Monday, December 3, 2012

Great Expectations

 It’s that time of year – the lights, the carols, the shopping, the drinking….

I have an image of Christmas in my head. Norman Rockwell painted it and Bing Crosy gave it a soundtrack. It’s been boiled down to a single hazy, childhood memory – a composite of all my young Christmases and it smells like pine, tastes like ham, and sounds like off-key singing.

This weekend was my favorite weekend of the entire year – the one where we get the tree. We hike through the snow, holding hands and singing. No one cries. No one poops. No one yells. We pick out the perfect tree that is effortlessly sawed down, and easily transported home, where it practically uprights itself. Cut to carols and hot cocoa and hanging ornaments and kissing under mistletoe.

The reality is a bit louder. L, 4,  hides in between the trees giving everyone a ten minute heart attack. A, 2, squats and poops so that we must now fast forward the tree hunt because we’re in a race against diaper rash. Both kids cry and I yell. Just get that one, I don’t even care anymore, I’m sure it’s fine. Mr. Beaker grumbles: the saw is too dull, the tree is really heavy this year for some reason, why are we here on the coldest day of the year? We’ve somehow managed to hike about a quarter of a mile from the drop-off point and the hayride looks like a small speck in the distance. I stomp off because…well, because this is supposed to be fun and it’s not and of course that means it’s Mr. B’s fault. 

We haul the behemoth home and it doesn’t fit in the house. It’s Christmas Vacation come to life. When I said I wanted picture perfect Christmas, I wasn’t thinking of Clark Griswold. Literally, we can’t stand it up – we’re off by feet, not inches. It also doesn’t fit in the tree stand. Mr. B. has reached a breaking point and both the kids are crying. Christmas is ruined forever!

I am fed up: this was not the image in my head. This is not how it’s supposed to be.

And right there, that’s the crux of it. I’ve just given Christmas a “D” – failed to meet expectations. In my fuming drive to Home Depot (to purchase a chainsaw and an extra large tree stand), I have some kind of cheesy ephiphany. Like my own self-contained ABC Family holiday special. The problem isn’t the reality. Reality is what it is, I have very little control over it. The problem is the expectation.

I find the tree stand and a fantastic tool called a Sawzall (hey, it saws all! Well, that seems kind of fun, actually), which we needed anyway. Suddenly, things don’t seem that bad.

By the time I get home, I’m the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes that day. My family is sitting on the couch, watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and as I peek through the doorway, they are laughing. They’ve been PJ’d and their teeth are brushed and they’re snuggled under a snowflake blanket. The lights are off, and the tree is laying in the middle of the living room, taking up all available space but in my absence, they’ve all somehow become the Hallmark card I’ve been trying to force them into all day.

I think that sometimes, the easiest way to be happy is to let go of your anticipation. To quit forcing everyone to conform to the script in your head. To enjoy the imperfect moments for what they are: real.

Scale: Husband is over six feet tall. What were we thinking?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tiny Pushes

It is Bullying Prevention Month and yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. I’m not even sure if “anniversary” is the right word. I remember when this happened. I was two years out of high school and practically a kid myself. I remember thinking “how horrible” and “those poor parents”. But I went on with my day, I felt sad for them but I didn’t actually feel sad. My reaction to these types of horrors has changed dramatically and most notably, in the last five years. As they say, having a baby changes everything.

I read some of the articles published today on Matthew Shepard and found myself a bit teary eyed. Think Progress had an semi-uplifting take on all that has changed in the last 14 years ( and how things are improving. In 1998, 53% of the United States believed that gay marriage was wrong, and now it’s down to 42%. So, that’s better, right? Right? Forty-two… still seems like a big number to me, that’s all. Sigh. 

I can’t help but think of the world my kids will live in. Thanks to the tireless efforts of a lot of people, like the Laramie project, the death of Matthew Shepard will not be in vain. With enough time and awareness, we can chip away at bigotry and hate. But is it enough? My fear, as a mother, is that it’s not.

