Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review!

I love hearing how Rare Bird affects people!

For example, here's a lovely review of the book up on Mamalode today.

Perhaps you would be willing to rate/review Rare Bird on Amazon or Goodreads to help readers decide whether they should take a chance on it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Hour

I just turned 45. I feel so young, but am also aware that my wonderful Mom only lived to be one year older than I am now. It has me thinking about purpose and how to use the time that I have here. It also reminded me of this post:

Tomorrow and Tomorrow:

In the dark theater, made darker by the wood paneling and Elizabethan flourishes, I prayed. Hard. I didn’t care about anyone seeing me, eyes closed, hands clenched tightly, lips moving quickly and noiselessly. What mom wouldn't understand my praying right now?
Jack’s class was about to take the stage at the Folger Shakespeare Library to perform an abridged version on Macbeth. Jack, who had just turned twelve, was playing Macbeth. It was almost more than my nerves could take.  “Please don’t let him forget his lines. Help him not to be frozen like a deer in the headlights and then run weeping from the stage. Help him!”
When Jack confided the night before during snuggle time that he was afraid of getting up on that stage, I dished out my regular fare. “Your nervousness just means you care about how it goes. That’s adrenaline. It will help you focus and do well. That’s always how it works with me,” said the woman who had never, ever graced a stage unless you counted delivering one line as Tiny Tim in a church basement production of A Christmas Carol “God Bless Us Everyone.” Indeed.
“God, please bless Jack. Now!”

The spotlights turned on. Jack hit every line and nailed his entrances and exits. He even had to go with a change of plans when time was short and change from one shirt to another on stage versus offstage.
Acting was Jack’s sweet spot.
Even though in conversation he spoke so quickly he was sometimes hard to understand, in acting he enunciated clearly. When I’d pick him up from school or a sporting event I’d find my mother heart asking, “How did it go?" but really meaning, "Was it a disaster?” but when I’d pick him up from theater camps, it was like picking up a mini rock star. “Hey Jack’s mom! Jack rocks!” counselors would yell across the parking lot.

We didn’t record the whole play, but Tim did turn on his phone to capture this famous soliloquy:

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

Act 5, scene 5, 19-28

It guess it was Shakespeare’s version of our 1980’s mantra, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” It’s tough to watch any movies with Jack in them, but even more so as he delivers such a depressing indictment of our short, meaningless lives, only 3 months before his accident.

I have the hope of heaven, and like many bereaved moms, I operate with one foot here and one foot there. Death holds no sting or fear for me at all anymore.
But what about now? But what about the in between time, when I'm charged with continuing on, with living? Did Macbeth get it all wrong? Is there meaning in this life? Is there vitality and spirituality and significance right here? Right now?
I believe there is. Our lives may be short, but they are not meaningless. I don't  know what I plan on doing with the rest of my days, but I know I don't want to just strut and fret my hour on the stage. And I'm guessing watching reality tv and eating ice cream, which are my current past-times, are not quite the meaning and significance I'm thinking of...
What about you?
What are you doing with your awesome, hard, significant hour?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Garage "Mudroom" Part 1

I have never had a garage in my life until this past year.

Bird doo, snow, and icy windshields, were all just a part of life. When we were looking for a new (30+ years old) house a little over a year ago, I wasn't too concerned about having a garage, but boy am I enjoying it!

I love the privacy, I love the extra storage space, and pushing the button is fun, too.

A nice aspect of our garage is that there are 3 large storage closets in front of where we park our cars. They have sliding doors and deep wooden shelves. We use one for garden supplies, one for sports equipment, and one for party supplies such as vases, platters, ice buckets and tubs. There is a ton of storage!

An area of the garage I want to improve is the right side that leads directly into our kitchen eating area. I told myself I would not buy another home with a kitchen all on its own in the front of the house, and certainly not one where you walked directly into the eating area, but here we are.

