frida's house entrance

Frida and Gellhorn: Walking Beside Two Beautifully Heroic Women

I’ve never bought four one-way tickets before in my life. But, that’s what it took to go on a special journey, one where I could walk in the same place as two beautifully heroic women I will never have the chance to meet.

Mr. H had different reasons for wanting to experience Mexico City and Cuba in the flesh. Like him, I’m a huge fan of food, culture, architecture, and art. The truth is—as most of you know—I’m a big nerd. A history travel nerd.

Keep Reading…

vintage luggage

An Old Suitcase Named Ann

There’s this store over in Northeast Portland that I’ve been eyeing for a while called ReClaim It. Last Saturday, I finally went in.

When I stepped inside, I was overwhelmed by the sights and smells. I almost immediately backed out. I had expected to find secondhand treasures—like wobbly chairs, funky dressers, eyesore mirrors—that sort of thing. But a soulless corner of wood and metal scraps lay before me instead.

Where were the lovely relics from a bygone era? Those pieces clinging to the lives of their previous owners, encapsulating their memories in the battered wood?

They were a little to my left. I was so distracted by the beams and poles that I almost missed out.

Confession…my personal hell is Home Depot. Those expansive, drafty aisles of nonsensical parts and fixtures make me crazy. I prefer the finished, working stuff instead. Now you know why I ain’t your handywoman.

Anyway, there they were. The reason for the unapologetic musty odor—a whole section this thrifty gal wanted to roll around in, like a dog who just happened upon fresh pooh in the backyard. Though not a big store, I could have easily spent hours in there.

Nothing was organized and nothing made sense—in fact, you had to lift and move items to get to another. It kind of felt like you shouldn’t be rearranging things, like someone would scream at you to stop touching the basket of postcards or the stained lampshade. But no one said a word.

Hurrah! The store was mine to pillage!

Right off, something caught my eye. It was buried underneath a couple of chipped vases, which I moved very carefully as I’m a notorious klutz. Then I ran my hands across the fabric covering the hard surface.

old suitcase

My grandmother had one just like it.

I paused when I looked at the bronze fastenings on the front, then just as I remembered from the last time I opened something remotely like this when I was a little girl, I shoved the button on the right over to one side. It clicked, the latches flew up, and I smiled.

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever opened a vintage suitcase that’s been carrying decades of mystery inside its aging exterior, but as you can imagine, the smell can be less than desirable.

Yet, when I lifted the top and rested it against a bookshelf, a pleasant—shall we say—retro odor greeted my nostrils. More importantly, I felt her energy wash over me. It wasn’t a froufrou suitcase with its grey-blue denim-like material, but I knew instantly it had belonged to another woman.

cat in a suitcase

The interior was in surprisingly good shape, its blue satin only torn around the corners. The pockets in the lid were disappointingly empty.

For those who have been following this blog for some time, sadly I did not find any artifacts tucked away. I thought I would, and I was already mentally preparing myself to write another Nola Fran Evie book.

But no, only this beat-up suitcase was the treasure.

I closed the lid, and naturally, one of the latches was too stubborn to find its way back where it belonged. For grins, I looked at the price tag, figuring the suitcase would be a million dollars.

It was $25.

Shocked, I glanced around the room, suddenly protective over my find, ready to fight for it if necessary. But the leisurely Saturday shoppers were preoccupied.

So I opened the suitcase again, inspected it again. I closed it and got frustrated with the lock. Then, the latches behaved themselves and the suitcase shut properly. I crouched down and traced the fraying border, then stopped when I made it to the front and saw the name.

name on suitcase

Ann. That was my grandmother’s name.

I drew my hand away, standing quickly. I backed away from the suitcase. I continued to watch the other shoppers closely, but still they took no interest in the suitcase.

I’m not sure why I did it, but I walked off. I wanted to explore the rest of the store, to see if there was something else I liked better. I mean, what the hell did I need a smelly old suitcase for anyway?

I don’t know, but suitcases were all I could think about. The store had several, and I looked at all of them. Remember how I said the first one wasn’t stinky? These others knocked me over.

All the time I was shopping around, I kept my attention on the first suitcase. If anyone made a move, I was ready.

No, silly. There was no secondhand store showdown. I simply returned to the suitcase, opened it yet again, wrestled until I got it to close properly, then I ran my fingers across the name. Finally, I huffed and puffed as I carried it over to the register, secretly wondering if women back then were on to something…the suitcase workout.

The woman at the register saw my triumphant face and smiled back. “This is beautiful,” she said.

“It is.”

“Oh, and look! It has her name on it. Ann.”

I nodded. “It certainly does.”

cat with vintage suitcase

I learned more about Reclaim It, and I was captivated by the story. It’s a non-profit, with a dedicated crew that rescues materials and “junk” from the Metro Transfer Station, so artists and DIYers like yours truly can bring them back to life.

In the end I paid $25 for an old suitcase from the dump, and I was over the moon.

You might be wondering…what are we going to do with Ann? She may become a nightstand, or perhaps become an end table.

But don’t worry, Ann will forever be loved in our little home. She and I were listening to Billie Holiday while I was writing this…I thought she’d like that.


facebook celebrate prideYesterday was a historic day for the United States. No matter who you are or what your beliefs are, there was no escaping the celebration. Because love won.

As we were sitting at the bar last night, out on the town with so many other Portlanders, I knew I had to come back from my summer blogging break to say a little something.

Though I have always been “straight”, many of the people I have been closest too throughout my life have been “gay”.

I cherish the times I spent laughing my ass off with my awesome dancer friends backstage, kickin’ it with my wonderful boys in downtown Dallas, and dancing like mad at Pridefest with my incredible coworker.

We went through some really tough times together too. All of them had stories about their struggle for acceptance in the world—as they grew up, as they told their families, as they braved the corporate world.

Thankfully my friends made it through. But others were lost along the way to addiction and even suicide.

Their sexual preferences made absolutely no difference to me. All of them were my friends, and I’m not the type of gal that let’s a lot of people in.

I let them into my life, because they were so genuine, kind, and fun. Some of the best times of my life happened with these beautiful friends. Mr. H and I met through our “gay” friends and had our first date at a “gay” club.

When I was working at a big name retail store last year, doing that job was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. After we moved across the country, I was job hunting like crazy and I needed to pay the bills.

Last May I had an unforgettable experience. I helped the sweetest middle-aged “lesbian” couple pick out a wedding dress.

Oregon had just passed same-sex marriage and they were in a huge rush. Though I had a blast running around the entire store with them, picking out accessories to go with the dress,  I had to ask: “Why are you in such a hurry?”

They stopped and their smiles fell. “Because we’re afraid they’re going to change their minds.”

To the gals out there, I have this to say…you don’t have to feel afraid or apart. You don’t have to wait anymore. Celebrate your love.

To the boys out there, I have this to say…you don’t have to feel afraid or apart. You don’t have to wait anymore. Celebrate your love.

britt and kyle

One of my longtime friends, Kyle, said something on Facebook that made me teary-eyed on the city sidewalk last night.

“Thanks for being an ally. But most of all, thanks for being you. Love you both! Miss u!”

I will always be an ally for people like Kyle and I will always be an ally for love. There is no space in my heart for hate, and perhaps one day there will be no space in our world for hate.

Yesterday was a historic day, a day of hope when love kicked some ass.

(I realize this is a touchy subject for some, so I ask that you refrain from commenting on this blog if you have something negative to say. Positive comments are absolutely welcome. #LoveWins )

Jumpstart Your Summer Reading…Nola Fran Evie is 99 cents!

nola fran evie amazon

That’s right, darlings! I know we’re all ready to kick this summer into high gear, so I thought a Nola Fran Evie sale was a must.

Beginning today through Friday (6/3-6/5), you can snag Nola Fran Evie on Amazon for the ridiculous bargain price of $0.99!



If you’re a newbie around here, you can catch up on the background/inspiration behind the story with this homemade indie video by yours truly…

If you prefer comedy, you can watch the bloopers…

If you’re the skeptical type, you can read this and other glowing reviews for my little book on Goodreads…

Working Girl Meets A League of Their Own Meets Mad Men

Not in a superficially descriptive way but quintessentially—as personality forged in the furnace of time. Nola, Fran and Evie sense their lives are dominated by fate, but who they love and how they live actually affect their era (pun intended). How we earn a living and who we sport or consort with are reflections of our culture, yet our choices also affect that culture.

From WWII to postwar boom and beyond, from the demise of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to their current vicissitudes, our title characters reinvent themselves in order to survive and thrive. Nola is our graceful, farm fresh beauty with confidence and too much common sense; Fran is the pretty but feisty tomboy contemplating whether the American dream is meant for her; and Evie is more than merely a natural blond stunner and discomfited Chicago socialite.

While their authenticity begins in the League, it matures when they accidentally meet years later. We follow their journey through the reveries of Jacks, our fortuitous guide, on the cusp of her own life altering decision. Alone in her apartment—with an “invisible” neighbor down the hall, and a diabolical cat performing acrobatics among her moving boxes—Jacks’ serendipitous discoveries in a vintage handbag offer up clues to the unconventional lives of Nola, Fran and Evie, including the men who either dominate or delight them.

It’s the particular genius of our author, to weave the perplexing with the piquant and the heartbreaking with humor, so I was absolutely never let down. The pace is exquisite. Able to richly portray cultural details combined with sexual energy and relevant social commentary, Britt Skrabanek is in top form with her newest novel. This is a thoroughly modern story with a fantastic filmic quality which lingers long after the final page is turned. You’re sure to identify with one or more of her fully drawn characters, but be prepared for immersion in something much more provocative than escapist reading.

LA Gets Me Every Time

Los Angeles means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But for me, it will always be home.

And because it’s my home, it makes me sad when I hear so many misconceptions.

Growing up, whenever I visited another state, others assumed I was an actress or a surfer. Those were my two options and anything else was inconceivable.

A famous city like LA is vulnerable, judged as overrated when in fact…it’s underrated.

Since leaving in 2001, I’ve lived all over the US and traveled internationally. Not once have I found a place like Los Angeles.

For our ten-year anniversary, Mr. H and I decided to take a California road trip. He had never been to Hollywood or Venice Beach, never seen my hometown of Azusa in San Gabriel Valley.

downtown los angelesAfter all of these years of marriage, I was nervous about what he would think. I knew Mr. H had preconceived notions just like anyone else. It’s impossible not to have them.

But LA got him too.

runyon canyon

After a pitstop in Monterey on the coast, we took the 101 down. Picturesque dry valleys dominate the scene until you pass San Luis Obispo and catch a jaw-dropping vision. The Pacific Ocean, the gateway to Southern California.

The moment you roll down your windows and feel that salty breeze whipping through your hair, there’s no better feeling in the world.

Traffic is inevitable and even on a late Saturday afternoon, we ran into some. But when you’re on vacation and the windows are down with perfect weather, how bad can it be?

They say if you can drive in LA that you can drive anywhere. People can drive, because they have to. A car culture through and through, you need to know how to handle gridlock, parallel park, and haul ass so you don’t get run over.

As a bike commuter for six years, I now tend to get skittish and claustrophobic in cars. But oddly, in Los Angeles I felt fine.

sunset boulevardWe stayed in a bungalow right in the heart of Hollywood. Though walking is an anomaly in most of the city, there are in fact, walkable sections and public transportation.

My favorite shopping in the world, Melrose Avenue, was a little over a mile away so I braved the sidewalks. Thankfully, Melrose hasn’t changed at all. It’s still grimy and cheap, with magical finds.

Clearly, this belonged in my closet…

melrose shopping

Hollywood was a central location for us, to explore the city as well as the valley and the beaches.

I’ll be the first to tell you that LA beaches aren’t pretty. I can recommend five gorgeous Orange County beaches that will blow your mind. But, I’m a sucker for Venice Beach.

venice boardwalk


venice basketball courtI’ve sat at sidewalk cafes in Paris, danced at raves in the desert, and braved St. Patty’s Day weekends in both New York City and Chicago. The people-watching at Venice Beach is unmatched.

Although parts of Venice have been developed and some say “yuppified”, I was relieved to see the boardwalk was just the way I left it. The ethnic drumbeats, bouncing basketballs, and crashing waves were music to my ears.

Over onion rings and cold beers, we watched and listened, enjoying the colorful tourists, hipsters, musicians, hagglers, entertainers, bums, hippies, and skaters.

young skateboarder


venice beach skate park

Sunset was a drawn-out event, bathing everybody and everything in that Southern California glow. Sure the pollution is gross, but it makes killer sunsets you’ll never find anywhere else.

beach wind chimes

Beyond the city and the beaches are my old stomping grounds, a place you’ve probably never heard of…Azusa.

Surprisingly, much has changed.

A Target monstrosity wiped out a couple of blocks of cheap retailers that had been there forever. A light rail track has been built as well, looking like it will operate soon.

I didn’t understand these odd additions to my little hometown until I saw the fancy neighborhoods that had sprung up.

My old condo at the base of the canyon is still there, nicer with new paint. Across the street the farm with the annoying rooster, animated pigs, and the lovely horses I used to feed apples and carrots to are all gone—displaced by generic homes with tidy lawns.

On the other side, the llamas are nowhere to be seen. More generic homes have been built around the canyon.

I was happy to see that my old spot was unmolested. I used to come here to think about things…boys mainly. So, it was fun to sit down with Mr. H at my spot.

azusa canyonA predominately Hispanic population, I was the minority at my middle school.

I have some scary stories I can tell you about being chased by a girl with brass knuckles and threatened by her older brother who was in a gang. I have some lovely stories I can tell you about snacking on warm, fresh tortillas that my friend’s mom had just made with her worn hands after school.

With the yuppification that has taken place, I’m not sure what that means for the future of Azusa. For as long as I can remember it was unknown on the LA map, a cheaper option on decent land for families with lower incomes.

I still see some of the die-hards hanging on.

I was monumentally relieved to see my favorite Azusa restaurant, Best Teriyaki, standing strong and proud. It’s still a hole in the wall, though they have dressed up the outdoor seating a bit. And it still has the best teriyaki chicken with fries.

For old time’s sake, I had to get the side of Thousand Island for dipping.

chicken and fries

best teriyaki

Back when we decided to move to the West Coast, it was a choice between Los Angeles and Portland. A job worked out for Mr. H and we came here instead.

We’re spoiled in Portland with our clean air and water, our edgy city and impeccable nature.

But, there’s just something about LA that I will never be able to replace. And I will forever be a champion for my beautiful gritty home that nobody understands.

Because some of us get it.