I look at L, my oldest, with her weird little idiosyncrasies that I alternately love and loathe and think: Could she be a bullying target? And of course, the answer is yes. Truthfully, I’m not sure you can forcast hate; it’s an unpredictable tide. That’s the terrifying part. That’s the part that will keep me up at night, and that’s the part of me that wants to chain my children in their rooms until they’re well into their twenties.

I can’t protect them from the haters. I can’t make a whole class of kids not turn on my my kid because maybe she’s different (don’t believe me?). Reading these articles today and feeling powerless, it finally dawned on me that while I couldn’t control everyone else, I could make damn sure that my kid wasn’t one of the bullies. I can, to the best of my ability, make sure that my kids are part of the 58% that believe there’s nothing wrong with love irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation. Maybe, then, they’ll pass those lessons onto their kids and the 42% from above becomes 32%. I can, and do, teach them kindness and tolerance and to appreciate the differences in all human beings. It was such a lightbulb moment – to go from feeling this overwhelming helplessness to realizing that I was thinking about it all wrong. It's not worth worrying, right now, about how others might treat them in the future. I have no control over that. It is worth thinking about how they will treat others - in some small measure, I can shape that. 

Changing the mentality of a society isn’t done overnight. It’s hard not to be disouraged by what feels sometimes like stagnation. But it’s an empowering position – being a parent. I have the opportunity to directly influence the opinions of two little girls, who will become two grown women, and in a small way hopefully contribute to the good in society. I just need to let them out of their rooms first.

The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker. – Helen Keller

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

If I Were King of the Forest

I belong to an online writing community ( and in my “spare time” I peruse the forums. There’s plenty of discussions – some are silly, some are political, and sometimes there’s even some about writing. The other day someone started a thread called “The three things a writer needs.” There were a lot of opinions – craft, voice, point of view, an original idea, a fresh take on an old idea. It was a fun thread to read. Then someone posted “Courage”. I had an epiphany.

In two weeks, I’ll release my first book (Hopefully not my last, but topic for another post). I’m psyched. I’m excited. I’m positively terrified. You might be wondering – what’s so terrifying? Fear of failure? Fear of success? The reviews? No, it’s more basic than that.  In two weeks, most people I know will be reading something I wrote. Sure, it’s been edited. They probably won’t find many (any?) typos. But the characterizations, the plot, the relationships, the interactions are borne from my mind for all my friends and family to question, judge, assign meaning to. Yeah, you need courage to do this. To bring your insides out, and put them on paper forever.  It’s the naked in class dream, realized.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t write anything shocking. I have one semi-glazed over sex scene that gives me hives when I think about it. But I think about truly brave authors: Wally Lamb, Augusten Burroughs, even Gillian Flynn, who write with a boiled down raw emotion that is painful to read, and would be unimaginable to write. I think of She’s Come Undone or I Know This Much is True, and you can’t read either of these books without feeling like your heart has been ripped out.  There are parts of both Running with Scissors and A Wolf at the Table that I read with one hand over my eyes. They are burned into my memory. There’s an audacity there I just do not have (yet).  Even Jennifer Weiner, who is widely regarded as a chick-lit writer, has written scenes that I’ve had to pause to finish another time, possibly another day.

When, and if, you read Thought I Knew You, don’t worry. You won’t cringe at any scene, or read it with one hand over your eyes. You won’t need to stop and take an emotional breather. I hope I entertain you, I really do. Maybe you'll shed a tear (email me and let me know, okay?) And maybe, if I'm lucky, you’ll take something away from the book. I’m already thinking about the next one -- how can I be bolder? Maybe push the envelope a little bit more, put a bigger piece of my inner self out there for the world to see. 