And even though there are only three of us here now, we still seem to pile a lot of stuff on the floor right inside the kitchen door. This house also does not have a coat closet, which is kind of strange, but that's because they removed the closet a long time ago to add a desk area in the kitchen during a  remodel.

We have a few hooks right inside the kitchen door for coats, and we TRY to use the garage for the rest. Shoes are a crap shoot.

I was going through my blog and found a post from 2009 where I presented some of my small-space solutions for houses without mudrooms. Looking back at that post now is poignant, and I saw a cute pic of Jack that I'd forgotten about.

Here's how that wall in our garage looks now. I love my old church pew from my house growing up:

It functions pretty well for us, but I got a wild hair a few weeks ago. If I did not have a house with a mudroom, why not outfit this area like a pseudo-mudroom, with built-ins and everything?

I think it will add value to the house and look oh so pretty. Here's some inspiration from Pinterest. Those big windows could pose a problem, but we'll see.

The work crew is getting here in 5 minutes, so I'll report back later. I'm so excited!

Friday, October 3, 2014

I am

I am a loathsome and despicable creature. Embarrassing. Annoying. My voice grates. My butt sags. My pores are large enough to park a bus in. My breathing is far too shallow. My sighs too deep. My scent must be odious or cloying if I even have one. Oh yes, my breath. Not good. Not good at all.

My words are ill-timed and poorly chosen. They show no understanding of the ways of the world. I should be locked away somewhere so my too loud laughter won’t infringe on the well-being of others. It would be best if I were to be brought out only at mealtimes (and could you just drop it at the cage door and back away slowly, no eye contact or conversation please?)

I am moderately useful at times of low grade fevers, existential crises, and the middle of the night. Perhaps it would be best for us all if I could be launched, set sail on an ice floe for the next, say, 4-8 years.

I want to argue that I am not who you think I am. I am likable. Kind. Strong. I was a really good friend this week. Brave, even. Sometimes I make people laugh. I am becoming an expert at sitting next to someone, holding a hand, saying nothing. When I do speak, there are life experiences I could share. And I remember what it was like to be young. The world may have changed, but I remember the thoughts, the feelings, the needs.

I want to say, let’s not play this game. It’s such a cliché. Could we just jump ahead to the part where you see the good in me and the filter of time will show that these, while never destined to be the good old days, were the days when I helped make you feel stable, and safe? When I dragged my paltry self out of bed each day and kept showing up? 

I know you have affection to give, climbing on your father’s lap, a mash-up of estrogen and testosterone fitting together tightly-- so different than the magnetic poles of like and like that invite the two of us close, close, closer then push us apart. You say, “You are getting even better looking, Dad! Those gray hairs look so cute on you!”

I peek at you when you sleep. You don’t have my eyes, or my nose, but you do have my spunk and spark. And the quick responses come from me, too. You and I have the power to be witty and charming, but our quick minds can be dangerous when we choose the cutting retort. And beware if we are tired or hungry. I can tell these are my legacy to you, but you would rather have picked them up from a used urinal cake in a bus station bathroom than from my DNA. Because you are your own person. You are not me. This life is yours and you need to live it for yourself. ‘Tis true.

So my inward pep-talk about my own worth stays inside. Spoken aloud it smacks of desperation, and I’ve seen enough of life to assure myself that while challenging, our situation is far from a desperate one. So I keep it to myself, repeating occasionally:  I am Okay. I am Kind.
I am...

I am...

I am...

…the mother of a teenage girl.

I am strong and worthy. So are you, my beautiful, amazing daughter. I love you, I’m not going anywhere, and I know we can ride this thing out.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Chicken Wire Memo Board

On September 8, the crapiversary of Jack's death, Tim and I were both feeling weepy.

We tried to work a little bit from home and ended up grabbing a sandwich at Potbelly.

I asked him if he could help me with a quick project that I just hadn't gotten around to. We took a huge (32"x40") empty thrift store frame ($1.50) and attached chicken wire from Home Depot to the back with a staple gun. It was so nice to have two people to hold the wire down so that it wouldn't spring up and attack. That stuff freaks me out a little. The whole process took about 10 minutes!

