On The Metro-North – Non-Fiction Essay

As I get braver about sharing my work — first it was the poems on my Instagram account) and then it was my publications in this quarter’s newsletter — it gets easier. Today I’m sharing a non-fiction piece I wrote some time ago but that I stopped submitting for publication. I’ve really been focusing on poetry and letting non-fiction essays take a backseat for a little bit.

I hope you enjoy this short, exploratory piece and that it inspires you to share more of what makes you tick this spring.



On the Metro-North

We are riding a late train out of Grand Central. I don’t notice you until you catch me snapping pictures of a drunk guy passed out cold in his seat and snoring.

“I saw that,” you say and I giggle, looking at my hands.

I am drunk too. Actually, I am much drunker than I should be, given that I am both riding the late train and coming from a first date.

Not expecting you to say much more, I go back to texting my date, texting my friends, sending pictures of the man passed out, but you ask me where I am going. I tell you I am headed to my mother’s in Connecticut, to take her boyfriend’s boat out, to forget about my ex from last month. I tell you the truth but not just because I have been drinking, but because your eyes are nice to look into. You smile and nod like you already know it all. Was I so obvious?

You tell me that you are working at the Lincoln Center as an intern but have to live in Stamford. You do the forty-five minute reverse commute everyday coming into the city early and leaving late.

“But, that’s part of the deal when you’re young, right?” You ask me.

As if I should agree with you, as if I know what I am doing, as if I should tell you that you’re doing the right thing living an exhausting life to get somewhere, anywhere, better. I sort of nod, let my heavy drunk head slosh about in a white wine puddle.

“That’s what they say.”

I don’t share my first year in New York story with you. Even though everyone has one. And they are always awful and painful and lonely but also full of parties and strangers and pink sunrises while still in work clothes from the day before. I decide to let you figure it out. I decide I had too much to drink and want to shut my eyes. I decide I give terrible advice.

You’re just a kid but we exchange numbers anyway. You get off in Stamford and I continue on toward New Haven, letting the white wine seep into my bones. Only a few minutes go by before my phone buzzes.

“I’m not kidding, I just walked by a car fire,” you write.

I laugh in shock. The kind of laughter that comes from the back of your throat and catches your teeth.

We don’t text again for months. Your number is saved but forgotten and I hope to god you aren’t still doing that awful commute because you think it will give you a new life. A life where something, anything feels certain because I am not sure yet if anyone can have a certain life.

A year passes and my phone buzzes. “Zach Train” my phone says. I finally remember your name.

You tell me you’ve seen another car on fire. You aren’t sure why we stopped talking but you remember the car on fire.

“How have you been?” You finish.

I don’t reply. Leaving the weird train ride to be our one and only story. Because it was your first year in New York. Because it can be. Because I’ve met somebody else. And because you really shouldn’t get numbers from drunk girls on trains.


Call for Courage Challenge — Try Meditation


I know what you’re all thinking. First the mushroom herb tea and now meditation? Has Amanda gone completely woowoo nuts on us? The answer is, yes a little bit, but I’m hoping what that means for you is that you can trust me more because all of this stuff is new to me too.

As you know I started the Call for Courage Challenge this year, posing a new challenge for my readers every month. Whether that’s sharing your weird talents with the world, or reaching out to someone, we’re pushing to be our best selves every day.

This March I want you to try meditation. Why? Because on the most basic level we all need time to empty our minds and relax the brain waves. Have you ever noticed how you do your best thinking in the shower? That’s because you’re focusing on something simple – scrubbing your skin – and allowing your mind to relax for a moment. The same thing can happen when you’re coloring or knitting or running. By giving your thinking mind a break you’re freeing up space to be CREATIVE, ENERGETIC, LOVING, and OPEN.

Meditation can seem really daunting at first. I was afraid of it at first like I was afraid of yoga. The source of my fear is the same with both… I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts, afraid to pause, and afraid to be still. In today’s world when we never have to be alone, the prospect of it can be so scary. This is something you can ease into. If you need to keep your hands busy pick up a coloring book. If you need guidance, download an app to help you. Or start how I did: breathing deep a couple of minutes at a time with your eyes closed. That’s it. I focused on breathing in and out and nothing else.

I know it sounds crazy but I always feel better immediately after a meditate, and in general, it’s made me a calmer person. I can tackle all I have to do by taking a break each day just to let my mind rest.

So there you have it. Give meditation a whirl and let me know what you think. I’m dying to know!


Moon Dust Review – Getting Adaptogenic With It

Me to Frank: You know, my Passion Planner review is my my most read blog post.
Frank to Me: You should probably review stuff more then.
Me: Ugh yeah.

I don’t normally review stuff because I’ve always set out to make sure this blog was not very “commercial” but it turns out that all of you freaks love STUFF as much as I do. So I’m reviewing today. I try a lot of weird trendy stuff so I might as well help you on your weird trendy journey too.

What are Adaptogens to begin with?

So I must have been sleeping under a rock for the past year or so but I just learned what adaptogens are in the new year. 2018’s got me learning new words and stuff! Adaptogen is used to describe a specific set of herbs and mushrooms that help the body adapt to stress–hence the name. Like any trend, most of these herbs and mushrooms have been used for YEARS (this time in Chinese medicine) but have gained a lot of attention recently because good looking women in LA are getting into. (This is how any health trend starts… sorry New York. At least you have Rainbow bagels?)

Moon Dust by Moon Juice, yes I realize that’s hard to follow, is a powder version of these adaptogens. (There are different ways to ingest this stuff and I have more to review, so stay tuned). You can mix it into anything: water, coffee, tea, pancake batter… whatever.

IMG_5378Why did you do this to yourself?

I know it seems a little woo-woo, whack-a-doo for someone who grew up eating Little Debbie’s Cosmic Brownies (still dream of these) and went two pitchers at a time in college… but I’m 30 now and I want to feel as bougie as possible. Also, I think if something like this works then that’s super cool. …It is!

What is Moon Dust?

I bought myself the trial pack called  “The Full Moon“, which gives you a couple samples of their most popular Moon Dusts. (Have I lost y’all yet?) The Moon Dusts are:

  • Beauty – For inner glow (your skin)
  • Brain – To bust your brain function
  • Sex – Creative energy in and out of the bedroom
  • Power – Physical and entrepreneurial feats
  • Spirit – Bliss bliss bliss
  • Dream – Sleepytime Tea++

Ok first things first. If you like things that taste good I would avoid these. Certain ones taste better than others (Beauty Dust for example) but for the most part they do taste like you’re licking someone’s incense tray. I happen to like weird tastes, again I want to feel 30, so it’s bearable. I drink ACV every morning, so you know exactly what train I am on.

(I’ve been mixing mine in tea but I have read that OJ is a better mixer. I am too lazy to experiment but I am going to try and put it in some pancakes tomorrow and see if Frank dies… )

IMG_5377Have you noticed any changes with Moon Dust?

So far I haven’t seen any mega changes, but I know that these types of things take time. Here is what I have noticed…

BEAUTY DUST – I broke my nose last week and couldn’t do my usual skincare routine. For the first couple of days I was drinking beauty dust and I didn’t have a single breakout. My skin looked great and I didn’t have to do 15 steps to achieve it. As soon as I stopped however, break out central. I truly believe in the beauty now.
SEX DUST – Full disclosure I took this before going to work one day. This is not Viagra. I didn’t feel anymore creative than usual. But I liked chugging it before heading to office, I felt like a rebellious pixie hippie.

SPIRIT DUST – This has actually made me more zen after I drink it. It’s hard to tell if it’s the tea, the caffeine or this pretty baby, but I do feel like I’ve just meditated after I drink it.

Cards on the table — Do I recommend Moon Dust?

If you are new to any sort of all-natural hippie activity (you had to Google ACV two minutes ago for example) I would stay away and start with something easier (grind your own Peanut Butter at Whole Foods this week!) But if you believe in the healing power of crystals and meditate daily — Moon Dust is for you!

Guest Post: Tiny Superstitions

This is kind of a ghost story.

It’s about memories and magic, and it’s about all the ways my mother taught us to believe in small bits of wonder. It’s about hoping for the best while facing the worst, and it’s about pattern-seeking behavior. I lost my mother to cancer on December 29, 2017, after eight years of battling colon cancer. I have been trying to write this personal essay since March 2016.

This is for you, Mom. I will always leave the rocking chair rocking if you’d like to come and sit.