As for you, my fine friend, you're a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger you have no courage. You're confusing courage with wisdom. --The Wizard of Oz

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer Reading

My new writerly life has me reading a lot of unpublished stuff. Works in progress of my author friends, some unpublished manuscripts, that kind of thing. And it’s a lot of fun, for sure. But in the past few months, I found myself drifting away from the one thing that spurred me to write in the first place: Reading. Real books. I missed it. So I made it a point this summer to get back to it. I think I did okay. Here’s what I read and what I thought.  Just in case you give a hoot. J

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.
Plot: A man’s wife goes missing on the day of their five year anniversary. Between Nick’s (the husband) search for Amy (his wife) told in alternating chapters with Amy’s past diary entries, you get an inside look into their marriage, which is not as happy as everyone thinks.
I loved this book. I loved everything about it, even the ending which is getting not so great reviews. There is a thread of evil woven so intricately throughout the plot that by the time you realize it, you are very attached to the people you thought Nick and Amy were. This left me unsettled and a little creeped out for days. It’s true that the end is a tad over the top. I didn’t care at all. It’s up there with one of my favorites, for sure.

A Wolf at the Table, by Augusten Burroughs
Plot: Another Burroughs memoir. This one is different, it predates Running with Scissors, and largely centers around his intensely abusive father. The part that stuck with me the most: Burroughs has a “memory” of helping his father bury a body, but has no idea if it really happened or if it was a dream. At one point in the story, he finally asks his father and the resulting conversation is positively creepy. He is obviously haunted by this vision his entire life.
This is my least favorite Burroughs book. That’s saying a lot because I generally love everything he writes, pretty sure I’ve read it all. This has none of his usual wit and humor (well, very little) that is so shocking that you laugh out loud. It’s very dark. And it’s incredibly sad. But in true Burroughs fashion, it’s ridiculously honest. I probably won’t read it again, but kudos for Burroughs for penning what was clearly a horribly difficult book to write.

The Upright Piano Player, by David Abbott
Plot: Henry Cage once had everything and lost it all, due in part to his own thoughtless actions, reflects on his life. Determined to become a better man, no matter how late in life, he reconnects with his ailing ex-wife and pursues a relationship with his son and grandson. Two distinct tragedies derail his attempts.
This was a very slow, literary read. Which is okay, but it took me a while to get through it. And the beginning is misleading—it opens with the tragic death of Henry Cage’s grandson, for which he blames himself. But this incident happens five years after the conclusion of the book and isn’t really rooted in anything except to reinforce the books continuing theme, which questions whether the life you lead is a result of your actions and attitude, or is instead entirely random. The problem is, the book doesn’t really pick a side, so at the end, I sort of felt a bit cheated. I enjoyed the literary quality of the narrative, Abbott is a wonderful writer. His descriptions are beautiful and the whole book evoked a very lonely, isolated mood. This is the kind of book I will keep around and read to improve my writing. Lit fic fans might enjoy it, but if you like a plottier book to keep you turning the pages, you might want to skip it.

Monsoon Season, by Katie O’Rourke
Plot: Riley is running away from an abusive relationship, back to her parent’s house, halfway across the country. The crux of the book is the relationships. Riley and her boyfriend, Ben’s, Riley and her parent’s, even some flashbacks from Riley’s mother’s point-of-view regarding her father.
I enjoy multiple point of view stories, so I liked the bouncing around. The main plot centers around Riley and Ben’s relationship, it’s evolution and destruction. I found myself wishing for a different ending. I’m never one to advocate staying in an abusive relationship, of course, but the author painted Ben with such humanity, I almost rooted for him. I wanted him to seek help, better himself. I almost wished she had asked the taboo questions: Are abusers ruined people? Can they recover? But this wasn’t the book O’Rourke wrote. In the end, Riley fell out of love, did not succumb to the trap that so many women do, and overall, that’s a good thing. I enjoyed the characterizations of this story the most, parts of the narrative are practically poetic, and would definitely read more from this author.

