Saturday, November 30, 2013

S is for Steps

Breaking a habit or developing one, requires a program. Smoking cessation, biting nails or losing weight all start with a single step. With the recent meeting with Dr. Chuck Wall and ending the year, I've decided to take this Christmas Season up a notch. This will be the last year my family will participate in the extended family gifts. The time and effort to search for those ten or twenty dollar items will be now be donated to a family in need, in addition to a new Five Step Program.


Last year, my friend created and distributed  Cup O' Kindness tins. They're filled to the brim with Belgian hot chocolate mix. This year, I've decided to combine Christmas, Random Acts of Kindness and Hot Chocolate into one. My little family will be giving away the tins, with the following note attached.

You’ve received a Cup O’ Kindness!
In this time of celebration and commercial mayhem, may I suggest a Five Step Program?
1.              Drink one cup hot chocolate from the Cup O’ Kindness tin.
2.              Share minimum of one cup of hot chocolate from the Cup O’Kindness.
3.              Withdrawal the bag of hot chocolate, and fill the tin with goodies/money/kind words.
4.              Write and attach the words “Continue the Kindness” on the outside of the tin.
5.              Deliver your new Tin O’ Kindness to an unsuspecting victim.

I hope the spirit of Kindness and Christmas will keep this tradition going.

R is for Rainbow

"Mom!" My youngest daughter shouted. "Mom!" 
I knew the next call would be a two syllable version of my name. With this child, I never know if it's a bug, a broken bone, or a simple check to see if I'm still alive.

This time, it wasn't about me, or her. 
It was about a rainbow. The glass from our front door sent a prism of color on the foyer's wall. My daughter was dancing in excited circles - she'd discovered the sliver of a rainbow. For fifteen minutes she spoke of her new friend.
 The rainbow had a family. It was lost, so my daughter patiently waited until the rainbow left. It needed a friend until her family could come get her. It wasn't until the very last light left the wall did my daughter scamper off and wrestle her yellow lab.
It wasn't until I tucked her into bed that night did I realize the impact of the day. This is her last year at home. With me.
For almost nine years, I've had a child at home. When my oldest was four, I delivered my third girl. The nights were long and the days chaotic. I had longed for the day to be free.
But as my four-year-old wrapped her little arms around my neck, I realized my freedom wouldn't include rainbows. Or dancing in my entryway.

Freedom is overrated, I thought as I hugged my youngest, squeezing her tightly.

She whispered, "I just pee in da bed. A lot."

Rainbows are overrated.

Q is for Question

DNA on a path
Over a decade ago (oh that's frightful, I can't be that old can I?), I attended a private, religious university. I was hesitant to attend. My major was Animal Science. The entire idea of science is to question, to learn, and to explore. My parents bought an entire encyclopedia set to quiet my continual questions. My reading only begged for more knowledge.

I wanted to know so much more. 

A conservative faculty and college was not a conducive environment for a fledgling scientist. 
Or so I thought.

Dr. BioChem 152 waltzed into the room with several band-aids taped to his fingers. He later explained that he'd blown up too many things. In order for his phalanges to function, they needed a little extra structure. He folded his arms and chuckled while we stared wide-eyed and slack mouthed at his airy admission of deviant behavior. 
The first hour flew by as he told nothing but stories of how and why things are made. The last five minutes of class he announced that the first twenty minutes of every class would be devoted to questions. 
 Any question - one catch, we could only ask if we wanted to learn. 
No ulterior motives. Not to waste time, not to argue. Only to learn from the most lively ninety-year-old in the world.

From politics to religion. Vitamins to medicines. He would answer.
In his lifetime he had worked for NASA, FDA, and every company from cars to toothpaste. The man served on seven boards (five were for commercial companies, two for post-graduate acceptance committees) while teaching BioChem 152.
I had wanted to learn. 
I had wanted to question. 
I wanted to know what, how and why things worked the way they did. 

