in love with a fan because how will I ever be sure that it’s real? There’s no way I would ever know or at least I don’t think that there is. Is there? Please don’t turn out to be a fan. I couldn’t handle the stress of living up to those kinds of expectations. Can’t I just be myself with the pretty girl in the bar? Except I have no idea if myself is what you would like or want or – oh. Oh, you’re coming over now and gosh, you’re so pretty.

“Hi.” That’s all you say at first, just “hi” and what the hell am I supposed to do with that, right? Because as soon as I say “hi” back I’m unoriginal, but I really don’t know any pick up lines and right now I really wish I did, but I don’t and crap, I need to come up with something because now I’m just stuck in my chair staring at you and thinking about how awfully pretty you are and I still haven’t answered your “hi” and now I bet you think I’m crazy. Well, better crazy than famous, right? Right. Okay. So… hi.

You smile your pretty smile and I really want to stare but I’m not a predator and I want you to feel safe and so instead I look at other things. The tequila bottle shaped like a skull, for example, is behind your head and that seems like an okay focal point for the moment. I’ll look at that. Crap. I don’t want you to think that I think you’re boring or that I’m distracted. I’m so not distracted. I can smell your perfume and it’s beautiful and you’re beautiful and wow, your smile is pretty. Hi.

You giggle and I never thought I’d ever hear a giggle as nice as yours and you sit down next to me and you tuck your hair behind your ear again and I’m sure I could ask for a bobby pin if you needed it. Do you need a bobby pin? It would keep your hair in place, right? And maybe if your hair stayed in place I wouldn’t stare quite as much. Yes, I would. I really hope you don’t recognize me because, you know, there’s just a lot going on in my life right now and I just can’t handle falling in love with a fan, okay, so please don’t be one. A fan. Don’t be a fan. Ask me who I am because you have no idea, okay? That’s really just… all I hope to get out of this exchange tonight. I don’t need sex or a date or a kiss or even a conversation lasting longer than a minute or two. I don’t expect any of the things that people told you to be afraid I would expect. My heart’s only desire in this very instant is that you ask my name because you truly don’t know what it is.

“Do you come here a lot?”

Oh. Okay, so… maybe you don’t want to know my name right now or maybe you don’t really care about the name of the guy who bought you a whiskey and that’s fine because you shouldn’t feel pressured to ask my name or anything. I’m totally okay with going on just like this and we share kind of a cool stranger camaraderie, but not like danger strangers. Stranger… never mind. I’m not dangerous, just neurotic, and I really don’t want you to find that out so I can keep being the nameless guy if you want – that’s okay! I don’t mind. Maybe I mind a little, but I’m not going to say that. Is that dishonest? Have I already started things off badly after only saying “hi”? Maybe I should just answer your question.

“Not really.”

That’s a safe answer, right? If I don’t come to this bar all that much, it’s still a safe space for you and I’m not the creepy guy who hangs around in bars all the time, and even if you don’t ever come here, it comes across as sort of nonchalant and laid back, right? I want you to think I’m laid back. No, wait, I don’t, that’s dishonest again, isn’t it? It is. I’m messing this up already and I’ve said exactly three words and paid exactly six dollars for your drink and have asked myself exactly forty-five times whether or not you could possibly recognize me. Not that it matters now. I really want to tell you about myself and not in a way that’s posturing or over the top like beanie dude talking to your friend. You tuck your hair again and really, are you very sure you do not require a bobby pin?

Please ask my name, I really hope you will.

Let Me Tell You About This Hungry Harvest Thing…

Anyone who is Facebook friends with me or follows me on Instagram or runs into me on a regular basis will know that I can’t shut up about Hungry Harvest.

For those of you who don’t know, Hungry Harvest rescues fruits and veggies that would otherwise be discarded. Surplus apples, discolored asparagus, disfigured tomatoes, you name it. Hungry Harvest recovers unwanted or unneeded produce, packages it into subscription boxes, and delivers various fruit and veg to customers at a discount.

And it is the freaking BEST.

First of all, I am eating a MUCH broader range of produce than I used to. Generally speaking, my grocery list would include bananas, oranges, cucumbers, bell peppers, and the occasional bunch of grapes.

NOW, it has expanded to include mangoes, starfruit, eggplant, Korean pears, and “pluots”. Listen, if you’ve never eaten a “pluot” before (and I’d sure never heard of them before they arrived in my delivery box), it is a plum and apricot love child. Delightful.

Second of all, I’m not scrambling to make sure we eat healthy at home. We just ARE. There’s enough fruit and veg in our fridge that it’s truly never “out of sight, out of mind” – it’s the first thing we see on the shelves.

Third of all, holy crap, am I better about sticking to a monthly food budget. I get two HH boxes per month (one every two weeks) and they are the smallest ones available (Mini Harvest boxes at $15 each). Kid you not, world, these boxes are PACKED. We have plenty of goodies to tide us over and I’m not spending $8 on a box of strawberries that will last two days.

Finally, I’ve gotten SO much better about bringing my lunch to work with me. Because I am entirely too paranoid about wasting food and have a possibly unnatural fear of letting things go rotten, I take all kinds of things into work with me. I’m already incorporating more veggies into my bread (yes, I bake a ton of homemade bread – more on that later) and I’ve upped my fruit salad game significantly.

My kiddo doesn’t start public school until next year, but the more I see people sending their little ones off to school with packed lunches, the more I am inspired to craft fun lunches for the two of us. The bento box I brought with me to work this week had a grilled Portobello mushroom wrap waiting for me on Tuesday. The tin Hello Kitty lunchbox her highness treasures by filling with Legos may one day be full of zucchini bread.

If you’re interested in getting an amazeballs subscription box of deliciousness and helping reduce food waste in the process, check out this link: – you can also use promo code HERO5 for $5 off your first box!

P.S. I am a Hungry Harvest Ambassador, which mostly means I REALLY love HH and wanted to work with them. ๐Ÿ™‚ #hungryharvesthero

My First Half Marathon – After

I did it.

Truly, I have never felt that way before in my life.

First of all, I ran the first three miles. I slowed down a bit, but I didn’t walk at all until mile four. The second mile didn’t cripple me and the humidity didn’t drown me. Just with that alone, I was proud of myself for pushing through and running the first 5k without stopping.

Second of all, runners are warriors. I met so many people who are so supportive and gracious and giving. I ran with people who are living with lupus, who run to raise awareness. I ran with amputees who have embraced every part of themselves in order to run just like everyone else can. I ran with parents whose children are struggling, and they run to give their kids hope. I ran with people who are depressed, anxious, suicidal, sick, you name it, who run to feel better.

There were the pacers (the people running at set pace times for runners who want to complete at a certain point – 2:30 pacers, 2:15 pacers, etc.) who saw someone lagging behind and shouted “Let’s move it, come on!”

There was the girl who was running with her friend and saw me start to slow down. As she passed me, she smacked me on the back and said “You’ve got this.”

There was the woman in the Yankees cap who was on her phone almost the whole race because “Honey, if I’m listening to somebody else’s problems, I ain’t worried about my burning thighs.”

I nearly cried half a dozen times as I ran. Not because I was in pain (and after the eleventh mile, you bet I WAS) and not because I wanted to stop. My eyes welled up more than I care to admit because I was doing it. I used to hate running and now I am a runner. I kept feeling this rush of emotion that I’d never attached to exercise before. The runner’s high isn’t a one time surge or thrill. Through 13.1 miles, my high came and went in waves. I crested it then pushed through the following two miles. Then I did it again.

God, it was amazing.

I didn’t finish in the time that I’d hoped, but I’m still faster than I used to be. My legs burned and I was glazed in sweat. (My fingers swelled, too???) But I haven’t been so proud of myself in such a long time.

The Army Ten Miler is next month.

My First Half Marathon – BEFORE

I’m so scared.

In five days, I’m supposed to run 13.1 miles and NOT die.

The only question I have for myself right now is “Mary Grace, what in God’s name were you thinking?”

Granted, if I can so a 16 mile overnight walk through Philly, I can most certainly handle a 13 mile run that I’ve been training for since March, but holy cow, I didn’t think I’d be this nervous about it.

My hip is doing okay (and boy, do I feel like an old lady writing that), my knees are so much better (now that I’m not favoring the one and screwing up the other in the process anymore), my breathing has improved, my pace has evened out, and my stamina is… getting there.

And if you’d shown me that paragraph a year ago, I would have maybe gone cross-eyed.

But as anxious as I am that I’m going to fall on my face or torque my knee or land funny, I’m that much more proud of myself. I made myself run and now I’m a runner. I worked toward a goal for six month and it’s nearly here. I am so much happier and healthier since I’ve been running because it’s something that I do for myself on my own time that makes me feel good. That might sound silly and I know it’s not true for every single person who runs, but I’m just… better.

And in five days, I run farther than I ever have – only because I’m told you’re not supposed to run the full distance until race day, not because I was avoiding it…

At all…


BUT! I will be surrounded by many other runners, and that always helps me keep a better pace. I will be running through a city I love and supporting a cause close to my heart.

I’m told that there’s nothing like running through the city and each time you start to falter, you have a new landmark to look forward to in the next mile. I’m told that that’s what gets you through the walls in your head that your body knows how to knock down.

And I’m told that the home stretch is when you can see the Art Museum toward the end of the course. That’s when you push and end strong.

And the part of me that’s NOT super nervous and isn’t AT ALL worried about eating pavement? That part can’t wait.

Hope – a short story by Pepper O’Brien

I had pizza.

Tomorrow, I may have nothing at all, but that day, some kind soul bought me a three dollar slice of plain, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

“Honey?” she’d said, her sweet, concerned, round face peering down at me cautiously. “You eat pizza?”

“Sure do,” I’d told her.

“I don’t have cash, but I’m gonna get you some, okay? You like soda?”

“I…” my eyes welled as I looked up at her. “Yeah. Any kind.”

She walked across the street with a bit of a limp.

Huh. A woman in pain. It just figured that she’d be the first person to look at me all day. I bet it must be nice to see someone who has is worse.

When she came back, I swear I drooled all over myself at the sight of melted cheese.

“Here you go. You keep warm now, alright?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said quickly. “Thank you. Bless you.”

“And you, honey.”

And off she went. I hoped her limp got better. I hoped someone did a kind thing for her. I hoped a lot of things.

None of them were for myself.

“Jack,” I heard someone call. I turned to see Rosco hobbling toward me, his arms laden down with everything he owned.

“Hey, man,” I answered back with a wave.

“I was gonna share a Twinkie with you, but it looks like you’re all set.” Rosco plopped down next to me.

“Appreciate the thought. You want a bite?”

“Wouldn’t mind one. Thanks.”

There were an awful lot of creeps and thieves on the street, but Rosco was one of the good guys and about a year ago he’d decided that I was, too. We’d been looking out for each other every since. I didn’t see him every day, and I had my suspicions he was shooting up again, but there was no point in telling him off. He’d been living like this much longer than I had. I couldn’t lose the only person who ever bothered to check up on me. Maybe that was selfish. Maybe it was just survival.

Rosco handed me back the greasy paper plate that held my pizza and I polished off the rest without a word.

“Hey, where’d you sleep last night?” I asked, not really wanting to know the answer. “You weren’t in your usual spot.”

“Nah. Found a new one.” It was exactly the kind of answer that told me he wasn’t going to give up anything more. His quiet way of telling me to butt out.

“Oh,” I said simply, sipping the remainder of my Coke.

“Sandwich fairies oughtta be coming by tonight.”

“Sounds good to me.”


That night, I was fast asleep against the base of some statue when a light flashed bright in my eyes.

“Hey, man,” a voice said, “you can’t be out here.”

Fuck. The fucking park patrol. They’d been slacking off a lot lately, so I hadn’t bothered to worry about them.

“Seriously, man, I mean it. You gotta-”

“Yeah, I know. I’m going.” I stood on unsteady feet, gathered my pack and my sleeping bag, and stumbled away. Maybe the bus depot had some room.

I tried to avoid the bus depot, because a lot of unsavory characters hung out around there. You’d think I would have gotten used to them by now, but I wasn’t. I tried to avoid anybody who wanted me selling smack, and I really tried to avoid the ones who wanted me selling my body. Like life hadn’t already dealt me a tough enough hand of cards.

I settled into an empty corner far from the benches. I didn’t mind sleeping sitting up. I’d done it plenty in the Marines.


The next night, after a too long, too cold day of sitting on my ass with a piece of cardboard, I lucked out with the dumpster behind the donut place. Hey, there are way worse things than day old bagels, I tell you what.

“Hey, honey, you need some sugar?” I heard from down the alley.

“Can’t afford any sugar tonight, sweetheart, but thanks.”

“Holy… Jack?”

I picked my head up to see who it was. Did I know them?

No fucking way.


“Whoo! Haven’t heard that name in a while. It’s been Lainey for so long I forgot who knew me back then. Get your fine ass over here, Jackie boy.”

I hadn’t seen Lance Marcusen in years but there was that face – those twinkling eyes and that impish grin. The woman standing with her hand on her hip waiting for me to make my way out of the dark alley where I hid, though, was a happier, more confident person than the kid I’d known.

“Jack, honey, what in the world are you doing here?”

“Looking for food, I guess. What about you, man? I mean…” I fumbled. Thank God she laughed.

“Don’t you worry, baby. Come here. I’ve got plenty at home. It ain’t much but the water’s hot and the microwave works just fine.”

“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to-”

“Jackie, sweetie, you shush up and get walking.”

“Yes, ma’am.”


“Baby, what happened?”

About an hour later, I was as clean as I’d been in weeks and dressed in an old hoodie and some pink polka dot flannel pajama pants. There was even a heaping bowl of cereal in front of me. Lainey had Hot Pockets going in the microwave. She’d taken off her eyelashes, her platform heels, and her sparkling silver corset top. She was sitting on her ottoman in front of me wearing nothing but an embroidered kimono.

“Mom passed. Haven’t heard a peep from Dad since I joined up.”

“When did you get back?” she asked, genuine concern deep in her voice.

“Four months ago.”

“You didn’t call nobody?”

I shrugged. The truth was I hadn’t. I’d been… I didn’t know what. Too embarrassed?

“Well, you’re staying here now.” Lainey clapped her hands together and stood up, making her way back to her small kitchen.

“I can’t let you do that. I’m-”

“Yes, you can and you’re gonna. I ain’t hearing another word about it.”

I didn’t know what to say. So I ate my cereal.

That night, I slept in those polka dot pants. The next day, Lainey and I went grocery shopping and I convinced her to get a bag of apples and some eggs. The rest was total junk, but I let her be.

The day after that, I met her friend Jeanine, who ran a night club and needed a bartender.

It only lasted three months, but that was three months Lainey didn’t pay the rent on her own and I took care of the grocery shopping. She’d never eaten so healthy in her life.

About a week after I quit bartending, I answered a job ad looking for a mechanic. Lainey said she liked having a “hunky grease monkey” for a roommate and I liked the work.

When I’m not fixing cars, I’m keeping homophobic skinheads away from my friend (not that she can’t take care of herself) and searching for Rosco. I ask around plenty, but the streets are funny that way. Either they don’t remember me and think he’s in trouble or they do remember me and think I left him behind.

I hope I find him. I hope I can give him one of Lainey’s Twinkies and a slice of pizza.