Nuclear Blast

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July 17, 2014

I’m on the plane from NYC to Las Vegas, and I have two cats under one seat, and a dog under the other, and two kids on iPads and a husband reading all his magazines on another iPad, and its dark and people around me are ordering booze.

We are leaving NYC. Maybe for good.

It has set in. Finally.

I guess I forgot to write it here. I said it enough in other social media places. But I wanted to tell you about it, and even tell you about the surprise party our NYC friends threw for us (there was also another one in our building, so sweet). But I couldn’t write about it. When I looked around the room, and saw all those people, I was so aware how much we were losing. I couldn’t even talk about it. Here or anywhere.

See, I’ve left various places and people in my life. And every time, I’ve wanted to leave the people and the places behind. I wanted a re-fresh. A do-over. “This time I will do things differently,” I would say, and then I would nuclear blast my life, as if the people and places were reminders of what an idiot I had been. I discarded them. I moved on. I did not look back.

But not this time.

These people, I love. I want to take them with me.

You know, when I was at the surprise party, the folks who planned it told me they were worried that I knew about the surprise. I didn’t. It never occurred to me there would be a party, or tears, or long, deep hugs, or that people would much care that we were leaving.

Instead the whole experience made me see how small and insignificant I think I am in the world. I do, I think, believe that I am a small, invisible thing, and that my imprint on others is minimal.

Now I know better. My friends here in NYC taught me – I can create community wherever I go. I can impact people and I can let them impact me. I can leave and take people with me. I do not have to nuclear blast everything, as if it were a crime scene, because it isn’t. It’s life. Messy, wonderful, fucked-up, ridiculous, beautiful life.

I may never be able to duplicate the community I have in NYC. Hell, I’m not even going to try. These people are special in ways that can’t be reproduced. But we will have a community in Las Vegas. We will make one, one way or another.

Let the adventure begin.

Glitteris

IMG_2862June 26, 2014

Edie and I were talking about body parts.

I was naming them, any I could think of, just saying them into the air, elbows, fingers, hands, knees, hips, butt….

I was being funny. Amusing myself. Maybe her.

“Wait….Did you just say “Glitteris?” she asked.

“Is that what it’s called?”

Her blues were wide and excited.

So, it’s official. The clitoris has been re-named. Because it’s a producer of sparkly, unicorn-rainbow confetti. Because it’s a happiness maker, a mind blower, a razzle-dazzler, a TNT blower, a love motor, a wicked bedazzler.

It requires a better name. Something fancy. Glitteris. 

There it is. Spread the word.

 

Gone

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June 17, 2014

Lucy is gone for three days and two nights on her third grade camping trip.

She couldn’t wait to go. We shopped for supplies two weeks before she left. She packed a week in advance. The morning of the trip, she got us up at the crack-ass of dawn. She had her bunk mates picked out, her pals, her plans. She ached to go.

She left us in the dust.

It’s weird with her gone. I’m happy for her, glum for us. But also busy, and her doing her own thing feels weird, but right. While David and I miss her, we are getting comfortable with her growing up, being her own big self in the world. I see the photos the teachers post on FB of her canoeing, smiling with her friends, hiking, and I have this sense of pride for who she is becoming. She is already good people.

Edie, however, is much disturbed by her sister’s absence.

And I was so busy thinking about my own little loss – how I would handle the weirdness of one of us gone – that I forgot about her big loss.

Instead of rejoicing in being the only kid for a couple days, she has moved around the house, zombie-like, unable to decide what to do or how to amuse herself. When her best friend, Kissa, came over (Kissa’s sister, Nakamae, is camping too) they wandered around the house together, wondering what to do, and showed up in my kitchen like ghosts, unhappily chained to the earth.

“The big girls give us ideas,” Kissa said.

The little sisters either join the games the big sisters create, or defiantly strike off on their own in a little cloud of revolution. But the big girls give the little girls definition.

Without them, there is no tether.

This morning, Edie was getting on the bike to ride to school with David.

“I don’t want to be an only child,” she said.

I hear you, girl.

You won’t be. Sisters are forever.

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Haunted Organic

ebook_1700px_2500px_300DPIJune 3, 2014

This is the current cover of the new book!

I really love it.

I won’t be indie pubbing this one, because its Middle-Grade, and kids 8-12 are generally not scouring Amazon for cool indie finds. But while I go forward with the idea of trad publishing this book – and because I love the interwebs – I’m putting Haunted Organic on Wattpad in installments, starting today, right now.

Go here to find it, and read your face off.

I will post a new chapter every Friday, until we’ve done the whole book. It’s completely free, every week.

I hope you like it. But whether you do or not, I’d love to hear what you think.

Thanks for reading. Really. Thanks.

xo

 

P.S. The awesome cover was created by Alexandre at Design Book Cover. I recommend him highly.

Tempermental

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May 15, 2014

So I made this cake.

Lucy and Edie, and their friends Nakamae and Nabrakissa, made it for their mom, Jessica, who was coming over after work. It was her birthday party. The older girls made the cake. the younger girls made the frosting. Everyone frosted, but I was in charge of removing the cakes from their pans and getting them, in one piece, onto the cake plate.

I was managing this, doing some kind of aerobic dance with the layers, that involved using a knife around the edges, turning the pan upside down, tapping on the back of the pan, hoping, praying, silently cussing. Finally, I called my friend, Winnie, for advice.

“Didn’t you use parchment paper?” Winnie asked.

“Screw parchment paper!”  I chanted back.

And then I grumbled about how I should’ve run out and bought parchment paper, but I was too lazy, and thought I could just butter and flour the pan, and be done with it. I hung up, and cussed some more, silently, and then out loud some more – I may have said “fuck” out loud in front the children.

It happens.

One layer came out perfectly, and the other cake came out ripped into three jagged pieces, which was a golden opportunity for the kids to swarm in, like a cloud of bees, and scoop up the crumbs with their fingers. I smushed the three jagged pieces together onto the cake plate, until they formed the bottom later, and kind of sealed up the pieces with chocolate butter cream, as if the butter cream were wet cement. And then everyone frosted, and the good cake layer went on top, and more frosting, and smoothing, and it looked nearly perfect.

And then David came home, and the kids showed off the cake, and he was admiring the Cake of Glory, and I was telling hiim about why I get no satisfaction from baking, because this cake was “sooooo temperamental”. And then he looked at the cake, and at me, and chuckled in that annoying way that spouses chuckle, knowingly, with a certain air of knowing all your little nooks and crannies, and the knowlegde that they are going to use all the nook and cranny information imminently.

“The cake isn’t temperamental,” he said.  ”YOU are temperamental.”

Humpf. What?

I gave him the side eye. The look spouses give when they know they have been called on something, that they have been seen, that they can get away with nothing and are still loved, but who just want to be combative and stubborn anyway.

And then, he went on to do an impression of me making a cake – AN IMPRESSION – with frantic physical gesturing and cussing and hand-wringing – and it’s clear to me, watching him, that the cake is not the asshole…

I AM THE ASSHOLE.

But – and I’m going to shout it out here – despite me, the cake was amazing anyway.

 

 

PS: if you want to make this one-bowl chocolate cake with butter cream frosting, you can get the recipe from my dear, talented friend, MJ’s site, here.

PPS: And if you want good cooking advice, and advice about how you should’ve gone to the store and gotten parchment paper, you can go to my friend, Winnie’s site here. You might not be able to call her, personally, when your cake sticks, but she has some kick-ass recipes.

Endless Reasons

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May 12, 2014

It’s the day after Mother’s day. The truth is, I don’t like Mother’s day much. I have always seen it as a high pressure day, frought with opportunitites to disappoint. When I see a line of dads at the gas station buying flowers, I think, “Poor bastards. Better get it right, buddy….”

But that’s just me.  I have issues.

So yesterday, at bedtime – when all things get remembered – Lucy and Edie realized they hadn’t given me anything for Mother’s Day. Which was just fine for me, but they felt differently about it. Like something was missed. Edie dug into her school bag and pulled out a card she made in art class, where she expressed gratitude for her father and I working so hard so that she could go to private school next year. She is grateful, and doesn’t feel entitled.

This fills me with joy.

And Lucy, who felt left out of the giving, diappeared into a corner making something. When she came out, she produced a jar, covered in colorful paper, and filled with slips of paper. The papers were from a magazine and had prompts written on them.

This is what the papers said, with commentary:

 

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT YOU IS:

You are great at cooking. You have a good sense of humor. And much more.

She thinks I’m funny. She’s, like, the only one in the family.

 

I ADMIRE THE WAY YOU:

Love to have people over, and love to make friends.

I do like to have a full house. We seem to always have people for dinner. Glad she likes this, too. 

 

YOU MAKE ME LAUGH WHEN YOU:

Make fun of baby books…and do it until we cry.

I read picture books to them, and change the words so the characters seem cynical and negative and messed up. This makes Lucy laugh so hard, she cries. My re-telling of “Strawberry Shortcake” is her favorite. 

 

THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE GIVEN ME IS:

To not let girls who are mean, be mean to me.

Ah, she listens. Who knew she was listening? She gets this, she is golden for life. 

 

MY FAVORITE MEMORY OF YOU IS:

When we made the Easter Egg Hunt for Edie. Shhh! Don’t tell her.

She loves being the one who’s behind the curtain. She created an Easter Egg Hunt that led to a gift from the Easter Bunny in a hotel room in Las Vegas. It was Edie’s best hunt ever. 

 

WHEN I’M SAD, YOU CHEER ME UP BY:

Giving me a treat, and being funny.

Apparently, the naked cartwheel I did to get her to stop being mad made an impression. 

 

I’M HAPPY YOU’RE MY MOM BECAUSE:

When I ask you for something, you try to make it happen, and you push me to do the things I love.

I do. I push. I push some more. Good to know she wants more of that. 

 

YOU INSPIRE ME TO:

Write books. You write awesome stories.

Wow. Just wow. Holy wow. 

 

What struck me is how THEY understand ME. I always thought it was my job to understand who they are and support and nurture that, and that somehow I would always be a mystery to them. And years from now, they would find things out about me by reading my letters, or old blog posts, or talking to family and friends. I pictured them standing around at my memorial service, hearing a story they never heard before, piecing me together like I was a strange, unsolveable puzzle.

It caught me by surprise that they get us, and what we are trying to do. Right now. Not, like, when they are 40.

And I’m not even sure whether it’s good or bad. It just is.

We show ourselves to each other.

I probably wouldn’t have learned any of this if they had just gotten me flowers from the gas station. Lucky, lucky me.

Best Friends

photo (83)May 8, 2014

Things I got to do today:

1. Hang out with these crazy people.

2. Roam the aisles of Barnes & Noble looking for books that interest us.

3. Eat a gigantic bag of Twizzlers, together.

4. Overhear girls in the backseat talking about secret diaries, and what it means to be popular, and then when one of them gets mad about something obtuse and unspoken, listen to them all sing songs to the mad girl at the top of their lungs, until they are all cracking up and singing together.

5. See a black French Bulldog puppy in the street, enjoying her Starbucks “pup cup”, and find out her name is Victoria, and swoop in on her, with all kinds of “She’s so cute!” and girl love and kisses, until she gives up on her whipped cream and just basks in the full-on attention of it all.

6. Figure out that one of them lost her glasses back at Barnes & Noble the very minute you get home.

7. Make Hong Kong noodles and sticky chicken wings for dinner, and realize they care more about being together than they care about eating, and this is just fine.

8. Know that you want to have this day, over, and over, and over again, as many times as they’ll let you tag along. Because they are just that cool to be around.

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Stinker Novels

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May 7, 2014

So…I’ve written a novel.

This doesn’t actually mean it’s done. There are several rounds to go, more reading, more beta-reading, more changing, more opinions, more editing, more of everything. But there is a book, a novel, with a beginning, a middle, an end, and a bunch of other stuff in there connecting them together. And, it is – dare I say it out loud – in pretty good shape, because this is, perhaps, the 19th iteration of this novel, and so even though there are 56,612 words and 147 pages of a middle-grade novel, I’ve probably written 100,000 words over one and half years, just to get there.

And that doesn’t count my first and second novels, which I spent years on, as in, more than 2,000 days, and both of them lay like stinkers, in a box, in a closet I haven’t looked in, in years, for fear of gagging on my own amateurism. But these stinkers were not wastes of my time. In fact, they were my MFA in novel writing. I wasn’t good enough then to write my way out of plot problems and dead ends. I am now. I credit those first two novels with making that happen. Had I not written them, I wouldn’t be here, with a finished, fairly-polished manuscript.

As a credit to these stinker novels, a few of the elements that worked there, made it into this book, even a couple of characters, ones that drafted themselves, and I couldn’t let them go or stop wondering about them through the years.

I have no idea what will happen with this book, but I can say this – when I sent out the stinker novels to agents years ago, I didn’t know if what I was sending was any good. I wanted it to be, but I wasn’t sure at all. And when piles of rejections came back, I struggled to read between the lines to figure out what wasn’t working, because even though I knew it wasn’t totally working on some level, I couldn’t figure out why.

I wasn’t good enough. Yet.

But this time, although it isn’t perfect or completely cooked, the book is good. It is solid storytelling. The voice is unique, totally me. The characters are full. The action is hot. I’ve been sucked through the vortex of plot problems, pacing, and continuity, and somehow worked myself out the other side with creative and engaging solutions. Mostly, I love the characters, and sometimes I hear them talking amongst themselves in my brain, as if they were their own people, totally not connected to me at all.

This is a good sign, I think. Or it is a sign that I’m nuts, but that’s okay, too. “Nuts” is part of being a writer.

I know I’m sending something out into the world that is the product of all the writing I’ve done, including those stinker novels and also the two non-fiction books I’ve written and self-published. Not to mention other people’s books I wrote as a ghostwriter. 

This book is the sum of all that work.

So, as I write to agents and press send, I’m not nearly as tense as I used to be. My fingers don’t waver over the button, fearful of what is going out. I know who I am as a writer, what I’m good at and what still trips me up, where I need to work harder. I know I’ve done some good work here, and that there will be more good work ahead. I know there will be some stinker writing in my future, too, but I can live with that. It’s all part of it.

And I know something else – today feels like a good day to be a writer.

Lorde, Completely Beautiful

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April 18, 2014

Yesterday we were sitting by the pool.

There was a girl in the pool chair next to us. She was a teenager, wore a bikini, but she mostly covered herself up in the big hotel towel. She had been swimming, so her hair was damp and stringy, like everyone’s except for those people too afraid to get chlorine in their dye jobs (Okay, me) She wasn’t wearing make-up. She had a smattering of acne on her face, as young women often do. She talked amiably with her friend.

The girls and I barely paid attention.

That is, until a group of people in their 20′s surrounded her and started asking her excitedly about New Zealand. I put it together. The sold out shows at the Cosmopolitan, here in Vegas. The throng of groupies whipping out cameras. New Zealand.

“That’s Lorde,” I said to the girls.

I asked if they wanted their picture taken with her and they didn’t. They just wanted to watch her. They wanted to see pop stardom in action. Another group stuck an iphone into my hand and asked me to take their picture. She couldn’t have been more patient. I asked the kids about seeing her.

“She looks different on YouTube,” Lucy said.

And that presented a really terrific moment to say this: Lorde is really, truly talented. She works hard to be that good. She’s obviously a sweet person, who seems kind and generous with her fans. But the girl at the pool is really who she is, and she wasn’t afraid to let people see her.

How fucking refreshing.

I got to say: When you see her on magazine covers, where celebrities’ imperfections are air brushed and their thighs are slimmed down and their eyes set apart, or backstage or in a video, where they are wearing incredible clothes and layers of stage make-up, and a team of people just coifed their hair within an inch of its life, that’s magic, that’s fun, that’s show business, that’s art, that’s performance.

But the Lorde you saw? That was a 17-year-old girl sitting by the pool. Just real. Just herself. Even though there are eyes and scrutiny and people watching, all the time.

Self-confidence. That’s what that is.

And I got to show them this: where Lorde herself says, “You don’t have to look a certain way, or be a certain way. I think this day and age the prescribed ideals of how a young girl should be are over.” And I got to show them that Lorde tweeted photos of herself that were unedited so her fans know how she really looks. 

Go, Lorde.

And I got to say: Don’t be fooled by the difference between real and performance. Don’t think that magazine covers are reality, or that having a designer dress on a red carpet makes you beautiful. Know that you and Lorde and the rest of us are mostly imperfect. 

And completely beautiful.

Secret Sister Life

photo (2)April 14, 2014

They had just gotten out of the pool.

We’re staying at the Cosmopolitan here in Vegas, because one of David’s shows is here. It’s 80 degrees and we are making good use of the pool.

Lucy and Edie had been in the water for an hour, maybe more. They jumped out. The desert wind was gusting, the air was hot and dry. But they were freezing. I could see them running from the pool around the deck chairs and sunbathers, holding themselves, just trying to get to their towels.

I watched them wrap themselves up and fall into the reclining chair next to me. They threw the towels over their heads, all wound up next to each other, and stayed that way, their feet poking out of the other end, their toes shriveled into tiny gherkins.

They were clearly chatting under the towels. Something was going on.

Then, Edie poked her head out. “Lucy just said, ‘I love you, Edie, as much as I love Mommy and Daddy.’ ”

I think she thought I might be hurt or like what Lucy said might upset the delicate, inter-connected hierarchy of our families love, where we love everyone the same, but have completely unique connections to each other.

“Well,” I said, “this is what your Daddy and I have wanted all along.”

And it’s true. We want them to have each other. Maybe more than anything else.

And then they went back under the towels and stayed like that, chatting, their faces inches apart, Edie’s legs thrown over Lucy’s legs, having their own secret sister life, until they decided to go back in the pool.

Traveling brings us all closer.