“Life is like a butcher counter.”

That’s what they told me at the pub.

“You can have whatever you want. Just ring the bell.”

But suppose you don’t know what to order when you step up to the

butcher counter of life?

What then?


Chances are the universe will hand over what you need instead.

Looking to get this growing-older thing right?

Or have a bit of fun watching someone else do it wrong?

Want an intimate glimpse of the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand?

Then you’ve come to the sweet spot —

the Butcher Counter of Life.


A spirited memoir about bad decisions compounded by worse ones, surprising romances, and the alchemy of midlife, Letters from the Butcher Counter of Life is the story of a seeker who boarded a plane in the millennium to sell hearing aids in New Zealand. She was fifty-one years old and about to begin the best and worst decade of her life. It would see her entrust herself to a riddle of a yachtsman she barely knew, struggle to corral her aging parents back in the States, and ship a grand piano across the world, twice. Through it all, she was buoyed by a table of regulars at a local pub — the finest bunch of fellows ever assembled from a disappearing generation of Kiwi men.

When she hit fifty, every aspect of the niche she had carved in Kansas City as a single working mother vanished. Obsolete overnight, Janet Parmely answered an ad, “We have sixty million sheep but we’re short on audiologists,” and got the job. She lives with one foot in each hemisphere now — and a greater respect for the horsepower of hope.