As I Close My Eyes, by Sarah DiCello
Plot: Danielle Grayson has visions of a previous life after a boating accident, and starts to recognize all the people in her past life as those in her present life.
DiCello paints a very strong main character, Danielle reminded me of me at that age. Her setting descriptions were so pretty and vivid, I felt like I was there. The plot in this book was very cool, and the juxtaposition of present day against the Victorian era sections made for an interesting read. I liked the ending, but it didn’t resolve itself, there’s clearly a sequel coming. It’s a light easy read, which was nice because I read it after Wolf. The love story developed a little quickly for me, but overall, it didn’t matter. It was still a perfect beach read.

The Indie Section

Fat-Bottomed Girls, by Clair Gibson
Plot: Two forty-something roommates win a lottery – not enough to change their lives but with their winnings, they decide to take a trip around the world and follow a Queen tribute band.
I thought this book was great fun. It’s not deep. It won’t make you reflect on your life. It’s pure chick lit. It’ll make you call your best girlfriend and make the date you’ve been meaning to make for a while. There’s a pretty good steamy scene in the middle, too, for all of you missing your 50 Shades. ;)

Counterpointe, by Ann Warner
Plot: A ballerina and a scientist fall in love and marry. They face a crisis of faith in each other when the ballerina suffers a career ending injury. Each runs away, one to the jungles of Peru, the other mere miles from where she started.  Can they find their way back to each other?
I enjoyed the read--Warner has a way with words and her writing is very pretty, simple, and clear. At it’s heart, it’s a romance but not in the bodice ripper way. Rob and Clare have a sparking chemistry, if not a bit understated. The descriptions of the Peruvian jungle and the life there were fascinating and made me wonder if Warner had actually been there. Warner has three other novels on Amazon, and I plan on reading more from this author!

Next up: Sister, by Rosamund Lupton

Friday, July 27, 2012

First in Commando

Parenting is one long lesson in picking your battles.  

Don’t hit. Don’t yell at your sister. Say Thank You. Say Please. Wash Your Hands. Pens are for Paper. These are the basics. As a mom, I spend so much of my time drilling in the basics, with the occasional crazy-I-can’t-believe-you-don’t-already-know this lesson (for example: please do not cut off your sister’s toes with safety scissors. Even if they are wrinkled from the tub and Mommy made a joke one time that you still remember a year later. Just…don’t).

Which is why, frequently, as often as possible, I let go of the small stuff. The stuff that’s not quite right, but whatever. They’ll figure it out, eventually. I mean, no one ever got to be a senior in high school before they said “Wait a minute. The tag’s supposed to go on the inside?”

Which is how, the day before we left for vacation I ended up in the supermarket with a four-year-old who was clearly wearing lingerie. Sheer, sexy sleeves. Marabou feathers. Crushed velvet. Glitter accents. I mean, it was a hot little number. Let me explain…

Mr. Beaker and I parent by relay. We slap hands on the highway (him going to work, me coming home) and hopefully, most of the time, our kids aren’t left home alone. That’s the goal. I’m sure there are millions of families just like ours with two working parents, bleary-eyed and exhausted and a both bit tired of doing the shift alone.  

This just meant that the day before vacation was a blur. I had to pack our whole trip in one day, with the kids at home, while Mr. B worked. Four and two make that tough, they’re a needy bunch. So, at seven o’clock when I realized that I still needed stamps and new crayons and I looked out the window and it was positively teeming, I said: Everyone! We are going to the grocery store in our jammies! Simply in an effort to get them to the store and back without a meltdown. And shockingly enough, everyone said YAY!

L ran upstairs to get changed and returned wearing a discarded Halloween costume I completely forgot she ever had : a sexy teddy witch’s costume. 

Except…if she took off the pointy hat, she looked a little bit like a teeny, tiny prostitute. I picked a battle that day.

FINE. But you MUST wear the hat. It’s not an option. Okay?


Nevermind why. It’s the hat or nothing. Up to you. 

Can I wear my princess shoes [read: high heels. OMG, are you kidding?]