He opened his office for several hours a day for one reason, to answer our burning questions. 
One day, I sat in his office with pen in hand. He pressed his finger to his lips as he tilted his head to the side. Another man shouted down the hall, "Found it!"
My professor giggled like a school boy, explaining he'd hid the new teacher's final. For the next fifteen minutes he spilled his secrets from pranks to travels. He'd visited all but a handful of countries.
When I asked why, he donned a cheshire grin. "Why not?"

Last night, my daughter snuggled beside me on the couch. She handed me the encyclopedia I'd purchased a few years before. "I want to know why..."


Apologies!

I am knee-deep, elbow-deep into revisions for my historical romance manuscript. I have not abandoned the A-Z challenge, promise! I do, however, have a December 12th deadline.

Please accept my tardiness. Without further ado...here's the latest posts.

And for those fellow Writer's of Kern bloggers, I will be catching up and commenting!


picture of tired woman with laptop computer - stock photo

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

P is for Pitch

An author sits down and writes a pretty book. He, or she, slaps a few lovely words together and ships the manuscript off to an agent or editor. From there it magically becomes a bestseller - right?

Big fat no.

An author writes the novel. And then edits. Again and again. Then the writer dons a sales hat and pitches the book to an agent. How, might you ask, does this go about? The author's pitch is the back cover of the novel. If you can snag an agent, you can snag a reader - if you snag a reader, you can sell the book.

Of course, there are rules. A pitch has to be like a skirt, long enough to cover the essentials but short enough to hook the buyer. The central conflict needs to be revealed as well as the genre. A few agents have expressed the need for authors to compare their book to one or two on the market. It helps agents and editors in categorizing the novel.

In the spirit of masochism, I'm throwing my pitch out there for criticism. I'm offering to reciprocate as well - send a pigeon or shoot me an email.

Drum roll, please...


Unsanctioned love is punishable by death in 1535 England. Rhett Rhyn and Lady Isla Belle are attacked by royal guards seconds after a gypsy seals their souls in a pagan marriage.

Penniless and grief stricken, Rhett buries his new wife along with a secret – his inability to die.

Rhett atones for the true cost of the witch’s ceremony, Isla’s eternal reincarnation. He watches as she is born again and again without the memory of their love.

Four centuries later in her current host, Isla Belle Thorne hungers for recognition in her field of genetic research. Reeling from her father’s abandonment, the only man in her life is the stalwart boy in her vivid dreams – the only place she allows foolish emotions.
 

The unshakeable man from her visions materializes at a fundraising event. Rhett confesses that Isla is the re-embodiment of his late Isla Belle.

Trained by her education to doubt, Isla rejects the mounting evidence. Because of her refusal to acknowledge their history, Rhett decides to cure his unending life.

Isla is forced to trust the gender that betrayed her, or lose the love of all her lives.

DEATH EVERLASTING is a 110,000 word romance with alternating historical and contemporary perspectives – a mixture of Juliet and Life After Life.


Friday, November 1, 2013

O is for Old

Having shelled out money for candy and silly outfits, I was now being led like a sugar beggar to my neighbors. We were forty minutes into Trick-or-Treating. My husband was cheerfully marching the older girls while I held the hand of my second daughter. She whispered, "Can't we just go to the store and buy candy? Can we just go home?" My heart swelled three times its size, perhaps I could corrupt at least one of my daughters to the Anti-Halloween camp.

And then it happened.

It looked like every other decorated house.
But then the owner swung open his door. With a quick wave, like a magician offering a card trick, he displayed a blanket covered in nicknacks. 
My daughter abandoned me, letting my hand hang neglected at my side, and flew to the blanket. All three girls (apparently loyalty is fickle) snatched various "treasures" worthy of a Saturday morning garage sale.

My middle, second daughter sang all the way home as she clutched two pennies and an aged Webster's dictionary. This morning she jumped from her bed, cradling her booty as her sisters joined in. 
 My one time companion yelled, "I love Halloween!"

Operation Destroy Halloween was now dead. Kaput. I failed.

My middle child held up her pennies, announcing, "This is awesome. This penny is super old... it's from the 1980's!"

Apparently, I'm super old and hate Halloween even more.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

N is for Nail

This nail, as my children call it, is twisted barbed wire plucked from the ruins of the Berlin Wall. In 1995, my husband traveled throughout Germany. The Iron Curtain was barely lifted, not quite five years prior. The memory, the fog of what the oppressive government was, still taunted the minds and hearts of East Germany.
And here this nail sits, several thousand miles away from the dust of hurt souls. It's displayed on the polished granite in a home sanctioned by freedom.
This nail reminds me of all that I have, and all that I should become. Because once there were people bound by the limits others set for them. I refuse to be cut off from my potential - no matter how insignificant my lot in life may be. I might just be one person, but this one twisted piece of metal continues to prick alive the memory of the Wall of Shame. My husband now shares it with the rest of my five member family. This single, isolated piece of history will continue to share its legacy for generations to come. It signifies the consequence of life when freedom is destroyed - I am ever so grateful for my life, even in its insignificance.

M is for Mad

M is for Mad.
Let's blow the dust off a dictionary and flip to the definitions...yes, that was plural. Definitions, with an S. If each one is a symptom of Mad then I've acquired an acute and lethal case.

Disordered in the mind
Insane, would be a more economical description - which is impossible. It's not like I mumble to myself daily (I keep it to a few days, tops). I may, or may not, pretend to be a girl in love one moment or a psychopath villain the next. That's not insanity. It's writing... I admit, it's utter madness.

Completely unrestrained by reason and judgment. 
This doesn't mean I need a strait-jacket, white walls and an eternal prozac prescription. It just means I'm part of the exclusive club of Rejected Writer's Club who continue querying and editing despite the harsh judgment of agents. Why? Because I'm also a part of the Supported Writers Club, where agents have critiqued and patted my head fondly before sending me back to my computer. 

Carried away by intense anger.  
This stupid word doesn't even come close to describing my red-faced, fists clenched, and murderous stare when a certain someone deletes a chapter. That certain someone was barely forgiven. Barely.

Incapable of being explained or accounted for. 
"Are you even listening?" Is the question most often asked when I've temporarily lost the ability to hear. It happens when a tempting window becomes a perfect beacon for daydreaming. "What are you thinking?" Is the second best question but pride ties my tongue. There's only so many times a day I can admit to thinking about my characters. Besides, obsessive starts with an 'O', that's not for two more letters.

Intensely excited, carried away by enthusiasm or desire. Or marked by wild gaiety and merriment. 
 I am ecstatic when I've written a few thousand words, but I'm excited when those words are actually good. But I'm mad with delirium when the polish of editing births beautiful sentences.
It's a distinctive feeling. Thankfully, a familiar one at that. It's  the moment I run a difficult marathon and glance back to the mountain I've just conquered. It's a mixture of fear and respect - for both the opponent and myself. It's a feeling, I hope one day will burn within me the moment the publisher's purchase agreement is wet with my signature.

Am I mad? Absolutely. 
Is it madness to continue to write and hone a craft that is already dripping with saturated talent? Of course. But I hope my children are infected with this madness, this disease of shoving caution out the door and packing the bags for reason and judgement. I want them to snatch the hand of mad and become intimate friends. To commit to living this life in its fulness. 

Mad, my dear, I adore you. 
Because of you I married a man weeks after knowing him. Don't forget about the forty minute play we wrote for my six grade class. Or breaking a colt in the forgotten back hills two states away from home - as a teenager to boot.

How about the time we jumped on a plane to New York City and pitched to thirty agents. That was almost as crazy as writing the blasted book.

To all my mad men and women, don't ever abandon your Mad.

Friday, October 25, 2013

L is for Lie

Once upon a time there was a girl, hypothetically of course, who stopped growing at the ripe old age of twelve. I topped out at five-foot-nothin'. Yes, Midget and Little People were frequent nicknames.
Fast forward to that all important age of sixteen where the driving test, the milestone that divided the adolescent from the adult, is administered.
With clammy hands and jittery nerves, I drove within two miles of the speed limit and whipped the Chevy extended cab truck around the small town of Visalia like a pro. This teenager offered a goofy grin and fist pumps worthy of a varsity cheerleader when I received the passing percentage of 96!

A short black-haired woman slid my paperwork with one finger across the counter to my overzealous self. The clerk had to clear her throat a few times - I was engrossed in a self-congratulatory monologue. My pride dwindled once I realized that the clerk wasn't my only audience. In fact, there wasn't a single person left in the DMV building that wasn't privy to my I'm-a-driver-dance. Including the flirtatious Dukes of Hazard looking college dropout immediately behind me in line.

Pink cheeked, I stood on the tip of my shoes to snatch the form when a fantastic idea entered my pubescent brain. No more would I be smaller than average, at least on paper. I quickly scrawled the numbers five and four on the height but hovered over the weight. If I were four inches taller, how much would I weigh? 
The clerk cleared her throat for an unbelievably long time announcing her irritation and lack of patience. I quickly wrote 160 pounds and slid the paper back over. 

She picked up the form with two fingers and waved it in front of me. "Honey, I weigh 160 pounds. You're closer to 106 and look at this, five-four? I'm five-two and I know you're shorter than me."
The college drop out in line behind me snickered. He coughed and asked, "You don't even know how to lie right. Girls try to get smaller, not bigger."
I pulled the scrunchie from my hair, and hid my reddening face behind it. Leaning toward the counter, I whispered, "I must have forgotten my measurements?"

The woman raised her eyebrows and huffed. Her nails clicked along the keyboard. "I'll give you five-one. Goodness, girl. Be grateful you're one of those Little People."

And yes, to this day I am larger on paper than in person.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

K is for Kindness

Last month, at our Writer's of Kern meeting, Dr. Chuck Wall educated (and entertained) us with stories of kindness. He founded The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
I bought a few books and shipped them out to those who would treasure this idea (and quite frankly, those who already embrace this lifestyle).
Did I recommit myself to acts of kindness, yes. But more importantly, for the rest of the day...and week I thought about all those moments when others were kind to me. 
Our friend and realtor who dropped off a brand new jogging stroller when I wasn't home. He knew I loved to run and I was nervous about the financial aspect of having our second child.
The girlfriend who called and insisted on pulling me (kicking and screaming) from severe postpartum depression. The doctor who stayed late at the hospital for my daughter. The professor who knocked on my door, refusing to let my grades suffer the same fate as my self esteem - who knew I was better than I believed. The editor who met (and meets) with me again and again (despite the anxious emails and texts). The husband who worked fifteen hour days and came home to do the dishes I neglected. 

The list goes on and on...

But something magical happened as I pondered these moments of kindness. While I was deep in thought, my actions changed. From opening my home to a family I didn't know to holding the shoulders of a friend consumed with grief, I realized kindness begets kindness. It's an organic and invisible mass that grows with each touch, each thought...each action.
 


Monday, October 14, 2013

J is for Juicing

I have a fantastic life - no argument there.  However, out of our family of five, three of us suffer from chronically sour stomachs. If I could rid myself of a few minor things like my stomach pains, I'd be thrilled. If I could do that for my kids - I'd be in heaven. By heaven, I mean the pearly gates and angels singing.
 The newest solution for GI bliss? Juicing.
Does it help? For now, yes. Whether it's gluten-free or sugar-free, nothing seems to cure our problem.
But for this little interim we are happy campers. 
Except for one thing... it tastes like muddy salad - minus the ranch dressing.
We decided to take our all organic juice and mix it with the processed powder of Crystal Light. Now it looks like dirty grass but tastes like sweet lemonade. 
Or maybe that's the true problem, we can't commit to the extreme health diets our stomachs beg for. Either way, I have some juice to devour. Cheers!

I is for Impossible

I is for I.
As in the old adage, Me, Myself and...I.
As a member of the Writer's of Kern, I (and I pray I'm not the sole obedient one) have been asked to submit a quick biography.
Proud as a peacock, I decided to enumerate my endless list of qualities and accomplishments - minus well, the qualities. And accomplishments.
I even employed the SYBIC (Slam Your Butt In a Chair) tactic. Sort of a diabolical move. My eyes glazed over and my legs lost feeling before a word was written.
I knew desperation was lurking in the shadows when the thought to call my mother came. Twice. Maternal perspectives are impervious to faults.
The temptation to steal the bio my husband wrote a few years ago was squashed when I realized it was laid to rest in an electronic grave a few months before.
Hope was lost until my author daughter asked why I was staring at the white screen (the empty word document). After assessing the situation (with the distinctive flair of an imaginative seven-year-old), she announced a solution.

She would interview me.

Daughter: But you have to type because I'm the reporter now. I need to hold the pen and paper.
Naturally.

Daughter: How long ago were you born? Grandma said it was important to presidents. Does that mean you knew Abraham Lincoln?
Me: I was born during Reagan's Inaugural Speech. January 20th, Inauguration Day.


Daughter: (Sighs) Oh, I thought something interesting happened that day. 
Me: Well, Grandma had cancer and I was born in a cancer hospital.

Daughter: (She offered a blank look and kept going) You have to tell the truth. Grandma said you liked school so much you kept going. But she also said you skipped school. Tell me the truth, cause I skip things I don't like. Like math. We should skip math every day.
Me: You're not getting out of math. But yes, I graduated high school early so I could go to college.

Daughter: I think I should graduate early right now. I could go to an author college. (She holds her pen in the air) That's a pretty good idea.
Me: You can't go to college until you're older.


Daughter: (rolls eyes) Fine. Did you go to an author college?
Me: No. I graduated in Animal and Veterinary Science. Now I'm raising three monkeys.


Daughter: That's hilarious (She wasn't laughing).
Me: Ask me another question.

Daughter: Why did you adopt a sister?
Me: Grandma and Grandpa adopted my four brothers and sisters. Grandma couldn't have anymore babies so they brought home foster brothers and sisters.


Daughter: They wanted more kids? Did you tell them they could have my sisters?
Me: We're not giving away your sisters.


Daughter: Fine. (another eye roll) What's all this stuff? (waves hand around the piles of first aid stuff).
Me: It's part of my service for the church. I help the women become self-reliant. Financial and budgeting classes, food storage, coupon classes, health classes, and emergency prep. That's why I ordered all the first aid kids and medicine. I want everyone prepared and independent.

Daughter: Is that why you're at the school so much?
Me: No, that's the school site council.


Daughter: Do you do anything interesting?
Me: Raising you is definitely interesting.

Daughter: (smiles) I am pretty interesting.
Me: One more question.


Daughter: Nice try. I'm the reporter. Where's all your medals?
Me: My running medals? They're in your sister's closet or yours.

Daughter: No. The good ones, the ones from when you rode horses.
Me: They're hidden away. It makes me sad to look at them.


Daughter: Sad? I never get sad when I get medals. Something's wrong with you.
Me: I wasn't sad when I won them. I'm sad I no longer ride. I can't fit it into my life right now. I will later, hopefully.


Daughter: (very serious) You said that you're Mom and you make the rules. Why can't you make a riding rule?
Me: Because I'm too busy trying to get a Mom Medal. It takes a lot of work to get that one.


Daughter: (grins) I have a few ideas on how you could win a Mom Medal.
Me: You're not getting out of math.

Daughter: (frowns) I'm changing the name of your story. I is for impossible!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

H is Heaven, and Hell

There's a line, a thick black gulf that divides life. Good to bad, love to hate, and heaven to hell.
For three nights in a row, I was up all night, every night. I was tending to a certain child who refused to sleep. Except apparently when and where she's not supposed to.
Between homework, cleaning, editing, cooking...or just life, I was exhausted. To boot, my husband had worked several late nights and early mornings. 
Being (essentially) a single mother was for the birds. By birds, I meant vultures. The kind that scavenged the kitchen seconds before dinner was served. Or fight an epic battle for something so trivial as sharing the same air in a room. 
I wish I were kidding.
Life, however beautiful, sometimes feels as much a blessing as a curse.
Especially when (hypothetically, of course) a certain housewife unleashes on a husband, only to walk into the kitchen and discover this...

 
Heaven is when my four year old runs to me with open arms and squeezes me with every ounce of her joyful life. She kisses me on the cheek and declares her undying love for me. Hell is when I pick her up and she squeals with delight as I discover she peed through her underwear and pants - not to mention the fact that she sprinkled feces in with her special surprise. 
This last weekend when I attended conference, there were protesters. As a child, they terrified me with their cursing and menacing behavior. Abuse for my belief is unfortunately nothing new. Having the protestors bare their teeth and label me, and fellow members as hateful, nasty people is somewhat of an expectation. 
It should strip me of the spiritual high I had obtained while in the conference. But as I marched with my daughter and mother the sound of music began to drown out the protestors. Men and women lined both sides of the walkway, creating a canopy of heavenly music. The wall of hymns didn't force the vulgarity to disappear, but it created a haven amongst hell. I was straddling the very line of humanity, the fence between great love and empty hate.

My favorite quote came to mind as we walked.  
Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal, is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed. The fact is that most putts don't drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey...delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.  (G.B. Hinckley)

And so we did. We thanked the singers, taking pictures of their kindness instead of the protestors. My husband and I joked about the chaos of our little family - the girls and my youngest daughter's penchant for bowel mischief.

Why? Because life is both heaven and hell. For the moment, I'll choose the heaven.

G is for Grandma

 My mother dedicated her life to giving her children (and subsequently her grandchildren) everything her own childhood lacked. She rebelled from her family, deciding religion and education were her answer to changing the family cycle. She sacrificed to send me and my older brother to a private university. Now that she has several darling grandchildren, she wants to continue her love affair with learning, both secular and spiritual. My daughter turned eight this past year, old enough to pass the age restriction on the biannual conference held by my church. Tickets are free but limited to only 20,000 (out of 15 million worldwide members). 
So off we went...

 At my urging, my mother shopped for new clothes (she insists on helping her family dress well but neglects herself).

 Growing up, while my family watched conference (similar to Catholics watching the Pope on television) my mother would create a festive atmosphere that could challenge the binging holiday of Thanksgiving. 
Naturally, we kept the tradition alive.
 In between Saturday conferences we visited the Lionhouse, one of the many houses the first Govenor built. I've had a love affair with historic homes and furnishings. It might have something to do with being five feet tall. Today, the world is created for those several inches taller. Cars, cupboards, chairs - everything is made for the average American. In 1850, I would be closer to the average height. Chairs, door handles, dresses are the perfect length for someone like me.

 The detail and craftsmanship of yesteryear is incomparable to today's standards. The guilds secured the quality of work for centuries by training and retraining young apprentices. I confess, my heart skips a beat when I admire the labor of days gone by.
 My mother in law volunteered at the conference and snagged us front row seats. We were able to feel the hush of the crowd as the President walked into the building. One of these days I hope to see Rome and walk the halls held sacred by Catholics.
  For the last four generations, the first girl is named Clarissa, either as the first or middle name.  My oldest daughter already dreams of naming her own daughter the same.


 After both conferences on Saturday, we toured another home from the first governor, the Beehive house.

 We sat in the original chairs built over 150 years ago. We walked through authentic halls and doorways with intricate carvings and elaborate embellishments (look at those "ordinary" chairs outlined with gold paint). I'm still swooning at the memory.
 The stairways and beds were narrow and short - I was born a few centuries too late!
 I'm standing next to a writing desk filled with books because his daughter wrote several journals. Her immaculate record keeping allowed historians to accurately capture life in the mid 1800's. 
She was a petite five feet tall woman.
Her name was Clarissa
Clarissa Y. Spencer, to be exact.

 The three living Clarissa's made their way home. I remember several years before, when I was my daughter's age and seeing the house for the first time. It was the first summer I wrote in a journal. It's been over two decades since and I've faithfully recorded my life from the chaos of college to the madness of motherhood. Much like my mother before me. 
As I sit at my desk now, my daughter writes about her trip in her personal journal, just like Grandma.
G is for Grandma - and her legacy.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

F is for Forever and Ever - Amen.

Kern River Parkway
Forever. 
It's both a declaration and a curse. My children swear it's their impending doom when homework is at hand...or chores. Forever is shouted as frequently as its cousin, never.  
Math is taking forever, is quickly shouted from an all too eager pout. Just as We'll never finish homework!
I tease the poor saps, knowing full well I would never use absolutes. Forever is a thirty mile run on the bike path. Or trying to finish a blasted novel. Only children would be so dramatic.
I even went so far as to tell my children this with a knowing chuckle.
The phone rang.
PG&E claims department was finally calling, after my three week long battle. In frustration, I stiffly told the man, This is taking forever. You're never going to pay the claim, are you?
I hadn't even hung up before three miniature soldiers disguised as darling daughters threw my words back at me. With laughter to boot.
Later that night, I tossed a 500 page book across my bed. My head hurt from the horribly bland writing and lifeless characters. My middle daughter, the author, skipped into my room. You're never going to finish that book are you? She smiled with two devilish dimples. It's taking forever. She lowered her voice. It's okay, I won't tell anyone. You can say forever. You could say forever and ever, amen.
I rolled my eyes and took the bait. Forever. I said forever.
She threw her head back. A deep, guttural laugh escaped her tiny frame. Her sisters joined her as she jumped on the bed. Mom said it, I got her to say it! She's just like us.
The three soldiers erupt in mutinous laughter, chanting Forever! and Ever!
When ordered to brush their teeth, they smiled quite cheekily, But it'll take 'forever.'
After prayers, hugs and kisses, my youngest wrapped her taut little arms around my neck. She whispered, I love you, forever and ever. Amen. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

E is for Eden

E is for Eden, as in Sarah M. Eden. 
 She's a historical romance author with an uncanny knack for twisting fairy tales into stories worthy of Austen's pen. My absolute favorite is Seeking Persephone, or as I like to call it Beauty and the Beast meets Pride and Prejudice. 

On paper, Mrs. Eden intertwines witty dialogue and lovable characters. A twist here, a turn there but eventually the boy happily sweeps the girl off her feet - along with the reader. But behind Sarah's written word, is another world altogether.
In her home, away from the adoration of fans and critics, she battles a painful illness. At book signings she's unable to grasp the pen for a simple autograph.
Little by little, I've become aware of her downward struggle. But it wasn't until I read this that I began to better understand the woman behind the words. 

I have seven of her books nestled on my shelf, with another on my nightstand. Each story is a gift, a piece of her. As my novel is a part of me. Through the weeks and months of writing and editing, those pages have become more of my flesh than my own skin.

I am more than two states away and unable to sooth her pain. But I can help her feel appreciated, loved. I can tell others of her gifts, her stories. She cannot run, or even stand. But through her characters we can laugh and smile together. 

Dear Sarah, you are not alone. And because of your literary talent, you never will be.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

C is for Clarissa, D is for Death

Technically, I should contribute two separate posts. One for each letter. But these two posts were intertwined. Inseparable.
 
I was named Clarissa just over 32 years ago. It was a family name and I loved the originality. But I had a secret. There wasn't a member of my family that called me Clarissa. I was Christopher Columbus, Chris, Krissy Bell... and finally my two favorite, Clariss and Lariss. Uncle Ray and Aunt Sally called me both. In the world, I was plain, forgettable. 
Except to them. 
Uncle Ray taught me Chess. He gave me my first taste of ancient literature - Homer's Odyssey. There wasn't a question unanswered, an opinion too small. He was my champion. 