I'd painted the frame in the spring using CeCe Caldwell's chalk paint in Seattle Mist. Using tiny clothes pins, I hooked photos and mementos on the board. It hangs in the kitchen where our much smaller bulletin board used to be.


 So easy, and I love having these sweet faces looking at me!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How Preschoolers and Peri-Menopausal Women are Alike

I was thinking today that there might be more than a few similarities between preschoolers (of whom I’ve known a few) and peri-menopausal women (of which I am one):


Preschoolers need a nighttime routine.  The schedule must be followed strictly in order to assure success. Lovey? Night light? Books? Hugs and Kisses? Check. Anything slightly out of sequence could lead to crying, flailing, an insistence on just one more sip of water, or crawling into bed with her now-cranky parents.

Peri-menopausal women take nothing in their sleep routine for granted. Cold room? Complete Darkness? Sound machine?  Significant other an appropriate distance away so that zero body heat migrates to Peri’s side of the bed? Last cup of coffee before 2pm? Check. Failure to follow this routine could result in a nighttime trip to the bathroom to expel one microscopic drop of pee and leave Peri up the rest of the night worrying about college tuition, middle school oral sex rings, and the environment.

In both cases, if not enough sleep occurs, melt-down mode could surface the next day, in which case preemptive naps or quiet time might be in order. See Also: Eating at regular intervals


One has been potty trained for mere months, the other for decades, but both a preschooler and Peri might find that it’s easy to get so caught up in what they are doing that…uh-oh…the distance to the nearest bathroom might as well be the length of the Mall of America. Note: Belts are the devil.

Preschoolers take their comfort seriously. No itchy tag shall remain unbanished, and socks must somehow feel un-sock-like. Sometimes nothing other than a ratty, fleece sweatshirt or a princess nightgown with rain boots feels right, at home or in public.

Peri has spent decades following the trends, and while she has skinny jeans, a maxi dress, and plenty of chevron in her closet, she also heeds the siren song of yoga pants and “soft dressing” as much as her schedule will allow. She may consider her bathrobe a fashion accessory, and aren’t those pockets handy for her reading glasses? Peri’s quest for drop dead gorgeous shoes is now married with a desire for comfort, and she may have a pair of flip flops stuck in her purse, because who has time for sore feet anymore?

Other People’s Opinions:

Preschoolers do not yet care what others think of them, and they lack any sort of filter.

Peri has spent decades being diplomatic, and trying to please others, but now she is beginning to no longer give a shit. Peri is being herself, speaking her mind, and, where applicable, testing the waters of letting her freak flag fly! And if preschoolers can wear super-hero capes out in public, why should Peri leave hers at home?


While a preschooler’s limited palate is often described as picky, Peri’s can be chalked up to knowing what she likes and sticking with it. When she goes into a restaurant, she’s going to order her favorite dish, because why mess with success? If this restaurant has the best chopped salad, chopped salad it will be (again!) Preschooler will stick to the quesadilla and fries, thank you very much.


Any preschooler with a halfway decent passion will pin you against the wall and tell you 1000 facts about My Little Pony or the Diplodocus dinosaur. Even the bathroom is no escape from a preschooler’s fire-hose onslaught of information. A preschooler will know every factoid and desire any accessory, officially licensed tie-in product and game associated with her interest.

There’s no such thing as too much when it comes to Peri’s passions, either. Whether it’s Cross-fit, essential oils, running, soy, or meditation, she’ll be sure to fill you in on HOW. IT. WILL. CHANGE. YOUR. LIFE.  Peri is growing and learning, and she’ll be sure to spread the gospel of her passion wherever she goes, even if that’s a bathroom stall. And if her passion lends itself to numerous gadgets and accessories? So be it.