I have always been drawn to ghost stories. I have always been drawn to any strange or unusual story, any bump in the night that would have me. While this isn’t altogether unusual — who doesn’t love a mystery, or a sense in a world beyond what we see? — I have started to suspect I am drawn to them in a different way. So often, we are taught to be frightened of the unknown. Cautionary tales flourish in this genre, small words to protect us from our own darkest natures. Don’t go into the woods alone at night without a lantern. Don’t eat things a stranger gives you. Don’t give in to the desperation of these times.

I find in these stories solace, rather than terror. Not that we tell them, but that they exist at all. I think being drawn to the unknown comes not solely from a destructive urge to gaze into the abyss, but from the thrilling notion that we can challenge everything. Not every secret is known, and not every outcome is written in the stars. If there are things beyond what we can see, then there are things we see right in front of us that might be part of something big and mysterious, too.

The unknowable thing in my life for nearly a decade has been the cancer in my mom’s body. I have spent my adult life holding lantern in its wilderness, the shadows cast around me scattering fear and hope tangled endlessly into the brambles. I am not an expert in anything, not grief nor medicine nor other people’s stories. But I have clumsy hands and a clumsy heart, and if I can add a story to the string of tales that have brought me comfort, I might as well try.

We are, as humans, inclined to seek patterns in the day-to-day. My mom was no exception. Her combination of Biblical knowledge, a Farmer’s Almanac approach to weather, and allegorical stories of a childhood in the deep, deep South have created a bevy of tiny myths and superstitions in my family. It’s the kind of miniature magic you don’t think about very hard while it’s happening. A handful of these include:

1) Bubbles in your coffee mean money’s coming.

2) Eating greens, pork, and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day ensures a good year.

3) Leave your pumpkins lit all night on Halloween, and your Christmas lights lit all night on Christmas Eve.

4) Never rock an empty rocking chair, or you’ll invite a ghost to sit in it.

5) Seeing a cardinal is a sign of good fortune.

I told her all the time that she was superstitious. She laughed or rolled her eyes as I tempted fate a thousand times a day.

“It’s not superstition,” Mom said, “It’s wisdom. And at any rate, even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t hurt anybody.” This comment was often accompanied by coffee or prayer. Or both.

I often marveled at her quiet determination in all these tiny rituals. Even as I grew to be an adult, it seemed like she held the understanding of the universe in her long fingers, somehow. I realize, of course, that some of the things I consider rituals are just things she liked and did over and over, so now I revere them simply because my mother did them. Some of the things she did were precisely because she was a mother.

6) She served spaghetti and grapes on Halloween. “Brains” and “eyeballs” to spook us a little, but also a very sneaky way to carbo-load her children so they didn’t get sick on candy later in the evening.

7) She rang bells on Christmas morning to wake us up.

8) She did the laundry in a complicated array of batches based on color, water temperature, usage, size, and the weather.

9) She gathered us together before a big trip, no matter what time of day or night, to hold our hands and pray for our safety.

10) She pointed out fairy rings in the yard after hard rains.

I’ve developed my own superstitions here and there over the years, and I see signs and patterns in lots of things, too. I made my own kind of miniature magic, though it closely resembles hers. I have jewelry for good luck, and I have quiet mantras for certain days of the year. I try not to upset the order of the universe too gravely by trying to pretend I understand the future or second-guessing rainy days.

I guess this wasn’t a ghost story so much as it was a memory story. Though what’s a ghost but a memory so strong you can feel it moving through the world? It still stands as a cautionary tale, though. Don’t give in to the desperation of these times. Create your own tiny rituals, or borrow someone else’s until they feel real to you. Hold hope in your heart no matter what’s happening around you. If my mom hadn’t taught me that lesson, I am not sure how I’d carry on now without her.

I have one final bit of magic to share with you. It’s just a pattern, but that doesn’t mean it’s not big and mysterious in its own way. On the morning after I found out my mom had cancer, it snowed hard. It was early October in Iowa, and it hadn’t been in the forecast. I didn’t own a car in Iowa City since I lived downtown, so I trudged to work in knee-high boots and cried. I am convinced the snow was trying its damnedest to hide my sorrow as I crossed the last intersection to work.

Later that day, an old friend called me, and in the course of that conversation, we arranged for him to come visit from my hometown. He was an old boyfriend, another film school junkie who stayed up too late and worried too much, but he knew my mom and he knew me, so it was good to be able to share that time together.

