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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Three Years Today

Three years ago today, we weren't perfect, but we had a rhythm; the pieces of our family fit together so precisely, so genuine a complement, one to the other, that to imagine one of the pieces gone would have been an impossibility. 

We felt on the cusp of something good. Was it a great year ahead in school? Was it, with the grueling business of raising tiny ones behind us, that Tim and I could just be in wonder for a little while, really enjoying the neat people our kids had become? 
Instead, we lost Jack that September 8th.
The balance is gone from our family, our lives, but we move forward each day. We eat family dinners. We watch America's Got Talent and the Amazing Race, just as we always did. It has been three long years since we've seen our son, touched him, heard his perspective on things. If he was not a loud kid, why are things so quiet around here? Still, at least once a week, I'll think, "Wait until I tell Jack this!" or "What's Jack going to do while Tim, Margaret and I are at soccer?" as if he has just been in another room all along.
It would be hard to pinpoint what I miss most. Because in my mind's eye, Jack is no longer 12, but is now 15, so I also miss things that I don't even know how to recognize or name. Glimmers of a teenage boy and early manhood that were just an idea when we lost him.
I guess the thing I miss the very most is the way I could just grab him, whenever he walked by me and give him a hug or a kiss, and he'd let himself be pulled close, let his hair be ruffled. Perhaps he'd be balking at that by now, twisting away from my gentle grasp. But I don't know.
It gets easier. It does. One truly can have hope and joy and laughter and growth after such a loss. Tim, Margaret, and I are walking, living, breathing proof.
But that doesn't mean I don't still wonder sometimes if all of this has just been a bad dream.
We Love You. We Miss You. We'll Never Forget You.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Why I Stopped Sleeping with My Husband

Got to love an attention-grabbing headline, huh?

This post isn't about amorous activities or the lack thereof. It's about my shoulders. Again. Turns out I have a torn labrum on one side from a fall on black ice last winter. I still have the frozen shoulder on the other side which I told you about earlier, but it's hurting less now. I guess you would refer to it as "partially thawed."

After months of physical therapy but worsening pain in my left shoulder, I got an MRI and found out about the tear.  It's good to finally know what's going on, but I don't plan on making any decisions about surgery or other next steps for a few weeks.

As most people with shoulder injuries know, nighttime is the worst. I haven't had a full night's sleep since last November. Parents of babies and toddlers are probably saying, "Yeah, well I haven't either!" but at least there's the possibility that those precious nocturnal bed-hogs will care for you in your old age. My shoulder just underscores the fact that I'm hurtling toward mine.

So, in addition to my PT and an orthopedist, I sought the counsel of someone in the know about aches and pains-- my friend's charming 70 year old dad. He told me the best way to get a good night's sleep with a shoulder injury is to sleep in a recliner. We chit chatted about this over the 4th of July weekend, and I tucked his advice away, certain it couldn't apply to me. A recliner? As a visual aid,  his two green recliners sat right there in his den, but I tried to ignore them.

I wasn't about to adapt my long-held standards. See, I have always adhered to a strict NO RECLINER rule in our house.  Yeah, yeah Brooke Shields has made La-Z-Boy more attractive. but I've always been a little stuck in my ways. It's just one of those things. I still call Costco "Price Club," I don't wear white shoes after Labor Day, and I'd rather sit on an uncomfortable but attractive chair than in a recliner.

Or so I thought. After almost two additional months of wakeful nights, I caved. Last week I put out a plea on Facebook, and within a few hours, Tim was dragging Big Blue into our house. Big Blue is a supple leather recliner once owned by my friend's grandpa. That first night I settled into Big Blue with my eye shades, a good book, and my reading glasses (!!!!), and I haven't looked back. Sleep still comes and goes, but I'm a lot more comfortable.

My worldview has shifted, and now I'm a RECLINER LOVER! I can't believe we never had one growing up! How have I lasted 44 years without one, subjecting my family to chair after shabby chic chair that I'd rescued from the side of the road based solely on looks and never on comfort? For me, it was all about the decor. Well, d├ęcor no more!

After we return Big Blue, I wonder if I will take this new-found love to the next level. Maybe a massage chair? With cupholders, perhaps? They do make slip covers for these things, right?

In the meantime, I will be asking my friend Heather if I can borrow the wedge bed pillow her husband used following his rotator cuff surgery.

Because much as I have embraced the recliner life,  I don't want Tim to get too used to having the bed all to himself.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goings-on, Musings, and How to Help Launch Rare Bird

My goodness, last Wednesday was a big day with a feature article in The Washington Post's Style section! Considering I've read Style over my cereal almost every morning since I was 11, this was a surreal experience.

If you haven't had a chance to read it, HERE YOU GO.

And if the article brought you here for the first time, WELCOME to An Inch of Gray! So glad you are here!

I was honored to have a chance to talk about Rare Bird and grief with Washington Post writer Nora Krug. She spent a lot of time with me and was thorough and kind. The photographer was delightful, and she took a variety of photos.

I know they wanted the photos to match up with the somber nature of the story, but I would have loved for them to choose a few of us smiling.

For one thing, if someone who reads the article is in early grief, I want him or her to see a smile and think, "Maybe I'll smile again someday." I want people to see laughter and realize that you can laugh even in the hardest times. I know we do! And, if you have met me in person, you know that I love to laugh and I smile a lot, if only to keep my jowls at bay, or because I have a really bad case of "Angry Resting Face."

In all, the article did a wonderful job of introducing people to our story, and to the upcoming book, and I'm so grateful.

Thank to all of the readers who signed up for the Thunderclap campaign last week.

Below, I've listed some additional suggestions of how YOU can help launch Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love. Please do only what you feel comfortable with. I don't want this to be stressful for you, and if I find out my Aunt Betty is trying to figure out "The Twitter" for my sake, I'll feel terrible.

1) Pre-order the book online or through your local bookstore.

2) Share this video trailer with your friends :

3) "Like" the An Inch of Gray Facebook Page so you won't miss out on launch events/news.

4) If you are on Goodreads, mark Rare Bird as "To Read"

5) Ask your local library and/or church to order the book.

6) Once you have read the book, PLEASE leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

7) Read the book with your book club, Sunday School, or grief group (Discussion guide is coming) soon)

8) Hold loosely to your copy of Rare Bird-- keep an eye open for opportunities to give it away to someone who would benefit from it.

9) Let me know if your organization would like to learn about Rare Bird or have me come speak.

10) If you refer to Rare Bird on Social Media, use the hastag #rarebird (BTW, my twitter handle is @aninchofgray)

Thank you so much for your help!

You make me feel smiley: