About Amanda

I’m a disgruntled Metro-North commuter by morning, real estate journalist by day, insomniac by night, and cancer butt-kicker for life.

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On Solitude

A Writer’s Book of Days (09/05) – Write about dispelling loneliness

British actress Anna Neagle once said, “Solitude is pleasant. Loneliness is not.”

And for me, embracing solitude has been the best panacea for loneliness. Whether it’s losing myself in a good book, walking along through nature, or just watching clouds roll by, I find peace and inspiration in being alone. It’s also one of the best environments for fostering creativity.

Between work and home life, it’s not something I find often these days. Is it possible to feel lonely for solitude?

The Northeast Blackout of 2003

A Writer’s Book of Days (09/04) – We go out after dark

It doesn’t matter if we’re inside or outside. It’s August 14, 2003, and there are no lights anywhere, except for the occasional headlight or flashlight. Power is out in the entire Northeast, and we  sit on the front steps to try and get some air. The fans in the house are no longer working to keep us cool.

Most of the neighbors have ventured outside by this point. People are sitting on their porches chatting away and telling jokes and stories. Laughter can be heard up and down the block as people tried to make the best of the blackout.

A group of us decide to take a walk down to Main Street. A huge crowd is gathering around one of the stores. My friend Kenny spots me and yells for me to come get some ice cream. Scoops is emptying out its freezers for a quarter an ice cream bar, but I have no money on me. He has some extra change on him and buys me a Cremesicle.

We ran into neighbors we haven’t seen in months as we stroll the dark streets with our ice cream. We hear familiar voices and ask, “Hey, is that [insert name here]?” as we train our flashlights upon the shadowy figures walking by.

Everybody is so busy these days that face-to-face interaction seems to be a rarity, except for the occasional wave as someone was pulling out of their driveway or mowing the front lawn. The blackout, while annoying, gave us all a rare chance to reconnect. The fleeting moment was gone  by 11pm as the lights flickered back on and we all retreat back home. But it’s a night I’ll never forget.

Ragu Gone Wrong

A Writer’s Book of Days (09/03) – Write what was broken

My grandmother placed the steaming, hot plate of fettuccine alfredo on the kitchen table. Our stomachs grumbled in anticipation.

My sister was the first to take a bite.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Wait… fettuccine alfredo isn’t supposed to be crunchy.

“There’s glass in the pasta,” she cried, spitting out what remained in her mouth. A chunky shard sat on the side of her plate.

We then remembered the crash we heard earlier in the day. Grandma confessed that the bottle of Ragu alfredo sauce fell off the counter, and she decided to salvage as much as the sauce as she could—picking up some of the broken glass along with it. The fettuccine went in the garbage that night. We probably wound up ordering a pizza.

It’s a classic story we love to retell of my grandmother’s Depression-era tendencies to save as much as she could. I remember walking in the kitchen one day and finding her dutifully squeezing out all the single packets of ketchup we’d get at fast food joints into the Heinz bottle (that is, after emptying all the extra packets of soy sauce into the Kikkoman bottle). When she’d go to hotels, she’d not only take home the complimentary toiletries, but the extra rolls of toilet paper (“I paid for it, didn’t I?”). If she went to her favorite casino’s buffet, Ziploc bags were stored in her purse for a snack later. We nicknamed her “Iron Stomach” for all of the old leftovers she’d save and turn into omelettes or pasta toppings days later.

As I look at the giant stack of soy sauce and ketchup packets taking up space in my pantry, I must admit that I’m tempted. But the hotel Charmin stays.

One Step Closer to a Padded Room

I’m fairly sure the universe is having fun at my expense. Heat still not fixed, as a pipe to boiler did wind up breaking due to ice (luckily, fixable). Plumber told me to put heater down in basement to thaw the rest of the ice, and while I was searching for a place to put the cord, I whacked my head in the same part of the basement I did a few days ago. Except this time, I drew blood. So I went up to the bathroom to clean my bleeding scalp, and as I raised my arm to dab my head with antiseptic, the underwire in my bra snapped, giving me a nice little puncture wound.

Anyone know where I can order an inexpensive human bubble?

Bingo Reading Challenge

One of the biggest disappointments from my first 100 in 1,001 list is how few books I read, considering I was once a voracious reader. Life has certainly gotten in the way, as well as a lack of a commute. (You’d be surprised how many  books I’d finished in LIRR delays.)

Yesterday, my friend Tara found the Retreat by Random House Reading Bingo Challenge, which encourages you to fill out lines—or even whole cards—of reading challenges like “A book with 500 or more pages” or “A ‘classic’ YA book” by the end of the year. I’m quite intrigued and joined a Facebook group Tara set up for people who want to participate. I’d like to fill out at least one card this year—that’s 25 books—with one book only filling one square. Then maybe I won’t feel so ashamed when Heather from I Haz A Choo Choo Train Problem announces how many books she’s finished by the end of the year. (Which was 85 in 2013, by the way. Eighty. Five.)