Death stole him exactly a year ago.
My parents and I visited him in the final hours, and true to form he never let me forget my worth. I've glanced at these photos from his funeral and try to remember his life as opposed to his death. But Death is funny that way. The funeral doesn't stop the memories, nor does it lessen the pain. Although the balm of time slowly heals the wounds, it doesn't change the desire for one more conversation, one more joke. 

I couldn't write about being Clarissa, without writing about Uncle Ray. A house couldn't stand without its walls. And therein lies the problem. Death convinces us of her finality. The memories and love endure to both tempt and comfort those left behind. But then I remember, I'm Clarissa, the niece of a great man. Death may have ripped him from my grasp, but she's no match for his legacy. Or my memories.

B is for Boy

Babies, kittens and puppies typically top the Lovable List. But nothing can produce more tears and tissues than watching a boy grow to a man - except, watching that same boy love his mother.
Nine years ago a blonde-haired, blue-eyed scrawny kid asked why I didn't work. Why I was just a mom at home, clearly it wasn't something I would chose. Why would anyone want that?
 
That same child became our steady babysitter, opting out of friend filled nights to stay with my three little girls. Those three sets of pigtails adore him. But none as much as my four year old. She's particular about who is in her inner circle. There is no bribe, no incentive that will allow someone in. She simply decides if you're worthy. And her boy, Taylor Olson, has always been.
That boy volunteered to serve a cause bigger than himself for two years. We watched him hug his family and friends, wishing them well and godspeed. But it wasn't until he embraced his mother, the woman who guided his tender heart, that the world stilled. The impossible chain from a mother to a son is something exquisite to behold. It inspired a re-dedication to my role as mother. All for the hope that one day my child's face will be washed in the same adoration as Tayor's did today.
As we watched the plane fade into the sky, my youngest whispered, "He's never coming back." In a way, she's right. The boy who straddled the threshold of manhood will never return. But the man seasoned by two years of tedious work will return to my four year old. But more importantly, he'll return to his mother's arms. A day worth waiting for.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A is for Arthur

With a mischievous giggle, my middle daughter announced, "I'm Arthur!" Not to be confused with an author. This is the same child who refused to be called anything other than Toby for nearly two years - and Toothless (How to Train your Dragon, anyone?) for a year prior.
"And why are you Arthur?" I asked. No, I did not stop making dinner or even sit down for this conversation. It's a routine stop on her daily ramblings. Fairy tales are mere baby food when it comes to the stories we're asked to swallow from this imaginative seven-year-old.
"Well, Clarissa Kae, is taken. So what else am I supposed to go by?" Yes, she rolled her eyes like a teenager before slapping her recently finished book on the counter. "I'm an author. Besides, everyone thinks I'm cute. I don't want to be cute,  I want to be an author."
Right.
I should be appalled and pontificate to my child the error in her thinking. But she's right. In the world she's painted today (with her set of rules for this particular day), you can't be cute and be an author. Tomorrow is another day. Another story.
There are stacks upon stacks of books rich with vibrant characters and fantastic worlds - each penned by a recently chosen nom de plume.
At night, when children are  lulled to sleep by stories whispered from an adult voice and written with an adult hand, my daughter tells me her story, her version of the day. There are seven-year-old giggles just before the punchline or gasps before the surprise. But it is creative. It is beautiful.
 
I'm grateful for my Arthur. 
And Toby, Toothless, Rose...and whoever I'll meet tomorrow. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Friends in Lens Places

The youngest of my girls is a gymnast. She's a bundle of muscle and reckless energy - until you take her picture. I have four years of terrified smiles and teary-eyed looks.
And then...there was Krystal...
 I am floored - on hands and knees in total adoration. She not only capture candid moments of sisterly affection but image after image of a laughing child.
 For more information regarding the magical (the label my four year old gave her) Krystal, click here
 Go ahead and peruse with pleasure. These are only a few of dozens (and dozens and dozens) of cute pictures. I still can't decide on my absolute favorite.