Simple Pleasures:

Give a preschooler a box, a string, and a slug, and she’ll be busy for an hour. Peri knows about simple pleasures as well. She has seen the world and been on adventures, but to Peri there’s nothing better than the little things like sunshine, chai,  or cuddling up with the remote before 10 pm.


Preschoolers do not see color, socio-economic status or IQ, but they do have amazing radars as to who is kind and would make a good friend. They gravitate toward those people at the sand and water table.

Likewise, Peri has gotten to the point where she wants to be with people who are genuine and who bring out the best in her. She’s finally ready to leave the rest behind.

I can do it myself!:

Both preschoolers and Peri can be independent and self-assured, diving  with flourish and flair into whatever lies ahead on a particular day. When a preschooler insists on doing something herself, it will  take twice as long, and be done half as well, but it leaves her feeling  proud.

 Peri is at the height of her career and productivity. She is highly capable, and every day she does twice the things in half the time, and does them well.

But both a preschooler and Peri want someone else to swoop in sometimes.  A preschooler sometimes needs to know she’s still your baby, as you wipe a smudge of her face, pour bubbles into her bath, or wrap her up in a big terry towel. Peri is used to doing all these things and more for other people, but she would love it if sometimes someone would reach around her shoulders, tell her everything is going to be okay, and just take care of her for a little while.
What do you think? Are there any more similarities?
Signed, Peri.




Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Release Recap!

What a week!
Tim and I stayed home from work Monday and grabbed some lunch together. We were both pretty weepy on this 3rd Crapiversary. We hadn't cried in a long time, and it felt okay.
Tuesday was release day for Rare Bird. Interesting juxtaposition, as Margaret would say, to use one of her new favorite words. It was exciting to see all of the great reviews coming in and have Facebook and Twitter blowing up with all of you sharing about the book! Thank you to each one of you who has taken the time to rate the book on Amazon and Goodreads.
Oprah had a new book come out the very same week, so I kind of thought she might call Tuesday morning and want to grab an Oprah Chai Tea Latte and discuss the writing life, so I kept my schedule open all day. Instead, Shadow and I bonded over some Earl Gray, and kept refreshing the computer to see how things were going on Amazon. Wow, thank you for ordering the book!
Thursday and Friday were much the same, but with my two book signings at night.

A HUGE thank you to all of the amazing people who came out on Thursday to One More Page Books in Arlington. I was nervous, but you put me at ease. Looking out and seeing blog friends, neighbors, high school and college friends, Monkees from Momastery, and my Bible study girls was so comforting. Here are some of my fabulous former students, all grown up!

We had Jack magnets and Bible verses to hand out as favors. I loved talking to the folks who had their books signed. One moment was extra special, and I hope to be able to share it with you at some point soon. 
Friday was the book release party at Vienna Presbyterian Church. Completely weird speaking in the sanctuary exactly 3 years to the day after I did at Jack's funeral. The crowd was loving and kind, and put me at ease right away. Lots of people there had known me since I was born! I thanked everyone for their support, spoke a bit about how the book came about, and then read a short chapter.
I also shared that I am not in the same place in my grief journey that I was 2 years ago when I started writing Rare Bird, or when I finished, one year ago. I also hope and assume I am not in exactly the same place today, that I will be tomorrow.

After that, we went into the Great Hall, which was decorated beautifully and had lovely food and drinks for everyone, and I signed books. Lots and Lots of books!

For old neighbors:
 Jack and Margaret's 1st grade teacher:
 Jack's dear friends from school and their parents:

Friends from the Internet:




And many, many other special people:

Even the younger set made it out. This little cutie was born at exactly 1 pound and 24 weeks. Jack and I prayed every night that she would be okay and would grow, and look at her now!

My college friends represented, for sure. Check out the adorable photo bomber in these pictures. I didn't even see her do this!

What a way to launch Rare Bird!

Thank you to One More Page Books and Grapevine Bookstore. May it soar exactly where it needs to! I hope if this book touches you, you will share it with others.