The day before my mom passed away, it snowed. It was a light snow in late December, but the forecast had missed it by almost a week. That old friend was with me again — now my husband — as we held hands, because he knew my mom and he knew me, and it was good to be together.


IMG_0273 copy.jpg

Sarah Caputo is an artist and teacher working in Oklahoma City. Her most recent creative focus has been on representations of memory, love, and folklore. Sarah posts her drawings, comics, and other misadventures frequently on Instagram (@tiny.revelations). You can also contact her at sarah.tinyrevelations@gmail.com.

What I Read in February (Hint: Just Westerns)

Before I get to the books I read this month (all of them are Westerns if you can believe it), I’m taking a moment to answer a question I get a lot: How do you read so many books? 

I read about a book a week depending on their length and difficulty. Really intricate, heady pieces take me more time because I  need longer breaks in between sessions to digest all the information. I get through a lot of books because…

1) It is important to me. I make time of reading before bed and I use my commute to read instead of listening to music. I actually get about 80% of my reading done on the subway. Start calculating how much time you spend in front of a TV, phone, or computer and shave some of it off and reserve it for reading. It’s a lot… I assure you.

2) If I don’t like a book I stop reading it. It’s rare, but if I am struggling with a book or I just don’t like it, I stop reading it. I lose my momentum and joy for reading when I force myself through something I do not enjoy. Life is too short to be miserable with a book.

3) I am naturally a fast reader but I promise you, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Also, I am happy to discuss reading anytime so drop me a note and let’s chat! I’m super passionate about libraries and books so never hesitate to share your published works, pleas for $ to your local library, or book donations. These are causes I want to support.

Ok, on to THE BOOKS! I was so excited for this post this month. I cannot believe I didn’t share the books I read on here until recently. It’s such a huge part of my life and seems now so strange in retrospect.

This month I read 3 westerns. I started writing a western for fun (probably to never see the light of day) but I wanted to get more context for the world I was building so I grabbed a few “classics.”
purpleRiders of the Purple Sage – This book came up on multiple lists as THE book responsible for starting the western trend and being perhaps the most popular western of all time. So you see why I had to read it. First, let me say, I had so many issues with the female characters in this book, it’s hard to give it a high rating. I feel like I can’t publicly say “I loved it!” But, since it was written in 1912, I’m giving it a pretty big pass and admitting the women of this novel are much more complex than I could have ever expected. (But I still have a lot of issues.)

The world that Grey builds is vibrant and moving and we’re introduced, for the first time, to what will become western tropes for years to come (Gunslinger, The Rustler, Determined Homesteader, The Missionary). Which is super fun to see. What I found so interesting about this book is its depiction and story of Mormons in the Old West. I had never even considered the relationship of outlaws, settlers, and gunmen to the formation of the Mormon capital in Utah. Unexpected, but incredibly enjoyable to read about.

my-antonia-willa-cather-paperback-cover-artMy Antonia – Not your traditional Western (there are no Gunslingers or Rustlers here) but an important book to the American West all the same. I have a lot of Midwestern friends who are obsessed with this book and now that I’ve finally read it I see why. Nebraska’s landscape and harsh climate are a main character and how the settlers (mostly immigrants) interact with that land is a huge part, if not all, of the book. I learned a great deal about the early Midwest, but I was also deeply invested in the outcomes of Jim’s (our narrator) and Antonia’s (it’s really her story) lives. Beautifully written and engaging. I wanted more when the book was done!


gunslingerThe Gunslinger – This Stephen King book is on the opposite end of the Western spectrum. If My Antonia is about settling the land and creating the Midwest as we know it today, then the Gunslinger is about what happens when we destroy all of that. Set in a post-apocalyptic alternate universe (uh, yeah), we follow Gunslinger on his quest for ultimate truth from The Man in Black. As you can see, we’re working with traditional Western tropes in a completely non-traditional setting (there are mutants and super natural powers at hand). Despite how King lends you no assistance into introducing you to this world (you just dive in and learn along the way) I was really taken with the Gunslinger character, his own darkness, and the hunt for truth… because I never really knew whose “truth” I should trust. There is apparently 5 more books in this series and I will probably get to them in due time.

Do you have any favorite Westerns? Send ’em my way. I am on a kick for sure.