So we went. Me and A. and L., a four-year-old Pretty Woman. But we were all in the car. Happy. Singing, I think. And I was feeling pretty good. I packed for vacation. There were only minutes, not hours, of tears that day.  And I was having a moment of joy over finally, for once, having my shit together. Of being that mom.

And then Lily said:

“Uh-oh, Mommy. I forgot to put my undies back on!”

Going Commando

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Rose by any Other Name

First, I'd like to announce RedAdept Publishing as my publisher. RedAdept started as a book review blog, and the owner Lynn O'Dell (now McNamee) built up a very respectable reputation. She has recently taken on publishing and independent editing clients. Lynn has been professional, and the editorial staff has been impressively thorough. Which means I've got a lot of work to do. That's good news! This means that what you all finally read (and you will read. Or at least you'll lie convincingly about it) will be polished to a shine.

Click to see information on RedAdept.

What's more exciting, RA has announced me as their newest addition - I'm thrilled to death to be on their front page. Check it out!

And now, in my book news:

The title "My Husband's Memory" has been officially replaced. (*sniff sniff* I sort of liked it. Even though it did have a Lifetime Original feel to it.... I should be so lucky, I think)

Thought I Knew You will be released sometime in late Summer 2012. Below is the release blurb (although possibly not the back of the book blurb):

Thought I Knew You

Claire Barnes is shattered when her husband, Greg, goes on a business trip and never returns.

When the authorities can’t help, Claire conducts her own investigation. Looking for answers, she finds only troubling questions.

When she reconnects with Drew, her childhood friend, she discovers more about herself and her marriage.

Just when Claire is beginning to adjust to her new life, shocking news turns everything upside down again.

I think that's all the news for now. To keep current with updates, either subscribe to this blog via email or like my facebook page by clicking Here and clicking "Like".

Friday, May 11, 2012

Just a quick update...

Today, I signed the contract! Woo hoo! I'm now a contracted-almost-published author. Well, that actually doesn't sound all that impressive. Hmmmph.

Anyway, WOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! That's better. Weeks from now, I expect to be drowning in re-writes. Life is good :-)

Oh, also, they asked me to take my book off of Authonomy. So, now you'll all just have to buy it to read it. HA!

Monday, April 30, 2012

So, I have a blog now...

Today, I was told I would need a blog. I went to a writer's conference. Because, have I mentioned this? I'm a writer now. (See sidebar for my book. When I figure out how to insert sidebar.) So I went to this writer's conference - it was my first. And I learned three things - to be honest, I learned so many things I thought my head would explode but there were three REALLY invaluable things.

One, I will NEVER make money being a writer. I might as well have decided that I was going to paint watercolor still lifes for budget hotel chains. I will have to write five books to break even when you factor in all the publicity, conferences, association fees, and publishing costs (if I choose to self-publish. HA! Choose, that's a nice word. Like I don't need you Random House, I choose to self-publish). FIVE BOOKS? One was a stretch. I might be the walking embodiment of the adage "Everyone has one good book in them." Do I have more than one? We'll see..

Two, I learned that all writers are completely bat-shit crazy. I've never felt so out of place in my life - I was the normal one in the room and I'm NEVER the normal one in the room.

And finally, (big sigh) THREE, I want to be just like them. When I'm seventy, I want to be the eccentric one in the neighborhood who goes to the supermarket in bedroom slippers and has a name for all the birds in her yard. So, between my two professions (ok, one profession, one obsession), which frankly, both have reputations for being for those of us who are a little (how shall we say), um, off, I think I'm well on my way.

So, TA-DA! This is my blog. I'm still figuring this out and who knows, maybe I'll never do it again. I can't promise anything. But for now, my intention is that this will be a little bit about my life, some stuff about my kids (only the funny things, I swear), probably quite a bit more about writing and my new endeavor into being a published author, and some plugs for some of my favorite indie books as I find them. I'll be writing a post about my book soon - the big reveal, what's it about, where you can take a peek. I know you're all on the edge of your seats...