I was born in New Jersey in the middle of a snow storm of such blizzardy proportions that the local newspaper devoted an entire quarter-page to the emergency crew that triumphantly delivered my contracting mother to the hospital in time. I was the only girl born that day in the hospital, and was referred to in the article as “Snow Princess.”
When I was eleven, my parents moved me and my two brothers to southern California, where I quickly adapted to the novelty of hanging out with teenagers with perpetually-peeling noses and very little interest in school. While I never got good at surfing, I did learn a most valuable lesson from my home economics class: when you are making tuna or egg salad, you can always add more mayonnaise, but you cannot take it out.
I eventually realized the importance of education and went on to buy a lot of it. After earning a Masters in anthropology from Brown University, I traveled around the newly-opened Soviet Union selling Maybelline’s démodé eye shadows and blushes and lipsticks to fashion-starved Russian women. I learned how to drink vodka for hours on end with my new comrades without falling face-first into my borscht: a skill I can still summon in tight situations today.
I moved to Seattle, where I met Victor. We married nine months after our first date (our flower girl held a single bright sunflower). While he taught middle school, I wrote copy for the Environmental Protection Agency and Seattle Solid Waste, before getting hired as a project manager for Microsoft, where I created and edited their first online magazine, MATTER.
It was like a drug, working at Microsoft—the subsidized food in the cafeteria, the free drinks and snacks and staplers (okay, so the staplers weren’t exactly “free”), the pizza work parties late into the night. Being surrounded by so many smart interesting people. Hell, I ran into Michael Kinsley almost every day.
But I worked so hard and so long that Victor would often find me sobbing over my steering wheel after I pulled into the driveway at night.
After a year and a half of this, he confronted me. He wanted me to give up my job.
“But it’s fun making money.”
“I never see you,” he said, his arms crossed in front of his chest, the pasta primavera on the table in front of us getting cold. “This isn’t much any fun anymore.”
At work the next day I clicked open MS Outlook and saw 320 emails in my inbox. Behind me my office mate played Solitaire. Across the hall my colleague Renee was typing away at her standing desk because her back had gone out again.
What do you do when your new husband tells you that he misses you and wants to be a couple in love again?
Yes, that’s right.
We quit our jobs and spent a glorious six months wandering through southern Europe, feeding one another cheese and pate in France, holding hands along the beaches in Portugal. Then we gawked our way through East Africa, spending hours a day doing nothing more than staring, sometimes at a solitary lion; other times at the steady thrust of a wildebeest migration. As we sat in our van watching a herd of zebras on the African plain, Victor suddenly said, “When we go back home, let’s move somewhere quiet.”
We left behind Seattle’s noise and crowds for a rural life in Nevada City, a tiny gold rush town in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.
Victor got a great job teaching at a charter school that focused on arts in education. I went back to being a writer. Our beautiful Buddha baby, Loy, came into the world in 2002.
And life’s been nothing but great ever since. Call me lucky. Call me blessed. Call me anytime, or, better yet, write me at lisakusel<@>gmail.com. I’d love to hear your stories.
I am the author of Other Fish in the Sea, a collection of linked stories (Hyperion, 2003), the novel Hat Trick (Hyperion, 2005), and Rash, a memoir about my family’s Bali nightmare, which was released in September, 2017 (WiDo Publishing). My essays have appeared in The Manifest-Station, Women Writers, Women’s Books, Purple Clover, and Motherly, as well as in the tea-stained journal on my nightstand. When I’m not parenting or meditating or running or cooking, I can be found writing at my desk overlooking Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont.